June 30, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Dinesh D'Souza Under Fire After Retweeting Posts With #BurnTheJews and #BringBackSlavery Hashtags (Colin Kalmbacher, June 30th, 2018, Law & Crime)

A conservative author and filmmaker recently pardoned by President Donald Trump is under fire after retweeting a Twitter post with the hashtag #burnthejews.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Cages Are Cruel. The Desert Is, Too. (Francisco Cantú, June 30, 2018, NY Times)

For most Americans, what happens on the border remains out of sight and out of mind. But in the immigration enforcement community, the militarization of the border has given rise to a culture imbued with the language and tactics of war.

Border agents refer to migrants as "criminals," "aliens," "illegals," "bodies" or "toncs" (possibly  an acronym for "temporarily out of native country" or "territory of origin not known" -- or a reference to the sound of a Maglite hitting a migrant's skull). They are equipped with drones, helicopters, infrared cameras, radar, ground sensors and explosion-resistant vehicles. But their most deadly tool is geographic -- the desert itself.

"Prevention Through Deterrence" came to define border enforcement in the 1990s, when the Border Patrol cracked down on migrant crossings in cities like El Paso. Walls were built, budgets ballooned and scores of new agents were hired to patrol border towns. Everywhere else, it was assumed, the hostile desert would do the dirty work of deterring crossers, away from the public eye.

Doris Meissner, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000, told The Arizona Republic that the agency believed "that geography would be an ally to us" and that border crossings "would go down to a trickle once people realized what it's like."

But even as it became obvious that large numbers were risking the desert crossing and a hundred or more were dying each year from exposure, the government did not change course. "The idea of abandoning any kind of strengthened border enforcement because of that consequence was not a point of serious discussion," Ms. Meissner admitted. In other words, migrant deaths continued by design.

The Border Patrol often cites its search-and-rescue operations as evidence that its practices are somehow humane. But this is like firefighters asking to be thanked for putting out a blaze started by their own chief. Receiving training as an E.M.T. allowed me to cling to the idea that I was helping migrants by administering aid while ignoring the fact that I was participating in pushing them toward death.

Such defenses also gloss over the patrol's casual brutality: I have witnessed agents scattering migrant groups in remote areas and destroying their water supplies, acts that have also been extensively documented by humanitarian groups.

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


A Most Agreeable Man (ANDREW EGGER, 6/30/18, Weekly Standard)

Hogan's story is odder still because he is one of a breed of politico that has been proclaimed dying for years. The main electoral storylines of the past decade have involved both parties fleeing the center, with the election of Donald Trump and the ascendance among the Democrats of hard-left progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren only taking things a step further. The same has held true of the general public: Study after study shows that Americans increasingly dislike and distrust members of the opposite political persuasion, form fewer relationships with them, and decreasingly interact with them at all. And yet here's Hogan, in a room full of Republicans, talking about "disagreeing without being disagreeable," laying the bipartisanship on thick:

As I was taking the oath of office, I said to those who would drive us to the extremes of either party: Let me remind you that Maryland has always been a state of middle temperament. And I asked that we try to seek that middle ground where we could all stand together. . . . Instead of letting Maryland become just like Washington, let's send a message to Washington and let's set an example to the rest of the nation by putting the politics aside and coming together for all Marylanders.
A commitment to bipartisanship is not the only thing that accounts for Hogan's success, of course. During his first year in office, he developed a reputation for steady leadership, especially during the rioting following the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police. Working with the city's Democratic mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Hogan declared a state of emergency, mobilized the state's National Guard, and temporarily moved his offices to Baltimore to address the crisis directly. He toured inner-city neighborhoods to meet with disaffected citizens and promised to restore order to the city.

"The governor was elected, and when you're elected you're thrown right into your first session. And then about a week after that we had the Baltimore city riots," says Doug Mayer, Hogan's deputy campaign manager. "He was thrown right into international news, and I think he proved to the people of Maryland through that experience that he was a leader and someone they could depend on. At an uncertain time, he was a steady hand, and he was gonna run the state of Maryland competently. Two months after that he got cancer."

In June 2015, Hogan announced he had been diagnosed with a "very advanced and very aggressive" lymphoma. He said he would stay in office while undergoing a punishing chemotherapy treatment that would "beat the hell out of me" but likely completely eradicate the disease. His struggle played out in the public eye for over a year, and the disease took an obvious physical toll. He looks older, more weather-beaten, and now wears his hair in a buzz cut. But the fight humanized him with voters who respected his straight talk and good humor about his illness.

And there's the economic good news to campaign on this season. Hogan touts the fact that Maryland's business climate has improved substantially on his watch, citing metrics like CNBC's "Top States for Business" scorecard, which last year ranked Maryland's state economy 7th in the nation (up from 24th in 2014) and its overall business climate as 25th (up from 35th).

Altogether, Hogan's proven to be a potent package for winning over voters. When he first took office, 42 percent of Maryland residents approved of him, with 24 percent disapproving. By that October, his approval had swelled to 61 percent, and he hasn't looked back: A Morning Consult poll this year found Hogan the country's second-most popular governor, with 68 percent approving and a mere 17 percent disapproving of his leadership.

Posted by orrinj at 9:41 AM


BMW says U.S. tariffs on EU cars may hit investment there (Reuters, 6/30/18) 

 U.S. tariffs on imported cars could lead BMW (BMWG.DE) to reduce investment and cut jobs in the United States due to the large number of cars it exports from its South Caroline plant, the German carmaker has warned.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


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The Moral Conservatism of Igor Stravinsky: Igor Stravinsky is endlessly touted as an arch-modernist, but The Soldier's Tale and The Rake's Progress show him to be something more important: a great twentieth-century moralist (Michael De Sapio, 6/30/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Almost three decades after The Soldier's Tale, Stravinsky returned to the theme of the downfall of a naive young man at the hands of the devil. This time the work would be not a genre-bending theater piece like Soldier, but a good old-fashioned opera. The idea came to Stravinsky in 1947 while visiting the Chicago Institute of Art, where he saw William Hogarth's series of narrative paintings, A Rake's Progress. Stravinsky thought Hogarth's eighteenth-century social satire would make a fine subject for an English-language opera.

For his librettist Stravinsky enlisted the noted British poet W.H. Auden, also then living in the United States. Auden brought aboard his friend Chester Kallman, and the two crafted a tragicomic libretto based on Hogarth's scenario, deftly blending in elements of Faust and Don Juan. Crucially, they added the devil, here named Nick Shadow, as the instigator of Tom's moral downfall. Nick entices Tom Rakewell to abandon his country sweetheart, Anne Trulove, and undertake a life of gambling and debauchery in London. Tom wins his soul back from Nick in a card game played in a cemetery at midnight (echoes of Soldier) but loses his sanity. In the madhouse, the ever faithful Anne visits him one last time before he dies, redeeming him through her love. In a bright and brisk epilogue, the cast steps before the curtain and deliver the moral: "For idle hands and hearts and minds the devil finds a work to do."

The opera's premiere--at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on September 11, 1951, conducted by Stravinsky himself--was a glittering media event. Since then, The Rake has gradually found a place in the opera repertoire, although like most of Stravinsky's work it has never become really popular. This is unfortunate, because it is in some ways a happy medium between opera and the Broadway musical, amazingly accessible (especially to English speakers) and full of rhythmic and moral energy.

Reacting against nineteenth-century romanticism and realism, Stravinsky and his librettists created a stylized morality play filled with symbol and archetype. To go with the "classical" libretto, Stravinsky wrote a score which evokes old music refracted through a twentieth-century prism. Echoes of Mozart, Handel, Purcell, and others combine with Stravinsky's playfully skewed tonality and off-kilter rhythms. As in a Mozart opera, the emotions of The Rake are expressed in formally-structured arias, and the plot is advanced through recitative, much of it accompanied by a harpsichord which adds further antique flavor.

In lieu of an overture we get a bracing E-major fanfare. The curtain opens on Tom and Anne, blissfully in love in an arbor in spring. The scene is an image of Paradise, with the two lovers as Adam and Eve. Soon, the Serpent (Nick) will appear to spoil this idyllic scene. As the opera unfolds, we realize that its structure reflects the symbolism of the cycles of nature, passing from spring to fall and winter--corresponding to Tom's moral decline and spiritual death--and ending up again in spring as Tom lies in Bedlam and is visited by Anne.

The characterization of Nick Shadow is rich in symbolism. "Old Nick" is, of course, one of the devil's traditional nicknames, and "Shadow" emphasizes his role as man's alter ego. Nick is a crafty philosophical devil, leading Tom astray through cynical arguments and sophistry. Although Nick is ostensibly employed as Tom's servant, it soon becomes clear who is serving whom and the wages (Tom's soul) that must eventually be paid.

The specific temptations Tom undergoes recall Christ's temptations in the desert (Mt. 4:1-11). Nick first encourages Tom to make a reckless, irrational choice: marrying Baba the Turk, the bearded lady at a fair, as a way to assert a spurious "freedom"--a clever variation on Satan's suggestion that Jesus throw himself from the temple as a way of testing God. Later, Nick presents Tom with a bogus machine that appears to manufacture bread out of stones, thus alleviating world hunger.

The idea of "progress" had been all but destroyed by the two World Wars, and Stravinsky and Auden too put it into question. Tom's "progress" is actually a moral regress. Giving himself up to a life of pleasure brings him only boredom and disgust. He longs for Anne again and tries to win back her love by marketing the "bread machine," but this venture fails, and Tom is left penniless. At the end he is saved not by "progress" but by the spirit of Love represented by Anne--the Divine Love which pursues sinners to the end.

We had a healthy effect on him.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


The War on Normal People--A Review: A review of The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income is Our Future by Andrew Yang (Uri Harris, 6/30/18, Quillette)

The sectors where "normal" people tend to work--administration, retail, food service, transportation, and manufacturing--have high levels of repetitiveness and are highly susceptible to automation. Since competition in these sectors is quite fierce, companies are sooner or later forced to automate to keep up with their competition. Once a single competitor automates, the others must follow. In many cases, automation is not only cheaper, but also produces better products or services. The natural result is, as Yang relates through conversations he's had with people in the tech industry, a race to make "normal" people redundant.

This is not science fiction, it's already happening. Millions of jobs have been automated away in the manufacturing sector. Many are disappearing in the retail sector, partly due to in-store self-service and partly due to e-commerce. Next up is the transportation sector, as self-driving technology will soon replace millions of truck drivers. The food service and administration sectors are likewise vulnerable. Even many white-collar jobs will disappear. The Fed categorises 44 percent of all American jobs as routine, which makes them susceptible to automation. A White House report predicted that 83 percent of jobs where people make less than $20 an hour will be subject to automation or replacement.

The effects of automation are self-reinforcing. [...]

Given this trend, it's not surprising that many non-elites feel a certain amount of animosity towards the elites. And as Yang demonstrates through several anecdotes, this animosity is not entirely unjustified. There really is a sense in which elites are working towards the immiseration of regular people by automating away their jobs. This is what Yang provocatively refers to as "the war on normal people."

If it is a war though, it's entirely one-sided. Elites go through top colleges together, start companies together, share knowledge through informal networks, and take on complementary jobs as software developers, financiers, consultants, and lawyers. New automations are effectively the products of a wealth of shared knowledge and co-operation. Non-elites, on the other hand, especially those who don't go to college and live in declining communities, are almost entirely atomised. Union membership has declined significantly, as has participation in other social organisations. Many jobs are temporary. This means that workers have little recourse, or even warning, as their jobs disappear. The power differential between elites and non-elites could hardly be greater.

Yet, as Yang points out, most elites don't actually want it this way. Studies show that even the wealthiest people are less content when there's too much inequality in society, and many of Yang's friends are reluctantly "buying bunkers and escape hatches just in case." The real problem is ideological. America suffers from market fundamentalism, Yang argues, reflected in a veneration of the notion of meritocracy and an uncritical belief in simplistic economic theories.

This must change, Yang believes, and everyone has a stake in it, even the elites. He describes himself as an "ardent capitalist," but believes that capitalism must evolve to the next stage. The market is a tool society should use to its advantage, not something it must be a slave to.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


US intelligence believes North Korea is making more nuclear bomb fuel despite talks (The Telegraph, 30 JUNE 2018)

US intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in nuclear talks with the United States, NBC news quoted US officials as saying. [...]

NBC quoted five unidentified US officials as saying that in recent months North Korea had stepped up production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, even as it engaged in diplomacy with the United States.

Iran to boost uranium enrichment if nuclear deal fails (BBC, 5 June 2018)

Iran says it has begun work on increasing its uranium enrichment capacity, in case its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers collapses.

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Pay the Homeless (Bryce Covert, June 2018, Longreads)

Much more research exists on giving cash to the poor in developing countries. Jeremy Shapiro examines the effects of giving money to people in need through his work as a co-founder of GiveDirectly and as a researcher with the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics. At GiveDirectly--a nonprofit that, as its name suggests, offers cash with no strings attached--he worked on a study in Kenya; between 2011 and 2013, the researchers determined, the program improved people's food security, allowed them to buy other crucial goods (from soap to school supplies), and was beneficial to their psychological well being. Counter to my childhood lesson, recipients didn't spend any more than they had in the past on so-called temptation goods like alcohol and tobacco. "The takeaway is surprisingly unsurprising--when you give money to poor people good things happen," Shapiro said. "People eat more, they invest in businesses; you see people reporting being happier and less stressed out."

David Evans, an economist with the World Bank, and Anna Popova, a researcher at Stanford University, dug into a number of studies on direct giving programs to examine whether spending on cigarettes or booze spiked. These included research in Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest nations in terms of GDP, and Brazil, which is relatively wealthy. Overwhelmingly, they found that giving cash "had no impact on spending on alcohol and tobacco," Evans said. "In a number of cases, it even seemed to have a negative impact--people spent a lower proportion of their budget on these temptation goods." Instead, people spent the money they received on food, education, their homes, and small business investments.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Study: Right-wing extremism and Islamism reinforce each other (Deutsche-Welle, 6/30/18)

The analysis of the social media content found the mobilization and radicalization strategies of the two groups were similar, but anti-Muslim contributions by comparison were "more radical and more widespread."

Islamism and right-wing extremism meet ideologically in anti-Semitism, in conspiracy myths and in the goal of homogeneous societies, the study found. The respective beliefs are therefore racist in the right wing and religiously founded among the Islamists.

Read more: Are Germany's anti-racism initiatives achieving enough?

"Extreme rights and Islamists reject freedom, pluralism and liberalism," said study author Maik Fielitz.

It found the two groups relied on each other to foster the sense of an enemy and to give credibility to their extremist narratives.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


TPP negotiators to gather next month to discuss expansion: Thailand and Indonesia ready to join Asia free trade bloc (YASUO TAKEUCHI, RINTARO TOBITA and YUTA KOGA, June 30, 2018, Nikkei Asian Review)

TPP-11 is poised to create a free trade zone covering 13% of global gross domestic product and 15% of global trade by value. GDP in the 10 members other than Japan is currently around $5.7 trillion, and is set to grow more than 6% annually through 2023, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Clear, unified rules on investment in the pact will greatly expand business opportunities in the economic bloc, which would trail only the U.S., China and the European Union in size. Signatories have pledged not to discriminate between foreign and domestic financial institutions and to allow the free flow of data across borders.

Vietnam will loosen restrictions on retail, including lifting a regulation that limits foreign convenience store operators from opening more than one location. Malaysia will make similar changes. A representative of Japan's FamilyMart said the chain "will be able to think more flexibly about expansion" once TPP-11 takes effect. All but one of the FamilyMart UNY Holdings unit's 157 Vietnamese stores are operated by a local partner, but TPP-11 will allow the Japanese headquarters to take the lead on opening new stores.

Trade barriers such as tariffs will all but vanish once TPP-11 is fully implemented. Canada will end its 6.1% tax on Japanese autos in five years, while Vietnam will phase out its 70%-plus duties on large Japanese vehicles over the course of a decade.

Japan will see levies on 99.9% of its industrial exports eliminated over time, as will 98.5% of tariffs on farm, forestry and fisheries products. Imports of Japanese liquor by Vietnam and Australia have more than tripled over the past decade, and the industry looks to raise shipments even higher as barriers fall, according to a source at the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. Vietnam will eliminate levies on those products under TPP-11.

Japan will end import tariffs on nearly all textiles from the bloc -- a likely boon to nations such as Vietnam and Malaysia with robust textile industries. Japan will also cut its tariff on beef to 9% from 38.5% in the pact's 16th year.

A rival effort to TPP-11, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, is also taking shape. This pact would join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with six other countries, including China, India, South Korea and Japan, covering 31.9% of global GDP and 28.8% of global trade. In Indonesia, many have pushed to give this pact priority over the trans-Pacific deal, drawn by the possibility of partnering with China, the world's second-biggest economy behind the U.S.

Japan has kept its distance in negotiations so far due to concerns about issues such as intellectual property rules. But momentum toward an agreement has begun to build of late, according to a negotiator.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Alabama Man Finds the Grass Is Green All Over the United States (Tara Bahrampour, 6/29/18, The Washington Post)
With all the rain the Washington area had been getting, it seemed to Tania Castro as if the weeds were growing three inches a day.

She had bought a house on half an acre in Lusby, Md., last year, but now the lot felt impossibly large. A single mom of three kids, the youngest of whom has autism, Castro works 60 hours a week and hadn't stayed on top of the mowing.

By late spring, the lawn had sprouted vegetation so tall and thick that she couldn't get a mower through it, and professional services were quoting her astronomical fees. Castro, 44, was stressed, and unsure what to do.

Then a man with a mower came along, and took care of the whole thing. For free.

Rodney Smith Jr., 28, is driving across the United States in search of people like Castro -- single moms, veterans, disabled people and older people who need help with their lawns.

"A lot of them are on fixed incomes and they really can't afford to pay someone," said Smith, who lives in Hunstville, Ala. Traveling around the country, he said, "I realized that it's a bigger need than I thought."

He has mowed pocket-size yards and vast expanses, with a goal of doing a lawn in all 50 states. And he is hoping to inspire a new generation to follow his example.

Three years ago, Smith, who is from Bermuda, came across an older man mowing his lawn and stopped to help him. Smith had been looking for a cause or a calling, he said, and the experience clicked: He set a goal of mowing 40 lawns for people in need of help. Then he upped it to 100.

June 29, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


We solved the problem! Now let's unsolve it. (Peter Reuell, 6/28/18, Harvard Gazette)

By several measures, including rates of poverty and violence, progress is an international reality. Why, then, do so many of us believe otherwise?

The answer, Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert says, may lie in "prevalence-induced concept change."

In a series of studies, Gilbert, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, his postdoctoral student David Levari, and several other researchers show that as the prevalence of a problem is reduced, humans are inclined to redefine the problem. As a problem becomes smaller, conceptualizations of the problem expand, which can lead to progress being discounted. The research is described in a paper in the June 29 issue of Science.

"Our studies show that people judge each new instance of a concept in the context of the previous instances," Gilbert said. "So as we reduce the prevalence of a problem, such as discrimination, for example, we judge each new behavior in the improved context that we have created."

"Another way to say this is that solving problems causes us to expand our definitions of them," he said. "When problems become rare, we count more things as problems. Our studies suggest that when the world gets better, we become harsher critics of it, and this can cause us to mistakenly conclude that it hasn't actually gotten better at all. Progress, it seems, tends to mask itself."

Which is what makes the Right and Left so annoying to the well-adjusted.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Marxism of the Right (ROBERT LOCKE, March 14, 2005, American Conservative)

[L]ibertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon's wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.

Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it. 

It's just a choice of delusions.

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How Atlanta United's innovative recruiting changed Major League Soccer: Atlanta United wanted something different from their star designated players--and that decision radically changed recruiting for the MLS. (MELISSA LOCKER, 6/29/18, Fast Company)

"The way it works in M.L.S. is you have a salary cap and three designated players [DPs] that you can pay anything over and above the cap," explains Darren Eales, President of Atlanta United FC. Traditionally those DPs are very well-paid, with teams throwing millions at players like British football legend and trophy husband David Beckham, who came over from Europe to play for the L.A. Galaxy. In fact, as more European pros at the tail end of their careers follow in Beckham's footsteps, making their way to the U.S., in the hopes of one last big pay-out before retirement, the Designated Players Rule, has become known as the "Beckham Rule." Atlanta United, though, wanted something different from their DPs--and that decision radically changed recruiting for M.L.S.

When team owner (and Home Depot founder) Arthur Blank hired Eales away from the English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC), they both knew they wanted a young, dynamic, fast, and attacking team. They also knew they probably wouldn't be able to get that from older players, even if they were European stars. Rather than using the money set aside to woo star DPs, they decided to bring in younger, lesser-known talent instead.

"We felt we could get better players, if we got younger players building up their career rather than taking a player on his last contract that perhaps is already halfway on the beach," says Eales.

However, money wasn't the only thing Atlanta United had to offer. The U.S. soccer program is still young and while footie-playing kids around the world don't necessarily grow up dreaming of playing in M.L.S., it's much easier to get in on the ground floor of one of the 23 professional clubs in the U.S. than it is to break into England's Premier League. Even if an 18-year-old Argentine upstart was able to sign on with a team like Crystal Palace or Stoke Newington, there's a good chance he (yes, it is all "he" in this world) would end up on the bench for most of the season, in favor of more seasoned players.

Eales knew that one thing the M.L.S. could offer a young player is opportunity. "I realized we could sell M.L.S. as this growing league where if you are a younger player, you could come develop your game, and then move on," says Eales.

MLS does not want to be seen as a developmental league, but ignores the possibility that younger teams are just better and, more importantly, more entertaining.  (see under: Liverpool, Nigeria, the current USMNT)

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Anthony Kennedy and the Privatization of Meaning (David Brooks, June 28, 2018, NY Times)

America's founders certainly believed in individual liberty, but they believed that liberty happens within a shared community. They began the Constitution with the phrase, "We the People." We are all one thing -- a people, a nation, a collective.

That people shares a moral order -- rules that are true for all people in all times and that govern us in our freedom. [...]

Justice Anthony Kennedy didn't invent the shift from community to autonomy, but in 1992 he articulated it more crisply than anyone else: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

In this sentence, which became famous as the "mystery of life" passage, there is no sense that individuals are embedded in a social order.

Our liberty is republican.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Japan passes bills to ratify trans-Pacific trade deal (June 29, 2018, Nikkei Asian Review)

Japan's parliament passed bills ratifying a comprehensive trans-Pacific trade deal on Friday, paving the way for the pact to take effect, which its backers say will create a "trade deal for the 21st century."

With ratification complete, the Japanese government will press other member countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the pact is now known, to do the same, hoping to bring the deal into force by the end of the year.

The 11 countries that signed the agreement are: Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


How Did The West Get Religious Freedom? (Mark Koyama, June 26, 2018, Defining Ideas)

[T[oday the most important source of legitimacy is the people. For much of history, however, the most important sources of legitimacy were religious.

Religious authorities such as the Pope provided rulers with legitimacy. In return, rulers enforced religious conformity. It was a quid pro quo. 

A second plank in the political order were identity rules. These are rules that target the social identity of the parties involved i.e. their religion, race, or language.

For example, criminal procedures varied according to social status. In ancient Rome, the testimony of slaves was extracted under torture. In medieval England, commoners guilty of treason were hung, drawn, and quartered, but the nobility were spared such a degrading punishment and simply beheaded. Churchmen enjoyed the benefit of clergy, exempting them from secular punishments for many crimes. Sumptuary laws proscribed dress codes. In Europe, Jews were restricted from particular occupations, prohibited from hiring Christian servants, and sometimes forced to wear badges or hats to distinguish themselves. In the Middle East, both Christians and Jews paid special taxes and proselytizing to Muslims was punished by death.

Why were identity rules so ubiquitous? One reason is that they were a cheap solution to the problem of political disorder. They are cheap to enforce because they leverage preexisting social identities. They do not require a sophisticated bureaucracy to enforce.

An important example were guilds. Guilds regulated economic activity in medieval Europe. As economic historian, Gary Richardson documents, guild membership was closely tied to religious identity. In 14th century Norwich, England, members of the Barbers Guild were devoted to St. John the Baptist, while members of the Artificers Guild prayed to St. Michael.  Individuals who failed to attend church or participate in festivals were fined by their guild. Shared religious identity enforced guild membership.

This had costs and benefits. Reliance on identity rules is a convenient and low cost way of governing. In this case, rather than directly regulating product markets, medieval rulers outsourced regulation to local guilds. Guilds provided assurances of quality and provided training and apprenticeships.

But this also was a source of economic inefficiency. Guilds were local monopolist who restricted entry, raised prices, and discriminated against outsiders. Rules that restricted noblemen from engaging in commerce or prohibited Jews from hiring Christians restricted the division of labor and impeded trade.

Above and beyond these direct economic costs, widespread reliance on identity rules meant treating different individuals differently. Identity rules are at odds with general rules and the principle of equal treatment, which are critical elements of the rule of law, and indeed necessary conditions for religious freedom.

The third plank was a lack of state capacity. In contrast to modern states that collect between one-third to one-half of GDP from citizens in the form of taxes, premodern states were small.  Before 1700, European states seldom took more than 5-10% of GDP as tax revenue. What we think of as public goods such as schools were mostly privately provided. Until the Reformation, welfare provision was the responsibility of the Church.

These planks reinforced one another. The weakness of premodern states encouraged reliance on religion as a source of legitimacy. The states were unable to provide the public goods that would provide an alternative source of legitimacy. Their weakness meant that they lacked the capacity to enforce general rules and hence tended to rely on identity rules to govern. In particular, they lacked the administrative and legal capacity to enforce general rules and legal equality.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 AM


Trucker Shortage May Undermine Economy (Heather Long, 6/29/18, The Washington Post)

As the nation grapples with a historically low level of unemployment, trucking companies are doing what economists have said firms need to do to attract and retain workers: They're hiking pay significantly, offering bonuses and even recruiting people they previously wouldn't have considered.

But it's not working. The industry reports a growing labor shortage -- 63,000 open positions this year, a number expected to more than double in coming years -- that could have wide-ranging impacts on the American economy.

Nearly every item sold in America touches a truck at some point, which explains why the challenges facing the industry, including trucking companies rapidly raising prices as they raise wages, have special power to affect the entire economy. Already, delivery delays are common, and businesses such as Amazon, General Mills and Tyson Foods are raising prices as they pass higher transportation costs along to consumers. A Walmart executive called rising transportation costs the company's primary "head wind" on a recent call with investors.

Technology leaders such as Elon Musk hold out driverless trucks as a solution, but industry insiders say that is many years away. For now the industry simply can't find a way to move goods as fast and as cheaply as they have in the past. This logjam will be especially perilous, economists say, if competition for truckers pushes up prices so quickly that the country faces uncontrolled inflation, which can easily lead to a recession.

"This is slowing down the economy already," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. "If it takes me a week instead of two days to ship products from point A to B, I'm losing potential business."

If only there was a mass of people willing to move here and work....

June 28, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Shifting Public Views on Legal Immigration Into the U.S. (Pew Research, 6/28/18)

While there has been considerable attention on illegal immigration into the U.S. recently, opinions about legal immigration have undergone a long-term change. Support for increasing the level of legal immigration has risen, while the share saying legal immigration should decrease has fallen.

The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults, finds that 38% say legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its present level, while 32% say it should be increased and 24% say it should be decreased.

Since 2001, the share of Americans who favor increased legal immigration into the U.S. has risen 22 percentage points (from 10% to 32%), while the share who support a decrease has declined 29 points (from 53% to 24%).

Just return to the immigration regime of the Founding.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


Incoming Jewish Agency head walks back description of intermarriage as 'plague' (JTA, 6/28/18)

The incoming chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel said remarks he made comparing intermarriage to a "plague" were misunderstood.

On Sunday, Isaac Herzog had used the Hebrew word for "plague" to describe marriages in the Diaspora between Jews and those of other faiths and said there must be "a solution" to the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


WE CONTINUE TO SENSE DANGER EVEN WHEN THREATS DECREASE: New research finds when a situation gets less dangerous, we fail to perceive the positive shift. (TOM JACOBS, 6/28/18, Pacific Standard)

Crime rates have declined dramatically in recent years, but Americans believe the opposite is true. The reasons for this misperception presumably include the rhetoric of the president, and the prevalence of crime on local television news.

But new research suggests a more basic cause: We are terrible at recalibrating our initial perceptions of a situation.

It presents evidence that, once we size up the circumstances we face, we doggedly stick with that initial assessment, even when it no longer reflects the facts on the ground. That means when the number of threatening faces we see decreases, we compensate by perceiving neutral faces as threatening.

"The majority of people believe that the world is getting worse," writes a research team led by Harvard University psychologists David Levari and Daniel Gilbert. Our skewed sense of reality "may be one source of that pessimism," they write in the journal Science.

The researchers provide evidence of this surprisingly robust phenomenon in seven experiments.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


America's cheese stockpile just hit an all-time high (Caitlin Dewey, June 28, 2016, Washington Post)

The United States has amassed its largest stockpile of cheese in the 100 years since regulators began keeping tabs, the result of booming domestic production of milk and consumers' waning interest in the dairy beverage.

The 1.39 billion-pound stockpile, tallied by the Agriculture Department last week, represents a 6 percent increase over this time last year and a 16 percent increase since an earlier surplus prompted a federal cheese buy-up in 2016.

[The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows]

Analysts say warehouse stocks have swelled because processors have too much milk on their hands, and milk is more easily stored as cheese.

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


25 K's of Gray (Ryan Fagan, 6/28/18, Sporting News)

Bruce Gray was annoyed and angry and more than a little confused. 

With boos cascading around Labatt Park and empty beer cans and hot dog wrappers being hurled in his direction, Gray jogged toward the mound, where his son, Brett, was on the verge of completing one of the most incredible pitching performances in baseball history.  

Brett had already struck out a whopping 25 batters for the London Werewolves and only one out remained in the ninth inning of this Frontier League contest. Pirates farmhand Ray Necciai is the only professional pitcher ever to strike out more in a nine-inning game, ringing up 27 in 1952 in the Appalachian League, and the MLB record of 20 was first set by Roger Clemens in 1986. 

Bruce, the team's pitching coach, had been ordered by manager Andy McCauley to make that visit to the mound, and he begrudgingly complied. 

"I had no idea what was going on," Bruce said. "I'm thinking, 'Why am I out here? I'm going to be the scapegoat.' I had no idea." 

McCauley didn't know, either. League commissioner Bill Lee, in town to present the Werewolves with the 1999 championship banner, didn't know. Catcher Tony Girod, team president/GM John Kuhn and TV play-by-play man Doc Palmer? All clueless. Judging by the fans' reaction, they seemed convinced Bruce was out there to pull his son from the game, for some reason they couldn't comprehend.  

Only Brett and his fiancée Keely, who had been summoned from her job managing the beer garden for the last inning, knew the truth.  

"My dad gets to the mound," Brett said with laugh that's certainly as mischievous now as it was then, "and he goes, 'What do you want? This is ridiculous.'" 

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


A Welfare State without Borders: A Modest Proposal  (Fred Bauer, 6/28/18, National Review)

Internationalizing the welfare state would allow U.S. government spending to transform the lives of millions across the globe. It's likely that a dollar spent in the poorest parts of the world would go farther than a dollar spent in the United States. While there certainly is poverty in the United States, many of the American poor have far greater material wealth than the poor of other nations. The average individual food-stamp recipient receives $134 a month in SNAP benefits; the annual per capita income in Somalia is $535, according to the World Bank. About $5,700 a year is spent per Medicaid enrollee -- this is more than the annual per capita income of the 50 poorest countries in the world.

