March 31, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Netanyahu praises Israeli army after killings of Palestinians (Al Jazeera, 3/31/18)

More than 1,500 others were wounded when Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters, used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to push them back from the border area, according to the Palestinian health ministry. 

On Saturday, 49 more people were wounded in the ongoing demonstrations. 

Palestinian rights group Adalah said the Israeli army on Saturday "accidentally" took responsibility for the attacks on Palestinian protesters, before deleting a post from their official Twitter page.

"Yesterday we saw 30,000 people; we arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed," a screenshot of the post, shared by Adalah, read.

Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM


Trump, Adultery, Morality (DENNIS PRAGER, March 31, 2018, Daily Wire)

Let me give an example of when adultery would be a lower-grade sin: when it is committed by men or women who have taken care of their Alzheimer's-afflicted spouse for many years and the afflicted spouse no longer even recognizes them. Of course, the healthy spouse could find love with someone else without committing adultery -- by divorcing their demented spouse. But few people would be so heartless as to recommend that avenue. At the other end of the sin spectrum would be flaunting one's adultery, thereby publicly humiliating one's spouse.

"In health or in health" The heck with sickness!

We're less offended by Donald's own moral degradation--no one ever doubted that he is evil--than by formerly sensible conservatives pimping for him.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Russian Accused of Hacking U.S. Technology Firms Is Extradited (MARC SANTORA and HANA de GOEIJ, MARCH 30, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Nikulin had been held in the Czech Republic since the authorities there arrested him in 2016. His case quickly turned into a battle between Washington and Moscow over whether he should be tried in the United States.

He was arrested just two days before the Obama administration formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and other institutions and prominent individuals.

In fighting Mr. Nikulin's extradition to the United States, his lawyer had argued that the case against him was politically motivated. The Russian government argued separately that it had jurisdiction in the case after a Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Nikulin in November 2016 in the 2009 theft of $3,450 via a website called WebMoney.

More broadly, the Kremlin claims that the United States has unfairly targeted Russians around the world for political purposes. The Russian ambassador in Prague has said the case against Mr. Nikulin was an effort to "extend the jurisprudence of American law to the territory of third countries."

This year, Spain extradited to the United States two Russians suspected of hacking. Another Russian, Aleksandr V. Vinnik, is being held in Greece pending extradition requests from Washington and Moscow.

Mr. Nikulin's extradition was ordered by the Czech Ministry of Justice on Thursday.

No one cares what Russia objects to.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


America's guns: Made in the US, killing in Mexico: Last year, more Mexicans were killed with guns than in any year on record. Most of those guns came from the US. (John Lindsay-Poland, 28 Mar 2018, Al Jazeera)

[I]n Mexico, assault rifles are the preferred weapon for organised crime, which seeks military assets to control territory, as Al Jazeera's Juliana Ruhfus found in the investigation for her film "America's Guns: Arming Mexico's Cartels" that aired earlier this month. The result of the steady flow of assault weaponry into Mexico has only gotten worse. Last year, Mexico opened 16,828 gun homicide investigations - more than in any year of its recorded history, and more than in the entire US, even though Mexico has less than half the population of its northern neighbour.

Most of the guns used in those crimes came from the US - 70 percent of guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and traced since 2009 were purchased in the US and trafficked across the border. Doing so is easy, since the US-Mexico border is designed principally to facilitate massive volumes of trade. The Border Patrol, fences, and militarised infrastructure on that border are to stop migrants moving from south to north, not threats that move from the US into Mexico.

The human toll in Mexico from the gun trade is devastating. Dr Marvin Hernandez Ortega and three other young professionals were travelling on the federal highway near Acapulco on June 19, 2015, when they were forcibly disappeared. Five days later, local authorities found bodies that they said were the young men's. Near their burned-out vehicle, shell casings from assault rifles were found. "These weapons are instruments of the growing violence and homicides in Mexico," Hernandez Ortega's uncle, Romualdo Hernandez, told me when he visited Washington in 2016. "We demand that the US government exercise control over the weapons companies and border crossings." 

To reduce the flow of weaponry that feeds violence in Mexico requires looking not only at the border crossings themselves, but upstream - to the production of and legal access to weapons made for killing people. That is why it is important for the US Congress - and failing that, southern border states - to prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to make gun trafficking itself a crime.

This is the catastrophe that W and the UR tried combatting with Operation Wide Receiver.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


I've Had Enough of Darkness (Alan Cabal, 3/31/18, Splice Today)

The inherent absurdities of the Christian faith vanish like a morning fog when filtered through the lens of simulation theory. After several months of agonizing over it, I've reached the conclusion that all religions are valid reality constructs to their adherents, but that Christianity is the one that most conforms to my rigid morals and ethics, especially as regards the present trend of decadence and depravity infecting Western Civilization. If the universe is a simulation, it's entirely possible that one of the designers consciously inserted himself into the simulation via virgin birth, promoted a philosophy of decency and mutual respect while dazzling the crowd with impossible feats, suffered a horrifying death with dignity, and rose from the dead. It gets back to the thermodynamic miracle.

It has been argued that Christianity is merely a hodgepodge of stolen goods derived from Sumerian, Egyptian, Persian, and Graeco-Roman sources, but what if it is, in fact, the apotheosis and full convergence of those lineages? In Ridley Scott's magnificent prequels to Alien, the films Prometheus and Covenant, he depicts a race of "Engineers" as humanity's creators. In the narrative so far, they became appalled by our violence and barbarism, and sent one of their own to correct us and guide us to a better way, and we crucified him. Hence, their desire to destroy us.

My Irish Catholic friend might see these speculations as heresy. I've considered conversion, but I'm not sure there's a church that would accept me. I'd feel like a cheat going in. [...]

On Monday, I'll attempt to be a better man. Not necessarily nicer. Just better. Western Civilization is at stake. It's time to pick a side. God wills it. I refer you, in my case, to John 1:5. Look it up. I've had enough of darkness. Let there be more light.

The most compelling basis of faith is aesthetics. Ours is the beautiful story.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


From Mueller to Stormy to 'emoluments,' Trump's business is under siege (Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, March 30, 2018, Washington Post)

The carefully maintained secrecy around President Trump's finances is under unprecedented assault a year into his presidency, with three different legal teams with different agendas trying to pry open the Trump Organization's books.

On one side is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has subpoenaed Trump Organization documents as part of his wide-ranging investigation into the 2016 campaign. On another is Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress seeking internal correspondence as part of her effort to be freed from a nondisclosure agreement centering on an alleged affair with Trump.

And in the most direct assault, the District and Maryland have sued Trump, alleging that he is improperly accepting gifts, or "emoluments," from foreign or state governments through his businesses, including his hotels. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the case can proceed, opening the way for the plaintiffs to seek at least a portion of Trump's tax returns, which the president has refused to release. [...]

The inquiries are exposing the risks Trump took on when he made the decision to maintain ownership of the company that bears his name while serving in the White House -- a departure from 40 years of presidential tradition and the advice of ethics officials. Previous presidents have chosen to fully divest their assets. When Trump took office, he instead put his stake in his company into a trust managed by his sons, accessible to him at any time.

Now, what initially seemed like a plum arrangement for Trump -- enjoying the fruits of his business while running the country -- may come back to harm the Trump Organization if it is forced to reveal the kind of financial information and private correspondence that real estate firms closely guard.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Even Fox News Drops Trump's Rambling 'Infrastructure' Rant Midway (Oliver Willis, March 31, 2018,

All three cable news channels bailed on Trump's rambling and unfocused speech. Even his allies at Fox News gave up, returning to previously scheduled programming while making excuses for his screw up.

Boring even the lickspittles is dangerous. Of course, the only infrastructure they're interested in is walls and prisons.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Russia and the west's moral bankruptcy: Vladimir Putin's wealth extraction machine could not operate without our connivance (Edward Luce MARCH 28, 2018, Financial Times)

Most of the world aspires neither to Russia's politics nor its living standards. Alas, the west's chief ideological threat comes from within. Mr Putin's wealth extraction machine reveals the west's moral failings. His abettors could not do it without our connivance.

This is especially true of the US and Britain. In contrast to most western democracies, the US and UK permit anonymous ownership. Most democracies legally require the beneficial owner of an asset, such a company or property, to be made known. Not so in the largest English-speaking democracies. Roughly $300bn is laundered in the US every year, according to the US Treasury. Britain and its offshore financial centres take in about $125bn. Most of it goes undetected. The largest foreign share of it is Russian, according to Anders Aslund, a leading specialist on Russia's economy. Estimates of Mr Putin's personal wealth range from $50bn to $200bn. Even the lower figure would exceed the gross domestic product of most UN member states. Yet we have taken few steps to disrupt it.

Given that laundering Russian money is the only thing keeping his business afloat, let's not expect Little Finger to do anything about this, eh?

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


The Storm Is the New Pizzagate -- Only Worse (Paris Martineau. 3/31/18, New York)

On October 28, someone calling themselves Q began posting a series of cryptic messages in a /pol/ thread titled "Calm Before the Storm" (assumedly in reference to that creepy Trump quote from early October). Q claimed to be a high-level government insider with Q clearance (hence the name) tasked with posting intel drops -- which he, for some reason, called "crumbs" -- straight to 4chan in order to covertly inform the public about POTUS's master plan to stage a countercoup against members of the deep state. It was, in short, absolutely insane. However, thanks to some rather forced coincidences -- like Q kind of, sort of guessing that Trump would tweet the word "small" on Small Business Saturday, and this one time the internet decided that Q was "totally on Air Force One" because he posted a blurry picture of some islands while Trump was on his trip to Asia -- and a whole heck of a lot of wishful thinking, people believed he was the real deal.

So he kept talking.

According to Q, Trump was never really involved with Russia, and isn't actually under investigation by Mueller & Co. On the contrary, Q insists that it's actually Clinton and Obama who were corrupted by Putin (and are now actually under investigation by Mueller) because they're obviously just evil, money-hungry globalists who'll do anything for the highest bidder. (Oh, yeah, and they're also apparently into raping and killing children, though the crowd is split over whether this is because they're satanists or just part of some weird blackmail scheme involving the CIA.) Q also claims that Trump, the genius that he is, figured all of this out way back when he was just a measly presidential candidate, and has been pretending to love Putin and/or be involved with Russia ever since as a way to force a third party to investigate these horrors -- without drawing the attention of those evil Dems-who-must-not-be-named, of course -- because he's just that selfless of a leader.

In this fantasy world, all of the far right's wildest dreams come true: Q promises that Clinton, Obama, Podesta, Abedin, and even McCain are all either arrested and wearing secret police-issued ankle monitors, or just about to be indicted; that the Steele dossier is a total fabrication personally paid for by Clinton and Obama...

Q sounds like the love child of Andrew McCarthy and Byron York.

March 30, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


In gun-friendly Vermont, lawmakers pass firearms control bill (Reuters, 3/30/18)

Vermont, a largely rural New England state with a passion for hunting, is one of two dozen states where efforts to curb gun violence have gained momentum since the Feb. 14 shooting rampage that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The Vermont bill raises the age for gun purchases to 21 and expands background checks for private gun sales. It also bans magazines of more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for pistols as well as rapid-fire devices known as bump stocks.

Vermont Public Radio reported that the Senate would take up two more gun-related measures next week. Both are aimed at removing guns from homes in cases of domestic violence or when someone is at risk of imminent harm from firearms, it said.

Gun control advocates say the turnaround in Vermont and other states has been propelled in part by the groundswell of student-led lobbying efforts and protests calling for firearms restrictions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Behind the chaos: Office that vets Trump appointees plagued by inexperience (Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, March 30, 2018, The Washington Post)

An obscure White House office responsible for recruiting and vetting thousands of political appointees has suffered from inexperience and a shortage of staff, hobbling the Trump administration's efforts to place qualified people in key posts across government, documents and interviews show.

At the same time, two office leaders have spotty records themselves: a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bad checks and a Marine Corps reservist with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking. [...]

PPO leaders hosted happy hours last year in their offices that included beer, wine and snacks for dozens of PPO employees and White House liaisons who work in federal agencies, White House officials confirmed. In January, they played a drinking game in the office called "Icing" to celebrate the deputy director's 30th birthday. Icing involves hiding a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, a flavored malt liquor, and demanding that the person who discovers it, in this case the deputy director, guzzle it.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


4,050 Reasons to Appreciate Rusty Staub (Benjamin Hoffman, MARCH 29, 2018, NY Times)

In 23 seasons, Staub reached base 4,050 times, the 41st highest total in baseball history. (The number grows to 4,165 if you include the 115 times he reached via error.) He was a six-time All-Star who finished his career with 292 home runs, 1,466 runs batted in and 45.8 wins above replacement.

Most of those career totals are, admittedly, below Hall of Fame standards. But for some context on how impressive the feat of reaching base 4,000 times is, consider how often those who have accomplished it have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Forty-six players have done it, 43 have become eligible for Hall of Fame induction, and 37 of those players were elected. The six who were not: Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Staub and Manny Ramirez.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


Why Conservatives Tolerate Trump's Crony Capitalism (Jeet Heer, Mar. 30th, 2018, New Republic)

The prospect of an American president going after a private business out of personal pique is alarming, yet American conservatives, the normal defenders of big business, have been surprisingly silent. This is all the more striking since they were so vocal in criticizing Trump's predecessor for allegedly meddling in the economy by favoring some firms over others. In 2012, Mitt Romney complained that Barack Obama was "practicing crony capitalism. And if you want to get America going again, you've got to stop the spread of crony capitalism." Four years later, Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, made a similar complaint: "Elites in Washington should NOT be picking winners & losers--that's a recipe for a closed economy--for cronyism."

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Advertisers Ditch Laura Ingraham After She Mocks Parkland Activist (JAMES DOUBEK, 3/30/18, NPR)

Multiple companies say they're pulling their advertisements from conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham's show after she sent a tweet mocking Parkland shooting survivor and gun-control activist David Hogg.

Nestle US, Hulu and Nutrish confirmed on Twitter that they are removing advertising from Ingraham's show. Media reports say TripAdvisor, Expedia, Wayfair and Johnson & Johnson are pulling their support as well.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Dr Johnson is an inspiring companion at Easter (Andrew Gimson, March 29, 2018, Conservative Home)

Each Easter, Dr Johnson took communion, the one time in the year he did so; remembered with affection and grief his wife, Tetty, who had died on 17 March 1752;  and examined his life over the past 12 months. He wrote prayers, made resolutions to rise early and work hard, and recorded his failure to keep those resolutions.

Dr Johnson is a man who could, if he wished, have had a high opinion of himself. His sonorous command of the English language, pious observances, moral seriousness, self-sacrificial charitable giving, high reputation as a man of letters and tremendous ability to rout opponents in conversation, could all have turned him into a conceited, self-satisfied worshipper at the temple of his own fame.

In his Prayers and Meditations, published soon after his death, the decision was taken to include the miscellaneous notes to himself which Johnson would certainly not have included. He had handed over the notebook under the impression that the prayers which it contained, composed at various times for his own use, would be published, and not the surrounding ephemera.

For he had promised Dr Adams, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, to provide some prayers, and was now too ill to prepare these for publication himself.

Fortunately for us, everything was published. So we get the full, scorching blast of Johnson's humility, the very low view which he took of himself, as well as his profound faithfulness, expressed in the stately language of the Prayer Book, and in his religious observances. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


The Brilliant Darkness of a Friday Afternoon (Bradley J. Birzer, 3/30/18, Imaginative Conservative)

As Jesus looked down from the cross, so close to three o'clock on a Friday afternoon, he saw his "mother, with her sister, Mary wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." Next to the three Marys stood "the disciple whom he loved," St. John. For nearly four decades, this scene has haunted me. As Catholics, we focus so much on Jesus's physical suffering on the cross, the pain his mother must have felt, and the forthcoming death and resurrection that we often readily and understandably skip a person who is vital--actually, fundamentally and profoundly critical--to the entire story: St. John. Tradition tells us that John was the youngest, that he was the last to write his Gospel, and that he was the only apostle not to have been brutally martyred. At the moment that Jesus looked down from the Cross, He gave His mother to John, asking him and his house to shelter her. "'There is your mother'; and from that moment the disciple took her into his home." While I have often wondered what St. John must have felt--the pain and the anguish--at seeing his savior crucified, I have wondered far more often what Jesus must have felt, especially given that He was fully man as well as fully God. No doubt, it meant a great deal to Him to have the four by his side in His greatest moment of agony. All to the good.

But, as a man, what must He have thought knowing that all eleven of His closest male friends had betrayed Him, deserted Him in His hour of greatest need? Judas the worst, to be sure, but even Peter had denied Him three times, and not a single one of them dared suffer with Him or even next to Him that Friday afternoon. Only John. Might this not have been a blow as great as any dealt to Him in his entire thirty-three years of Incarnate life on this world of sorrows? Though I have no idea, perhaps these betrayals were the greatest blow to Jesus. It's possible I'm projecting too much of myself on the situation, but given that Jesus already knew what God the Father's response would be, how the people would (pen)ultimately view him, and the fortitude of His mother He had come to cherish, the only real unknown in the entire Passion was the response of His closest friends.

We know His response, and it turned out to be the only real unknown: He violated the First Commandment.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


The average American is much better off now than four decades ago (The Economist, Mar 31st 2018)

[T]he CBO uses the personal-consumption expenditures (PCE) index to measure inflation, whereas the Census Bureau uses the consumer-price index (CPI). These differ in two main ways. The CPI includes only what consumers spend on themselves, whereas the PCE index also includes expenditures on their behalf, such as employee health insurance. And the CPI's basket of goods is updated every two years, whereas that for the PCE index is updated quarterly. This means it is quicker to pick up substitutions: as the price of one item (apples, say) rises, consumers seek cheaper alternatives (for example, pears).

In 2000 the Federal Reserve's rate-setting body switched from the CPI to the PCE index for its inflation target, citing this reason. Growth in the PCE index has generally been half a percentage point below the CPI. The gap, small in the short run, grows wider with each passing year.

The third difference is that the Census Bureau uses pre-tax incomes, whereas the CBO takes taxes and transfers, such as government-funded health insurance, into account. Between 1979 and 2014 the average federal tax rate for families in the middle fifth of the pre-tax income distribution fell from 19% to 14%. Transfers rose from 0.8% of pre-tax income to 4.7%.

Other data also suggest that the CBO's methods paint a fairer picture. Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College has calculated that household expenditure, converted to 2015 dollars using the CPI, has risen by 32% since 1972. Spending on food and clothing has fallen from 27% of the total to 16% in 2016, and the share spent on health care and housing has stayed roughly constant. That means more left over for luxuries. Homes have got bigger, and the number of cars per household has risen from 1 to 1.6.

March 29, 2018

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Electric Vehicles Are Now The Equivalent Of Driving An 80 MPG Car (BEN SCHILLER, 3/28/18, Fast Company)

There are lots of reasons to buy an electric vehicle these days, starting with their cost. A recent analysis found that running an EV is, on average, 2.3 times cheaper than operating a traditional gas vehicle. There's always been some concern that, despite the environmental cred not pumping gas gives, EV buyers weren't doing as much for the environment as they thought: if the electricity powering your car comes from coal, you're still polluting, just from a power plant, not your tailpipe.

But EVs continue to get more efficient and the electricity they use is becoming cleaner. Because the U.S. grid is switching away from coal-fired power to natural gas and renewables, the footprint of the electricity grid, and therefore your EV, is getting smaller all the time.

David Reichmuth, an engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, analyzed climate change emissions of EVs versus gasoline-powered cars using 2017 figures from the E.P.A. On average, though figures vary widely across the U.S., an EV now gets has the equivalent emissions of a gas car that gets 80 miles to the gallon (which is to say, basically no car on the market).

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


In Praise of Baseball Season's Opening Day (ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS, March 29, 2018, National Review)

Every fan has his own list of unique baseball moments, but I can guarantee they are exactly like mine in how sharply they are etched into the mind. We possess them in a way we possess no other memories. They can't be touched by that deadly "fuzzy trace." They need no mental remaking. Baseball memories are different, because this impossible game touches on something fundamentally human: our innate longing for the eternal.

In the prologue to his epic novel Underworld, Don DeLillo describes, through the eyes of a fictional announcer, the aftermath of Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning, walk-off home run for the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1951:

Russ thinks this is another kind of history. He thinks [the fans] will carry something out of here that joins them all in a rare way, that binds them to a memory with protective power. People are climbing lampposts on Amsterdam Avenue, tooting car horns in Little Italy. Isn't it possible that this midcentury moment enters the skin more lastingly than the vast shaping strategies of eminent leaders, generals steely in their sunglasses -- the mapped visions that piece our dreams? Russ wants to believe a thing like this keeps us safe in some undetermined way. This is the thing that will pulse in his brain come old age and double vision and dizzy spells -- the surge of sensation, the leap of people already standing, that bolt of noise and joy when the ball went in. This is the people's history and it has flesh and breath that quicken to the force of this old game of ours. And fans at the Polo Grounds today will be able to tell their grandchildren . . . that they were here when it happened.

The staying power of memories and moments like this one is largely due to nostalgia, of course -- but not in our watered-down conception of it. "Nostalgia" combines the Greek words nostos and algos to mean "a pain at returning home." And what is baseball about, if not returning home?

One year, Foos and I went to a Yankee/Twins opener that was so cold fans were buying up all the Roy White knishes to use as handwarmers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 AM


Why Is Baseball So Much Better Than Football? (Thomas Boswell, January 18, 1987, Washington Post)
1. Bands.

2. Half time with bands.

3. Cheerleaders at half time with bands.

4. Up With People singing "The Impossible Dream" during a Blue Angels flyover at half time with bands.

5. Baseball has fans in Wrigley Field singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at the seventh-inning stretch.

6. Baseball has Blue Moon, Catfish, Spaceman and The Sugar Bear. Football has Lester the Molester, Too Mean and The Assassin. [...]

9. Baseball has a bullpen coach blowing bubble gum with his cap turned around backward while leaning on a fungo bat; football has a defensive coordinator in a satin jacket with a headset and a clipboard. [...]

12. Vince Lombardi was never ashamed that he said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

The whole thing is great, but one line in particular sums the matter up: "Marianne Moore loved Christy Mathewson. No woman of quality has ever preferred football to baseball."

Baseball and Writing (Marianne Moore)

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do;
generating excitement -
a fever in the victim -
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
To whom does it apply?
Who is excited? Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way - a duel -
a catcher's, as, with cruel
puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
back to plate. (His spring
de-winged a bat swing.)
They have that killer instinct;
yet Elston - whose catching
arm has hurt them all with the bat -
when questioned, says, unenviously,
"I'm very satisfied. We won."
Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
the massive run need not be everything.
"Going, going . . . " Is
it? Roger Maris
has it, running fast. You will
never see a finer catch. Well . . .
"Mickey, leaping like the devil" - why
gild it, although deer sounds better -
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
one-handing the souvenir-to-be
meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
He is no feather. "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
Fouled back. A blur.
It's gone. You would infer
that the bat had eyes.
He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
I think I helped a little bit."
All business, each, and modesty.
Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
In that galaxy of nine, say which
won the pennant? Each. It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos -
like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
with pick-off psychosis.
Pitching is a large subject.
Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
catch your corners - even trouble
Mickey Mantle. ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
With some pedagogy,
you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees. Trying
indeed! The secret implying:
"I can stand here, bat held steady."
One may suit him;
none has hit him.
Imponderables smite him.
Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
require food, rest, respite from ruffians. (Drat it!
Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
brewer's yeast (high-potency -
concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez -
deadly in a pinch. And "Yes,
it's work; I want you to bear down,
but enjoy it
while you're doing it."
Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
if you have a rummage sale,
don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
O flashing Orion,
your stars are muscled like the lion.

[originally posted: Jan 26 2003]
Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Philip Pullman: siding with Satan (MICHAEL NAZIR-ALI, April 2018, Standpoint)

It is clear that there is a kind of continuity with members of the Inklings: Pullman draws heavily on the tools of their trade to evoke other worlds where there can be a battle of ideas and of values, he also has supernatural, or supernaturally endowed beings, in these worlds who struggle to prevail, and he also seeks to re-enchant our prosaic world with his tales of strange worlds and stranger creatures. Like them, Pullman professes to be influenced by the Bible and by Christian hymns in particular. But here the resemblance ends. 

Pullman uses the paraphernalia of fantasy to send a message radically different from the Inklings. He sees religion as a force for coercion and oppression, and organised religion as a bondage from which the human race must be liberated. Thus the "Magisterium" and "the Church" play the role of the villain in his work and the Christian God is singled out for oblivion. It seems appropriate then to see him, as Cathy Young and Peter Hitchens have done, as a kind of anti-Lewis: using fantasy and even allegory to communicate a message very different from Lewis's. He is generally anti-Inklings, even if he depends on them in his use of fantasy as a method to discuss important issues. He is not only anti-religion but specifically anti-Christian and, we may even say, anti-Christ. [...]

It is simply not enough to oppose authority to freedom. The question today is not so much about freedom from organised religion or cultural mores, but what freedom is for, how it expresses our essential nature and the lawfulness which is embedded in it, even when we neglect or deny it. In any view of moral development which might be seen as adequate, heteronomy leads to autonomy which, in turn, should lead to interdependence, respect for persons and the willingness to sacrifice our individual interests for another person, the family or the Common Good.

All civilisation has been built on the delaying or even the denial of gratification. The Church's teaching, in this respect, is not to be a killjoy but to promote respect for persons rather than their use merely for our own sexual, economic or cultural gratification. In spite of numerous disasters, the "free love" movement seems not to have learnt the value of self-restraint. The removal of all inhibition will not lead to happy communes of the imagination but to hurt individuals, broken families and bewildered children. The delaying of the gratification of primary appetites, on the other hand, can contribute to greater literary, artistic or scientific achievement, even it it is not a sine qua non for these.

In a recent BBC interview Pullman declared that he couldn't believe in God because of the theory of evolution he had learnt at school. This kind of naive scientism ill becomes someone who has been voted the 11th most influential person in British culture. Is he aware, for example, of Fr Teilhard de Chardin, who not only made hugely significant contributions in palaeontology but set his understanding of development in the universe in an explicitly Christian setting? For him, the emergence of complexity and of consciousness alerts us to the special destiny of humans. In agreement with St Paul, he sees Christ as the origin, centre and goal of the cosmic process. 

Similarly, Simon Conway Morris, the palaeobiologist, has called our attention to the phenomenon of convergence in widely different creatures and to the implications of this for the inevitability of the emergence of intelligence. Intelligence itself is a signal of transcendence and reminds humans not to regard themselves as cosmic accidents, but as stewards who will have to account for their stewardship. Robert Asher, also a palaeontologist, declares roundly that the mechanics of biology do not address the "who" or the "why" behind it. We could mention Frank Collins, the former director of the Human Genome Project, or Denis Alexander of Cambridge, or Paul Davies, who is not a conventional Christian but believes that science provides a surer path to the existence of God than religion, and many others. The point is that atheists, like Pullman, have some obligation to understand what it is they are rejecting, just as believers have a responsibility to understand atheism before engaging in apologetics in response to it. 

While the Inklings invented imaginary worlds like Narnia or Middle Earth, Pullman uses the pseudo-scientific notion of parallel universes. This is a last desperate throw of the dice for those seeking to avoid the conclusion that the remarkable expansion, balance and laws of the universe, to say nothing of the right amount of materials for the emergence of life, the miracle of consciousness and of creatures able to study the universe from which they have emerged, calls for an explanation. Thus, if an infinite number of universes is posited, then the existence of this one is a necessity but an unremarkable one. That there is no evidence of such universes and, in any case, how could we know whether they existed since we are limited in our observation to this universe, seems not to deter the advocates of this view. A properly scientific view would take this universe seriously and attempt to explain its remarkable nature. If mythic worlds are to be created for the sake of the story, let us be clear that is what they are rather than confusing them with pseudo-science.  

Pullman admits that he is superstitious in his daily habits, but perhaps the most egregious example of this is his borrowing from his own fantasy regarding final accountability after death. In his BBC interview he tells us that he is looking to give a truthful and worthwhile account of his life, not to the Almighty but to the "Harpies", after which he will be allowed to atomise back into the universe. There is here an astonishing syncretism of the biblical idea of judgment, Greek myth, Vedantic monism and sheer materialism. It is precisely from such pagan notions that the Bible frees us, with its teaching of a just God and the requirement of justice in us. In spite of the claim to biblical inspiration, there is no such Being in Pullman, but the Harpies abound. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Nation states could save the Middle East (BRUCE ABRAMSON, April 2018, Standpoint)

Familiarity makes the statist mythology easy to explain: The dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire enabled self-determination for a number of states. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikhdoms represent legitimate self-expressions of the people who have long lived within those territories. In the Levant, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine defined multi-ethnic populations who sought similar self-determination. The British and French successfully ushered the first four to independence. Unfortunately, the region's Jews, bolstered by Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe, declared an ethnonational State of Israel, disenfranchising the Palestinians. The consequent lack of Palestinian self-determination remains the region's largest festering problem; its resolution would open the door to peace, prosperity, and development.

This conventional wisdom suffers from a fatal flaw: it is riddled with falsehoods. In reality, the region's state system was born when the European empires decided to decolonise. England and France drew lines on a map to create Middle Eastern states. Few of those lines represented anything other than European preferences. 

Like every previous attempt at global organisation, the now-dominant nation state system conferred both significant benefits and significant costs upon humanity. Many of the benefits are obvious. Day-to-day crises notwithstanding, the liberal international order of nation states, and the market-oriented global commercial system that it has enabled, have improved living standards around the world. By any material measure -- health, life expectancy, peace, prosperity -- the benefits of today's global order dwarf those of every earlier ordering. 

Many of the costs are subtler. They rest in the hybrid nature of a nation state. Nationhood is an ancient concept, featured prominently in the Bible and the Homeric epics. A nation is a group of people who share feelings of kinship and commonality. Members of a nation -- like members of a family or a tribe -- claim a defining identity that marks them as distinct from all others. National identities may derive from bloodlines, faiths, principles, or citizenship, but a sine qua non of nationhood is that the nation's members see themselves as forming a distinct, coherent entity. 

States are very different. Statehood is a purely political designation. A viable state possesses defined geographic boundaries and a government capable of imposing order within those borders. States exist because other states recognise them. A state's existence is independent of the feelings or identities of the people living within its borders. 

Because a nation state embodies both concepts, a new nation state may be born in one of two ways: either a pre-existing nation may gain control over territory in which to build a state; or the leadership of a recognised state may forge the people living within its borders into a nation. The former path thus begins with national self-determination and requires the hard work of state-building. The latter begins with statehood and requires the far harder work of nation-building. 

This distinction inevitably pits the interests of insiders against those of outsiders. From the perspective of outside powers, the latter route is much easier. Outsiders can draw lines on a map to serve their own interests without worrying about the people on the ground. Outsiders can find local allies capable of forwarding some plausible claim to leadership, and help them impose order within state lines. Outsiders can recognise their favoured locals as a legitimate government, and hand them the challenge of convincing the new state's residents that they constitute a well-defined nation. Even better for outsiders, lines drawn to create allegedly multi-ethnic states avoid the messy problem of "population exchanges" inherent in ethnonational states, such as those that sorted Turkish Muslims from Greek Christians, or Pakistani Muslims from Indian Hindus. That avoidance keeps the outside powers' hands clean. 

From the perspective of insiders -- even those selected for leadership and handed the reigns of power -- that avoidance is a disaster. It complicates, and often renders impossible, the challenge of nation building. An outsider's declaration that one of the local self-identified nations is now first among equals tends to shatter whatever modus vivendi the locals had worked out among themselves. The new government inherits the unenviable task of building a nation comprised of people whose histories cast them as distinct (often warring) ethnicities, amidst a disruptive realignment almost designed to inflame resentment and encourage discrimination.

The British and French took precisely that easy approach in the Levant. In Iraq, the British combined large Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, and Kurdish communities, along with smaller numbers of Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, and others. They chose a Sunni Arab ally -- from the royal Hashemite family of Mecca -- to set upon the Iraqi throne in 1921. 

Sunni dominance of Iraq lasted until American forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Almost immediately, the country fragmented into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones. Iraq's citizens demonstrably identified with their ethnic kin -- pre-existing national identities forged over centuries -- rather than as Iraqis. Fifteen years later, it is evident that no one ever built an Iraqi nation. The Iraqi state can exist only as long as outside powers and local strongmen hold it together by force. Few  today can doubt that left to their own devices, Iraq's citizens would divide the territory into three ethnonational states born fighting border wars.

In Syria, the French created a state with a sizeable Sunni Arab majority, a large Alawite community dominating its Mediterranean coast, a compact Druze community in its southern mountains, and smaller numbers of Christians, Jews and others sprinkled throughout. The French rejected a British-allied Hashemite monarchy early on, and imposed direct control, initially from Paris, later from Vichy. At the end of the Second World War, France handed control to a weak, Sunni-dominated parliament. 20-plus years and several coups later, the Syrian Ba'ath party seized power and an Alawite faction seized control of the Ba'ath. By 1970, the Alawite Ba'athist Hafez Assad had consolidated the power handed to his son Bashar upon his death in 2000. Syria remained a brutal Alawite dictatorship until its current civil war broke out in 2011. Its population, like Iraq's, fractured immediately along ethnic lines. 

The French also carved the Lebanese state out of its Mandate for Syria. By design, Lebanon was a multi-ethnic confessional republic, with power shared unequally among its Christian, Sunni, Shia and Druze communities. As an uneasy marriage of Western-looking and Arab cultures, the Lebanese state was always weak. Changes to the demographic balance among its constituent communities, coupled with the arrival of PLO-led Sunni refugees from Jordan in 1970, pushed it beyond the breaking point. It dissolved into a bitter, sectarian civil war in 1975. Though that war nominally ended in 1991, the country has never recovered fully. Syrian and Iranian dominance have elevated Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist militia, into the de facto government. Lebanon's recognised government is little more than a fig-leaf allowing countries and international organisations to pretend that they're not dealing with Hezbollah. Like the citizens of Iraq and Syria, Lebanese citizens identify almost exclusively with their traditional, ethnically-defined nations rather than with the Lebanese state. 

Palestine was always destined to be the most interesting part of the Levant. By the end of the 19th century, the Zionist movement had committed to reasserting Jewish independence in the historical Jewish homeland. Jewish investment reshaped the economy of this long-neglected backwater; Jewish and Arab immigration swelled its population. In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the British officially blessed the Zionist dream of a Jewish state in Palestine. The San Remo Conference of 1920 incorporated that blessing into international law; the League of Nations charged the British Mandatory with the development of a Jewish homeland.

In 1921, the British carved out the eastern three-quarters of Mandatory Palestine to form Transjordan (since 1949, Jordan). They brought a Hashemite ruler to sit on its throne -- Sunni royalty from Mecca to rule Levantine Sunnis. Eighty years of underinvestment in nation-building kept alive the tension between the two Sunni factions -- though even at its worst, it paled in comparison to the inter-ethnic fighting that devastated Jordan's neighbours. To the misplaced surprise of many, this sole post-Ottoman Levantine Arab state lacking ethnic minorities has proved to be the most durable of the bunch. Its Hashemite monarchy has already celebrated its centenary (per the shorter Islamic year). It current ruler appears intent upon avoiding the fate that has befallen his neighbours. In 2002, King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to invest in explicit nation-building. His "Jordan First" initiative set out to inculcate a sense of "Jordanianness" among the Kingdom's citizens.

Israel alone travelled the opposite path. The Jewish nation predated the modern state by more than three millennia. Its investment in nation-building was made long ago; all that remained to create in the 20th century were the institutions of a modern state. While hardly trivial, that task is far, far easier than nation-building. In 1948, the Jewish state of Israel became the region's sole successful exercise in  minority ethnic self-determination. 

None of the Arab states recognised the Jews' right to self-determination in land they considered rightfully Arab. Five Arab armies invaded western Palestine the moment Israel declared its independence. By the time the dust settled along armistice lines in 1949, the geographic region that had been Palestine was split in four. In addition to the pre-existing Sunni Arab state of Jordan, the new Jewish state controlled the Galilee, a narrow central coastal plain, and the Negev desert. Egypt occupied the tiny but densely populated Gaza Strip. Jordan occupied -- and annexed -- the historic Jewish heartland of Judaea and Samaria. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people began a reconfiguration of the territory's demographics. 

That demographic shift continued into the early 1950s, as nearly every Arab state exiled its Jews in the first half of a classic post-colonial population exchange that has yet to reach its stabilising conclusion. Israel addressed that half by integrating all Jewish arrivals and extending citizenship to non-Jewish residents. The UN arrested the other half with a unique, creative, and ultimately disastrous approach seemingly designed to perpetuate instability: it defined a new nation of stateless "Palestine refugees" comprised of all displaced non-Jews who had lived in western Palestine during a narrow two-year window -- and their patrilineal descendants. It then established a permanent agency, UNRWA, whose sole responsibility was catering to the members of this newborn stateless nation, and ensuring that its charges remained perpetually stateless. 

70 years and several Arab-Israeli wars later, Gaza, Judaea and Samaria remain disputed territories. Israel gained control over them in 1967, ceded partial control to a Palestinian Authority (PA) -- a relabelling designed to give the terrorist PLO a clean start -- created under the Oslo Accords of 1993, and withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005. Meanwhile, UNRWA's count of Palestine refugees has grown from 750,000 to five million. Because a majority of them remain in the region, and Jordan remains the sole Arab state to have accorded any of them citizenship, these stateless Palestine refugees are a constant contributor to tension, instability and terrorism -- in the region and around the world.

All told, the familiar statist view of the Middle East that dominated the 20th century collapsed in the 21st.

All of modernity's geopolitical problems trace to Wilson's failure to vindicate American values after WWI.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 AM


Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America By David Rapp (Jay Price, March 29, 2018, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Armed with that knowledge, and one lyrical line poached from the box score, [New York Daily Mail columnist Franklin Pierce] Adams sat down and typed:

 These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
 Trio of bear cubs and fleeter than birds,
 Tinker and Evers and Chance.
 Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
 Making a Giant hit into a double -
 Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
 "Tinker to Evers to Chance."

And that was it. Eight lines of throwaway verse, reprinted in newspapers from coast to coast and eventually re-titled "Baseball's Sad Lexicon," that would leave generations of readers scratching their heads -- "gonfalon bubble?" -- or arguing that Adams had unwittingly elevated his subjects -- the Cubs' double-play combination of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance -- to an iconic status unmerited by their play.

Or not.

A quick trip to the dictionary solves the first mystery. A gonfalon, Webster informs us, is a banner or flag hung from a crosspiece instead of an upright staff, usually ending in pointed streamers, and common to the medieval republics of Italy. Hence, a literate jab at New York baseball fans afflicted with mid-summer "pennant fever." David Rapp unfurls the rest in Tinker to Evers to Chance.

March 28, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Trump's Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort as Special Counsel Closed In (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, JO BECKER, MARK MAZZETTI, MAGGIE HABERMAN and ADAM GOLDMAN, MARCH 28, 2018, ny tIMES)

A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, who resigned last week, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation.

The talks suggest that Mr. Trump's lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


'Heartbroken' Trump Critic Ann Coulter: He's a 'Shallow, Lazy Ignoramus' (Lloyd Grove, 03.28.18, Daily Beast)

"I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus, and I didn't care," Coulter admitted to an audience largely composed of College Republicans and a few hecklers at Columbia University on Tuesday night.

It was the sort of anti-Trump invective that Coulter would share privately with pals, including this reporter, over a wine-soaked dinner during the first year of the new administration, but in recent weeks she has increasingly voiced her displeasure in public forums.

This time, Coulter--wearing her trademark slinky black cocktail dress, accessorized by a sparkling, handcuff-sized bracelet--repeatedly trashed her former hero during a supposed debate in Columbia's Roone Arledge Cinema with her good friend, neoliberal blogger Mickey Kaus (modeling a plain blue suit and blue patterned tie).

The ostensible focus of the conversation--moderated by Kevin Can Wait showrunner Rob Long, a rare Hollywood conservative (suitless, unshaven)--was immigration policy. It's a topic on which Coulter and Kaus largely agree (namely, curb the flow of indigent, ill-educated, unskilled arrivals and get rid of the "illegals" who depress the wages of working-class Americans). Also on the agenda was Trump's apparent lack of interest in fulfilling his central campaign promise to erect a "big, beautiful wall" on the U.S. border with Mexico.

The debate also touched upon the opioid crisis--again, a catastrophe created by "Mexicans." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Projecting the season with Out of the Park Baseball (Matt Collins,  Mar 28, 2018, Over the Monster)

Last week, on what ends up being one of the best days every spring, the newest version of Out of the Park Baseball was released. If you've never played, it is a text-based sim game in which you can take over a roster -- rosters can be current-day rosters, historical rosters or fictional rosters -- as a general manager, manager or both and build everything. It is the best baseball game by far in terms of attention to detail and really getting down to the nitty gritty with roster building. I like it a lot is what I'm saying. For the last couple of years here I've run a simulation of the upcoming season following the release of the newest OOTP, so it seemed like time to do it again. For what it's worth, last year the game had the Red Sox finishing with 88 wins and getting knocked out in the ALDS. Not bad! Let's see what it has in store this year.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


When Ryan Costello Knew He Was in Trouble: A retiring GOP congressman reflects on 15 months of chaos. (JIM NEWELL, MARCH 27, 2018, Slate)

It only took a week for Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello, a moderate Republican representing suburban Philadelphia, to recognize the headwinds that Donald Trump's presidency would create for him and members in similar districts.

"After the travel ban," Costello said in an interview Tuesday. It wasn't just the overwhelming protests at airports but all the protesters who gathered at his office, too. They were linking him, their Republican member of Congress, with the decisions of the new Republican president. He remembered "the expectation that, somehow, I needed to issue a statement within X number of minutes or somehow I was complicit, or whatever they were trying to accuse me of."