And it seems that the welfare state has plenty of dollars that could be redirected to foreign aid. According to the Office of Management and Budget, in the 2017 fiscal year, the federal government spent $944 billion on Social Security, $597 billion on Medicare, and $503 billion on various "income security" programs (such as housing and food assistance). It spent only $24 billion on "international development and humanitarian assistance." A mere 10 percent reduction in Social Security, Medicare, and income-security programs could add roughly $200 billion to the foreign-aid budget -- an increase of more than 800 percent. Even a 1 percent cut to those programs could double the foreign-aid budget. Moreover, many of those cuts could be structured so that they would have minimal effects on the most vulnerable Americans. For instance, progressive lawmakers could call for a 10 percent cut to Social Security by instituting a means-testing provision. That would ensure that poor seniors would not have a cut to their Social Security payments.

You don't even have to touch domestic entitlements--though it would be good policy--redirect half of current defense spending to such an economic security program and you have $450 billion to spend on alleviating the poverty that drives unrest abroad.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM



Natural selection is an astoundingly creative phenomenon, molding species to fit their environments, even if that means turning their faces into shovels. It's also created a galaxy of ways for animals to move about, from walking to crawling to flying. Nature does know what it's doing, and roboticists are more than happy to steal evolution's ideas. The result is a plethora of curious and clever machines that are beginning to traipse and hop all over the place.

Which is not to say you'd want to precisely copy the way an animal moves. (Good luck to whoever tries to replicate every bone and tendon and muscle in a snake's body.) Instead, researchers simply take inspiration from the natural world and run with their imaginations. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon, for example, have developed a snake robot made of 16 decidedly unbiological actuators, or motors, that move in concert to mimic the way a real serpent would.

Sure, being made of metal means the robot isn't as pliable as a fleshy organism. "But it also means that there's going to be things that this robot can do that a biological snake can't," says CMU roboticist Matt Travers. The thing can constrict around your leg like a real snake, but can then twirl its motors to move up and down your limb--more rolling than slithering. Robots that mimic biology are both limited in what they can do with metal and plastic, but also gifted in their own way.

As roboticists look to nature, they can sometimes prove--albeit accidentally--just how efficient evolution's creations are. Take Cassie the bipedal robot. It looks like a pair of disembodied ostrich legs not because its creators at Agility Robotics set out to mirror that form. Engineers did the math to get the most efficient locomotion they could, and landed on a form that just so happens to look avian.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


Are we alone? The question is worthy of serious scientific study (Kevin Knuth, 6/28/18, The Conversation)

The nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi was famous for posing thought provoking questions. In 1950, at Los Alamos National Laboratory after discussing UFOs over lunch, Fermi asked, "Where is everybody?" He estimated there were about 300 billion stars in the galaxy, many of them billions of years older than the sun, with a large percentage of them likely to host habitable planets. Even if intelligent life developed on a very small percentage of these planets, then there should be a number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy. Depending on the assumptions, one should expect anywhere from tens to tens of thousands of civilizations.

With the rocket-based technologies that we have developed for space travel, it would take between 5 and 50 million years for a civilization like ours to colonize our Milky Way galaxy. Since this should have happened several times already in the history of our galaxy, one should wonder where is the evidence of these civilizations?

Absence is evidence.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


A brief history of the s'more, America's favorite campfire snack (Jeffrey Miller, 6/28/18, The Conversation)

The oldest ingredient in the s'more's holy trinity is the marshmallow, a sweet that gets its name from a plant called, appropriately enough, the marsh mallow. Marsh mallow, or Althea officinalis, is a plant indigenous to Eurasia and Northern Africa. For thousands of years, the root sap was boiled, strained and sweetened to cure sore throats or simply be eaten as a treat.

The white and puffy modern marshmallow looks much like its ancient ancestor. But for hundreds of years, creation of marshmallows was very time-consuming. Each marshmallow had to be manually poured and molded, and they were a treat that only the wealthy could afford. By the mid-19th century, the process had become mechanized and machines could make them so cheaply that they were included in most penny candy selections. Today the marshmallow on your s'more contains no marsh mallow sap at all. It's mostly corn syrup, cornstarch and gelatin. [...]

In 1875, a candlemaker-turned-chocolatier named Daniel Peter invented a process to mix milk with chocolate. He then added some more sugar, and the modern milk chocolate bar was born. Peter's company eventually merged with Henri Nestle's two companies, and Peter's invention was dubbed the Nestle chocolate bar. It proved to be so much more popular than the darker bars on the market that other candy companies, from Cadbury to Hershey, released their own versions.

Finally, the graham cracker was invented by the Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, who felt that a vegetarian diet would help suppress carnal urges, especially the scourge of "self-pollution" (read: masturbation).

The original graham cracker used unsifted whole-wheat flour. Graham felt that separating out the bran was against the wishes of God, who, according to Graham, must have had a reason for including bran.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


America needs more people (James Pethokoukis, June 28, 2018, The Week)

Listening to a certain brand of conservative immigration restrictionist, you'd think America was packed to the gills, unable to accommodate a single additional person.

This couldn't be more wrong. Indeed, America desperately needs more people.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, former Trump White House national security spokesperson Michael Anton asked, "Why do we need more people? ... For the extra traffic congestion? More crowded classrooms? Higher greenhouse gas emissions?" He argued that in fact America doesn't need more people, and further immigration here benefits only vote-seeking Democrats and cheap-labor-seeking Big Business. President Trump made a facile version of the same point when he reportedly told members of Congress earlier this week that his new immigration proposal is "I'm sorry, you can't come in." [...]

But the silliest argument is that somehow America is filled to the brim and just can't comfortably fit any more people -- you know, all that rush-hour traffic and those long lines at the airport. If so, then perhaps in addition to stopping immigration, Washington should also discourage parents from having too many children. Maybe a federal child tax instead of a child tax credit.

Of course America isn't all filled up. It is one of the least population dense countries in the world. Moreover, there are plenty of other advanced economies where the inflow of immigrants as a share of the population is higher than the United States, and whose stock of immigrants as a share of the population is higher as well. Doubling or even tripling the current million a year in legal admissions would be a smart policy for a country facing an economic growth and fiscal challenge from an aging population and slowing labor force growth. Worried about the decline in startup businesses? Slowing population growth in the West, Southwest, and Southeast regions since the early 1980s appears to be a major factor.

Pity the poor Malthusians.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


British spies took 'inexcusable' actions after 9/11: lawmakers' report (Reuters, 6/28/18) 

British spies knew about the mistreatment of hundreds of suspected militants by the United States, and were involved in capturing people who were transferred without legal process to third countries, according to a report by parliament.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Battle of the pranksters escalates between Wainwright and ex-Card Schumaker (Derrick Goold, 6/28/18,  St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

When Wainwright returned to his black truck late Tuesday night, he found that Schumaker, with the help of some unidentified co-conspirators, had professional applied decals to the side and back doors. They featured Wainwright's head, his faced painted with the U.S. flag, photoshopped onto another person's body. The photo came from Wainwright's Twitter feed and dated back to a post he put about cheering on the U.S. team in the previous World Cup tournament.

Beneath the picture was the name of a faux business, "Body by Waino," and word bubble suggested people reach out via email to a fake email address. 

In the photo's hand: A Shake Weight.

"He's toast," Wainwright wrote, via text.

This is the latest jab in a series of pranks that goes back years and has involved diapers, room service, and, most recently, dress clothes. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Ecstatic Mexico fans mob South Korean embassy after Germany upset (The Guardian,  27 Jun 2018)

Hundreds of Mexican soccer fans descended on the South Korean embassy in Mexico City on Wednesday to celebrate the Asian country's improbable World Cup win over Germany, which ensured Mexico's place in the knockout stages despite El Tri's defeat to Sweden. [...]

Supporters waved the flags of both Mexico and South Korea outside the embassy in the city's upscale Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood. A video captured by New York Times reporter James Wagner amid the celebrations appeared to show Han Bjoung-yin, consul general at the embassy, on the shoulders of Mexican supporters as they chanted: "¡Coreano, hermano, ahora eres mexicano!" ("Korean, brother, now you're Mexican!")

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Puerto Rico Seeks Statehood (Katie Zezima, 6/28/18, The Washington Post)

Puerto Rico is making its biggest push for statehood in years, filing legislation in Congress that would make the island the 51st state by 2021.

Republican Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, filed a bill on Wednesday that would pave the way for the island to become a state no later than January 2021. The measure is co-sponsored by 21 Republicans and 14 Democrats and fulfills the promises of Gonzalez-Colon and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who campaigned on a statehood platform and said statehood is a civil rights issue for Puerto Ricans.

"No longer do we want ambiguity. No longer do we want this kicked down the road," Rossello said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "In Congress you're either with us or you're against the people of Puerto Rico."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


How England can land dream World Cup draw by losing against Belgium (Ewan Roberts, 28 Jun 2018, Metro)

It's unusual for England to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup with a game to spare, but it is even more unusual that defeat in their last group match could actually be beneficial. 

Yet that is the predicament Gareth Southgate finds himself in ahead of Thursday night's clash with Belgium; one half of the draw features four previous World Cup winners with 10 titles between them, the other just a single, one-time winner. 

Germany's elimination, coupled with Argentina's failure to top their group, has left the bottom half of the draw very light on quality - and that is the half that the runner-up for England's group, Group G, will end up in.

...is when losing is incentivized.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 AM


The First Dog: Genes Reveal Behavior Came First  (Discover, Jun. 27th, 2018)

The team behind today's research analyzed tiny pieces of DNA taken from different locations within entire genomes of ten wolves and 43 village dogs from four different continents.

Using village dogs is key here: These semi-feral animals live in and around villages in much of the world but are not actively bred by humans, so they are generally free of the genetic bottlenecks created by fanciers who actively manipulate bloodlines for specific traits. In short, they're as pure "dog" as a modern dog can be.

Why not analyze the whole genome? Well, that would be a lot of data, and take a long time (and cost more). Instead, the researchers identified 246 locations (83 percent of them found for the first time), for a total of 429 genes, that were likely associated with domestication and focused their energies there.

They compared the genetic material from modern village dogs with that of ancient dogs older than 5,000 years. Similar genetic signatures in both populations at those specific locations in the genomes meant that the signatures were likely the result of the original domestication events, and not later active selection by breeders.

The new research confirms that, as dogs were domesticated, behavioral traits such as tameness occurred first, and physical traits such as floppy ears followed. No word yet on when the gene allowing the patience to pose for silly pictures arose. (Credit: G. Tarlach)

Most of the genes that differed significantly between the village dogs and the wolves (and appear to have changed during domestication) are linked to NCC development and migration. Selecting for behavioral traits such as reduced fear of humans, a key element of tameness, favored certain genetic signatures. In turn, those genetic signatures changed how the NCCs they activated actually migrated around the body and performed.

And you know how it is in the universe: Change one thing and there's an unforeseen knock-on effect. The genes regulating NCC activity associated with behavior also regulate NCCs involved in traits such as pigmentation and whether your ears stand up or flop over. By reinforcing genetic changes associated with desirable behavior, the genetic changes associated with coat color and floppy ears were then also reinforced.

June 27, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Prof: GOP would dominate 'if the right-wing weren't so racist' (Cory Compton, 6/27/18, Campus Reform)

Professor Michael Eric Dyson offered the blanket condemnation of conservatives during a June 22 discussion titled "The Black Experience in Today's America," organized by the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Centers.

"Many black people are culturally conservative even if they're politically progressive."    Tweet This

During the event, the academic claimed that "if the right-wing weren't so racist," then it would be able to exploit a "vote-rich terrain, that would swing this nation to become more conservative." 

However, "because of their racism, they continue to disallow themselves to understand what they have in common [with minority groups]," he argued.

In a statement to Campus Reform, Dyson elaborated on his argument, claiming that "many black people are culturally conservative even if they're politically progressive."

"Given the points of moral agreement that many black folk might have with conservative white folk, it would behoove white conservatives to forge connections with those black folk of like mind," he explained. "However, [due to] the persistence of profound pockets of prejudice, bigotry, and racism in right-wing ideology and conservative belief, those connections are effectively curtailed."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


Gorsuch Was More 'Liberal' Than Kennedy This Term, in an Unusual Supreme Court Twist (Damon Root|Jun. 27, 2018, reason)

Specifically, Justice Kennedy did not join the Court's liberal bloc in a single 5-4 decision in the entire 2017-2018 term. [...]

Gorsuch's views look even more "liberal" than Kennedy's when you consider their respective approaches in the blockbuster case of Carpenter v. United States. In that ruling, the Supreme Court held that a warrantless government search of cellphone location data violated the Fourth Amendment. "We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier's database of physical location information," the Court said.

Technically, Kennedy and Gorsuch both dissented from the Court's 5-4 judgment in Carpenter. But the content of their respective dissents was entirely different. Kennedy dissented because he thought the Court should have let the warrantless searches stand. "Individuals have no Fourth Amendment interests in business records which are possessed, owned, and controlled by a third party," Kennedy wrote. Cellphone records "are no different from the many other kinds of business records the Government has a lawful right to obtain by compulsory process."

Gorsuch, by contrast, dissented because he favors "a more traditional Fourth Amendment approach" that asks "if a house, paper or effect was yours under law." Cellphone records, Gorsuch observed, "could qualify as [your] papers" for Fourth Amendment purposes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


These are the best and worst states to raise a family  (Jeanette Settembre, 6/27/18, Moneyish)

The Granite State is a great place to raise kids.

New Hampshire is the state with the highest overall child well-being in the United States, according to the 2018 Kids Count report published Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the welfare of American kids. But New Mexico was deemed the worst.

The annual report ranks the 50 states by combining 2016 data on economic well-being, education, health, as well as family and community. And it digs even deeper into those four areas to measure poverty, death rate, alcohol and drug use.

Turns out, the stronger economy is creating better living situations for many parents and kids. The report found about 1.6 million fewer children are living in poverty than five years ago; more parents are employed; and fewer families are spending a disproportionate amount of their income (more than 30%) on housing costs.

Five of the top 10 states for overall child well-being are in the Northeast, where incomes are generally higher. New Hampshire came in first and Massachusetts second, followed by New Jersey, Minnesota, Iowa, Utah, Connecticut, Vermont, Nebraska and Virginia. New Hampshire kids benefit from the state's low child poverty rate (just 8%), while Massachusetts was the only state where more than half of fourth graders were reading proficient. And Utah boasted the lowest percentage of children in families without secure parental employment (18%).  

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Janus Decision Reins In Unions' Political Power (Daniel DiSalvo, June 27, 2018, NY Times)

In California, the public unions spent more on political campaigns in the first decade of this century than the pharmaceutical, oil and tobacco industries combined.

Mr. Janus's lawyers argued that this political activity conflicts with First Amendment protections. Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion agreed. The collection of agency fees, he wrote, "violates the free speech rights of non-members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern." Nearly all union political spending supports the Democratic Party or liberal causes. Some workers are thus compelled to subsidize and thereby affiliate with a highly political organization with which they disagree.

Unions offer a remedy to workers who don't want to support their political positions, but it is cumbersome. They must renounce their membership, write a letter annually to opt out of political spending, and then wait for the union to send them a check for the percentage of their agency fees it says it spent on politics.

Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion rejected that solution. The problem is that the onus is on dissenting workers to ensure the protection of their First Amendment rights. They must write opt-out letters (often year after year) or risk underwriting union political activity they oppose. The opinion called the process "daunting."

The Janus case also underscored the inherent problems of giving public-sector unions the power to unilaterally decide what constitutes spending on politics versus collective bargaining. Justice Alito argued that the "line" between the two "has proved impossible to draw with precision" and resulted in endless litigation. In the private sector, unions bargain with employers and direct their political activity at the government. But in the public sector, unions' political activity cannot be separated from collective bargaining because both concern the government.

The subjects of negotiations -- employee pay, benefits, work rules -- are political questions about how to spend tax dollars and best provide public services. So, unions' demands for better pay and benefits are, in effect, political positions that nonmembers are forced to underwrite.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Is nature really chaotic and fractal, or did we just imagine it?: The way we perceive reality is a function of how we slice and dice the physical world (Alfredo Metere, 6/27/18, Cosmos)

What are fractals? Fractals are technically geometric structures with a fractional dimension, for example 2.3. To understand what I just wrote, however, I'll give you an example: suppose you are told to trace a straight line. We know from elementary school that straight lines are just an infinite set of points lying in one dimension, and a straight line itself is therefore infinite.

Can you actually draw a straight line? No, but you can possibly draw a segment! A segment is an infinite set of points delimited by two extreme points. If for a straight line you need a whole dimension to trace it all, for a segment you will certainly need less than that!

In other words, you will need a fraction between 0 and 1 to trace it: therefore a segment constitutes a very simple, yet fractal, geometry! Can you predict, using the equation of a straight line, y = a * x + b, all possible segments that lie on a single dimension? Yes, but such an equation would generate an infinite, uncountable, uncomputable and therefore inherently unorderable set of values for the coordinates of the segment extremes.

We can now confidently state that nature seems fractal, but is that truly so? One may argue that the answer to this question has more to do with philosophy than physics, and in a way that would be correct. But what if fractals are just an emergent property our innate inability to grasp infinity?

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


World Cup: The Bad And Good Of France And Denmark's 0-0 Tie (Tom Goldman, 6/27/18, NPR)

Those inside Luzhniki Stadium described a crowd reaction ranging from disappointed to сердитый. Which, in Russian, means angry, grumpy, irate, cross, gruff, surly ... or all of the above.

Irish Independent Football Correspondent Daniel McDonnell tweeted, "Danish fans trying and failing to sing over chorus of boos from angry Russians. Imagine spending your hard earned on getting one World Cup ticket and ending up with this rubbish."

Added Stuart James of The Guardian, "Match 37, to give the fixture its official FIFA title, ended goalless and was played out to a soundtrack of whistles and rumbling of discontent, followed by loud boos at the final whistle."

It was a sluggish match with minimal attacking and few if any scoring chances. There was a lot of kicking the ball around midfield, and Danish players mostly hung back to play defense.

All by design.

Denmark needed only a tie, scoreless or otherwise, to stay alive in the tournament and qualify as one of the final 16 teams in the knockout stage. France already had qualified. Essentially, not much reason to play the kind of exciting football that's been a hallmark of this up-to-now successful and engaging World Cup.

So the discontent really appeared less about the scoreboard, and more about the action -- or lack thereof -- on the pitch.

And this is an important point.

Because soccer fans, real soccer fans, will tell you there's absolutely nothing wrong with a nil-nil draw. It's all about how you get there.

Make it a real World Cup, with every FIFA team invited, and then play all knock-out games.

[The NCAA Tournament should do the same and get rid of conference tournaments.]

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


THE UNTOUCHABLE WHO BECAME INDIA'S JACKIE ROBINSON: Because some sporting performances are truly transformative (Sean Braswell, JUN 27 2018, OZY)

As Ramachandra Guha chronicles in A Corner of a Foreign Field, Baloo grew up in Poona, where his father worked in a British ammunition factory. He and his brother would play cricket with the equipment discarded by British soldiers. Baloo's first job as a boy was sweeping and rolling the pitch at the local cricket club. Soon he was also bowling to club members to help them improve their batting skills. Baloo bowled for hundreds of hours, fine-tuning his own technique in the process. Not once was he given the opportunity to bat.

Word of Baloo's bowling prowess soon began to spread, and he was invited to play for the local Poona Hindus squad. Baloo was kept separate from his teammates off the pitch, and some were reluctant even to touch the same ball as he did. [...]

In 1905, the Prince of Wales visited India, with one of the highlights being a cricket showdown between some of India's and England's best players. Baloo's bowling helped the Indian side cruise to victory over their imperial opponents, and Baloo, now 30, was allowed to dine with the rest of the team. Papers across the nation hailed it as a victory over caste prejudice. The Indian Social Reformer wrote that it was "a landmark in the nation's emancipation from the old disuniting ... customs." [...]

Guha compares Baloo's accomplishment to that of another sports icon, the man who broke baseball's color line, Jackie Robinson. Like Robinson, Guha writes, "Baloo broke through a previously impenetrable social barrier as much by force of personality as by sporting skill alone." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


North Korea still upgrading nuclear site at 'rapid pace,' satellite images show (AFP, 6/27/18)

Satellite images show that North Korea is carrying out rapid improvements to its nuclear research facility, a monitor said on Wednesday, despite the country declaring a commitment to denuclearization of the peninsula at the Singapore summit.

[R]ecent satellite imagery showed that not only were operations continuing at present at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear site, it was also carrying out infrastructure works, said the respected 38 North website.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


How Innovative Jazz Pianist Vince Guaraldi Became the Composer of Beloved Charlie Brown Music (Open Culture, 6/27/18)

The story of how the special came to be is a fascinating one, a series of serendipitous encounters that begins in 1963 with producer Lee Mendelson at work on a documentary about Schulz. [...]

While driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, he just happened to catch Guaraldi's hit "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" (above). "It was melodic and open," he thought, "and came in like a breeze off the bay. And it struck me that this might be the kind of music I was looking for." He tracked the pianist and composer down to score his Schulz documentary. While that project fizzled, Coca-Cola liked it enough to enlist Mendelson for the Christmas special, and some of Guaraldi's original music--including "Linus and Lucy"--migrated over, written, notes Derrick Bang, to "reflect Charlie Brown's gentle, kid-oriented universe." The whole soundtrack was laid down in three hours in the studio. "That's just the way jazz records were recorded," recalls Granelli.

"Christmastime is Here" was originally an instrumental (above), but at the last moment, Mendelson had the idea to "put some words to this." Unable to find a lyricist in time, he penned those words himself. "We rushed it to the choir that Vince Guaraldi had been working with in San Francisco. And he recorded it, and we got it into the show about a week before it went on the air." Guaraldi "probably would have loved to recycle much of the music from the never-aired documentary," writes Bang, but the Christmas special called for a slightly different tone, so he wrote two additional compositions, including the bouncy "Skating," below, "a lyrical jazz waltz highlighted by sparkling keyboard runs that sounded precisely like children ice-skating joyously on a frozen pond." [...]

Guaraldi's compositional and instrumental skills will be forever linked to Charles Schulz's iconic characters, perhaps no more so than during the winter holidays.

But he should by no means be solely remembered as the Peanuts composer--any more than brilliant, bossa-nova inspired Burt Bacharach should be forever tied to his film themes. Guaraldi's work stands on its own, or as jazz writer Ted Gioia recently tweeted, "I'll say it straight: Vince Guaraldi was a brilliant, underrated jazz musician. No one need feel any embarrassment about enjoying (or praising) his music."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Guess Who's Coming to Church: Multiracial Congregations Triple Among Protestants: Sociologists evaluate the progress and future of the evangelical push for church diversity. (KATE SHELLNUTT, JUNE 22, 2018, Christianity Today)

The multiethnic church movement is working: Protestant churches in the US have become three times more likely to be racially diverse than they were 20 years ago.

The percentage of Protestant churches where no one racial group makes up more than 80 percent of the congregation tripled from 4 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2012, according to new research out this week from Baylor University. Evangelicals and Pentecostals show even higher levels of diverse churches, up to 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Overall, nearly 1 in 5 of all American worshipers belong to a multiethnic congregation.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 AM


New England Chowder: The King of Soups: From whaling captains to Anthony Bourdain, find out why this dish is a year-round staple in New England. (Joanne Chen, 06.20.18, Daily Beast)

Few chefs describe this more eloquently than Howard Mitcham in the legendary  Provincetown Seafood Cookbook, the 1975 cult classic that is being re-issued next week. More than just a list of recipes, it's part culinary history and part memoir. Mitcham's deep affection for Provincetown and the people who nourished its inhabitants, draws us in and makes chowder lovers of us all.

The latest edition of the book is true to the original, right down to the whimsical drawings in the margin by Mitcham's hand. What's new is also bittersweet: an introduction written just last fall by the late great Anthony Bourdain, who was handed this book at his first job in P-town as a cook. He calls it "one of the most influential in my life," which perhaps partly explains why he declares in his 2016 Appetites: A Cookbook that "there is only one chowder"--New England clam chowder, which he features in his book--and "all else is soup."

"Provincetown," as Mitcham puts it, is "the birthplace of the commercial fishing industry of the U.S.A. It's the seafood capital of the universe...the fishiest town in the world." Historically, a natural abundance and variety of sea creatures have lived off the shores of the Cape, which connect New Englanders to the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the world. As spring and summer near, the sun heats the waters, plankton flourish, herring come in to spawn, pogey and other baitfish move in as well, and larger species (tuna, swordfish, striped bass) follow them, explains Jasper White, chef and founder of Summer Shack, the acclaimed seafood concept with three locations in New England. Clams, too, feed on the plankton and grow faster this time of year; lobsters wake up from their quasi-hibernation.

Even before the advent of long-voyage ships and airplanes, clams enticed locals and visitors alike. As Mitcham tells it, "In the summer, thousands of mainland Indians would migrate to Cape Cod to bask in the sunshine and feed on the shellfish." And, there, they taught America's first immigrants--the Pilgrims--how to dig for clams. Thank goodness they did otherwise, says Mitcham, "they would all probably have starved to death that first hard winter."

Did I say clams? I meant "quahogs." Quahogs refer to a variety of Atlantic hard-shells, such as the cherrystone and littleneck, but it also refers to a specific large-size hard-shell that's also known as the chowder clam, which is, you guessed it, traditionally used to make chowder. (It's, of course, also the inspiration for the name of the fictional Rhode Island town that is the setting for the raunchy cartoon Family Guy.) These bivalves live just inches beneath the sand and are easily detected with bare toes as you walk along the shore.

June 26, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Internet Rising, Prices Falling: Measuring Inflation in a World of E-Commerce (Austan D. Goolsbee, Peter J. Klenow, NBER Working Paper No. 24649)
We use Adobe Analytics data on online transactions for millions of products in many different categories from 2014 to 2017 to shed light on how online inflation compares to overall inflation, and to gauge the magnitude of new product bias online. The Adobe data contain transaction prices and quantities purchased. We estimate that online inflation was about 1 percentage point lower than in the CPI for the same categories from 2014--2017. In addition, the rising variety of products sold online, implies roughly 2 percentage points lower inflation than in a matched model/CPI-style index.

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


'Enough is Enough': GOP Congressman Calls For Immigrant Child Detention Center to Be Shut Down (Colin Kalmbacher, June 25th, 2018, Law& Order)

A Republican congressman in Texas is calling for the closure of one of the most controversial immigrant child detention centers in the country.

On Monday, U.S. Representative Pete Olson (R-TX) issued a press release calling out the historically poor treatment of children at the Shiloh Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas. Olson notes:

Enough is enough. Since I have been in congress, every time an issue arises concerning Shiloh's poor care of undocumented children, Shiloh puts up a brick wall. Transparency and information is always put under lock and key. When I knocked on their door a few years ago, I was handed a slip of paper with a telephone number in Washington, DC to call to find out what is happening at Shiloh. With new allegations, the people of Texas 22[nd district] are beyond their limits.

Those new allegations appear to be a reference to a lawsuit accusing Shiloh staff of forcibly injecting immigrant children with high-powered psychiatric drugs against their will. These forced medical regimens and injections are alleged to have occurred under duress and confinement.

Once you've dehumanized them, the rest follows....

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


Illegal immigrant parents not facing U.S. prosecution for now (Yeganeh Torbati, David Shepardson, 6/26/18, Reuters) 

Parents who cross illegally from Mexico to the United States with their children will not face prosecution for the time being because the government is running short of space to house them, officials said on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Social Security Has Been Swelled, Not Looted. (James D. Agresti, 6/26/18, FEE)

In 2017, Just Facts commissioned a professional polling firm to conduct a scientific, nationwide poll of people who vote "every time there is an opportunity" or in "most" elections. While polls typically measure public opinion, this unique poll measured voters' knowledge of public policy issues that affect their lives in tangible ways.

Among the poll's 24 questions was this one: "Do you think Social Security's financial problems stem from politicians looting the program and spending the money on other programs?" In total, 80 percent of voters replied "Yes," including 78 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of third-party voters.

Yet, concrete facts prove the correct answer is "No." In the words of Social Security's trustees, federal law "prohibits expenditures from" the Social Security Trust Fund "for any purpose not related to the payment of benefits or administrative costs" of the program. Hard numbers confirm this to be true. Social Security's actuarial records show that the program's assets have increased or decreased by the difference between its receipts and expenditures in every year since its origin in 1937.

What some call "looting" is actually a legal requirement (established in the original Social Security Act of 1935) that all of the program's surpluses be loaned to the federal government.

What some call "looting" is actually a legal requirement (established in the original Social Security Act of 1935) that all of the program's surpluses be loaned to the federal government. Federal law compels the government to pay back this money with interest, and it has done this throughout the program's history. In fact, since 2010, Social Security has been using interest received from the federal government to cover the shortfall between its expenses and non-interest income.

A common myth is that Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson began using Social Security to finance other government programs in the late 1960s, but as documented by the Social Security Historian's Office, "the financing procedures involving the Social Security program have not changed in any fundamental way since they were established in the original Social Security Act of 1935 and amended in 1939."

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


Why does the Alt-Right extol North Korea?: Kim Jong Un seems an unlikely bedfellow for Alt-Right activists, but they have more in common than you think. (REV. BEN JOHNSON • JUNE 25, 2018, Acton)

  North Korea may seem like an odd choice for a white nationalist's utopia, but then these are odd times. A significant portion of the Alt-Right has become enchanted with, or at least willing to defend, the world's foremost bastion of Stalinism. In North Korea, racialists believe they have spied a model of their own nationalism, anti-Americanism, and hatred of free enterprise.

"North Korea is the only ethno-nationalist state opposing the current world order, and as long as it exists, it will stand as an example (and a possible future ally) for ethnic and racial nationalists everywhere," wrote Greg Paulson at the online journal Counter Currents, which styles itself an intellectual powerhouse of the Alt-Right, "especially those of us in the West who see the only hope for our people in the destruction of the current world order."

Appreciation for North Korea has spread in recent years. Matthew Heimbach, an organizer of the Charlottesville rally just released from jail two week ago for a separate assault, said that "North Korea is a nation that stands against imperialism and globalism around the world." And he believes it does so on racial grounds. "The very identity of the nation comes from an actual national socialist perspective, specifically also deriving elements from Japanese fascism," he said.

The assessment borrows from B.R. Myers' book, The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, which says the 35-year-long Japanese occupation led Koreans to organize society around their own racially superior self-image.

Hence, North Korea's birth as an Alt-Right symbol of The Resistance.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


The Neuroscience of Pain: Brain imaging is illuminating the neural patterns behind pain's infinite variety. (Nicola Twilley, Mar. 3rd, 2018, The New Yorker)

It was toward the end of her fellowship in Boston that Tracey first began thinking seriously about pain. Playing field hockey in her teens, she'd had her first experience of severe pain--a knee injury that required surgery--but it was a chance conversation with colleagues in a pain clinic that sparked her scientific interest. "It was just one of those serendipitous conversations that you find yourself in, where this whole area is opened up to you," she told me. "It was, like, 'God, this is everything I've been looking for. It's got clinical application, interesting philosophy, and we know absolutely nothing.' I thought, Right, that's it, pain is going to be my thing."

By then, Tracey had been recruited to return home and help found the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain. Scientists had already largely given up on the idea of finding a single pain cortex: in the handful of fMRI papers that had been published describing brain activity when a person was burned or pricked with needles, the scans seemed to show that pain involved significant activity in many parts of the brain, rather than in a single pocket, as with hearing or sight. Tracey's plan was to design a series of experiments that picked apart this larger pattern of activity, isolating different aspects of pain in order to understand exactly what each region was contributing to the over-all sensation.

In 1998, while her lab was being built, she took her first doctoral student, a Rhodes Scholar named Alexander Ploghaus, to Canada, their scientific equipment packed in their suitcases, to use a collaborator's MRI machine for a week. Their subjects were a group of college students, including several ice-hockey players, who kept bragging about how much pain they could take. While each student was in the scanner, Tracey and Ploghaus used a homemade heating element to apply either burns or pleasant heat to the back of the left hand, as red, green, and blue lights flashed on and off. The lights came on in a seemingly random sequence, but gradually the subjects realized that one color always presaged pain and another was always followed by comfortable warmth. The resulting scans were striking. Throughout the experiment, the subjects' brain-activity patterns remained consistent during moments of pain, but, as they figured out the rules of the game, the ominous light began triggering more and more blood flow to a couple of regions--the anterior insula and the prefrontal cortices. These areas, Tracey and Ploghaus concluded, must be responsible for the anticipation of pain.

Showing that the experience of pain could be created in part by anticipation, rather than by actual sensation, was the first experimental step in breaking the phenomenon down into its constituent elements. "Rather than just seeing that all these blobs are active because it hurts, we wanted to understand, What bit of the hurt are they underpinning?" Tracey said. "Is it the localization, is it the intensity, is it the anticipation or the anxiety?" During the next decade, she designed experiments that revealed the roles played by various brain regions in modulating the experience of pain. She took behavioral researchers' finding that distraction reduces the perception of pain--as when a doctor tells a child to count backward from ten while receiving an injection--and made it the basis of an experiment that showed that concentrating on a numerical task suppressed activity in several regions that normally light up during pain. She examined the effects of depression on pain perception--people suffering from depression commonly report feeling more pain than other people do from the same stimulus--and demonstrated that this, too, could change the distribution and the magnitude of neural activity.

One of her most striking experiments tested the common observation that religious faith helps people cope with pain. Comparing the neurological responses of devout Catholics with those of atheists, she found that the two groups had similar baseline experiences of pain, but that, if the subjects were shown a picture of the Virgin Mary (by Sassoferrato, an Italian Baroque painter) while the pain was administered, the believers rated their discomfort nearly a point lower than the atheists did. When the volunteers were shown a secular painting (Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine"), the two groups' responses were the same. The implications are potentially far-reaching, and not only because they suggest that cultural attitudes may have a neurological imprint. If faith engages a neural mechanism with analgesic benefits--the Catholics showed heightened activity in an area usually associated with the ability to override a physical response--it may be possible to find other, secular ways to engage that circuit.

Tracey's research had begun to explain why people experience the same pain differently and why the same pain can seem worse to a single individual from one day to the next. Many of her findings simply reinforced existing psychological practices and common sense, but her scientific proof had clinical value. "Countless people who work in cognitive behavioral therapy come up at the end of talks or write to me," Tracey told me. "They say how helpful it has been to empower their education of the patient by saying that, if you're more anxious about your pain, or more sad, look, here's a picture telling you it gets worse."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, Toby Ord, 6 Jun 2018, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London)

The Fermi paradox is the conflict between an expectation of a high {\em ex ante} probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and the apparently lifeless universe we in fact observe. The expectation that the universe should be teeming with intelligent life is linked to models like the Drake equation, which suggest that even if the probability of intelligent life developing at a given site is small, the sheer multitude of possible sites should nonetheless yield a large number of potentially observable civilizations. We show that this conflict arises from the use of Drake-like equations, which implicitly assume certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters. We examine these parameters, incorporating models of chemical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, and show that extant scientific knowledge corresponds to uncertainties that span multiple orders of magnitude. This makes a stark difference. When the model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial {\em ex ante} probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


A World Cup summer reawakens a deep nostalgia in the English: Who are the English and what do they want? The Brexit vote has been described as an English revolt, what Orwell called a "tug from below". (JASON COWLEY, 6/26/18, New Statesman)

Today the rickety British state is showing its age. And a World Cup summer invariably reawakens a suppressed sense of English national self-consciousness, never appreciated in Scotland. "The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of 11 named people," as Eric Hobsbawm wrote. The England football team embodies many of the contradictions of the English nation. For a start, during the pre-match formalities, the players sing not an English anthem but "God Save the Queen", which Scottish and Welsh sporting teams have long since ditched. The hauntedness of English football - this longing to recapture something lost - is not an isolated phenomenon but an expression of what it means to be English, which goes back to the Norman conquest and the Harrying of the North or even before. As Ferdinand Mount has written, the dominant tone of English discourse is "one of regret, of nostalgia rather than self-congratulation".

The forces of nostalgia contributed to the Brexit vote and they inform much of the rhetoric of the hard Brexiteers: this yearning for Britain, or Greater England, unchained from the EU, to renew its historic role as a buccaneering Anglosphere great power.

On the eve of England's plucky victory over Tunisia, coach Gareth Southgate, who leads a harmonious and likeable multiracial squad, spoke of his pride and patriotism. "My family are incredibly patriotic. My grandad was a marine. I've always been brought up with England being a core part of what we stood for and my life [sic]."

This is the authentic voice of the decent England fan. We have heard this language from Alex Salmond and other Scottish nationalists. But few people on the left in England speak in this way of patriotism and love of country, which is one reason why the working class is abandoning Labour.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


VLS to End Tenure For Much of Faculty (Katy Savage, 6/26/18, VtDigger)

More than a dozen faculty at Vermont Law School will lose tenure this year as the institution struggles to level its budget, two senior faculty members confirmed.

While many of the tenured faculty will remain at the school on contract, they no longer will have employment protections under tenure.

June 25, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Rebound in South powers U.S. new home sales, dampens prices (Lucia Mutikani, 6/25/18, Reuters) 

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes increased more than expected in May as transactions in the South surged to near an 11-year high and dampened prices, but the overall housing market remained constrained by a dearth of properties for sale.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Real-Life Schrödinger's Cats Probe the Boundary of the Quantum World: Recent experiments have put relatively large objects into quantum states, illuminating the processes by which the ordinary world emerges out of the quantum one. (Philip Ball, June 25, 2018, Quanta)

Schrödinger's kittens have never been very cute, and the latest litter is no exception. Images of nebulous clouds of ultracold atoms or microscopic strips of silicon are unlikely to go viral on the internet. All the same, these exotic objects are worth heeding, because they show with unprecedented clarity that quantum mechanics is not just the physics of the extremely small.

"Schrödinger's kittens," loosely speaking, are objects pitched midway in size between the atomic scale, which quantum mechanics was originally developed to describe, and the cat that Erwin Schrödinger famously invoked to highlight the apparent absurdity of what that theory appeared to imply. These systems are "mesoscopic" -- perhaps around the size of viruses or bacteria, composed of many thousands or even billions of atoms, and thus much larger than the typical scales at which counterintuitive quantum-mechanical properties usually appear. They are designed to probe the question: How big can you get while still preserving those quantum properties?

To judge by the latest results, the answer is: pretty darn big. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Professor asks men to send her pictures of their penises to help measure self esteem (DREW VAN VOORHIS, JUNE 25, 2018, College Fix)

Does a larger penis mean more self esteem? One Missouri State University sociology professor is working to find that out and more, and in the name of science is asking men across America to send her pictures of their genitalia.

Professor Alicia Walker asks participants to voluntarily provide the measurements of their penis when erect and flaccid, as well as photographic evidence, in a research project that has been has been approved by the Missouri State University Institutional Review Board.

"The purpose is to investigate how men feel about their bodies in a culture where we place emphasis on size, including size of penises," Walker told The College Fix via email.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Harley, stung by tariffs, shifts some production overseas (AP, 6/25/18) 

Harley-Davidson, up against spiraling costs from tariffs, will begin to shift the production of motorcycles headed for Europe from the U.S. to factories overseas. [...]

Harley-Davidson Inc. sold almost 40,000 motorcycles in the European Union last year, generating revenue second only to the United States, according to the Milwaukee company.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


16 Conclusions: England 6-1 Panama (Daniel Storey, 24th June 2018, Football 365)

Writing a column in the Nottingham Post before the game, broadcaster Darren Fletcher recalled speaking to Southgate on a train on the way to watch an NBA basketball game about being influenced by other sports in his preparation for the World Cup. If that sounds a little odd, given that football is so different to other sports, the answers were illuminating.

Southgate explained that the nature of basketball was interesting to him, because of the way it was five-on-five and yet players always managed to find space around the basket. He spoke to coaches about the timings of their runs and the way they could legally screen opposition players to create pockets of space, and studied footage to see if he could transpose that to football.

In particular, Southgate believed he could use similar theories with free-kicks from out wide and from corners. Players would offer dummy runs and feint in one direction before moving, each player having strict instructions and so too the set-piece taker. Watching England's fourth goal on Sunday, you could see that theoretical plan in wonderful practicality.

Southgate is not the perfect manager, but it is a long time since England have played in a style and system where the team's coaching so apparent. Much of the credit for that lies with Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho et al, but Southgate has sprinkled his own gold dust. These little things matter.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 AM


Out the Window: The view in winter. (Donald Hall, 1/23/12, The New Yorker)

I watch birds come to my feeder, hanging from clapboard in my line of sight. All winter, juncos and chickadees take nourishment here. When snow is as thick as today, the feeder bends under the weight of a dozen birds at once. They swerve from their tree perches, peck, and fly back to bare branches. Prettily they light, snap beaks into seed, and burst away: nuthatches, evening grosbeaks, American goldfinches, sparrows . . .

The feeder used to dangle from a maple branch farther away. Always when winter moved into March, bears would wake and tear the feeder down, crushing it in clumsy hunger. In spring there is still bear scat between house and barn, but the bears, shy of white clapboard and green shutters, let my feeder be.

Most days, squirrels pilfer from the birds. I'm happy to feed the squirrels--tree rats with the agility of point guards--but in fair weather they frighten my finches. [...]

My mother turned ninety in the Connecticut house where she had lived for almost sixty years, and spent her last decade looking out the window. (My father died at fifty-two.) For my mother's birthday, my wife, Jane Kenyon, and I arrived at her house early, and at noon my children and grandchildren surprised Gramma Lucy with a visit. We hugged and laughed together, taking pictures, until I watched my mother's gaiety collapse into exhaustion. I shooed the young ones away, and my mother leaned back in her familiar Barcalounger, closing her eyes until strength returned. A few months later she had one of her attacks of congestive heart failure only a week after her most recent. An ambulance took her to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Jane and I drove down from New Hampshire to care for her when she came home. She told us, "I tried not to dial 911." She knew she could no longer live alone, her pleasure and her pride. We moved her to a nursing home not far from us in New Hampshire.

She died a month short of ninety-one. Her brain was still good. A week before she died, she read "My Ántonia" for the tenth time. Willa Cather had always been a favorite. Most of the time in old age she read Agatha Christie. She said that one of the advantages of being ninety was that she could read a detective story again, only two weeks after she first read it, without any notion of which character was the villain. Even so, her last months were mostly bleak. Her knees kept her to bed and chair, and the food was terrible. We visited every day until she died. A year later, Jane, at forty-seven, was dying of leukemia, and showed me poems she had been working on before she took sick. One was "In the Nursing Home," about my mother at the end. Jane used the image of a horse running in wide circles, the circles growing smaller until they ceased.

Twenty years later, my circles narrow. Each season, my balance gets worse, and sometimes I fall. I no longer cook for myself but microwave widower food, mostly Stouffer's. My fingers are clumsy and slow with buttons. This winter I wear warm pullover shirts; my mother spent her last decade in caftans. For years, I drove slowly and cautiously, but when I was eighty I had two accidents. I stopped driving before I killed somebody, and now when I shop or see a doctor someone has to drive me. If I fly to do a poetry reading, my dear companion Linda, who lives an hour away, must wheelchair me through airport and security. I read my poems sitting down. If I want to look at paintings, Linda wheelchairs me through museums. New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures. I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It's better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers. It is a pleasure to write about what I do.

June 24, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The Border Fiasco As Another Warning Sign (YUVAL LEVIN, June 22, 2018, National Review)

There is no question, of course, that the administration's handling of this situation has been exceptionally incompetent and self-destructive--a practical expression, in this sense, of the president's own character and personality and to a degree that has so far largely (though not entirely of course) been avoided through epic acts of restraint and misdirection by others around him. Those restraints are weakening at this point, so that more time in office is not making the administration more competent and responsible but less so. Even apart from the substantive or moral questions at issue in this situation, it is the latest of many warning signs about the degree to which the White House in particular is unprepared for a serious crisis not largely of its own making.

We have seen that in recent days not only in the amazingly confusing and counterproductive role the president has played in the legislative process but also, and more so, in the extraordinary failure of interagency coordination in the executive branch. The executive order signed on Wednesday was produced with reckless haste, and the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security--which were involved in its drafting--disagree about the practical meaning of its most basic provisions. They have completely different understandings of what it requires them to do, and they are for now each acting on its different understanding while their differences remain unresolved. This will get worked out, but that it has happened reveals a very dangerous weakness. Averting this kind of failure of coordination is the very purpose of the White House policy process, and the scope of the failure in this instance needs to serve as a warning. Its implications after all are far more than political, and reach well beyond the particular issue at stake in this particular fiasco.

There is, of course, a political cost, and it's easy to see in this case. The administration has pursued an inhumane policy course supposedly in the name of lawfulness and then backed down from it in a panic, and so it has ended up with all the downsides of the various approaches it could have pursued and none of the upsides. They get the blame for being callous without the benefits of looking strong, and then they get the blame for looking weak without the praise for being compassionate. It's a fiasco that has to be racked up in part to incompetence, but it is also of course another reflection of the president's own character. It is what happens, in other words, when you actually are both callous and weak (as callous people often are).

...that the fiasco has come only at the easiest time in our history to be president.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


The dark history behind Trump's inflammatory language (Anne Applebaum, June 22, 2018, Washington Post)

It is remarkable, in retrospect, how many and varied were the dictatorships of the past century. Murderous regimes -- states that killed large numbers of their own citizens for political reasons -- arose in every possible type of society. Communist, fascist and tribal ideologies evolved in places whose cultural histories, economic status and religious traditions had nothing in common. Wealthy Germany and impoverished Rwanda. Buddhist Cambodia and Orthodox Russia.

Yet these different regimes did all have one thing in common. It was the obsession that one French scholar , writing of Cambodia, called the "mania for classification and elimination of different elements of society." In each one of them, the groundwork for violence against a specific group -- whether an ethnicity, an economic class or a political faction -- was originally laid by a very particular way of using language.

In the first instance, inflammatory language was used to define an ethnic minority and to give it fictional characteristics and properties. In some cases, the targeted "tribe" was entirely fictional, created by rhetoric alone. In China, the regime sought to identify the enemy as "Blacks," as opposed to the friendly "Reds." The Russian Bolsheviks defined and blamed the "Enemies of the People." The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia sought to eliminate the "75ers," the people who had been expelled from cities in 1975.

After the unwanted group had been defined, propaganda was used to demonize and dehumanize it. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Do we need to update Godwin's Law about the probability of comparison to Nazis? (MIKE GODWIN, JUN 24, 2018, LA Times)

[L]et me start another conversation here. Take the argument that our treatment of those seeking asylum at our border, including children, is not as monstrous as institutionalized genocide. That may be true, but it's not what you'd call a compelling defense. Similarly, saying (disingenuously) that the administration is just doing what immigration law demands sounds suspiciously like "we were just following orders." That argument isn't a good look on anyone.

The seeds of future horrors are sometimes visible in the first steps a government takes toward institutionalizing cruelty. In his 1957 book "Language of the Third Reich," Victor Klemperer recounted how, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, he "was still so used to living in a state governed by the rule of law" that he couldn't imagine the horrors yet to come. "Regardless of how much worse it was going to get," he added, "everything which was later to emerge in terms of National Socialist attitudes, actions and language was already apparent in embryonic form in these first months."

So I don't think GL needs to be updated or amended. It still serves us as a tool to recognize specious comparisons to Nazism -- but also, by contrast, to recognize comparisons that aren't. And sometimes the comparisons can spot the earliest symptoms of horrific "attitudes, actions and language" well before our society falls prey to the full-blown disease.

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


Former Trump Adviser Uses Racist Slur to Attack Black Guest on Fox News (Chas Danner, 6/24/18, New York)

David Bossie, President Trump's former deputy campaign manager, used a racist slur to attack Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who is black, during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Sunday. In the midst of a contentious exchange, Bossie told Payne that, "You're out of your cotton-picking mind."

The purpose of the segment was to debate "the left's racists rants"...

Scratch a Trumpbot...

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


Donald Hall, a giant of American poetry, dies at 89 (MIKE PRIDE, June 24, 2018, Concord Monitor)

Like any poet with New England roots, he had to come to terms with Frost. In the summer of 1945, Hall was at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont when he saw Frost coming up a hill toward him. He "appeared to be rising out of the ground," Hall later wrote. "His face was strong and blocky, his white hair thick and rough. He looked like granite, some old carved stone." Hall observed over time how Frost's reputation swerved from the beloved American poet to the cruel monster of Lawrance Thompson's postmortem biography. Hall's opinion evolved, too. He first saw Frost as "a monument," then as "a public fraud," then as "something more human and complicated than either." Their last encounter, when Frost was 88 and near death, caused another reappraisal: Frost became "a model of survival."
Hall visited Dylan Thomas in his hometown of Laugharne, Wales, to recruit the poet to appear at Oxford. Thomas's dramatic readings influenced Hall's performance style and perhaps even his close attention to sound in his poems. Like most who knew Thomas even slightly, Hall went pub-crawling with him. When "the slow suicide of alcoholism" killed Thomas at 39, Hall was in the legion of drinking companions who could say Thomas died owing him two pounds.
A gig as poetry editor of The Paris Review gave Hall the chance to introduce young, unknown poets and interview older ones, including Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore. In 1959 he conducted the first "Art of Poetry" interview in the Review's "Writers at Work" series. His subject, T.S. Eliot, told him: "No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written. He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing." Hall took this message to heart, as he did the words of the British sculptor Henry Moore, whom he interviewed for a book: "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to. . . . And the most important thing is - it must be something you cannot possibly do."
By the time Hall and Kenyon moved to New Hampshire, he was well established. Teaching had steeped him in literature and enriched his own poetry and criticism. His memoir String Too Short to Be Saved about boyhood summers at the farm had charmed thousands of readers. He had reported on the world champion 1968 Detroit Tigers in Sports Illustrated and joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for a spring training lark that would lead to Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. 


[M]ayo Smith had problems. Ray Oyler, the Tigers' regular shortstop, hit .135 for the season. Even more troublesome was the status of Al Kaline, who had played 16 years for the Tigers without experiencing a World Series. The aging rightfielder contributed relatively little to the Tigers' pennant-winning season. When he broke his arm in May, a young outfield took over. The Boys from Syracuse, as they were called (Syracuse, N.Y., was then the home of the Tigers' Triple A farm club) were left-fielder Willie Horton, rightfielder Jim Northrup and centerfielder Stanley. Horton hit 36 home runs that year; Northrup led the team with 90 runs batted in; Stanley drove in 60 and played the best defensive centerfield in the major leagues. When Kaline returned in July, he played at first for the slumping Norm Cash; but when Cash started hitting again (.317 from July 27 to the end of the season), Kaline became little more than a utility-man. His hitting suffered--his career average was .305 but that season he fell to .287--and when he dropped a fly ball at Tiger Stadium in August, he heard boos for the first time.

Yet it was unthinkable to bench Kaline for the Series. Who would sit down? Smith gave thought to substituting Kaline for Don Wert at third base. Wert had hit a mere .200, but he was a solid defensive player. The Cardinals were a speedy club, and if Kaline played third, the Cardinals would bunt him into early retirement.

It was Cash who first suggested that Smith move Stanley from center to shortstop. Cash and his manager did not get along: First base was an open job as long as Smith managed, and Cash's opinion of Smith's brainpower was available to the public. Yet when Cash spoke about Stanley--"He can play shortstop"--Smith listened to him. It was general knowledge, as catcher Bill Freehan put it, that Stanley was "the best all-around athlete we've got." But it takes more than a talented body to play shortstop.

A few of the Detroit coaches and groundskeepers--and Cash--knew that Stanley, all season long, had been taking thousands of grounders at shortstop before batting practice. He was 26 years old, intense and nervous; every day he was the first ballplayer to arrive at the park. When someone showed up who would hit fun-goes, Stanley worked out taking grounders. He was not auditioning--Stanley loved centerfield--but burning up excess energy. When Cash, among the early birds, strolled out to first base, he watched Stanley nip grounders and felt the sting of Stanley's arm.

One week before the Series, Smith made up his mind to play Kaline in his familiar rightfield spot, put Northrup in center, bench Oyler, and move Stanley from centerfield to short. Stanley would start at shortstop the last six games of the regular season to get ready. In his first game, he made two errors. He also made a novice's mistake. Throwing to first base to complete a double play, he stood on second while Don Buford of the Orioles barreled into him. That night Stanley called at Smith's hotel room: "I asked Mayo if he was sure that this was what he wanted. I said, 'I'm not worried for me; I'm worried for the other players.' Mayo said, 'I know you can do the job; that's good enough for me.' He said, 'You are my shortstop.' "

As the Series drew closer, the buzzing over Smith's decision grew loud. No position switch so eccentric had ever been tried in a World Series, as newspaper columnists noted. It was a managerial prerogative to realign the pitching rotation, they said, but to play a novice at shortstop was bizarre.

The doubts in the press were nothing compared with the doubts inside Stanley; he was not a phlegmatic sort. The night before Game 1 in St. Louis, he borrowed a sleeping pill from his wife, Ellen; in the morning he popped a tranquilizer; then, before the game, he vomited. "I suppose." he told sportswriter Red Smith, "the first damn ball will be hit to me."

It was. 

Donald Hall, The Art of Poetry No. 43 (Interviewed by Peter A. Stitt, FALL 1991, Paris Review)


How did the baseball players accept you? As I remember, when you tried out for the Pirates you were bearded and, shall we say, a touch overweight?


I was bearded and weighed about two hundred fifty pounds when I tried out for second base with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Willie Randolph and Rennie Stennett both beat me out. (I was cut for not being able to bend over, which wasn't fair; Richie Hebner made the team at third base and he couldn't bend over either.) The players had nicknames for me, like Abraham and Poet, and they treated me like a mascot. When I took batting practice, the whole team stopped whatever it was doing to watch--the comedy act of the decade. The players looked at me as some sort of respite from their ordinary chores; they were curious, and they were kind enough as they teased me. Mostly, athletes are quick-witted and funny, with maybe a ten-second attention span.

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President Trump, Deal Maker? Not So Fast (Peter Baker, June 22, 2018, NY Times)

As he threw in the towel on immigration legislation on Friday, saying that Republicans should give up even trying until after the fall midterm elections, Mr. Trump once again fell short of his promise to make "beautiful" deals that no other president could make.

His 17 months in office have in fact been an exercise in futility for the art-of-the-deal president. No deal on immigration. No deal on health care. No deal on gun control. No deal on spending cuts. No deal on Nafta. No deal on China trade. No deal on steel and aluminum imports. No deal on Middle East peace. No deal on the Qatar blockade. No deal on Syria. No deal on Russia. No deal on Iran. No deal on climate change. No deal on Pacific trade.

Posted by orrinj at 11:46 AM


Is democracy finally taking root in Iraq? (The Week, June 24, 2018)

There are distinct signs of progress: Downtown Baghdad is bustling, and violence in the capital is at its lowest level in nearly a decade. Reconstruction of Iraq's cities and towns is now joining oil production as one of the biggest drivers of the economy. In Mosul, which was under the brutal control of ISIS for several years until the militant group was defeated last summer, women have shed their Islamist-imposed burqas, and they now freely mingle and bargain with men in marketplaces. But 15 years of war, sectarian violence, terrorism, and poor leadership have left deep scars on Iraq and its population of 37.2 million people. Corruption is rampant, nearly a quarter of Iraqis are in poverty, and 10 percent remain displaced from their homes. In Ramadi, thousands of people live in tents next to the rubble of their houses. Many Iraqis are dispirited, angry, and deeply cynical about their government. "Think of the young man sitting around with no money, no home, and no job," says regional Gov. Ibrahim al-Janabi. "It seems impossible he's not going to start looking for someone to blame." Turnout in the May 12 election was just 44 percent, the lowest it has been in the four elections since 2003.

Who won that election?

Politics in Iraq is fragmented -- nearly 7,000 candidates from 87 parties ran for 329 seats in the parliament -- but it still produced a clear winner: Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand cleric who once led the Shiites' Mahdi Army against U.S. coalition forces. Formerly close to Iran, he has repositioned himself as a nationalist who wants to rid Iraq of both Iranian and U.S. meddling.

While W deserves the credit for removing Saddam, the Occupation was a mistake that fostered the rise of ISIS--because the Shi'a never got to de-Baathify--and delayed organic institution building.

Posted by orrinj at 11:42 AM


In Europe, the targeting of Roma sets off alarm bells for Jews (Cnaan Liphshiz, 6/24/18, Times of Israel)

[T]he remark this week by the interior minister Matteo Salvini about a Roma database generated a far greater international outcry, especially from several Jewish groups across Europe. Both the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned it as reminiscent of the Nazi policies inspired by Italy's fascist movement.

And whereas some Jewish leaders and groups in Italy and beyond rejected the comparison as exaggerated, the reaction nonetheless underlined once more the unofficial partnership that many European Jews feel toward Roma -- perhaps the only ethnic minority that was persecuted by the Nazis during the Holocaust with a murderous tenacity that rivals the one they showed the Jews.

...we end up referring to steps that the Nazis took as being like Nazism.

Posted by orrinj at 11:36 AM


Tweeting Oncologist Draws Ire And Admiration For Calling Out Hype (Richard Harris, 6/24/18, Morning Edition)

 At just 35 years old, Dr. Vinay Prasad has made a name for himself calling out the hype surrounding precision medicine and confronting other examples of hype in his field. [...]

The problem, in his eyes, is that the field has gotten so enthusiastic about these drugs that doctors aren't waiting for actual science to distinguish between the conditions where they are useful and where they are, instead, a very expensive, wasted effort.

"A lot of people want to push it to the treatment side," he says. "They want to get Medicare to pay for it," even before [the drug is] approved for that specific purpose.

Prasad says the drug industry is happy not to shoulder the costs of research when doctors will prescribe their medicine anyway. "And that's the root of what bothers me about this."

Indeed, the high costs of these unproven - and often failed - treatments fall to people who buy health insurance and who pay taxes. It is, in essence, a massive uncontrolled experiment, and nobody's even collecting the data most of the time to find out what might be useful.

Often, doctors run genetic tests on tumors to see if they carry a mutation that will respond to a targeted drug. More than 90 percent of the time, there's no match.

But doctors are increasingly giving these targeted drugs anyway to patients who have the mutation in a type of tumor that has not been shown to respond to the drug. While that sounds rational, it often doesn't work in patients.

One study to explore these non-approved uses is the NCI-MATCH trial. At the ASCO meeting, scientists reported on early results from about 150 patients who were matched to drugs based on their tumor's genetic fingerprint, rather than the type of tumor. The results were disappointing. The tumors responded poorly or not at all to the targeted drugs.

Posted by orrinj at 11:32 AM


How the Case for Voter Fraud Was Tested -- and Utterly Failed (Jessica Huseman, June 19, 2018, Pro Publica)

In the end, the decision seemed inevitable. After a seven-day trial in Kansas City federal court in March, in which Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach needed to be tutored on basic trial procedure by the judge and was found in contempt for his "willful failure" to obey a ruling, even he knew his chances were slim. Kobach told The Kansas City Star at the time that he expected the judge would rule against him (though he expressed optimism in his chances on appeal).

Sure enough, yesterday federal Judge Julie Robinson overturned the law that Kobach was defending as lead counsel for the state, dealing him an unalloyed defeat. The statute, championed by Kobach and signed into law in 2013, required Kansans to present proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, contending that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act (AKA the "motor voter" law), which was designed to make it easy to register.

The trial had a significance that extends far beyond the Jayhawk state. One of the fundamental questions in the debate over alleged voter fraud -- whether a substantial number of non-citizens are in fact registering to vote -- was one of two issues to be determined in the Kansas proceedings. (The second was whether there was a less burdensome solution than what Kansas had adopted.) That made the trial a telling opportunity to remove the voter fraud claims from the charged, and largely proof-free, realms of political campaigns and cable news shoutfests and examine them under the exacting strictures of the rules of evidence.

That's precisely what occurred and according to Robinson, an appointee of George W. Bush, the proof that voter fraud is widespread was utterly lacking. As the judge put it, "the court finds no credible evidence that a substantial number of noncitizens registered to vote" even under the previous law, which Kobach had claimed was weak.

...is why Mr. Kobach is so incompetent that he's the one Secretary of State who claims he's failing to do his job effectively.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


The Two Minds that Made Europe: a review of Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind by Michael Massing.   (DANIEL JAMES SUNDAHL, 6/24/18, University Bookman)

Michael Massing's thesis in this massive undertaking, Fatal Discord, argues that the rift between Erasmus and Luther--now some five hundred years past--defines the rippling course then taken by the Western mind. It's an engrossing dual biography suggesting the disputes between the two men gave rise to colliding traditions with us to this day. Both were developing new designs for living by rebelling against the restraints of the Roman Church. For Massing, Erasmus and Luther's historical time is the fault line "when the medieval gave way to the modern." The two enduring forms of thought illustrate the beginnings of Christian humanism and evangelical Christianity. [...]

Martin Luther, whose biography "duels" with that of Erasmus, is grounded in the "Ninety-five Theses," his proposition for a debate over the question of indulgences. The issue? The doctrine was uncertain in the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Council of Trent, which defined the doctrine and eliminated abuses. Prior to the Council, "indulgences" were commutations for money, a penalty due for sin, but also regarded as part of the sacrament of penance. Abuses became common.

Massing is clear on this issue, noting that Luther, a stout German and professor of moral theology at Wittenberg, was one with the German people in resenting the money they were forced to contribute to Rome.

His argument? Indulgences are not evidence of true repentance but more likely attempts to avoid repentance and sorrow for sin. One's entry into Paradise cannot be had by a handful of indulgence certificates. Equally to the point is Luther's argument for the bondage of the will, that protesting shot heard around the world and a rebuttal of Erasmus's argument for a free will.

For these "reformers" it was no mere academic question. For Luther such was the cornerstone of the gospel and the biblical doctrine of grace: without God's grace the will is not free at all but a permanent bondslave of sin. For Erasmus, in contrast, Christianity was essentially morality and the will was free, and in this context gave a power to mankind by which one could apply oneself to those things that lead to eternal salvation; in other words, the will does not need grace to have effective power.

The two men never met but carried on a correspondence, often vitriolic from Luther's pen, and thus became implacable foes. Their collision is with us today, culturally and even politically. Reading Massing's sprawling treatise forces the reader to look into the spirit of one's own belief: human perfectibility or the incorrigible depravity of human nature?

Unfortunately, Germany joined the rest of Continental Europe and sank into the mire of Erasmianism--the belief that Man could create perfect society as a function of the Will.  It was the Anglosphere and peripheral Europe (chiefly Scandinavia) that avoided the disaster, retaining an abiding and entirely healthy skepticism about the limits of Reason and sinful Man. As a political matter the latter was best captured in Federalist 51:

[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other -- that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.

Europe's bloody 19th and 20th centuries were a function of its imprudence.

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Trump Rewards Lewandowski After He Mocks Disabled Immigrant Child (Oliver Willis, June 24, 2018, Shareblue.