"And what that told me," he continued, "is that they were very engaged, and there was a lot of anger, and they were just waiting for Trump to do something so that they could express their outrage."

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM


Exclusive: Spurned by top lawyers, Trump's defense elevates Washington outsider (Karen Freifeld, 3/28/18, Reuters)

Sekulow said Ekonomou, who works under contract as an assistant district attorney in Brunswick, Georgia, was a "brilliant strategist" who has handled complex investigations for decades. Ekonomou assisted Sekulow in a famous case involving the religious group Jews for Jesus before the Supreme Court in the 1980s.

While Ekonomou has also worked on criminal matters, he has not handled cases as high-profile and complex as the Mueller probe.

In an interview, Ekonomou told Reuters that he "prosecutes a lot of murders for the D.A."

When asked about his biggest cases of late, Ekonomou said, "That's basically it. Nothing earthshaking." [...]

Trump has tried to tap top-tier lawyers to represent him but been repeatedly rebuffed, according to people familiar with the matter. For example, on Monday, Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney in Illinois, said Trump had reached out to him and a Washington colleague, but business conflicts prevented them from representing the president.

Savannah Law School professor Andrew Wright, former associate counsel in the Obama White House, said it is unusual for a president to turn to lawyers like Ekonomou who are untested on the national scene and not part of the elite white-collar bar.

"He's well past the A-team grab space," Wright said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


New Gates tie alleged in special counsel filing on van der Zwaan sentencing (Katelyn Polantz, March 27, 2018, CNN)

The special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election revealed Tuesday night that prosecutors say they have connected former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates to a person with ties to a Russian intelligence service while Gates worked on the campaign.

That Gates and the unnamed person, who had lived in Kiev and Moscow and worked for one of Paul Manafort's companies, were in touch in September and October 2016 was "pertinent to the investigation," a court filing from prosecutors said Tuesday night.

The acknowledgment that Gates knew the person had Russian intelligence ties is alleged in a report prosecutors filed about the coming sentencing of a Dutch attorney. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 AM


Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits walk-off blast at same MLB stadium in which his father starred (ESPN News, 3/28/18)

Guerrero walked off for Toronto at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in the Blue Jays' final exhibition game before the start of the regular season. The 19-year-old son of Vladimir Guerrero hammered Jack Flaherty's pitch over the wall in left-center to a huge roar from the 25,816 spectators on hand.

Fans wearing Montreal Expos paraphernalia jumped and yelled from the stands. Guerrero -- wearing his dad's No. 27 -- threw his helmet before leaping into a frenzied circle of teammates at home plate. One fan waved a Guerrero Expos jersey as he celebrated.

Using the hashtag "priceless," the elder Guerrero tweeted out a clip of his son's Tuesday evening heroics.

March 27, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Reject the Identity Politics of the Alt-Right and the Control-Left  (Nur Baysal, 3/27/18, FEE)

[T]he notion of the primacy of one's own group over others is the backbone of contemporary right-wing groups. Adherents of Pegida, Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) and Front National generate popular support by summoning images of heroic white Europeans ready to save their cultural heritage from the imminent destruction caused by immigrants. Extreme political groups on both sites evidently deploy the same methodology--and once again, the mere fact that some of those on the left side harbor good intentions does not turn the methodology itself into something admirable.

We should ask ourselves if we want to create a balkanized environment that defines itself not by a feeling of mutual cohesiveness and a common bond, but rather through exclusive racial and social identities--a method used by both white supremacists/far-right wingers and leftist activists calling for segregated safe spaces.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Christopher Steele's Other Report: A Murder In Washington (Jason Leopold (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Anthony Cormier (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Heidi Blake (BuzzFeed News Investigations Editor) Tom Warren (Investigations Correspondent) Jane Bradley (Investigations Correspondent) Alex Campbell (Deputy UK Investigations Editor) Richard Holmes (Investigations Reporter), 3/27/18, Buzz Feed News)

The FBI possesses a secret report asserting that Vladimir Putin's former media czar was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington, DC -- directly contradicting the US government's official finding that Mikhail Lesin died by accident.

The report, according to four sources who have read all or parts of it, was written by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who also wrote the famous dossier alleging that Russia had been "cultivating, supporting and assisting" Donald Trump. The bureau received his report while it was helping the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department investigate the Russian media baron's death, the sources said.

The new revelations come as concerns about Russia's meddling in the West have intensified to a pitch not seen since the Cold War. Both the UK and the US have blamed the Kremlin for poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England this month, using a rare nerve agent that endangered bystanders. (Russia has denied it was behind the poisoning.) In the wake of that attack, the British government has opened a review of all 14 suspicious deaths linked to Russia that a BuzzFeed News investigation exposed last year.

The BuzzFeed News series also revealed new details about Lesin -- including that he died on the eve of a scheduled meeting with US Justice Department officials. They had planned to interview Lesin about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that he founded.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Trump embraces trade policy set by cronyism (Bruce Yandle, March 26, 2018, Washington Examiner)

Generally speaking, economists and other freedom-lovers who oppose tariffs do so because of the costs imposed on all consumers taken together. Tariffs interfere with the enormous gains from trade that we all enjoy and blunt incentives to specialize and produce the things that we can produce best and most simply. In short, they make the average citizen poorer.

That's problematic enough. But when a tariff program is administered by politicians who can pick industrial winners--which also means picking losers by omission--the potential costs to the economy become even more crippling. We pay higher prices for consumer goods, and get less of them. And we get a politically entangled, less-vibrant economy and a sad case of economic hardening of the arteries.

But while all this seems bad enough, the program also allows Trump to decide which countries will be winners and losers, since he has the power to lower the tariffs for those that he favors. It is highly likely that the economic gains from regulatory and tax reform will be more than offset by losses from tariff and industrial policy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Thousands of Books to Browse at the Five Colleges Book Sale (Eleanor Kohlsaat, 3/27/18, Valley News)

Reports of the death of the print book have been greatly exaggerated, at least judging by the perennial popularity of the annual Five Colleges Book Sale. This year, donations to the sale, to be held on April 21 and 22 at the Lebanon High School gym, number approximately 50,000, according to organizers Cindy Heath, of Plainfield, and Sarah Biggs of Norwich. One of New England's largest used book events, the Five Colleges Book Sale also includes CDs, DVDs, audio books, maps, memorabilia, computer materials and more.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


307 U.S. 174

United States v. Miller (No. 696)

Argued: March 30, 1939

Decided: May 15, 1939

26 F.Supp. 1002, reversed.


The National Firearms Act, as applied to one indicted for transporting in interstate commerce a 12-gauge shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches long without having registered it and without having in his possession a stamp-affixed written order for it, as required by the Act, held:

1. Not unconstitutional as an invasion of the reserved powers of the States. Citing Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, and Narcotic Act cases. P. 177.

2. Not violative of the Second Amendment of the Federal Constitution. P. 178.

The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Trump to end special status for Liberian immigrants in U.S. (Eric Walsh, 3/27/18, Reuters) 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to special legal status for certain immigrants from Liberia, including some who have lived in the United States for decades, effective next year, citing improved conditions in the West African nation.

Racist steely dan.

Was Liberia Founded By Freed U.S. Slaves?  (Mary Kay Ricks, 7/03/03, Slate)

Although some freed American slaves did settle there, Liberia was actually founded by the American Colonization Society, a group of white Americans--including some slaveholders--that had what certainly can be described as mixed motives. In 1817, in Washington, D.C., the ACS established the new colony (on a tract of land in West Africa purchased from local tribes) in hopes that slaves, once emancipated, would move there. The society preferred this option to the alternative: a growing number of free black Americans demanding rights, jobs, and resources at home.

Notable supporters of transporting freed blacks to Liberia included Henry Clay, Francis Scott Key, Bushrod Washington, and the architect of the U.S. Capitol, William Thornton--all slave owners. These "moderates" thought slavery was unsustainable and should eventually end but did not consider integrating slaves into society a viable option. So, the ACS encouraged slaveholders to offer freedom on the condition that those accepting it would move to Liberia at the society's expense. A number of slave owners did just that.

When the first settlers were relocated to Liberia in 1822, the plan drew immediate criticism on several fronts. Many leaders in the black community publicly attacked it, asking why free blacks should have to emigrate from the country where they, their parents, and even their grandparents were born.

Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM


The Tribalism Bugaboo (Jay Cost, Mar. 26th, 2018, National Review)

Our system of government was in fact explicitly designed to handle the biggest problem of "tribalism," which the Founders might have called the tyranny of the majority. And it accomplishes that task very well. In the United States, the persistence of tribalism is at worst an annoyance, rather than a calamitous threat to basic rights and public security. [...]

Like many political thinkers, Madison reckoned that "factionalism" (his word for tribalism) was part and parcel of human nature. The solution was not a small polity -- because that could empower a single faction to run roughshod over everybody else. Instead, he recommended an extended republic that took in a variety of factions or tribes, each positioned in such a way as to check the self-interested designs of the others. Madison's idea was that having factions share power with one another would result in the type of laws that were good for the whole country. [...]

The Madisonian system is far from perfect. Madison himself acknowledged that it would only reduce the tendency toward factionalism, and history has demonstrated that there are gaps within its protective shield. For instance, distributive politics is a problem: This is where legislators create logrolls that join diverse pieces of legislation into a single bill. It allows disparate factions to join forces with one another to secure passage of a bundle of laws that otherwise could not succeed on their own. Also, a lot depends on who gets counted as a citizen -- minorities who cannot vote do not get to defend their interests. [...]

In the history of the United States, we have never really had tribalism devolve into majoritarian faction. We have had minorities, usually wealthy ones, acquire outsize political power. We have had logrolls in which factions bundled their interests to maximize their gains at the expense of the common good. And of course, we have struggled to expand the definition of citizenship so that it incorpoartes all segments of society, ensuring that racial and ethnic minorities receive the full protection of the state. But we have never really had a single tribe or faction take control of the entire process. That is a very good thing. And I prefer a government that sometimes impedes wise reforms as the cost for preventing the wicked designs of majoritarian tribes.

The tragedy of the Right is that it embraces the tribalism of the Left--both oppose conservatism/liberalism.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Trump Under Oath: Sometimes Combative, Often Boastful, Usually Lacking Details (Tamara Keith, 3/27/18, NPR)

In deposition transcripts over the years, Trump comes across as uninterested in details, unfamiliar with legal documents and occasionally impatient. One theme that emerges is preparation. Baum, in the 2016 session, asked Trump what he did to prepare.

Baum: What did you do to prepare for the case today, for the deposition?

Trump: I would say virtually nothing. I -- I spoke with my counsel for a short period of time. I just arrived here, and we proceeded to the deposition.

Baum: Thank you. So you didn't look at any documents or

Trump: No, I didn't.

Baum: anything.

In a 2011 deposition for a case related to a failed Florida condo and hotel development, the plaintiff's lawyer Elizabeth Beck starts by asking Trump to look at a document.

Beck: Exhibit 323.9 (Whereupon, a document entitled 10 Re-Notice of Taking Deposition11 was marked Plaintiff's Exhibit 32312 for identification.) Mr. Trump, have you seen this document before?

Trump: I don't know. Hold on, let me just see. Not that I know.

Beck: Well, this is your deposition notice. Are you here pursuant to this re-notice of deposition?

Trump: Yes, I am.

Early on Beck asks Trump about how involved he is in decision-making at the Trump organization.

"If other people in your organization makes that decision, do they do it with your approval and/or sanction?" she asked. "Generally, yes," Trump said.

"When would that not be the case?" Beck asks. "I don't know of any case where that's not the case," Trump responds.

But, then, throughout the deposition he repeatedly claims a lack of knowledge, saying details were handled by his children and telling Beck she will have to check with his lawyers or accountant to get an answer.

At one point, Trump gets testy.

"I think they're stupid questions you're asking me," Trump says. "I think you're asking very stupid questions."

Whether these were strategic claims of ignorance or simply a lack of familiarity with the document and details is unclear. But it fits a pattern going back to 2007, when Trump sat for two days in a deposition in a suit over the book Trump Nation, The Art of Being The Donald by Tim O'Brien.

"Oh no no no, he did not prepare," said O'Brien in an interview with NPR. "It wasn't even just my sense of it. He was comically unprepared."

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


How A Putin Ally Met Key Trump Officials And Worried European Intelligence (Mitch Prothero & Vera Bergengruen, 3/26/18, BuzzFeed News)

When Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, attention fell on his meetings with a mysterious Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, who, according to court documents, told Papadopoulos that the Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton emails -- nearly two months before the Democrats themselves knew that their computers had been hacked.

But European security officials say another set of meetings Papadopoulos held in Europe in the months before and after the 2016 election should alarm US investigators. That's because the person with whom he met, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, is known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a relationship that goes beyond Greece's traditional ties to Russia through the Eastern Orthodox Church and a growing relationship brought on by Greece's economic collapse.

"Like much of the Greek economic and security establishment, the Ministry of Defense is considered compromised by Russian intelligence," said one NATO military intelligence officer, who like the others in this story declined to be identified by name because of the sensitivity of his work. "Specifically, we have been officially warned against briefing Greek ministry representatives about sensitive intelligence operations involving the Russians" because of concerns about his apparent links to their intelligence services.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM



At the very moment when Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is spinning into higher gear, Donald Trump's legal team is falling apart in extraordinary fashion. John Dowd, the president's lead personal lawyer, resigned last week. Ty Cobb, who is running point for the White House on everything Russia, is on the outs. Even Joseph diGenova, the shit-kicking conspiracy theorist who was expected to join the team, unexpectedly bowed out Sunday, alongside his wife, Fox News regular Victoria Toensing, citing undefined conflicts. (The New York Times reported that Trump did not believe he had "personal chemistry" with the couple.) "I don't think you have seen anything like this," said former Obama general counsel Bob Bauer, struggling to identify a historical antecedent. "Like so much else around Trump, [the shake-up] is marked by confusion, a lack of consistency, and an apparent reflection of the president's uncontrolled impulses."

Trump's personal legal team now consists of just one full-time attorney--Jay Sekulow--a remarkably shallow bench for a president facing potential obstruction of justice charges and the prospect of impeachment. "As far as I can tell, Ty Cobb is the only attorney left on the Trump team with experience handling federal criminal investigations," said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who has been closely following the probe. "The team is thinner than you might expect for perhaps the most important investigation of our lifetime."

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Farrakhan and the Wizard Of Oz (Paul Berman, March 26, 2018, The Tablet)

It is true that, generally speaking, where Farrakhan has trod, grass has failed to grow. His successes are purely negative. He does not build up; he damages. He was Malcolm X's rival in the Black Muslim movement, and his invective appears to have led to Malcolm X's assassination. He was Jesse Jackson's most vigorous supporter during Jackson's historic campaign in 1984 for the Democratic party nomination for president, and his threats of violence against the Jews caused a devastating setback to Jackson's political career. He assembled the largest protest ever to occur in African-American history, the Million Man March in 1995, and, having gotten the entire universe to pay attention to him, he delivered a numerological oration about the mystical attributes of the number 19, which was broadcast to the nation, as if black America had nothing more urgent to say.

Just now he has cast a shadow over the Women's March by making the people who have emerged as its leaders appear to be animated by a bigotry of the extreme and racist right. And he has damaged the political prospects of Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, his one-time follower, who has explained that long ago he turned against Farrakhan, and was, in any case, his follower for only a brief period; but appears to have been his follower for a much longer period; and has said he has no relation with Farrakhan, and has not seen him recently; except that Farrakhan himself has proclaimed just now to a mass gathering of his followers that, on the contrary, Ellison conferred with him as recently as 2015. All of which means either that Ellison has damaged himself by being Farrakhan's follower, and by lying about it; or that Farrakhan has damaged Ellison by lying about a Farrakhan-Ellison connection that ended long ago.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Did Facebook's 'favors' for the Obama campaign constitute a violation of federal law? (Hans von Spakovsky, Mar. 26th, 2018, Fox News)

A federal law bans corporations from making "direct or indirect" contributions to federal candidates. That ban extends beyond cash contributions to "any services, or anything of value." In other words, corporations cannot provide federal candidates with free services of any kind. Under the Federal Election Commission's regulations, "anything of value" includes any "in-kind contribution."

For example, if a corporation decided to offer a presidential candidate free office space, that would violate federal law. Corporations can certainly offer their services, including office space, to federal campaigns. But the campaigns are required to pay the fair market value for such services or rental properties.

According to Carol Davidsen, the former media director for Obama for America, Facebook gave the 2012 Obama campaign direct access to the personal data of Facebook users in violation of its internal rules, making a special exception for the campaign. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported that Davidsen said on Twitter March 18 that Facebook employees came to the campaign office and "were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn't have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side."

The type of data that the Obama campaign was mining from Facebook is a more sophisticated version of the type of data that has long been provided by professional direct mail marketers - something pioneered by Richard Viguerie. Viguerie, for example, has detailed personal data on "12 million conservative donors and activists" to whom his company sends letters and emails on behalf of his clients. He provides information to campaigns looking for votes and money, and to nonprofit and advocacy organizations raising funds.

Political campaigns must pay for these services. Under a Federal Election Commission regulation, giving a mailing list or something similar to a campaign is considered an "in-kind contribution."

So if Facebook gave the Obama campaign free access to this type of data when it normally does not do so for other entities - or usually charges for such access - then Facebook would appear to have violated the federal ban on in-kind contributions by a corporation. And the Obama campaign may have violated the law by accepting such a corporate contribution.

Not that corporations should be able to contribute at all.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


China's pork, ethanol tariffs will hit rural Iowa pocketbooks (Donnelle Eller, March 23, 2018, Des Moines Register)

Worries over a looming trade war have already hit Iowa pork producers' pocketbook to the tune of $240 million from falling prices, and the damage will likely grow, industry leaders say.

On Friday, China said it would impose tariffs on $3 billion worth of American-produced fruit, pork, wine, seamless steel pipes and more than 100 other goods. [...]

Mexico, Hong Kong and China, Japan and Canada are the nation's top export markets for U.S. pork.

The Chinese market alone purchased about $1.1 billion in U.S. pork last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

U.S. pork prices have already dropped about $6 per market-weight pig over the last couple of days as threats have grown.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Israeli ex-spymasters warn country is 'critically ill' under Netanyahu (Dan Williams, 3/27/18, Reuters) 

The surviving ex-Mossad intelligence agency chiefs voiced their opinion of the fourth-term, right-wing leader in a joint interview excerpted on the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's best-selling newspaper and a regular Netanyahu critic. [...]

Danny Yatom, who headed the Mossad during Netanyahu's first stint in office in the late 1990s, called for his ouster, accusing him and his aides of "putting their interests ahead of national interests" as corruption investigations deepen.

Police questioned Netanyahu on Monday over his alleged dealings with the country's largest telecommunication company, one of three cases weighing on his political future. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and opinion polls show his popularity is still high.

Yatom also voiced concern about "the inertia in the diplomatic sphere, which is leading us toward a bi-national state (with the Palestinians), which would spell the end of (Israel as) a Jewish and democratic state".

March 26, 2018

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Mueller probe witness secretly backed UAE agenda in Congress (AP, 3/26/18) 

A top fundraiser for President Donald Trump received millions of dollars from a political adviser to the United Arab Emirates last April, just weeks before he began handing out a series of large political donations to U.S. lawmakers considering legislation targeting Qatar, the UAE's chief rival in the Persian Gulf, an Associated Press investigation has found.

George Nader, an adviser to the UAE who is now a witness in the U.S. special counsel investigation into foreign meddling in American politics, wired $2.5 million to the Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, through a company in Canada, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. They said Nader paid the money to Broidy to bankroll an effort to persuade the U.S. to take a hard line against Qatar, a long-time American ally but now a bitter adversary of the UAE.

A month after he received the money, Broidy sponsored a conference on Qatar's alleged ties to Islamic extremism. During the event, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced he was introducing legislation that would brand Qatar as a terrorist-supporting state.

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


South Sudan Halts Spread of Crippling Guinea Worms (Donald G. McNeil Jr., March 22, 2018, NY Times)

South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, appears to have stopped Guinea worm disease within its borders, the country's health minister announced Wednesday.

"Having known the suffering it inflicted, one is very happy today," the minister, Dr. Riek Gai Kok, said. "Future generations will just read of Guinea worm in the books as history."

Dr. Kok made the announcement in Atlanta at the Carter Center, a philanthropy founded by former President Jimmy Carter that leads the effort to eliminate the parasitic worm.

Only 30 worm infestations were detected last year, 15 in Chad and 15 in Ethiopia. When Mr. Carter began the eradication drive in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 21 Asian and African countries.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Hunter-gatherers shrugged off climate change discomfort (Jeff Glorfeld, 3/26/18, Cosmos)

Scientists examining an internationally important archaeological site from about 8000 years ago, which hosted an active human hunter-gatherer society for several hundred years, have found that the community experienced multiple, severe, abrupt climate changes that affected regional temperatures, the landscape and ecosystems, -- but that activity at the site persisted regardless of these environmental stresses.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 AM


Marco Rubio's Lonely Fight: The Florida senator's political and cultural boundary-crossing is hurting him now, but it may be just what America needs in the future. (REIHAN SALAM  FEB 23, 2018, The Atlantic)

Inevitably, champions of gun rights were appalled by Rubio's apparent surrender on raising the age limit to purchase a rifle, and his willingness to consider a ban on high-capacity magazines. Opponents of the NRA were equally incensed by Rubio's failure to condemn the organization, and for not moving further in their direction. Left unnoticed is that he was, in his fitful way, working towards a position that just might represent a workable compromise between warring camps.

This isn't the first time Rubio's efforts to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable have gotten him into trouble. During the Obama administration, he was skewered for crafting an immigration bill that would have granted legal status to a large majority of unauthorized immigrants, something he pledged not to do as a Senate candidate in 2010, and that would have sharply increased immigration levels. Though much of the criticism of the Gang of Eight bill was richly deserved, and though I opposed it, it's not hard to offer a sympathetic interpretation of his failed effort: Rubio saw an opportunity for a lasting settlement of an issue that divides newcomers and the established, and he went for it. But the price he paid was high. One could argue that Rubio's central role in the Gang of Eight sealed his fate in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

More recently, he threatened to blow up Republican efforts to pass a sweeping tax bill unless his fellow lawmakers increased the refundable portion of its expanded child credit, a measure that would have made the bill far more of a boon to low- and middle-income households--including newcomer households like the one in which he was raised. In doing so, Rubio made an enemy of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, which lambasted him on more than one occasion for embracing redistribution, and he provoked members of the all-important GOP donor class. What he failed to do, however, was win over a critical mass of Senate Democrats to his cause. In the end, Rubio managed to get at least part of what he was asking for. The refundable portion of the credit was ultimately increased. And yet he gained little in the way of respect from egalitarians for his lonely crusade.

It's easy to see Rubio as a tragic figure. But that would be a mistake. Right now, his boundary-crossing makes him a target. In the years to come, as the country continues to change, and as the need for new settlements that can reconcile the clashing interests of newcomers and the established grows more urgent, we'll need him, and others like him, all the more.

He's obviously the ideal vp pick for Nikki, but it would be nice if he governed something first.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


A former US Senator thinks protesting kids should stop trying to get 'someone else to solve their problems' (Independent, 3/26/18)

In an appearance on CNN's State of the Union, he criticised the marching children.

How about, kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about [sic] maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.

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Stormy Daniels Has Put Trump Fixer Michael Cohen In Serious Legal Danger (Jonathan Chait, 3/26/18, New York)

As Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, recount, Cohen was the point of contact in Trump's negotiations to keep Daniels quiet about their affair. Cohen paid her $130,000 to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This could well be an illegal campaign expenditure on Trump's behalf - Cohen was paying Daniels for the purpose of aiding Trump's campaign. Cohen claims he paid the money out of his own pocket, which would make Cohen the perpetrator of the campaign finance violation. But Avenatti has documents showing that the payment was sent to Cohen at his Trump Tower location, and communicated through his official Trump organization email. That strongly indicates, and perhaps even proves, Cohen was making the payment on Trump's behalf.

A second aspect of the story contains even more danger for Trump. Daniels describes being approached by a man in a parking lot who threatened her:

I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. T- taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin' all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, "Leave Trump alone. Forget the story." And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, "That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom." And then he was gone.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 AM


At a Crucial Juncture, Trump's Legal Defense Is Largely a One-Man Operation (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MARCH 25, 2018, NY Times)

That lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is a conservative commentator who made his name on religious freedom cases. Mr. Sekulow is in talks with other lawyers about joining the team, although it is not clear how far those discussions have progressed. [...]

Roger Cossack, a seasoned legal analyst, said the key to successfully defending a high-profile client under immense scrutiny was to have a cohesive legal team with a consistent strategy.

"In these types of cases, you need highly competent lawyers and a client who will listen and follow their advice," Mr. Cossack said. "If you don't have both, you have what we're seeing here: chaos and disaster."

"You have a client who clearly thinks he has a better idea of how things should work than the lawyers who, from time to time, have told him things he doesn't want to hear," he added. "He is looking for the guy who can say, 'I know how to handle Mueller, I know you think he is bad, and we'll take care of it.' Problem is you can't find that lawyer because no one will be able to do that." [...]

But Mr. Trump, who trusts few people and considers himself his best lawyer, spokesman and strategist, never wanted that type of system. As a result, his legal and public relations strategies have been out of sync, with the president at times publicly contradicting his lawyers, and the White House often finding itself flat-footed in the face of new disclosures about the Russia investigation.

The president's decision has also exposed many of his aides, leaving them deeply enmeshed in an inquiry that is likely to cost them tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 AM



The new 2017 US Census Bureau metropolitan area population estimates have been published. They show a significant increase in domestic migration away from the largest cities (the major metropolitan areas, with more than 1,000,000 population) toward the metropolitan areas with from 500,000 to 1,000,000 population. The data also shows an acceleration of suburban versus core county population growth within the major metropolitan areas themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 AM


Saudi Arabia: Houthi missile attack kills Egyptian in Riyadh: One killed in Houthi missile attack on Riyadh, the first death due to projectiles fired to the city by Yemeni rebels. (Al Jazeera, 3/26/18)

Earlier on Sunday, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the leader of Yemen's Houthi rebels, vowed to "use long-range weaponry" and "recruit more fighters" in the conflict with his northern neighbour.

"In the fourth year of the war, we will use more developed and more diverse missile systems which will overcome all American and non-American air defence systems to target Saudi Arabia," al-Houthi said in a lengthy televised speech.

"We'll use our Badr [short-range ballistic missiles] and Burkan missiles, long range drones which have excellent military capabilities. We will activate military institutions in an unprecedented way and open up more opportunities to recruit the children and men of our people to fight."

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 AM


Why the Stormy Daniels story matters, in one paragraph (Dylan Matthews,  Mar 25, 2018, Vox)

This is about abuse of power, pure and simple, a point that Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, makes extremely well in his own interview with 60 Minutes' Anderson Cooper:

Anderson Cooper: There are people who argue that this much ado about nothing, that if this was not a story about, an adult film actress and the President of the United States, no one would pay attention.

Michael Avenatti: This is about the cover-up. This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy.

Avenatti is exactly right: this is about the cover-up. It's about the fact that Trump was willing to exploit his money and power to intimidate Daniels, through agents like his longtime attorney Michael Cohen. And it's about the entitlement that lets him justify that behavior to himself. Extramarital affairs are commonplace. Hush agreements are not. 

March 25, 2018

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Trump not adding two lawyers to legal team, citing conflicts (Karen Freifeld, 3/25/18, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump will not hire two lawyers to his legal team handling the special counsel's Russia probe despite announcing their addition last week, Trump's personal lawyer said on Sunday. [...]

DiGenova and Toensing had been expected to help fill a growing void on Trump's legal team handling Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

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Armed white men showed up to intimidate kids at #MarchForOurLives rallies -- it didn't work (Martin Cizmar, 24 MAR 2018, Raw Story)

Nationwide protests swept America today, as a teenager-led protest against the epidemic of mass shootings.

But as with most protests, there were counter-protests. Gun-lovers in red Trump hats showed up at many of the rallies carrying AR-15s and sidearms, an effort they dubbed "March For Our Guns."

Posted by orrinj at 10:21 AM


Stormy Daniels, Trump's Unlikely Foe, Is 'Not Someone to Be Underestimated' (MATT FLEGENHEIMER, REBECCA R. RUIZ and KATIE VAN SYCKLE, MARCH 24, 2018, NY Times)

[I]f her name has seemed ubiquitous -- repeated on cable television and in the White House briefing room, and plastered on signs outside nightclubs, where her appearance fees have multiplied -- there is this to consider: Unlike most perceived presidential adversaries, about whom Mr. Trump is rarely shy, Ms. Clifford has not been the subject of a single tweet.

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A Domestic Budget to Make Barack Obama Proud (RUSSELL BERMAN, 3/25/18, The Atlantic)

In the $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Trump reluctantly signed on Friday, lawmakers did more than reject the steep cuts in dollars and programs that Trump proposed for domestic agencies a year ago. Across much of the government, Republican leaders agreed to spending levels that matched or even exceeded what Obama asked Congress to appropriate in his final budget request in 2016--and many of which lawmakers ignored while he was in office.

The Department of Health and Human Services received $78 billion, nearly identical to the $77.9 billion Obama sought and almost 20 percent more than what the Trump budget called for. Ditto for the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, which got $1.5 billion more than Obama's final request and nearly $12 billion more than the reduced level Trump sought. Obama-era priorities like Head Start and Pell Grants drew increases, too.

Congress eliminated none of the 18 independent agencies Trump wanted to scrap, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. And several of the programs he wanted to zero out won huge increases instead. Take the TIGER grants, an infrastructure program created by Obama's 2009 economic stimulus package. Congress had allocated $500 million to it each of the last several years, despite annual Obama requests to boost it to $1.25 billion. Trump's budget called for axing it entirely, but lawmakers went even higher than Obama, giving $1.5 billion to TIGER. Or the Community Development Block Grant, a federal housing program that had been receiving $3 billion from Congress annually. Obama actually proposed cutting its funding by $200 million in 2016, while Trump called for chopping it altogether. In the end, it received $3.3 billion--a 10 percent boost.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 AM


These two academics say Jesus should be recognised as a victim of sexual violence (Katie Edwards, University of Sheffield and David Tombs, University of Otago, 3/24/18, The Independent)

[I]t seems especially appropriate to recall the stripping of Jesus - and to name it for what it was intended to be: a powerful display of humiliation and gender-based violence, which should be acknowledged as an act of sexual violence and abuse.

The idea that Jesus himself experienced sexual abuse may seem strange or shocking at first, but crucifixion was a "supreme punishment" and the stripping and exposure of victims was not an accidental or incidental element. It was a deliberate action that the Romans used to humiliate and degrade those they wished to punish. It meant that the crucifixion was more than just physical, it was also a devastating emotional and psychological punishment.

The convention in Christian art of covering Christ's nakedness on the cross with a loincloth is perhaps an understandable response to the intended indignity of Roman crucifixion. But this should not prevent us from recognising that the historical reality would have been very different.

This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record. If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo, and how they promote change in wider society. This could contribute significantly to positive change in many countries, and especially in societies where the majority of people identify as Christian.

Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this "sexual violence" or "sexual abuse". Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified. The way that the stripping of Vercingetorix, King of the Arverni, is depicted in the first episode of the first series of the HBO series Rome is an example of this.

The scene highlights the vulnerability of the naked prisoner who is stripped and exposed in front of the assembled ranks of hostile Roman soldiers. The power and control of Roman power is contrasted with the vulnerability and forced submission of the prisoner. The scene also hints at the possibility of even greater sexualised violence which might be in store.

March 24, 2018

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The story of the first woman in Wales to be hanged for witchcraft (James McCarthy, 30 OCT 2017, Wales Online)

In 1594, Gwen ferch Ellis was a three-times married woman making her living weaving cloth and providing cures for sick animals.

She was proud of her expertise as a healer. Taught by her sister, she used charms to help people.

The 42-year-old did not charge for her help but was paid in kind with food and wool.

But when a charm was found at Gloddaith, the home of upper class Thomas Mostyn, her life changed forever.

Gwen, a woman who had already lost two husbands and a sister, was to become the first person hanged in Wales for witchcraft.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Gwen's belief system was what most people understood by the word witch in Wales.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 AM


Ruth, Meet Gracie: What does society lose when it encourages the abortion of children with Down syndrome? (CHARLES SYKES, 3/23/18, Weekly Standard)
I wish Ruth Marcus had come to the birthday party Wednesday night.

Not that I know her that well, but I've always found her pleasant, decent, and smart. We've exchanged green room pleasantries and apparently last week during a joint appearance, I introduced her to the term "pornstache" (in a discussion of John Bolton's facial hair).

A few weeks ago, Marcus created a stir with her column headlined: "I would've aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right." A mother of two, Marcus wrote that she was old enough to be tested for Down syndrome after the 15th week of her pregnancy. "I can say without hesitation," she wrote, "that, tragic as I would have felt, and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on."

I would have liked to have taken Ms. Marcus to Gracie Jagler's 21st birthday party.

Gracie had her hair done for the event and a limousine brought her to the local Elks Club lodge for the gathering of families and friends. Coincidentally, her birthday fell on World Down Syndrome Day, which was appropriate since Gracie was born with an extra chromosome.

I wish I could have introduced Marcus to this lovely young woman and told her Gracie's story. Last year, Gracie was awarded the first-ever Blake Pyron Entrepreneurship Scholarship. The award, given by the National Down Syndrome Society, recognized Gracie's success in creating her own company--a natural dog treat business based out of her home in Watertown, Wisconsin, called Gracie's Doggie Delights.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM

INDISPUTABLY (profanity alert):

Why Trump Hasn't Fired Mattis: The defense secretary seems to know how to disagree with the president and get away with it. (ELIANA JOHNSON March 23, 2018, Politico)

Last July, James Mattis and Rex Tillerson arranged a tutoring session at the Pentagon for President Donald Trump in the secure, windowless meeting room known as "The Tank." The plan was to lay out why American troops are deployed in far-flung places across the globe, like Japan and South Korea. Mattis spoke first.

"The postwar, rules-based international order is the greatest gift of the greatest generation," Mattis told the president, according to two meeting attendees. The secretary of defense walked the president through the complex fabric of trade deals, military agreements and international alliances that make up the global system the victors established after World War II, touching off what one attendee described as a "food fight" and a "free for all" with the president and the rest of the group. Trump punctuated the session by loudly telling his secretaries of state and defense, at several points during the meeting, "I don't agree!" The meeting culminated with Tillerson, his now ousted secretary of state, fatefully complaining after the president left the room, that Trump was "a f[***]ing moron."

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


What's Good for GM is Good for Marcuse: Conservatives Against Capitalism: From the Industrial Revolution to Globalization by Peter Kolozi.  (GRANT HAVERS, University Bookman)

As he persuasively demonstrates, America has always had conservatives who opposed capitalism, particularly the simon-pure free market version. Moreover, these enemies of the unregulated market economy have not been mere flashes in the pan. Some of the most important figures in American history, including John C. Calhoun and Theodore Roosevelt, have been right-wing adversaries of the moneyed classes. This tradition may even be enjoying a resurgence, as Kolozi persuasively contends, due to the rising instability and socioeconomic inequality that have bedeviled American capitalism since the near collapse of the system in 2008. Even if most establishment conservatives no longer undertake a systematic critique of capitalism, the populist insurgency of Donald Trump arguably builds on a tradition that has never been comfortable with laissez-faire.

Kolozi does an impressive job of discussing different traditions in American history that count as hostile to capitalism. Unsurprisingly, he devotes considerable attention to the South, the one region of America that has a discernibly feudal past. Kolozi credits both the antebellum defenders of slavery (including Calhoun but also James Henry Hammond and George Fitzhugh) and the twentieth-century Southern Agrarians (including John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, and Robert Penn Warren) with producing some of the most penetrating critiques of laissez-faire capitalism, even if their motives stemmed from the self-interested desire to preserve racial hierarchy and privilege.

Their racism is a substitute for economics. There is no economic argument against trade and immigration.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Before Ohtani, there was Ken Brett: George's older brother considered the best two-way prospect many have ever seen (Joe Posnanski, Mar. 22nd, 2018,

For all the talk of Shohei Ohtani being the best two-way prospect ever, Ken Brett came first. He was a phenom on the mound and in center field before he became a journeyman. About 30 years ago, John Garrity wrote a book called "The George Brett Story." This was shortly after George almost hit .400 and was one of the biggest sports stars in America. Garrity quoted George's father, Jack:

"I went to a game one time," Jack said, "and somebody said, 'Casey Stengel is in the stands today to see him.' Yogi Berra was there. Carl Hubbell came to see him. I thought, 'God. Maybe he's good.'

"He was Mister America -- it was almost like he was a man among boys. I thought he could be a decathlon athlete. ... And he had a knack for doing the right thing. He was very modest. He was quiet. He was somebody you could be proud of. ... I always wanted him to play for the Yankees. I wanted him to replace Mickey Mantle."

Only after a little while did Garrity reveal that Jack was not talking about George. He was talking about Ken Brett.

"To this day," George says, "people just flat out say that he may be one of the best all-around athletes to ever come out of Southern California. ... He could have gone to any college in the country on a football scholarship or baseball. And academically."

Mister America. Future Major League All-Star Scott McGregor grew up in the same neighborhood; he said that Ken was his idol. But he was everyone's idol, really. Ken was the fourth pick in the 1966 MLB Draft. Here's how different it was then, The Associated Press story that introduced him to America said this:

"Boston snatched Ken Brett, a 17-year-old schoolboy from El Segundo, Calif., who was recommended by scouts."

That's a weird line, right? Recommended by scouts? Why did they put that in there? Were other players in the draft NOT recommended by scouts?

But there is some underlying truth to it because scouts adored Ken Brett. He was the perfect prospect. He was smart. He was a good student. He was an incredible athlete. And he was equally gifted as a pitcher and a hitter; going into the Draft, nobody knew which way he would go. Joe Stephenson, the legendary Red Sox scout (and father of Jerry Stephenson, a big leaguer and himself legendary scout for the Dodgers), saw Brett hit and wanted him to play center field.

"Kemer [Ken Brett's nickname] was the best prospect I ever saw," Stephenson once told Peter Gammons. "Kemer was a combination of George, Fred Lynn and Roger Maris."

But the Red Sox wanted Ken to pitch instead ... and why not? Carl Yastrzemski said he threw as hard as Sudden Sam McDowell, who had one of the greatest fastballs in baseball history. In time, injuries would steal that fastball. And after that happened, there was some some second-guessing, particularly by people who saw the Mister America version of Ken Brett.

How good a hitter could he have been?

"What you have to understand," Ken Brett's close friend, 1980 American League Cy Young winner Steve Stone, says, "is that when you have a brother like George Brett, a Hall of Famer, an all-time great, you become the other brother in the relationship. But what they don't understand is that Ken Brett could hit better than George. He could throw better than George. He could run better than George. He did just about everything better than George."

George concurs.

"Whoever was drafting fifth [Cubs] was taking him as a center fielder," George says. "Whoever was drafting sixth [Washington] was taking him as a center fielder. Whoever was drafting seventh [St. Louis] was taking him as a center fielder. I don't know how many teams there were in 1966 [20], but he was everybody's choice as a left-handed-hitting center fielder. He could run. He had a great arm, obviously. But the guy could frickin' hit "

March 23, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Chuck Schumer Declares Victory on Omnibus: 'We're Able to Accomplish More in the Minority' (SEAN MORAN23 Mar 2018, Breitbart)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declared victory on the omnibus spending bill Thursday, saying, "We're able to accomplish more in the minority."

Schumer said, "It's a funny thing. In a certain sense, we're able to accomplish more in the minority than we were when we had the presidency or even were in the majority."

The Senate Minority Leader continued, "At the end of the day, as the minority party, we feel good about being able to succeed in so many ways. We don't have the House, we don't have the Senate, we don't have the presidency, but we produced a darn good bill for the priorities we have believed in."

Sen. Schumer also touted the inclusion of the Gateway bridge project in the omnibus, as well as increased funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


'You should do it': Trump officials encouraged George Papadopoulos's foreign outreach, documents show (Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger March 23, 2018, Washington Post)

"You should do it," deputy communications director Bryan Lanza urged Papadopoulos in a September 2016 email, emphasizing the benefits of a U.S. "partnership with Russia." [...]

Since Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the campaign and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump officials have sought to paint the 30-year-old energy consultant as a low-level volunteer whose outreach to Russia was not authorized by the campaign -- and in some cases was actively discouraged.

Emails described to The Washington Post, which are among thousands of documents turned over to investigators examining Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign, show Papadopoulos had more-extensive contact with key Trump campaign and presidential transition officials than has been publicly acknowledged.

Among those who communicated with Papadopoulos were senior campaign figures such as strategist Stephen K. Bannon and adviser Michael Flynn, who corresponded with him about his efforts to broker ties between Trump and top foreign officials, the emails show.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


The Decline and Fall of Elizabeth Warren (FRED BARNES, 3/23/18, Weekly Standard)

While Trump is an irritant to Warren, she has bigger problems. The most serious is what appears to be an openness by her party to lean a bit toward the center. This is not unusual before a midterm election. But Warren is bound to view it as a weakening of both her influence on Capitol Hill and her prospects of winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

That Democrats have the upper hand in 2018 is undisputed (except by Trump), and they want to maximize their gains. They've held on tightly to liberal positions on immigration and social issues, but other policies adopted in the Obama years are no longer sacrosanct.

Politico headlined a recent story "Warren at war with fellow Dems." Indeed she is, and what's noteworthy is she's losing the most serious of the battles.

It involves a bipartisan measure to ease the sweeping banking regulations--the Dodd-Frank Act--passed after the 2008 financial crisis. Sixteen Democrats joined Republicans to push the new bill ahead. Warren, along with her left-wing allies, was furious.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


The Fight to Replace Hope Hicks in the Trump White House Enters Its 'Smear Campaign Stage' (Asawin Suebsaeng, 03.21.18, Daily Beast)

The race to become the next White House Communications Director has degenerated into a round of backstabbing and factionalism that has taken aback even the most jaded of White House aides and allies.

One White House official described the contest to replace departing Trump adviser Hope Hicks as being well into its "smear campaign stage." Another senior administration official dubbed it as a "battle royale." And a Republican official close to the White House bemoaned yet another heavy shot of "palace intrigue and backstabbing" in an administration uniquely notorious for both.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


A conservative commentator revolts against Fox News (Max Boot March 21, 2018, Washington Post)

It's not hard to see why Peters is ashamed. Fox has turned itself into the American version of RT, Vladimir Putin's propaganda TV. Not only does Fox usually go to great lengths to avoid criticizing President Trump; it also regularly peddles insidious conspiracy theories on his behalf. To try to undermine the "incontrovertible" evidence that the Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee, for example, Fox hosts pinned the blame on a DNC staffer named Seth Rich, even going so far as to claim that his murder -- ascribed by District police to a botched robbery -- was the work of the Democrats. Rich's parents are now suing Fox for the "pain and anguish" inflicted on them. (Fox has retracted the story.)

The Seth Rich hoax is only the tip of the conspiratorial iceberg at Fox, which has also pushed claims that Obama wasn't born in America, that Obamacare would create "death panels," that Hillary Clinton sold America's uranium to Russia and that a "deep state" is plotting against Trump. (Little wonder that, according to a new poll, 74 percent of Americans believe in the existence of a deep state -- a concept Trump borrowed from Egypt and Turkey.)

Fox has taken the lead in smearing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a war hero and prosecutor of unimpeachable integrity. The network has called for his investigation of Trump to be terminated. Fox host Jeanine Pirro has even suggested that the FBI and Justice Department should be "cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs."

I got a small taste of Fox's psychosis in July 2017 when I appeared on Tucker Carlson's show. Carlson was spitting mad because the previous night Peters had accused him of sounding like "Charles Lindbergh in 1938" for advocating an alliance with Russia. Carlson had ostensibly invited me on to discuss Syria, but he spent most of the interview insulting me. He suggested that "nobody" takes me "seriously" (so why did he invite me on?) and that I should "choose another profession -- selling insurance, house painting, something you're good at." As I later noted, this was emblematic of Carlson's lowbrow shtick -- "sarcasm, condescension, and mock-incredulous double-takes" -- all in service of his Maximum Leader.

What makes Fox's ravings so scary is that they are not just influencing the public -- they are also influencing the president. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:23 AM


EXCLUSIVE: 'Lone DNC Hacker' Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer (SPENCER ACKERMAN & KEVIN POULSEN, 03.22.18, Daily Beast)

Guccifer 2.0, the "lone hacker" who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia's military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It's an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.

That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

No one wonders that Donald and his bots are getting increasingly frantic.

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 AM


Former Playboy Model Spills Details Of Alleged Affair: Trump Tried To Pay Her (VANESSA ROMO, 3/23/18, NPR)

McDougal recounted the specifics of the alleged affair; She first met Trump at the Playboy Mansion when he was filming an episode of Celebrity Apprentice. He said "hello" and seemed immediately smitten by the striking brunette, who bears more than a passing resemblance to his new wife at the time, Melania. 

March 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


The Stock Market Tanked Because Donald Trump Is Risking a Trade War With China (JORDAN WEISSMANN, MARCH 22, 2018, Slate)

Donald Trump tanked the stock market Thursday. Our president announced he would slam down about $60 billion worth of tariffs on China in retaliation for trade practices the White House says amount to stealing U.S. intellectual property. By the end of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 700 points. The S&P 500 was down about 2.5 percent, the most since its last freakout in February.

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Trump is finally getting a taste of accountability. And it's driving him nuts. (Paul Waldman, March 22, 2018, The Week)

The lesson sunk in, helping Trump to develop a willingness to go where others with some sense of propriety or ethics wouldn't dare. He could take on huge debts and then leave others holding the bag, he could skirt rules and laws whenever it suited him, he could take a wife (or two or three), cheat on her and then discard her for a younger one when he got bored, and through it all maintain his celebrity and his lifestyle. When you're a star, as he later said about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity, they let you do it.

Whenever anyone Trump had wronged tried to fight back -- a small business owner he stiffed, a woman he abused -- he had the lawyers handle it. Sometimes a threatening letter was enough to make the problem go away, or he might sue them (before running for president Trump had sued someone or been sued a mind-boggling 3,500 times). At worst he'd make a payoff, for a sum that was meaningful to his antagonist but miniscule to him, like the $130,000 paid to the porn star Stormy Daniels to allegedly cover up their affair. The routine was familiar, handled almost entirely by his underlings, and left him free to continue acting the way he always had.

Trump's ability to escape accountability reached its apotheosis with his presidential run, in which again and again he did and said things that everyone told him would destroy his campaign, but never did. Every appalling statement, every fight he picked, every person he offended -- and how he emerged unscathed every time -- reinforced the old lesson: I can get away with anything.

But then he walked into the Oval Office and found that the presidency is surrounded by layers of accountability and constraint. The courts can overrule his policy choices. Congress has to be convinced to put his preferences into law. When he does something stupid, there's a good chance that one of his own aides is going to whisper it to a reporter. In just the latest example, on Tuesday Trump was handed briefing materials by his national security staff in preparation for a phone call with Vladimir Putin, on which the words "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" were written in all caps, lest Trump seem to validate Putin's corrupt election win. Naturally, Trump proceeded to congratulate Putin, and by the next day the story was in The Washington Post, making him look like a fool, a Putin lackey, and someone who gets treated like a child by his own staff.

Meanwhile, he's getting sued by multiple women over sexual misconduct, and worst of all is that diabolical Robert Mueller. Someone who doesn't care when Trump insults him, who can't be threatened or intimidated or sued or bought off, and who has the temerity to demand that Trump answer questions and turn over documents. Just who the hell does this guy think he is?

One gets the impression that what galls Trump the most isn't that Mueller is running a "witch hunt" trying to uncover evidence of wrongdoing when Trump's behavior was obviously above reproach. It's that Mueller just keeps going, turning former Trump associates, handing down indictments, and getting answers to his questions. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 AM


Sasse Slams White House's Handling of 'Putin's Phony, Sham Re-Election' (JENNA LIFHITS, 3/21/18, Weekly Standard)

In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Sasse said Sanders was wrong to sidestep a question about the integrity of Russia's elections, a question to which he said the world already knows the answer.

"Yesterday, when the White House refused to speak directly and clearly about this matter, we were weakened as a nation and a tyrant was strengthened," he said. "The dodge on Putin broke with the basic American moral tradition. It broke faith with our core values. It broke trust with freedom seekers across the globe."

He continued: "To those who struggle, we have always said, 'we see you, and we stand with you.' These simple truths matter. The moral responsibilities of the office of the presidency matter, and when we don't affirm these basic truths, it is a failure to who we are. It is a failure to do what we do, and it is a betrayal, not just to the millions of people who are denied free and fair elections in Russia this week, but it is a failure to people all across the globe who are struggling in darkness against tyrants."

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Inside the Bizarre World of Indoor Marathons (Martin Fritz Huber, Mar 21, 2018, Outside)

"I'm not trying to insult anybody, but I feel like this is an event for running geeks," said Amelia Bourdeau, a recreational runner who, on Saturday, was sitting in street clothes in the balcony-level stands of the six-lane indoor track and field facility in New York City, known locally as the Armory.

Below, seven runners--five men and two women--were in the process of running 211 laps in an attempt to break the indoor marathon world record. Christopher Zablocki, who set the men's mark of 2:21:48 at this event last year and was recently profiled in the New York Times, was back to defend his title. From the looks of it, however, he had some work to do; with less than a third of the race to go, Zablocki's rival Malcolm Richards had already twice lapped the rest of the men's field and was showing no sign of slowing down. Richards had set the world record at the inaugural Indoor Marathon World Record Challenge, in 2016, and seemed bent on regaining his title.

"Malcolm has a two-and-a-half lap lead now. That's only 500 meters!" a race announcer said over the loudspeaker, in an apparent bid to reinject a little drama.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


John Bolton's Curious Appearance In A Russian Gun Rights Video (TIM MAK, 3/22/18, NPR)

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton recorded a video used by the Russian gun rights group The Right to Bear Arms in 2013 to encourage the Russian government to loosen gun laws.

The episode, which has not been previously reported, illustrates the common cause that Russian and American gun rights groups were forming in the years leading up to the 2016 election through former National Rifle Association president David Keene.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 AM


How a Witness for Mueller and a Republican Donor Influenced the White House for Gulf Rulers (David D. Kirkpatrick and Mark Mazzetti, March 21, 2018, NY Times)

A cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation worked for more than a year to turn a top Trump fund-raiser into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to interviews and previously undisclosed documents.

Hundreds of pages of correspondence between the two men reveal an active effort to cultivate President Trump on behalf of the two oil-rich Arab monarchies, both close American allies.

High on the agenda of the two men -- George Nader, a political adviser to the de facto ruler of the U.A.E., and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee -- was pushing the White House to remove Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, backing confrontational approaches to Iran and Qatar and repeatedly pressing the president to meet privately outside the White House with the leader of the U.A.E.

Mr. Tillerson was fired last week, and the president has adopted tough approaches toward both Iran and Qatar.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM


Americans are more likely to be attacked by far-right terrorists than Islamists (MEHDI HASAN, 3/22/18, New Statesman)

Over the course of his 14 months in office, the president has pointedly refused to use the term "white supremacist terrorist". He has turned a blind eye to a wave of shootings, stabbings and bombings carried out not by radicalised Muslims but by radicalised white men. He has ignored the fact - documented in a range of studies - that Americans are much more likely to be the victims of a "white supremacist terrorist" than a "radical Islamic terrorist". (According to the Investigative Fund, an independent journalism organisation, "far-right plots and attacks outnumber Islamist incidents by almost two to one.")

And the reason for Trump's PC position? It's straightforward - if scary. "Radical Islamic terrorists" aren't part of his base. "White supremacist terrorists" are.

Posted by orrinj at 3:33 AM


Trump Fumes Over Leak About Putin Call (Noah Bierman And Tracy Wilkinson, 3/21/18, Tribune)

President Donald Trump and some aides were furious on Wednesday after the leak of sensitive notes for briefing the president before a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to aides and a close associate.

The leak appeared designed to embarrass Trump for congratulating rather than confronting Putin -- contrary to the notes' recommendation.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 AM


Behind the scenes: Fox News analyst's stunning note hit network 'like a bombshell' (Oliver Darcy, March 21, 2018, CNN)

The stunning note reverberated through the Fox News community. Employees passed it along to other employees, people familiar with the matter said, with many agreeing with the thrust of the note: That Fox News opinion personalities were out of control in their devotion to Trump. One employee even told CNN that they were "jealous" about the way Peters made a splash on his way out and that the person "fantasized" about doing the same.

And it wasn't only the rank-and-file employees who were talking about it. Fox News executives were "rattled" by the leak, afraid that the story has the potential to grow legs, as Peters is a fierce conservative with a lot of credibility within the conservative community, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.

Indeed, it's possible Peters could speak out on rival networks after he is freed from the constraints of his contract, which he said is set to expire next week. And he's not someone who can be characterized as sympathetic to liberal views. [...]

Peters' note, however, underscored the divide at Fox News between the network's opinion programming and hard news. Peters cited the Fox News opinion hosts' relentless attacks on the FBI, Justice Department, intelligence agencies, and other branches of government and said he believed Fox News was knowingly causing harm to the country in exchange for profit. His comments helped expand a rift that has grown incredibly deep as of late, the longtime Fox News employee told CNN.

In fact, it's started to boil over into public view. In October, "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace told the Associated Press he was bothered by how some of his colleagues on the opinion side of the network used their platforms to attack the media. And Shepard Smith, the chief news anchor at Fox News, was critical of the Fox News opinion bloc in a story published last week.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 AM


Al-Qaeda 3.0: turning to face the near enemy (Isaac Kfir, 3/22/18, The Strategist)

In the 1990s and 2000s, as al-Qaeda was asserting itself on the global stage as the premier Salafi-jihadi terrorist group, its ideology and action inspired tremendous bloodletting, especially among Muslims. By the 2010s, Zawahiri recognised the limited value of that approach and reoriented the organisation away from mass casualty-terrorism, especially against Muslims.

To highlight how attuned Zawahiri is to shifting perceptions, he clearly noted that by the late 2000s, pollsters were pointing out that public opinion, especially in Muslim-majority countries, had shifted against suicide bombing. In Lebanon, for example, 74% of the population thought that such attacks could be justified in 2002; by 2007, that support had fallen to only 34%. At that time, noted that large majorities in Egypt (88%), Indonesia (65%) and Morocco (66%) opposed attacks on civilians.

Zawahiri's al-Qaeda even chastised Islamic State, accusing it of 'deviation and misguidance' and saying that the group 'exceeded the limits of extremism'. That has meant that the prospect of another al-Qaeda-inspired 9/11 has decreased, as Zawahiri appreciates that such an attack is likely to harm his cause more than to help it. [...]

Interestingly Zawahiri appears to have adapted the ideas of his arch-enemy, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, who argued that after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, it was time for the Arab Afghans (Arabs who had made the hijrah (migration) to Afghanistan) to shift their attention to the near enemy--'apostate' Muslim regimes and Israel. Zawahiri had argued that the mujahedeen should focus on the far enemy (the US and the West in general), as it was Washington that was keeping the Arab leaders in power.

Zawahiri's current strategy seems to indicate that al-Qaeda is moving away from its initial focus, the far enemy, and focussing instead on the near enemy, specifically Arab countries with fragile governments. There are many such governments across the Muslim and Arab World, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb.

'So where are you,' Zawahiri asks his followers in his latest message. 'Where is your Islamic zeal? Where is your eagerness? Where is your settlement of your duties for the inheritance of your fathers?'

While we will replace them with Islamist regimes,, rather than Islamicist, the near enemy is ours as well, to the extent each oppresses its own population.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 AM


Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster (Middle East Online, 3/22/18)

The leader of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Wednesday that the deeply indebted country faced disaster if it continued on the same financial path.

Iran-backed, Shi'ite Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's coalition government and wields extensive influence in Lebanese politics. Nasrallah was speaking on television about the group's platform for parliamentary elections in May.

"The danger reaches to the level of an existential threat to the state and to the country, and to the security and stability of society if the financial situation and spending continue like this," he said.

He urged measures to rationalise spending, reduce public debt and combat corruption and wastefulness, but without giving specifics.

March 21, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


SAUDI CROWN PRINCE BOASTED THAT JARED KUSHNER WAS "IN HIS POCKET" (Ryan Grim, Alex Emmons, Clayton Swisher, March 21 2018, The Intercept)

In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching some intelligence officials off guard. "The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy," the Washington Post's David Ignatius reported at the time.

What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. [...]

One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was "in his pocket," the source told The Intercept.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


EXCLUSIVE: Fired FBI official authorized criminal probe of Sessions, sources say (MIKE LEVINE, Mar 21, 2018, ABC News)

According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate "all contacts" Sessions may have had with Russians, and "whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred."

It's unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions' interview with Mueller's investigators. It's also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress - or others - since his confirmation.

During his confirmation in January 2017, Sessions told the Senate committee that he had not been in contact with anyone connected to the Russian government about the 2016 election. He also said he was "not aware" of anyone else affiliated with the Trump campaign communicating with the Russian government ahead of the election.

Two months later, after a Washington Post report disputed what Sessions told Congress, the attorney general acknowledged he had met the Russian ambassador twice during the presidential campaign, but insisted none of those interactions were "to discuss issues of the campaign."

Sessions "made no attempt to correct his misleading testimony until The Washington Post revealed that, in fact, he had at least two meetings with the Russian ambassador," Leahy and Franken said in a statement at the time. "We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes."

Sessions called any suggestions that he misled lawmakers "false."

Nevertheless, charges subsequently brought by Mueller raised more questions over Sessions' testimony to Congress.

In November, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos admitted to federal authorities that during the campaign he was in frequent contact with Russian operatives about setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Papadopoulos pitched the idea to Sessions and Trump at a meeting of the then-candidate's foreign policy team in March 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Ex-minister: Israel halted Syria strikes at Putin's behest (JUDAH ARI GROSS, 3/21/18, tIMES OF iSRAEL)

A former deputy defense minister on Wednesday claimed Israel ended its attacks on Syrian air defenses last month because Russian President Vladmir Putin called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told him, "That's enough."

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM

Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM


White House Job Requirement: Signing a Nondisclosure Agreement (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, MAGGIE HABERMAN, MICHAEL D. SHEAR and KATIE ROGERS, MARCH 21, 2018, NY Times)

To calm Mr. Trump, Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, drew up a broad document barring White House officials from publicly disclosing what they heard and saw at work. But he privately told senior aides that it was mainly meant to placate an agitated president, who was convinced that the people around him had to be pressured into keeping his secrets. Mr. McGahn made it clear the agreement could not ultimately be enforced, according to several people who signed.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


Republicans leading Russia probe ignored every lesson I learned as a prosecutor (Adam Schiff, March 20, 2018, USA Today)

Investigations have a certain rhythm: You begin with solid leads, use subpoenas to compel testimony or documents from reticent witnesses, interview lower-level witnesses first and then move on to higher-level targets. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee did none of these things before shutting down their Russia investigation last week. [...]

If the committee Republicans intended to conduct a serious investigation, the path was obvious. They would have interviewed key witnesses like George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, KT McFarland and scores of others, and compelled answers from those we did interview but who refused to answer our questions. 

Instead, they uniformly refused Democratic requests to subpoena travel, bank, calendar, phone and Twitter Direct Message records. Witness interviews were rushed and scheduled haphazardly with no apparent order. Often the most important witnesses were brought in first (like Jared Kushner), and frequently before witnesses provided documents we needed to inform our questions.

During interviews, Republican lawmakers followed a familiar pattern. They would ask each witness the "three C's" as they became known: "Did you collude, conspire, or coordinate with Russia?" If a witness answered "no," all too often that was the end of the matter for Republicans. It's like asking the getaway driver if he robbed the bank and accepting "no" for an answer, rather than asking why he owned the car used in the heist, why his alibi didn't check out, or why marked bills were found in his house.

The fundamental un-seriousness of the Republican majority was most glaring when witnesses simply refused to answer, asserting non-existent, overly broad or farcical claims of privilege, or giving no basis at all. In permitting witnesses to choose their questions, the majority made a serious investigation impossible, and hobbled future congressional oversight by setting a terrible precedent. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


A stunning leak rattles Trump and his aides (Jonathan Swan, 3/21/18, Axios)

One of the most startling leaks -- and stunning revelations -- of this whole administration has left President Trump and his senior staff furious and rattled. The Washington Post reports in its lead story: "Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers [yesterday] when he congratulated ... Putin on his reelection -- including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating 'DO NOT CONGRATULATE.'"

Why it matters: The speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration, as aides reeled from a leak that could only have come from a small group of people, each of whom is trusted with sensitive national secrets.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Russell Kirk at 100: In an age of crass politics, remembering the man who laid American conservatism's roots. (BRADLEY J. BIRZER, March 20, 2018, American Conservative)

Almost as soon as Kirk entered Michigan State College as an undergraduate in 1936, Professor John Abbott Clark took him under his care and introduced him not just to the profoundly important but already neglected works of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More, but to Socratic and Ciceronian humanism as a fundamental part of the Western tradition. During his college years, Kirk combined his love of romantic literature, the humanist ideals of Babbitt and More, and the stoic wisdom of his grandfather into what would be recognized by 1953 as modern conservatism. While earning an M.A. in history at Duke in 1940 and 1941, Kirk also discovered an intense love of Edmund Burke, whom he'd encountered through Babbitt and More in college but only indirectly. It was while writing his M.A. thesis on the rabid Southern republican John Randolph of Roanoke that Kirk first felt the influence of the greatest of the 18th-century Anglo-Irish statesmen. Though many scholars--from Daniel Boorstin to Leo Strauss to Peter Stanlis--were also re-discovering Burke (along with Alexis de Tocqueville) in the 1940s, it was Kirk's 1953 work, The Conservative Mind, that would once again make Burke a household name in America and, to a lesser extent, in Great Britain.

By the time America entered World War II, a very young Kirk--rather enthusiastically Nockian and anarchistic--already despised Franklin Roosevelt for his mistreatment of ethnic and religious minorities at home and abroad and his militarization of the American economy. As much as Kirk hated Hitler, he did not see FDR as a viable alternative. Succumbing to the draft in the late summer of 1942, Russell Amos Kirk, B.A., M.A., endured in the military the only way he knew how: by spending all of his free time reading. Before shipping off to training at Camp Custer in Michigan (he would spend much of the war as a company clerk in the desert wastes of Utah), Kirk purchased every work of Plato and the Stoics that he could find. From his childhood to his death, he kept a copy of Aurelius's Meditations close to him. As in the rest of his life, it would serve as his greatest comfort during the war. As he wrote in a personal letter, "everything in Christianity is Stoic":

Really, the highest compliment I can pay to the Greeks is that they could understand and admire the Stoics and admit their own inferiority. Were the Stoics to ask the moderns the rhetorical questions they asked the Greeks, the moderns also would accept the questions as rhetorical--but would answer them in exactly the opposite manner.

In imitation of Aurelius, his own war diaries attempted to describe the world around him through the lens of the Greek and Roman-adopted Logos, the eternal order of the universe. "'Nothing is good but virtue'--Zeno" Kirk scrawled across the cover of his first diary.

After-Donald the GOP will have to return to Conservatism to stay relevant.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:53 AM


March 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM


An "Ashamed" Fox News Commentator Just Quit The "Propaganda Machine" (Tom Namako, 3/20/18, BuzzFeed News)

A retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Fox News contributor quit Tuesday and denounced the network and President Donald Trump in an email to colleagues.

"Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration," wrote Ralph Peters, a Fox News "strategic analyst."

"Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed," he wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 PM


Kris Kobach Just Got Humiliated in Federal Court: The Kansas secretary of state wanted to prove his claims of widespread voter fraud. Instead, he was repeatedly embarrassed. (ARI BERMAN, MAR. 20, 2018, Mother Jones)

[T]he trial devolved into a comedy of errors, with Kobach's witnesses frequently contradicting his claims or getting humiliated by pointed questions they couldn't answer.

Kobach, who led President Donald Trump's election integrity commission and is now running for governor, hired Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation to support his claim that illegal votes by non-citizens had swung US elections. But under questioning from ACLU lawyer Dale Ho, von Spakovsky admitted he couldn't name a single election where votes by non-citizens had decided the outcome.

Kobach cited Jesse Richman, a professor of political science at Old Dominion University, to defend the charge that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 because of millions of illegal votes. But when Ho asked Richman if illegal votes had provided the margin for Clinton, Richman said "no."

Richman produced a study for Kobach last year alleging that as many as 18,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Kansas. However, the study offered evidence of only six noncitizens who attempted to register. Richman admitted in court that he didn't know if they had succeeded in registering or voting. And the methodology Richman used to identify noncitizen voters was deeply flawed: He simply flagged people with "foreign"-sounding names, although he was inconsistent in his execution. As Talking Points Memo reported, "two respondents with the last name Lopez were coded as foreign, and three Lopezes were not."

On the sixth day of the trial, Ho read a series of names and asked Richman if he would label them as foreign-sounding. When he came to the name Carlos Murguia, Richman said he probably would flag it as foreign. Ho responded that Carlos Murguia was a federal judge in that very courthouse in Kansas City.

Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM


Africa is on the verge of forming the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization (Justina Crabtree, 3/20/18,

African heads of state have gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a free trade agreement that would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Leaders are poised to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area, a deal that will unite the 55 member countries of the African Union in tariff-free trade.

The agreement is touted by the African Union as encompassing a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. It is hoped that it will encourage Africa's trade to diversify away from its traditional commodity exports outside of the continent, the volatile prices of which have hurt the economies of many countries.

"Less than 20 percent of Africa's trade is internal," Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also currently chairperson of the African Union, said in a speech Tuesday. "Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Burgers triumph over baguettes in French fast food wars (AFP, 20 March 2018)

Baguette lovers may be horrified to learn that in 2017, for the first time ever, hamburger sales were higher in France than the classic jambon-beurre sandwich.

American-style burgers were on the menu at 85 percent of restaurants in France last year, with a whopping 1.5 billion units sold, according to Paris-based restaurant consultants Gira Conseil.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


The Stormy Daniels saga could turn into a big deal for Mueller's Trump probe, experts say (Kevin Breuninger & Dan Mangan, 3/19/18,

Cohen said in February that he made a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016, just weeks before the election that would catapult Trump to the White House. Cohen later said the money came from a home equity line of credit. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has said the money was in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure deal facilitated by Cohen through a company he set up shortly beforehand.

Daniels gave details of the alleged affair to In Touch magazine in a 2011 interview that wasn't published until earlier this year. Although the relationship between Trump and Daniels allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2007 -- shortly after Trump's wife, Melania, gave birth to Trump's youngest son, Barron -- the hush-money deal wasn't signed until a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

 Trump's lawyer used Trump Organization email to arrange payment to Stormy Daniels Trump's lawyer used Trump Organization email to arrange payment to Stormy Daniels  

5:07 PM ET Fri, 9 March 2018 | 00:57

The timing of the payment has raised the question of whether Cohen and the Trump campaign violated campaign finance laws in an effort to prevent Daniels going public with her story just before voters started casting ballots.

The amount of money that Cohen gave Daniels was well in excess of the contribution maximum that an individual could make to a campaign. And the expenditure was not disclosed by the Trump campaign.

"I think that is something to care about," New York City criminal defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt said when CNBC asked why Mueller could be eyeing the Daniels deal.

"It's a close associate of the president involved in the campaign," Lefcourt said. "If the president knows about it, he's involved in the [potential] campaign violation as well."

He added: "Why would [Mueller] not want to know about it? It might not be a major violation, but he'd certainly want to know it."

Donald and the Trumpbots do seem to have been made especially frantic since this angle broke.
Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Paris to examine making public transport free for everyone (The Local, 20 March 2018)

Could Paris take the revolutionary step of making public transport completely free for all residents of the capital? The mayor is looking into the idea. [...]

In the meantime Hidalgo is looking to at least make public transport free in Paris for certain sections of the population. The Paris city council will decide whether the monthly Navigo transport pass will be free for over 65s who earn less than €2,200 per month or €3,400 if they are in a couple.

Paris would not be the first place in France to make public transport free for residents.

In all there are some 24 towns (see link below) that have already committed to adopting the revolutionary measure including Dunkirk on the English Channel coast.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 AM


Gowdy Tells Trump: 'If You're Innocent, Act Like It'  (Cristina Silva, 3/20/18,  Newsweek)

"When you are innocent ... act like it," Gowdy said on Fox News Sunday after he was asked about Trump's repeated attacks on Mueller on Twitter. "If you've done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible."

Gowdy also advised Trump's attorney, John Dowd: "If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it." Dowd called over the weekend for Mueller's investigation to come to a close.

Yes, if he weren't guilty he would act differently.

March 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


Tasty cow: Spring outing proves Martin Perez is ready to eat up innings like he ate the bull that injured him (Evan Grant , 3/19/18, Dallas Morning News)

The last obstacle that got in the way of Martin Perez's pitching career was an obstinate, ornery and rambunctious bull.

Perez had the bull killed. And then he ate him.

"It tasted good, too," Perez said rather gleefully Sunday after five sharp innings against the Los Angeles Angels in his first spring training game of the year. "Good meat." [...]

Perez required surgery to repair a broken bone at the tip of his right (non-pitching) elbow after the bull jumped at him and knocked him off a fence on his ranch in Venezuela. And then the bull met its end.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Trump to Hire Lawyer Who Has Pushed Theory That Justice Dept. Frame (MAGGIE HABERMAN and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, MARCH 19, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president. "There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn't win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime," he said on Fox News in January. He added, "Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime."

Little evidence has emerged to support that theory.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


Andrew McCarthy's Puzzling Argument (Orin Kerr, March 19, 2018, LawFare)

McCarthy's accusation is pretty simple. Mueller didn't do that with Gates, and therefore he broke the rule. Straightforward, right?

The problem is that there's an exception to the rule that McCarthy ignores. It appears in the next paragraph:

The requirement that a defendant plead to a charge, that is consistent with the nature and extent of his/her criminal conduct is not inflexible. Although cooperation is usually acknowledged through a Sentencing Guideline § 5K1.1 filing, there may be situations involving cooperating defendants in which considerations such as those discussed in USAM 9-27.600, take precedence. 

What's USAM 9-27.600, you wonder? That's the section on entering into non-prosecution agreements in exchange for cooperation. The idea is that in some cases, the only way to get a defendant to cooperate quickly may be to make a deal: Cooperation in exchange for no prosecution at all. The Manual says that is an option if "the person's timely cooperation appears to be necessary to the public interest and other means of obtaining the desired cooperation are unavailable or would not be effective." But the Manual then explains that such an extreme approach should be undertaken only after considering and rejecting less extreme alternatives:

[N]on-prosecution agreements are only one of several methods by which the prosecutor can obtain the cooperation of a person whose criminal involvement makes him/her a potential subject of prosecution. Other methods - such as seeking cooperation after trial and conviction, bargaining for cooperation as part of a plea agreement, and compelling cooperation under a "use immunity" order - involve prosecuting the person or at least leaving open the possibility of prosecuting him/her on the basis of independently obtained evidence. Since these outcomes are clearly preferable to permitting an offender to avoid any liability for his/her conduct, the possible use of an alternative to a non-prosecution agreement should be given serious consideration in the first instance. 

Let's put the pieces together. 

In the ordinary case--the only kind of case McCarthy focuses on--a defendant must "plead to a charge that is consistent with the nature and extent of his/her criminal conduct."  But that ordinary approach is "not inflexible," and the need to get cooperation from a defendant may "take precedence" over the rule. In particular, prosecutors can "bargain[] for cooperation as part of a plea agreement," and the need for cooperation can "take precedence" over the usual requirement when "timely cooperation appears to be necessary to the public interest."   

In plain English, if a sweet plea deal is needed to get an important witness to flip and cooperate quickly, a sweet plea deal can be reached. Prosecutors should do so cautiously for a range of reasons. But accepting the plea to only a small part of the charge in exchange for cooperation, as happened in the Gates case, isn't "bizarre." It doesn't "shred" policy. And it doesn't "flout" the rules. The practice is expressly provided for in the rules. It's just in a paragraph that McCarthy for some reason ignores.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


Former FBI agent Fred Humphries calls McCabe firing justified (Howard Altman, March 17, 2018, Tampa Bay Times)

Fred Humphries woke up Saturday morning and for the first time ever raised a blue and white Federal Bureau of Investigation flag on the pole in his front yard. [...]

Humphries retired, a short while after serving a 60-day unpaid suspension for previously speaking to the Times without permission.

McCabe, fired after the Justice Department rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend, is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between FBI officials and a journalist.

Humphries said McCabe's firing was good for the organization because it is important for top officials to be held accountable for the same transgressions agents like him are. The McCabe firing is fitting, Humphries says, for a man accused of lack of candor about media contacts whose office launched an investigation into him talking to a newspaper.

"Every employee of the FBI voluntarily swears to observe the bureau's strict standards of conduct, especially in terms of candor and ethics," said Humphries. "When we fall short of that, we can expect appropriate sanctions. Yesterday's firing of the former deputy director demonstrates that those sanctions are meted out uniformly, regardless of rank or position."

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


...he has no idea what's in the Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Will Bush be vindicated? : A case for the Iraq War (Jeff McIntyre, 2011, National Observer)

Flouting UN sanctions and international law

Saddam diverted upwards of $500 million from illegal oil sales, obtained through the Oil-For-Food (OFF) programme (designed to alleviate the negative effects of the sanctions on the Iraqi people), to bribe mostly French, Russian and Chinese officials into gaining their approval for lifting sanctions, and also to support his and his government's extravagant expenditure.

The Iraq Survey Group report sums up the effect of the regime's systematic efforts to undermine the sanctions regime:[5]

"Over time sanctions have steadily weakened to the point where Iraq in 2000-2001 was confidently designing missiles around components that could only be obtained outside sanctions. Moreover illicit revenues grew to quite substantial levels during the same period ... the regime quickly came to see the OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to undermine the sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development. By 2000-20001 Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of the sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo by the end of 1999."

Meanwhile Saddam reduced the UN Security Council's sanctions to meaningless, toothless and ineffectual words, although these sanctions had been passed after many complex and delicate negotiations between diplomats. He simply ignored and undermined them.

These were the UN Security Council Resolutions, in chronological order:

•      Resolution 660, August 2, 1990 -- Demanded that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait.

•      Resolution 661, August 6, 1990 -- Established the first sanctions regime.

•      Resolutions 678 and 679, November 29, 1990 -- Last chance to leave Kuwait before war.

•      Resolution 686, March 2, 1991 -- Cease provocative actions.

•      Resolution 687, April 3, 1991 -- Destroy all biological and chemical weapons, and make restitution.

•      Resolution 688, April 5, 1991 -- Established the No-Fly Zones.

•      Resolution 707, August 15, 1991 -- Demanded full disclosure of WMD.

•      Resolution 715, October 11, 1991 -- Established weapons-monitoring programme (UNSCOM).

•      Resolution 986, April 14, 1995 -- Established Oil-for-Food.

•      Resolution 1284, December 17, 1999 -- Re-established weapons inspections (UNMOVIC).

•      Resolution 1373, September 13, 2001 -- Tightened international laws concerning terrorism.

•      Resolution 1441, November 8, 2002 -- "False statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations " (This resolution was passed unanimously by the relevant nations, 15-0, an even bigger level of support than the UN manifested for the First Gulf War.)

Every single one of these resolutions was breached by the Iraqi regime.

George Bush's speech to the UN general assembly : This is the text of the speech delivered by the US president to the United Nations in which he urged action on Iraq (George W. Bush,  12 Sep 2002, United Nations)

Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources.

Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear to him and to all, and he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge, by his deceptions and by his cruelties, Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, security council resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities, which the council said threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the UN commission on human rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights and that the regime's repression is all-pervasive.

Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation and rape.

Wives are tortured in front of their husbands; children in the presence of their parents; and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the UN security council, through resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise.

Last year, the secretary-general's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwaiti, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for; more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the UN security council through resolution 687 demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism and permit no terrorist organisations to operate in Iraq.

Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. In violation of security council resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organisations that direct violence against Iran, Israel and western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder.

In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American president. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September 11. And al-Qaida terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections.

Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge. From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons.

After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of litres of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs and aircraft spray tanks.

UN inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared and has failed to account for more than three metric tonnes of material that could be used to produce biological weapons.

Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf war.

We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program, weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, and accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance.

Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon.

Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminium tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.

And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 94 miles permitted by the UN Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long range missiles that can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with security council resolutions.

In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials.

He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself and to buy arms for his country.

By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens. In 1991, Iraq promised UN inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles.

Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading and harassing UN inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely.

Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the security council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations.

The security council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations.

The security council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations, and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behaviour totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last UN inspector set foot in Iraq - four years for the Iraqi regime to plan and to build and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left?

The history, the logic and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger.

Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective and respectful and successful.

We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime.

Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it - as all states are required to do by UN security council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens and others - again, as required by Security council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf war personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues as required by security council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept UN administration of funds from that program to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq and it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis, a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. They've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause and a great strategic goal.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Exclusive: Sources contradict Sessions' testimony he opposed Russia outreach (Karen Freifeld, Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball, 3/18/18, Reuters) 

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony that he opposed a proposal for President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team to meet with Russians has been contradicted by three people who told Reuters they have spoken about the matter to investigators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller or congressional committees.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


AP Exclusive: Kushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork (BERNARD CONDON, 3/18/18, AP)

When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents and turning a tidy profit.

But that's exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid.

Now a clue has emerged as to how President Donald Trump's son-in-law's firm was able to move so fast: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 AM


Poll Shows Democrats Enjoy 10-Point Lead Over Republicans Ahead of 2018 Midterms (DANIEL POLITI, MARCH 18, 2018, Slate)

Democrats appear well positioned ahead of the midterm elections, both in terms of voter preference and enthusiasm. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows 50 percent of registered voters prefer a Congress controlled by Democrats while 40 percent say they would rather have one controlled by Republicans. That marks a widening of the Democratic lead from the January poll that showed Democrats with a six-point edge. Significantly, Independent voters also seem to be leaning toward the Democrats by a 12-point margin.

Democrats are also much more excited about the prospect of heading to the polls with 60 percent saying they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections while 54 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

It's a Puritan Nation and Donald Trump has corrupted the GOP.

March 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


How to Stop Eating Sugar (David Leonhardt, 3/18/18, NY Times)

Health experts recommend that you focus on reducing added sweeteners -- like granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, stevia and molasses. You don't need to worry so much about the sugars that are a natural part of fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Most people don't overeat naturally occurring sugars, as Marion Nestle of New York University says. The fiber, vitamins and minerals that surround them fill you up.

A typical adult should not eat more than 50 grams (or about 12 teaspoons) of added sugars per day, and closer to 25 is healthier. The average American would need to reduce added-sweetener consumption by about 40 percent to get down to even the 50-gram threshold. Here's how you can do it -- without spending more money on food than you already do. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


UK sets new wind power record as turbines deliver 14 gigawatts for first time - 37 per cent of nation's electricity (Peter Stubley, 3/18/18, Independent)

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:47 AM


Lavrov: Syria's partition must stop (Al Jazeera, 3/18/18)

Vlad never understood the war.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM



SILKE WEINFURTNER IS trying to build the universe from scratch. In a physics lab at the University of Nottingham--close to the Sherwood forest of legendary English outlaw Robin Hood--she and her colleagues will work with a huge superconducting coil magnet, 1 meter across. Inside, there's a small pool of liquid, whose gentle ripples stand to mimic the matter fluctuations that gave rise to the structures we observe in the cosmos.

Weinfurtner isn't an evil genius hell-bent on creating a world of her own to rule. She just wants to understand the origins of the one we already have.

The Big Bang is by far the most popular model of our universe's beginnings, but even its fans disagree about how it happened. The theory depends on the existence of a hypothetical quantum field that stretched the universe ultra-rapidly and uniformly in all directions, expanding it by a huge factor in a fraction of a second: a process dubbed inflation. But that inflation or the field responsible for it--the inflaton--is impossible to prove directly. Which is why Weinfurtner wants to mimic it in a lab.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


The Dying Art of Fishing for Shrimp on Horseback: In Oostduinkerke, Belgium, horses plow the ocean instead of the fields. (NATASHA FROST MARCH 16, 2018, Atlas Obscura)

The fishermen, known in Flemish as paardenvissers, ride Brabant horses, a regional breed that is large and sturdy (generally around 5'7", or 16 hands, at the withers), with dense feathering on their lower legs, flaring out over their hooves like the bell of a trumpet. The Vandendriessches have six. A few times a week, they harness a chosen horse to a cart via a special wooden saddle and bring it down to the shore. The cart is piled high with equipment--nets, clothes, baskets, and sieves--and the fisherman must perch on its side.

On the grey-blue beach, beset with flocks of seagulls, the horse waits while the fisherman pulls yellow waterproofs over his clothes--pants, secured around the ankles with twine, and a hooded oilskin. The pair walk into the waves, rider on horseback, until the horse is breast-deep in the surf, jerking its head to avoid the seawater that licks at its nostrils.

Behind them, a 30-foot funnel-shaped net stretches back into the waves. As the horse walks, a chain dragged over the sand creates vibrations--causing the shrimp to jump into the net as gaily as if they'd been called for supper. Slowly, they go to and fro, walking the length of the flat coastline, as the net fills with shrimp. Once every half hour, they return to the beach: The horse has a few moments to rest as the fisherman empties the net, using wooden sieves to sift through the catch.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Whit Stillman's Sympathetic Aristocrats (Nicholas Rowan, 3/17/18, Imaginative Conservative)

The American indie director Whit Stillman has made only five movies, but if you're an aspiring cineaste, you need to see them all.

Focusing exclusively on young members of the upper crust, Mr. Stillman humanizes a class of people typically derided for belonging to the privileged one percent. Mr. Stillman endears audiences to his heroes by depicting them as prosaic mourners, the last of the noblesse yearning for a forgotten age of civility.

Like the British author P.G. Wodehouse, Mr. Stillman possesses the delicate ability to present serious topics through lighthearted and often absurd-sounding dialogue. He injects the aristocracy with a whimsy underscored by an urgent desire for order and meaning in an often inexplicable world. His best films fit the author Joan Didion's assessment of the nature of American art. "Every real American story begins in innocence and never stops mourning the loss of it," she once wrote for National Review. "The banishment from Eden is our one great tale, lovingly told and retold, adapted, disguised and told again."

So it goes for America; so it goes for Whit Stillman.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Let the robots have the damn jobs -- all of them! (BEN DICKSON, 3/17/18, Next Web)

In today's world, we value most products (or services) by their scarcity and the human labor that goes into them. For instance, diamonds are scarce and that's why they're so expensive. But in most cases, we're paying for the human labor that goes into creating goods and services. For example, when you buy grocery, you're not paying for the scarcity of food. You pay for it because a lot of human labor goes into producing it, packaging it, transporting it and selling it to you in the store.

By human labor, I do not necessarily mean physical toil. It can also be cognitive functions. When you acquire a software or an online service, you pay for it because a lot of human labor goes into programming it and maintaining it. Those services in turn must pay for other services that support them and are running on human labor.

Each of us has a specific set of skills, which we sell to afford other people's skills. For instance, I develop software and write articles to earn money and buy food and pay the rent. These activities account for a considerable part of our everyday lives. We're still in a better situation than our ancestors, who had to spend the entire day hunting for food.