Trump gave loyalist Corey Lewandowski a trip on Air Force One just days after he was widely condemned for mocking a child with Down syndrome while defending Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Have Comment Sections on News Media Websites Failed? (NY Times, 4/18/16)

Many newspapers and online media companies have begun disabling comment sections because of widespread abuse and obscenity. Of course, that vitriol is not meted out equally: The Guardian analyzed its comments and found the 10 most abused writers of the past decade were female and/or black. (The Times moderates comments in an effort to keep them on-topic and not abusive.)

Have comment sections -- once thought to be a democratizing force in the media -- failed? [...]

Despite Flaws, Comments Are Good for Public Discourse (Eun-Ju Lee)

Comment sections can have interesting effects on readers. For one thing, the mere existence of them at the bottom of a story can change how readers perceive the partiality of the reporting. My research has found that when comments are uncongenial to a reader's own opinion -- especially on an issue that hits close to home -- the reader is more likely to blame the article for bias. They are also more likely to rate the same story more negatively when accompanying comments are vulgar or inflammatory.

Comments can shape individual readers' opinions, of course, but more interestingly, they can also shape how a reader interprets public opinion more broadly. The extreme beliefs of a few can be interpreted as a reflection of the beliefs of the general public -- distorting perceptions of reality.

Comments can distort how readers interpret public opinion and media bias, but they allow for a far more participatory news media.
Despite such misinterpretations, and the other risks that misguided, uncivil user comments may pose, I do not believe in shutting down user comment sections in most cases. Far from being the ideal public sphere -- wherein public-minded citizens openly share reasonable arguments and are gracious about their opponents' perspectives -- user comment sections are nonetheless an important ongoing experiment that tests the viability of deliberative democracy.

It's been our experience that it isn't particularly hard to keep the comments section civil and profanity free, provided you police them and ban the participants who can't conform.  Trolls pretty quickly get tired of having vitriol and profanity deleted and just head elsewhere.  And you can almost always identify the commenters who are building up to racial, religious or personal invective and profanity, both by the topics they choose to comment on and by the obsessive nature of their participation (I always ban them pre-emptively if I'm going to be away).

We use these simple rules for the blog and the comments:

(1) No profanity. 

(2) Minimal self-reference (though none would be unnatural) 

(3) Minimal linking to other blogs. 

(4) Minimal reference to comments.  (Folks who write comments don't get to do so on the front page, so we try not to write about them on the front.) 

(5) Try--though I'm bad about this myself--to only quote about three paragraphs, or no more than a third,  of any story you blog.  We want folks to go read it at the site that owns it.  But if you need to use more to make the excerpt make sense, no problem. 

(6) Always link to the original--we want folks to read the whole thing--and don't use links that pop up a new browser window.  It's annoying for readers and if we aren't interesting enough for them to navigate back to us, that's our problem. 

(7) Never let it interfere with real life. 

And, in turn, have a few requirements in the comments:

(1) No profanity

(2) No personal attacks

(3) No linking to dubious sources

(4) No espousal of hateful political theories (which, predictably, only ever occurs in discussions of religion, Darwinism and immigration)

And, lastly, a guideline, rather than a rule:

(5) Ask one question or raise one point at a time and we'll be happy to address it.  Ask or raise 5 and we'll still address just one.

[originally posted: 4/18/16]

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


Red Hen owner reveals she allowed employees to vote on booting Huckabee Sanders out of restaurant -- and Sarah lost (Bob Brigham, 23 JUN 2018, Raw Story)

[O]wner Stephanie Wilkinson acknowledged that she may have threatened the economic health of her small business with her principled stand, but said she would do it again.

"I'm not a huge fan of confrontation," Wilkinson said. "I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals."

Wilkinson recounted how she was at home when she got a call informing her that Sanders was dining at the Red Hen, under a reservation made in her husband's name. She raced to the business to investigate.

Wilkinson explained that she queried her employees about what to do, knowing several employees were gay and all the staff had all watched the press secretary evade questions while defending Trump's border separation policy.

"Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave," she told her employees. "They said yes."

The owner politely asked Sanders to step out on the patio "for a word."

"I was babbling a little, but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion," Wilkinson said. "I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation."

After explaining her reasoning, she said, "I'd like to ask you to leave."

The owner ought not feel compelled to rent Donald a room for a meeting, where she would be effectively hosting racist plotting, but unless Ms Sanders was submitting staff and customers to Donald's views there's no good reason to make her leave.

This does harken back though to a study done here at Dartmouth, A survey of Dartmouth's political and free speech climate: The Dartmouth examines campus political discourse and social life (Alexander Agadjanian,  5/22/18, The Dartmouth):

In the survey, undergraduates were asked if learning that another student had political beliefs opposite from their own would affect a range of possible interactions with them. Forty-two percent of respondents said that knowing this would make them less likely to befriend them, while 54 percent said it would make no difference. More than two-thirds of student respondents (70 percent) said they would be less likely to consider dating someone with opposite political beliefs from themselves. About a third (30 percent) said learning someone had opposite political beliefs would make them less likely to trust the person. The influence of personal politics does not permeate academics as much; only 19 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to study with someone with opposing political views, and for "working on class projects with them" it was 18 percent.

Overall percentages like these mask sizable partisan differences -- Democrats were consistently more likely to indicate conflicting politics negatively affect potential relationships. While 82 percent of respondents who identified Democrats say they would be less likely to date someone with opposing political beliefs, only 47 percent of Independents and 42 percent of Republicans said the same. Similarly, 55 percent of Democratic respondents said opposite political views would make them less likely to befriend another student, compared to 21 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans. Only gender plays nearly as strong of a role in dividing responses. For example, 83 percent of women said they would be less likely to date someone with opposing political views compared to 56 percent of men.

Obviously, racism and bigotry questions reveal character flaws, not just differences of opinion, but isolating ourselves from the views of others and the opportunity to influence them seems unwise.  The most common emails we receive from readers--most of whom never comment--here express gratitude for offering an optimistic take on elections that conservatives lose or for changing their views about immigration.

June 23, 2018

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An Unsung Opponent of Totalitarian Power: a review of Long Night of the Watchman (JOSHUA DILL, 6/18/18, Law & Liberty)

"Power," wrote Václav Benda, "is capable of liquidating or perverting almost everything. But not quite everything! We should continue to surround their totalitarianism with our reality."

Written in 1988, these were bold words for a dissident under the communist regime of the country then known as Czechoslovakia. They were well-informed words--well-informed by four years in prison, professional humiliation, harassment, surveillance. And they were words that would soon, and suddenly, be vindicated by the collapse of communism the following year.

Benda (1946-1999) was one of the unsung heroes of the 1989 revolution. A spokesman for the Charter 77 dissident movement, he was a founding member of the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted, a samizdat essayist, and, after communism's fall, a politician and head of the Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism. The Long Night of the Watchman, edited by F. Flagg Taylor IV, is the newly translated collection of his writings between 1977 and 1989. Stubborn, complex, drily ironic, humane, and distinctly Christian, Benda's words are the reality that he shored up against the onslaught of totalitarianism.

Our review is here.

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Who's Really Crossing the U.S. Border, and Why They're Coming (Stephanie Leutert, June 23, 2018, Lawfare)

For the past two years, I've worked to document these issues at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin, and also in the Beyond the Border column for Lawfare--based in part on my fieldwork from across Mexico. There are few straightforward and easy answers to what often feel like basic questions for Central American migration. So it's worth taking a step back and asking: who are the people arriving at the border? Why are they coming? And how does the current situation compare to migration in the past?

First off, while the current administration has tried to tie Central American migrants to MS-13, government data reveals that gang members crossing irregularly are the rare exceptions. Since the Trump administration took office, the Border Patrol has detected fewer gang members crossing irregularly than during the Obama administration. In FY2017, these detections amounted to 0.075 percent of the total number of migrants (228 MS-13 members out of 303,916 total migrants). When combined with MS-13's rival, the Barrio 18 gang, the number rises only slightly to 0.095 percent. This is far from the "infestation" of violent gang members described by the president.

The current crisis hasn't been caused by a sudden influx of migration, either. The peak in apprehensions of irregular migrants actually took place some 17 years ago, in FY2000. At that point, U.S. Border Patrol agents caught 1,643,679 migrants attempting to enter the United States without the appropriate papers, compared to 303,916 apprehensions in this past fiscal year. But this decreasing number of apprehensions should not be confused with a gentler, kinder approach to border security--in fact, just the opposite. Since 2001, the number of Border Patrol agents along the southwest border has nearly doubled from 9,147 agents to 16,605. Border fencing also increased: to date, there are 705 miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border.

The face of migration has also changed. Back in 2000, Mexican nationals made up 98 percent of the total migrants and Central Americans (referring to Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran migrants) only one percent. Today, Central Americans make up closer to 50 percent. [...]

The journey across Mexico is not, as Trump commented on Thursday, "like ... walking through Central Park." Migrants are extorted, robbed, assaulted, raped, kidnapped, and murdered at alarmingly high levels and with almost complete impunity. The perpetrators vary by geographic area, including MS-13 and Barrio 18 in the southern part of Mexico (the very gangs that many are escaping); larger criminal groups such as the Zetas and Gulf Cartel in the northern parts of the country such as Tamaulipas; local kidnapping rings and bandits throughout the territory; and even municipal, state, and federal migratory and public security authorities. A 2017 Doctors Without Borders report noted that 68 percent of the migrants that it provided services to in shelters across Mexico had been the victim of a crime during the journey. Women and children are also at particular risk, with nearly one-third of the women reporting that they were sexually assaulted during their trip through Mexico. [...]

Even in the best of situations, the current arrival of tens of thousands of Central American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border would bring its own challenges: addressed effectively, it would require rethinking and shifting resources within the United States' immigration and asylum systems to better process not just single adults but also mothers and fathers with toddlers and teenagers, who are in need of special protections. But despite the administration's claims to the contrary, the numbers of Central Americans arriving at the border are not near the all-time highs, and there is no infestation or invasion of MS-13. What the data shows instead is something far less dramatic: men, women, families, and children who are arriving to seek safety and the basic American dream of a better life.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Sarah Huckabee Sanders Kicked Out of Virginia Restaurant (Washington Free Beacon, June 23, 2018)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant on Friday night.

...than making her leave because she's wearing a burqa? Unless she stands on the table and starts haranguing customers, let her eat.

After all, she has enough crosses to bear, Mike Huckabee Sends Bigoted Tweet Calling Gang Members Pelosi's "Campaign Committee" (DANIEL POLITI, JUNE 23, 2018, Slate)

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The Violent Life and Shocking Death of XXXTentacion (Doreen St. Félix, June 20, 2018, The New Yorker)

Onfroy spent his late childhood and adolescence in and out of juvenile-detention centers, for charges ranging from robbery to assault. He spent the rest of his time in the basements and studios of friends, where he assembled the scraps and fragments of his psyche into paeans to disaffection, to his depression, to Xanax and the numbing it brought, and to women, whom he viewed as devourers of his soul. ("Only time I feel pain, when I'm feelin' love.") He started uploading music to SoundCloud, in 2013. His early songs were howls, his rapping agile but his voice cracked; the production was bruised and unpolished. Onfroy seemed to add to his catalogue impulsively. By the time of his death, he'd made loosies, mixtapes, a smattering of features, and two albums, including "?," which débuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Among the ranks of the SoundCloud rap generation, there are pranksters, heartthrobs, and dilettantes, but Onfroy clawed to the surface as the genre's wretched bard. He stalked the shadows of metal and emo and punk rock, and fleeced rap of its devotion to materialism, focussing instead, obsessively, on existential crisis. There wasn't a dark thought that he kept hidden. He unleashed a tremulous bombardment of pessimism, occasionally interrupted by feral gestures of overwhelming helplessness. "Here is my pain and thoughts put into words. I put my all into this, in the hopes that it will help cure or at least numb your depression," he speaks, on the introduction to his first album, "17." He peddled the seductive notion that depression is license to hurt people, perhaps because it was his own personal justification. He wrote ditties threatening suicide if a partner left him, which I would hear blasting from cars on my block. Throughout his music, there are presages to an early death.

Onfroy purposefully collapsed the real-life pain he wrought on others into his artistic persona. The art for "Look At Me!," a breakout single, featured one of his mugshots. It climbed the charts while he was in jail on charges of false imprisonment, witness tampering, and the assault and battery of a pregnant woman, his former girlfriend. (When she established a GoFundMe campaign for an operation to fix her broken orbital socket, people calling themselves XXXTentacion fans targeted her until the Web site temporarily shut it down.) To promote his music on "No Jumper," Onfroy bragged about beating a gay peer at a detention center until they were both covered in blood. XXXTentacion lived his art, which some would call a mark of authenticity. He was admired by J. Cole and advocated for by Kendrick Lamar, whose label, TDE, threatened to remove its music from Spotify when the service briefly stopped promoting XXXTentacion on its playlists as part of its policy against hateful conduct. Many artists have memorialized him in recent days, including Kanye West, whose own new album, "Ye," includes disturbing musings ("I thought about killing you") that sound influenced by XXXTentacion. Onfroy's victims are sacrifices, the thinking goes, on the pyre of raw art. The immaturity is part and parcel of the genius. The only unforgivable thing would be to be a hypocrite.

The entire point of being a mature human being is to become a hypocrite.  We "sacrifice" the freedom to do what we would like to do for the restraints of acting as we should (at least to the extent postlapsarian Man is capable of such)

Individualism in Ancient Greece (John W. Danford, Spring 2018 - Intercollegiate Review Online)

The ancient Greek political philosophers taught that man is by nature a political being. By this they meant that human beings are suited naturally--by nature--for life in a particular sort of community, called a polis or city. Any human being not fortunate enough to live in a polis, they said, would not be capable of realizing his full humanity or "humanness."

They also knew that many, if not most, men and women were cut off from the possibility of being fully human because they lived either outside cities (as nomads or shepherds, condemned to what Marx later disparaged as the "idiocy of rural life"), or in vast empires, far too large to have any taste of genuine political life. The special characteristic of a city or polis is that in a city human beings are able to exercise one of their highest, most human faculties, which the Greeks called logos or reasoned speech. This capacity is involved in all political deliberation, by which human beings exercise choice about how to live and how to constitute social life itself. According to Aristotle, the faculty of logos distinguishes men from all other animals. It is also what makes man the only being who is political by nature. Any man who lives outside a polis, he taught, must be either a beast or a god--either less than human (because falling short of the true human potential) or more than human (and hence self-sufficient). [...]

But if there were two troubling consequences to the lofty idea that man is a political being, there were also two suggestions for avoiding the troubling consequences. One was theoretical, the other practical. Aristotle's theoretical attempt to resolve the problem was based on the suggestion that while man is a political being by nature, he is also potentially more than that. The idea that political activity is the highest way of exercising the distinctly human virtues is, according to Aristotle, based on a mistaken understanding of "activity." It is agreed, he said, that "the best way of life both separately for each individual and in common for cities is that accompanied by virtue." But while some believe virtue is displayed only in political life and ruling, others say another kind of activity exists which is not political, though it does involve the highest faculties. This other kind of active life involves the life of the mind, and points to the philosophic life as the highest or best, rather than that of political rule. But surely a city cannot be devoted to philosophy, the province of only a few rare and gifted minds? Aristotle's compromise between these two notions is to say that, while it is not possible for a city to lead the philosophic life, a sort of approximation to or echo of the philosophic life can be found in a life devoted to education and the arts. These, he said, are proper concerns for a city. The best possible city, then, would be one not devoted to ruling, war, and tyranny over others, but to the "internal activities" of education, drama, and the other arts.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Putin and Moon pledge economic links with North Korea (Kathrin Hille in Moscow and Bryan Harris in Seoul, 6/22/18, Financial Times)

The presidents of Russia and South Korea pledged to push for the integration of North Korea into the regional economy, as Moscow sought a bigger say in shaping the future of the Korean peninsula and Seoul looked for support for the North's economic development. [...]

While Mr Trump has been criticised in the west for making too many concessions and getting little in return from Mr Kim, Russian diplomats urged that more incentives needed to be given to North Korea. "They need to be rewarded for the steps they take, such as destroying the test site," said Vladimir Sukhinin, a former Russian ambassador to Pyongyang. "Therefore, the lifting of sanctions should begin in a step-by-step process as progress is made in the negotiations."

Mr Putin was also believed to have consulted Mr Moon on a planned visit by Mr Kim to Russia. The Kremlin said Friday a date for the trip had not been agreed yet, but Russian officials were trying to get Mr Kim to visit Vladivostok in September, when Mr Putin plans to host Chinese president Xi Jinping, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Mr Moon for an economic forum in the Pacific port city.

But bilateral economic co-operation was as important in the talks between Mr Putin and Mr Moon as geopolitics.

State-controlled South Korean gas company Kogas signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian gas producer Novatek over potential participation in its new $27bn LNG project in the Arctic, amid interest from Saudi Arabian and Chinese rivals. Arctic LNG 2 is one of the world's largest upcoming LNG projects, and will enhance Russia's position as a major LNG exporter. Kogas is one of the world's largest buyers of the super-cooled, liquefied fuel.

The two governments also signed agreements on regional exchanges, key to Russia's goal to reinvigorate the economy of its struggling far eastern provinces, and on co-operation in technology, an area where Moscow hopes for investment from South Korea.

Mr Moon urged Russia to prepare together for pulling North Korea into trilateral economic co-operation. "I think that the time for this has come," he told Russian and Korean business leaders on Friday.

Mattis 'not aware' of North Korea taking any steps to denuclearize (REBECCA KHEEL, 06/20/18, The Hill)

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday said he is "not aware" of any steps North Korea has taken yet to denuclearize following the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

US, South Korea Indefinitely Suspend Marine Exchange Exercises: The suspension follows the cancellation of this year's Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercises. (Ankit Panda, June 23, 2018, The Diplomat)
On Friday, the United States and South Korea announced that they had come to a joint alliance decision to indefinitely suspend two exchange training exercises. The announcement follows the alliance's earlier decision to suspend this year's planned iteration of the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian computerized military exercises.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Judge to Michael Cohen: Only Eight Communications Are Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege (BRENDAN MCDERMID, 6/22/18, Daily Beast)

Manhattan Federal Court Judge Kimba Wood issued an order on Friday determining that only eight items of communication, out of some 292,226 seized by the FBI from Michael Cohen's office and home, were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Why Are Parents Bringing Their Children on Treacherous Treks to the U.S. Border? (Julie Turkewitz and Jose A. Del RealPhotographs by Ryan Christopher Jones, June 22, 2018, NY Times)

For years, children and parents caught crossing the nation's southern border have been released into the United States while their immigration cases were processed, the result of a hard-fought legal settlement designed to keep children from spending long months in federal detention. In the eyes of the Trump administration, this practice has served as an open invitation for people like Luis Cruz, and has played a major role in driving thousands of families across the border with Mexico.

Mr. Trump's newest immigration policies -- first an effort to separate families crossing the border, and now an effort to change the legal settlement on migrant family detention -- represent an aggressive effort to rescind that invitation, one that has plunged the nation into a debate about the limits of its generosity.

But interviews at shelters and passage points along both sides of the border this week, as well as an examination of recent immigration numbers, suggest that even with tightened restrictions on families, it's going to be difficult for the president to stanch the flow.

...Donald wants to retreat to theirs.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 AM


Vote against the GOP this November (George F. Will, June 22, 2018, Washington Post)

[T]he congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution's Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.

Consider the melancholy example of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who wagered his dignity on the patently false proposition that it is possible to have sustained transactions with today's president, this Vesuvius of mendacities, without being degraded. In Robert Bolt's play "A Man for All Seasons," Thomas More, having angered Henry VIII, is on trial for his life. When Richard Rich, whom More had once mentored, commits perjury against More in exchange for the office of attorney general for Wales, More says: "Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . But for Wales!" Ryan traded his political soul for . . . a tax cut. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 AM


Arguments, confusion, second-guessing: Inside Trump's reversal on separating migrant families (Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff, June 22, 2018, Washington Post)

By Wednesday morning, the president had become convinced that he needed a way to calm the criticism, according to people familiar with the discussions, and he felt confident that Republicans in Congress would push through immigration legislation ending the family separation practice -- so he might as well get ahead of it. A vote on the measure was eventually postponed until next week, but it does not appear to have enough votes to pass.

In private conversations with aides, Trump said he wanted to sign a full immigration bill as part of an executive order, which one administration official described as "a pretty insane idea." The president was told by government lawyers that he could not change immigration law by fiat, said a person familiar with the discussions.

Trump then demanded that an executive order be written that would end child detentions in cages, and said he wanted it on his desk for signing by that afternoon, according to people involved in the discussions.  

Given hours to produce a complex legal document, government lawyers crafted one that met the moment's political demands but only added to confusion within the agencies tasked with implementing it. [...]

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller, an outspoken proponent of tougher immigration policy, was unhappy that CBP had decided to halt referrals for prosecution of parents illegally crossing the border with children, according to people familiar with the meeting. Homeland Security officials complained they had been given no guidance and had done the best they could with vague language.

Trump, for his part, has ruminated to aides that he should not have signed the order in the first place, according to people familiar with the conversations. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


Mueller seeks September sentencing for Papadopoulos (JOSH GERSTEIN 06/22/201, Politico)

Special counsel Robert Mueller is asking that George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, be sentenced in September on the false-statement felony charge he pleaded guilty to last fall. [...]

Papadopoulos, an energy consultant, was part of a relatively thin bench of foreign policy advisers touted by the candidate at a time when few figures in the Republican establishment were willing to assist him, but he played a pivotal role in the launching of the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation.

In May 2016, Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, that the Russians had access to information on Hillary Clinton that could be damaging to her campaign. A couple of months later, another Australian diplomat relayed that information to the FBI, which opened an investigation.


Three diplomats -- Victoria Nuland, Jonathan Winer and Elizabeth Dibble -- appear to be key to the State Department's role in handling Trump-related Russia information.

Nuland, who was the Obama State Department's top Russia expert, received excerpts of Steele's dossier in mid-July 2016, about two months before the salacious document would reportedly make its way to the FBI team investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Dibble, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London, was reportedly one of the first U.S. officials to receive information about a May 2016 conversation that Papadopoulos, the Trump adviser, had with Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner to the U.K.

The meeting, held May 10, 2016, in which Downer says Papadopoulos mentioned Hillary Clinton and Russians, would later prompt the FBI to start its counterintelligence investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


US officials mull possible migrant site near former Japanese internment camp (HANNAH GRABENSTEIN, 6/23/18, AP)

 Nearly 75 years after federal officials shuttered a Japanese-American internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, the Trump administration is examining a site about 2 miles away as a potential temporary shelter for immigrant children.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that the government is considering an unused Department of Agriculture property in nearby Kelso as an immigrant shelter, as well as a possible shelter at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Unlike at the base, the site in Kelso has very little infrastructure and would require tents for housing, said Democratic state Representative Mark McElroy, who is "adamantly against" the proposal.

June 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 PM


Italy's deputy PM Salvini called for 'mass cleansing, street by street, quarter by quarter', newly resurfaced footage reveals: Minister's comments recirculate after leader of far-right League party announces 'census' of Roma community (Tom Embury-Dennis, 6/22/18, The Independent Online)

Footage has re-emerged of Italy's new interior minister calling for a "mass cleansing" of migrants from "entire parts" of the country.

Matteo Salvini's comments are being shared on social media after he announced a "census" of the country's Roma community, setting the stage for deportations of the ethnic group. 

"We need a mass cleansing, street by street, piazza by piazza, neighbourhood by neighbourhood," Mr Salvini, who is also Italy's deputy prime minister, said in an interview last year. "We need to be tough because there are entire parts of our cities, entire parts of Italy, that are out of control." 

During the same interview, the 45-year-old suggested Italy could adopt policies on immigration similar to those of Donald Trump in the US.  

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Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade defends Trump's treatment of immigrant children  (The Week, 6/22/18)
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade had a rather stunning requirement for treating children in a way that isn't considered by doctors to be "government-sanctioned child abuse": their citizenship status. Speaking on Fox News on Friday morning, Kilmeade defended President Trump's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, saying: "Like it or not, these are not our kids. Show them compassion, but it's not like he's doing this to the people of Idaho or Texas."

Kilmeade added as justification: "These are people from another country."

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


New Pruitt question: Where are his emails? (EMILY HOLDEN 06/22/2018, Politico)

An examination of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's government email accounts has uncovered only one message he wrote to anyone outside EPA during his first 10 months in office -- a number that has watchdogs questioning whether he is communicating in private.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Over-Population: The Malthusian Myth That Refuses to Die: A dangerous idea makes a comeback. (NOAH ROTHMAN, JUNE 20, 2018, Commentary)

The word "ethics" appears prominently in the biographies of the authors who co-wrote a recent Washington Post op-ed lamenting the "taboo" associated with "talking about overpopulation." Frances Kissling is the president of the Center for Health, Ethics, and Social Policy. Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Only Jotham Musinguzi, the "director general of Uganda's National Population Council," doesn't mention "ethics" in the bio. That's good because the Malthusian views promulgated in the piece are anything but ethical.

Inauspiciously, the authors begin by applying a coat of gloss over Paul Ehrlich's 1968 book The Population Bomb, which they note had a "major impact" on public policy but that "spurred a backlash" rendering the discussion of its thesis "radioactive." Indeed, that's only just. Ehrlich's claims were dead wrong.

Ehrlich claimed that the Earth had a finite "carrying capacity," and its limits were about to be tested. He claimed that mass starvation was imminent; hundreds of millions would die. Neither the first nor the third world would be spared; the average American lifespan would decline to just 42 by 1980. Ehrlich continued to make apocalyptic predictions after his book became a sensation. "Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born," he wrote in 1969. A year later: "The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." Between 1980 and 1989, most of the Earth's population, including over one-third of all Americans, would die or be murdered what he grimly dubbed "the Great Die-Off." As recently as this year, Ehrlich--who still teaches at Stanford University--said that civilizational collapse remains a likely prospect and the chief shortcoming of his most famous book was that it failed to invoke the modern progressive Trinity: feminism, anti-racism, and inequality.

Our WaPo ethicists don't tackle any of this. Indeed, they favorably observe that Ehrlich's warnings render family planning in the developed world a necessity to stave off the unfortunate circumstances that would force wealthy nations to withhold food aid from the developing world to induce "necessary and justifiable" chaos and starvation. Seriously.

One handy guide to ideology, anyone who invokes a "problem" but doesn't think the solution begins with themself is not a serious person.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Judicial Watch Obtains IRS Documents Revealing McCain's Subcommittee Staff Director Urged IRS to Engage in "Financially Ruinous" Targeting (Judicial Watch, JUNE 21, 2018)

In the full notes of an April 30 meeting, McCain's high-ranking staffer Kerner recommends harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating. Kerner tells Lerner, Steve Miller, then chief of staff to IRS commissioner, Nikole Flax, and other IRS officials, "Maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous." In response, Lerner responded that "it is her job to oversee it all:"

Henry Kerner asked how to get to the abuse of organizations claiming section 501 (c)(4) but designed to be primarily political. Lois Lerner said the system works, but not in real time. Henry Kerner noted that these organizations don't disclose donors. Lois Lerner said that if they don't meet the requirements, we can come in and revoke, but it doesn't happen timely. Nan Marks said if the concern is that organizations engaging in this activity don't disclose donors, then the system doesn't work. Henry Kerner said that maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous. Nikole noted that we have budget constraints. Elise Bean suggested using the list of organizations that made independent expenditures. Lois Lerner said that it is her job to oversee it all, not just political campaign activity.

And the primarily political purposes were obvious just from their names.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Leaked Internal Memo Reveals the ACLU Is Wavering on Free Speech  (Robby Soave, Jun. 21, 2018, Reason)

The American Civil Liberties Union will weigh its interest in protecting the First Amendment against its other commitments to social justice, racial equality, and women's rights, given the possibility that offensive speech might undermine ACLU goals.

"Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed," wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.

It's hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment.

...their credibility has been built on absolutism.  If nothing else, they owe Bob Bork an apology.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Suddenly, GOP Is In Trouble In Reddest State (Eric Boehlert, June 22, 2018, Shareblue) 

A Congressional race in the heart of West Virginia coal country has emerged as the latest soft spot in the GOP's imperiled defense as they try to keep control of the House next year.

A new Monmouth University poll shows Democrat Richard Ojeda leading Carol Miller 43 percent to 41 percent for the 3rd District seat that Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins vacated to run unsuccessfully for Senate.

Ojeda actually has a 6-point advantage when Monmouth factors in midterm voting patterns.

The fact that Republicans won the same House race by 50 points in 2016 only highlights how dramatically the party's fortunes have faded since Trump's election.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Melania's Immigration Lawyer Denounces 'Cruel' Trump Policy (Cody Fenwick, June 22, 2018, AlterNet) 

First Lady Melania Trump's immigration attorney Michael Wildes denounced President Donald Trump's policies Thursday on MSNBC, a stance he said could cost him his job.

He praised the first lady for her trip to the border earlier in the day, saying that she is pushing her husband to have more compassion in his immigration policies.

"I'm saying this as an attorney who's argued very strenuously against the president's policies, whether it was the Muslim ban or now the children in crisis at the border," Wildes, a Democrat, said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


In 2015, Judge Demanded Obama Release Children, Mothers Detained in 'Deplorable Conditions' (Hanna Bogorowski, June 21, 2018, Daily Signal)

A California federal judge ruled in 2015 that hundreds of mothers and their children held for illegally crossing the border must be released immediately, finding their detention a serious violation of a long-standing court settlement and the conditions of their facilities grossly inadequate.

Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California rejected the Obama administration's arguments for holding the families, saying they violated the long-standing 1997 class action suit known as the Flores settlement, which governs the treatment of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border.

Legal Experts: Trump Immigration Plan Doomed (Erik Larson, 6/22/18, Bloomberg News)

Implementing the June 20 directive hinges in part on whether U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles agrees to amend a 21-year-old agreement -- known as the Flores settlement -- on the government's handling of undocumented minors. The deal prohibits authorities from detaining immigrant children for more than 20 days, even with their parents.

"Assuming Judge Gee bars the Trump administration from modifying the Flores settlement, the administration can either cave, and blame the judge for illegal immigration, or defy the court, which will lead to more litigation," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University and doesn't think Gee will modify it.

June 21, 2018

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What does the British government know about Trump and Russia? (Paul Wood, 23 June 2018, The Spectator)

'Seen from the inside, the chaos is a hundred times worse than you can imagine,' said one former senior White House official. There seems even less chance of a special deal for Britain after this month's disastrous G7 meeting. 'We're like the piggy bank that everybody's robbing,' the President said. Britain will have to pay a 25 per cent steel tariff just like the rest of the EU and Canada. There was a testy phone call about this with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minster. 'Didn't you guys burn down the White House?' Trump is supposed to have said. The President had better not learn this was the British Redcoats or he might begin to suspect a pattern. This is because of the extraordinary number of British connections to what Trump has described as a conspiracy to destroy his presidency: the Russia investigation.

The most important 'British connection' is, of course, Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer whose 'dossier' is the road map for the US inquiry. After he wrote it, Steele asked the retired head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove what he should do and was advised that the US authorities had to be told. Dearlove's partner in a forum for intelligence professionals at Cambridge University was Professor Stefan Halper, apparently a long-standing CIA 'asset'. Halper was used by the FBI to get close to George Papadopoulos, an aide on the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos was drinking in a Kensington wine bar with the Australian High Commissioner and told him that Russia had supplied 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton. Hearing about the conversation, the then director of the FBI, James Comey, began a counter-intelligence investigation with the CIA.

That is the cover story, anyway: a US intelligence official told me there were 'many gathering clouds' in the summer of 2016. Among them might be GCHQ's intercepts of Trump's associates talking to Russians. Some -- credible -- reports say the head of GCHQ flew to the US to hand-deliver this incendiary material to the CIA director. Later, Steele's dossier was passed, in its entirety, to Comey, thanks to a former British ambassador to Moscow, Sir Andrew Wood.