With artificial intelligence and machine learning earning a more prominent role in every industry and domain, the need for human labor, both physical and cognitive, is dwindling. Self-driving trucks will eventually replace truck drivers, and smart vending machines fast food workers. Robots can flip burgers just as well as cooks and harvest crops better than field workers. Amazon's automated retail store will obviate the need for cashiers, and smart drone deliveries might even make stores excessive. Even doctors, lawyers and news reporters can someday surrender their professions (or a large part of it) to artificial intelligence. We're already seeing the glimmers of AI algorithms that create their own AI. Maybe one day, even AI researchers will go extinct.

In every case, we can expect robots to perform faster, better and cheaper than humans. They can work for longer periods (sometimes incessantly), improve their skills over time, and pass on their experience to their peers in real time.

As automation removes humans from the loop, the costs for human labor will gradually fade. A transportation company doesn't need to pay its self-driving trucks as it used to do its truck drivers. However, it must pay for their maintenance (which still costs less) because the task still involves human labor. That too will cost next to nothing once the development and maintenance of the trucks and their AI software become automated as well. The same goes for everything else.

March 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


Source: McCabe gave interview, memos to Mueller (Mike Allen, Jonathan Swan, 3/17/18, Axios)

McCabe's interview with Mueller's prosecutors apparently included what he knows about former FBI director James Comey's firing.
The bottom line: The memos include corroboration by McCabe of Comey's account of his own firing by Trump, according to the source.

McCabe alluded to that in a 10-paragraph statement right after his firing, in which he said: "[M]y testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President."

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


FEC probes whether NRA got illegal Russian donations : Complaint alleges that the gun-rights group may have received contributions intended to help the 2016 Trump campaign. (JOSH MEYER, 03/16/2018, Slate)

The Federal Election Commission has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the National Rifle Association that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to people who were notified of the probe. [...]

Under FEC procedures, the preliminary investigation is likely to require the NRA to turn over closely guarded internal documents and campaign finance records. Depending on what FEC investigators and lawyers find, the agency could launch a full-blown investigation, impose fines or even make criminal referrals to the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the probe said.

The preliminary investigation focuses on issues similar to those raised recently by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, as part of his investigation into possible collusion between the NRA, the Trump campaign and Russia.

Wyden is particularly interested in whether Russian-backed entities helped the Trump campaign by funneling contributions to the gun-rights group that "inappropriately and illegally influenced our election," according to a Feb. 2 letter Wyden sent to the NRA.

Posted by orrinj at 2:39 PM


Comey to Trump: America will decide who's honest (AP, 3/17/18)

Andrew McCabe -- the former FBI deputy director just fired by the attorney general -- kept personal memos regarding President Donald Trump.

The person with knowledge of McCabe's situation says McCabe's memos include details of interactions with the president, among other topics.

Posted by orrinj at 1:47 PM


What We Know, and Don't Know, About the Firing of Andrew McCabe (Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes, March 17, 2018, LawFare)

The FBI takes telling the truth extremely seriously: "lack of candor" from employees is a fireable offense--and people are fired for it. Moreover, it doesn't take an outright lie to be dismissed. In one case, the bureau fired an agent after he initially gave an ambiguous statement to investigators as to how many times he had picked up his daughter from daycare in an FBI vehicle. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against the agent when he appealed, finding that "lack of candor is established by showing that the FBI agent did not 'respond fully and truthfully' to the questions he was asked."

Consider also that although Sessions made the ultimate call to fire McCabe, the public record shows that the process resulting in the FBI deputy director's dismissal involved career Justice Department and FBI officials--rather than political appointees selected by President Trump--at crucial points along the way. To begin with, the charges against McCabe arose out of the broader Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation. While the inspector general is appointed by the president, the current head of that office, Michael Horowitz, was appointed by President Barack Obama and is himself a former career Justice Department lawyer. As Jack Goldsmith has written, the inspector general has a great deal of statutory independence, which Horowitz has not hesitated to use: Most notably, he produced a highly critical 2012 report into the Justice Department's "Fast and Furious" program. So a process that begins with Horowitz and his office carries a presumption of fairness and independence.

After investigating McCabe, Horowitz's office provided a report on McCabe's conduct to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which investigates allegations of misconduct against bureau employees. This office is headed by career Justice Department official Candace Will, whom then-FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed to lead the OPR in 2004. According to Sessions, the Office of Professional Responsibility agreed with Horowitz's assessment that McCabe "lacked candor" in speaking to internal investigators.

Finally, Sessions's statement references "the recommendation of the Department's senior career official" in advocating McCabe's firing on the basis of the OIG and OPR determinations. (The official in question appears to be Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools.)

So while Sessions made the decision to dismiss McCabe, career officials or otherwise independent actors were involved in conducting the investigation into the deputy director and recommending his dismissal on multiple levels. [...]

We will refrain from speculating on the reason for the rush to fire McCabe before his retirement. But it is peculiar. Why, one wonders, could the Justice Department not have handled his misconduct--if there was misconduct--the way it usually does: by detailing it in the inspector general's report and noting that the subject, who has since retired, would otherwise be subject to disciplinary action?

The timing seems particularly irregular in light of a second peculiarity unique to McCabe's case--one probably singular in the history of the American republic: Trump's personal intervention in the matter and public demands for the man's scalp. Trump has not been shy about McCabe. 

...or else you did something you should not have.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


White House Watch: Is McMaster on His Way Out, Too? (MICHAEL WARREN, 3/16/18, Weekly Standard)

The president is also considering removing a number of his Cabinet officials, several of whom he's grown concerned about over news reports that they have misused taxpayer dollars for travel or personal luxuries. Trump's list of most imminent departures includes Ryan Zinke at Interior, Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development, and David Shulkin at Veterans Affairs. All three have faced scrutiny in recent weeks for outlandish spending, including Carson's purchase of a $31,000 dining room set at the HUD building, Zinke's $139,000 in door repairs, and Shulkin's misleading ethics investigators over expensed travel for he and his wife. The coverage has apparently embarrassed Trump for undercutting his campaign pledge to "drain the swamp."

Also earning the president's ire is EPA director Scott Pruitt for the former Oklahoma attorney general's apparent preference for first-class airline travel, though it's not evident Pruitt is in the same precarious positions as the others. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, too, is always potentially on the chopping block.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:42 AM


Americans Are Banding Together to Save the Oldest Church in Paris: The Church of Saint-Germain-des-Près requires extensive renovations if it's going to survive another 1,000 years (KATHERINE MCGRATH, Posted March 2, 2018, Architectural Digest)

In the eyes of travelers, tourists, and locals alike, Saint-Germain-des-Près serves as the archetype of the quintessential Parisian neighborhood. Bursting with character, charm, and a fascinating wealth of history, the neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement sits on the left bank not far from the Seine and the Île de la Cité. The quarter has been home to countless writers, artists, and philosophers, and a multitude of publishing houses, museums, cafés, art galleries, jazz clubs, and universities, among other celebrated institutions. But for all the culture that the neighborhood has birthed, none of it would be here were it not for the église of Saint-Germain-des-Près, the church around which the village was established.

The Church of Saint-Germain-des-Près is the city's oldest church and the very heart of the vibrant neighborhood. It was first built by King Clovis in A.D. 543, and while the original structure was obliterated some 500 years after it was built, the current structure standing in its place has remained for over 1,000 years. While it has stood vigilantly for centuries--surviving fires, a brief stint as a jail, and countless restorations-- it has long been in a tragic state of neglect and in desperate need of repair. To counteract the ravages of time, some passionate Americans have banded together to procure the funding needed to save the church for years to come by starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, appropriately named the American Friends for the Preservation of Saint-Germain-des-Près.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Flippy, the Burger-Flipping Robot, Is Now Gainfully Employed: The more burgers it makes, the smarter it gets. (ANNE EWBANK MARCH 05, 2018, Ars Technica)

WHEN THE BURGER-FLIPPING ROBOT FLIPPY debuted last year, the Miso Robotics contraption seemed to be mostly a futuristic curiosity. But today, Flippy fulfilled the purpose it had been built for. After a year-long testing period, a model of the robot is now hard at work flipping burgers at a Caliburger restaurant in Pasadena, California.

Looking like a large arm swathed in a chef jacket and mounted on a cart, it comes with a spatula at one end. Using thermal imaging and cameras, Flippy can tell when a burger needs to be flipped and taken off the heat. Flippy can also switch out dirty spatulas for clean ones, and can even scrape the grill. According to local news outlet KTLA, artificial intelligence is a part of its programming, meaning that Flippy has the potential to get better at its job over time.

Caliburger, which helped fund Flippy and Miso Robotics, plans on rolling its technology out to restaurants across the world. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Where H.R. McMaster Went Wrong: He built a storied military career by speaking truth to power--until that power was President Trump. (FRED KAPLAN, MARCH 16, 2018, Slate)

McMaster, a combat hero in both Iraq wars, had made his reputation 20 years earlier, as an Army major, with his dissertation-turned-book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, which criticized the top generals of the 1960s for betraying their constitutional duties by failing to give the president their honest military advice.

In his assignments since then, McMaster only solidified his standing as an officer who spoke truth to power, sometimes impetuously, with a distinct lack of talent for dissembling. Some of his superiors admired him for his impolitic indifference; most despised him for it.

He came to the White House with no background in broad national security policy and no experience in Washington politics--and those shortcomings helped seal his doom. When the president called on him to tell the sorts of lies for which he'd lambasted an earlier generation of generals, he didn't know how to evade the pressure, and he succumbed to it just as they did.

The turning point came in May, barely three months into the job. The Washington Post reported that at a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump had divulged to Russia's two top diplomats highly classified secrets about Israel's involvement in an intelligence operation. In the wake of this appalling security breach, which would have sent anyone else to prison, McMaster was ordered to cover Trump's tracks at a press conference.

Reading from a carefully worded script, McMaster strung together a series of mendacities and half-truths that appalled his friends and admirers. One of them pronounced himself "heartbroken." Eliot Cohen wrote in the Atlantic, in a pointed reference to McMaster, that, for the high officials dragged into Trump's swamp of deceit, the worst moment may come when they "can no longer recognize their own characters for what they once were."

You can't both tell the truth and support Donald. And, if you work for him, you have to lie with gusto, not with shame.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Ed Charles, Infield Sage of the Miracle Mets, Is Dead at 84 (GEORGE VECSEY, MARCH 15, 2018, NY Times)

Charles's way to the majors was blocked by Eddie Mathews, the Braves' future Hall of Fame third baseman, but he also saw lesser infielders called up.

He made it to the majors after being traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1962.

At 34, Charles was traded to the Mets in 1967, when they were still staggering along at the bottom of the league.

In a game weeks after joining the team, he went to his left and snagged a hard shot before it could go past him, impressing the rookie left-handed pitcher Jerry Koosman so much that Koosman walked toward third base.

"He was sort of flabbergasted that I'd made the play," Charles recalled in 2009. "He said, 'You sort of glide to the ball. That's it. You're the Glider from now on.'" [...]

Charles was always eager to talk about his brushes with Jackie Robinson, starting with the sighting in Daytona Beach in 1946.

Charles also recounted a story of how he later spotted Robinson, who was by then on the Brooklyn Dodgers' roster, on a train.

The Dodgers were in Florida playing an exhibition, and Charles and several friends "peered through openings in the fence," he recalled in "Carrying Jackie's Torch: The Players Who Integrated Baseball -- and America," by Steve Jacobson (2007).

After the game, the Dodgers prepared to leave from the railroad station.

"So now we're walking down the platform, looking in the windows trying to see where Jackie was seated," Charles said. "Finally we come to the right coach, and there is Jackie, playing cards. We waved and, you know, he waved back to us."

"Then the train starts pulling out," he went on, "and we start slowly walking with it, just waving to Jackie. The train picked up speed. We kept running and waving till the train got out of sight."

"Things like that, you know, I can recall so vividly," he said, "because they were very special moments in my life and in the life of the country. It was like the Messiah had come."

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Finland has practically ended homelessness (Jack Webb, 3/13/18, Independent) 

Last year, Finland was the only EU country not currently in the middle of a massive homelessness crisis.

In fact, the EU homelessness organisation FEANTSA, which published the report, found Finland's number of homeless has been decreasing year-on-year.

Finland employed a bold initiative to get people off the streets: it's called Housing First.

These radicals from Finland had the crazy idea that giving people a permanent home gives them... well, gives them a place to live and get off the streets.

It's a far-cry away from some of the tactics that have been deployed in the UK, which has included disturbing anti-homeless architecture like metal spikes.

Finland even goes as far as assigning individual support to sort out the issues that have led to the person becoming homeless.

This is a complete reversal of what other countries do and although it might sound simple, it's also incredibly effective. When someone has a literal place to call home, it makes it a whole lot easier to solve any potential problems which lead to an individual becoming homeless in the first place.

Just one of many ways in which W was revolutionary.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Tariffs Were Killing New Zealand's Economy. Free Trade Turned It Around. (Patrick Tyrrell & Caleb Pascoe,  March 16, 2018, Daily Signal)

New Zealand now ranks third in The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom and is one of the champions of economic freedom around the world. But it wasn't always so.

In the mid-1980s, New Zealand was facing an economic crisis, with its domestic market and international trade both heavily regulated. Unemployment had reached 11 percent, and inflation was a sky-high 15 percent.

In response, the government of New Zealand began implementing revolutionary economic reforms, most significantly related to trade policy. It announced in 1987 a program that would reduce the tax on imports to under 20 percent by the year 1992.

By 1996, that tax was reduced further to under 10 percent, and by the end of 1999, about 95 percent of New Zealand's tariffs were set at zero. Successive New Zealand governments, whether conservative or liberal, have maintained the strong commitment to free trade.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Vanessa Trump hires criminal defense attorney for Donald Jr. divorce (Julia Marsh and Emily Smith, March 16, 2018, NY Post)

Vanessa Trump has hired a criminal defense attorney to represent her in her divorce from Donald Trump Jr. just as special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the president's family business.

White Plains, NY-based lawyer David Feureisen is representing Vanessa, according to paperwork filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Vanessa and Don Jr. had claimed in a joint statement that their split after 12 years of marriage was not acrimonious. "It's a curious choice if it's an amicable separation," Manhattan family law expert Bonnie Rabin said of Vanessa's attorney. "If it's an amicable situation, you wouldn't be highlighting the criminal aspect," noted Rabin, who is not involved in the case.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Richard Weaver: The Conservatism of Piety (John P. East, 3/09/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Throughout Weaver's work is found a profound appreciation for Plato and his contribution to the Western heritage. Indeed, Weaver's best-known and probably most influential work, Ideas Have Consequences, is a hook long lament that Western modernism has departed from the Platonic tradition. Plato, Weaver wrote, "possessed the deepest divining rod among the ancients."[9] In Plato, Weaver found the personification of that philosophical bent which pursued an understanding of "the structure of reality:"

From the time of the Greeks there have existed in most periods 'wise men,' phi­losophers, or scholars who make it their work to seek out the structure of reality, and to proclaim it by one means and an­other to the less initiated. The first Greeks began looking for the structure of reality in the constitution of matter: What was the prime element out of which all other things were made?[10]

Weaver reasoned that a mature conserva­tism would follow in that tradition:

It is my contention that a conservative is a realist, who believes that there is a structure of reality independent of his own will and desire. He believes that there is a creation which was here be­fore him, which exists now not by just his sufferance, and which will he here after he's gone.... Though this reality is independent of the individual, it is not hostile to him. It is in fact amenable by him in many ways, but it cannot be changed radically and arbitrarily. This is the cardinal point. The conservative holds that man in this world cannot make his will his law without any regard to limits and to the fixed nature of things.[11]

In keeping with the Platonic view, Weaver argued this "structure of reality" was composed of things which have "essential natures" and that these natures were "knowable." Moreover, we have an "intui­tive feeling that existence is not meaning­less."[12] It is then the function of the philoso­pher to discern the realities--the essential nature of things--and hopefully to per­ceive, even though dimly and imperfectly, the meaning and purpose of existence. As it was with Plato, so it was with Weaver, that philosophy was the highest of callings whereby through "right reasoning" knowl­edge, understanding, wisdom, and ultimate­ly Truth were to be pursued.

Consistent with the Platonic view, Wea­ver contended that basic and inherent in the "nature of things" was a dualism:

The first positive step must be a driv­ing afresh of the wedge between the ma­terial and the transcendental. This is fundamental: without a dualism we should never find purchase for the pull upward, and all idealistic designs might as well be scuttled.... To bring dualism back into the world and to rebuke the moral impotence fathered by empiricism is then the broad character of our objec­tive.[13]

The material side of this dualism related to specifics and concretes, to the imperma­nent and transitory. The transcendental facet pertained to first principles, essences, universals, forms, and finally to unchang­ing ideals: truth, beauty, justice, and good­ness. In Weaver's words: "Plato reminded us that at any stage of an inquiry it is important to realize whether we are moving toward, or away from, first principles."[14] Similarly, Weaver wrote, "Belief in universals and principles is inseparable from the life of reason," and he noted, "[W]e in­variably find in the man of true culture a deep respect for forms."[15] In this regard, probably Weaver's best-known observation was: "The true conservative is one who sees the universe as a paradigm of essences, of which the phenomenology of the world is a sort of continuing approxima­tion. Or, to put this in another way, he sees it as a set of definitions which are struggling to get themselves defined in the real world."[16]

Weaver's embracing of the Platonic con­cept of the transcendent led to his observa­tion that "the conservative image of history arises out of primal affection and a desire to follow transcendental ideals of justice. And it is this that gives content to the phi­losophy of conservatism."[17] In the final analysis, the pursuit of ideals is the Pla­tonic quest for standards and values:

Standard means, first of all, something of general application and validity. A standard is something that is set up as a measure for all. It is not contingent upon this man's preference, or whim, or that man's location in space and time.... A standard is, therefore, something of uniform and universal determination. This is one of the aspects of the meaning. But in addition to this, the term standard in its more general usage has the imperative sense of an ideal.[18]

We must, Weaver argued, have ideals, stan­dards, and values in order that we can dis­tinguish and evaluate: "Before we can have the idea of relative evaluation at all, we must have a tertium quid, a third essence, an ideal ideal, as it were. This is why a humanism which is merely historical-minded can be learned, but cannot in the true sense be critical."

March 16, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Report: McMaster out as top Trump security aide (AFP and TOI, 3/16/18)

US President Donald Trump has decided to fire national security adviser H.R. McMaster, in what would be the latest in a string of high-profile White House departures, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 AM


The Eagles Have Landed: Kazakhstan's Masterful 'Berkutchi' (Radio Liberty, February 28, 2018)

Kazakh eagle hunters, known as "berkutchi," took part in a national tournament in the city of Oral on February 24-25, the first event of its kind in the West Kazakhstan region. The hunters showed off their skill in training their eagles and other birds to follow commands, catch prey, and return to their masters. RFE/RL Kazakh Service photographer Pyotr Trotsenko shared these photos of the winter competition.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 AM


This Startup Grows Diamonds In A Lab That Are Just Like The Real Thing (Fast Company, 3/02/18)

West Coast startup Diamond Foundry is ushering in a new precious-mineral rush in California--this time for clear, undetectably lab-grown diamonds made by plasma reactor technology that mimics the outer core of the sun.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


The Man Behind The Music Man: Who Was Meredith Willson? (TERRY TEACHOUT / APR. 1, 2012, Commentary)

One of a bare handful of hit Broadway musicals to have been written in its entirety by a single person, The Music Man opened to rave reviews in 1957, beat out West Side Story at the Tony Awards, and ran for 1,375 performances. Then it was turned into one of the most popular Hollywood musicals ever filmed. The story of a smooth-talking con man who breezes into a hick town to swindle its residents and ends up losing his heart to the local librarian was successfully revived on Broadway in 2000, filmed a second time for TV in 2003, and continues to be performed regularly by regional and amateur theater companies throughout America.

Why, then, is Meredith Willson--the author of its libretto and music and lyrics--so completely forgotten? Because nothing he did before or after The Music Man was of lasting interest. Willson (surely one of the last males in America to carry the first name of Meredith) was 55 years old when The Music Man premiered, and the two musicals that followed it, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) and Here's Love (1962), were successful in their day but have since failed to hold the stage. (The peculiarly unmusical movie version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, with Debbie Reynolds as a brassy survivor of the Titanic, was a big hit, but it dispensed with most of the score, featuring only six of Willson's songs.) Willson also wrote the music for one film of note, William Wyler's 1941 adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, but his score was undistinguished. Only one of his non-theatrical songs, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," continues to be sung, and except for the ubiquitous "Seventy-Six Trombones," none of the numbers from The Music Man quite established itself as a standard (although "Till There Was You" came close).

Willson was, in other words, a one-hit wonder, and the immense and enduring popularity of his hit, coupled with the fact that he was by all accounts exceedingly likable and seems to have led a blameless private life, has had the unexpected effect of blotting out any lasting memories of the man who wrote it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Hawaii: Where Evolution Can Be Surprisingly Predictable: On each Hawaiian island, stick spiders have evolved into the same basic forms--gold, white, and dark. It's a stunning example of how predictable evolution can be. (ED YONG  MAR 8, 2018, The Atlantic)

Most people go to Hawaii for the golden beaches, the turquoise seas, or the stunning weather. Rosemary Gillespie went for the spiders.

Situated around 2,400 miles from the nearest continent, the Hawaiian Islands are about as remote as it's possible for islands to be. In the last 5 million years, they've been repeatedly colonized by far-traveling animals, which then diversified into dozens of new species. Honeycreeper birds, fruit flies, carnivorous caterpillars ... all of these creatures reached Hawaii, and evolved into wondrous arrays of unique forms.

So did the spiders. There are happy-face spiders whose abdomens look like emojis, and which Gillespie started studying in 1987. There are appropriately named long-jawed spiders, which caught her attention years later. Spiders have so repeatedly radiated on Hawaii that scientists often discover entirely new groups of species at once, allowing them to have some taxonomic fun. One genus was named Orsonwelles and each species is named after one of the director's films; another group is named after all the characters from the film Predator. "The diversity is extraordinary," says Gillespie, an evolutionary biologist at UC Berkeley.

The most spectacular of these spider dynasties, Gillespie says, are the stick spiders. They're so-named because some of them have long, distended abdomens that make them look like twigs. "You only see them at night, walking around the understory very slowly," Gillespie says. "They're kind of like sloths." Murderous sloths, though: Their sluggish movements allow them to sneak up on other spiders and kill them.

During the day, stick spiders hide, relying on their camouflage to protect them from the beaks of honeycreepers. Each of Hawaii's islands has species of stick spider that come in three distinctive colors--shiny gold, dark brown, and matte white. Go to Oahu and you'll find all three kinds. Head to East Maui and you'll see the same trio.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


MICKEY SPILLANE TURNS 100: Max Allan Collins on Sex, Violence, and Mike Hammer (MAX ALLAN COLLINS, 3/09/18, Crime Reads)

In July of 2006, at the age of 88, the last major mystery writer of the twentieth century left the building. Only a handful of writers in the genre--Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler among them--achieved such superstar status.

Spillane's position, however, is unique--reviled by many mainstream critics, despised and envied by a number of his contemporaries in the very field he revitalized, the creator of Mike Hammer had an impact not just on mystery and suspense fiction but popular culture in general.

The success of the paperback reprint editions of his startlingly violent and sexy novels--tens of millions of copies sold--jumpstarted the explosion of so-called "paperback originals," for the next quarter-century the home of countless Spillane imitators, and his redefinition of the action hero as a tough guy who mercilessly executed villains and slept with beautiful, willing women remains influential (Sin City is Frank Miller's homage). [...]

This was something entirely new in mystery fiction, and Spillane quickly became the most popular--and controversial--mystery writer of the mid-twentieth century. In addition to creating an eye-for-an-eye hero, the writer brought a new level of sex and violence to the genre. He was called a fascist by left-leaning critics and a libertine by right-leaning ones. In between were millions of readers who turned Spillane's first six Hammer novels into the bestselling private eye novels of all time.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 AM


Devin Nunes's Russia Investigation Had No Suspects (Jonathan Chait, 3/16/18, New York)

"Now look at who Mueller has prosecuted at this point, and who is left to prosecute for collusion?" he wondered. "I mean, there's no one left. [Former Trump campaign manager Paul] Manafort would be the obvious guy to think of that was colluding, right? If you could have gotten him on collusion, he would have been the obvious choice. Flynn, I mean, I knew Flynn very very well, and he is not a secret communist supporting Putin. So, they can't get him on that. So who else do they have?"

And then he wonders that no one takes him seriously?

March 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


Interbreeding Surprise! More Denisovans in Our Family Tree (Gemma Tarlach, March 15, 2018, Discover)

In 2014, Nature published a study that found a variation of a gene, which regulates hemoglobin and is present in modern Tibetans, was inherited from Denisovans. The genetic hand-me-down is likely what made it possible for people to live at 13,000 feet or more above sea level in the oxygen-sparse air of the Himalayas.

Today, however, applying a new data-modeling method to more than 5,600 genomes from modern populations, researchers identified surprising new details about interbreeding between H. sapiens and Denisovans: It appears different populations of the two hominins interbred multiple times.

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U.S. special counsel subpoenas Trump Organization on Russia, other documents (Reuters)

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents, including some related to Russia, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing two people briefed on the matter.

Trump Organization 'negotiated with sanctioned Russian bank in 2016' (Stephanie Kirchgaessner, 15 Mar 2018, The Guardian)

Donald Trump's private company was "actively negotiating" a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 election campaign, according to a memo by Democratic lawmakers investigating possible collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin.

The statement by Democrats on the House intelligence committee, who have had access to internal Trump Organization documents and interviewed key witnesses, raises new questions about the Trump Organization's financial ties to Russia and its possible willingness to deal with a bank that had been placed under US sanctions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Brackets are back and I've started a pool, Brothers Judd, on Join now before the tournament starts so we can compete all of March Madness!

Join today so our group is ready for the upcoming season!

PWD: ericjulia

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Why The Stormy Daniels Case Matters  (David Cay Johnston, March 9, 2018,

Virtually everyone who has worked for Trump since the late 1980s has been required to sign a nondisclosure agreement, or NDA, as a condition of working for him. Even some low-level campaign volunteers had to sign NDAs, which included lifetime promises to never speak critically of Trump, his family or the Trump Organization.

Clifford has asked a Los Angeles County superior court judge to lift any restrictions on telling about what she says was an affair with Trump that began in 2006 and continued well into 2007, when Trump's third wife, the former soft-core porn model Melania Knaus, was caring for their infant son.

The lawsuit states Clifford has documentary evidence of the affair, which she plans to make public if the court rules in her favor.

Trump, aided by personal lawyer Michael D. Cohen, "aggressively sought to silence" Clifford, the lawsuit asserts.

Clifford and her lawyer say Trump never signed the agreement, making it null and void. They also say public statements by Cohen negate the deal.

The Trump White House has denied any affair. At the same time, both Trump, Cohen and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have backhandedly confirmed there was an affair and, significantly, that hush money was paid.

Our interest is not in the illicit sex. Rich and powerful men dallying is hardly news. Rather our interest is in the denials, the cover-up and what those actions tell us and how they jeopardized national security.

People with dark secrets, the kind that make them vulnerable to blackmail, are routinely denied national security clearances. By virtue of his office, Trump has access to every secret--including ones he delivered to Russian emissaries last year, as we learned from the Kremlin.

We know that Clifford is not the only woman who could come forward. Earlier the parent company of one of Trump's favorite newspapers, the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to the 1999 Playmate of the Year to never speak of her 2006 fling with Trump.

How many others with dark secrets of all sorts are out there, hidden from the American people because of nondisclosure agreements or hush money? What of the mobsters and the major international drug trafficker with whom Trump has done business and lucrative favors--the ones we know about from court records, a letter he wrote and New Jersey casino regulatory files?

BuzzFeed maneuver could free Stormy Daniels to speak on Trump (JOSH GERSTEIN 03/14/2018, Politico)

Now, BuzzFeed is using Cohen's libel suit as a vehicle to demand that Daniels preserve all records relating to her relationship with Trump, as well as her dealings with Cohen and the payment he has acknowledged arranging in 2016.

On Tuesday, BuzzFeed's lawyer wrote to Daniels' attorney asking that the adult film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, preserve various categories of documents. Such preservation letters are often a prelude to a subpoena. If Daniels' testimony is formally demanded in a deposition, the nondisclosure agreement would likely be no obstacle, legal experts said.

The letter from BuzzFeed's attorney, obtained by POLITICO, argues that Cohen's role in paying Daniels is similar to allegations in the dossier about Cohen. The dossier alleges that Cohen met Russian legal officials and legislators in Prague in August 2016 in a bid to "sweep ... under the carpet" details of the relationship between Russia and Trump campaign officials like Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Cohen has flatly denied the claim.

"Mr. Cohen's role in President Trump's 2016 campaign, including but not limited to any payments he made or facilitated to third parties during or in connection with the campaign, is therefore directly relevant to" Cohen's suit, BuzzFeed lawyer Katherine Bolger wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Trump brags about making up fake facts in talks with Canada's prime minister (Peter Weber, 3/15/18, The Week)

"Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin. He said, 'No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,'" Trump said, mimicking Trudeau. ... "So he's proud. I said, 'Wrong Justin, you do.' I didn't even know. ... I had no idea. I just said 'You're wrong.' You know why? Because we're so stupid. ... And I thought they were smart. I said, 'You're wrong Justin.' He said, 'Nope we have no trade deficit.' I said, 'Well in that case I feel differently,' I said 'but I don't believe it.' I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said 'check because I can't believe it.' 'Well, sir, you're actually right. We have no deficit but that doesn't include energy and timber ... And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.' It's incredible." [The Washington Post]

"The United States trade representative office says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada," the Post notes.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 AM


Uncovering Thomas Nast's First Drawings of Abraham Lincoln: The cartoonist's early rough sketches of his great subject turned up recently in an old scrapbook. (Adam Gopnik, 3/05/18, The New Yorker)

On Lincoln's first visit, in 1860, he stopped to have his picture, now indelible, taken by the photographer Mathew Brady. Less well known is that, on his 1861 trip, the other great New York image-maker of the time, the cartoonist Thomas Nast, saw him, too--for the first time--and made a series of drawings that are startling in their intimacy and alert observational power. The series has been known by scholarly rumor, but recently, tucked among the sketches in a Civil War notebook, two small images that Nast made of Lincoln's face have been uncovered for the first time. This discovery we owe to the historian Ted Widmer, who came upon them in the archives of Brown University.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Edmund Burke & the French Revolutionaries (Bradley J. Birzer, Mar. 7th, 2018, The Imaginative Conservative)

When Burke examined the French Revolutionary arguments against the French aristocracy, he found, not surprisingly, that while the Revolutionaries had acquainted themselves very well with the particular evils as practiced by particular aristocrats, they had missed the norm, the essence of the aristocratic class.

Certainly, the Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher agreed, one could find mistakes, some of which might be horrendous. Of those French aristocrats who lived at the end of the eighteenth century, Burke observed three general failings. First, French aristocrats behaved as children long after they had attained adulthood. They took from their families more than they gave, well past the years of irresponsibility. Second, too many French aristocrats had absorbed and manifested the ignobility of enlightenment philosophy, themselves disgusted with the past and ready thoughtlessly to revolutionize society. They had come to see the past, tradition, mores, norms, and association as means by which to shackle rather than to promote human dignity and freedom. They had, in other words, Burke worried, read way too much Locke and Rousseau and not enough Socrates and Cicero. Third, he claimed, the old aristocracy has held onto its privileges too long and too tenaciously, not allowing the many who had earned it in the eighteenth century into their own ranks. Thus, Burke noted with regret, by being both ignorant in philosophy and selfish in position, they had failed to see the creation of their own enemy class, those who had worked and given, but had not received the titles and honors so richly bestowed. Nowhere in French society did this prove more blatant than in the military orders. There, the old aristocracy remained obnoxiously over-represented, endangering the internal as well as the external order of French society.

Despite these failings, though, Burke noted with much satisfaction that when the French Revolution began in 1789, the monarch as well as the majority of aristocrats apologized for their selfish errors and had been the first to admit that their own orders needed reform for the good and benefit of the whole of society.

Read their instructions to their representatives. They breathe the spirit of liberty as warmly, and they recommend reformation as strongly, as any other order. Their privileges relative to contribution were voluntarily surrendered; as the king, from the beginning, surrendered all pretence to a right of taxation. Upon a free constitution there was but one opinion in France. The absolute monarchy was at an end. It breathed its last, without a groan, without struggle, without convulsion.

Such an apology and a reform (or series of reforms) the real revolutionaries mightily feared. Never had they actually sought reform of French society, whatever their claims and protestations. Instead, from the moment they began the revolution in 1789, they wanted to destroy and overturn all that opposed them and to do so utterly and completely, leaving no remnant and no possible opposition.

The distinction between Anglospheric revolutions and others is that we only ask to be treated as Englishmen and preserve as much as we possibly can.  The others reject everything they had.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


The Romance of Ordinary Marriage (Nathanael Blake, March 8th, 2018, Public Discourse)

As C.S. Lewis reminded us, "to love at all is to be vulnerable." Loving another person means giving oneself as a hostage both to fortune and to an alien will. The traditional Christian marriage vows are explicit on this point: one is promising to remain married for worse, for poorer, and in sickness, if that is what comes. Prudence can mitigate some of the risks, but marriage nonetheless remains an acceptance of lifelong vulnerability if one takes these vows seriously. To quote Chesterton's Manalive once again, "Imprudent marriages! . . .  where in earth or heaven are there any prudent marriages? Might as well talk about prudent suicides." A commitment unto death is not prudent, if one is only looking out for oneself.

And marriage is a death of the autonomous self, because it establishes a lifelong "We" over the solitary "I" of the individual. The physical union of marriage that the Bible describes as becoming one flesh is only part of the merger that is marriage, in which the self is not abolished, but is irrevocably committed to another person. It may be terrifying to give up sole control of one's life in this way, and many will refuse. Think, for example, of the prominent philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who for all his life struggled to find a way to have love without vulnerability. That is simply not possible in this life.

One can have pleasure while maintaining control and safety, but one cannot have love. And pleasure without love will grow stale. Thus, Lewis concluded his comments on the vulnerability of love by warning: "The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." Those who will not risk their hearts will in the end make themselves heartless. This is why the traditional wedding vows recognize that they promise eventual heartbreak, for if hearts are not hardened over the years then one at least will be broken when death does its part.

Yet those in love continue to get married, not only out of social custom or for the benefits romantic and family stability provide to society, but because their love compels them to do so. There is something about being in love that induces us to make promises of everlasting fidelity, as if we know that such fidelity offers a better way of life, whatever the risks may be. It is commitment that allows a relationship to move from potentiality to actuality. The self that sacrifices its autonomy upon the marriage altar will find itself more fully realized in that marriage. It is only by foreclosing the other options of what we might become that we can really set about the business of becoming something; only by forsaking all others can we fully realize our relationship with one.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


The Venona Men: Review of 'In the Enemy's House' By Howard Blum (HARVEY KLEHR, FEB. 20, 2018, Commentary)

More than 30 years have passed since the former FBI agent Robert Lamphere detail-ed his key role in uncovering major Soviet espionage networks in The FBI-KGB War. That book provided the first detailed (but truncated) account of the Venona Project, the most successful American counterintelligence operation of the Cold War. Hidden from historians and the public for decades, Venona provided the key leads that resulted in the convictions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Judith Coplon in the United States and Klaus Fuchs in Great Britain by making it possible for FBI agents to read thousands of high-level Soviet communications. Venona also exposed hundreds of other Soviet spies, most of whom could not be prosecuted since independent evidence was lacking and it was thought inexpedient to reveal Venona in court.

Nearly a decade would pass until the FBI and NSA began to release the actual Venona transcripts in 1995. In the years since, a number of books (including several co-authored by me) have analyzed the Venona revelations, while others have mined Communist International files and the KGB archives. Virtually all the major mysteries about Soviet espionage in the United States have been resolved by these once-secret documents. In addition to confirming the guilt of the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and virtually every other person accused of spying in the 1940s by the ex-spies Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, these books have exposed several important and previously unknown agents such as Theodore Hall, Russell McNutt, and I.F. Stone. Indeed, the only accused spy who turns out to have been innocent (although he was a secret Communist almost up until the day he took charge of developing an atomic bomb) was J. Robert Oppenheimer.

A handful of espionage deniers, centered around the Nation magazine, continue to argue, against all evidence and logic, that Alger Hiss is still innocent. The Rosenberg children continue to distort their mother's role in espionage. And some hard-core McCarthyites still demonize Oppenheimer. But in truth, the bloody battle over who spied is over.

One of the nice things about being conservative is the moral clarity: we oppose agents of Russia of the Left and the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


The Man Who Played With Trains (William Bryk, 3/12/18, Splice)

In 1965, The New York Times wrote that Joshua Lionel Cowen had made the Lionel name "the third wing of Christmas, along with the evergreen tree and Santa Claus." Even now, for many of us, a Christmas tree, however laden with colored lights, however lavishly tinseled, seems incomplete without an 027 model train running beneath it on a circle of steel track.

Once, American railroads dominated popular culture because they were the only means of fast land transportation. Now there are other ways to get there from here. They seem less important, and toy trains share the marginalization of their prototypes. Yet millions of us played with toy trains half a century ago, particularly those manufactured by the Lionel Corporation. For perhaps a decade after World War II, the technical, managerial, and promotional genius of Joshua Lionel Cowen, founder of Lionel, made his toy trains a solid part of American middle-class boyhood.

In 1952 alone, Lionel produced 622,209 engines and 2,460,764 freight and passenger cars. Ron Hollander's delightful, lavishly-illustrated biography of Cowen and his company, All Aboard (published in 1981 and reissued in 2000), states that Lionel's 1952 production eclipsed "the nation's railroads, which had a mere 43,000 locomotives and 1.8 million cars in service."

Joshua Lionel Cowen was born on Henry St. in Manhattan's Lower East Side on Aug. 25, 1877. He preferred playing ball, bicycling, hiking and tinkering with mechanical toys to formal education, and soon became fascinated with electricity, its transmission, and its storage in batteries. In the labs at Peter Cooper Institute, he built what may have been (or what he claimed was--Cowen had no false modesty) the first electric doorbell. In 1899, he patented a device for igniting photographers' flash powder by using dry cell batteries to heat a wire fuse. Cowen than parlayed this into a defense contract to equip 24,000 Navy mines with detonators. His ignorance of armament manufacture didn't stop him. He used mercuric fulminate, a sensitive and powerful explosive. His supplier's deliveryman told him, "The company said you should always keep a good deal around. It's better to be dead than maimed." He delivered the fuses to the Brooklyn Navy Yard on time by horse-drawn wagon at the gallop.

In 1900, with $12,000 in profits, he began manufacturing "electrical novelties" at 24 Murray St. in Lower Manhattan as the Lionel Manufacturing Co. He was 23. 

March 14, 2018

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Andrew Breitbart would tell Steve Bannon to stay in Europe (Jonah Goldberg, MAR 14, 2018, LA Times)

Last week, just after the sixth anniversary of Andrew's demise, the man who replaced him at Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, launched his blood and soil tour of Europe. The climax was a speech to the ultra-right French National Front in which he perverted Andrew's defiant message, preferring to embrace the caricatures Andrew dedicated himself to fighting.

Bannon told the crowd: "Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor."

He continued: "The tide of history is with us, and it will compel us to victory after victory after victory."

There's something darkly comic about a guy who in the last year was fired from the White House, fired from his website and defenestrated by the patrons who supported him, speaking to a sparse crowd of Vichy nostalgists, claiming that the tide of history is with him.

If Andrew were still around, I bet he'd tell Bannon to stay in Europe -- and not just because his tendency to wear several shirts seems more consistent with European fashion. Bannon's understanding of conservatism is entirely European.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


FBI official scorned by Trump may be fired days before retirement: media  (Reuters) 

The former FBI deputy director scheduled to retire on Sunday, Andrew McCabe, may be fired over allegations that he misled investigators about sharing sensitive information with the media, which would make him ineligible for full retirement benefits, according to the Washington Post and New York Times on Wednesday.

Such is the nature of a healthy republican institution.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


Haley blames Russia for poisoning ex-spy in UK(MAX GREENWOOD - 03/14/18, The Hill)

 Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday accused Russia of flagrantly and aggressively using a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy in the U.K., and called on Moscow to "come clean" about its chemical weapons program.

"Russia must fully cooperate with the U.K.'s investigation and come clean about its own chemical weapons program," Haley said at the U.N. in New York. 

Haley's comments were the strongest to date from a Trump administration official regarding the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with a nerve agent. U.K. officials have blamed Russia for the attack.

She's avoided the taint of Donald by ignoring him.

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


Iranian media compares Trump to Ahmadinejad amid Tillerson dismissal (Al-Monitor, March 14, 2018)

On March 13, immediately after Trump announced the dismissal of Tillerson through his Twitter account, Iranian news outlets covered it extensively while many were reminded of Ahmadinejad's 2010 firing of then Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki while the latter was on a trip to Senegal.

In this vein, moderate news site Entekhab argued March 13, "The similarities of Mottaki's and Tillerson's dismissals more than anything demonstrate the manner of governance by Trump and Ahmadinejad. Trump's and Ahmadinejad's method [of governing] is based on populism. Excited speeches and using colloquial language, sudden decisions and unilateralism in decision-making are common qualities of these two [figures]."

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Only Half Of Trump Voters Say Affair With Porn Actress Would Be Immoral: The other half say it would not be or they are not sure. (Dana Liebelson & Ariel Edwards-Levy. 3/14/18, Huffington Post)

Only about half of the people who voted for President Donald Trump say it would be immoral if he had an affair with pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels. The other half say it is not immoral, or they are not sure, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey published Tuesday.

It is a truism that his supporters don't care about morality.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


California teacher accidentally fires gun in class, students injured (Amy Larson  , 3/14/18,

A teacher who also serves as a reserve police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside High School classroom Tuesday, police said, and three students were injured.

Dennis Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety for his administration of justice class when his gun went off at 1:20 p.m.

...but thinks they should handle guns/

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Gowdy breaks from GOP committee, says Russia worked to undermine Clinton (KYLE CHENEY, 03/13/2018, Politico)

Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said that the evidence gathered by the committee clearly showed Russia's disdain for Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton, and was "motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed."

A source familiar with Gowdy's thinking said the congressman believes there's no difference between opposing Clinton and backing Trump in what had become, effectively, a two-person race. The source added that Gowdy "disagrees with the conclusion" that the intelligence agencies got it wrong.

Don't you hate when the partisans who are retiring are liberated from their lies.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


Physicist Stephen Hawking, who unlocked the secrets of space and time, dies at 76 (Stephen Addison, 3/14/18, Reuters) 

In July 2002, Hawking said in a lecture that although his quest was to explain everything, a theory of determinism that would predict the universe in the past and forever in the future probably could not be achieved.

He caused some controversy among biologists when he said he saw computer viruses as a life form, and thus the human race's first act of creation.

As he conceded. the quest for a Final Theory is itself based on faith in Design:

[I]f we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 AM


PROZAC PRESCHOOL: The youngest Americans are being prescribed a growing number of adult psychotropic drugs. (SUSAN DONALDSON JAMESFEB 28, 2018, Pacific Standard)

A surprising number of the nation's youngest children are being prescribed psychiatric drugs, some younger than preschool, according to health-care industry data on physician prescriptions in the United States.

Widely reported data collected in 2014 from IMS Health show that more than eight million children are prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar and behavioral disorders. More than one million of them are younger than five.

But rigorous studies of these drugs in young children is "incredibly poor," says Mary Margaret Gleason, a pediatric psychiatrist at Tulane University. "We don't know much, especially with preschoolers," she says. "The older kids get, their brains have already developed, and we have more information."

The National Institutes of Health confirm that the use of antidepressants has "risen dramatically" since the 1990s. Anxiety is the most common type of mental-health disorder in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 10 percent of all young children deal with generalized anxiety, panic, separation anxiety, and phobias.

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A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they're so pissed off (Sean Illing, 3/14/18,}

Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, spent eight years interviewing Americans in small towns across the country. He had one goal: to understand why rural America is so angry with Washington.

Wuthnow's work resulted in a new book, The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America.  [...]

Sean Illing

In the book, you argue that the anger we're seeing in rural America is less about economic concerns and more about the perception that Washington is threatening the way of life in small towns. How, specifically, is Washington doing this?

Robert Wuthnow

I'm not sure that Washington is doing anything to harm these communities. To be honest, a lot of it is just scapegoating. And that's why you see more xenophobia and racism in these communities. There's a sense that things are going badly, and the impulse is to blame "others."

They believe that Washington really does have power over their lives. They recognize that the federal government controls vast resources, and they feel threatened if they perceive Washington's interest being directed more toward urban areas than rural areas, or toward immigrants more than non-immigrants, or toward minority populations instead of the traditional white Anglo population.

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Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Chill: Why Young Americans Are Having Less Sex (W. BRADFORD WILCOX and SAMUEL STURGEON February 08, 2018, Politico)

American adults, on average, are having sex about nine fewer times per year in the 2010s compared to adults in the late 1990s, according to a team of scholars led by the psychologist Jean Twenge. That's a 14 percent decline in sexual frequency. Likewise, the share of adults who reported having sex "not at all" in the past year rose from 18 percent in the late 1990s to 22 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the General Social Survey. (The GSS, which is fielded every two years and is directed by the University of Chicago, is a large, nationally representative and federally funded survey of American adults covering a range of attitudes and behaviors.)

Similar trends are apparent among younger men and women. In the early 2000s, about 73 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 had sex at least twice a month. That fell to 66 percent in the period from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the GSS.

Other 18- to 30-year-olds aren't doing it at all. From 2002 to 2004, 12 percent of them reported having no sex in the preceding year. A decade later, during the two years from 2014 to 2016, that number rose to 18 percent.

Sex is also down among teenagers. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in the share of high school students who said they ever had sex: from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Sexual activity among teenagers fell the most between 2013 and 2015, about the same time that sex took a real dip among 18- to 30-year-old adults.  [...]

There are upsides to the sexual counter-revolution that appears to be unfolding, one of which is that it seems likely--especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement--to encourage women and men to be more considerate, committed and consensual about all matters sexual. This counter-revolution may be cutting down on sex, and sex-related talk and behavior, that is unwanted, awkward and abusive--and probably casual sex in general. "Now could be the time to reintroduce virtues such as prudence, temperance, respect and even love," Christine Emba of The Washington Post wrote. "We might pursue the theory that sex possibly has a deeper significance than just recreation and that 'consent'--that thin and gameable boundary--might not be the only moral sensibility we need respect."

This would be good, in part, because women are, on average, more likely to derive satisfaction from sex in committed relationships, compared with casual ones. One recent study of college women by the sociologists Jessie Ford and Paula England found that women reported more orgasms in committed relationships than in hookups, and that the gender gap in orgasms between college men and women was smaller in committed relationships than in hookups. The sexual counter-revolution, then, may mean that women, especially, get to enjoy more committed, mutually gratifying sex and endure less joyless casual sex for the sake of male gratification--in other words, less Aziz Ansari-style sex (at least as reported by the website

Another apparent upside is that the share of babies born to teenage and unmarried mothers is falling. The birthrate for 15- to 19-year-olds is down by 51 percent since 2007. And the percent of babies born outside of marriage reached a record high of 40.6 percent in 2008 but has since fallen (to 39.8 percent in 2016) and will likely fall even more in the coming years as young adults continue to postpone sex and have fewer partners. This downturn is the first of its kind since the 1960s. It's good news in part because children born to married parents are more likely to avoid poverty, enjoy stable families, and thrive, educationally and economically.

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REVEALED: Obama Campaign Hired Fusion GPS To Investigate Romney (Chuck Ross, 03/13/2018, Daily Caller)

The Barack Obama presidential campaign hired Fusion GPS in 2012 to dig up dirt on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to a book released on Tuesday.

They are the best in the business.

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An Unpopular Approach to the Populism Problem: A modest proposal. (NOAH ROTHMAN, MAR. 8, 2018, Commentary)

Classical liberals don't just have an aversion to populism; they think it's dangerous. But here's the thing: The populists are outnumbered. Global free trade and liberal democracy do not benefit everyone equally, but they create vastly more winners than losers. Domestic producers benefit from economies of scale. Countries that engage in trade enjoy rising standards of living. Comparative advantages increase productivity. Recent agitation to the contrary notwithstanding, an unfettered global-trade regime has dramatically decreased global poverty and reduced the gap between wealthy and impoverished.

These are incremental benefits, and they're far easier to overlook than are the conditions endured by those who are left behind in the global economy. The global liberal trade regime's losers are sympathetic figures, and they command far more political power than their numbers should suggest. They serve as a living indictment of the very system by which the majority benefits. Their very existence buttresses populist attacks on the legitimacy of a system that creates so much disaffection. This is a matter of perception, not numerical inferiority.

Populist attacks on the Western-led international order don't begin and end with free trade; they are aimed at the fundamental assumptions upon which the classically liberal democratic ideal is based. As Mounk concluded, it is, thus, necessary to contain this ideological impulse's most dangerous excesses. He recommended subversion and assimilation, but there is another approach that is based on a rational hard-power calculation. Classical liberalism's winners vastly outnumber its losers, and it is the populist nationalist alternative that cannot be accommodated. But it can, and therefore should, be defeated.

Humility and passivity do not well serve those who truly believe the liberal capitalist order hammered out after the Second World War is of the greatest benefit to the greatest number. Concessions to illiberal populists or chauvinistic nationalists should not be the product of charity or self-doubt. They should be hard-won, and only after a bitterly contested ordeal. These kinds of martial metaphors will yield bouts of feigned indignation from populist nationalists who freely and recklessly resort to such language themselves, but this, too, amounts to mere theatrics. If capitalist democrats believe their model is the means by which the greatest number will benefit, and contend that their opponents are dangerously wrong, they need to start acting like it.

It has been more than a generation since the West confronted a peer competitor that championed an alternative model to the kind of liberalized global economic integration that emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. As such, our skill at championing a model of social organization unapologetically, without fear or favor, has atrophied. That's an aptitude that we will have to re-learn, and soon. If populist nationalism is to be contained, it cannot be subsumed into greater liberalism and its malcontents mollified by social-welfare programs. The very idea of populist nationalism will have to be overwhelmed. As soon as advocates of unfettered freedom and commerce come to that conclusion, that necessary work can begin.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


New study finds increase in support for democracy -- but weaker support among politically disengaged and conservatives (John Sides March 13, 2018, Washington Post)

 Co-written by Lee Drutman, Larry Diamond and Joe Goldman, it is one of a continuing series of reports produced by the Voter Study Group. (Disclosure: I am the research director of the Voter Study Group.) In this report, based on a July survey with 5,000 Americans, four key findings stand out:

1) Support for democracy is actually higher in this survey than several earlier surveys.

Compared with surveys in the 1990s and 2000s, the percentage of Americans who say that "a strong leader who does not have to bother with Congress and elections" is a "fairly" or "very good" way of governing the country has declined. The percentage who say that "having the army rule" is good was similar to 2011. The percentage who say that a "democratic" political system is fairly or very bad has also declined slightly. [...]

3) Shaky support for democracy is more visible among conservatives.

In the report, a willingness to consider a "strong leader" system or put less priority on democracy is more visible among self-identified conservatives -- and particularly among those who express conservative views on social and racial issues. Indeed, support for anti-democratic political systems is especially strong among those who think that being white and European is important to American identity.

March 13, 2018

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Qatar Had Dirt On Kushner But Kept It From Mueller To Preserve White House Ties (Aiden Pink, 3/13/18, The Forward)

Qatar believes that secret meetings between Kushner and leaders from the U.A.E., its regional rival, may have led to Trump's endorsement of the U.A.E.'s naval blockade of Qatar. The country also believes that Kushner took an anti-Qatar stance after negotiations fell apart between his family business and Qatar investors.

But when the country's representatives visited Washington in January, they did not share their information with Mueller in order to preserve their country's relationship with the U.S., three sources told NBC.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 PM


There's No Scientific Basis for Race--It's a Made-Up Label (Elizabeth Kolbert, 3/13/18, National Geographic)

Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. The races had distinct characters, which corresponded to their place in a divinely determined hierarchy. Morton's "craniometry" showed, he claimed, that whites, or "Caucasians," were the most intelligent of the races. East Asians--Morton used the term "Mongolian"--though "ingenious" and "susceptible of cultivation," were one step down. Next came Southeast Asians, followed by Native Americans. Blacks, or "Ethiopians," were at the bottom. In the decades before the Civil War, Morton's ideas were quickly taken up by the defenders of slavery.

"He had a lot of influence, particularly in the South," says Paul Wolff Mitchell, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is showing me the skull collection, now housed at the Penn Museum. We're standing over the braincase of a particularly large-headed Dutchman who helped inflate Morton's estimate of Caucasian capacities. When Morton died, in 1851, the Charleston Medical Journal in South Carolina praised him for "giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race."

Today Morton is known as the father of scientific racism. So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another that a tour of his collection is a haunting experience. To an uncomfortable degree we still live with Morton's legacy: Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.

This is the case even though what science actually has to tell us about race is just the opposite of what Morton contended.

Morton thought he'd identified immutable and inherited differences among people, but at the time he was working--shortly before Charles Darwin put forth his theory of evolution and long before the discovery of DNA--scientists had no idea how traits were passed on. Researchers who have since looked at people at the genetic level now say that the whole category of race is misconceived. Indeed, when scientists set out to assemble the first complete human genome, which was a composite of several individuals, they deliberately gathered samples from people who self-identified as members of different races. In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, "The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis."

It was especially fun when realizing that being a Darwinist made him a racist forced Stephen Jay Gould to renounce his life's work.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Tijuana residents laugh at border wall prototypes, call Trump 'loco' (Lizbeth Diaz, Delphine Schrank, 3/13/18, Reuters) 

Mexican residents of a poor Tijuana slum in the shadow of eight prototypes of U.S. President Donald Trump's planned border wall called the project a waste of money and laughed at the idea the monolithic slabs will stop desperate immigrants.

One of the best things about the Trumpbots' racism is that they radically underestimate the desire of immigrants to be American.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Roger Stone claimed contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, according to two associates (Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, March 13, 2018, Washington Post)

In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line.

Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the hackers were working for Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 PM


Trump Denies Russian Guilt in Murder. Tillerson Admits It, Is Fired. Hmm. (Jonathan Chait, 3/13/18, New York)

Last night, Rex Tillerson told reporters the attack "clearly" was undertaken by Russia. Then this morning Trump fired Tillerson, without any advance notice whatsoever. After that, Trump briefly appeared on the White House lawn, and when asked about the murder, said, "We will condemn Russia ...or whoever it may be."

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


Trump personal aide John McEntee forced out over background check issues (JOHN SANTUCCI, KATHERINE FAULDERS TARA PALMERI Mar 13, 2018, ABC News)

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


4.4 million 2012 Obama voters stayed home in 2016 -- more than a third of them black (Philip Bump March 12, Washington Post)

On Sunday, the New York Times published research from a group of political scientists and data analysts that breaks out how voters who supported President Barack Obama in 2012 behaved in 2016. Most of them, unsurprisingly, voted for Hillary Clinton. Nine percent voted for Trump. Seven percent didn't vote.

Those percentages aren't distributed evenly by race. According to the analysis, 12 percent of white voters who had backed Obama in 2012 voted for Trump four years later. Eleven percent of black Obama 2012 voters stayed home.
Those are small percentages of the total pool of voters, but it means that the Obama-to-Trump voter pool was overwhelmingly white -- and the Obama-to-nonvoting pool disproportionately black.

We see this effect in other ways, too. The U.S. Elections Project tracks Census Bureau data on turnout. In 2016, black turnout was down eight points from 2012, helping contribute to that lower percentage that black voters made up of the overall electorate.

Democrats almost have to nominate Michelle.

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Central Banks Are Looking for New Ways to Meet Inflation Targets (Bloomberg, March 12, 2018)

With so many central banks failing to hit their inflation targets, some are considering changes to the tool kits they use to steer their economies.

Norway's decision to lower its price target is just the latest example, and follows more or less official adjustments in Sweden, Argentina and the euro area. Even in New Zealand, the birthplace of inflation targeting, the central bank is shifting to a broader goal that includes a focus on employment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


EXCLUSIVE: Top Arab spy and prince's conduit to the Kremlin were at the Seychelles meeting between Trump donor Erik Prince and Russian oligarch which Mueller is probing (Ryan Parry, West Coast Correspondent For and Josh Boswell For, 12 March 2018, Daily Mail)

One of the Arab world's top spies and a shadowy conduit to Vladimir Putin's Kremlin were present at a meeting in the Seychelles being probed by Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, can disclose.

The meeting between Erik Prince, the Trump donor and billionaire Blackwater founder whose sister is education secretary Betsy DeVos, and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker close to the Kremlin, was convened by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed, who is the de factor joint ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

But can disclose that also present were bin Zayed's spy chief and a Palestinian seen as the crown prince's personal conduit to Putin's Kremlin.

The two men - Hamad al Mazroie, the de facto head of the UAE intelligence service, and Mohammed Dahlan, a bin Zayed adviser who is fluent in Russian - were never named by Prince when he testified to the House intelligence committee about the meeting.

It emerged last month that George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and Middle East expert with ties to the Trump administration was present.

Nader is now co-operating with Mueller after being stopped as he entered the U.S. in January and being served with a subpoena.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Oil prices dip on relentless rise in U.S. crude output (Henning Gloystein, 3/13/18, Reuters) 

Oil prices dipped on Tuesday, extending losses from the previous session, as the inexorable rise in U.S. crude output weighed on markets.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 AM


The wild, wild world of Sheriff David Clarke (Cockburn, 11 March 2018, Spectator USA)

Clarke has suffered other problems on the home front. Two months before Clarke spoke at the RNC, an inmate died in one of his jails in Milwaukee after allegedly being deprived of water for a week. After the autopsy results were released, Clarke was further accused of calling the city medical examiner and threatening him, an accusation Clarke declined to comment on. The jail death has resulted in an ongoing criminal trial of three jail staff. Two have plead not guilty. Inmates said the man cried out for water before he died.

But Cockburn can reveal that there may be another reason for his political demise. It seems that he has for some time been conducting extra-marital affairs.

Clarke filed for divorce from his wife two weeks ago, on the day before this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Since last year, he has been seen regularly with Hedieh Mirahmadi, a Muslim woman who has a job conducting sensitivity training with law enforcement agencies. According to her LinkedIn page, Mirahmadi was a consultant to the FBI from 2015 until June 2017.

Mirahmadi characterises her relationship as standard for a business manager to someone of Clarke's stature. But when asked to confirm or deny whether they were having an affair, Mirahmadi told Cockburn, 'well, he's filing for a divorce, so I don't think it's technically an affair. I don't really want to comment on the nature of our relationship.'

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


GOP House Intelligence member says Russia did try to help Trump, his panel 'lost all credibility' to investigate (The Week, 3/13/18)

The U.S. intelligence community disagrees with that assessment, and said so again Monday, CNN's Erin Burnett reminded House Intelligence Committee member Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) Monday night. "They believed that the Russian intent was to hurt Hillary Clinton, but as it became clear that Donald Trump was a viable candidate, they then took it further," Burnett said. "They wanted to explicitly help Donald Trump. So you're saying you do agree?" "I believe there's evidence of everything that you just said," Rooney agreed. "But I also believe there's evidence to where they were trying to wreak havoc on both sides."

Rooney said his assertion is "not completely the opposite" of what Conaway said. "I think there were efforts to try to hurt Hillary and help Trump, but I think there was also the opposite, too," he said. Burnett asked why Republicans are wrapping up the House investigation with questions outstanding, and Rooney was frank. "We have gone completely off the rails, and now we're basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day's news," he said. "As you allude to, we have lost all credibility."

The Walls Are Closing In on Trump: Nunes' 'investigation' has shown Washington at its worst. It's been a pure exercise in protecting Trump, and a low point for the GOP's reputation as the party of national security. (Rick Wilson, 03.12.18, Daily Beast)

When secret agent man Devin Nunes raced to the White House to break a phony story of illegal and inappropriate surveillance from a mysterious "whistleblower," it turned out the super-secret intel he set his ass on fire to reveal came from... wait for it... the White House itself.  Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, both employees of the White House, provided Nunes with top secret material outside the approved channels to push one of many of the White House's endless variations on the "no collusion--no puppet, you're the puppet" defense.

Nunes released a memo last month that tried and failed to bring the grown-ups' investigations to a halt, and to change the facts of why Carter Page and Trump campaign officials came under the baleful glare of the FISA Court. Spoiler: it wasn't the intelligence community helping Hillary Clinton. It was Trump's allies and family ass-deep in contacts, connections, communications, and coordination with Vladimir Putin's information warfare operation.  

To imagine for even one moment that every intelligence agency in this nation is wrong and that Devin Nunes, super-staffer Derek Harvey and the other partisans are right about Putin and Trump is beyond ludicrous. Harvey, a refugee from the Trump national security council purge executed by H.R. McMaster and John Kelly, is now the lead agent in the coverup by Republican members of the House. Nunes, while claiming to have recused himself, has remained deeply involved at all time in the coverup.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM


Stormy Daniels Outmaneuvers White House, Gives Trump Ultimatum (Eric Boehlert, March 13, 2018, Share Blue)

Now, in a bold move that places more pressure on the White House, Daniels is offering to give back the $130,000.

The New York Times reports that Daniels' lawyer sent a letter to Trump's personal attorney early Monday indicating that Daniels would "wire the money into an account of Mr. Trump's choosing by Friday." According to the report, Trump's lawyer has until noon tomorrow to respond.

Daniels and her attorney want to return the hush money to make the agreement to stay quiet null and void. They argue that Daniels would then be free to speak openly about her relationship with Trump and well as to share any text messages, phone and/or videos relating to Trump.

For the White House, the story continues to descend into chaos.

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 AM


Relativistic Baseball: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light? (Ellen McManis, What If?)

The answer turns out to be "a lot of things", and they all happen very quickly, and it doesn't end well for the batter (or the pitcher). I sat down with some physics books, a Nolan Ryan action figure, and a bunch of videotapes of nuclear tests and tried to sort it all out. What follows is my best guess at a nanosecond-by-nanosecond portrait

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Russian spy claims he was poisoned just like Sergei Skripal as Vladimir Putin wants him dead (Nigel Nelson, 10 MAR 2018, Daily Mail)

Boris Karpichkov says he and Skripal were on a hit-list of EIGHT defectors Vladimir Putin wants dead - and names the others . [...]

"Vladimir Putin was there and was briefed that the hit had been a success." And he reveals other names on a hit list he has been given by his contact.

OLEG GORDIEVSKY, 79: Britain's top Cold War double agent spirited out of Russia in 1985 in the boot of a Ford saloon.

BILL BROWDER, 53: ­US-born Brit financier banned from Russia for fraud, but he claims it was for exposing corruption.

IGOR SUTYAGIN, 53: Russian nuclear weapons specialist accused of spying for UK. Spy-swapped in 2010 along with Skirpal.

YURI SHVETS, 65: Ex-KGB major who defected to America in 1994. A key witness in the poisoning of Litvinenko.

CHRISTOPHER STEELE, 53: Former MI6 officer who claimed Russian spies had a video of Donald Trump cavorting with prostitutes.

VLADIMIR REZUN, 70 : Soviet military intelligence captain who defected to Britain in 1978.

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Candidate Haley: The portrait that emerges is of a retail politician turning U.N. diplomacy into a ticket to the White House. (COLUM LYNCH, MARCH 9, 2018, Foreign Policy)

Over the winter holidays, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations got around to hanging the official portrait of Ambassador Nikki Haley alongside the images of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in its lobby in New York.

But there was something, or someone, missing. In the spot where the portraits of America's previous top diplomats, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, once hung was an unused picture hanger. The U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had been essentially airbrushed out of this American diplomatic tableau.

The elimination of America's top diplomat from the mission's lobby gallery highlighted the contentious nature of relations at the top of the president's diplomatic team, as well as the unique nature of Haley's tenure as U.S. ambassador.

The first Republican Cabinet-level U.N. ambassador since the end of the Cold War, Haley has rejected the traditional chain of command that grants the secretary of state the primary policymaking role, and she has made it clear she will accept nothing less than to be Tillerson's equal. Her voracious pursuit of the spotlight, meanwhile, has elevated her national profile and strengthened her prospects for higher political office should she decide, as many suspect she will, to pursue the American presidency.

"Overall, the consensus in Republican national security circles is that she has done herself a huge favor by taking this position and going to New York," says Daniel Vajdich, a Republican foreign-policy expert who advised the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz. "She can be a very popular candidate in 2020 or 2024."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Why (Almost) Everyone Likes Jake Tapper: Liberals praise the CNN anchor, but so do conservatives. How did he pull this off in the age of "Fake News"? (GRAHAM VYSE, March 9, 2018, New Republic)

Jake Tapper has found himself--or put himself--in the middle of the gun-control debate in America. After last month's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the CNN anchor moderated a town hall in which parents and survivors vented anger at politicians, police, and the National Rifle Association.

"We're here tonight to facilitate your desire to speak directly to your leaders," he said as the broadcast began. He made a few points--for instance, that Democrats didn't prioritize gun control when they last held Congress and the White House--but mostly hung back, even when the dialogue grew tense. "Normally at a debate or a town hall, I would be quick to say to someone, 'That was rude' or 'We're going to try to keep it civil here,' or 'Let's not have personal attacks,'" he later told Variety. "But in this situation, who am I to tell someone that just lost a daughter or a friend, 'Don't talk that way'?"

Media observers said the town hall was a "stunning" event, unlike any in the history of American TV. Liberals cheered it, too. But conservatives hated it. Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, called it a "show trial on behalf of full gun bans," and nationally syndicated radio host Joe Walsh described it to me as "a one-sided pep rally against guns."

Days later, Tapper grilled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. "Just so people watching at home understand," Tapper said, "even after the shooter left the school, there was a period of time where nobody was going into the school--no law enforcement officers. People were bleeding out." He later asked Israel, "Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward sheriff's office about this shooter before the incident?"

Some liberals criticized the interview. But conservatives loved it. Shapiro said it was "deeply necessary and perfectly done"; NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch agreed. The Blaze founder Glenn Beck called Tapper "the number one journalist in the nation." The right praised Tapper again this week after he called out Democrats for not condemning Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who recently gave an anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT speech.

With the asymmetric polarization of American politics, many on the right condemn mainstream news organizations as liberal organs or "Fake News," and they cocoon themselves in a right-wing media ecosystem of Fox News, the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and the like. This includes President Donald Trump, whose favorite show is Fox & Friends and number-one target is CNN. In this era, consensus journalists--those who are respected across America's partisan divide--are not supposed to exist. And yet, Tapper has become perhaps the most widely praised journalist working in TV today.

The Left and the Right have abandoned the field in favor of their niche 20%, so it's easy to speak for America...if you so choose.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Why a white town paid for a class called 'Hispanics 101' (Danielle Paquette, 3/07/18, Washington Post)

BRANSON, Mo. -- In a ballroom with antlers on the wall and hoof prints on the carpet, diversity coach Miguel Joey Aviles asked whether anyone knew how to merengue.

"Lord have mercy," he said, counting hands. "Only two?"

This is "Hispanics 101," a class meant to teach employers in the Ozarks resort town of 11,400 how to lure workers from Puerto Rico and persuade them to stay.

The economy depends on it. As tourism season kicks off this month, the remote getaway known for dinner theaters, country music concerts and a museum of dinosaur replicas has 2,050 vacancies -- and a lack of locals applying.

So, like other areas with tight labor markets, Branson finds itself getting creative to fill jobs -- in this case by recruiting people from a part of the United States with much higher unemployment.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


George Papadopoulos Claimed Trump Encouraged His Efforts to Establish a Russian Back Channel: And more scoops from "Russian Roulette," the new book co-authored by Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. (MOTHER JONES, MAR. 12, 2018)

The rest of the book has other significant disclosures. Here's an incomplete list.

- George Papadopoulos claimed Trump encouraged him to connect with the Russian government. As a member of Trump's team of foreign policy advisers, Papadopoulos, a young energy consultant with little national security experience, spent months in the spring and summer of 2016 trying to set up a back channel between the campaign and the Kremlin, in part to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting before Election Day. His efforts were known to senior campaign aides, including campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis and top campaign aide Paul Manafort. According to a later court filing, Papadopoulos, who in October 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, aimed to set up an "off the record" meeting between campaign representatives and Putin's office. Trump has famously denied there was any relationship between his campaign and Moscow. But Russian Roulette reveals that Papadopoulos has told investigators that at a March 31, 2016, meeting Trump held with his foreign policy team, when Papadopoulos informed Trump he had contacts in the United Kingdom who could set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, Trump said this was an "interesting" idea. Trump, according to Papadopoulos' account, looked at then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a top Trump adviser at the time, as if he expected him to follow up. Afterward, Papadopoulos, working with Russian cutouts, kept pursuing such a meeting.

- A secret source. According to the book, a US official in Russia in 2014 developed a high-level source in the Russian government who regularly shared inside information about Kremlin doings. After Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine and a Putin ally, fled Kiev in February, this source told his American contact that Putin was planning to move into Crimea. He also informed the US official that Putin was increasingly under the influence of an ultranationalist Orthodox Russian monk named Father Tikhon Shevkunov and that Putin and his inner circle had total contempt for Obama, denigrating the president as weak but also accusing him of meddling in Russia's affair. Putin's aides often used racist terms when referring to Obama, calling him a "monkey" and using the N-word. But most alarming, this secret source told the US official that the Kremlin was planning a wide-ranging clandestine campaign to undermine Western democracies that would include cyberattacks, information warfare, propaganda, and social media efforts. The US official sent in reports based on the source's information. Yet these warnings garnered little attention within the US government. "Anybody who had any doubt about Putin's intentions," the US official later said, "just wasn't reading what we reported."

- Steele isn't sure the pee party happened. Steele's dossier became most notorious because it included the allegation that Trump had prostitutes put on a "golden showers" performance in his hotel room when he was in Moscow in 2013. Steele's larger point was that the Russian government, according to his sources, had obtained compromising information about Trump's personal conduct that could be used to blackmail Trump. There still is no confirmation anything sordid happened in Trump's suite that particular night. (At least one Trump associate has said Trump engaged in sexual antics on previous trips to Russia.) Steele, according to Russian Roulette, has told people that he believes that 70 to 90 percent of the broad assertions of his reporting--that Russia mounted a campaign to cultivate Trump and in some manner colluded with the Trump campaign--was accurate. But he is less certain about the most sordid allegation. Regarding whether prostitutes in Moscow had urinated in Trump's presence, Steele has told colleagues, "It's fifty-fifty."

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 AM


On the Road (Alice Spawls, 2/28/18, London Review of Books)

The language of the roads is standardised but the handwriting varies hugely. It's not Transport, the round sans serif typeface designed for highway signs in the late 1950s by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir. The official script is Pavement, an elongated form of Transport, but it's only a guide: nearly all the shapes and lettering on road surfaces are hand-painted. Reading the roads every day, you begin to notice the different hands. Some do short, fat-bottomed arrows, with an even triangle for the head; others draw long stems topped with a flashy inverted 'V'. A few are jaunty, most are austere. Some hands are rather shaky and in need of practice: you can tell where a painter was learning or lazy (Dalston has some terrible - terribly good? - examples). But there's much artistry too, starting with the straightness of lines and the even dashes of parking spaces. Where there is variety, it's hard to tell if fashions or individuals have changed. The bicycle symbols that were painted in Islington four or five years ago (that's as long as road paint lasts) showed rather elegant, long, square-wheeled machines with tapered racer handlebars curving back like ibex horns. They only remain as ghosts now, and have been replaced with a new shape, rounder and with the fussy addition of pedals. Road symbols, like all municipal communication, seem to grow cuter but also vaguely patronising. Perhaps out of respect, the latest shapes are painted a few yards along from the older, fading figures. [...]

There weren't any markings on the roads themselves till 1918, when Britain became the first country to paint a white line down the middle to keep cars from colliding. Pedestrian markings appeared later, during World War Two, when the edges of roads were whitened so that people could see them in the blackout. As late as the 1950s many of the markings remained optional - recommendations not rules - and presumably some sort of Brownian motion ensued. Now there are so many markings the roads need constant maintenance and one type of sign has barely faded before a new rule or style supersedes it. Figures are replicated to the point of incoherence: at some places along the cycle routes a bike is painted every three yards. A narrow cut-through I take, not wide enough for a car, has the words 'Look Right' on one side of the pedestrian crossing and 'Look Left' on the other, so close they're almost touching. In other places lettering is bunched up, unreadable; arrows point in two directions; a cycle lane runs into a wall.

March 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Mueller's Choice of Criminal Charges: Why the Trump Team Should Be Very Worried (SAM BERGER, MARCH 12, 2018,  Just Security)

Ryan Goodman recently highlighted an important revelation contained in the memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee: Not only had the Russians told the Trump campaign that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, but they had also previewed for George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, that they could help with disseminating them.

Goodman and the experts he spoke with identified four types of actions that could create criminal liability for the Trump team stemming from this new information: if the campaign consulted with the Russians on their plans to disseminate the emails, if the Trump campaign gave tacit assent or approval or support, if Trump officials intentionally encouraged the Russians, or if they sought to conceal the facts of a crime. Just looking at the publicly available information shows the outlines of a potential legal case against members of the Trump team along these very lines.

As campaign finance law expert Paul S. Ryan points out, campaigns cannot coordinate with foreign nationals on any expenditure that seeks to influence a U.S. election. Coordination includes cooperation, consultation, or acting in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of the candidate or his team. A key word is or--each of those actions could independently suffice to establish a violation.

The emails to set up the now infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting contain a particularly incriminating piece of evidence on this score. While significant focus has been given to Donald Trump Jr.'s enthusiastic response to the offer of damaging information on Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," equal attention should be paid to the rest of his response, in which he says that such information would be helpful "especially later in the summer." In this statement, Trump Jr. was not only communicating a willingness to collude with Russia; he was also telling them when the campaign thought the release of such information would be most politically useful. What's more, as Bob Bauer has noted, when Trump Jr. told the Russian lawyer the information that she presented on Clinton-related donors was not valuable, he "aided the Russians by providing access to its judgments about attacks that would be ineffective." That too was a form of consultation and assistance.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Bannon encouraging populists to embrace 'racist' label confirms belief about the worldview he brought to the White House (Eugene Scott March 12, 2018, Washington Post)

After many voters were drawn to Trump's calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers, their critics claimed that the populism eventually articulated by former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon was grounded in ethnocentrism.

This past weekend, Bannon, who has increasingly been connecting with nationalist leaders around the world who share his politics, encouraged those who share his worldview to embrace accusations of racism.

While speaking Saturday at a gathering of the far-right French National Front party, Bannon told the gathering they should be proud of being accused of racism.

"Let them call you racists," Bannon said. "Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor."

Not that there's ever been any doubt about hat the Trumpbots are.  It's why they're willing to excuse all the corruption.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


One Hundred Years Later, the Madness of Daylight Saving Time Endures (Michael Downing, 3/09/18, SMITHSONIAN.COM)

Today we know that changing the clocks does influence our behavior. For example, later sunset times have dramatically increased participation in afterschool sports programs and attendance at professional sports events. In 1920, The Washington Post reported that golf ball sales in 1918 - the first year of daylight saving - increased by 20 percent.

And when Congress extended daylight saving from six to seven months in 1986, the golf industry estimated that extra month was worth as much as $400 million in additional equipment sales and green fees. To this day, the Nielsen ratings for even the most popular television shows decline precipitously when we spring forward, because we go outside to enjoy the sunlight.

But the promised energy savings - the presenting rationale for the policy - have never materialized.

In fact, the best studies we have prove that Americans use more domestic electricity when they practice daylight saving. Moreover, when we turn off the TV and go to the park or the mall in the evening sunlight, Americans don't walk. We get in our cars and drive. Daylight saving actually increases gasoline consumption, and it's a cynical substitute for genuine energy conservation policy.

Lawmakers in Florida, of all places, ought to know that year-round daylight saving is not such a bright idea - especially in December and January, when most residents of the Sunshine State won't see sunrise until about 8 a.m.

On Jan. 8, 1974, Richard Nixon forced Floridians and the entire nation into a year-round daylight saving - a vain attempt to stave off an energy crisis and lessen the impact of an OPEC oil embargo.

But before the end of the first month of daylight saving that January, eight children died in traffic accidents in Florida, and a spokesperson for Florida's education department attributed six of those deaths directly to children going to school in darkness.

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Basic Income in a Just Society (BRISHEN ROGERS, 5/15/17, Boston Review)

Consider the life of a truck driver forty years ago versus today. In 1976 long-haul truck drivers had a powerful, if flawed, union in the Teamsters and enjoyed middle-class wages and excellent benefits. They also had a remarkable degree of autonomy, giving the job a cowboy or outlaw image. Drivers had to track their hours carefully, of course, and submit to weigh stations and other inspections of their trucks. But dispatchers could not reach them while they were on the road, since CB radios have limited range. Truckers would call in from pay phones, if they wanted. 

No longer. Trucking companies today monitor drivers closely through "telematics" devices that gather and analyze data on their location, driving speed, and delivery efficiency. Some even note when a driver turns the truck on before fastening his seat belt, thereby wasting gas. As sociologist Karen Levy has shown, some long-haul trucking companies use telematics to push drivers to drive for all the hours permitted per day under federal law, at times waking them up or even overriding drivers' own judgments about whether it is safe to drive. UPS has used the technologies to reduce its stock of drivers, and many have noted the stress that "metrics-based harassment" puts on workers.

While the specter of self-driving vehicles is out there, this is the current reality for many drivers and will be for the foreseeable future. We have seen stunning advances in autonomous vehicles in recent years, but there is a vast difference between driving on a highway or broad suburban streets in good weather conditions and navigating narrow and pothole-filled city streets, not to mention making the actual delivery to houses, apartments, and businesses. As labor economist David Autor and others have argued, we are nowhere close to fully automated production or distribution of goods, since so many jobs involve nonrepetitive tasks. In other words, the reports of the death of work have been greatly exaggerated.

Technological development is nevertheless altering the political economy of labor markets in profound ways. As we can see in the truck driver example, many firms are deploying information technologies to erode workers' conditions and bargaining power without displacing them.

And of course truck drivers are not alone. Many other firms today use advanced information technologies to push for more efficiency, in the process reducing workers' discretion, ultimately requiring them to work harder, faster, and for less. For example, where once taxi drivers' folk knowledge of the optimal path from A to B in a crowded city was a valuable skill, now Uber and Lyft can calculate the best route through GPS technology and machine learning processes based on data gleaned from hundreds of thousands of trips.

Other technological innovations make it easier--which is to say more efficient--to purchase labor without entering formal employment relationships and accepting the attendant legal duties. In the past firms tended to employ workers rather than contractors, or to pay employees above-market wages, in scenarios where it was difficult to train or monitor them. Workers who felt valued in this way would work diligently and remain loyal toward firms, ultimately reducing overall labor costs.

Again Uber's model helps illustrate. The company's app reduces consumers' and drivers' search costs significantly. Rapid scalability reduces Uber's costs of identifying and contracting with new drivers and riders; its GPS-based monitoring of its drivers enables it to know whether they are speeding or otherwise driving carelessly and whether they are accepting a sufficient number of fares; and its customer rating system enables it to manage an enormous workforce without managerial supervision. The net result is an economic organization of global scope based largely on contract where the firm disclaims any employment relationship toward its workers and therefore any employment duties toward them.

To be clear, there are powerful arguments that Uber drivers meet the legal test for employment, given the company's pervasive control of their work and its economic power over them. But given the ambiguities of current law, Uber has few economic incentives to bring drivers inside the firm, making them employees, or to extend them generous wage and benefit packages. Similarly Amazon's analytics help it to keep wages low: with barcode scanners tracking pickers' and packers' efficiency, the company does not have to pay workers as well to keep them motivated.

Finally, extensive data about market structures and consumer demand can enable firms to exert power over their suppliers or contractual partners, driving down costs--and therefore wages and conditions--through their supply chains. Walmart has long leveraged its unparalleled market data to estimate the lowest possible price suppliers will accept for goods, putting downward pressure on their profits and their workers' wages. Amazon does the same today, and franchisors such as McDonald's set prices and detailed product specifications for their franchisees.

Many firms today have substituted algorithmic scheduling for middle-managers' local knowledge, using data on past sales, local events, and even weather forecasts to schedule work shifts. A Starbucks employee, for example, has little schedule predictability since she is at the mercy of the algorithm, and a McDonald's worker can be sent home early if computers say sales are slow. This push to limit labor costs through finely tuned scheduling practices also alters workplace norms, since workers cannot appeal to a computer's emotions in asking for more or less time, a raise, or a slower pace of work. The net effect of all of this is that power in our labor and product markets is increasingly concentrated in a few hands.

Crucially such management techniques and new production strategies are often more efficient than the status quo. Amazon has undeniably lowered prices for goods through its use of automation. Similarly a recent MIT study calculated that just three thousand multi-passenger cabs using a version of Uber's algorithm could serve Manhattan's need for taxis. The potential benefits here are staggering, especially if coupled with a modern mass transit system: shorter commutes, less car ownership, less pollution, and more urban space.

But the line between innovation and exploitation is far from clear. While some workers will thrive as their unique skills and talents are rewarded by new technologies, many others will have less autonomy, less generous wages, less time for social connection, and unpredictable schedules.

And the point of an economy is to create wealth more efficiently, not to maximize labor.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


Nick Kyrgios: talent to burn (Richard Cooke, March 2018, The Monthly)

Most professional athletes are obsessed with winning, or at least with not losing. This fixation almost always predates them becoming a professional, and sometimes even comes before playing serious sport. It is pronounced in tennis players, and especially pronounced in Nick Kyrgios. He approaches everything from the men's tour to the video game Call of Duty with the same obsessional thirst for competition, and has done ever since he was an overweight, asthmatic kid playing juniors in Canberra.

This trait is unexceptional for a tennis player, possibly even a requirement, but in Kyrgios it is extreme, and sits uncomfortably with the rest of his personality, which is surprisingly collegiate, fair, funny and empathetic. (You might miss these features on a tennis court.) He has been open about this contradiction, and unusually good at describing it. "There is a constant tug-of-war between the competitor within me wanting to win, win, win," he wrote for PlayersVoice in 2017, "and the human in me wanting to live a normal life with my family away from the public glare."

This drive helped him become the youngest player to hold a position in the men's top hundred ATP rankings. On his first encounters with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, he beat them all. He will be 23 in April, but sometimes talks as though he is a veteran and a little envious of younger players for their freedom and untested confidence. He retains his own freedom by playing tennis with a degree of flair, spontaneity and expressiveness that often borders on the unwise: "tweeners" - shots hit between the legs - are a signature, and representative of a repertoire that extends to round-the-netpost shots and speculative drop shots from behind the baseline. His frank cross-court forehand slap works around 2 per cent of the time, but is one of the most spectacular shots in tennis when it does.

He is the best Australian player in a generation, and somehow this is considered an underachievement. His former coach Josh Eagle revealed Kyrgios could maintain a position just outside the top 20 while doing less than 15 minutes' practice a day. Instead he played basketball and video games, and let his quick hands and reflexes pick up the slack.

He injured his hip, shoulder, knee, ankle, back and elbow, sometimes while playing basketball. He earned almost $6 million in prize money, and paid almost $100,000 in fines. Forbes magazine rated him the most fun tennis player in the world to watch, but not the easiest to watch. Many of those fines accrued in strings of code violations, and some were for moments his half-hearted effort dropped to a no-hearted effort. He admitted to deliberately "tanking" in perhaps eight professional tournaments.