Then there's Cambridge Analytica. The (now shuttered) British company did the Trump campaign's data. Its speciality was 'microtargeting': individual messages tailored to individual voters, delivered by email, Facebook and Twitter. The US intelligence agencies believe that Russian internet 'troll factories' were also pushing out pro-Trump propaganda on social media: sometimes fake news, sometimes real news, such as the hacked contents of Clinton's emails. The question is whether this was done in coordination with the Trump campaign. An American lawyer I know told me that he was approached by a Cambridge Analytica employee after the election. They had had the Clinton emails more than a month before they were published by WikiLeaks: 'What should I do?' Take this to Mueller, the lawyer replied.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM



Saint Basil the Great clearly earned his nickname. The Turkish holy man was a scholar who aided victims of drought and who fought prostitution. Sadly, Basil's views on gun ownership are unknown--he died in 379. Yet a charity named after the saint may turn out to be one key connection between the National Rifle Association and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trump--triple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romney in 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner.

The Russian wooing of N.R.A. executives goes back to at least 2011, when that same banker and politician, Alexander Torshin, befriended David Keene, who was then president of the gun-rights organization.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


Kagan May Mean a More Conservative Court (STUART TAYLOR JR., MAY 10, 2010, The Atlantic)

One irony of President Obama's nomination today of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is that the effect of a Democratic president filling the seat of Republican-appointed Justice John Paul Stevens will likely be to make the Court more conservative. [...]

"Among the most disturbing aspects" of Kagan's record, wrote left-liberal commentator Glenn Greenwald in Salon, "is her testimony during her Solicitor General confirmation hearing, where she agreed wholeheartedly with [Republican Senator] Lindsey Graham about the rightness of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism template: namely, that the entire world is a 'battlefield,' that 'war' is the proper legal framework for analyzing all matters relating to terrorism, and the government can therefore indefinitely detain anyone captured on that 'battlefield' (i.e., anywhere in the world without geographical limits) who is accused (but not proven) to be an 'enemy combatant.'"

Likewise, as Solicitor General, she has forcefully championed Obama's continuation of Bush's long-term detention without trial of Guantanamo prisoners; of Bush's detention of prisoners in Afghanistan with no judicial review at all; and of Bush's use of the "state secrets" doctrine to fend off lawsuits over Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. Kagan has also apparently helped shape Obama's plan to use congressionally revamped military commissions to try some terrorism suspects and other broad claims of presidential power.

Of course, it is Kagan's job as Solicitor General to defend Obama's policies even if she disagrees with them. But she has given no hint that she disagrees.

Commentators on the left also complain that Kagan never compiled much of a record of aggressively championing liberal causes during her years as a law professor. Some say she was too friendly as dean of Harvard Law School to conservatives and did not recruit as many women and minorities for the faculty as diversitycrats desired.

Speaking as a moderate independent, I like everything about Kagan that the left dislikes. To borrow from my friend Harvey Silverglate, a leading Boston lawyer who champions both civil liberties and an old-fashioned liberal's brand of political incorrectness, "they want people who look different but think alike."

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


Melania Trump makes surprise visit to US-Mexico border (AFP, 6/21/18))

Images and recordings of wailing children detained in cage-like enclosures have ignited global outrage, and Melania Trump herself had called for a political compromise to end the separations.

"This was 100 percent her idea. She absolutely wanted to come," Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director, told reporters travelling with her to Texas.

"She wanted to see everything for herself," Grisham said. "She supports family reunification. She thinks that it's important that children stay with their families."

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Meanwhile, as the border crisis spirals, the absence of a coordinated policy process has allowed the most extreme administration voices to fill the vacuum. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has all but become the face of the issue, a development that even supporters of Trump's "zero-tolerance" position say is damaging the White House. "Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border," an outside White House adviser said. "He's a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There's always been a way he's gone about this. He's Waffen-SS."

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Supreme Court rules states can collect sales tax from online retailers (jEVA lANGE, 6/21/18, The Week)
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday in South Dakota v. Wayfair that states can require online retailers to collect sales tax, even if the business has no physical presence in the purchaser's state. The decision was 5-4, with Justices John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan in dissent.

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'A blowtorch to the tinder': Stoking racial tensions is a feature of Trump's presidency (Philip Rucker, June 20, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump this week likened Hispanic immigrants to vermin. He warned that they would "pour into and infest our country." And he defended his administration's family separation policy by alleging that parents crossing the southern border with their children were poised to commit crime and murder.

For him, this language is not new.

Echoing the words and images of the white nationalist movement to dehumanize immigrants and inflame racial tensions has become a defining feature of Donald Trump's presidency and of the Republican Party's brand.

Trump has stirred supporters at rallies by reading "The Snake," a parable about a tenderhearted woman who takes in an ailing snake but is later killed when the revived creature bites her. It should be heard as a metaphor for immigration, he says.

The president referred to some African nations as "shithole countries." He posited that "both sides" were to blame for last summer's deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. And, again and again, he has accused black football players who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest police discrimination of being un-American.

Among the many ways in which Trump stands out in the lineup of modern American presidents is his aversion to using his bully pulpit to unify the diverse nation he was elected to lead. Rather, he stokes cultural divisions and cultivates tribalism under the banner of his slogan, "Make America Great Again."

What else has he got?

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


A CULT EXPERT FINDS FAMILIAR PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR IN TRUMP'S GOP: What do you call an organization where total loyalty to a charismatic but volatile leader is strictly enforced? (TOM JACOBS, 6/21/18, Pacific Standard)

Last week, retiring Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) openly worried that his party was "becoming a cultish thing" marked by forced fidelity to its mercurial leader. While he's not the first to make the point, his insider perspective carried considerable weight.

But is his description hyperbole, or an accurate assessment? While cautioning that not everyone who voted for Donald Trump falls into the mindless-follower category, an expert on cults leans toward the latter.

"I think he has touched on something important," says scholar and author Janja Lalich, who has extensively studied the phenomenon. "I think there are plenty of similarities--enough to be concerned about."

She continues: "The people around Trump, and the Republicans in Washington, absolutely kowtow to him, either out of fear they're going to anger him, or out of adulation. That behavior is very typical of a cult."

Polling suggests the party has been shrinking, and its remaining members are solidly behind Trump, giving him a remarkable 87 percent support in a recent poll. Even the policy of separating immigrant parents and children, which directly contradicts the traditional conservative belief in the sanctity of the family, was supported by more than half of Republicans before Trump rescinded it under pressure on Wednesday.

Is that decision to support the leader, even if it means ignoring long-professed moral precepts, cult-like behavior? Pacific Standard asked Lalich, a professor emerita of sociology at California State University-Chico. She has written or co-authored a series of books about the cults, including the infamous Heaven's Gate sect that committed mass suicide in 1997.

It is haunting how mindlessly they just re-up talking points from Donald, The Federalist, Breitbart, Fox News, etc. They seem to have lost the capacity for self-reflection and independent thought.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Obama cyber chief confirms 'stand down' order against Russian cyberattacks in summer 2016 (Michael Isikoff, 6/20/18, Yahoo News)

Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, asked about a "Russian Roulette" passage in which one of Daniel's staff members, Daniel Prieto, recounted a staff meeting shortly after the cyber coordinator was ordered by Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser, to stop his efforts and "stand down." This order was in part because Rice feared the options would leak and "box the president in."

"I was incredulous and in disbelief," Prieto is quoted as saying in the book. "It took me a moment to process. In my head, I was like, did I hear that correctly?" Prieto told the authors he then spoke up, asking Daniel: "Why the hell are we standing down? Michael, can you help us understand?"

Daniel has confirmed that the account was "an accurate rendering of what happened" in his staff meeting. He said his bosses at the NSC -- he did not specifically mention Rice in his testimony -- had concerns about "how many people were working on the options" so the "decision" from his superiors at the Obama White House was to "neck down the number of people that were involved in developing our ongoing response options."

Daniel added that "it's not accurate to say that all activity ceased at that point." He and his staff "shifted our focus" to assisting state governments to protect against Russian cyberattacks against state and local election systems.

But as for his work on developing cyber deterrence measures, "those actions were put on a back burner and that was not the focus of our activity during that time period."

Instead, Obama officials chose another course of action after becoming frustrated that Republican leaders on Capitol Hill would not endorse a bipartisan statement condemning Russian interference and fearful that any unilateral action by them would feed then candidate Donald Trump's claims that the election was rigged. They chose a private "stern" warning by Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in China in early September 2016 to stop his country's campaign to disrupt the U.S. election.

The desire not to intervene in the election themselves, while morally admirable, failed to account for the actual threat of Vlad/Donald. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


In 'Catcher Was a Spy,' Paul Rudd is a Jewish baseball player turned Nazi hunter: Opening Friday, new film reveals Moe Berg wasn't just a rare breed due to his religion -- the major leaguer also spoke 10 languages, which led to his recruitment as a WWII agent (CURT SCHLEIER, 6/21/18, Times of Israel)

The story sounds like great fodder for a movie, and that's what it has become: "The Catcher Was a Spy," based on a 1994 biography of the same name by Nicholas Dawidoff, opens Friday in theaters. Paul Rudd (who happens to be Jewish) stars as Berg alongside Mark Strong and Sienna Miller.

The film begins in 1939, his last season as a player, with the Boston Red Sox, before picking up several years later when Berg has a boring desk job at the OSS. His boss, Gen. William Donovan (played by Jeff Daniels), eventually assigns him a mission in the field, and with Sam Goudsmit (Paul Giamatti), Berg helps rescue the Italian physicist Eduardo Amaldi from the Nazis.

A more crucial assignment is to kill the famous German physicist Werner Heisenberg, a task with which Berg is not completely comfortable. There is no certainty that Germany has the resources to build a bomb (the Brits don't believe they do) or even that Heisenberg, despite being a loyal German, will help them build a weapon of mass destruction. But Donovan decides not to take a chance and orders the hit.

Berg was an enigma to most who knew him, and the film, directed by the Australian filmmaker Ben Lewin, paints a nuanced portrait of the complicated character. Though he had a longtime girlfriend, Estella (Sienna Miller), some questioned his sexual orientation. The general asks him point blank at one point if he's "queer," but Berg doesn't answer. (Later in life, Berg became unemployed and subsisted with the help of relatives.)

As a whole, though, the movie falls in a bland area between truth and fiction. While Berg's missions are fascinating on paper, the content isn't particularly cinematic, the way a good James Bond film is. So while the end product stays honest to the facts, it sacrifices some enjoyment for the viewer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Cohen Resigns From RNC As He Reportedly Prepares To Flip (Elizabeth Preza, June 21, 2018, National Memo)

As CNN reports, Cohen has told friends he's "willing to give investigators information on President Trump."

"He knows a lot of things about the president and he's not adverse to talking in the right situation," a friend of Cohen's told CNN. "If they want information on Trump he's willing to give it."

As CNN's Wolf Blitzer notes, Cohen reportedly feels "let down" and "isolated" by Trump.

In his resignation letter, Cohen also blasted the Trump administration "zero tolerance" policy that led to the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the southern border.

"As the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart-wrenching," Cohen wrote. "While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."

June 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


The GOP's Rapid Retreat in the Midwest: Republicans have abandoned Senate races in states Trump carried, and could lose several key governorships as well. Trump's boasting of crashing the blue wall is rapidly becoming ancient history. (Josh Kraushaar, 6/20/18, National Journal)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, notably, has left off Democratic seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio when he listed off the most competitive races for this year's midterms. The Democrats' leading Senate super PAC, so confident of its prospects in the region, isn't reserving any time for Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Bob Casey, Debbie Stabenow, or Sherrod Brown.

Meanwhile, Ohio is becoming a major warning sign for the GOP's fortunes in the upcoming midterms--and beyond. The state backed Trump by a healthy 8-point margin in 2016, fueled by dramatic swings towards Republicans along the blue-collar eastern spine of the state. Trump's winning margin in bellwether Ohio was nearly identical to his winning margin in ruby-red Texas. Given the promising political trends from Trump's election, Republicans were hopeful that they could upset Brown and hold the governorship with an established figure like Attorney General Mike DeWine. Early polling showed the Senate race competitive and DeWine holding a healthy lead over the opposition.

But the political movement in Ohio is headed in the opposite direction, even with Trump's recent uptick in popularity. Trump's job approval in the state is at 43 percent with 54 percent disapproving, according to a new Quinnipiac survey. Nearly half of respondents to a Suffolk University poll of Ohio voters said their midterm vote would be a check on the president, compared to 28 percent saying their vote would be to support Trump's agenda. And Brown now holds a commanding double-digit lead over Rep. Jim Renacci in the latest public polls, with Democrat Richard Cordray inching ahead of DeWine.

Governor races in the other Trump states aren't looking much better. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has watched his party lose numerous downballot elections on Trump turf and is openly concerned about the GOP's standing in the state, despite a lackluster Democratic field against him. Democrats will be aggressively contesting the open Michigan governor's seat, eager to litigate the record of a Trump-friendly attorney general (Bill Schuette) in a traditionally blue state. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is coasting to a second term, with The Cook Political Report changing its rating of the race to Likely Democratic. Cook has also shifted Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds's race against businessman Fred Hubbell for a full term from Likely Republican to Toss-Up.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM



"The alleged migrant crisis currently experienced by Europe is not likely to provoke an economic crisis, but might rather be an economic opportunity," writes a research team led by Hippolyte d'Albis of the Paris School of Economics in France. Its study is published in the journal Science Advances.

The researchers analyzed three decades' worth of data--covering the years 1985 to 2015--from 15 Western European nations, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Those nations received 89 percent of the continent's asylum applications in 2015.

The researchers looked at two separate variables. One is the flow of asylum seekers, measured by the number of first applications for residency "made by people who state that they are unable to return to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted." The other is "the net flow of migrants" into and out of nations--a figure that excludes asylum seekers.

The economic health of the nations was measured using per capita gross domestic project (GDP; the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders) and the unemployment rate. The researchers also analyzed rates of public spending and "net taxes," a measure of how much money the government is taking in minus how much it is giving out.

They report temporary spikes in the number of migrants to a country "significantly increase per capita GDP, reduce unemployment, and improve the balance of public finances."

"The additional public expenses (of temporarily caring for newcomers), which is usually referred to as the 'refugee burden,' is more than outweighed by the increase in tax revenues," they write.

A net increase in migrants who are not seeking asylum had immediate positive effects on a nation's economy, which remained significant for at least two years. In contrast, the researchers found "an inflow of asylum seekers takes longer to significantly affect the economy." But they had a positive effect on GDP three to seven years after the initial spike.

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


Bush Veteran Joseph Hagin to Leave Trump White House Post (Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, June 19, 2018, NY Times)

A senior White House official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal dynamics, said Mr. Hagin had been repeatedly targeted by others in Mr. Trump's orbit, both inside and outside the building, who questioned his loyalty given his ties to the Bush family. Mr. Trump beat Jeb Bush, the son of George Bush and brother of George W. Bush, with scathing attacks on him and his family to win the Republican nomination in 2016, and neither of the former presidents voted for him in the November election.

Mr. Trump has grown isolated within the West Wing, according to advisers, and is eager for human contact, even if that means jousting with the reporters whom he calls "fake news." He often asks staff members about whether others are leaking, and he recently told one person that "the Bushies in the White House are out to get me," according to someone with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


Fewer Births Than Deaths Among Whites in Majority of U.S. States (Sabrina Tavernise, June 20, 2018, Washington Post)

 Deaths now outnumber births among white people in more than half the states in the country, demographers have found, signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population.

There's a reason you only ever hear older, white, men defend old, white Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen's embarrassing surrender on separating families at the border (Aaron Blake, June 20, 20.18, Washington Post)

It's at once an admission that the politics of the issue had gotten out of hand and that the administration's arguments were completely dishonest. Virtually everything they said about the policy is tossed aside with this executive action. It's the political equivalent of waving the white flag and the legal equivalent of confessing to making false statements. Rather than letting Congress rebuke it, the White House is rebuking itself and trying to save some face.

Suppose, for a moment, that it was you who had falsely sought partisan cover for your own racism and then Donald did this to you?  what are you supposed to do with the golden calf?

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


Timeline: Trump's Acts of Accommodation/Engagement with Russia, Nov. 2016-June 2018 (Just Security, June 20, 2018)

In the past, Just Security published a timeline called, "Russian Provocations and Dangerous Acts since January 20, 2017." The new timeline below chronicles publicly reported Trump comments and actions toward Russia since the 2016 U.S. presidential election--whether accommodationist or adversarial or defying easy classification. Some may view certain steps as acts of rapprochement aimed at a more cooperative relationship with Russia to fight common enemies and avoid dangerous escalation. Other observers will see the acts as incriminating evidence of a quid pro quo or a dangerous appeasement to an adversary who attacked and continues to attack America's democratic institutions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


In Trump's world, morality is for losers (Anne Applebaum, June 20, 2018, Washington Post)

More recently the British journalist Nick Cohen has identified another way of sending social messages. This is something he called "vice-signaling," and it is precisely the opposite tactic. It applies to politicians who do something evil -- deliberately -- with the aim of proving they really are very sincere indeed. [...]

This is a useful context in which to understand the reasoning behind the Trump administration's horrific policy on family separation at the border -- a policy that, if it were enacted in another country, would be described by American officials as state-sponsored child abuse. It's incomprehensibly cruel, separating small children from their parents and sending them to institutions that resemble jails. Worse, the confusion around the policy is such that some of the children may eventually be lost -- or worse. It's a policy unprecedented in recent American history; Laura Bush, the former first lady, had to reach back to the 1940s, to internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, for a comparison. Another parallel might be the removal of children from black slaves before the Civil War.

The president and his team know exactly how evil this policy is: If they didn't, myriad officials wouldn't be blaming it, dishonestly, on the Democrats; or pretending that Congress can solve the problem when it has actually been created by the Trump administration; or ludicrously arguing, as the Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham has done, that the child jails resemble "boarding schools."

At the same time, the president and his team persist in pursuing it. Why? Because it signals to their base that they are really serious about stopping immigration -- so serious that they will abuse children, damage families, and shock anybody who cares about civil rights or human rights in the United States or elsewhere. It's not an accident that this policy has been attributed to Stephen Miller, the Trump adviser who has made a career out of using scandalous language and creating "happenings" designed to shock his peers. This kind of trolling is often a form of vice-signaling too. "Look," it tells supporters, "here's how nasty I am prepared to be."

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Welcome the Stranger: In Pittsburgh, Jewish immigration agencies are helping to resettle refugees from around the world (Frances Madeson, June 18, 2018, The Tablet)

Just after 10:45 p.m. at Pittsburgh International Airport on a Tuesday night in mid-May, shining steel elevator doors opened to reveal three generations of Congolese refugees coming to join family for a new start in America. Having flown from Kenya to Amsterdam to Pennsylvania, they wore their exhaustion lightly, except for the sleeping infant swathed in a cotton sling suspended on her mother's back.

Their waiting family members exulted. One man, a single dad who'd arrived with his children a month prior--to protect his privacy, I'll call him K--blurred across the space to embrace his mother, brother, sister, and her family. Their small group's chances for survival had just advanced exponentially: His mother could watch over the children, allowing K and his sister and brother-in-law to get to work to support the family.

No one was complaining. They'd escaped violence in Congo and an overcrowded refugee camp in Burundi. But money was a major concern: Those who come to the United States under the federal refugee-settlement program administered by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security receive only $1,000 per head, and they're expected to be economically self-sufficient in very short order.

For destitute non-English speaking refugees whose worldly possessions fit in a few suitcases and duffel bags, this would be impossible without help. Fortunately for this extended family, Jewish Family and Community Services, one of three agencies involved in refugee resettlement work in Pittsburgh, was there at the airport with a Swahili interpreter, case worker, and aide who greeted them inside the terminal and shepherded them through customs. The staff escorted the new arrivals to their apartment, sparely furnished and unadorned, but where the beds were already made with clean sheets. Basic human necessities--a few groceries, toiletries, and cleaning supplies--had been supplied in preparation for their arrival. The work of getting medical checkups, school enrollments, ESL classes, and employment would begin the next day.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Legal Considerations for Separating Families at the Border (Carrie Cordero, June 19, 2018, LawFare)

Based on the information publicly available so far, and given the lack of written guidance for agents on the front lines to follow, agents separating families in order to achieve the goal of 100 percent prosecution may be operating in a legal gray zone. As far as can be discerned from public reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the homeland security secretary have not provided the workforce with official guidance explaining the legal basis on which they are removing children from their parents for sustained periods of time. While attention has been given to how parents can locate their children, the equally if not more compelling argument against the policy is the right of the child to be reunited with the parent.

The executive has strong legal authorities at the border to regulate who may enter the country. But once allowed entry into the United States, migrant children have rights under the Constitution. Public reporting indicates that children are being detained for in-processing; held in confinement for days, weeks or months; and relocated to foster care--all the while unaware of when or if they will be reunited with a parent. It is not known whether the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has issued an opinion outlining the parameters of when children may be separated from their parents. So the first issue is whether there actually is a constitutional theory for lawfully detaining these children for sustained periods.

Generally, in a law enforcement context, families are separated when an adult is arrested or convicted of a crime, if the penalties involve jail time. (With the revocation of Paul Manafort's bond on Friday, the country has also re-familiarized itself this week with pre-trial detention.) But in these circumstances, due process has been provided: a complaint has been filed, a grand jury has indicted, or a judge has issued a warrant or heard evidence supporting the argument for detention. Moreover, when a parent is arrested for a crime, the government does not place the child in a government facility or in foster care unless the child has no other parent or family member, or is in danger, or removal is otherwise deemed to be in the child's best interests. The key determining factor is that the treatment should be in the best interests of the child.

Greater attention should be given to whether there are even any legitimate constitutional grounds for removing a child from a parent--for days to weeks to months without end--in the context of enforcing a misdemeanor illegal-entry law. On even less firm ground is the ability of the government to place a child in foster care absent a best-interest-of-the-child analysis, which is most appropriately conducted by a neutral magistrate. And, to be clear, there is no statutory requirement to separate children from their parents. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


President Trump seems to be saying more and more things that aren't true (Ashley Parker, June 19, 2018, Washington Post)

According to an analysis by The Post's Fact Checker through the end of May, Trump had made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days -- an average of 6.5 such claims per day of his presidency. 

And within the past week, Trump seems to have ramped up both the volume and the intensity of his false statements on two of the most prominent topics currently facing his administration: the hard-line immigration policy that has led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents -- which Trump erroneously blames on others -- and the 500-page inspector general report that he claims, incorrectly, exonerates him in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Bella DePaulo, a psychology researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said Trump's use of repetition is a particularly effective technique for convincing his supporters of the veracity of his false claims, in part because most people have a "truth bias," or an initial inclination to accept what others say as true.

"When liars repeat the same lie over and over again, they can get even more of an advantage, at least among those who want to believe them or are not all that motivated either way," DePaulo said in an email. "So when people hear the same lies over and over again -- especially when they want to believe those lies -- a kind of new reality can be created. What they've heard starts to seem like it's just obvious, and not something that needs to be questioned." 

All you really need to know about the Right is that Donald realizes the best way to keep them on his side as the investigation encircles him is by brutalizing Latinos.  It's the racism that buys their loyalty.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Here's just how few refugees Trump is allowing into the U.S. (ADELE PETERS, 6/20/18, Co.Exist)

The U.S. is on track to admit fewer refugees this fiscal year than ever before in the history of the resettlement program. At the same time, there are now more refugees and internally displaced people globally-68.5 million people fleeing war and persecution-than at any earlier point in history.

By September 30, the end of this fiscal year, the U.S. is expected to resettle no more than 21,000 refugees, according to a new report from the nonprofit International Rescue Committee. That's out of a cap set by the Trump administration of 45,000 people for the year-itself the lowest number since Congress created the current refugee program. The previous year, the Obama administration set the cap at 110,000 (that wasn't reached either, after Trump's travel ban put the resettlement program on hold).

Trumpism is opposition to immigration.  Period.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Youngest migrants held in 'tender age' shelters (GARANCE BURKE AND MARTHA MENDOZA, 6/20/18, AP)

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three "tender age" shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care. The government has faced withering critiques over images of some of the children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing stations.

Decades after the nation's child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents.

June 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Web of elite Russians met with NRA execs during 2016 campaign (PETER STONE AND GREG GORDON, June 11, 2018, McClatchy)

Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential bid.

Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia's defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia's largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.

The Russians talked and dined with NRA representatives, mainly in Moscow, as U.S. presidential candidates vied for the White House. 

...when the useful idiots were on the Left, not the Right, but I repeat myself....

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Trump just went on a bonkers rant about Canadian shoe smugglers (Jeva Lange, 6/19/18, The Week)

[I]t is no longer 1945, Trump noted, going on to describe "people living in Canada coming into the United States and smuggling things back into Canada because the tariffs are so massive." Canadians, Trump said "buy shoes and they wear them. They scuff them up, they make them sound old or look old. No -- we're cheated horribly."

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


Against Anti-Liberalism: A long-standing fashion on the left is now a fashion on the right. (Nicholas Frankovich, Jun. 16th, 2018, National Review.)

Anti-liberalism is sold in assorted flavors under various labels: "post-liberalism," "illiberalism," "integralism" (popular among right-wing Catholics), "the end of liberalism" (see Patrick Deneen), "the Fourth Way" (see Aleksandr Dugin). No two self-identified anti-liberals have exactly the same definition of what they oppose. Some start from an economic idea of liberalism -- capitalism, essentially -- and then assume that it's a necessary correlative of a host of legal, political, cultural, and psychological tendencies. They say it's a package deal. But it isn't, or doesn't have to be.

On the right, what half of those who advocate some form of anti-liberalism say they want boils down to -- to translate it into plain, boring terms -- economic progressivism married to social conservatism. They may think that their case is sexier if they present it as an argument that "liberalism" suffers from a congenital disorder that makes it advisable for us to kill it off or hasten its death, but if they go that route they should point to an existing alternative that most closely approximates what they would like, because otherwise we're left to wonder whether they mean that America should follow Viktor Orban and take for its model Putin's Russia, Erdogan's Turkey, or even Xi's China.

Approval ratings of Putin in particular are high among Americans and Europeans on the right. From that perspective, Russia is an advanced version of what Hungary and Poland are still in the process of becoming: a state in which the ruling party tinkers with media and the courts to consolidate power and then pulls up the drawbridge to shut out political opponents, though letting them furnish the appearance of a democracy as they grumble on the other side of an impassable moat.

The difference between the American and the European use of the term "liberal" is often remarked. The former refers, on the whole, to the Left; the latter, to classical liberalism, which until yesterday was the political philosophy -- free markets, limited government, individual liberty -- of the mainstream American Right. The current populist revolt on the right has flushed to the surface a fact I had underestimated: that when Americans who call themselves conservative say "Down with liberalism," classical liberalism is a large part of what many of them have in their sights.

You lost the Right at "All Men" and the Left at "are Created"....

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


Buyers tied to Russia, former Soviet republics paid $109 million cash for Trump properties (ANITA KUMAR, June 19, 2018, McClatchy)

Aleksandr Burman, a Ukrainian who engaged in a health care scheme that cost the federal government $26 million and was sentenced to a decade in prison, paid $725,000 cash for a condo at a Trump Tower I in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. in 2009.

Leonid Zeldovich, who has reportedly done extensive business in the Russian-annexed area of Crimea, bought four Trump units outright at a cost of more than $4.35 million, three of them in New York City between 2007 and 2010.

And Igor Romashov, who served as chairman of the board of Transoil, a Russian oil transport company subject to U.S. sanctions, paid $620,000 upfront for a unit at a building adorned with the future U.S. president's name in Sunny Isles Beach in 2010.

Buyers connected to Russia or former Soviet republics made 86 all-cash sales -- totaling nearly $109 million -- at 10 Trump-branded properties in South Florida and New York City, according to a new analysis shared with McClatchy. Many of them made purchases using shell companies designed to obscure their identities.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Leon Ray Livingston, America's Most Famous Hobo (JAY SERAFINO, JANUARY 17, 2018, Mental Floss)

What we know about Livingston's early life comes solely from the books he wrote, which often read like tall tales designed to help build his mystique. According to Livingston, he was born in August 1872 into a family from San Francisco that he described as "well-to-do," but at age 11, misbehavior at school led him down a different path in life. On the day after his 11th birthday, his teacher sent him home with a note detailing his bad behavior, which was to be signed by Livingston's father. The boy didn't show his father the note that night, and when he spotted his teacher heading toward his house the next morning, Livingston snuck out of the house and kept moving. He wouldn't fully stop for decades.

Livingston says he left his house that day armed with a .22-caliber rifle and a pocket full of money--some stolen from his mother, some a birthday gift from his uncle. From there, his life became an odyssey of riding the rails, hopping on steamers, and taking on odd jobs as he traversed a country in the midst of an industrial revolution. Years later, Livingston would famously brag that he traveled 500,000 miles while only spending $7.61 on fares.

In his decades on the road, he took to writing about his experiences, eventually self-publishing around a dozen books about his adventures; the most comprehensive was Life and Adventures of A-No. 1: America's Most Celebrated Tramp. Published in 1910--nearly 30 years after he left home--this book includes tales of his early life as a hobo, including one globe-trotting adventure in his first year that found him working aboard a British trade ship that set off from New Orleans for Belize, where he jumped ship and began working for a mahogany camp.

Livingston's Central American exploits include anecdotes about the working conditions in the British mahogany camps, his repeated (but failed) attempts to desert his employers and head home on their dime, feasting on "roasted baboon," and his near-fatal run-in with something he called Black Swamp Fever (which could be a reference to malaria). The writing is colorful and no doubt romanticized, making it hard to separate facts from the legend Livingston aimed to enhance.

It was after his return trip to America that Livingston was christened with the nickname that would help him become something bigger than a lowly transient: A-No. 1. In his book, Livingston said the moniker was given to him by an older companion named Frenchy, who said:

"Every tramp gives his kid a nickname, a name that will distinguish him from all other members of the craft. You have been a good lad while you have been with me, in fact been always 'A-No. 1' in everything you had to do, and, Kid, take my advice, if you have to be anything in life, even if a tramp, try to be 'A-No. 1' all the time and in everything you undertake."

He also told Livingston to carve this new nickname into each mile post he passed on his journey, letting the world know who'd traveled here before them. This piece of advice gave the legend of Livingston more longevity than he could ever imagine: In the 21st century, people are still finding "A-No. 1" scribbled under bridges.

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What Is Really Behind Trump's Controversial Immigration Policies? (Perry Bacon Jr.. 6/19/18, 538)

I don't think it's a secret that immigration policy is an issue that hits on identity, or that Team Trump is not wild about immigrants. But understanding Trump's immigration policies as a full-scale revolt against rising numbers of foreign-born Americans helps explain what is happening: Controversial immigration policies that would limit both legal and illegal immigration, often combined with rhetoric designed to cast immigrants, usually falsely, as a criminal or national security threat.

America is in the midst of an immigrant boom, by historical standards. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 14 percent of Americans, about 44 million people, are foreign-born. Those numbers are up from 2000, when about 11 percent of the population (31 million Americans) were foreign-born. The foreign-born population had hit almost 15 percent at its peak around 1890, but it dipped below 5 percent by the 1970s. So it is quite high now (compared to the past 50 years), and the Census Bureau estimates it will hit 15 percent again over the next decade.