He became famous for meltdowns. When the pressure of talent and competition and winning became too acute, he forfeited or gave up. In his second-round match at the Australian Open in 2017, where he led Andreas Seppi two sets to love, he announced "I didn't sign up for this bullshit" during the third set, received a code violation, and left the court two and a half sets later to the sound of home-crowd booing. He also beat opponents without pleasure, and shook his head after hitting winners.

He was called a brat, a sulking brat, a peanut, a disgrace, a shame, a galoot, and the most talented tennis player of the past decade. (John McEnroe made both the "sulking brat" and the "most talented" comments.) Chinese commentators used a phrase that means "to sink into oblivion".

There was a time when a Nick Kyrgios press conference could feel like an intervention, or a parole board hearing. Press conferences are on his long list of dislikes, which includes noise, late line calls, umpires, late challenges, fans arriving late, phone calls, birds, ball boys not handing him a towel quickly enough, and, periodically, tennis. He mixes disdain for media calls with a painful degree of disclosure. There were times he didn't so much wear his heart on his sleeve as display it clinically, as though on an autopsy table. He questioned his commitment. "I don't really like the sport of tennis that much," he told the UK's Independent newspaper.

No one does.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


We X-Rayed Some MLB Baseballs. Here's What We Found. (Rob Arthur and Tim Dix, Mar. 1, 2018, 538)

Independent investigations by FiveThirtyEight, publications like The Ringer, and Nathan himself have shown differences in the characteristics of the ball and the way it performs. Research has shown that balls used in games after the 2015 All-Star Game were bouncier and less air resistant compared with baseballs from the 2014 season, when players hit a relatively modest 4,186 homers, the fewest since 1995. (Nathan noted that MLB does not regularly measure air resistance.) Taken together, these changes would result in a ball that would come off the bat at a higher speed and carry farther. While investigations have been able to show that the baseball behaves differently in recent years, no one had looked inside the ball to see if there was evidence of changes to the way the baseball is constructed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Meet the robot lending a cyber-hand to Cornwall's cauliflower harvest (Sarah Knapton, 3 MARCH 2018, The Telegraph)

Harvesting a cauliflower is not as simple as it looks.

First it must be deemed firm, compact and white, before being gently prised from its main stem to prevent bruising, and plucked with a few outer leaves still attached to protect the head.

So when scientists were looking for a robotic helper capable of taking on Britain's brassica crop, they chose to mimic a tried and tested tool - the human hand.

The University of Plymouth is currently working in cauliflower fields in Cornwall to see if a fleet of smart robots could fill gaps in labour market and help cut costs.

Manual labour can represent around half of total costs of agriculture and can sometimes be in short supply, particularly around harvest. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Behind the scenes, MLB's youth movement has broad consequences (J.P. HOORNSTRA,  March 7, 2018, Daily News)

After three weeks and two days, a training camp for baseball's unsigned free agents will close its doors Friday. According to the Associated Press, 41 players attended the camp in Bradenton, Fla. Only seven found employment. Other veterans such as Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Andre Ethier have been training on their own while exhibition games began without them.

The offseason was a time for reflection. The supply of unsigned players was exceeded only by the supply of opinions as to how the market had changed and why. Once the games began, however, this was no longer a story about supply and demand. It was a story of aesthetics.

The average age of the major league hitter decreased from 29.3 in 2004 to 28.3 in 2017. The average age of pitchers fell too - not as pronounced, but following the same broad trend - from 29.2 in 2005 to 28.5 a year ago. Now, the average age is roughly in line with the 1980s and early 1990s, before the size of the league and the size of the players grew.

The majority of unsigned major league free agents are in their 30s. [...]

Craig Counsell caught himself mid-thought.

"The PED era fooled us a little bit," he said, and a smile quickly crept over his face. 

March 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Tariffs should be part of U.S. trade policy, Trump foe Warren says (Pete Schroeder, 3/11/18, Reuters)

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


The Man Who Wouldn't Die : The plot to kill Michael Malloy for life-insurance money seemed foolproof--until the conspirators actually tried it (Karen Abbott, 2/07/12, SMITHSONIAN.COM )

The "Murder Trust," as the press would call them, now included a few other Marino's regulars, including petty criminals John McNally and Edward "Tin Ear" Smith (so-called even though his artificial ear was made of wax), "Tough Tony" Bastone and his slavish sidekick, Joseph Maglione. One night in December 1932 they all gathered at the speakeasy to commence the killing of Michael Malloy.

To Malloy's undisguised delight, Tony Marino granted him an open-ended tab, saying competition from other saloons had forced him to ease the rules. No sooner did Malloy down a shot than Marino refilled his glass. "Malloy had been a hard drinker all his life," one witness said, "and he drank on and on." He drank until Marino's arm tired from holding the bottle. Remarkably, his breathing remained steady; his skin retained its normally ruddy tinge. Finally, he dragged a grungy sleeve across his mouth, thanked his host for the hospitality, and said he'd be back soon. Within 24 hours, he was.

Malloy followed this pattern for three days, pausing only long enough to eat a complimentary sardine sandwich. Marino and his accomplices were at a loss. Maybe, they hoped, Malloy would choke on his own vomit or fall and slam his head. But on the fourth day Malloy stumbled into the bar. "Boy!" he exclaimed, nodding at Marino. "Ain't I got a thirst?"

Tough Tony grew impatient, suggesting someone simply shoot Malloy in the head, but Murphy recommended a more subtle solution: exchanging Malloy's whiskey and gin with shots of wood alcohol. Drinks containing just four percent wood alcohol could cause blindness, and by 1929 more than 50,000 people nationwide had died from the effects of impure alcohol. They would serve Malloy not shots tainted with wood alcohol, but wood alcohol straight up.

Marino thought it a brilliant plan, declaring he would "give all of the drink he wants...and let him drink himself to death." Kriesberg allowed a rare display of enthusiasm. "Yeah," he added, "feed 'im wood alcohol cocktails and see what happens." Murphy bought a few ten-cent cans of wood alcohol at a nearby paint shop and carried them back in a brown paper bag. He served Malloy shots of cheap whiskey to get him "feeling good," and then made the switch.

The gang watched, rapt, as Malloy downed several shots and kept asking for more, displaying no physical symptoms other than those typical of inebriation. "He didn't know that what he was drinking was wood alcohol," reported the New York Evening Post, "and what he didn't know apparently didn't hurt him. He drank all the wood alcohol he was given and came back for more."

Night after night the scene repeated itself, with Malloy drinking shots of wood alcohol as fast as Murphy poured them, until the night he crumpled without warning to the floor. The gang fell silent, staring at the jumbled heap by their feet. Pasqua knelt by Malloy's body, feeling the neck for a pulse, lowering his ear to the mouth. The man's breath was slow and labored. They decided to wait, watching the sluggish rise and fall of his chest. Any minute now. Finally, there was a long, jagged breath--the death rattle?--but then Malloy began to snore. He awakened some hours later, rubbed his eyes, and said, "Gimme some of th' old regular, me lad!"

The plot to kill Michael Malloy was becoming cost-prohibitive; the open bar tab, the cans of wood alcohol and the monthly insurance premiums all added up. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


The Republic of Baseball (Joseph Sobran, 3/11/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Ted Williams began his autobiography by saying that when he was a kid, his only ambition was to have people say, as we walked down the street, "There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived." My own autobiography could start the same way. It would end differently, though.

In this I can confidently speak for millions of American males. Every little boy has his dreams of baseball glory from the first time he feels the delicious shock in the wrists of bat smashing ball and sees the ball rocket away into the outfield, faster and farther than he knew he could propel it. That's enough to keep him going through the long summers when he's picked last in the sandlot games, assigned to bat last, and ordered to play right field, where he gets yelled at by his teammates when he lets an easy grounder roll past him.

Not to play means missing out on the common experience of the male sex. And once you get into it, it's easy to get absorbed. In Ypsilanti, Michigan, I spent long winters studying baseball statistics to while away the endless cold grey days until the snow melted. Then, around mid March, we started our new season in the park, or any empty field. At that time of year it didn't feel good to connect. In the chill, hitting the ball stung your hands, and catching it hurt worse, so that you'd suck your breath through your chattering teeth. You tried to snag the ball in the webbing of your glove, even if you were a good fielder, because having it smack your palm was almost unbearable.

Our neighborhood games were played with no more than seven boys on a team: slow pitch, no catchers, no umpires. We'd lob pitches in so that everyone could hit and put the ball in play. Anyway, we were all afraid of fast pitching, though this fear was one of those things you didn't confess, like wetting the bed or getting beaten up by your sister.

But we had to face fast pitching in Little League, which turned out to be the fatal hurdle on my way to Cooperstown. [...]

Baseball is a deeply orderly game. The distinctiveness of its component actions -- pitching, hitting, fielding, and base-running -- makes them available to separate attention, measurement, analysis, and judgment. Every player's contribution to every play is recorded and given value. The statistics are rarely misleading. If you want to know who the American League's best second baseman of the Thirties was, well, as Casey Stengel used to say, "You could look it up." Try that with defensive linemen.

Other sports thrill; baseball also absorbs. It's the most discussable game, and it's the national pastime largely because we can talk about it so volubly long after we can play it. No other sport binds the generations the way baseball does.

Because it's so thoroughly recorded, baseball has a genuine history. It also has a continuity that the other major sports don't have. "The NFL keeps changing the most basic rules," Thomas Boswell observes. "Most blocking now would have been illegal use of the hands in Jim Parker's time. How do we compare eras when the sport never stays the same?" In fact, none of the other three sports is the same game it was as recently as the Fifties, for all sorts of reasons. Wilt Chamberlain's season scoring records will never be broken, simply because nobody will ever play against as many white players as Chamberlain did. (If you want a sure-fire laugh, ask a basketball fan whether Michael Jordan is as great as George Mikan.)

The statistical discreteness of individual performance, set against the game's stable history, gives achievement in baseball a permanence and stature other sports can seldom confer. And even racial integration hasn't devalued the records; in fact, most fans -- including experts -- doubt Henry Aaron was a greater slugger than the man whose supreme record he broke. Lawrence Ritter reckons that with as many times at bat as Aaron, Ruth would have hit 1,064 home runs. Be that as it may, heroism in baseball is more perduring than in other American sports, and does much to account for the splendid literature baseball has produced. Nearly every fan has read John Updike's description of Williams' last game.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


The Legend of Bo Jackson Lives On (Sam Mellinger, 3/11/18, The Kansas City Star)

When Bo's hip gave out on that carry down the sideline against the Bengals, Danny Duffy was 2. Still in diapers. And he's one of the older guys in here. How could he know?

Did he even know who Bo was? I asked.

"Bro," he said. "We all know."


"My uncle Josh was like 6 years older than me, and he would just wear me out with Bo Jackson stuff," Duffy said. "We'd play Tecmo Super Bowl, and Josh would always be Bo Jackson. I couldn't tackle him. He'd run back and forth all over the field, just zigzagging, and I couldn't do anything about it."

Uncle Josh sounds like a great man, and this is about when I start to feel like the age gap isn't as much. Or, maybe, YouTube and ESPN's You Don't Know Bo have just closed the gap.

"I've definitely searched 'Bo Jackson' a few times," said Nicky Lopez, a middle-infield prospect born in 1995. "Throwing out that runner from the warning track, the one he caught and then ran along the wall, just crazy plays you don't see normal people make. There was a story, I don't know if it's true, but of him hitting the scoreboard in Kansas City with a home run."

That story is absolutely true, by the way. I've heard it so many times. It was the day of his introductory news conference at Royals Stadium, and he hadn't picked up a bat in months. Nobody thought he'd swing. The Royals probably didn't want him to swing, but once he announced into the microphones he wanted to hit, there was no stopping him.

Avron Fogelman, at the time a part owner in the team and an avid memorabilia collector, watched from a suite as Bo hit the base of the scoreboard. Fogleman pointed at a staff worker.

"Go get me that ball!"

Then, Bo hit one even higher off the scoreboard. Fogleman found a second staff worker.

"Go get me that ball!"

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


White House scolds Cabinet officials after embarrassing ethics reports (Cristina Alesci, 3/11/18, CNN)

The White House held private meetings with four Cabinet-level officials last month to scold them for embarrassing stories about questionable ethical behavior at their respective agencies, sources familiar with the sessions tell CNN.

Internal watchdogs have launched at least nine audits, reviews or investigations across several Cabinet agencies, and stories about first-class travel, expensive office furniture, and internal strife have become commonplace.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt all met with officials from the White House counsel's office and the Cabinet liaison.
The meetings, held at chief of staff John Kelly's request, were intended to provide "a clear message that optics matter," the sources said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 AM


Edmund Burke's Counsel on Religious Liberty and Freedom (William F. Byrne, July 2012. Crisis Magazine)

One thing which made religion a key to virtue was the humility which Christianity promoted. Most of our political and social problems, Burke believed, stemmed ultimately from vanity, the chief of the vices. We must recognize that we are a part of an order greater than ourselves if our lives are to have meaning and virtue and if our society is to be a humane and stable one. One of the things which most appalled Burke about the French Revolution was its attack on the church. He recognized that this would doom the project, since "all other nations have begun the fabric of a new government, or the reformation of an old, by establishing originally or by enforcing with greater exactness some rites or other of religion."

Despite Burke's defense of church establishment, he was also a supporter of religious liberty. And, he bitterly attacked the anti-Catholicism laws imposed on Ireland. Such laws were eroding Irish society, destroying social and cultural bonds and transforming the population into an atomized mob ripe for rebellion. Government attacks on new and minority churches were bad enough, but attacking the major, ancestral church of a society was deadly. He warned against the promotion of a generic "Protestantism" understood as anti-Catholicism, pointing out that an atheist, with his rejection of all Catholic doctrine rather than just portions of it, is "the most perfect Protestant." In attacking Catholicism, government was attacking religion, piety, and, ultimately, society itself.

Notably, Burke displayed great respect for, and interest in, major non-Christian religions such as Hinduism and Islam. Indeed, in opposing the openly tyrannical governance of India by the fortune-seeking men of the East India Company, he noted that, in contrast, rule in traditional Islamic states (such as those they were supplanting) was--at least in theory--never arbitrary. This was because the prince's actions were constrained by Islamic law, and clerics had the moral authority to help check his excesses. 

... "In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 AM


Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier (Jane Meyer, Jan. 30th, 2018, The New Yorker)

Steele worked out of the British Embassy for M.I.6, under diplomatic cover. His years in Moscow, 1990 to 1993, were among the most dramatic in Russian history, a period that included the collapse of the Communist Party; nationalist uprisings in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Baltic states; and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin gained ultimate power in Russia, and a moment of democratic promise faded as the K.G.B.--now called the F.S.B.--reasserted its influence, oligarchs snapped up state assets, and nationalist political forces began to emerge. Vladimir Putin, a K.G.B. operative returning from East Germany, reinvented himself in the shadowy world of St. Petersburg politics. By the time Steele left the country, optimism was souring, and a politics of resentment--against the oligarchs, against an increasing gap between rich and poor, and against the West--was taking hold.

After leaving Moscow, Steele was assigned an undercover posting with the British Embassy in Paris, but he and a hundred and sixteen other British spies had their cover blown by an anonymously published list. Steele came in from the cold and returned to London, and in 2006 he began running its Russia desk, growing increasingly pessimistic about the direction of the Russian Federation.

Steele's already dim view of the Kremlin darkened in November, 2006, when Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian K.G.B. officer and a Putin critic who had been recruited by M.I.6, suffered an agonizing death in a London hospital, after drinking a cup of tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210. Moscow had evidently sanctioned a brazen murder in his own country. Steele was put in charge of M.I.6's investigation. Authorities initially planned to indict one suspect in the murder, but Steele's investigative work persuaded them to indict a second suspect as well. Nine years later, the U.K.'s official inquiry report was finally released, and it confirmed Steele's view: the murder was an operation by the F.S.B., and it was "probably approved" by Vladimir Putin.

Steele has never commented on the case, or on any other aspect of his intelligence work, but Richard Dearlove, who led M.I.6 from 1999 to 2004, has described his reputation as "superb." A former senior officer recalls him as "a Russia-area expert whose knowledge I and others respected--he was very careful, and very savvy." Another former M.I.6 officer described him as having a "Marmite" personality--a reference to the salty British spread, which people either love or hate. He suggested that Steele didn't appear to be "going places in the service," noting that, after the Cold War, Russia had become a backwater at M.I.6. But he acknowledged that Steele "knew Russia well," and that running the Russia desk was "a proper job that you don't give to an idiot."

The British Secret Intelligence Service is highly regarded by the United States, particularly for its ability to harvest information from face-to-face sources, rather than from signals intelligence, such as electronic surveillance, as the U.S. often does. British and American intelligence services work closely together, and, while Steele was at M.I.6, British intelligence was often included in the U.S. President's daily-briefing reports. In 2008, Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, visited the U.K., and Steele briefed him on Russian developments. The following year, President Obama visited the U.K., and was briefed on a report that Steele had written about Russia. Steve Hall, a former chief of the C.I.A.'s Central Eurasia Division, which includes Russia, the former Soviet states, and the Balkans, told me, "M.I.6 is second only perhaps to the U.S. in its ability to collect intelligence from Russia." He added, "We've always coördinated closely with them because they did such a great job. We're playing in the Yankee Stadium of espionage here. This isn't Guatemala."

In 2008, Steele informed M.I.6 that he planned to leave the service and open a commercial intelligence firm with Burrows. He left in good standing, but his exit was hastened, because M.I.6 regarded his plans as a potential conflict of interest. Launching the business was a risky move: London was filled with companies run by former intelligence officers selling their contacts and inside knowledge. To differentiate itself, Orbis, which opened its office in Mayfair, attempted to exploit Steele's Russian expertise. The strategy appears to have paid off. According to people with knowledge of the company, Orbis grossed approximately twenty million dollars in its first nine years. Steele now drives a Land Rover Discovery Sport, and belongs to a golf club. He also runs a bit, but the feats that kept him in shape while he was a spy--he ran six marathons and twenty-five half-marathons, and competed in a dozen Olympic-length triathlon events--have been replaced by the carrying of a briefcase. His free time is devoted largely to his family, which includes three cats, one of whom not long ago replicated the most infamous allegation in the Steele dossier by peeing on a family member's bed.

Orbis's clients are mostly businesses or law firms representing corporations. Burrows said that although the company has fewer than ten full-time employees, "we're a bit like the bridge on the Starship Enterprise--we're a small group but we manage an enormous ship." To serve its clients, Orbis employs dozens of confidential "collectors" around the world, whom it pays as contract associates. Some of the collectors are private investigators at smaller firms; others are investigative reporters or highly placed experts in strategically useful jobs. Depending on the task and the length of engagement, the fee for collectors can be as much as two thousand dollars a day. The collectors harvest intelligence from a much larger network of unpaid sources, some of whom don't even realize they are being treated as informants. These sources occasionally receive favors--such as help in getting their children into Western schools--but money doesn't change hands, because it could risk violating laws against, say, bribing government officials or insider trading. Paying sources might also encourage them to embellish.

Steele has not been to Russia, or visited any former Soviet states, since 2009. Unlike some of his former M.I.6 colleagues, he has not been declared persona non grata by Putin's regime, but, in 2012, an Orbis informant quoted an F.S.B. agent describing him as "an enemy of Mother Russia." Steele concluded that it would be difficult for him to work in the country unnoticed. The firm guards the identities of its sources, but it's clear that many Russian contacts can be interviewed elsewhere, and London is the center of the post-Soviet Russian diaspora.

Orbis often performs anti-corruption investigations for clients attempting internal reviews, and helps hedge funds and other financial companies perform due diligence or obtain strategic information. One Orbis client who agreed to talk to me, a Western businessman with interests in Russia and Ukraine, described Steele to me as "very efficient, very professional, and very credible." He said that his company had successfully cross-checked Steele's research with other people, adding, "I don't know anyone who's been critical of his work. His reports are very good. It's an absolute no-brainer that he's just a political target. They're trying to shoot the messenger."

Orbis promises confidentiality, and releases no information on its clientele. Some of its purported clients, such as a major Western oil company, are conventional corporations. Others are controversial, including a London law firm representing the interests of Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire victor of Russia's aluminum wars, a notoriously violent battle. He has been described as Putin's favorite oligarch. Steele's possible financial ties to Deripaska recently prompted Senator Grassley to demand more information from the London law firm. If a financial trail between Deripaska and Orbis can be established, it is likely to raise even more questions about Steele, because Deripaska has already figured in the Russia investigation, in an unsavory light. Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, has been accused of defrauding Deripaska's company while working for it in Ukraine. (Manafort has been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. He has pleaded not guilty.) Even if Steele's rumored work for Deripaska is aboveboard, it illustrates the transition that he has made from the world of government service to the ethically gray world of commerce. Oligarchs battling other oligarchs provide some of the most lucrative work for investigators with expertise in Russia. Orbis maintains that, as long as its activities are limited to providing litigation support for Western law firms acting in Western courts, it is helping to settle disputes in a more civilized way than they would be in Russia. But Steele stepped into a murkier realm when he left M.I.6.

Republican claims to the contrary, Steele's interest in Trump did not spring from his work for the Clinton campaign. He ran across Trump's name almost as soon as he went into private business, many years before the 2016 election. Two of his earliest cases at Orbis involved investigating international crime rings whose leaders, coincidentally, were based in New York's Trump Tower.

Steele's first client after leaving M.I.6 was England's Football Association, which hoped to host the World Cup in 2018, but suspected dirty dealings by the governing body, fifa. England lost out in its bid to Russia, and Steele determined that the Kremlin had rigged the process with bribes. According to Ken Bensinger's "Red Card," an upcoming book about the scandal, "one of Steele's best sources" informed him that the Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Sechin--now the C.E.O. of the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft--is suspected of having travelled to Qatar "to swap World Cup votes."

Steele appears to have spoken anonymously to the Sunday Times of London about the case. An "ex-M.I.6 source" who investigated the bidding process told the paper, "The key thing with Russia was six months before the bid, it got to the point where the country feared the humiliation of being beaten and had to do something. . . . Putin dragged in all sorts of capabilities." He added, "Don't expect me or anyone else to produce a document with Putin's signature saying 'Please, X, bribe Y with this amount in this way.' He's not going to do that."

Steele might have been expected to move on once his investigation of the bidding was concluded. But he had discovered that the corruption at fifa was global, and he felt that it should be addressed. The only organization that could handle an investigation of such scope, he felt, was the F.B.I. In 2011, Steele contacted an American agent he'd met who headed the Bureau's division for serious crimes in Eurasia. Steele introduced him to his sources, who proved essential to the ensuing investigation. In 2015, the Justice Department indicted fourteen people in connection with a hundred and fifty million dollars in bribes and kickbacks. One of them was Chuck Blazer, a top fifa official who had embezzled a fortune from the organization and became an informant for the F.B.I. Blazer had an eighteen-thousand-dollar-per-month apartment in Trump Tower, a few floors down from Trump's residence.

Nobody had alleged that Trump knew of any fifa crimes, but Steele soon came across Trump Tower again. Several years ago, the F.B.I. hired Steele to help crack an international gambling and money-laundering ring purportedly run by a suspected Russian organized-crime figure named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. The syndicate was based in an apartment in Trump Tower. Eventually, federal officials indicted more than thirty co-conspirators for financial crimes. Tokhtakhounov, though, eluded arrest, becoming a fugitive. Interpol issued a "red notice" calling for his arrest. But, in the fall of 2013, he showed up at the Miss Universe contest in Moscow--and sat near the pageant's owner, Donald Trump.

"It was as if all criminal roads led to Trump Tower," Steele told friends.

Posted by orrinj at 4:58 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Is Alex Vega the Biggest Star of Spring Training?: Vega's The Auto Firm supplies the boys of summer with their rides each spring. (Evan Bleier, 3/06/18, Real Clear Life)

Vega, 43, is the owner of The Auto Firm, an extremely popular customization shop located a relatively short drive away from South Beach in Miami. It's a location that's well known to prominent athletes ranging from Alex Ovechkin to Greg Norman, but is especially popular with pro baseball players and Vega's custom creations are annual attendees at spring training.

Starting in 2004 when he customized a Hummer for Alfonso Soriano after the ballplayer saw a model he had modified for Rick Ross and wanted a similar job, Vega has had a steady stream of work coming his way in advance of spring training each year.

Players want to show up with a ride that will impress their teammates and get people talking - look no further than the flame-throwing Lamborghini Yoenis Cespedes once brought to spring training - and those who don't have a car that's been given the Vega touch, want one.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


CNN's Jake Tapper just dropped knowledge about a Robert Frost poem (AMANDA, MARCH 7, 2018 , UV Index)

March 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 PM


Putin: Maybe it Was the Jews Who Meddled in U.S. Presidential Election (DANIEL POLITI, MARCH 10, 2018, Slate)

 In an interview with NBC, Putin said the 13 Russian nationals who were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller may not even be ethnically Russians, which would apparently mean they're not real Russians at all. "Maybe they're not even Russians," Putin told NBC's Megyn Kelly. "Maybe they're Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Trump Spoke to a Russian Activist About Ending Sanctions--Just Weeks After Launching His Campaign (MARK FOLLMAN, MAR. 9, 2018, Mother Jones)

Just a month after Trump announced his campaign for the White House, he spoke directly to Maria Butina, the protégé of the powerful Russian banking official and Putin ally Alexander Torshin. During a public question and answer session at FreedomFest, a libertarian convention in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina asked Trump what he would do as president about "damaging" US sanctions. Trump suggested he would get rid of them. [....]

[T]rump responded: "I know Putin, and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin... I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK? And I mean, where we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions. I think we would get along very, very well."

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


What Trump Can Learn from Madeleine Albright About North Korea Talks: Take it from someone who accompanied that secretary of state on a humiliating visit to Pyongyang in 2000. (Eli Lake, March 9, 2018, Bloomberg)

I was on that trip with Albright in the last week of October 2000. It was a low moment for American diplomacy, where a secretary of state, whose family fled the Iron Curtain, flattered an imitator of Josef Stalin. She ended the visit by handing over a basketball signed by Michael Jordan. Her delegation enjoyed elaborate multi-course banquets with North Korean officials who only a few years earlier had presided over a famine. 

As secretary of state for President Bill Clinton, Albright traveled to Pyongyang in a last-ditch effort for an administration that had watched its main foreign policy priority -- a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians -- unravel. This was a chance in the final months of the Clinton presidency for a legacy.

Needless to say, it didn't work. Albright had hoped to finish the work the Clinton administration had begun in 1994 with an interim agreement on North Korea's nuclear program, by getting a follow-on pact on missiles. The U.S. offered security guarantees, fuel and food shipments, help on building peaceful reactors. The North Koreans kept developing and testing their missiles and, U.S. intelligence agencies would later learn, built a uranium enrichment facility in secret.

You wouldn't have known this from the pageantry in Pyongyang back in 2000. We were all crowded into buses for a special performance at May Day stadium. In a near-perfect metaphor for life in a totalitarian state, hundreds of North Koreans gathered on the field, and in military precision flipped picture cards to create a series of tableaus depicting North Korea's founding hagiography. At one moment, a tableau depicted the 1998 launch of the Tae-Po-dong missile. Albright wrote in her memoir the "dear leader," Kim Jong Il (the father of Un) turned to her in this moment and said this "was our first missile launch and our last." He lied.

Donald was actually making sense when he wanted to regime change them with nukes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Trump pardons Kristian Saucier, former sailor jailed for submarine pictures (Steven Nelson, Mar 9, 2018, Washington Examiner)

President Trump issued the second pardon of his presidency Friday to former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier, who learned the news while driving a garbage truck, the only job he could find with a felony conviction.

He's an idiot, not a security threat.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


How Stormy Daniels could impact the Russia investigation (Marshall Cohen, 3/10/18, CNN)
Here's a step-by-step guide of how the Daniels affair could potentially creep into the Mueller probe:


First things first, an investigation of Cohen could open the door to examining the payments.

The New York Times reported that Cohen is under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation. The Washington Post reported that Mueller has requested documents and interviewed witnesses about Cohen, specifically regarding pursuit of a Russian business deal during the campaign and his involvement in an effort to craft a "peace plan" for Ukraine.

CNN has previously reported that Mueller's team asked witnesses about the failed efforts to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow. Cohen played a leading role in those negotiations.

Cohen is also mentioned in the controversial dossier, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, that alleges widespread collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Cohen vehemently denies all the allegations in the dossier. CNN has reported that members of Mueller's team met last summer with Steele, presumably to learn about the dossier claims.


If investigators are already looking into Cohen's activities during the campaign, it is possible they could broaden their inquiry to include his financial arrangement with Daniels.

Mueller was authorized by the Justice Department to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, any potential ties between Trump associates and the Russians, potential obstruction of justice and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."
That last phrase is how Mueller could investigate the payment to Daniels.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


The Wonder of Medieval Europe: a review of The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones.  (TIMOTHY D. LUSCH, University Bookman)

"Two types of humanity were the wonder of medieval Europe: the great saint and the great knight." So declared Russell Kirk in his magnificent The Roots of American Order. In an illuminating chapter appropriately called "The Light of the Middle Ages," Kirk argued that the saint and the knight gave rise to the scholar and the gentleman in later generations. This "neglected inheritance"--true in a broader sense--was not lost on the American Founders. They drew on its riches to give our constitutional order its distinctiveness.

The great saint and the great knight come together most prominently in the founding of an earlier order. Christopher Dawson, in his brilliant Medieval Essays, observed that medieval chivalry was "a sacred institution consecrated by religious rites and dedicated to the service of God and the defence of Holy Church. This religious conception of chivalry is already implicit in the crusading movement; it finds explicit expression in the new military orders, whose ideals were set forth by St. Bernard himself in his work In Praise of the New Knighthood." The most perfect expression of this, as Dan Jones demonstrates, was the Knights Templar.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


HEY, LORETTA! (Marianne Worthington,  November 21, 2017, Oxford American)

When I was growing up in the 1960s, our little tract house in northern Knoxville, Tennessee, was nearly always filled with the twin aromas of cigarette smoke and home cooking--a bouquet of bacon, fried eggs, coffee, and fried toast, which my stay-at-home mother cooked daily for my manual-laborer father--and the reverberations of country music. Some mornings I could hear my parents talking in the kitchen when they thought I was still asleep. (I learned a lot of family secrets by eavesdropping from bed.) But mostly I listened for the kitchen radio, tuned to WIVK, from which the splendid twang of country music poured forth. My father loved Merle Haggard. My mother loved George Jones. I loved Dolly Parton, Skeeter Davis, Jean Shepard, Tammy Wynette, and Connie Smith. I adored Loretta Lynn, though it was not easy for a Tennessee girl like me to choose a Kentucky singer as her favorite. After all, Dolly had come down from the mountains in neighboring Sevier County and sung shows around our town; she had appeared on local television for years. One was expected to be loyal, to take sides, to support the home-grown hero that Dolly was becoming. But I watched Loretta on TV, too. With her big hair, big guitar, and big voice, she materialized before me in flickering living color every Saturday afternoon when I tuned in to watch The Wilburn Brothers Show, a country music variety program hosted by Doyle and Teddy Wilburn, a singing brother act from Arkansas. 

My father told me that Loretta was from Eastern Kentucky--a "child bride" was what he called her with some pity--and that she wrote most of her own songs. He admired the way she kept up with herself by thrumming out a steady rhythm on her guitar, backed by the Wilburn Brothers' house band, an old-school country knock and grind grounded in that familiar crying-shame country music accompaniment: pedal steel, bass, and electric guitar. She sang her heart out in a voice that awakened my budding musical sensibilities. I could sing along. I could pick out her songs on my grandmother's farmhouse piano. But Loretta's voice kindled the fire for that honky-tonk sound that still burns in me today. And I liked the way she looked. 

I didn't have a name for Loretta Lynn's coiffure in 1963, but now I'd call it a sort of beehive-mullet. 

March 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Dennis Rodman Is Happy His Pals Trump and Kim Plan to Meet (Adam K. Raymond, 3/09/18, New York)

Posted by orrinj at 10:56 AM


Donald Trump has given North Korea what it wanted: to be treated as an equal (GEORGE EATON, 3/09/18, New Statesman)

[T]he agreement to talks is, in itself, a reward. North Korea is close to achieving what it has long craved: a meeting with the US on equal terms. Far from being crazed, the Stalinist state's nuclear programme has long rested on rational foundations. The fearsome project grants the isolated country diplomatic leverage. For Kim, the lesson of the fall of Saddam and Gaddafi is that tyrants pay a price for relinquishing their arms. The threats from the US have strengthened the regime by reinforcing a siege mentality.

North Korea will not now turn swords into ploughshares without a security guarantee and the softening or abolition of sanctions. Indeed, it may have no intention of doing so at all. By forcing the US to address it as an equal, on the eve of its 70th anniversary, North Korea has already achieved a remarkable victory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


As the Trial of Omar Mateen's Wife Begins, New Evidence Undermines Beliefs About the Pulse Massacre, Including Motive (Glenn Greenwald, Murtaza Hussain, March 5 2018, The Intercept)

NEWLY RELEASED EVIDENCE today calls into serious doubt many of the most widespread beliefs about the 2016 shooting by Omar Mateen at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which killed 49 people, along with Mateen himself. Because the attack occurred on the club's "Latin night," the overwhelming majority of the victims were Latinos, primarily Puerto Ricans.

In particular, Mateen went to Pulse only after having scouted other venues that night that were wholly unrelated to the LGBT community, only to find that they were too defended by armed guards and police, and ultimately chose Pulse only after a generic Google search for "Orlando nightclubs" -- not "gay clubs" -- produced Pulse as the first search result.

Several journalists closely covering the Mateen investigation have, for some time now, noted the complete absence of any evidence suggesting that Mateen knew that Pulse was a gay club or that targeting the LGBT community was part of his motive. These doubts have been strongly fortified by the new facts, previously under seal, that were revealed by today's court filing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


New peril for moderate Dems: Voters happy with Trump's economy (Alexi McCammond, 3/09/18, Axios)

Half of all voters in the 10 states that voted for Trump but have Democratic senators say the economy is better off now than it was a year ago, according to new Axios/SurveyMonkey polls. And in nine of the states majorities approve of the GOP tax law. run against the economy during a global boom?

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


U.S. allies line up for exemptions from Trump's tariffs (Robin Emmott, Ruby Lian, Aaron Sheldrick, 3/09/18, Reuters) 

Brazil, which after Canada is the biggest steel supplier to the U.S. market, said it wanted to join the list. "We will work to exclude Brazil from this measure," Acting Trade Minister Marcos Jorge told Reuters after meeting U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Argentina made a similar case.

Japan, the United States' top economic and military ally in Asia, was next in line. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan's steel and aluminum shipments posed no threat to U.S. national security.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Trump's Trade War Backfires As Red States Defy Him (Eric Boehlert, March 9, 2018,

More than 100 Republican members of the House have signed off on a letter condemning Trump's looming tariffs. That's a rare occurrence for a GOP whose obsequiousness to Trump has become a hallmark.

Rushing in to try to stop Trump as he blindly readies his plan to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, angry Republican politicians, especially red state representatives, are getting an up-close look at what it's like dealing with an erratic, illogical president.

In Wisconsin, which went for Trump by the narrowest of margins, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has warned that tariffs could hurt the state's canning and beer industries. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has also condemned the looming trade war. And Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) lamented how the White House doesn't understand today's global economy.

Red state leaders are freaking out, and not only because most of them oppose Trump's protectionist agenda: Many realize the real damage could come when U.S. trading partners strike back -- and the states that are going to pay the highest price are the GOP states that voted for Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


God Wills it! The War on Terror as the Launching of an American Crusade (James Carroll, 3/09/18, Middle East Online)

A fever dream of a war "This is a new kind of evil." So said the president that September 16th, standing on the South Lawn of the White House. "And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while." In that way, only five days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush elevated a band of petty nihilists to the status of world-historic warriors. "And the American people must be patient," he continued. "I'm going to be patient."

He, of course, is long gone, but what he initiated that day is still unspooling. It could have been so different. September 11th was a tragic moment, but the initial reactions of most Americans to those collapsed towers and a damaged Pentagon were ones of empathy and patriotism. The selflessness of first responders that day had its echo in a broad and surprising manifestation of national altruism. The usual left-right divides of politics disappeared and the flag, for once, became a true symbol of national unity. The global reaction was similar. From across the world, including from erstwhile adversaries like Russia and China, came authentic expressions of support and sympathy, of grief-struck affection.

But in every phrase the president would speak in those weeks -- "this is war... with us or against us... dead or alive" -- he chose to take this country on quite a different path into the future.

Two days before invoking the Crusades, for instance, he presided over a religious service, which, though officially defined as "ecumenical," took place in the neo-Gothic National Cathedral. "Just three days removed from these events," he said from that church's pulpit, "Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil... This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing."

In a specifically Christian setting, that is, George W. Bush answered the criminal attacks of 9/11 not by calling on international law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice, but by a declaration of cosmic war aimed at nothing less than the elimination of Islamist evil. 

The difficulty, for Mr. Carroll, is that Donald, like he, is an isolationist/Realist, who would have been fine with just killing a few terrorists but leaving the Middle East stuck in genocidal dictatorship and authoritarian misery.  The truth that those who oppose the WoT elide is that their position is pro-Saddam, pro-Assad, pro-Qaddafi, pro-Mubarak, pro-Sa'ud, etc. It is literally no different than opposing the removal of Hitler and the USSR.

March 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Iraq's Shi'ite militias formally inducted into security forces (Reuters, 3/08/18)

According to the decree, members of the Shi'ite militias, an assortment of militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are mostly backed and trained by Iran, will be granted many of the same rights as members the military.

Paramilitary members will be given equivalent salaries to those members of the military under the Ministry of Defense's control, the decree said. They will also be subject to the laws of military service and will gain access to military institutes and colleges.

The decree had been expected for some time and comes two months ahead of a high-stakes general election. The PMF commands popular support among Iraq's majority Shi'ite population and is expected to sway voters.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis heeded a call to arms in 2014 after Islamic State seized a third of the country's territory, forming the PMF. The paramilitaries supported Iraq's military in ejecting Islamic State from areas the militants overran in 2014, when Iraqi military and police divisions deserted en masse.

Posted by orrinj at 2:43 PM


FBI briefed lawmakers on failures leading up to Florida shooting (MAX GREENWOOD, 03/07/18, The Hill)

Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich met with lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees Tuesday to discuss the missteps, which were revealed in the days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Bowdich acknowledged that the FBI failed to follow its own protocol after it received a tip in January about the accused shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, and vowed to take corrective actions, according to a press release issued by Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairmen of the Oversight and Judiciary committees, respectively.

The FBI admitted just two days after the Feb. 14 shooting that it received a tip from a person close to Cruz the previous month warning about the teen's gun ownership, desire to kill and erratic behavior.

That tip "should have been assessed as a potential threat to life," the FBI said at the time, but the warnings were never investigated further.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Saudi Arabia Using Law Firm Tied to Trump to Lobby U.S. for Nuclear Deal (Ken Klippenstein, 3/08/18, TYT)

A law firm that reportedly has advised President Trump's real estate empire registered last month to lobby the Trump administration as part of Saudi Arabia's bid for U.S. approval for a civilian nuclear power program, federal documents show.

King & Spalding, an international law firm headquartered in Atlanta that reportedly has worked for Trump's real estate concerns, disclosed that Saudi Arabia was paying the firm up to $450,000 for a 30-day period. The disclosures were made in a filing with the Justice Department, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The contract was registered with the DOJ on February 21. Five days later, Energy Secretary Rick Perry canceled a trip to India so he could fly to London to discuss a nuclear cooperation agreement with senior Saudi officials. Such an agreement could open the door for lucrative U.S. contracts to build the kingdom's new power plants.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


Informant had no evidence Clinton benefited from uranium sale: Democrats (Warren Strobel, 3/08/18, Reuters)

The Uranium One sale was unanimously approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which comprises representatives of nine U.S. government agencies. When the issue was voted on, the State Department was represented not by Clinton, but by a lower-level official.

Five committees in the U.S. House and Senate previously looked into the issue and found no evidence that Clinton was behind CFIUS' approval of the deal, according to congressional records.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 AM


Senate Dem denounces Farrakhan's remarks (JULIA MANCHESTER, 03/08/18, The Hill)

Schatz was responding to a tweet from Farrakhan posted on Wednesday.

"The FBI has been the worst enemy of Black advancement," it said. "The Jews have control over those agencies of government."

Did Seb Gorka hack his Twitter feed?

Trump: Gary Cohn 'may be a globalist, but I still like him' (The Week, 3/08/18))
President Trump used a well-known anti-Semitic dog whistle on Thursday while wishing his best to outgoing National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. "This is Gary Cohn's last Cabinet meeting," Trump said. "He may be a globalist, but I still like him. He is seriously a globalist, no question." [...]

Trump added that "in his own way, [Cohn is] also a nationalist because he loves our country." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM

THE LAST NICKEL DROPS (salacity alert):

Trump partied with Russian oligarchs at Vegas nightclub shut down over 'lewd' acts involving women and urine: report (Travis Gettys, Mar. 8th, 2018, Raw Story)

A group of about 20, including Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, dined in a private room, and Trump flattered his new friends and boasted that "nobody in the world" was better at self-promotion than he was, and referred to himself in third person.

Also at the dinner was Ike Kaveladze, the vice president of Agalarov's Crocus International, who had been identified in 2000 by U.S. authorities as a conduit for money laundering $.14 billion out of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Part of the group -- including Trump, Emin, Goldstone, reigning Miss Universe Olivia Culpo and outgoing Miss USA Nana Meriwether -- went after dinner to an after-party at a raunchy nightclub called the Act, where they arrived shortly after midnight.

The Act was later ordered a few months to stop its "lewd" and "offensive" performances -- which involved activity that resembles salacious details of the Trump-Russia dossier compiled by a former British spy.