If you think of stopping the growth in the foreign-born population as the unifying goal -- rather than strengthening national security or promoting law enforcement -- then Trump's immigration agenda hangs together more clearly. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Confessions of a former immigration hawk (Matthew Walther, Jun. 19th, 2018, The Week)

Three or four years ago I think I would (I hope) ultimately have disapproved of the present policy that has horrified all right-thinking Americans. But with that smug double-think that makes journalists and politicians seem repulsive to ordinary decent people who judge questions simply on the basis of right and wrong, I would have also made a point of observing that something has got to be done about the issue. I might, alas, even have gone so far as to suggest that at the very least, the policy, however regrettable, might have the salutary effect of discouraging people from crossing the border in the future. It might (I can hear myself mumbling) have gotten rid of the "incentive," to employ the requisite economic-journalistic cant, in the same way the mass amnesty of the Obama administration's DACA executive order had strengthened it.

If I had, it would have been nonsense. The possibility of a better life for oneself and one's family is not an "incentive"; it is the foundation of all decent human relations, the dream of every father, mother, son, daughter, or sibling. A man who accepts a job at a lower wage than his newfound neighbor is a victim of rather than a party to exploitation; he does not, along with millions of others who find themselves in similar situations, belong to some poorly defined aggregate of human beings that can be designated as a "surplus" or as some other subspecies of creatures called "labor." Removing a toddler from the care of a mother who feeds her and changes her and tucks her in at night and teaches her to say her prayers is not a "deterrent"; it is an act of barbarism. There is no such thing as an "incentive" or a "surplus" or, heaven help us, a "deterrent" in the real world. These are meaningless terms. We employ them because for some reason we find it convenient to drain the blood out of the life we all share as human beings made wonderfully in the image of God.

Which is why, without having in any meaningful sense changed my mind, I will now say that detaining or deporting one family will not meaningfully improve the situation; not a single person's wages will increase, nor will even one venal Manhattanite power couple decide that they can pick up their own progeny from cello lessons from now on. What about 10 deportations or 100 or 1,000? Ten million? How much misery would ensue if we decided to "get serious" (to borrow another hawkish GOP talking point)? And to what end? If I and others were correct in our speculations, would the result -- higher wages and a more just distribution of work -- have justified the means? Whatever we decide to do about immigration in this country must be undertaken with an uncompromising commitment to the physical and metaphysical dignity of persons rather than a slavish devotion to our other supposed principles.

The more I think about it, the more I think that poor old Jeb Bush grasped this better than anyone. When he told a reporter in April 2014 that entering this country illegally was more often than not an "act of love," the painfully dorky older brother of our 43rd president was teased endlessly. But the phrase stuck with me and I had not forgotten it more than a year later when a clip of the exchange was used in a crudely demagogic Trump campaign ad. I cannot say exactly when I first realized it, but I have known for a long time now that Jeb was right: To risk one's own well-being in order to provide better for one's family really is an act of love, whatever else it may be.

The fact that they're right is the reason the Right hates the Bush boys.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Lies, China And Putin: Solving The Mystery Of Wilbur Ross' Missing Fortune (Dan Alexander, 6/18/18,  FORBES)

In November 2017, Ross confirmed in writing to the federal Office of Government Ethics that he had divested everything he promised.

But that was not true. After weeks of investigation, Forbes found:

For most of last year, Ross served as secretary of commerce while maintaining stakes in companies co-owned by the Chinese government, a shipping firm tied to Vladimir Putin's inner circle, a Cypriot bank reportedly caught up in the Robert Mueller investigation and a huge player in an industry Ross is now investigating. It's hard to imagine a more radioactive portfolio for a cabinet member.

To this day, Ross' family apparently continues to have an interest in these toxic holdings. Rather than dump them all, the commerce secretary sold some of his interests to Goldman Sachs--and, according to Ross himself, put others in a trust for his family members. He continued to deal with China, Russia and others while evidently knowing that his family's interests were tied to those countries.

In addition, five days before reports surfaced last fall that Ross was connected to cronies of Vladimir Putin through a shipping firm called Navigator Holdings, the secretary of commerce, who likely knew about the reporting, shorted stock in the Kremlin-linked company, positioning himself to make money on the investment when share prices dropped.

Absurdly, maintaining all those conflicts of interest appears to be entirely legal--a reflection of ethics laws woefully unprepared for governing tycoons like Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross.

Ross appears to have broken one law, however: submitting a sworn statement to federal officials in November saying he divested of everything he had promised he would--even though he still held more than $10 million worth of stock in financial firm Invesco, his former employer. He also continued to hold a short position in a bank called Sun Bancorp, a company he had promised to divest. The next month, Ross got rid of interests in both.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Explainer: Is the government required to separate immigrant families at the border? (Lomi Kriel, June 18, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

Is there a law requiring the separation of immigrant families at the border?


But crossing the U.S. border without a visa or other authorization and between official ports of entry has been a misdemeanor crime for decades.

Some say it was first proposed in 1929, when Coleman Livingston Blease, a pro-lynching Democratic senator from South Carolina, pushed it to cut down on Mexican immigration.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, speaking on "Meet the Press," argued that the policy is a function of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. Congress that year was controlled by Democrats and the president was Democrat Harry Truman.

Either way, the federal criminal statute was rarely used until the last decade, reserved instead for only the most egregious offenders or those with serious criminal records.

In 2005, President George W. Bush's administration launched "Operation Streamline,"  first as a pilot program in Del Rio, Texas.

Under that plan, aimed at deterring illegal border crossers, the government criminally prosecuted most migrants caught within a stretch of the border en masse and channeled them into the federal justice system, where the Bureau of Prisons has more resources to hold them for longer periods of time before they can be deported.

Over the next few years, similar prosecution initiatives were tried to varying degrees in six of the nine southwestern border sectors, except for California where U.S. Attorneys declined to take part.

Even under "Operation Streamline," U.S. attorneys rarely prosecuted parents traveling with their children.

One reason was that the White House, under both Bush and President Barack Obama, did not want to separate parents from their children, who by law cannot be held in federal prison.

But the sheer number of offenders, thousands a day, and the limited capacity of the federal courts also realistically meant most prosecutors used discretion in whom to charge.

The expense to the federal courts and Bureau of Prisons of criminalizing what is usually a civil offense is staggering. Detaining migrants on such charges alone costs some $1 billion a year, according to estimates by Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group in Austin opposing incarceration.

Even without Trump's recent policy, the crime of illegal entry made up almost half of all federal cases and 80 percent of the dockets in the Western and Southern Districts of Texas, which includes Houston.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Emancipation congregation: Slaves' exodus celebrated with NYC Juneteenth seder: Complete with ceremonial food and a unique hagaddah, hundreds gather to fuse two familiar stories of freedom into a brand new ritual organized by the Jews of Color caucus (STEVEN DAVIDSON, 6/19/18, Times of Israel)

Those who first sang "Go Down Moses" did not need reminding of what slavery was like in Egypt. Their Moses was in fact alive, and her name was Harriet Tubman. The water they waded into was not the Red Sea, but streams and rivers that allegedly threw the slave owners' dogs off their tracks.

African-American liberation and the Exodus story are uniquely connected in spiritual inspiration and in embodying resilience, yet never before have the stories been brought together and blended like they were at the Juneteenth seder -- the first of its kind -- in New York City on June 14.

Organized by New York City's Jews For Racial and Economic Justice [JFREJ], the seder utilized the rituals and traditions of Passover to celebrate "Juneteenth," the liberation of African-American slaves announced on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Nielsen becomes face of Trump's border separations (ELIANA JOHNSON and ANNIE KARNI 06/18/2018, Politico)

[K]elly's status in the White House has changed in recent months, and he and the president are now seen as barely tolerating one another. According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured. While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment -- at least this chapter of American history would come to a close.

In recent months, his Secret Service detail has often been spotted standing outside the gym in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the middle of the day -- and White House officials who pass it on the way to meetings view his late morning workouts as an indication of him having thrown in the towel on trying to have any control inside the West Wing.

June 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Senate rejects Trump's rescue of Chinese firm ZTE (JOHN HENDEL 06/18/2018, pOLITICO_

The Senate voted Monday to reimpose the U.S. ban on Chinese telecom giant ZTE, in a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his efforts to keep the company in business.

The provision targeting ZTE was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass defense spending bill that cleared the Senate by a vote of 85-10. It must now be reconciled with the House version of the measure, which takes a narrower approach to ZTE.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families (Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, June 16, 2018, NY Times)

Almost immediately after President Trump took office, his administration began weighing what for years had been regarded as the nuclear option in the effort to discourage immigrants from unlawfully entering the United States.

Children would be separated from their parents if the families had been apprehended entering the country illegally, John F. Kelly, then the homeland security secretary, said in March 2017, "in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network." [...]

[F]or George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the idea of crying children torn from their parents' arms was simply too inhumane -- and too politically perilous -- to embrace as policy, and Mr. Trump, though he had made an immigration crackdown one of the central issues of his campaign, succumbed to the same reality, publicly dropping the idea after Mr. Kelly's comments touched off a swift backlash.

But advocates inside the administration, most prominently Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump's senior policy adviser, never gave up on the idea. Last month, facing a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings, Mr. Trump ordered a new effort to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border unlawfully -- with few exceptions for parents traveling with their minor children. [...]

[M]r. Miller has expressed none of the president's misgivings. "No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement," he said during an interview in his West Wing office this past week. "It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law."

...one is forced to conclude that General Kelly is only in it for the inhumanity.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Schiff: 'Deeply disturbing' that FBI gave Nunes confidential info on Clinton's emails (LUIS SANCHEZ, 06/17/18, The Hill)

The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Adam Schiff (Calif.), said Sunday it was "deeply disturbing" that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) received classified information about Hillary Clinton's emails from FBI field agents in 2016.

"This is the first that we've heard about it, and it is deeply disturbing because if this was shared by New York field agents with Devin Nunes, was it also shared with Rudy Giuliani? Or did Devin Nunes do something, which we have seen subsequently, which is coordinated with the Trump team?" Schiff said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Judge strikes down Kansas voter law, orders Kobach to take classes (JONATHAN SHORMAN, 6/18/18, Wichita Eagle)

Judge Julie Robinson also ordered Kobach to take additional hours of continuing legal education, or CLE.

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Has Trump Overestimated the Cruelty of His Own Supporters? (PAUL WALDMAN, JUNE 17, 2018, The American Prospect)

After a lengthy internal argument in which the utility and morality of separating children from their parents when they try to cross the border was debated by Trump administration officials, the hardliners won out. Now, instead of putting families into immigration detention (where they could stay together), the adults would be criminally prosecuted and their children removed from them.

The cruelty of this policy was its very rationale: The more horrifying the site of children being torn from their parents' arms, the more powerful a deterrent to illegal immigration it would provide. On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy with evident pride. "Today, the Department of Homeland Security is partnering with us and will begin a new initiative that will result in referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution," he said. "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border."

Had things worked as planned, people in Mexico and Central America would have been aghast, but Americans would have found it right and proper. And in recent weeks, President Trump has been trying even harder than usual to dehumanize immigrants. "You wouldn't believe how bad these people are," he said at a recent White House roundtable. "These aren't people. These are animals." Facing criticism for the remark, Trump's spokespeople insisted he was only talking about the MS-13 gang, but Trump seemed to relish the controversy, saying to a crowd at one of his rallies, "They are not human beings. This is why we call the bloodthirsty MS-13 gang members exactly the name I used last week. What was the name?" To which the crowd shouted, "Animals!"

Perhaps that enthusiasm for dehumanizing language displayed by his most ardent supporters led Trump to believe that the family separation policy would be warmly embraced. But it wasn't, and faced with a steady stream of alarming news stories as well as condemnation from some unexpected quarters like conservative religious leaders, the president hit on a creative solution: Keep the policy, but claim that it's actually the Democrats' fault.

The folks who support the cruelty are indeed the ones blaming the UR.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


Disgraced FBI Agent Peter Stzrok Says He'll Testify Before Congress - And He Won't Plead The Fifth (EMILY ZANOTTI, June 18, 2018, Daily Wire)

The disgraced FBI agent at the center of both the Hillary Clinton and Russia collusion investigations now says he'll testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee - or any other Congressional committee - and will not plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating questions.

He'd only be disgraced if we had access to his personal thoughts and they didn't express contempt for Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


America the Horrible?: Progressives say that the United States is racist and misogynist, but they still want everyone in the world to come here. (Heather Mac Donald, June 14, 2018, City Journal)

But why should social-justice warriors want to subject these potential asylees to the horrors of America? In coming to the U.S., if you believe the dominant feminist narrative, the female aliens would simply be exchanging their local violent patriarchy for a new one. Indeed, it should be a mystery to these committed progressives why any Third World resident would seek to enter the United States. Not only is rape culture pervasive in the U.S., but the very lifeblood of America is the destruction of "black bodies," in the words of media star Ta-Nehesi Coates. Surely, a Third World person of color would be better off staying in his home country, where he is free from genocidal whiteness and the murderous legacy of Western civilization and Enlightenment values.

But the same left-wing establishment that in the morning rails against American oppression of an ever-expanding number of victim groups in the afternoon denounces the U.S. for not giving unlimited access to foreign members of those same victim groups. In their open-borders afternoon mode, progressives paint the U.S. as the only source of hope and opportunity for low-skilled, low-social-capital Third Worlders; a place obligated by its immigration history to take in all comers, forever. In their America-as-the-font-of-all-evil-against-females-and-persons-of-color morning mode, progressives paint the U.S. as the place where hope and opportunity die under a tsunami of misogyny and racism.

Likewise, the Right's opposition to immigration boils down to nothing more than opposition to the "Third World person of color " and the ideology that they can not share our values and civilization

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Innovators Tackling Humanity's Biggest Problems Seek Solutions by Studying Nature
"Biomimicry" is the study of living systems for clues to create human designs that are better for both people and planet. (Megan Schuknecht, 6/18/18, Entrepreneur)

Alessandro Bianciardi wanted to help get fresh water to communities that needed it the most -- rural farmers in areas that were hardest hit by climate change-induced drought. So when he and his team of engineers and designers at the company Planet set out to create a more affordable, scalable and radically sustainable solar still, they went right to the source of the most effective R&D process they knew of -- nature itself.

The Planet team, including CEO Alessandro Villa and product developer Alessandro Zecca, is part of a new crop of social entrepreneurs who are incorporating biomimicry, or nature-inspired design, in order to take their innovations to the next level. Biomimicry is based on a simple idea -- that living systems can provide clues for how to create human designs that are better for both people and planet. It's a pathway to innovation that's leading social entrepreneurs to find new solutions to tough issues like energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, food systems, transportation, water management and more.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Trump Picks Economic Winners, Guided by Nostalgia (Brad Plumer and Jim Tankersley, June 18, 2018, NY Times)

As President Trump tries to tilt global trade in the United States' favor, he is increasingly putting his finger on the scale to help once-iconic industries that are declining as a share of the American economy, at the expense of some of the country's fastest-growing sectors.

The president's attempts to boost domestic steel manufacturing and coal mining have come largely through policies that limit foreign competition, like tariffs, and proposals to prevent coal-fired power plants from closing. Those efforts have produced only modest job gains so far in two blue-collar sectors that Mr. Trump championed in his run to the White House. But they have injected uncertainty into a host of other growing industries -- such as advanced manufacturing, natural gas production and renewable energy generation -- that have helped drive American job creation since the Great Recession.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas (NOMAAN MERCHANT, 6/18/18, AP)

Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.

One teenager told an advocate who visited that she was helping care for a young child she didn't know because the child's aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girl's diaper.

The U.S. Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern U.S. border, responding to new criticism and protests over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy and resulting separation of families.

More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility that's divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children. The cages in each wing open out into common areas to use portable restrooms. The overhead lighting in the warehouse stays on around the clock.

The Border Patrol said close to 200 people inside the facility were minors unaccompanied by a parent. Another 500 were "family units," parents and children. Many adults who crossed the border without legal permission could be charged with illegal entry and placed in jail, away from their children.

Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Have We Reached Peak Funny? (GLEN WELDON, 6/18/18, NPR)

Ken Jennings -- yep, you got it: affable Jeopardy! champ/trivia doyen/comedy-adjacent media personality, that Ken Jennings -- is worried.

Worried, not panicked. Not even distressed, really. No, what his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over our Culture amounts to, really, is an extended, engaging, deeply knowledgeable, 275-page-long (312, if you count the endnotes) (come on, you knew there'd be endnotes) fret.

He's concerned, Jennings is, about how something he loves -- comedy -- has transformed the way we live now.

These days, he says, we collectively react to every stimulus through a lens of humor. In his view, the comedic "take" has become reflexive, unthinking and often, especially when abetted by social media, glib.

He's worried about what is healthy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Does the Trolley Problem Have a Problem?: What if your answer to an absurd hypothetical question had no bearing on how behaved in real life? (DANIEL ENGBER, JUNE 18, 2018, Slate)

For all this method's enduring popularity, few have bothered to examine how it might relate to real-life moral judgments. Would your answers to a set of trolley hypotheticals correspond with what you'd do if, say, a deadly train were really coming down the tracks, and you really did have the means to change its course? In November 2016, though, Dries Bostyn, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Ghent, ran what may have been the first-ever real-life version of a trolley-problem study in the lab. In place of railroad tracks and human victims, he used an electroschock machine and a colony of mice--and the question was no longer hypothetical: Would students press a button to zap a living, breathing mouse, so as to spare five other living, breathing mice from feeling pain?

"I think almost everyone within this field has considered running this experiment in real life, but for some reason no one ever got around to it," Bostyn says. He published his own results last month: People's thoughts about imaginary trolleys and other sacrificial hypotheticals did not predict their actions with the mice, he found. [...]

Bostyn's mice aside, there are other reasons to wary of the trolley hypotheticals. For one thing, a recent international project to reproduce 40 major studies in the field of experimental philosophy included stabs at two of Greene's highly cited trolley-problem studies. Both failed to replicate. Then there's the fact that trolley-type dilemmas are often interpreted as though they were a valid measure of a person's or a population's tendency toward utilitarian decision-making. (That's how researchers concluded that men are more utilitarian than women and that millennials are more utilitarian than Gen-Xers.) But recent research finds these hypotheticals only measure one component of utilitarian moral judgment; namely, the willingness to inflict sacrificial harm. That leaves out another basic element of this ethical framework: one's commitment to the greater good, and positive investment in the well-being of strangers. That explains the awkward fact that trolley studies tend to label psychopaths as utilitarians despite their moral shortcomings. (Psychopaths, it turns out, tend to be quite willing to endorse pushing strangers off of footbridges.)

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Separating children from their parents at the border 'breaks my heart' (Laura Bush, June 17, 2018, Washington Post)

On Sunday, a day we as a nation set aside to honor fathers and the bonds of family, I was among the millions of Americans who watched images of children who have been torn from their parents. In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care. More than 100 of these children are younger than 4 years old. The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders.

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.

...while the internments were no less racist, they were even worse because we caged citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Key Trump ally Roger Stone reveals new Russian contact during 2016 presidential campaign (Manuel Roig-Franza and Rosalin S. Helderman , 6/18/18, Independent)

The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information to Mr Stone about Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's presumptive Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election.

The meeting took place two months earlier than federal officials have said a counterintelligence operation was officially opened and before WikiLeaks began releasing hacked Democratic emails.

It came in the same time period as other episodes in which Russian interests approached the Trump campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Comey made the same error everyone made -- assuming he knew who'd win: A former campaign staffer on the ironies in the Inspector General's report. (Jennifer Palmieri June 17, 2018, Washington Post)

Most consequentially, though, the report made us face the irony once again that the FBI's investigation of Clinton's email was a public matter that garnered enormous attention, while the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in the campaign remained a secret. Imagine a world in which Comey never sent the ill-advised and hasty letter to Capitol Hill but had let us know that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign's possible involvement with Russia's interference in our elections. It's a world in which Hillary Clinton is almost certainly president of the United States.

Despite the frustrations I felt in reading the Inspector General's report, there are important lessons contained within it. It's a cautionary tale of the damage that can be done when political leaders believe they can predict democratic outcomes, and then act on those false assumptions. It's clear that the underlying assumption upon which Comey and others at the FBI made decisions -- on how to handle both the Clinton/email and Trump/Russia investigations -- was that Clinton would be president.

You see the underlying assumption of a Clinton win throughout the FBI's handling of both investigations. In Comey's book, "A Higher Loyalty," he writes in detail about the painstaking process, involving hundreds of agents, the FBI went through to investigate Clinton. He notes that concern over the public and political reaction to the investigation -- as opposed to merely doing a thorough investigation -- in part drove his desire to have such an exhaustive effort. In describing the FBI's effort, Comey noted in his book that "We'd never convince Clinton haters ... [B]ut hopefully we could persuade a majority of fair and open-minded Americans" that the FBI had done a thorough investigation and made the right call. It was Comey's desire to protect the bureau's public reputation that pushed him toward a path that ended with disastrous consequences.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


The government agency that made Silicon Valley (Nigel Cameron, 6/18/18, UnHerd)

In February of 1958 President Eisenhower set up the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA - the D for Defense was added later) with a simple mission: to make sure the US would never again be surprised by developments in new technology.

From the start, DARPA has operated as a unit of the Department of Defense, though it's been free to think long-term and not feel bound by the need to develop weapons. It's a nimble organisation, with only a couple of hundred employees - and a budget of $3 billion.

Its approach is to look way into the future and find and fund the smart people who will get us there. Some of its work is seriously secret.3 But many of its innovations are well known.

Its most recent claim to fame is self-driving cars. Big car companies are now sparring with Silicon Valley start-ups to turn their experimental vehicles into production models, but it was as recently as 2004 that DARPA kick-started this rapid technological development. Instead of splashing out large sums to university researchers, DARPA decided to run a competition. Anyone could compete, their cars had to trundle across 142 miles of desert to get to the finish line, and the winner would take home $1 million. Incredibly given where we are now, every single entry in that first round failed to make it. But DARPA persisted, and in 2005 five vehicles crossed the finishing line, with Stanford University taking home the prize. DARPA moved on to an urban course, and then decided its support was no longer needed.

Of course, DARPA's biggest claim to fame is the internet. Or, as it was originally called, the ARPANET. Back in the 1960s there was a simple need: a system that could not be destroyed by a Soviet nuclear attack. Hence the idea of joining up computers - initially between universities - in a network that did not depend on any single hub. And that burning platform led to DARPA funding 70% of all US computer research in the early 60s.

It was two key thinkers working on the project, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who came up with what we now recognise as the internet. The story goes like this: Cerf was hanging around in a hotel lobby and came up with the idea of a new 'communications protocol' that would enable networks to connect with each other. It came to be known as TCP/IP. First tested on ARPANET in 1977, it's the standard we're still using today. 

The outlines of this story are well-known, but its implications less so. Because DARPA and other US government funding agencies did not just invent the internet - they devised the tools that made the digital economy possible; and enormously profitable.

June 17, 2018

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Yemen: Understanding the conflict (Kelly McFarland. 6/17/18, tHE cONVERSATION)

Yemen lies on the southeastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, buffered by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and bordered by Saudi Arabia and Oman. About 29 million people call Yemen home, and they are the poorest in the Middle East. Portions of the nation have a history of British and Ottoman colonial rule, it was divided into two separate countries and two civil wars - on top of the current one - have been waged since the early 1960s.

To understand the current conflict, which began in January 2014, it's necessary to know something about the Huthis.

The Huthis are a Zaydi Shiite political movement. Zaydi Shiite Muslims are around a quarter of Yemen's population. Zaydis led much of Yemen until the 1962 overthrow of the Yemeni ruler. The government has since repressed their home region economically and culturally.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Mexico's World Cup Goal Caused Man-Made Earthquake (Chas Danner, 6/17/18, New York)

Mexico's stunning upset win over Germany in the World Cup on Sunday may have shocked more than soccer fans. At the same time El Tri forward Hirving Lozano scored Mexico's winning goal at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, at least two seismic sensors detected a minor earthquake in Mexico City, according to a monitoring agency run by Mexico's Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Research...

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DAAAAAAAD! On Father's Day, An Homage To The Terrible Jokes They Tell (Neda Ulaby, 6/17/18, NPR: weekend Edition)

What's a dad joke? Oh, basically just really goofy jokes told by fathers in the interests of gently torturing their offspring.

Last Thanksgiving, then-President Obama turned the traditional turkey-pardoning ceremony into an opportunity to, in his words "embarrass my daughters with a corny-copia of dad jokes about turkeys." Off he went with groaners about cold turkey and fowl play.

You can watch guys (and a few women) cracking each other up in dozens of dad joke battles on Youtube. (Sample volley: "Why didn't the melons get married? Because they cantaloupe!")

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Cracking Jokes at the Crack of Doom: a review of Lincoln's Sense of Humor by Richard Carwardine.  (TIMOTHY D. LUSCH, 6/17/18, University Bookman)

The book's chief virtue is Carwardine's ability to give us a palpable sense of a man who lived over a century and a half ago, and not merely by sharing in the laughter but in better understanding how he used it; as sword and shield, refuge and release, charity and instruction.

As many shades as Lincoln's humor had, and as many uses, its reception was anything but monolithic. Carwardine, in a helpful bit of historiographical clarification, demonstrates that the "positive and benign" characterization of Lincoln as a folksy frontier storyteller only emerged after his death. During the dark days of war, he was criticized and derided for laughing in the midst of death and devastation. In the Confederacy, this was no surprise. That he was criticized so vehemently in the North--publicly and privately--will surprise many readers who last encountered Lincoln in a textbook or in the Bardo. But even seasoned students of Civil War politics and history will likely be impressed by the range of attacks on the president. And, lest we think our own age has a monopoly on partisan nastiness, it is a healthy reminder what the Republic--even when ravaged by war--can bear from the worst angels of our nature.

Carwardine clarifies another aspect of Lincoln's humor that was as misunderstood then as it is now. Known for his delight in the vulgar and the bawdy--a reflection of life spent on the western frontier--Lincoln, Carwardine argues, did not relish crude jokes for their crudity but always with a view toward the wisdom or moral instruction they imparted. "Beneath his levity," Carwardine says, "lay a stratum of ethical rock." When Lincoln told a bawdy story to friend David Davis, any moral of the story was lost on the irate man, who scolded the president saying, "Lincoln, if the country knew you were telling those stories, you could never be elected and you know it." But when a visitor to his law office in Springfield told a lewd joke, one with no point but its lewdness, Lincoln became so irritated that he complained to William Herndon that he nearly threw the man out. Still, despite Lincoln's widely known dark spells and brooding temperament, he was roundly and repeatedly criticized for his mirth. Carwardine quotes one Connecticut newspaperman saying of the president, "I verily believe he would crack a joke at the crack of doom."

Sorting through the complexities of Lincoln's humor is where Carwardine excels. One of the ways he does this is by showing how Lincoln's sense of humor evolved over time and relative to the case before a jury, the opportunity for political advancement, or the gravity of the nation's existential crisis. This approach rectifies a dichotomy often seen in popular renderings of Lincoln in which he is portrayed as either a "smutty joker" or a melancholic depressive awaiting the next revelation as the new Moses, or both. The man was somewhere in between--a fact Carwardine is not the first to suggest but one given profound and nuanced treatment in his book.

Russell Kirk, whose regard for Lincoln rankled more than a few conservatives, observed, "Here was a man of sorrows. It has always been true that melancholy men are the wittiest; and Lincoln's off-colour yarns, told behind a log barn or in some dingy Springfield office, were part and parcel of his consciousness that this is a world of vanities." Lincoln's humor and melancholy, then, ought to be seen in relationship, not opposition. Carwardine is adept at drawing out such connections in so limited a study.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


More Americans side with Justin Trudeau than Donald Trump in trade spat: Ipsos poll (Rebecca Joseph and Katie Dangerfield, 6/16/18, Global News)

Most Canadians and Americans approve of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the situation on tariffs, trade and U.S. President Donald Trump.

That's according to two Ipsos polls, for Global News and Reuters. [...]

The poll shows that Canadians are firmly on Trudeau's side -- with about three-quarters of respondents (72 per cent) saying they approve of how he's handling the situation. Only 14 per cent of Canadian respondents said the same about Trump.

As for Americans, 57 per cent of respondents approved of how Canada is handling the dispute -- while only 37 per cent said they approved of how Trump was doing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Trade Wars Don't Matter, Unless You Think $2 Trillion Matters: Hey, maybe this stuff is bad for business after all. (Mark Gongloff, June 15, 2018, Bloomberg)

Until recently, President Donald Trump's waving of the trade-war stick at China and various allies has generally elicited stock-market yawns. But Trump's new tariffs on Chinese goods today may have been a hot pot of coffee. China fired back with massive tariffs of its own, and Trump has threatened to retaliate for China's retaliation. 

Suddenly the trade wars seem to matter a bit more to stocks; the S&P 500 fell about one percent before recovering at the end of the day. And trade wars matter in some quarters more than others. Qualcomm Inc.'s pending merger with NXP Semiconductors NV is suddenly complicated, notes Alex Webb. China's government is telling big U.S. companies doing business in China to "buckle up" should Trump follow through on his anti-trade vows.

Trump's former economic adviser, "Globalist" Gary Cohn, has said trade wars could cost the U.S. economy $2 trillion - wiping out the Trump administration's claimed tax-cut boost. That may overstate the damage, writes Stephen Gandel - but not by much. Comparing the market valuations of big-company stocks against those of small companies - which you'd expect would feel a trade war less - Steve suggests trade agita might already have shaved $1 trillion from big-company values...

There's a high price to pay for hating the other.
Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


It's Trump Sanctions, Not OPEC, That's Boosting Oil (Julian Lee, June 17, 2018, Bloomberg)

What changed in that eight weeks? The outlook for the availability of Iranian oil. Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions will reduce the volume of crude available from the country by an unknown amount.

I have said from the outset that the amount of Iranian oil that will be forced off the market will be more than when sanctions were previously in force -- even without the EU bans on purchases that accompanied U.S. curbs last time around. Analysts are now starting to ratchet up their forecasts of the volume that could be lost.

The curbs will be more extensive than under President Obama -- targeting Iran's exports of condensates as well as crude oil -- and waivers will be harder to come by. Tanker owners and insurers may already be reacting to the imposition of sanctions, even before they come into effect.

It is the fear that the world is about to lose as much a million barrels a day of Iranian crude oil exports by the end of the year, and possibly another 500,000 barrels from Venezuela, that has really driven oil prices higher -- not OPEC.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Former CIA head compares U.S. immigration policies to Nazi Germany (JTA, 6/17/18)

Former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency Michael Hayden compared the Trump administration's immigration policies to Nazi Germany.

In a tweet posted on Saturday, Hayden wrote: ""Other governments have separated mothers and children," under a black and white photo of the front of Auschwitz as seen from the railroad tracks approaching the former Nazi camp.

Exclusive: Trump looking to erect tent cities to house unaccompanied children (FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, June 12, 2018, McClatchy)

The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to shelter the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children being held in detention.

The Department of Health and Human Services will visit Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army base near El Paso in the coming weeks to look at a parcel of land where the administration is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the plans.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


New York's Case Against Trump May Be Prophetic: Why the complaint involving the president's foundation is a road map for Mueller. (Francis Wilkinson, June 16, 2018, Bloomberg)

To give credit where it's due, the New York attorney general is building on the case built in 2016 by Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, whose search for legitimate charitable activity by Trump's foundation consistently left the reporter comically empty-handed.

What Fahrenthold detailed was Trump's utter disregard for the law in taking in tax-deductible contributions to his foundation and proceeding to spend the money on his personal and business needs.

New findings, for instance, show that the Trump Foundation's largest-ever gift -- $264,631 -- was used to renovate a fountain outside the windows of Trump's Plaza Hotel.

Its smallest-ever gift, for $7, was paid to the Boy Scouts in 1989, at a time when it cost $7 to register a new Scout. Trump's oldest son was 11 at the time. Trump did not respond to a question about whether the money was paid to register him.