"Among the club's regular acts cited by the judge was one called 'Hot for Teacher,' in which naked college girls simulate urinating on a professor," Isikoff and Corn reported. "In another act, two women disrobe and then 'one female stands over the other female and simulates urinating while the other female catches the urine in two wine glasses.'"

The club had been under undercover surveillance since March 2013 by the Nevada Gaming Con­trol Board and private investigators hired by its landlord, the Palazzo -- which was owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson.

The Act shut down after the judge's ruling, which also cited simulated bestiality and sadomasochist acts...

Mr. Steele just looks better and better....

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Trump Administration Admits Trump's $1 Billion Demand From China Was Supposed to Be $100 Billion (Jonathan Chait, 3/08/18, New York)
Earlier this week, President Trump raised eyebrows when he told reporters of a phone call he had held with North Korea, in which he warned the dangerous rogue state it must de-nuclearize. (His administration later admitted quietly Trump had actually spoken with South Korea, not North Korea.) This week, Trump ventured another strange foreign policy pronouncement. He had asked China to produce a plan to reduce its trade deficit by One Billion Dollars. He even capitalized it to underscore the significance of the towering sum he proposed to extract: [...]

This demand was incredibly puzzling to trade economists, and regular economists, and anybody who had ever read a couple paragraphs in a random business story. China runs a trade surplus of $375 billion with the United States. Trump was demanding a reduction of 0.3 percent, or less than a single day's worth of imports.

The Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei reports that the demand was actually supposed to be $100 billion. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


U.S. Allies to Sign Sweeping Trade Deal in Challenge to Trump (MOTOKO RICH and ERNESTO LONDOÑOMARCH 8, 2018, NY Times)

A trade pact originally conceived by the United States to counter China's growing economic might in Asia now has a new target: President Trump's embrace of protectionism.

A group of 11 nations -- including major United States allies like Japan, Canada and Australia -- is set to sign a broad trade deal on Thursday that challenges Mr. Trump's view of trade as a zero-sum game filled with winners and losers. Covering 500 million people on either side of the Pacific Ocean, the pact will represent a new vision for global trade as the United States threatens to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on even its closest friends and neighbors. [...]

[T]he resuscitated deal could serve as a powerful sign of how countries that have previously counted on American leadership are now forging ahead without it.

"Only free trade will contribute to inclusive growth of the world economy," Taro Kono, Japan's foreign minister, told a group of ministers from Southeast Asian countries in Tokyo on Thursday. "Protectionism isn't a solution."

W, for initiating it, and the UR, for negotiating it, deserve tremendous credit.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Amid renewed scrutiny, Erik Prince to host fundraiser for Russia-friendly congressman (Rebecca Berg, 3/08/18, CNN)

Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser this month for Russia-friendly Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, as Prince faces new questions over a 2017 meeting currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. [...]

Rohrabacher, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been the target of attacks by Democrats and some Republicans for his unusually robust support for Russia. In the past, he has dismissed claims of Russia's human right violations as "baloney," publicly defended WikiLeaks and argued that the DNC was not hacked by Russia.

...and you swallow everything Donald tells you to, and newly believe that the FBI and NSA are anti-American.  Still, still, even after all that credulousness, wouldn't the breadth and depth of Donald and company's ties to Russia eventually tickle your conscience just a little bit?

Realistically, there are only a limited number of choices here: (1) they are deeply committed to Vlad Putin and his regime; (2) they are the take from Vlad; or (3) both.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 AM


Background check states have lower gun death rates (Caitlin Owens, Andrew Witherspoon, 3/08/18, Axios)

While Congress has been caught in a perpetual argument over whether to require background checks for all gun sales, several states have already acted. Those that have added additional background check laws regarding private gun sales tend to have lower gun death rates.

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 AM


Report: Evidence Of Trump Efforts To Set Up Back Channel With Kremlin (Radio Liberty, March 08, 2018)

The Washington Post said the U.A.E. agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its close relationship with Iran -- a key objective of both the Trump administration and several Gulf Arab countries.

The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, said such a concession by Moscow would have been required to justify any easing of U.S. sanctions on Russia by the Trump administration.

The Washington Post said that while Mueller is probing the circumstances of the Seychelles meeting, he is also more broadly examining apparent efforts by the Trump transition team to create a back channel for secret talks with the Kremlin.

After the Seychelles meeting, Nader visited the White House several times and met at least once there with former presidential adviser Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, The Washington Post said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:05 AM


Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Matters They Discussed With Special Counsel (Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, March 7, 2018, NY Times)

The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.

In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel's investigators and whether they had been "nice," according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers' advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.

March 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Vladimir Putin's candidate ratings have started to slip in Russia's biggest cities (home to a quarter of all voters) (Meduza, 7 march 2018)

The newspaper Vedomosti has noticed a curious trend in voter polling released by the state-run sociological institute VTsIOM: Vladimir Putin's presidential candidate ratings slipped 12 percentage points in Moscow and St. Petersburg between mid-January and mid-February, falling from almost 70 percent to just above 57 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 2:42 PM


Uber's Self-Driving Trucks Hit the Highway, but Not Local Roads (Daisuke Wakabayashi, March 6, 2018, NY Times)

More than a year after Uber's self-driving trucks made their first commercial delivery -- 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer on a 120-mile hop in Colorado -- the company says it has taken its robot big rigs to the highways of Arizona.

Uber said on Tuesday that its self-driving trucks had been carrying cargo on highways in Arizona for commercial freight customers over the past few months.  [...]

At the heart of Uber's vision are transfer hubs where trucks can pick up and drop off trailers. At those locations, autonomous trucks would grab trailers for long-haul drives, while human drivers would grab ones earmarked for closer delivery -- with Uber's network meshing the supply and demand of both behind the scenes.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Trumpism Is a Psychology, Not an Ideology (JONAH GOLDBERG, March 7, 2018, National Review)

The intellectual effort to craft or divine a coherent Trumpist ideology didn't fare much better. Just over a year ago, Julius Krein launched a new journal called American Affairs to "give the Trump movement some intellectual heft," as Politico put it. As I wrote at the time, American Affairs' dilemma was that by associating itself with Trump, it would be forced to either defend the incoherence of his behavior or break with him to defend its own consistency.

Six months later, after the debacle of Trump's response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., Krein recanted his support for the president.

On the left, there's an enormous investment in the idea that Trump isn't a break with conservatism but the apotheosis of it. This is a defensible, or at least understandable, claim if you believe conservatism has always been an intellectually vacuous bundle of racial and cultural resentments. But if that were the case, Commentary magazine's Noah Rothman recently noted, you would not see so many mainstream and consistent conservatives objecting to Trump's behavior.

Intellectuals and ideologically committed journalists on the left and right have a natural tendency to see events through the prism of ideas. Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to such approaches because, by his own admission, he doesn't consult any serious and coherent body of ideas for his decisions. He trusts his instincts.

Trump has said countless times that he thinks his gut is a better guide than the brains of his advisers. He routinely argues that the presidents and policymakers who came before him were all fools and weaklings. That's narcissism, not ideology, talking.

He's our first female president.

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Trump's Intelligence Chief Says Country Is 'Protected' From Kushner (Tommy Christopher, March 7, 2018, ShareBlue)

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked National Intelligence Director Dan Coats if he knew that at least four foreign countries discussed their ability to manipulate Kushner.

"I've seen that leak," Coats replied.

"Can you assure us that you are taking effective action to protect our national security against that manipulation?" Blumenthal asked.

"We are doing everything we can to protect the United States' citizens from harm from abroad, including what you have just described," Coats replied.

March 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Trump Confronted Cohn on Trade Hours Before Resignation, Sources Say (Bloomberg, March 6, 2018, Jennifer Jacobs)

President Donald Trump demanded economic adviser Gary Cohn's cooperation on tariffs in a meeting in the Oval Office Tuesday -- asking Cohn directly if he would support his decision to move forward with the plan.

Cohn would not offer his support, according to two people familiar with the episode -- and just hours later, the White House announced Cohn's resignation.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Jerry Brown's Legacy: A $6.1 Billion Budget Surplus in California (Alejandro Lazo and  Nour Malas, Jan. 10, 2018, WSJ)

Buoyed by tax increases passed under his administration and a strong economy, Mr. Brown said Wednesday that the state is projecting a $6.1 billion surplus for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The governor proposed socking most of the money away in a rainy-day fund whose creation he pushed for in 2014. Nearly 70% of the state's projected revenue of about $135 billion next fiscal year is derived from personal income taxes, according to the governor's office. [...]

As is his custom, the governor warned of an inevitable economic slowdown.

"California has faced 10 recessions since World War II, and we must prepare for the 11th," he said. "Let's not blow it now."

Mr. Brown has been preaching frugality for years--he kicked off one past budget talk with Aesop's fable about the thrifty ant and the lazy grasshopper.

Mr. Brown took office in 2011 with a $27 billion deficit and drastically slashed spending. In 2012, he staked his governorship on a tax increase that voters approved that year and reauthorized in 2016.

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Adviser to Emirates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel (MARK MAZZETTI, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ADAM GOLDMAN, MARCH 6, 2018, NY Times)

An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump's political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president's political efforts. It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.

Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller's investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump's team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Gary Cohn to Resign as Trump's Top Economic Adviser (KATE KELLY, MAGGIE HABERMAN and PETER BAKER, MARCH 6, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump's announcement last week that he would levy tariffs on aluminum and steel imports was the most immediate catalyst for Mr. Cohn's departure, according to people familiar with his thinking. Mr. Cohn, a longtime proponent of free trade, believed the decision could jeopardize economic growth.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


White House: Trump did not have call with N. Koreans (Yonhap, 3/06/18)

U.S. President Donald Trump has not had a phone call with the North Korean regime, a White House official said Monday, commenting on his remarks that suggested such a possibility.

Trump said Saturday while talking about North Korea that "they, by the way, called up a couple of days ago." [...]

The official on the National Security Council told Yonhap Trump was referring to his March 1 phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Stakes rise in Syria as Turkey clashes with pro-Assad militias (Metin Gurcan, March 6, 2018, Al Monitor)

After the loss of eight Turkish soldiers in Rajo clashes March 3, TSK and FSA elements captured central Rajo by launching a heavy assault supported by Turkish warplanes and T129 assault helicopters. Also, the TSK and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad entered their first clash at Afrin. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Coventry, England, reported that Turkish airstrikes in the area of Kafr Janna killed some 36 pro-Assad troops.

That first armed confrontation between the TSK and pro-Assad militias in northern Syria is cause for serious concern, especially for Moscow, because if the fight escalates to clashes between TSK and Assad's army -- rather than just supporting militias -- it could mean the collapse of de-escalation efforts west of the Euphrates. Moscow's vision for northern Syria is clear. On one side of the negotiation table, Assad will sit as the big brother under Russian wings with the Democratic Union Party as the younger brother representing the Syrian Kurds, who must be pro-Russia, staunchly secular and leftist. On the other side of the table facing them will be the Syrian opposition, under the tutelage and control of Ankara.

This is why Ankara will have to quickly extract the Sunni opposition from radical jihadist groups, to give the opposition a more moderate outlook. That, in turn, requires eliminating the resistance in Idlib and consolidating the Sunni opposition under a single political and military command controlled by Ankara. There is no place for the United States at this table Russia is setting. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 PM


Economics Was Invented to Refute Trump's Tariff Arguments: We've known tariffs are a bad idea since Adam Smith. (Tom Mullen, 3/05/18, FEE)

When Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations, it wasn't to refute the "godless socialists" 21st-century Republican voters believe are taking over the world. It was to refute the kinds of protectionist ideas championed by conservatives like Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton in Smith's day, Abraham Lincoln eighty years later, and Trump today.

Bastiat remade Smith's case in 1848. Henry Hazlitt did so again in 1946. Still, these economic fallacies persist because they offer the victims of other bad economic policies villains they can blame for largely self-inflicted wounds.

Every time a Trump supporter sees "Made in China" on a pair of sneakers, he throws up his hands and says, "Do you see that? They're stealing our manufacturing jobs."

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Received Inside Info From Russia Probe: Closed-door testimony before the House Russia probe is supposed to stay behind closed doors. Somehow, it got into the hands of another witness--and key Trump confidante--instead. (BETSY WOODRUFF & SPENCER ACKERMAN, 03.06.18, Daily Beast)

On Dec. 19, 2017, a former staffer for Sen. John McCain named David Kramer testified before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors. He'd played a role in bringing the salacious and unverified Steele dossier to the FBI's attention, and members peppered him with questions about it.

Then something unusual happened. Word of Kramer's testimony got out--to the lawyer of another witness.

The following, based on conversations with multiple sources familiar with the matter, illuminates the extraordinary breakdown of trust between committee investigators and the witnesses they call. It also suggests that some people working on the committee investigation may be trying to covertly assist one of the president's closest allies--when the president's inner circle is ostensibly a focus of their probe.

A few days after Kramer's testimony, his lawyer, Larry Robbins, got a strange call. The call was from Stephen Ryan, a lawyer who represents Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen is facing scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators regarding potential coordination between Trump's team and the Kremlin. He featured prominently in the Steele dossier--the document that Kramer handled--and is currently suing Buzzfeed for publishing it.

Ryan told Robbins he reached out because someone from the House told him that Robbins' client, Kramer, had information about the Steele dossier that could help Cohen. only catches the Trumpbots.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


Progressives in Congress side with Trump on trade (Jason Margolis, 3/06/18, PRI The World)

DeLauro and other progressives want to see Mexican labor standards written into NAFTA. And just as importantly, enforced. When DeLauro and others first brought up these issues more than two decades ago, she said then-President Bill Clinton dismissed their concerns.  

"We were very concerned about real loss of jobs, and now we have evidence of that loss of jobs," DeLauro said.

DeLauro also clashed with President Barack Obama over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a proposed trade agreement to cover 12 Pacific Rim nations. (President Donald Trump pulled the plug on the TPP as one of his first acts in the White House.)

Today, DeLauro is putting her faith in an unlikely ally to renegotiate NAFTA: President Trump.


Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Russian military transport plane crashes in Syria, killing all 39 people on board (Meduza, 6 march 2018)

While trying to land at Russia's Khmeimim airbase in Syria, an Antonov An-26 Russian transport plane crashed on Tuesday, killing all 33 passengers and six crew members aboard, the Defense Ministry confirmed.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


The world has tons of oil left (Ben Geman, 3/06/18, Axios)

The consultancy Rystad Energy has released new estimates of global oil resources that help underscore why the discussion in energy circles has transformed over the last decade from when supplies will peak to when demand will taper off, because there's lots of oil left and being discovered.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


McMaster caught in the middle as Mattis and Tillerson maneuver to constrain Trump on national security issues (Brian Bennett, MAR 04, 2018, LA Times)
As President Trump appears to lurch from crisis to crisis on the world stage, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have quietly maneuvered to constrain an impulsive commander in chief, the latest sign of a national security team that is increasingly challenging the president.

Officials say the two senior Cabinet officers have slow-rolled requests for options on a wide range of policy goals, including exiting the Iran nuclear disarmament deal, reacting to missile strikes into Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, pressuring longtime ally Pakistan by cutting U.S. military aid, and possible limited airstrikes on North Korea's nuclear infrastructure. [...]

"They are going to hide the ball from the president to keep him from doing stupid [stuff], there's no doubt about it," said another former official, a national security expert who served in the Trump administration transition and asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.

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Shares recover as Trump tariff plan faces resistance (Marc Jones, 3/06/18, Reuters) 

Share markets in Asia and Europe regained ground on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump faced growing pressure from political allies to pull back from proposed steel and aluminum tariffs and a potential global trade war.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM


Trump's Tax on America (J. BRADFORD DELONG, 3/06/18, Project Syndicate)

It would seem that for the Republican Party, an incompetent, erratic kleptocracy might just be the best form of government.

Or at least it was until March 1, 2018, the day Trump signaled his intention to impose across-the-board import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. That decision, notes Pat Roberts, a Republican senator from Kansas, "is not going to go down well in farm country."

As Roberts points out, Trump's move toward protectionism this year is at odds with his earlier policy achievements. "We have a tax reform package that's bringing a lot of benefits to the business community," Roberts told the Kansas City Star, "and this is a policy move that is contrary to that." His worry now is that Trump will pursue "a trade policy that will basically result in all the benefits of the tax reform being taken away by higher manufacturing costs being passed on to consumers."

He's right. In the end, American consumers will pay for Trump's tariffs. Such broad protectionist measures will affect every sector of US manufacturing in one way or another, and manufacturers certainly will not eat the full costs of higher-priced steel and aluminum inputs. At the same time, other countries will introduce tariffs of their own against US exports. The European Union, for example, is now planning to slap tariffs on such American staples as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, and Levi's jeans.

So, Trump has essentially proposed a new tax on US consumers and export industries, the costs of which will be borne largely by his own supporters in the American heartland and Rust Belt. Moreover, Trump seems to have arrived at his decision almost out of the blue. Stock markets were caught off guard, and immediately fell by around 1.5%. And according to the Kansas City Star report, "[Roberts] and other Republican senators received no formal heads-up from the White House."

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 AM


Trump Aide Sheds Shocking New Light On Mueller Probe In Bombshell Interview (Caroline Orr, March 6, 2018, National Memo)

"If he had some deal -- we already know that [Trump attorney] Michael Cohen was trying to do Trump Tower Moscow," Nunberg said, referring to a deal then in the works for a Trump-branded property in Moscow.

That deal ultimately fell through just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Yet even though the project never came to fruition, it caught the attention of Mueller. And his investigators are reportedly scrutinizing the Trump Organization's efforts to secure the deal, among other business dealings before the election.

Minutes earlier, he told MSNBC's Katy Tur that he thinks Trump "may have done something during the election." And he claimed that Mueller's team may already have evidence of it.

He reiterated those statements in yet another interview on CNN Monday afternoon. "They know something on [Trump] ... I don't know what it is, and perhaps I'm wrong, but he did something," he told Jake Tapper.

The interview essentially became a complete meltdown on live TV. Nunberg told Tapper that former Trump aide Carter Page had "colluded with the Russians" during the campaign. He also said Mueller believes Trump ally Roger Stone colluded with Russia.

...that when one of the family speaks the truth he is assumed to be crazy.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 AM


The relationship between gun ownership and death rates  (Stef W. Kight, 3/06/18, Axios)

Eleven of the top 15 states for firearm ownership are also in the top 15 states for gun deaths, according to data from a 2015 study on gun ownership rates in the states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mortality rates for gun-related deaths.

March 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Tell-all Plea Deal of Netanyahu's Rasputin Shakes Israeli Politics : Nir Hefetz knows where the bodies are buried when it comes to the Netanyahus. The prime minister's Hail Mary pass may have to be thrown all the way from Washington (Chemi Shalev Mar 05, 2018, Ha'aretz)

Even for a country like Israel, in which breathless breaking news occurs on a daily basis, Monday morning was quite a shocker. After 48 hours of admiring Benjamin Netanyahu's brilliant ploy of floating snap elections and thus diverting headlines away from his criminal investigations, the earth suddenly shook under his feet, the sky fell in on his head and the noose around the prime minister's neck tightened dramatically.

The news flash that Nir Hefetz - Netanyahu's longtime confidant, journalist turned media adviser and all-round Rasputin-Haldeman-Stephen Miller kind of guy - has become a state witness sent tremors throughout the Israeli media, politics and judicial system. If his plea bargain bears fruit, many people believe it will be nothing less than an earthquake.

Holy metaphor blizzard!

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Former Trump Campaign Aide on Mueller Probe: The President 'May Have Done Something During the Election' (David Rutz, March 5, 2018, Daily Beacon)

"I'm not going to go to jail," Nunberg said when asked by Tur if he thought he would be held in contempt for publicly snubbing the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"What you're doing is surprising to say the least, but you sat there in that room being questioned by Mueller's investigators," Tur said. "I want to hear directly from you. Do you think that they have something on the president?"

"I think they may," Nunberg said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:33 PM


Behold Vladimir V. Potemkin (ANTONY J. BLINKENMARCH 5, 2018, NY Times)

[H]aving put his finger in the dyke, Mr. Putin can't remove it or Mr. Assad will drown. So Russia is stuck in the middle of multiple conflicts it cannot control -- between the Assad regime and the rebels; between Turkey and the Kurds; between American-led coalition forces and the Islamic State; between Israel, Syria and Iran; between Sunni and Shiite. This Rubik's cube of conflicting interests makes partners on one front adversaries on another.

Far from abating, Syria's civil war is raging -- slowly but surely becoming more lethal to Russia's forces, more damaging to its reputation, and more of a drain on its resources. Moscow is fully complicit in Mr. Assad's murderous campaign against the primarily Sunni opposition, which has now reached new levels of depravity with the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Ghouta, a suburban area outside Damascus. Moscow's alliance with Mr. Assad and Iran in slaughtering Sunnis risks alienating Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Turkey. It also will inflame Russia's own Sunni Muslim population and their brethren in Central Asia and the Caucasus, lighting the fuse for more terrorism directed at Moscow. [...]

Worse, his intervention in Eastern Ukraine has precipitated many of the very developments Mr. Putin sought to prevent.

NATO is more energized than it has been in years -- not because of President Trump's browbeating, but in response to Mr. Putin's aggression. The alliance now has forces on regular rotational air, land and sea deployments along Russia's border, and its budget is increasing, in part with a sustained infusion of funds from the United States. The European Union has revived the idea of strengthening its own defense capacity, spurred on by Mr. Putin's threats and Mr. Trump's rhetorical retreat from America's commitment to Europe's defense. Europeans are getting more serious about energy security. They are multiplying new routes, connections and sources for fuel and renewable power. That's making it harder for Mr. Putin to use oil and gas as strategic levers. American-led sanctions, despite Mr. Trump's reluctance to impose them, have done real, sustained damage to Russia's economy.

As for keeping Russia's fist on Ukraine's future, Mr. Putin has managed to alienate the vast majority of its citizens for generations. Systemic corruption is now a bigger bar to Ukraine's European trajectory than is Moscow.

Mr. Putin embarks on foreign adventures in part to distract his people from Russia's putrefaction at home. Reform is stagnant. The single-cylinder economy can't break its addiction to energy. Corruption and kleptocracy are all-corrosive. The population is aging and declining. The opposition is repressed but resilient.

You got played.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Escort Says Audio Recordings Show Russian Meddling in U.S. Election (RICHARD C. PADDOCK, MARCH 5, 2018, NY Times)

Her assertion could be easy to disregard were it not for a 25-minute video investigation posted last month on YouTube by the Russian opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny, which relies heavily on videos and photographs from Ms. Vashukevich.

She and nine people from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus were arrested late last month in Pattaya, a city about 70 miles south of Bangkok known for its adult entertainment scene. Most of those arrested, including Ms. Vashukevich, 21, who also goes by the name Nastya Rybka, are accused of working without a permit. Some are also accused of not having a valid Thai visa.

Ms. Vashukevich and Alexander Kirillov, the organizer of the sex seminar, spoke to three reporters while standing behind bars and a mesh screen during visiting hours at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok. Immigration officials stopped the interviews midway and told the reporters to leave the facility.

Ms. Vashukevich, wearing a bright green T-shirt with the word "detainee" in Thai, is a long way from the days she spent sailing on a yacht with Mr. Deripaska and his friends, including Sergei E. Prikhodko, a deputy prime minister.

According to her version of events, she was working for a modeling agency when she and several other models were sent to spend time on Mr. Deripaska's yacht. She later posted photographs and videos on social media showing Mr. Deripaska and Mr. Prikhodko together on the yacht.

Financial records show that companies controlled by Mr. Manafort owed millions of dollars to Mr. Deripaska. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Manafort offered to give Mr. Deripaska private briefings on the campaign.

Mr. Navalny charged in his video that Mr. Deripaska's yacht trip was an attempt to bribe Mr. Prikhodko, and that Ms. Vashukevich was one of "several" prostitutes aboard the vessel. In the video, the tycoon and Mr. Prikhodko can be heard discussing Russian-American relations. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


Trump's Lawyer Reportedly Had Trouble Getting Reimbursed for Porn Actress Payoff. Ain't That Always the Way? (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, MARCH 05, 2018, Slate)

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Cohen said he missed two deadlines [in October 2016] to make the $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford because he couldn't reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign, the person said. ... After Mr. Trump's victory, Mr. Cohen complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed for the payment to Ms. Clifford, the people said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


Democrats may have already won the House (Mike Allen, 3/05/18, Axios)

Chris Krueger, managing director of Cowen & Co.'s Washington Research Group, said he sees four "glaring red flags for the House GOP majority":

The correlation between the president's approval number and first-term midterm losses by the president's party: In the six times that the president's job approval was under 50%, the average loss was more than 43 seats. The Democrats need 24 to flip the House.

CA + PA = half-way there: California is the citadel of the resistance, which has 14 House Republicans. Between retirements, losing state-and-local tax deductions in the tax bill, and Trump's California disapproval, the Golden State could lose half its GOP delegation. The new Pennsylvania redistricting map -- and similar anti-Trump trend lines -- could cost Rs as many as six seats.  These two states get you halfway to a Democratic House.

Suburban danger zones: 2018 could make the suburbs great again for the House Democrats. The Democratic victories in last year's Virginia and New Jersey governor's races could well be the canaries in the coal mine. Remember that there are 23 House Republican seats in districts Clinton won -- and most are suburban.

Hate and corruption make for a lousy platform.
Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0. (GARDINER HARRIS, MARCH 4, 2018, NY Times)

As Russia's virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.

As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department's Global Engagement Center -- which has been tasked with countering Moscow's disinformation campaign -- speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


"Call it chaos': Trump adrift after week of White House anarchy (David Smith, 3 Mar 2018, The Guardian)

There has been disarray in the White House before but this time, observers said, the checks and balances that have provided a modicum of restraint appear to be crumbling, leaving Trump isolated, angry and ready to lash out. It is, they fear, not inconceivable that the world's most powerful country is now being guided by instinct, by impulse, by whim and by mood swing.

"This feels like it's turned a corner and not for the better for the White House," said Rich Galen, a Republican strategist, once press secretary to Vice-President Dan Quayle.

"As layers of this onion - the people who have seniority, who he listens to and who hopefully can talk him down - unpeel, there are fewer and fewer people to do that, which means he can operate on his gut, and he doesn't have the experience to do that."

Since Trump's inauguration in January last year, there has been an ever-decreasing inner circle of trusted advisers. Back then, it seemed that three competing centres of power in the West Wing might provide a balance of sorts. [...]

In addition, it was reported by the Washington Post that officials from four foreign countries discussed ways to manipulate Kushner via his business arrangements. The New York Times said two companies made loans worth more than half a billion dollars to Kushner's family property company after executives met him at the White House. The disclosures could leave him exposed in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion with Russia.

Rick Tyler, a political analyst, said: "It's appalling that anyone would leverage their time in government to enrich themselves or do personal business and Jared Kushner appears to have been doing that consistently. He ought to leave immediately. They are nothing but grifters."

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 AM


Robert Mueller's Pace Measures Up With Best Prosecutors 'In Modern History' (Carrie Johnson, 3/05/18, NPR)

"Robert Mueller's pace in this investigation really is very similar to some of the best special prosecutors in modern history," said Ken Gormley, the president of Duquesne University and the author of two books on special prosecutors.

These investigations carry special burdens: to move forward quietly, with no leaks, and quickly, to prove guilt or innocence.

"The whole point of appointing an independent counsel in these kind of instances is to deal with the fact that there's a cloud over the highest levels of the executive branch and to restore public confidence, one way or the other," Gormley said.

For many people, the model prosecutor was Archibald Cox, who investigated Watergate for a little more than a year before he was fired.

"I'm not looking for a confrontation," Cox told reporters in 1973. "I've worried a good deal through my life about the problems of imposing too much strain upon our constitutional institutions and I'm certainly not out to get the president of the United States."

During his tenure, Cox developed evidence about obstruction of justice by President Richard Nixon. The prosecutor who replaced Cox built on that work, ultimately leading to Nixon's resignation.

Gormley said the current special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, is operating in that same mold.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Special counsel wants documents on Trump, numerous campaign associates (KATY TUR and ALEX JOHNSON, 3/05/18, NBC)

Once Hicks' resignation takes effect in the next few weeks, Cohen will be the only person listed in the subpoena who hasn't left the employment of Trump or of the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 AM


Settler leader to AIPAC: Your support for two-states has 'no basis in fact' (JACOB MAGID, 3/05/18, Times of Israel)

In a combative letter to the leadership of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent in the midst of its policy conference in Washington, a top settler leader blasted Monday the positions of the US' most powerful Israel lobby as having "no basis in fact."

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan took particular issue with AIPAC's support for the two-state solution, asserting that the group was inaccurately claiming it to be the end-game to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that it had support from both Washington and Jerusalem.

March 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


Scoop: Mueller's hit list (Jonathan Swan, 3/04/18, Axios)

Axios has reviewed a Grand Jury subpoena that Robert Mueller's team sent to a witness last month.  [...]

Mueller is subpoenaing all communications -- meaning emails, texts, handwritten notes, etc. -- that this witness sent and received regarding the following people:

Carter Page
Corey Lewandowski
Donald J. Trump
Hope Hicks
Keith Schiller
Michael Cohen
Paul Manafort
Rick Gates
Roger Stone
Steve Bannon

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


Sir Roger Bannister obituary: First athlete to run a mile in under four minutes and an eminent neurologist (Nick Mason and Caroline Richmond,  4 Mar 2018, The Guardian)

[N]obody came really close to the four-minute mark; indeed, no one seriously threatened the world record of 4min 1.4sec set in 1945 by the Swede Gunder Hägg. Early in 1954 Landy announced that he would spend the early part of the summer training - and racing - in Finland. Expectations of a four-minute mile were now at boiling point, and Bannister knew he had to strike fast. With two friends providing the most elite pacemaking squad that could be imagined - Chataway, who later that summer took the 5000m world record, and Chris Brasher, who won an Olympic gold medal in the steeplechase two years later - Bannister devised an even-paced three-and-a-quarter-lap schedule that would leave him to capitalise on his speed and strength in the final 350 or so yards.

On that momentous evening, with the stiff breeze moderating and the showers stopping barely an hour before the race, the plan worked. Brasher led for a metronomic two laps, Chataway for the next one, and a bit more. Bannister, always on the leader's shoulder, needed to run the final quarter-mile in 59 seconds. He collapsed at the finish, and revived to hear another friend, the statistician Norris McWhirter, announce over the public address: "a track record, English Native record, British National, British All-Comers, European, British Empire and World record; the time: three ..." (the rest drowned out by cheering) "... minutes, 59.4 seconds."

Hägg's record had stood for almost nine years. Bannister's lasted just 46 days before Landy, running from the front at a meeting in Turku, Finland, posted an astounding 3min 58sec, to set up the "Mile of the Century" at the British Empire Games (as they were still called) in Vancouver early in August. The two milers arrived in Canada to a media frenzy, and there was a real danger that the race itself would prove a dismal anticlimax. But their widely differing strategies ensured that the final, far from descending into a cat-and-mouse tactical duel, would produce one of the great confrontations in the sport's history. Landy needed to run the finish out of Bannister; Bannister needed to run even-paced laps and conserve enough energy for the sustained power of his sprint.

Landy led from the gun, increased his lead as the first two laps progressed to seven yards, 10 yards, 15 yards at one point. Then gradually, halfway through the third lap, Landy began to slow and Bannister's even stride pulled the gap tighter and tighter. By the bell he was back to Landy's shoulder, but tired. At the end of the final bend he flung himself past Landy's right shoulder just, as chance would have it, Landy glanced anxiously over his left. He was away, the Australian could not respond, and the Mile of the Century was Bannister's. Both men, applauded to the skies by the packed stadium, had run under four minutes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


IDF Soldiers Hanged In Effigy In Jerusalem Ultra-Orthodox Neighborhoods (JTA, 3/04/18)

Two effigies of Israeli soldiers with a rope around their necks were hung in predominantly Haredi areas of Jerusalem, in what Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said was a "shocking" criminal act.

Police officers on Friday removed the effigies, one of which was soaked in flammable fluid, from a rooftop in Jerusalem's Me'a She'arim neighborhood and from a rope dangling from a column on Chaim Ozer Street, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The effigies had black kippahs on their heads, leading to speculations in the Israeli media that it was meant to intimidate Haredi soldiers who serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


McGee's coaching lessons go beyond just baseball (Rick Hummel, 3/04/18, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

McGee, hired as a Cardinals coach in the off-season, pointed to several men who had helped him, starting with "Mr. Ricketts," he said, referring to longtime Cardinals coach and instructor Dave Ricketts. "I had a number of teachers, from George Hendrick to Ozzie (Smith) to Bruce Sutter to Bob Forsch."

Hendrick, the Cardinals' veteran right fielder, enjoyed having fun at rookie McGee's expense in 1982, but there were teaching moments, too.

"You're going to earn that Gold Glove," Hendrick said to McGee. As they stood together in the outfield, Hendrick told McGee, "I've got this (foul) line.

"Then," McGee said, "he took a couple of steps away from it and said, 'You've got the rest.'"

"Sometimes," McGee said, laughing, "the ball would be hit between us and he'd just be pointing at it."

But Hendrick had a serious side, and he mentored McGee just as McGee has done with Pham.

"When I would have a tough game and we'd be driving home, he'd be playing his jazz and chewing his gum like there isn't anything happening," McGee said. "I wasn't even sleeping when I had a bad game.

"I finally get enough nerve to ask him, 'George, how do you do it?'"

"Do what?" responded Hendrick.

"Well, you struck out twice," McGee said.

"He said, 'Willie, it's like a wheel.' And he points at the steering wheel."

Then, motioning at various parts of the wheel going clockwise, Hendrick said, "You're here and you're here and you're here ... and then you're back here (at the top)."

"It put it in perspective for me," McGee said. "As I got older, I realized as long as I was able to stay healthy and didn't have anything off the field to distract me, you always wind up where you're supposed to be. It's like a wheel."

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Contribution of NIH funding to new drug approvals 2010-2016 (Ekaterina Galkina Cleary, Jennifer M. Beierlein, Navleen Surjit Khanuja, Laura M. McNamee and Fred D. Ledley, PNAS 2018)

This report shows that NIH funding contributed to published research associated with every one of the 210 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration from 2010-2016. Collectively, this research involved >200,000 years of grant funding totaling more than $100 billion. The analysis shows that >90% of this funding represents basic research related to the biological targets for drug action rather than the drugs themselves. The role of NIH funding thus complements industry research and development, which focuses predominantly on applied research. This work underscores the breath and significance of public investment in the development of new therapeutics and the risk that reduced research funding would slow the pipeline for treating morbid disease.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


On Guns, Companies Are Getting Out Ahead of the Politicians (Alexandra Olson, 3/03/18, Associated Press)

In 1960, black students staged sit-ins that forced Woolworth's to desegregate its lunch counters, and other stores and restaurants followed suit. In 1986, General Motors, Coca-Cola and dozens of other U.S. corporations pulled out of apartheid-era South Africa after years of pressure from activists, college students and investors.

This week, four major retailers slapped restrictions on gun sales that are stronger than federal law.

Those are all rare examples of American companies getting out ahead of the politicians and the law on socially explosive issues. Such decisions are almost always made reluctantly, under huge pressure and with an eye toward minimizing the effect on the bottom line. [...]

Those actions amounted to an act of defiance against the NRA and its allies in Washington who have vehemently opposed any ban on AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons or a higher age limit for gun purchases.

"What we are seeing is a real shift," said Mimi Chakravorti, executive director of strategy at the brand consulting firm Landor. "I think right now, companies are acting ahead of the government because they are seeing that the changes are too slow."

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


U.S. Inflation May Be Less Than Meets the Eye (Matthew Boesler, 3/03/18, Bloomberg)

So-called procyclical inflation -- a measure containing the prices of goods and services that typically rise faster when employment is increasing -- decelerated last month to the lowest level on an annual basis since April 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News from Commerce Department figures published Thursday. [...]

The so-called core inflation rate they watch closely, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, was just 1.5 percent in January, and the cell-phone pricing change that hit the index in March 2017 is only holding it down by about a tenth of a percentage point.

The slowdown in procyclical inflation in January stemmed from several components, including food services and accommodations, recreation services, prescription drugs and nonprofit spending.

Rental inflation, one of the biggest drivers of core and procyclical inflation, was little changed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


At What Point Does Trump Simply Resign? (David Atkins, March 4, 2018, Washington Monthly)

Trump has been in these dire straits before in his life, make no mistake-and his reaction at every step was to run from the damage, welsh on his obligations, let fixers handle the mess and never look back. Donald Trump has declared bankruptcy no less than six times, leaving creditors holding the bag each and every time. His building deals frequently go up in smoke. His fraudulent "university" went belly up and ended in settlements. He routinely stiffs his subcontractors. Most banks refuse to deal with him, and because he refuses to release his or his organization's tax returns, we have no idea if he has the sort of money he claims to have, or is instead deeply in hock to foreign mafia cartels. Without his father's money he would be just another two-bit white collar criminal from Queens, either in jail on tax evasion or running a ponzi scheme.

Trump is a classic grifter. And the modus operandi of the grifter is to play the con as long as he can, then pack up and run when the water gets hot and the bill comes due.

It is remarkable that we as a nation allowed such a person to become president. But nations do make mistakes. The question is what the Grifter-in-Chief will do now.

The standard play would be to simply step away. Even the most narcissistic con artist is rarely fool enough to choose dire consequences over an easy escape route just out of ego alone. As the walls begin to close in on him, his friends and family, it is difficult to see how he lasts another year in the job, much less three.

March 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 PM


Trump: Maybe US will have a president for life someday (AGENCIES and TOI STAFF, 3/03/18, Times of Israel)

US President Donald Trump said Saturday he thinks it's great that China's president now holds that office for life and mused that maybe the US will do the same someday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 PM


Mueller's Focus on Adviser to United Arab Emirates Indicates Widening of Inquiry (MARK MAZZETTI, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and MAGGIE HABERMANMARCH 3, 2018, NY Times)

George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, has hovered on the fringes of international diplomacy for three decades. He was a back-channel negotiator with Syria during the Clinton administration, reinvented himself as an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and last year was a frequent visitor to President Trump's White House.

Mr. Nader is now a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller's investigators have questioned Mr. Nader and have pressed witnesses for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The investigators have also asked about Mr. Nader's role in White House policymaking, those people said, suggesting that the special counsel investigation has broadened beyond Russian election meddling to include Emirati influence on the Trump administration. The focus on Mr. Nader could also prompt an examination of how money from multiple countries has flowed through and influenced Washington during the Trump era.

Image result for trump crystal ball

Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


Demoralized West Wing stokes fears over Trump's capacity to handle a crisis: The president has embraced chaos since the beginning, but the past week's drama has left staffers dangerously depleted. (JOHN F. HARRIS and ANDREW RESTUCCIA 03/02/20, Politico)

[T]here is something different about this week's spasm of sudden policy lurches, graceless personal insults, oozing scandal news, and ceaseless West Wing knife fights.

It is the starkest example to date of President Donald Trump's executive style looking untenable not merely from the outside -- from the perspective of establishment politicians and media analysts -- but from the inside, too.

Administration officials and outsiders with windows into decision-making describe a growing sense of despair within Trump's ranks, driven by the mounting realization that the president's brand of politics guided by intuition and improvisation is incompatible with a competently functioning executive branch.

Most alarming, by these lights, is mounting evidence that Trump lacks an attribute possessed by most previous presidents and certainly by all the most successful ones: a capacity for self-critique and self-correction. [...]

Rather than changing course, Trump was described by an administration official Friday -- echoing other reports -- as sullen and isolated, frustrated that he is not being given credit he thinks he deserves and deeply suspicious of the people around him.

Increasingly, that suspicion is justified, as people close to Trump second-guess his judgment and his capacity to do his job. But it is also suspicion that Trump invited by undermining the very people who he asked to come help him get better at governing.

"Most presidents know when to recalibrate, to redirect, to hit a reset button" on their policies or their own leadership style, said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served at senior levels of both the Clinton and Obama White Houses. "So in the face of incompetence and total chaos you have a president who has no self-awareness of how bad it is."

Panetta urged Kelly to organize a "come to Jesus moment" in which Trump's trusted advisers along with Republican congressional leaders and business executives warn the president in the strongest terms that he's veering off course.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


L'Affaire Kushner: A series of revelations about the White House princeling have added further credence to the key claim of the Steele dossier. (JED HANDELSMAN SHUGERMAN, MARCH 02, 2018, Slate)

So: A Qatari fund acquires major assets from Russia. Kushner's business seeks money directly from Qatar. The nation, though, does not deliver to Kushner. The U.S. changes its political posture against Qatar at Kushner's urging, with the alarming possibility that the seemingly manufactured conflict could have escalated into war. (Fortunately, it did not.) Several months later, the Qatar-backed Apollo Group delivers $184 million to Kushner.

All of this should be considered an incredible scandal in its own right, worthy of serious congressional inquiry. Once you factor in, however, the portions of this that are consistent with some of the allegations in the Steele dossier, the stories potentially become even more explosive.

The Steele dossier alleges that Russians made a deal with Carter Page in the summer of 2016 to sell 19 percent of fossil fuel giant Rosneft, a multibillion dollar deal, and secretly transfer benefits to Trump officials. The dossier alleged that Page was a campaign intermediary to meet personally with Russians, and that Igor Sechin--the CEO of Rosneft and a close Putin ally--and Page had held a "secret meeting" to discuss "the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia." The dossier further alleged that Sechin offered Page the brokerage of a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia. Page has denied that this meeting with Sechin ever took place.

Page's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, however, confirmed that he at the very least discussed these general topics with key Russian figures at critical points in the Steele dossier timeline. For example, Page confirmed that he had spoken with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft and an employee of Sechin, when in Moscow in July 2016. He also acknowledged "briefly" discussing "a potential sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft" with Baranov. Finally, he would only say that he didn't "directly" express support for the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia with Baranov.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 9, 2016, a month after the election, Russia made a deal with Qatar to sell 19.5 percent of Rosneft. Reuters reported at the time:

The privatization deal, which Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin called the largest in Russia's history, was announced by Rosneft in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Its success suggests the lure of taking a share in one of the world's biggest oil companies outweighs the risks associated with Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Rosneft had been under pressure to secure a sale of the 19.5 percent stake to help replenish state coffers, hit by an economic slowdown driven by weak oil prices and exacerbated by sanctions.

The deal falls squarely in the middle of a time when Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Page were communicating with Russians in ways that would later prove very embarrassing and potentially suspicious.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


Who's a hero and who's a coward? Trump is no judge (Yonden Lhatoo, 03 March, 2018, SCMP

How many of us have stared sudden, violent death in the face and reacted like a hero?

I was no braveheart when I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time during the middle of an armed insurgency many years ago in my old hometown of Darjeeling.

To cut a long story short, a paramilitary soldier jammed the barrel of his assault rifle under my chin and threatened to blow my head off. I was a terrified school kid and it was enough to send me into catatonic shock.

The second time I stared death in the face was after I had just finished school and was earning some pocket money by taking a group of Canadian tourists on a trek high up in the Western Himalayas.

We were traversing a steep slope when we found ourselves caught in a sudden rockslide. There was no place to run or take shelter, so we just stood there, fully exposed to danger, as rocks the size of water melons came crashing down upon us.

By some miracle, we escaped with our lives, but I remember how petrified and helpless we were, staring up at what seemed like certain death from above. I watched the man next to me tilt his head to one side to dodge a jagged rock that would have decapitated him, had he not made that slight movement. We were all numb with shock.

That's what I'm thinking of as I listen to the shrill chorus of condemnation against the armed security officer who lost his job for remaining outside a Florida high school while an expelled student went on a shooting rampage inside, slaughtering 17 people last month.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Ad-hoc Trump fuels White House meltdown (AFP, 2 March 2018)

A White House lurching from crisis to crisis appeared close to complete meltdown Friday, as Donald Trump's staff struggled to limit damage from two impulsive moves with far-reaching consequences. [...]

Officials made no effort to disguise that the decision -- which will bring legal action -- had short circuited internal deliberations and preempted the administration's own determination about whether the step was lawful. [..]

The internal blowback was swift, with renewed rumors that top economic advisor Gary Cohn -- who had been infuriated by Trump's unwillingness to condemn neo-Nazis -- was ready to walk.

Wall Street insiders -- who have embraced Trump's tax cuts and laissez faire approach to regulation -- expressed disbelief at the policy, but also disbelief at a White House that appears to have careened off the rails. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


The great unraveling: Trump's allies are really worried about him (Gloria Borger, 3/02/18, CNN)

Not since Richard Nixon started talking to the portraits on the walls of the West Wing has a president seemed so alone against the world.

One source -- who is a presidential ally -- is worried, really worried. The source says this past week is "different," that advisers are scared the President is spiraling, lashing out, just out of control. For example: Demanding to hold a public session where he made promises on trade tariffs before his staff was ready, not to mention willing. "This has real economic impact," says the source, as the Dow dropped 420 points after the President's news Thursday. "Something is very wrong."

Even by Trumpian standards, the chaos and the unraveling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are a stunning -- and recurring -- problem.

But there's an up-against-the-wall quality to the past couple of weeks that is striking, and the crescendo is loud, clear, unhealthy, even dangerous. [...]

Multiple sources report an increasingly isolated Trump: cordoned off from old friends by Kelly, getting the cold shoulder from wife Melania (after Stormy Daniels and friends), increasing friction with his daughter and son-in-law over clearance, and home alone without longtime bodyguard/friend Keith Schiller and Hicks. His economic team is split over tariffs; his national security adviser, according to reports, will be replaced soon. No doubt the exodus will continue.

And the President -- who has bullied Jeff Sessions regularly since the summer -- is now furious that the attorney general has dared defend his department against a President who called it "disgraceful." A man who prides himself on his instinct to counterpunch finds it shocking when someone punches back. 

In fairness to Nixon, the rest of the world was bewildered that we were getting rid of him, not ecstatic as they are with Donald.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Parkland shooting has changed politics-as-usual in Florida (Scott Maxwell , 3/02/18, Orlando Sentinel)

[I]n the wake of the Parkland high school shooting, Republican leaders have joined Democrats in calling for action on guns, mental health and school security -- issues they have flat-out rejected for years.

Florida's governor is even taking on the NRA, calling for new gun restrictions and opposing ideas like arming teachers.

Things like that simply don't happen in Florida.

So what's different this time? At least three things:

1) The gunman committed his massacre smack dab in the middle of the legislative session.

2) Rick Scott is running for higher office.

3) The Parkland kids actually look and sound like the kids of the legislators ... so their cries have resonated more.

Those explanations may seem cynical and even distasteful. So is politics all too often.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, said there's no denying that Tallahassee politicians are reacting differently this time.

With Parkland memorial ribbons on legislative lapels everywhere (compared to Pulse rainbow ribbons, which Smith said were few and far between), legislators are vowing fast action.

"That's a big change," he said. "Usually after a mass shooting, it's: Offer thoughts and prayers. Divert attention. Delay. And then do nothing."

This time, though, they couldn't divert or delay, because the slaughter took place five weeks into a nine-week legislative session.

That's normally a time when Republicans are advancing the NRA's bills -- often ludicrous ones like the 2011 one that tried to ban patients and doctors from freely discussing firearms or the 2014 one that guaranteed schoolchildren the right to carry pistol-shaped Pop Tarts -- so they can earn good grades on the NRA's annual report cards.

March 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 PM


Read Donald Trump's Speech on Trade: Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at Alumisource, a metals recycling facility in Monessen, PA, June 28, 2016. (TIME)

[T]oday I'm going to talk about how to make America wealthy again. We have to do it. With 30-miles from Steel City, Pittsburgh played a central role in building our nation. The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our a great American landscape.

But our workers' loyalty was repaid, you know it better than anybody, with total betrayal. Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization, moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. [...]

And I have been talking about China for many years. And you know what? Nobody listened. But they are listening now. That, I can tell you.

The city of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania have lost 1/3 of their manufacturing jobs since the Clinton's put China into the WTO. 50,000 factories across America have shut their doors in that time. And this factory, because of your great owners, Gabe and Gloria, it's hanging in. Hanging in. But they just told me, it is not easy.

Almost half of our entire manufacturing trade deficit in goods with the world is the result and it's the result of trade with China. It was also Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, who shoved us into a job-killing deal with South Korea, as reported by the Economic Policy Institute in May . This deal doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs.

As Bernie Sanders said, Hillary Clinton voted for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions, millions of jobs. [...]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the greatest danger yet. The TPP, as it is known, would be the death blow for American manufacturing. It would give up all of our economic leverage to an international commission that would put the interests of foreign countries above our own. It would further open our markets to aggressive currency cheaters -- cheaters, that's what they are, cheaters.

They are not playing by the rules. They are cheating. It would make it easier for our trading competitors to ship cheap subsidized goods into United States markets, while allowing foreign countries to continue putting up barriers in front of our exports -- which is what they do. It is very hard to export to their countries. They make it very difficult.

We, on the other hand -- come on in, everybody. Come on in. Bad leadership.

The TPP would lower tariffs would lower tariffs on foreign cars, while leaving in place the foreign practices that keep American cars from being sold overseas.  [...]

I am going to direct the secretary of commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using to harm you, the American worker.

I will then direct all appropriate agencies to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses. And abuse is the right word. [...]

Number six, I'm going to instruct the U.S. trade representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO.

China's unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO and I intend to enforce those rules and regulations. And basically, I intend to enforce the agreements from all countries, including China.

Seven, if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful -- this is very easy. This is so easy. I love saying this. I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. [...]

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of fear will try to spread the lie that these actions will start a trade war. You already have a trade war, and we're losing badly. Badly.

She has it completely backwards. Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible deal after another, from NAFTA, to China to South Korea. It doesn't matter. No matter where she went, the American worker was hurt and you'll be hurt worse than ever before if she becomes president of the United States. That, I can tell you.

A Trump administration will end that war by getting a fair deal for the American people and the American worker. The era of economic surrender will finally be over. It will be over. You're not going to see it anymore. Well, I can't guarantee it, because after me, they'll probably start doing it again. But we will have four and maybe eight great, great productive years and we'll never go back and we'll make sure we never go back.

Thank you. Thank you, very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, everyone. I appreciate it.

A new era of prosperity will finally begin. America will be independent once more. Independent once more. Doesn't that sound great?

Under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.

We will stand up to trade cheating. Cheating. Cheaters, that's what they are. Cheaters. We will stand up to trade cheating anywhere and everywhere it threatens the American job.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Publishers already contacting Hicks about book deal: report (JOHN BOWDEN, 03/01/18, The Hill)

One White House insider also told the website that Hicks reportedly kept a "detailed diary" of her interactions and time in the White House, a resource that could be a major asset if she plans to write a memoir.

"[But] she is certainly under some sort of nondisclosure agreement," that source told the Mail.

The subpoena was delivered before we finished reading this.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


NPR Poll: After Parkland, Number of Americans Who Want Gun Restrictions Grows (Asma Khalid, 3/02/18, NPR)

Three-quarters of people polled said gun laws should be stricter than they are today. That's an increase -- in a short period of time -- from October 2017, when NPR conducted a similar survey in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. Then, 68 percent said gun laws should be stricter than they were.

The poll also found widespread bipartisan support for a range of gun-control policies, including:

*requiring background checks for all gun buyers (94 percent),

*adding people with mental illnesses to the federal gun background check system (92 percent),

*raising the legal age to purchase guns from 18 to 21 (82 percent),

*banning bump stocks (81 percent),

*banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds (73 percent) and

*banning assault-style weapons (72 percent).

The only policy intended to curb gun violence that is opposed by a majority of Americans (59 percent) is the one most frequently touted by President Trump -- the idea of training teachers to carry guns in schools.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Arming Teachers Is Not a Good Option: The president's suggestion is not being informed by the existing data on both mass shootings and what terminates them (John J. Donohue III, February 28, 2018, Scientific American)

The FBI analyzed 160 cases of active shooters over the period from 2000-2013, and not one was stopped by a concealed carry permit holder who was not active duty military, a security guard, or a police officer. 21 were stopped by unarmed civilians.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Trump was angry and 'unglued' when he started a trade war, officials say (STEPHANIE RUHLE and PETER ALEXANDER, 3/02/18, NBC)

On Wednesday evening, the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.

A trifecta of events had set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks' testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff.

Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade -- and against longstanding advice from his economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Ross had already invited steel and aluminum executives to the White House for an 11 a.m. meeting on Thursday. But Ross, according to a person with direct knowledge, hadn't told the White House who the executives were. As a result, White House officials were unable to conduct a background check on the executives to make sure they were appropriate for the president to meet with and they were not able to be cleared for entry by secret service. According to a person with direct knowledge, even White House chief of staff John Kelly was unaware of their names.

By midnight Wednesday, less than 12 hours before the executives were expected to arrive, no one on the president's team had prepared any position paper for an announcement on tariff policy, the official said. In fact, according to the official, the White House counsel's office had advised that they were as much as two weeks away from being able to complete a legal review on steel tariffs.

He is a moody little thing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


The Irony of the Nunes Memo (David Kris  Thursday, March 1, 2018, LawFare)

[N]unes's claim that the FBI misled the court was itself misleading. There are other ways in which the memo was misleading--discussed in the back and forth between Nunes and his critics on the House Intelligence Committee, and in Charlie Savage's characteristically excellent summary in the New York Times--but the FBI's alleged effort to deceive the court about Steele has always been the heart of the matter, and I am trying in this post to stick to the core.

The FISA applications did not mention the "DNC" or the "Clinton campaign" by name, but they did recount how Steele was approached and then hired by "an identified U.S. Person," Glen Simpson, who explained to Steele that he in turn had been hired by a "U.S.-based law firm," Perkins Coie, "to conduct research regarding Candidate #1," Donald Trump, and Trump's "ties to Russia." (The use of generic identifiers in the FISA applications is consistent with standard practice, as Nunes is well aware; the minority memo provides the names for each identifier.) The FISA applications also advised the court: "The FBI speculates that [Simpson] was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump's] campaign." [...]

2. It's even more disturbing that a purported oversight memo would withhold key facts from the American people in accusing the government of withholding key facts from the court. Had the FBI done in its FISA applications what Nunes did in his memo, heads would have rolled on Pennsylvania Avenue. The court itself, as well as both intelligence committees, several inspectors general, and the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility all could have brought their shillelaghs to bear. The court, in particular, has done so once before, when it was dissatisfied with the candor of an FBI agent.

 Congressional oversight is a critically important function, but who watches the watchers?

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


'Jared has faded': Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished (Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey March 2, 2018, Washington Post)

They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once.

But an unlikely cascade of events -- set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid -- crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.

Once the prince of Trump's Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation's deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe.

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


Business Group Powerpoint Mocks Trump's 'Dumpster Fire' Presidency  (Justin Elliott, March 2, 2018, National Memo)

What does American business really think of President Donald Trump?

One candid glimpse emerges in a pair of PowerPoint presentations delivered last year by top executives of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), one of the construction industry's national trade groups.

Trump, the presentations state, is an "autocratic leader" who regularly "humiliates [his] senior team" and is running the administration "like a bad family owned small business." One presentation quotes the president's statement that infrastructure should be "easy" and follows it with a rhetorical eye-roll: "Really?????" [...]

AGC spokesman Brian Turmail told ProPublica that saying the administration is "run like a bad family owned business" wasn't intended to be pejorative. 

...but he has rallied us all around universal contempt for him.

Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


The Trump-Russia Story Gets Even Weirder (Michelle Goldberg, MARCH 2, 2018, NY Times)

Vashukevich first came to the attention of close watchers of the Trump-Russia story last month, thanks to a 25-minute video by Aleksei Navalny, a Russian dissident famed for exposing corruption in his country. Like many domestic opponents of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Navalny had regarded the American uproar over Trump's Russia ties skeptically. But his investigation -- which he said led to the "most scandalous findings in the history of our work," according to the video's English-language subtitles -- appears to have altered his thinking.

It began last September, when a group of women in scanty bondage gear walked into the Moscow office of Navalny's organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation. At that very moment, journalists from a pro-Putin media outlet just happened to be passing by, and recorded their presence.

Navalny wanted to find out who the women were and who had sent them. He discovered that they were, as he put it in the video, a "mildly insane" squad of activist sex workers who specialize in weird pranks, like picketing the American Embassy naked in support of Harvey Weinstein. And one of them, Vashukevich, had lots of photographs of herself and the politically powerful Deripaska on her Instagram account.

Deripaska, remember, is the oligarch that the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered to brief privately on the American presidential campaign. He's been connected to Russian organized crime, and Manafort appeared to owe him a lot of money. (A court filing in the Cayman Islands said Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, couldn't account for nearly $19 million that they were supposed to invest for a business controlled by Deripaska.) After joining the Trump campaign, Manafort emailed an intermediary, asking, apparently in reference to Deripaska, "How do we use to get whole?"

Navalny initially dismissed speculation that Deripaska had served as a back channel between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. "Among all the conspiracy theories of American mass media, this part was the most unconvincing," he said in the video. "Many oligarchs are close to Putin," and there was no evidence that Deripaska was transmitting secret intelligence to him.

But then Navalny and his team looked closely at the Instagram account of Deripaska's nubile consort. Vashukevich had posted video from an August 2016 trip to Norway on Deripaska's yacht with several other escorts. And on that yacht was a Russian deputy prime minister, Sergei Prikhodko. In the video, you can even hear Deripaska and Prikhodko talking about Russia's bad relations with the United States, for which Deripaska blamed Victoria Nuland, Barack Obama's assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Seeing it, said Navalny, "the pieces of this puzzle fell into place."

Within 24 hours of Navalny posting his investigation, a Russian court issued a ruling trying to block access to it. Deripaska filed a claim against Vashukevich and Aleksandr Kirillov, a self-styled "sex guru" she's close to, for invasion of privacy. And at some point Vashukevich and Kirillov took off for Thailand.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


AP Analysis: Like Trump, Netanyahu sidesteps norms (DAN PERRY, 3/02/18, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When Netanyahu and Trump meet Monday, they will share circumstances that are as strikingly similar as they are historically rare: two elected leaders who are at loggerheads with their countries' establishments, holding on, despite scandals, to a base that if anything, seems to delight in the angst being wrought upon many of the wealthy, the educated and the cultured.

In Netanyahu's case, legal complications are mounting by the day, with four cases under investigation and counting, two sets of police recommendations to indict him for bribery, two states' witnesses against him and a grim collection of aides and other associates in detention or house arrest. Netanyahu is also suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from billionaire friends and breaking the law while trying to engineer favorable media coverage.

An associate is suspected of trying to broker a deal on Netanyahu's behalf with a judge in exchange for dropping a case against Netanyahu's wife. Another case involves suspected kickbacks in a massive deal to purchase submarines from Germany that may have benefited a Netanyahu relative. For good measure the story line also includes a fortune in illicit gifts of champagne and cigars, as well as side plots featuring his son joyriding to strip clubs at taxpayer expense and his wife screaming hysterically at an aide.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 AM


#MAGA's Hall of Mirrors (NOAH ROTHMAN, MAR. 1, 2018, Commentary)

The President of the United States has resumed his preferred pastime: screaming into the Internet. The target of Donald Trump's ire this time was his supposedly "embattled" attorney general, Jeff Sessions. For deferring to the Justice Department's inspector general's office regarding alleged FISA abuse, Trump called his appointee's conduct "disgraceful." With the theatrical zeal of any absolutist movement, Trump's keenest supporters were quick to condemn this new Bukharin in their ranks.

The competition was over before it began. "I couldn't agree more," read the winning entry, submitted by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. Sessions, he insisted, "must be part of the Bush/Romney/McCain Republican Establishment. He probably supported @realDonaldTrump early in [the] campaign to hide who he really is. Or he could just be a coward."  Jeff Sessions spent his career in the Senate opposing his party's orthodoxy on immigration. That career culminated in his decision to buck his party orthodoxy on Trump--legitimizing the future president's outsider campaign by becoming the first sitting senator to endorse him. Sessions is many things, but he's no coward. Falwell's denunciation is valuable only insofar as it demonstrates the malleability of the epithet "establishment" and the cultish pusillanimity around this president.

...Trumpbots are also required to excuse his corruption.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 AM


GOP senators blast Trump's tariffs announcement (Daniella Diaz and Ted Barrett, 3/01/18, CNN)

Sen. Ben Sasse, who's been a frequent critic Trump, slammed the tariffs decision as something Americans would expect from a "leftist administration," not a Republican commander in chief.

"Let's be clear: The President is proposing a massive tax increase on American families. Protectionism is weak, not strong," he said in a statement. "You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one."

Sen. Pat Roberts, who is the chair of the Senate agriculture committee, also blasted the decision for the tariffs and warned of retaliation.

"They've already done this on washing machines and solar panels and the sorghum producer, one of the rare crops where we were making a profit, got targeted by China," he said. "Every time you do this, you get a retaliation. And agriculture is the number one target. I think this is terribly counterproductive for the (agriculture) economy and I'm not very happy."

When asked why Trump made the decision Roberts and other senators made the case to him, Roberts responded: "Good question."

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said the tariffs would be a "huge job-killing tax hike."
"While I am sympathetic to the issues facing domestic steel manufacturers, there must be a better way to address the steel industries concerns, and I hope Congress and the executive branch can identify an alternative solution before these tariffs are finalized next week," he said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 AM


This may be most baffling picture of Donald and Melania yet (Independent,  2 March 2018)

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed (TIM MAK, 3/01/18, NPR: Morning Edition)

A prominent Kremlin-linked Russian politician has methodically cultivated ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association, and documented efforts in real time over six years to leverage those connections and gain access deeper into American politics, NPR has learned. [...]

Torshin's use of NRA connections to open doors, and his 2015 claim to know Trump through the organization, raise new questions about the group's connections with Russian officials -- at a time when the organization is being roundly criticized by its opponents, and at times the president himself, for opposition to gun control.

The president has also defended the group in recent days as the gun debate has reemerged in the wake of a Florida school shooting, including a tweet calling the group's leaders "Great American Patriots."

The NRA has been a key part of Trump's conservative base.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Trump ignored 'bright line' on discussing Russia with Hicks (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and ELIANA JOHNSON 03/01/2018, Politico)

President Donald Trump's lawyers have urged him not to discuss details of the unfolding Russia investigation with anyone outside his legal team, warning of a conversational "bright line" that could put aides and associates in legal jeopardy, according to current and former Trump aides.

But Trump often ignores that legal advice in the presence of senior aides -- including his departing confidante and White House communications director, Hope Hicks.

"I think the president has put her in a very precarious position," a senior Trump administration official said in a recent interview.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Trump's Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll (MARK LANDLER and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MARCH 1, 2018, NY Times)

In private conversations, Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff. Some longtime advisers said that Mr. Trump regards Mr. Sessions's decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as the "original sin," which the president thinks has left him exposed.

Mr. Trump's children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father's success and as antagonistic to their continued presence, according to several people familiar with their thinking. Anthony Scaramucci, an ally of some in the Trump family, whom Mr. Kelly fired as communications director after only 11 days, intensified his criticism of the chief of staff in a series of news interviews on Wednesday and Thursday.

Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family's real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.

Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president's daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Kentucky could become the first state to tax opioid prescriptions (ANDREW JOSEPH, MARCH 2, 2018, Stat)

Lawmakers in Kentucky are weighing whether to impose a new tax on opioid prescriptions, the latest effort in a string of so-far failed attempts to pull new revenue from the painkillers that helped seed a nationwide addiction crisis.

The proposed tax -- a 25-cent levy on drug distributors for every dose sent to the state -- was approved by the Kentucky House Thursday as part of a broader budget and tax plan. But unlike in other states, where lawmakers aimed to steer the new revenue to addiction treatment and education programs, the Kentucky plan, if enacted, would direct the money to fill budget gaps elsewhere, including boosting funding for the state's public schools.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 2:59 AM


Poverty in America: America's welfare programmes are not the problem (Democracy in America, Mar 1st 2018, The Economist)

The Census Bureau's poverty line is set as a fixed level of pre-tax cash income adjusted by family size and composition and, over time, for urban consumer price inflation (CPI-U). That it is a pre-tax measure means the poverty calculation ignores the impact of tax credits and in-kind transfers like housing and nutrition assistance. And using the CPI-U overstates the inflation in the price of goods purchased by poor people. 

Correcting for tax and inflation problems alone make a difference, according to Bruce Meyer and Jason Sullivan, economists. The official poverty rate climbed between 1972 and 2015 from 11.9% to 13.5% of the population. But after-tax income poverty using a better measure of price change fell from 15.6% to 7.3% over the same period. And a measure they design that uses consumption rather than income to define poverty suggests a decline from 16.4% to 3.0% since 1972.    

These measures better reflect changes in household welfare. Bruce Sacerdote, an economist at Dartmouth College notes the poorest quarter of households in America had 0.75 vehicles per household in 1970 compared to 1.4 per household in 2015. In 1960, more than one third of households in the bottom quarter of the income distribution lacked indoor plumbing; by 2015 virtually all households had indoor water and sewer systems. Microwave ovens have spread from luxury to ubiquity alongside mobile phones--microwaves are now owned by 97% of households.

March 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 PM


Senate Intelligence Leaders Say House G.O.P. Leaked a Senator's Texts (NICHOLAS FANDOS, MARCH 1, 2018, NY Times)

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel's top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter.

Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee's Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the officials said.

Always worth remembering that the Ethics Committee was unable to complete the investigation of his prior leaks because they weren't cleared to see the intelligence...

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Justice Dept. Report Is Expected to Criticize Andrew McCabe Over Media Disclosures (MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN, MARCH 1, 2018, NY Times)

A Justice Department review is expected to criticize the former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, for authorizing the disclosure of information about a continuing investigation to journalists, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.

Such a damning report would give President Trump new ammunition to criticize Mr. McCabe, who is at the center of Mr. Trump's theory that "deep state" actors inside the F.B.I. have been working to sabotage his presidency. But Mr. McCabe's disclosures to the news media do not fit neatly into that assumption: They contribute to a negative article about Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration's Justice Department -- not Mr. Trump.

The department's inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has zeroed in on disclosures to The Wall Street Journal as part of a wide-ranging investigation into, among other things, how the F.B.I. approached the 2016 inquiry into Mrs. Clinton's handling of classified information. Mr. Horowitz has said he expects to release a report this month or next.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


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Trump announces steel and aluminum tariffs Thursday over objections from advisers and Republicans (David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta, March 1, 2018, Washington Post)

The president's move, relying upon a little-used provision of U.S. trade law, is expected to trigger immediate legal challenges by U.S. trading partners at the World Trade Organization and invite retaliation against American exports.

Trump also turned back pleas from companies that are heavy users of steel and aluminum, including automakers, who warn that higher prices will hurt their sales and potentially lead to layoffs. In 2002, the last time the United States imposed steel tariffs, steel users blamed the measures for the loss of up to 200,000 jobs.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Republican leadership, said before the announcement that he feared the tariffs will hurt companies in his home state.

"I continue to be concerned about what other countries do in response to that," Blunt said. "In our state, we make steel and aluminum, but we continue to buy a lot more than we make. Things like sheet aluminum that you use to make boats with, we make a lot of boats, it's not available in the United States."

The United States already has 169 trade taxes in place on various types of imported steel, including 29 on Chinese products. Some of the nation's largest steelmakers, which sought the new tariffs, also are in good shape financially. Nucor reported a $1.1 billion profit last year.

"Import taxes on steel and aluminum will raise the prices of those products, which in turn will raise the price of doing business for U.S. manufacturers," said economist Christine McDaniel of George Mason University's Mercatus Center. "There are more people in U.S. manufacturing sectors that rely on steel than there are in the U.S. steel industry. In terms of the economics, the trade-off does not make sense."

In case you ever wondered how a guy could lose money on casinos...

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


'Secular' Is a French Word for 'Anti-Muslim': French President Emmanuel Macron can't achieve his economic policy goals with policies that alienate Muslims. (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, February 23, 2018, Bloomberg View)

In supporting the new ban, former prime minister Manuel Valls insisted it was the natural continuation of a long tradition of church and state separation in France. Valls's view represents the consensus view of French political and cultural elites. It is also demonstrably false.

Through modern French political history, including after the 1905 law establishing the separation of church and state, members of the French National Assembly have displayed religious symbols; indeed, through much of that history, it never occurred to anyone that this could contradict secularism in any way.

Prominent post-war French political figures included Roman Catholic priests, who sat in Parliament in their traditional cassock. Abbé Pierre, a Franciscan monk who topped polls for the most admired public figure in France for his humanitarian work for decades until his death in 2007, started out in public life as a member of the National Assembly and never parted from his religious garb. So did Father Félix Kir, a highly colorful figure (yes, the cocktail is named after him) who was never far from center stage in French political life for over two decades. Said Benaisse Boualam, representative of then-French Algeria, sat in traditional Berber robes and turban, claiming the garb as a symbol of his Muslim faith. And yet he was elected four times to the vice presidency of the National Assembly.

The 1905 law ended public subsidies for religious institutions, but instituted no legal or cultural rule against public expression of religious values. So, why are we now told differently?

The answer is obvious: Over the past few decades, millions of people of Muslim faith or Muslim background immigrated to France. It is only then that this novel understanding of secularism emerged. The myth that state secularism has always mandated such rigid interpretations is convenient: If there are problems with French Muslims in France, they can be blamed on their reluctance to embrace the sacred rule of secularism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


An outbreak of good manners (Theodore Dalrymple, 2/28/18, Salisbury Review)

I am so used to lamentation - my own, that is - that I know that I am sometimes inclined to overlook how much better certain things have become of late years. We notice deterioration; we take improvement for granted the moment they have occurred.

Among the things that have improved in the London Underground. I spent most of my early life in London but am now only an occasional visitor, and I never cease to be astonished by the improvement in the underground service. The trains are cleaner, more rapid, more frequent better-ventilated, roomier and quieter than I remember them. I recall with a kind of condescending or indulgent amusement that the civilised are inclined to employ towards the primitive that people once actually smoked in them and took the fug for granted, as a quasi-natural phenomenon.

Another thing by which my wife and I have been surprised is the politeness of the passengers: they invariably stand up for her and when they see that I am with her, they stand for me too. They do so with an ease, grace and naturalness that that suggests that their politeness is habitual. Even those whom I would otherwise tend to regard as tattooed monsters often offer us this courtesy. Sometimes I don't even have to be with my wife for a seat to be given up for me.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM

CREEDAL TO GRAVE (profanity alert):

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Is There Really A Difference Between Expensive Vodka And Cheap Vodka? (DAN PASHMAN, 3/01/18, Planet Money)
Walk in to just about any bar in America today and you'll see a row of fancy vodka bottles all lined up. Some people swear by one brand or another, but there is a federal law that requires all vodkas to be pretty much the same, so the Planet Money team decided to test them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Democrats Turn Trump's Gun Control Rambling Into a Proposal (JIM NEWELL, MARCH 01, 2018, Slate)

On Thursday afternoon, one of the leaders of the Senate offered a legislative proposal on guns that would codify the positions President Trump endorsed during a televised meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday. But that Senate leader wasn't a Republican.

"I'm sure many of you in this room, and many Americans around the country, watched the president's meeting on gun violence yesterday and were rather stunned and surprised--many of us, pleasantly--by what we saw," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the beginning of his press conference on Thursday. "I'd like to give credit where due: The president said a lot of things right yesterday."

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Russia "Previewed" Plan to Disseminate Emails with Trump Campaign (Ryan Goodman, March 1, 2018, JustSecurity)

Prior to the memo, we knew that a Russian agent told Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos of "Moscow possessing 'dirt'" on Hillary Clinton "in the form of 'thousands of emails,'" according to Papadopoulos's plea statement. The memo went a legally significant step further. As Rep. Adam Schiff recently told Chris Hayes, "our memo discloses for the first time that the Russians previewed to Papadopoulos that they could help with disseminating these stolen emails." Rep. Schiff added, "When Donald Trump openly called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails, they'd be richly rewarded if they released these to the press, his campaign had already been put on notice that the Russians were prepared to do just that and disseminate these stolen emails."

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


John Kelly: Leaving DHS to Work in Trump's White House Was Punishment From God (Adam K. Raymond3/01/18, New York)

The comment came at a celebration for DHS's 15th anniversary and was preceded by Kelly rolling his eyes like a surly teen when he alluded to the drama that surrounds him in the West Wing.

"I miss every one of you, every day," Kelly said, rolling his eyes.

"Truly, at six months, the last thing I wanted to do is walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess," he said.

You can hardly blame his senior staff/Cabinet for holding him in such public contempt, but for any normal president it would be a crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


NY Fed chief says tariffs risk 'trade war' as Trump eyes protectionist action (Patrick Gillespie, 3/01/18,   @CNNMoney)

"Raising trade barriers would risk setting off a trade war, which could damage economic growth prospects around the world," Dudley said in a speech at the Central Bank of Brazil in São Paulo. Although short-term gains are appealing, "in the longer term it would almost certainly be destructive."

The speech comes the same day that President Trump announced that he would impose a 10% tariff on imported aluminum and a 25% tariff on imported steel.

It's not about economics, just race.
Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Donald Trump Gets a Lesson From That 'Very Bad Judge' (THE EDITORIAL BOARD, FEB. 28, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump, who refuses to be held to account for anything he has ever said or done, was irked that a federal judge would dare to entertain litigation against him. At a rally in San Diego, Mr. Trump called Judge Curiel "very hostile," "a very bad judge" and a "hater of Donald Trump," and said he "should be ashamed of himself. I think it's a disgrace that he's doing this."

He added that Judge Curiel "happens to be, we believe, Mexican." Not true: Judge Curiel was born and raised in Indiana. But the implication, of course, was that Mr. Trump, who had begun his own candidacy with derogatory comments about Mexicans and had been pushing a border wall with Mexico throughout the campaign, could not get a fair trial from a "Mexican" judge.

Less than two years later, in a case involving the border wall itself, that same judge ruled in Mr. Trump's favor. He is no longer a "very bad judge," apparently.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


THE FUTURE OF HEALTH-CARE TECHNOLOGY IS ALREADY IN YOUR POCKET: An app designed at Johns Hopkins is saving patients' lives--and the hospital thousands of dollars. (KEVIN CHARLES FLEMING, 3/01/18, Pacific Standard)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have shown that Corrie, a custom app designed for patients who have survived heart attacks, dramatically reduces those patients' chances of being re-admitted to the hospital with complications. The simple bit of technology has the potential to save lives, improve outcomes, and save hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For patients who have suffered a heart attack and been treated in a hospital, being discharged is only the first step in long road to recovery. Medication non-adherence and re-admission for complications are two major concerns in the post-treatment phase. According to the American Heart Association, just 88 percent of patients fill the prescriptions they're given, 76 percent begin taking them, and 44 percent continue to do so. In one recent analysis, the majority of patients didn't understand the medication regimen they were being prescribed, and two-thirds left the hospital without a follow-up appointment scheduled.

At the same time, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in five heart attack survivors are re-admitted to the hospital for complications within a month of being discharged. Medicare annually covers 51,000 such re-admissions, with a bill that exceeds $693 million in additional hospital costs.

William Yang, a resident at Johns Hopkins, and his colleagues saw an opportunity to replace the traditional, paper-based discharge process with an interactive, digital one.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Wife of 7th Special Forces Group vet faces deportation under tighter immigration rules (Tara Copp, 2/28/18, Military Times)

A Virginia immigration court on Monday could decide to deport the wife of an Army 7th Special Forces Group veteran, despite provisions in the law that allow her to remain in the United States.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bob Crawford, 52, and Elia, 44, married in 2001 when he was still on active duty and deploying regularly with 7th Group to conduct counter-narcotics operations and training missions in Latin America.

Elia illegally crossed into the U.S. in 1999, after she fled the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 7,000 people in her native Honduras.

After they married, the Crawfords filled out paperwork to seek legal residency for Elia and learned she was under deportation orders.

"We've been fighting this for years," Bob Crawford said, listing the filings and attorneys the family has pursued to get Elia legal status.

The pair has two sons, ages 12 and 9, and Elia has been the foundation that has allowed Bob to keep deploying -- as many as two or three times a year -- first as an active duty soldier and now as a Defense Department contractor.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


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Facing Haredi rebellion, PM forms committee to craft new military draft bill (MARISSA NEWMAN and TOI STAFF, 3/01/18, Times of Israel)

Facing a rebellion from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers threatening to topple his coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on Wednesday to establish a committee composed of representatives from all six coalition member parties to hammer out an agreed-upon military draft bill.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Fox News Hosts Correct Their Stories on CNN 'Scripted Question' (Erik Wemple, 2/28/18, The Washington Post)

"For the sake of honesty and full disclosure, to which we are committed, we have to tell you there is no evidence as of right now that CNN tried to give Colton Haab a scripted question. And we want you to know that," said Carlson on his eponymous show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. That admission followed an extensive summary of the events as Carlson had reported them.

For his part, Hannity stuck with a smaller disclosure:

"We have a quick update on a story we told you about last week. Colton Haab is a Stoneman Douglas High School student. He was supposed to appear on CNN's gun-control town hall. He said the network tried to script his question. Both he and his father said they had emails to prove that, told the entire media. Tonight Glenn Haab told the AP that he omitted some words from the email; he says he didn't do it on purpose. Therefore, what (the) Haabs told all news outlets last week was inaccurate. Our job is always to strive for the truth, and we want to correct the record."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Today in Conservative Media: Trump's Gun Grab Proves He Was a Secret Democrat All Along (ELLIOT HANNON, FEB 28, 2018, Slate)

Reactions on the right began to trickle in Wednesday, and it wasn't pretty. In a piece titled "Wait-Did Trump Just Give Pro-Gun Control Democrats Everything They Wanted?" Matt Vespa at Townhall writes that the meeting was a "total disaster" and "pretty much was a capitulation to pro-gun control Democrats." "While gun bans aren't on the table, though the latest bill from Democrats come pretty damn close to that--gun confiscation with no due process is troubling," Vespa writes. "The raising of the age limit for firearms is another way to chip away and deny Americans their Second Amendment rights."

Caleb Howe at RedState writes that the meeting was a betrayal and "step one of putting all the blame on the NRA."

He ceded the ground. He showed what he really thinks ... There is this totally dangerous thing, he is saying, and we could fix it if the NRA wasn't controlling Republicans. It is THE Democrat talking point. He agrees. It's what he thinks. Not "the government failed at every level in Florida" but instead "The government could fix this easily if not for the evil NRA."

"This is where we roll our eyes," Howe concludes. Elsewhere at RedState Susan Wright writes, "any president that openly advocates gun grabbing and 'due process second' is not just a liberal social justice nightmare, but has the dangerous mindset of a dictator in the making."

Breitbart splashed the headline: "Trump the Gun Grabber: Cedes Dem's Wish List ..." and followed with "Trump Guns for NRA in White House Meeting on Gun Policy."

We're gonna need more popcorn...

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


In Arizona, Joe Arpaio's Senate bid tests the strength of Trumpism (Michael Scherer February 28, 2018, Washington Post)

"I can read his mind without even talking to him. I think he may be reading mine," said the former Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio. "Is there something that goes through the airwaves? Mental telepathy?"

Such assertions would be a surprise coming from any candidate other than the national provocateur who trademarked the phrase "America's Toughest Sheriff" in January after losing reelection, being convicted of criminal contempt of court and then receiving a presidential pardon from Trump. [...]

The two men have, after all, long traveled a similar road from a distance, sharing the same ­obsession with their own media coverage, parallel claims of persecution from biased judges, an affinity for reality television and a focus on railing against immigrant threats.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Exxon quits some Russian joint ventures citing sanctions (Ernest Scheyder, Olesya Astakhova, 3/01/18, Reuters) 

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) will exit some joint ventures with Russia's Rosneft (ROSN.MM), citing Western sanctions first imposed in 2014, while the Russian company said the pullout will result in serious losses for its U.S. partner.

The move is an about-face for Exxon, which had opposed the sanctions over Russia's invasion of Crimea and argued they unfairly penalized U.S. companies while allowing foreign energy rivals to operate in the country, the world's largest oil producer.

Yet the sanctions were effective in slowing work on a project by Exxon and Rosneft on what was hailed as a major discovery in the Kara Sea above the Arctic Circle.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Top-Ranking Armed Services Republican Hits Trump on Russia Sanctions (Andrew Desiderio, 02.28.18, Daily Beast)

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the committee's chairman, said he shares concerns relayed by Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, who told Thornberry's Senate counterparts on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "has come to the conclusion that there's little price to pay" for Moscow's cyber-attacks aimed at disrupting elections in the United States and elsewhere.

"An aggressor will always push forward and do more until he meets resistance," Thornberry told The Daily Beast. "There has to be a price to be paid."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM

...TWO TO GO...:

Washington Post: Trump refers to Jeff Sessions as 'Mr. Magoo' (Eli Watkins, 3/01/18, CNN)

Trump has made his disagreement with Sessions known clearly in the past, pointedly referring to the attorney general as "beleaguered" last year and saying he would not have chosen Sessions to lead the Justice Department had he known the former senator would recuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation.

Sessions has stood by his decision and continued to offer no public signal that he intends to step down in face of the criticism, despite an apparent offer to resign after Trump berated him and called him an "idiot" last year, according to The New York Times.

Two law enforcement officials told CNN that staff aides gave Sessions a bulletproof vest as a gag gift to mark the anniversary of his first year in office earlier this month.

The Post, citing people to whom Trump has spoken, said the President has complained about Sessions not defending him and not being loyal enough, comparing Sessions unfavorably with lawyers who have worked for him personally, and had called Sessions "Mr. Magoo."

Once we claim the scalps of Beauregard and Stephen Miller all that remains is for Robert Mueller to finish the job.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Trump reportedly berated Hicks for admitting to 'white lies' (David K. Li, February 28, 2018, NY Post)

The president got angry at Hicks after learning she made the revelation Tuesday to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia's meddling into the 2016 election, a Trump ally told CNN.

A livid Trump demanded to know "how she could be that stupid" to admit she lies for the president, the report said.

Mueller's team asked about Hicks (Jim Acosta, 2/28/18, CNN)

The former campaign aide said investigators with the special counsel's office, as well as with the House and Senate Intelligence committees, wanted to know if the comment made by Hicks was accurate, given that numerous contacts with Russian individuals have since come to light. Investigators wanted to know whether Hicks in fact knew there had been contacts.

The former aide has responded repeatedly in those sessions: "You have to ask her."

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Americans Trust Mueller More Than Trump Denials: Poll  (Graham Lanktree, 2/28/18,  Newsweek)

Of the 1,000 registered voters surveyed for a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released Tuesday, 58 percent said they have a lot or some trust in Mueller's investigation being fair and accurate.

Meanwhile, 57 percent said they have little to no trust in Trump's denials his campaign colluded with Moscow's election meddling, while 24% said they had "a lot" of trust in Trump's claims. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 AM


Another Major Retailer Clamps Down On Guns: Walmart (JAMES BARRETT, February 28, 2018, Daily Wire)

Walmart has joined with Dick's Sporting Goods in taking steps to clamp down on the sale of firearms at its stores. In a statement issued Wednesday, Walmart announced that, "in light of recent events," it has decided to raise the age restriction for purchasing both firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. It will also scrub all online items, including toys, that resemble "assault-style rifles."

In the announcement, Walmart notes that it stopped selling AR-15s in 2015 and goes "beyond" federal law in its background checks policy, but now feels that it must take further steps to be a "responsible seller of firearms."