Take a moment to savor that last detail. A man claiming to be worth billions of dollars -- and who certainly flaunted the lifestyle -- appears to have illegally diverted $7 from a charitable foundation to pay his son's Boy Scouts registration fee.

Trump's foundation is organized "exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes either directly or by contributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."

Instead, as Underwood's complaint shows clearly, he used it to pay settlements incurred in business lawsuits and to advance his 2016 political campaign. The foundation took in millions in donations for veterans. His campaign then directed the foundation to issue checks to Iowa veterans groups in advance of the Iowa caucuses as he sought to curry political favor.

How does Underwood know campaign personnel were involved in spending decisions? Because the Trumpsters are so recklessly contemptuous of rules that they left a trail of this blatant violation of campaign-finance law on their emails. At least one email thread included Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski weighing in on where he wanted the foundation's tax-deductible funds directed.

The foundation also made a $25,000 contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who subsequently determined that fraud charges against Trump's university were not a proper matter for her office. The foundation listed the contribution as going to a Kansas nonprofit with the same name as Bondi's political committee.

"The Foundation has no credible explanation for the false reporting of grant recipients to the IRS and the State of New York," Underwood concluded.

Trump will likely claim he was uninvolved and unaware. But Underwood's complaint has that covered, too.

Mr. Trump, who was the sole signatory on the Foundation's bank accounts, approved all grants and other disbursements from the Foundation. Accounting staff for the Trump Organization had responsibility for issuing checks from the Foundation, and issued the checks based solely on Mr. Trump's approval before presenting the checks to Mr. Trump for signature.

Indeed, the foundation's board didn't provide much of a check on Trump's personal whims, owing to the fact that, in violation of the law, it "has not met since 1999 and does not oversee the activities of the Foundation in any way."

You basically can't look at anything he ever does without finding illegalities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


How Republicans Went Soft on Communism (Steve Chapman, June 17, 2018, Creators)

It's the most astonishing reversal in modern American political history. Over the past century, the right accused liberals and Democrats of excusing the crimes of Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro. Often, the criticism was well-founded.

Harvard's John King Fairbank, the dean of American China scholars, spoke for many on the left in 1972 when he said the communist revolution was "the best thing that has happened to the Chinese people in centuries." President Jimmy Carter, who spurned Americans' "inordinate fear of communism," was shocked by the invasion of Afghanistan. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, he lamented, "lied to me."

Conservatives saw Carter as a starry-eyed dupe. "The most flagrant offenders of human rights including the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Cuba have been the beneficiaries of administration good will, while nations friendly to the United States have suffered the loss of U.S. commercial access and economic and military assistance," said the 1980 Republican platform.

"The evidence of the Soviet threat to American security has never been more stark and unambiguous, nor has any president ever been more oblivious to this threat and its potential consequences," the platform added. "The president's failure to shoulder the burden of leadership in the Western alliance has placed America in danger without parallel since December 7, 1941."

All these charges have deafening echoes today. But this time, the credulous appeaser failing our allies is a Republican president. For communist dictators such as Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un, Trump exudes admiration and amity. To the anti-Western Russian President Vladimir Putin, he offered congratulations for winning a rigged election.

When it comes to Canada's Justin Trudeau and Germany's Angela Merkel, by contrast, he seethes with resentment. With Trump, it's better to be a long-standing American adversary than a faithful ally.

That about-face strains belief. More incredible still is that the Republican Party has chosen to follow his lead. GOP leaders and conservative commentators have turned themselves inside out praising behavior they would have torched had it come from a Democratic administration.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


More Assaults on the Rule of Law (Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, June 14, 2018, Creators)

The committee's chairman, Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, and the Republican majority on the committee have demanded that the Department of Justice turn over documents pertaining to the origins of the investigation of President Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller.

And Nunes has threatened Mueller's superior, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, with censure, contempt and even impeachment if he fails to comply. Can Congress interfere in an ongoing federal criminal investigation? Can it get its eyes on law enforcement's active files? In a word: No.  [...]

There are two dangers to the rule of law here. The first is that members of this committee could use their security clearances to examine classified materials and then use what they have seen for a political narrative. They cannot lawfully, except on the floor of Congress, publicly reveal classified documents they have seen, but they can (and they have done so in the past) summarize them publicly -- and with a political spin.

That endangers the sources of criminal investigators, many of whom are people who communicate with investigators at great personal risk and to whom confidentiality has been promised. That confidentiality is recognized in the law as the informant's privilege, and it keeps confidential criminal matters from public and peering congressional eyes until the investigation is concluded.

The second and equally harmful danger is that members of the committee could leak what they have seen. To prevent this, prosecutors have a privilege to keep their files secret until they charge or exonerate their targets or subjects.

Under the Constitution, we enjoy the separation of powers. Congress writes the laws; the executive branch enforces them; and the courts interpret them. Congress can no more constitutionally interfere with ongoing law enforcement for political purposes than the DOJ can interfere with the passage of congressional legislation that it doesn't like.

The down and dirty fear that the DOJ and the FBI have is that revealing the contents of the criminal file on the president to his political allies in Congress in the midst of an investigation of him would be a dangerous precedent, one that would pollute the investigation and give present and future politically powerful potential defendants advantages that no one else has.

The Judge is looking at Mr. Nunes's job through the lens of the Constitution, whereas the Chairman views it through the lens of Donald/Vlad. He thinks the point is to get them information about the investigation.

June 16, 2018

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Understanding the 'Beautiful Game' (ALAN JACOBS, June 15, 2018, Weekly Standard)

Laurent Dubois devotes around 10 pages of The Language of the Game to describing how soccer's offside rule has changed over the decades. "Negotiating the offside rule is one of the most complex and absorbing features of the game both for strikers and defenders, an intricate dance that involves positioning and timing of the most nuanced kind," he writes. "To appreciate and understand this dance is, on a basic level, to appreciate and understand soccer." If anything, Dubois understates the case. The offside rule is the very heart and soul of what we aficionados, in exalted moods, call "the beautiful game." Please bear with me as I explain this.

The true fan delights in players who have not just the physical gifts but also the imagination to circumvent the rules that seem designed specifically to prevent scoring.
At the risk of oversimplification: The offside rule decrees that a player may not pass the ball to a teammate unless, at the moment of the pass, two members of the opposing side are closer to the goal than that teammate. Imagine that you are a soccer player with the ball. You look up and see a teammate all by himself, no defender anywhere around him, 30 yards from the goal. All you have to do is loft the ball in his general direction and he'll be playing one-on-one against the goalkeeper. But you can't. Instead of rejoicing in a scoring opportunity you're annoyed with your teammate for being so far out of position.

Almost all of the wonderful patterns and geometries of soccer are generated by this one rule, which also generates something that many non-fans greatly dislike: a paucity of goals. But soccer fans get exasperated when goals flow too freely. Scoring should not be easy, and, as with gold and diamonds, there's a link between rarity and value. The true fan delights in players who have not just the physical gifts but also the imagination to circumvent the rules that seem designed specifically to prevent scoring.

...but that it makes the officiating the most important aspect of the game.  They really need to adopt a hockey-style offsides and a goal crease.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors: Number of foreign workers doubles in five years as nation faces labor crisis (MITSURU OBE, 5/30/18, Nikkei)

Foreign construction workers like Hoang are becoming a familiar sight in Japan. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. A third of the country's construction workers are 55 or older, with those aged 29 or younger totaling just 11%. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

The demand for construction workers is intensifying before the 2020 Olympics, and Hoang is one of the 274,000 foreign workers in Japan on a government-backed trainee program that has become a back door for foreign unskilled workers who would otherwise not be allowed in. Started in 1993, the program has boomed in recent years -- and is one reason that the number of foreign workers in Japan has nearly quadrupled over the last decade.

Led by an influx of workers from China, Vietnam and the Philippines, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Though the total number of foreign workers in Japan is small compared to the more than 3 million in the U.K. and Germany, it is catching up rapidly -- a remarkable shift for a nation famous for resistance to immigration.

Without fanfare, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has steadily loosened Japan's once tightly controlled visa policy, resulting in an almost doubling of the number of foreign workers in Japan to 1.28 million over the last five years. In its latest move, Abe's government is expected to create a new class of  five-year work permits for unskilled workers in hopes of attracting more than 500,000 new overseas workers by 2025. The new guidelines, to be finalized in June, will ease language requirements for foreign workers in construction, agriculture, elderly care and other sectors that are suffering the most serious labor shortages. It will also be possible for trainees to extend their stay for up to 10 years.

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Cardinal Dolan: There is no Bible passage to justify family separation  (Jennifer Hansler, June 16, 2018, CNN)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a prominent Catholic leader in the United States, said Friday there is no biblical defense for separating families, condemning the practice as "unjust" and "un-American."

"If they want to take a baby from the arms of his mother and separate the two, that's wrong. I don't care where you're at, what time and condition, that just goes against -- you don't have to read the Bible for that. That goes against human decency. That goes against human dignity. It goes against what's most sacred in the human person," Dolan told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "Cuomo Prime Time" Friday.

On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that at least 2,000 children had been separated from their parents since the implementation of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


Jeff Sessions' church slams his use of the Bible to defend separating migrant families (Bonnie Kristian, 6/16/18, The week)

 In a Friday statement slamming the policy as "a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel," the United Methodist Church registered its dissent to Sessions' use of the Bible to defend the separations:

Jesus is our way, our truth, our life. The Christ we follow would have no part in ripping children from their mothers' arms or shunning those fleeing violence. It is unimaginable that faith leaders even have to say that these policies are antithetical to the teachings of Christ.

Christian sacred texts should never be used to justify policies that oppress or harm children and families. [United Methodist Church]

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Canada Might Sanction Trump By Going After His Administration Rather Than the American People (Ruby Samuels, 15 JUN 2018, The Pluralist)

​Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday that she is open to using a law normally reserved for leaders responsible for human rights violations to impose retaliatory sanctions on the Trump Administration. Those sanctions would target the administration itself rather than the American people. 

The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, also known as the Magnitsky law, would allow Ottowa (to impose travel bans and asset freezes on foreign leaders. Regina-Lewvan MP Erin Weir proposed the measure during a Question Period with Freeland earlier this week. Weir noted that the law might be particularly useful because Trump has "made himself vulnerable" by maintaining personal business interests.

All comedy is conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


Nuclear tactics: After North Korea, a summit with Iran? (Editorial Board, 6/16/18, Chicago Tribune)

Iranian hardliners oppose a Trump summit. They argue that U.S. can't be trusted since it reneged on its last deal.

But some Iranians are demanding equal Trump time.

"We are a country with municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections, our 80-million-strong society is open and dynamic, we share borders" with many countries, Masoud Daneshmand, a member of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times. "Iran is a much more advanced and open society, compared with North Korea. So why wouldn't Iran and America be able to sit down and have direct talks?"

Trump says he's open to a meeting to negotiate a "real deal" with Iran over its nuclear program.

We all win if Donald just goes to Tehran and pretends the current deal is his deal.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


Norway youth now 'too lazy' to take Swedes' café jobs: lobby group (The Local, 16 June 2018)

Young Norwegians are so spoilt that most no longer consider jobs in cafés or restaurants now staffed largely by Swedes, the head of Norway's national business lobby group has complained.

"We have started to see it as quite natural that there are Swedes serving beer and food our restaurants and Eastern Europeans painting our houses and picking the strawberries we eat," Stein Lier-Hansen, chief executive of the Federation of Norwegian Industries, told the Verdens Gang newspaper. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Editorial Cartoonist Fired for Skewering Trump. He Likely Won't Be the Last (Ann Telnaes, 6/16/18,  The Washington Post)

[W]ith the firing of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers, we now see that suppressing a free press can be accomplished without an authoritarian president's orders. Michael Cohen isn't the only "fixer" Trump has at his disposal.

Rogers has been the editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for more than 25 years. Most working cartoonists have had an occasional idea spiked by his or her editor. But in the past few weeks, editorial director Keith Burris and publisher John Robinson Block have refused to publish six of Rogers's cartoons, all criticizing Trump or his policies. Block and Burris have also rejected many of Rogers' rough sketch ideas for several months.

Left/Right have no capacity to laugh at themselves for ideological reasons.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


World Cup Is About to Be Hit With Big Dose of Iceland Madness (John Leicester, 6/15/18, AP)

Reykjavik, Iceland -- To prepare for his job of keeping Lionel Messi quiet in Iceland's opening game of the World Cup, defender Birkir Saevarsson worked as a salt-packer at a warehouse in an industrial zone of Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital. Not because the 33-year-old seasoned soccer pro needs the money, but because the monotony of factory work, the graft, the need to cover his neat hair with an unsightly net all helped keep him real.

"This is normal for an Icelander, you know? More normal than going to the World Cup," Saevarsson said during a recent shift before he flew to Russia with the Iceland squad, talking to The Associated Press as he fed jars into a machine that slapped them with labels marked: "Hand Harvested Lava Salt."

Playing soccer professionally is "the best job you can have, but it's not the real life," Saevarsson added. So he works because "I can't really sit on my (butt) the whole day and do nothing. It's boring and you just get lazy. I didn't want to get lazy before the World Cup."

Go Iceland! In a sport of excess, the fiery volcanic island of 350,000 people is keeping its feet firmly on the ground. From a soccer perspective, there is nothing not to love about the least populous nation ever to play in a World Cup. [...]

 Watch Iceland, and you are essentially watching a group of buddies. Because the pool of players is so small, Iceland doesn't chop and change its squads as much as countries with more abundant talent, where competition for places is fiercer.

Two-thirds of Iceland's World Cup squad is unchanged from the 2016 European Championship, where the team advanced unbeaten from the group stage and sensationally beat England, 2-1, before succumbing, 5-2, in the quarterfinals to France, the eventual tournament runner-up.

The upside of squad stability is that Iceland's players have been playing together for years. Of the 23 in Russia, eight were part of the Icelandic youth team that made an impression at the European Under-21 tournament in Denmark in 2011. Those long-standing bonds foster trust and make the players more willing to work for each other, says Saevarsson, who has 79 appearances for Iceland, more than any other member of the squad.

"When the group meets, it's not like a football team is meeting, it's like a group of friends," he told the AP. "It couldn't be a better group to play football with.

"When you are that close to someone, it's easier to put demands on each other and not take it personally," he said. "If one of your friends shouts at you to do something better you don't take it badly or personally. You just decide to do it, because it's your friend."

He described it as "complete trust" and added, "It's easier to play football like that than with some people you don't like or don't know."

 With so few people and with most of them concentrated in and around Reykjavik, Iceland's players can't hide after a bad game. Chances are high they'll bump into a friend or a relative and have to explain themselves. That's a powerful motivator, Saevarsson said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


Clapper: 'We had a suspect' in Kremlin-WikiLeaks transfer (Michael Isikoff, 6/15/18, ,Yahoo News)

In an interview for the Yahoo News podcast "Skullduggery," Clapper told Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and Editor in Chief Daniel Klaidman that intelligence officials were "pretty confident" that they had identified the conduit for the hacked emails to WikiLeaks by the time he left office in January 2017. He declined, however, to provide any details about the suspect's identity.

"We had a suspect," said Clapper. "I don't know whether the suspicions we had at the time were conveyed [to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller] or whether they were validated." U.S. intelligence officials were "pretty confident at the time but not sufficient enough to publicize it," he said. [...]

[C]lapper told "Skullduggery" that the WikiLeaks transfer "cut-out" was selected by the Russians for a reason -- so that Assange could tell the world he did not get the DNC emails from Russian intelligence. "The real point was it was an attempt to ensure [Assange] plausible deniability," Clapper said.

Clapper was responding to questions about a little-noticed passage in his new book, "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence." In the book, Clapper recounts how the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership had publicly dumped the DNC emails after they decided in March 2016 that "it was worth the risk of diplomatic blowback if they were caught" hacking the DNC. This gave the green light to Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, to go "on the offense, exfiltrating emails and large volumes of data."

Then, Clapper added: "In April, Russia used a third party 'cut-out' to send more than 19,000 DNC emails and more than 8,000 documents to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, attempting to cover its tracks and to give WikiLeaks some degree of deniability in knowing the source of the leaks."

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Roseanne Barr Now Says 'Planet of The Apes' Tweet Was About Anti-Semitism (Ron Dicker, 6/15/18, HuffPost

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM


NIH to End Its Study of How Moderate Drinking Might Improve Health (Karen Kaplan, 6/16/18, Los Angeles Times)

The plan was to enroll 7,800 people ages 50 and up who did not have diabetes. Some of them would be randomly assigned to consume about 15 grams of alcohol per day. The others would be asked to abstain from drinking.

Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, along with colleagues in the United States, Nigeria, Denmark and the Netherlands, would then follow these volunteers for about six years to see whether the moderate drinkers developed fewer cases of cardiovascular disease and diabetes compared to their teetotaling counterparts.

The MACH trial began enrolling participants in February, and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, intended to spend $20 million on the study over 10 years.

Instead, the NIH announced on Friday it would shut down the study over concerns about the way officials solicited funding for the study from companies that sell alcoholic beverages. These "process irregularities" had "undermined the integrity of the research process," the agency said in a statement.

...studies find whatever the observer wants them to find.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Has Consciousness Lost Its Mind?: What would Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, a very friendly robot, plus a bevy of scientists, mystics, and wannabe scholars do at a fancy resort in Arizona? Perhaps real harm to the field of consciousness studies, for one thing. (Tom Bartlett, June 06, 2018, The Chronicle Review)

Start with Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, and a robot that loves you no matter what. Add a knighted British physicist, a renowned French neuroscientist, and a prominent Australian philosopher/occasional blues singer. Toss in a bunch of psychologists, mathematicians, anesthesiologists, artists, meditators, a computer programmer or two, and several busloads of amateur theorists waving self-published manuscripts and touting grand unified solutions. Send them all to a swanky resort in the desert for a week, supply them with lots of free coffee and beer, and ask them to unpack a riddle so confounding that it's unclear how to make progress or where you'd even begin.

Then just, like, see what happens.

The cover of the program for the Science of Consciousness conference, held recently in Tucson, shows a human brain getting sucked into (or perhaps rising from?) a black hole. That seems about right: After a week of listening to eye-crossingly detailed descriptions of teeny-tiny cell structures known as microtubules, along with a lecture about building a soundproof booth in order to chat with the whispery spirit world, you too would feel as if your neurons had been siphoned from your skull and launched deep into space.

Oh, by the way, attendees could also take a gong bath, during which you're bathed in the musical vibrations of a gong being struck. Or lie down in a curiously unsupervised and unstable-looking sensory-deprivation chamber. Or take a black-light yoga class, which involves -- as the name suggests -- doing yoga in a room illuminated by black light accompanied by a DJ pumping out frenetic techno beats. Meanwhile, a company offered demos of a brain-stimulation device that had to be inserted way too far up one nostril. And an enthusiastic fellow demonstrated his Spontaneous Postural Alignment technique, in which a misaligned subject's elbow is tapped with a gold medallion while the healer intones, "boy-yoi-yoing."

Please note: This is a bona fide academic conference, put on by the University of Arizona under the aegis of its Center for Consciousness Studies. There were plenaries, concurrent talks, a keynote, lanyards, bag lunches, a sense of initial giddiness that gives way to acute information overload resulting in a desire never to leave your hotel room again. I took copious notes. I nodded thoughtfully. I pocketed the complimentary tea bags. I witnessed adults with terminal degrees utterly defeated by Microsoft PowerPoint.

So, in that sense, it was a normal conference. [...]

There's something about the topic of consciousness that, unlike other scientific fields of inquiry, inspires an unearned feeling of expertise. If you don't know much about, say, the life cycle of a protozoan, you probably wouldn't pretend you did at parties. But because you are conscious, you might feel as if you can say something significant about the profoundly complex phenomenon of consciousness. You might even wish to write down what you feel, laminate it, and thumbtack it to a free-standing bulletin board for all to see. (In which case, I know just the conference.)

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'Why can't we just do it?' (Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Karen DeYoung, June 14, 2016, Washington Post)

At one point, after watching North Korean television, which is entirely state-run, the president talked about how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim, according to two people familiar with his remarks. He joked that even the administration-friendly Fox News was not as lavish in its praise as the state TV anchor, one of the people added, and that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television, instead. 

At another point, Trump marveled at how "tough" the North Korean guards seemed, noting that they were always stone-faced and refused to shake hands, the two people said. 

How much harder can Fox lick spittle?

June 15, 2018

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Afghan official: US drone kills Pakistan Taliban chief  (AP, 6/15/18)

A U.S. drone strike in northeastern Kunar province killed Pakistan Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, the insurgent leader who ordered the assassination of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday. 

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Paul Manafort = Evidence of Collusion (Ryan Goodman, June 15, 2018, just Security)

I will keep this simple. Here are the facts about Paul Manafort, whose history with President Donald Trump dates back decades and who served as chairman of the Trump Campaign and remained something of an informal adviser after resigning. The following facts essentially speak for themselves. Simply put, any fair reading of the public record would surely come to the conclusion that there is significant evidence of collusion-or, to put it more precisely, evidence of a conspiracy with Russians and violations of federal campaign finance law.

1. Manafort proposes to Putin-linked, Russian oligarch a plan to "greatly benefit Putin," and they get to work (2005-)

In 2005, Manafort sends a memo to Russian oligarch and Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, pitching him on a project. Manafort writes: "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success." The proposal is to help influence politics, business dealings and media coverage in the United States, Europe, and former Soviet-bloc countries. Deripaska hires Manafort on a $10 million annual contract. How aligned is Deripaska with the Kremlin? Deripaska once told the Financial Times, "I don't separate myself from the state. I have no other interests."

2. Manafort joins Trump Campaign and stays in frequent contact with a Kiev-based operative with active ties to Russian military intelligence (March 2016-)

Manafort joins the Trump Campaign and soon becomes campaign chairman. 

June 14, 2018

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How America Is Exporting Gun Violence to Mexico: A failed drug war and lax U.S. gun regulations spell out disaster for Mexico. (LAURA WEISS, 6/12/18, In These Times)

Some 70 percent of guns recovered in Mexico in the last five years originated in the United States. Some of these guns come from the legal transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in guns to Mexican police and military forces, which often wind up in the hands of criminal organizations, fueling violence. Guns also come from illegal gun trafficking facilitated by easy purchasing requirements, as well as lax regulations and documentation.

In 2017, Mexico had the highest homicide rate since the peak of its drug war in 2011, with nearly 30,000 people murdered. Some 70 percent of guns recovered in Mexico between 2011 and 2016 originated in the United States. According to a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), the proportion of murders in Mexico committed with firearms has skyrocketed in the last two decades: In 1997, 15 percent of Mexico's homicides were committed with a gun, whereas by 2017, this number had jumped to 66 percent.

"Gun regulations in the United States are clearly associated to violence in Mexico and in other countries," Eugenio Weigend Vargas, co-author of the CAP report, told In These Times. Weigend Vargas pointed to a number of factors leading to this rise in gun violence in Mexico--in particular, the end of the U.S. government's federal ban on assault weapons in 2004. A 2013 study found that homicides, gun-related homicides and crime gun seizures in Mexican border states rose between 2004 and 2013, with the exception of Mexican states bordering California, which retained its assault weapons ban.

Guns reach Mexico both through legal gun exports and through illegal gun trafficking. According to the CAP report, 298,000 guns per year are legally exported from the United States to Mexico, while almost the same number are illegally trafficked. Weigend Vargas attributes illegal gun trafficking to two key factors: Assault weapons are legal in the United States, and there are loopholes for those who are restricted from purchasing guns. Though some states require background checks for purchasing guns, these are usually not checked at gun shows. "So anybody with a criminal record, or a gun trafficker, can get to a gun show and purchase four, five AR-15s and AK-47s, and then smuggle them to Mexico," Weigend Vargas said.

Meanwhile, the United States has multi-million dollar contracts with military contracting companies, such as Sig Sauer, Inc, to deliver these guns, according to John Lindsay-Poland, who runs the Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico program at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). AFSC published a report in late 2016 on the harmful impact of legal gun sales to Mexico, including their role in exacerbating the country's crisis of disappearances.

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Scoop: Classified Israeli report raises doubts over Trump-Kim summit (Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 10 news, 6/14/18, Axios)

Trump's readiness to accept Kim's demand to halt U.S. military exercises with South Korea is a retreat by the U.S. and an acceptance of China's "freeze-for-freeze" approach. The Israeli foreign ministry analysts note that the U.S. had previously rejected the Chinese position.

"Regardless of the smiles in the summit many in Japan, South Korea and the U.S. Congress doubt that North Korea is sincere in its intentions. Our assessment is that regardless of President Trump's statements about quick changes that are expected in North Korean policy, the road the real and substantive change, if it ever happens, will be long and slow."
-- From the classified report

Why Israeli Nuclear Experts Disagree with Netanyahu About the Iran Deal (Bernard Avishai, October 24, 2017, the New Yorker)

Earlier this month, Robin Wright interviewed Uzi Arad, the former head of research at the Mossad and the head of Netanyahu's own National Security Council from 2009 to 2011. Arad had also launched, in 2000, Israel's preëminent conference on national security, at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (where we were colleagues from 2002 to 2004). Arad makes it his business to consult with people who are, as he put it, "conversant with the issues": old intelligence hands (though, he cautioned, nuclear strategy is often not their expertise); civilian-defense officials involved in the procurement and production of relevant weapons systems; arms-control experts, scientists, and engineers who understand the issues of proliferation; and members of the "political class" who have made themselves expert on both the nuclear issue and on foreign leaders' positions on it. When Wright spoke with him, Arad had been lobbying congressional Republicans to help save the deal; in light of Trump's announcement, and Netanyahu's praise for it, I thought I might check back with him.

Arad remains convinced that the agreement served Israel's interest, because it convincingly stalled the Iranians' drive to acquire a bomb while providing a diplomatic process within which to address new issues or to refine approaches to old ones. "The J.C.P.O.A."--the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran agreement is officially known--"is our only written framework stipulating exactly what constitutes violations, an anchor, a regulatory mechanism for pursuing negotiations or sanctions to manage these threats," Arad said. And he remains skeptical of Netanyahu's campaign against it, recalling the conversation he had had with one very senior official, a veteran of the science and defense-policy community, who was in despair about Netanyahu's call to abrogate the J.C.P.O.A. "I asked him what he thought of the Prime Minister's policy. 'Shigaon!' he told me." ("Shigaon" is normally translated as "lunacy.")

Arad is no dove. He supposes that, hovering over the negotiations leading to the J.C.P.O.A., and critical to its limited success, was the Obama Administration's refusal to renounce the "military option"--a last resort, President Obama said, but consistent with his vow that Iran would never acquire a nuclear weapon on his watch. (Arad told me that he wonders why the Trump Administration has not "referenced the prospect of military force in the same way," especially because the life span of the J.C.P.O.A. is just ten years, and the clock has been ticking for two.) Indeed, the pragmatism embodied in the J.C.P.O.A. explains why, Arad believes, so many Israeli security professionals favor preserving it. The roster is long--it includes not just Arad but Uzi Eilam, the former director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission; Isaac Ben-Israel, the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency and the National Council for Research and Development; Ariel Levite, the former deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission; Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad; Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces' Military Intelligence Directorate; Ehud Barak, the former Chief of General Staff (and Prime Minister); Gadi Eizenkot, the Chief of General Staff of the I.D.F.; and many others.

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This Report Says I Was Wrong. But That's Good for the F.B.I. (James Comey, June 14, 2018, NY Times)

I was not certain I was right about those things at the time. That's the nature of hard decisions; they don't allow for certainty. With the added benefit of hindsight, the inspector general sees some things differently. My team believed the damage of concealing the reopening of our investigation would have been catastrophic to the institution. The inspector general weighs it differently, and that's O.K., even though I respectfully disagree.

I encouraged this intensive review when I was F.B.I. director and continued to support its work after I was fired. The inspector general's conclusions are important. But the real, historical value of the report is its collection of facts, which, as John Adams said, "are stubborn things." If a future F.B.I. leadership team ever faces a similar situation -- something I pray never happens -- it will have the benefit of this important document.

This is what institutions devoted to the rule of law and accountability look like. They look back at their hardest decisions and collect the facts, and are transparent with the world about those facts and decisions. The leaders of those institutions are best served by welcoming that oversight and that process of second-guessing. That's why I urged the investigation in the first place.

As F.B.I. director, I wanted a second set of eyes on the agonizing decisions we made during the 2016 election, knowing full well the inspector general's office could draw different conclusions. I also was confident that even if it disagreed with our decisions, it would find the F.B.I. team made them without regard for political favor or partisanship.

The inspector general's office has now reached that very conclusion. Its detailed report should serve to both protect and build the reservoir of trust and credibility necessary for the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. to remain strong and independent and to continue their good work for our country.

Our nation's institutions of justice are up to the task of protecting the rule of law and defending truth and transparency. All of us should stand up and support them.

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New York sues to dissolve Trump Foundation, cites illegal conduct (Jonathan Stempel, 6/16/18, Reuters) 

New York's attorney general on Thursday sued U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and his namesake foundation, alleging "persistently illegal conduct" at the nonprofit including support for Trump's 2016 campaign.

It's a RICO case.

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


Comey deviated from FBI norms in Clinton email probe: report (Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball, 6/14/18, Reuters) 

Former FBI Director James Comey deviated from the bureau's norms in handling a probe into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but there is no evidence his actions before the 2016 election were motivated by political bias, a Justice Department watchdog report concludes, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

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Sebastian Kurz in chilling demand for 'Rome-Berlin-Vienna axis' to fight immigration (ALICE SCARSI, Jun 14, 2018, Daily Express)

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin after his meeting with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Mr Kurz said: "In our view, we need an 'axis of the willing' in the fight against illegal migration.

"I am happy about the good cooperation that we want to develop between Rome, Vienna and Berlin. 

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Mike Pence Gave a Trump Stump Speech to a Crowd of Southern Baptists, and It Didn't Go Over Very Well (RUTH GRAHAM, JUNE 13, 2018, Slate)

There are other signs of change emerging from the annual meeting of thousands of Southern Baptist delegates. On Tuesday, delegates overwhelmingly elected Greear as the their next president. At 45, Greear is the denomination's youngest president in decades. He is theologically conservative and studied under Paige Patterson, the Southern Baptist conservative icon recently deposed from his seminary position because of his approach to women's issues. But he does not share all the old guard's priorities, and he has spoken about the need to increase racial diversity within the denomination. In the wake of Patterson's disgrace, women's issues have become a major topic at the meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Meanwhile, although Pence barely mentioned immigration in his speech on Wednesday, the delegates on the floor overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for immigration reform, affirming the dignity of immigrants, and condemning "any form of nativism."

Resolutions aren't the same thing as revolution. The denomination remains firmly committed to a "complementarian" approach to gender roles, for example, meaning that it believes women are unfit to lead churches. When I tuned in briefly to a presentation Wednesday morning by a Baptist seminary head, his assertion that "we're not going to have a female as a preaching professor, that's just not going to happen" drew sustained applause. But it's still significant that the SBC is being forced to grapple publicly with sexual abuse, domestic violence, and misogyny. The seminary head only made his comment in the first place because a woman in the audience has asked about how he was working to develop female leadership in his institution.

A breeze within the SBC sometimes foreshadows dramatic gusts throughout conservative evangelicalism. As Washington Post reporter Michelle Boorstein reminded readers on Twitter, the denomination took no official position on abortion in the immediate wake of Roe v. Wade. Then Patterson's conservative resurgence remade the denomination, and abortion became a litmus test with an enormous impact on elections, policy, and culture. The SBC's priorities are a good indication of evangelicalism more broadly. Republicans who count on white evangelical votes ought to pay attention to the vice president's cool reception this week in Dallas.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Trump White House advertises at a Hill job fair amid staff exodus (ANNIE KARNI, 06/13/2018, Politico)

A former Obama administration official said it would have been unheard of in the previous administration, and that West Wing jobs were rarely even listed on UsaJobs.Gov, the official job search site for the federal government. But the executive branch of the Obama administration did sometimes host events on campuses of historically black colleges and universities to meet potential candidates from underrepresented groups, the former official added.

The Trump White House, however, has had difficulty bringing new people in as staffers have resigned amid ongoing chaos and a crackdown on security clearances - or, more recently, been fired as part of a purge of people accused of leaking information to reporters.

The departures have hollowed out the ranks of lower-level staffers, with dozens departing from various policy offices as well as the press and communications shops.

Perhaps most prominently, the position of communications director has sat vacant since Hope Hicks departed last March - but that post is not expected to be filled at the Friday job fair.

That last line is Maggie Haberman-worthy.

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Poll shows support for Turkey's Erdogan eroding, vote going to second round (Reuters, 6/14/18)

Gezici's survey of 2,814 respondents, conducted on June 2-3, showed Erdogan receiving 47.1 percent of votes in the first round of presidential election, down from a level of 48.7 percent in a survey which it conducted a week earlier.

The poll showed that the AK Party's alliance with the nationalist MHP would fall short of a majority in the 600-seat assembly, with 48.7 percent of the votes, unchanged from the figure in the previous survey a week earlier.

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Virginia Republicans nominate Senate candidate with anti-Semitic ties (RON KAMPEAS, 6/14/18, JTA) 

Corey Stewart, a politician connected to neo-Confederates, the "alt-right" and a well-known anti-Semite, is the Republican nominee for Senate in Virginia. [...]

Also revealed last week was that in May 2017, Stewart paid Nehlen $759 for a fundraising list in Stewart's unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for Virginia governor.

Responding to the revelations, Stewart told The Washington Post that he no longer considers Nehlen his "personal hero," as he had said in the video when both men were attending inauguration festivities for President Donald Trump.

"That was before he went nuts and started spewing a bunch of stupid stuff," said Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. [...]

Stewart, a strident defender of Trump, drew praise from the president for his win.

June 13, 2018

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All About the Royal Train That Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth Are Sleeping Aboard Tonight (SIMON PERRY  June 13, 2018, People) 05:09 PM

On Wednesday, Meghan Markle becomes the first of the younger generation of royals to score a ride on the royal train for an official outing with Queen Elizabeth.

The train has been called an exclusive "palace on wheels," but when Meghan, 36, steps aboard tonight for her journey to Cheshire alongside the Queen, she will find it very different from the castles and palaces she has already experienced in her short time as a royal.

Although it doesn't have quite the same degree of luxury, the train is preferred by the Queen, 92, and other senior royals because it is a home-away-from-home -- complete with an office, sleeping quarters and dining areas.

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A Trumped-up charge against Canadian dairy tariffs (Roger Noll and Robert E. Litan, June 13, 2018, Brookings)

First, Canada's props up its dairy industry by using both import quotas and domestic production quotas. As part of this system, Canada has negotiated import quotas with each of its major trading partners.  The U.S. has obtained a favorable quota and, as a result, exports more dairy products to Canada than it imports from Canada. In 2017, Americans sold $792 million in dairy products to Canada, while Canadians sold $149 million in dairy products to the U.S., creating a tidy trade surplus for the U.S. of nearly $650 million. [...]

Fifth, the U.S. would have undoubtedly sold substantially more dairy products to Canada had the Canadian quota system not been in place, so getting rid of import restrictions against U.S. dairy products is an excellent idea.  But Canada had already agreed to give up both dairy import quotas and almost all dairy tariffs as part of its commitments under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Thus, the only reason import restrictions on dairy products are even an issue is because the U.S. withdrew from the TPP.

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A group of people with an amphibious life have evolved traits to match (The Economist, Apr 21st 2018)

Immersing someone's face in cold water and thus requiring him to hold his breath triggers what is known as the diving response. This involves a lowering of the heart rate to conserve oxygen; the redirection of blood from surface tissues to the most oxygen-sensitive organs, such as the brain, the heart and the lungs; and contraction of the spleen, an organ that acts as an emergency reserve of oxygenated red blood cells, so that an increased supply of these cells is released into the bloodstream. Ms Ilardo and Dr Nielsen decided to investigate whether the genetics and anatomy of the Bajau promote these responses.

To do so, Ms Ilardo travelled to Indonesia and recruited 59 Bajau who were willing to give her samples of saliva for DNA analysis and also to have their spleens measured ultrasonically. To act as controls, she also recruited 34 members of the Saluan, a group of landlubbing but closely related neighbours of the Bajau. The spleen scans showed that the Bajau's are 50% larger than those of the Saluan--a difference unconnected with whether an individual was a prolific diver or one who spent most of his time working above the waves on a boat. This suggests that it is Bajau lineage, rather than the actual activity of diving, which is responsible for a larger spleen.

DNA analysis told a similar story. One intriguing result was a mutation in part of the Bajau genome that regulates the activity of a gene known to be involved in controlling blood flow, such that blood can be sent preferentially to oxygen-hungry vital organs. Another was a mutation in a gene responsible for the production of carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that slows the build up of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, a phenomenon that is associated with extreme diving. Changes in genes associated with muscle contractions around the spleen and with responses to low oxygen levels also turned up.

Putting these results together, Ms Ilardo and Dr Nielsen argue that the need to collect food by diving has indeed led to the evolution, in the case of the Bajau, of a group who are literally born to dive. Whether that evolution was driven by the failure of those who could not dive well to collect enough food to sustain a large family, or rather, of their dying in the attempt to do so, remains to be determined.

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Why Israel's 11-year closure didn't topple Hamas (Shlomi Eldar June 13, 2018, Al Monitor)

June 15 marks the 11th anniversary of Israel's land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed after Hamas took power there in 2007. On June 10, the Israeli Security Cabinet conducted its first-ever discussion of a possible accommodation with Hamas. Over the past decade, Israel has received various proposals through different channels for easing the harsh economic crisis created by the siege in return for a long-term cease-fire by the Palestinians. However, Israel ignored the offers and tried to deter Hamas with the use of force -- a method that repeatedly proved ineffective. This assumption regarding the use of force dragged Israel into three widespread military operations -- Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Protective Edge in 2014 -- eroded its international standing and failed to secure peace for the residents of southern Israel. Did anyone truly believe that Israel could seal off the Gaza Strip and its 2 million residents without incurring security, humanitarian and international costs?

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Kim Jong-un Got Everything He Wanted from Summit with Trump (Chosunilbo, June 13, 2018)

The agreement signed by Trump and Kim therefore came as a shock, which only got worse as Trump rambled on during the ensuing press conference. The sole goal of this summit was the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons, and the key gauge would have been a commitment to doing it "completely, verifiably and irreversibly" and a date to do it by -- for example 2020, when Trump's term ends.

Instead, the agreement merely reaffirmed the terms of a joint declaration by Kim and President Moon Jae-in after their summit in April, and only holds Kim to working "towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," which could mean anything. In short, it represents no progress and achieves nothing. Already, when faced with criticism over the vagueness of the inter-Korean declaration, Cheong Wa Dae officials said specific agreements would be made between the U.S. and North Korea. That is what the public believed, and that is why they have been let down. Over the last few months, Trump has made increasingly bombastic vows to scrap North Korea's nuclear weapons as soon as possible, but now there is no deadline to be found anywhere, and instead Trump is talking about real estate development on North Korea's coast.

Worse, the denuclearization pledge was listed third on a list of four bullet points, behind promises to improve U.S.-North Korea relations and establish a peace framework on the Korean peninsula.

The joint statement that was produced by six-party talks on Sept. 19, 2005 states that all of the participants in the negotiations unanimously agreed to the goal of complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea pledged to rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and abide by International Atomic Energy Agency rules. But the latest U.S.-North Korean agreement did not even match the toothless terms of 13 years ago, which North Korea at any rate reneged on at the earliest opportunity.

Trump's comments during the press conference made things worse.

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Arizona Legislator: 'There Aren't Enough White Kids to Go Around' in State Schools (ANTONIA NOORI FARZAN, JUNE 13, 2018, Phoenix New Times)

Arizona Representative David Stringer, speaking at the Yavapai County Republican Men's Forum on Monday,  called immigration an "existential threat" to the United States, warning that it will change the face of the country.

"If we don't do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed and we will be a very different country," he said.

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Republican voters nominate 'alt-right' candidate for Virginia Senate (Ron Kampeas, June 13, 2018, JTA) 

Corey Stewart, a politician with associations with neo-Confederates, the "alt-right" and a well-known anti-Semite, is the Republican nominee for Senate in Virginia.

The Republican establishment battled hard to thwart Stewart in the three-way primary race Tuesday to decide who faces Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine in November, backing State Delegate Nick Freitas. Stewart is seen as unlikely to unseat Kaine, who is popular in the state.

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Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen likely to cooperate as his attorneys leave case, sources say (GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, Jun 13, 2018, ABC News)

Cohen, who is under federal investigation now with no legal representation, is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, sources said. This development, which is believed to be imminent, will likely hit the White House, family members, staffers and counsels hard.

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Trump's North Korean Propaganda Reveals His Contempt for Democracy (Eric Levitz, 6/13/18, New York)

This week, Trump finally gave his contempt for the "forgotten man and woman" cinematic expression -- in the form of a trailer for a fake, buddy-adventure movie starring himself and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

When this film first began playing for reporters at the summit in Singapore Tuesday, most assumed that it was North Korean propaganda. And it isn't hard to see why: The trailer portrays Kim as a world-historic hero who is on the cusp of leading his nation into a bright and beautiful tomorrow -- one where they will enjoy unprecedented prosperity, and a long-lost harmony with their neighbors in the South.

The fact that the White House National Security Council produced this warm portrayal of a homicidal tyrant -- whose regime subjects political prisoners to rape and starvation in a vast network of gulags, imposes forced abortions on women who become pregnant by non-Korean men, and condemns practicing Christians to indefinite imprisonment -- has inspired no small amount of outraged incredulity: It is one thing to dignify a fascist dictator with a face-to-face meeting, for the sake of advancing a vital national security interest; it is another to make a movie that explicitly argues the North Korean people could be well served by that dictator's reign extending indefinitely into the future.

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Nevada pimp Dennis Hof wins GOP primary, ousts incumbent (MICHELLE L. PRICE, 6/13/18, AP)

Pimp Dennis Hof, the owner of half a dozen legal brothels in Nevada and star of the HBO adult reality series "Cathouse," won a Republican primary for the state Legislature on Tuesday, ousting a three-term lawmaker. [...]

Hof celebrated his win at a party in Pahrump with Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss at his side. 

"It's all because Donald Trump was the Christopher Columbus for me," Hof told the Associated Press in a phone call.

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"Like Theranos, but it works"-health startup Genalyte proves its worth (RINA RAPHAEL, 6/12/18, Fast Company)

Last month, I had my blood work requested, tested, and analyzed-in less time than it takes to get a manicure.

My medical results, which took about 15 minutes, were courtesy of diagnostics startup Genalyte, which spent the last decade perfecting a portable lab that can run 62 tests with just several drops of blood. Dubbed the Maverick Detection System, the mini-fridge-sized device uses microchip technology to analyze multiple antibodies and other proteins. It digitizes the samples and sends them to a cloud-based laboratory for review, sending results to the physician in real time.

I tested out the process at the company's headquarters in San Diego. The "lab" was composed of a chair, the 15-inch wide Maverick perched on a rollaway cart (dubbed the Merlin), and a kind nurse who promised she would not tell me when she inserted the needle in my arm. Less than one vial of blood was extracted.

A short time later, Dr. Rick Hockett, the pathologist who serves as Genalyte's chief medical officer, sat me down for a brief overview of the results. I was relieved to discover that I did not have any wheat sensitivities-and therefore free to continue on my glutenous path of destruction.

"Everything is within normal limits," Hockett says. "Boringly normal, as I tell most people."

It was quick, easy, and, for once, an efficient medical experience. The results matched recent testing from a traditional lab.

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Donald Trump has agreed to lift sanctions on North Korea, claims nation's state media (Andrew Buncombe, 6/13/18, The Independent)

Donald Trump agreed to lift sanctions against North Korea along with providing it with security guarantees, the nation's state news agency has claimed.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which also reported Kim Jong-un had accepted an invitation to visit the White House, said Mr Trump had indicated he would lift sanctions along with ending military exercises with South Korea.

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The Historian's Hubris (Genevieve Weynerowski, 6/12/18, Quillette)

Niall Ferguson is a compelling writer, wry and puckish, intellectually curious. He has a knack for converting his deep knowledge of history and finance into narratives the average reader can grasp. There's a generosity and a sense of excitement to his writing that have helped propel him to stardom in the publishing world and on the small screen. But for all his qualities, Ferguson didn't know enough to pause before hitting 'Send.' Instead, by gleefully attempting to crush a coterie of left-wing Stanford University students who were trying to gain influence within his invited speakers series Cardinal Conversations, he threw gasoline on the blazing free speech wars and turned his own, noble-sounding words into ash. Ferguson has vowed to retreat "to [his] beloved study," where presumably he will hunker down, reassess his methods and motives, and even, one hopes, re-emerge a better man.

One of our era's most recognizable defenders of free speech, Ferguson co-founded Cardinal Conversations to foster open debate at Stanford. When it was announced that Charles Murray, author of the infamous 1994 monograph, The Bell Curve, would be speaking last February, several Stanford University campus groups began protesting a free speech initiative that seemed designed to stir up controversy and privilege right-wing voices. Ferguson became "deeply concerned" following an anti-racist rally on campus, and in a spectacularly ironic twist, began plotting with his young acolytes on the steering committee against a progressive student activist named Michael Ocon. Ferguson feared that Ocon would attempt to derail Cardinal Conversations, so he set about ensuring that the student's views wouldn't be heard. He advised the young Republicans that they "should all be allies against O[con]. Whatever your past differences, bury them. Unite against the SJWs." He also recommended they do some 'opposition research' on Ocon in the hope of digging up dirt that could be used to discredit him.

It was a self-inflicted wound, foolish and silly and shameful, and his departure is a loss for historical scholarship.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Iowa congressman Steve King retweets prominent British neo-Nazi (Times of Israel, 6/13/18)

"Europe is waking up... Will America... in time?" King. a Representative from Iowa, tweeted on Tuesday, linking to an anti-immigration tweet from Mark Collett.

Collett is one of Britain's most high-profile white nationalists and is a self-proclaimed Nazi sympathizer.

It would be worse for Collett to retweet King.

June 12, 2018

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Trump's unlikely allies on North Korea talks -- progressive Democrats (ANITA KUMAR, June 11, 2018, McClatchy)

President Donald Trump has found an unlikely source of support as he meets with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un: Democrats.

Some of the same far-left Democrats who complain that he stole the election and want to impeach him praise him for trying to engage in diplomacy.

"We are encouraged by your efforts to pursue direct diplomacy with North Korea with the dual goals of resolving the nearly seven-decade-long conflict and achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," 15 House members wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday. "Diplomacy is the only path to resolve the tensions between our countries."

The Left and the Right--but I repeat myself--love dictatorships, the more brutal the better.  They keep their people quiet and out of our hair.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Iran's Rouhani asks Macron for action to save nuclear deal: IRNA (Reuters, 6/12/18) 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned world powers on Tuesday that it was impossible for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal if it cannot benefit from the accord after the U.S. withdrawal.

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Trump had a chance to cut Canada's dairy tariffs. He walked away (Alanna Petroff, June 12, 2018, CNN Money)

As one of his first official acts as president, Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But Canada went on to complete the massive free trade deal with 10 other nations, including Japan, Australia and Mexico.

The deal allows signatories to send an increasing amount of dairy products to Canada over the next two decades -- with zero tariffs. That includes milk, cream, butter, cheese and ice cream, among other products.

"The US would have enjoyed these benefits had it not decided to exit the original TPP deal," said Christophe Bondy, a trade negotiation expert and special counsel at law firm Cooley.

Another recent free trade deal is opening up Canada's market to cheese from the European Union.

By 2022, the amount of tariff-free European cheese that will be allowed into Canada will reach 16 million kilos -- the weight equivalent of 78 Statues of Liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


The Universe Is Not a Simulation, but We Can Now Simulate It (Natalie Wolchover, June 12, 2018, Quanta)

[R]ecently, the scientists seem to have begun to master the science and art of cosmos creation. They are applying the laws of physics to a smooth, hot fluid of (simulated) matter, as existed in the infant universe, and seeing the fluid evolve into spiral galaxies and galaxy clusters like those in the cosmos today.

"I was like, wow, I can't believe it!" said Tiziana Di Matteo, a numerical cosmologist at Carnegie Mellon University, about seeing realistic spiral galaxies form for the first time in 2015 in the initial run of BlueTides, one of several major ongoing simulation series. "You kind of surprise yourself, because it's just a bunch of lines of code, right?"

With the leap in mock-universe verisimilitude, researchers are now using their simulations as laboratories. After each run, they can peer into their codes and figure out how and why certain features of their simulated cosmos arise, potentially also explaining what's going on in reality. The newly functional proxies have inspired explanations and hypotheses about the 84 percent of matter that's invisible -- the long-sought "dark matter" that seemingly engulfs galaxies. Formerly puzzling telescope observations about real galaxies that raised questions about the standard dark matter hypothesis are being explained in the state-of-the-art facsimiles.

The simulations have also granted researchers such as Di Matteo virtual access to the supermassive black holes that anchor the centers of galaxies, whose formation in the early universe remains mysterious.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Trump: U.S. ending "war games" on Korean peninsula (Axios, 6/12/18)

President Trump confirmed that the United States would be ending its joint military exercises with South Korea at a press conference after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, calling them "a very provocative situation."

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In Iceland, World Cup players aren't gods. They're neighbors. (Chuck Culpepper, June 10, 2018, Washington Post)

The 21st World Cup, set to distract the planet beginning Thursday in Russia, will bring its usual masters such as Brazil (population: 207 million) and Germany (80 million) and its frequenters such as Nigeria (190 million) and Japan (126 million). In the case of tournament debutant Iceland (340,000), it's as if Bakersfield, Calif., made the World Cup, or, as the 24-year-old Iceland-apparel-store owner Bergthor Thorvaldsson said, like "a town in Texas."

Yet as stunning as was the passage of this wee, noiseless island where hardly anybody ever honks a horn, as remarkable as it was that Iceland won its qualification group outright in the most dreaded of earthly footballing continents, and as deserving as it is among the pantheon of sports feats in this desperate, underdog-eat-underdog world, it manages to become more staggering with familiarity. It manages to lap at the shores of absurd.

They've all accessed the World Cup from a handsome little stadium, Laugardalsvollur, with one scoreboard clock and open ends and four stalwart light stanchions either reminiscent of a Texas high school football joint (or smaller). When a ball sails over a goal and crosses the running track -- yeah, the running track -- someone runs to retrieve it, reminiscent of teenagers chasing down extra points on an American Friday night. They've reached the World Cup from a country where people speak of standing next to the prime minister in line -- at shoe repair.

Still more than all that, it's how many times you hear someone say that everyone seems to know someone with the team, or knows someone who knows someone, until you start thinking that everyone knowing someone or knowing somebody who knows someone might be some kind of national motto.

It's the mad, mad reality conveyed by the 27-year-old defender Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson. While the likes of Brazil and Germany will play before their droves of fervent strangers, Eyjolfsson said that if he happens to glimpse into the stands while playing . . .

"You know where your people are sitting, obviously, but yeah, definitely, you can look into the stands and know somebody."

"Into any section?"

"Probably. Yes."

He laughed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


There Are No Laws of Physics. There's Only the Landscape. (Robbert Dijkgraaf, June 4, 2018, Quanta)

Suppose Alice and Bob are both asked to prepare a meal. Alice likes Chinese, Bob likes Italian. They each pick their favorite recipe, shop at the local specialty store, and carefully follow the instructions. But when they take their dishes out of the oven, they are in for a big surprise. The two meals turn out to be identical. We can imagine the existential questions Alice and Bob must ask themselves. How can different ingredients produce the same dish? What does it even mean to cook Chinese or Italian? And is their approach to preparing food totally flawed?

This is exactly the perplexity experienced by quantum physicists. They have found many examples of two completely different descriptions of the same physical system. In the case of physics, instead of meats and sauces, the ingredients are particles and forces; the recipes are mathematical formulas encoding the interactions; and the cooking process is the quantization procedure that turns equations into the probabilities of physical phenomena. Just like Alice and Bob, quantum physicists wonder how different recipes lead to the same outcomes.

Did nature have any choice in picking its fundamental laws? Albert Einstein famously believed that, given some general principles, there is essentially a unique way to construct a consistent, functioning universe. In Einstein's view, if we probed the essence of physics deeply enough, there would be one and only one way in which all the components -- matter, radiation, forces, space and time -- would fit together to make reality work, just as the gears, springs, dials and wheels of a mechanical clock uniquely combine to keep time.

The current Standard Model of particle physics is indeed a tightly constructed mechanism with only a handful of ingredients. Yet instead of being unique, the universe seems to be one of an infinitude of possible worlds. We have no clue why this particular combination of particles and forces underlies nature's structure. Why are there six "flavors" of quarks, three "generations" of neutrinos, and one Higgs particle? Furthermore, the Standard Model comes with 19 constants of nature -- numbers like the mass and charge of the electron -- that have to be measured in experiments. The values of these "free parameters" seem to be without any deeper meaning. On the one hand, particle physics is a wonder of elegance; on the other hand, it is a just-so story.

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Sadr welcomes return of Iraqi Jews (Saad Salloum, June 11, 2018, Al Monitor)

In a bold move, Iraq's Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr spoke in favor of the return of the Jews who were evicted from the country half a century ago. Sadr responded to a question posed by one of his followers June 2 on whether Iraqi Jews have a right to return after having been forcibly displaced due to previous Iraqi policies, noting that they used to own properties and were part of the Iraqi community. He said, "If their loyalty was to Iraq, they are welcome." His answer was taken as tantamount to a religious edict, or fatwa.

The response has won him even more popularity and admiration for his policies and unexpected moves. His bloc, the Sairoon Alliance, won the largest number of parliament seats after allying with the Communist Party in an unprecedented move. This opening to ethnic and religious diversity reflects a shift in the personality of a Shiite religious and political figure known for being rebellious and defiant over the past 15 years.

However, an overview of Sadr's previous positions reveals that this positive attitude toward Iraq's Jews is not really new. In an interview with journalist Sarmad al-Tai in 2013, Sadr said he "welcomes any Jew who prefers Iraq to Israel and there is no difference between Jews, Muslims or Christians when it comes to the sense of nationalism. Those who do not carry out their national duties are not Iraqis even if they were Shiite Muslims."

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


China's Long Game for the Singapore Summit: While Trump and Kim play checkers, Xi has the Go board out. (James Stavridis, June 8, 2018, Bloomberg)

China is playing a very long game indeed. While the Pentagon is excited about developing a new five-year plan, the Chinese are thinking about how the region comes out in 200 years. They have three crucial strategic objectives in the region, which they will continue to hammer home. 

First, they want undisputed control over the South China Sea, principally for the hydrocarbons. Second, they want to consolidate Chinese influence around its periphery, especially full incorporation of Taiwan (they hope without a fight, but if necessary, they will eventually take the island militarily). They will also seek a dominant partner in the Philippines and/or Vietnam. Third, they want a divided Korean Peninsula so they can maintain dominant influence in the north and check the U.S. influence in the south.

China will use the North Korea-U.S. summit to further these ambitions. For Beijing, the best outcome would be an agreed framework that puts off any actual relinquishment of North Korea's nuclear weapons into the distant future. This will ensure the long-term survival of the Kim regime and the continuation of a divided peninsula. 

It will also ensure the need for China to be back at the table (presumably with South Korea in four-party talks) as quickly as possible. The Chinese will also use their influence with North Korea to help Trump claim some kind of a victory, thus proving that all roads to Pyongyang lead through Beijing. President Xi Jinping has played his hand of cards well.

June 11, 2018

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Web of elite Russians met with NRA execs during 2016 campaign (PETER STONE AND GREG GORDON, June 11, 2018, McClatchy)
Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential bid.

Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia's defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia's largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.

The Russians talked and dined with NRA representatives, mainly in Moscow, as U.S. presidential candidates vied for the White House. 

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With smiles and a handshake, Trump and Kim could mask gulf on nuclear arms (Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and John Hudson, June 11, 2018, Washington Post)

The working-level sessions, including those led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have foundered repeatedly over basic issues of what the summit should be about and an inability to close fundamental gaps in understanding over North Korean denuclearization.

The entire point was to be able to say that his nukes brought the US to heel.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Minogue on States, Institutions, and the Enemies of Liberty (DONALD DEVINE, 6/11/18, Law & Liberty)

The Greeks were the first to take the fact that it was difficult to intimidate free warriors to the conclusion that a warrior society must create a "negotiating group" of cooperation among equals. As late as Aristotle, government by public discussion among equals was the best. Paradoxically, each individual's freedom was limited by the self-discipline, negotiation, and reasoning required by cooperation that produced ancient Greece's great military and social successes. The same factors fashioned Rome and European martial feudalism.

Europe followed Greece into recognizing that "Freedom is only Freedom when it is given up" in commitments to group, work, and marriage, and in living under laws based upon a "morality of integrity" dependent upon warrior courage.  [...]

In his final piece, from 2013, entitled "The Self-Interested Society," Minogue concedes that he must go against his most basic teachings and become "perilously engaged in an abstract sociological sketch" to make sense of today's disorder. He begins by noting that the West first evolved the nation-state as "an association of individualists managing their own lives," as opposed to the governments in the rest of the world, which promised a "comprehensive system of justice" promoting social harmony. The Western model that he identifies with liberty was not so much based on self-preservation (this was common to Western and non-Western) but upon self-interest, which can only be understood as the historical event of moving from traditional to modern society, where "individuals must find some niche or enterprise within which to live," to become self-reliant rather than being component parts within a traditional, cosmologically integrated community.

Traditional nations based upon "legitimization in terms of a comprehensive system of justice" grew from a common culture, with clear functions for each in a hierarchy based upon one's contribution to the common good. Only in Europe and its colonies did a long history develop the concept of the individual into a "contractual order of social relationships" based upon self-interest, a development that became most obvious by the 17th century with the rise of words hyphenated with the word "self." This fostered a "process of moral calculation" that manifested itself even "more in our moral life than in the economy," which balanced such choices in "the interests of both the actor and those his acts will affect," creating the free way of life enjoyed by Westerners.

Minogue ends by warning that most supporters of this historical European liberty seem to assume a universal desire for making free moral decisions. The truth, though, is that "what most people seem to want is to know exactly where they stand and be secure in their understanding of the situation." Freely-decided rules and processes are risky; they will produce unexpected and sometimes unwelcome outcomes. It is this tension between the desire for security and the risks inherent in freedom that makes the latter "constantly vulnerable to those who try to seduce us with dreams of perfection." Centralized compassion for "abstract classes of vulnerability" rather than individual calculations leads to nations becoming unable to say no to chronic debt, which threatens their survival and erodes the virtues of the people.

"Societies are necessarily imperfect and making them perfect is not an option for creatures such as humans," writes Minogue. All that is possible is to "choose where imperfection may least harmfully find an outlet in our complicated societies" and to remember that freedom is what made the West so successful.

The genius of the ThirdWay/compassionate conservative is that it returns us to the universal class, instead of abstract ones.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


A Theory with No Strings Attached: Can Beautiful Physics Be Wrong? [Excerpt]: A physicist decries the trend of chasing after aesthetically pleasing theories that lack empirical evidence (Sabine Hossenfelder, June 11, 2018, Scientific American)

String theory is currently the most popular idea for a unified theory of the [fundamental physics] interactions. It posits that the universe and all its content is made of small vibrating strings that may be closed back on themselves or have loose ends, may stretch or curl up, may split or merge. And that explains everything: matter, space-time, and, yes, you too. At least that's the idea. String theory has to date no experimental evidence speaking for it. Historian Helge Kragh, also at the meeting, has compared it to vortex theory.

Richard Dawid, in his book, used string theory as an example for the use of "non-empirical theory assessment." By this he means that to select a good theory, its ability to describe observation isn't the only criterion. He claims that certain criteria that are not based on observations are also philosophically sound, and he concludes that the scientific method must be amended so that hypotheses can be evaluated on purely theoretical grounds. Richard's examples for this non-empirical evaluation--arguments commonly made by string theorists in favor of their theory--are (1) the absence of alternative explanations, (2) the use of mathematics that has worked before, and (3) the discovery of unexpected connections.

Richard isn't so much saying that these criteria should be used as simply pointing out that they are being used, and he provides a justification for them. The philosopher's support has been welcomed by string theorists. By others, less so.

In response to Richard's proposed change of the scientific method, cosmologists Joe Silk and George Ellis warned of "breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical" and, in a widely read comment published in Nature, expressed their fear that "theoretical physics risks becoming a no-man's-land between mathematics, physics and philosophy that does not truly meet the requirements of any."

I can top these fears. If we accept a new philosophy that promotes selecting theories based on something other than facts, why stop at physics? I envision a future in which climate scientists choose models according to criteria some philosopher dreamed up. The thought makes me sweat.

Dude, it's way too late to worry that science can't withstand the scientific method.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 AM


Early decade big city growth continues to fall off, census shows (William H. Frey, May 29, 2018, Brookings)

Newly released census data for city population growth through 2017 show that what I and others previously heralded as the "decade of the city" may be less valid during the waning years of the 2010s. While most big cities are still gaining population, the rates of that gain are falling off for many of them as the nation's population shows signs of broad dispersal.

The new numbers for big cities--those with a population of over a quarter million--are telling. Among these 84 cities, 55 of them either grew at lower rates than the previous year or sustained population losses. This growth fall-off further exacerbates a pattern that was suggested last year. The average population growth of this group from 2016 to 2017 was 0.83 percent--down from well over 1 percent for earlier years of the decade and lower than the average annual growth rate among these cities for the 2000 to 2010 decade (see Figure 1). [...]

[T]he pervasiveness of declining big city growth, which began to become evident with last year's numbers, reflects a broader dispersal of the nation's population--from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs, and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. These patterns are apparent with domestic migration flows and regional population shifts. They reflect the easing up of constrains toward personal and job mobility as the economy continues to revive.

Still another indicator of this dispersion is the return of the suburban growth advantage over cities--now apparent for the second year in a row, after five years of a city growth advantage, for the combined populations of the nation's 53 largest metropolitan areas, each with populations exceeding one million (see Figure 3).

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June 10, 2018

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Meet the guys who tape Trump's papers back together (ANNIE KARNI, 06/10/2018, Politico)

Solomon Lartey spent the first five months of the Trump administration working in the Old Executive Office Building, standing over a desk with scraps of paper spread out in front of him.

Lartey, who earned an annual salary of $65,969 as a records management analyst, was a career government official with close to 30 years under his belt. But he had never seen anything like this in any previous administration he had worked for. He had never had to tape the president's papers back together again.

Armed with rolls of clear Scotch tape, Lartey and his colleagues would sift through large piles of shredded paper and put them back together, he said, "like a jigsaw puzzle." Sometimes the papers would just be split down the middle, but other times they would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.

It was a painstaking process that was the result of a clash between legal requirements to preserve White House records and President Donald Trump's odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he's done with them -- what some people described as his unofficial "filing system."

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.

But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn't violating the law.

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What is behind the Eid ceasefire with the Taliban? (Ahmed Rashid, 6/10/18, Al Jazeera)

It appears that pressure from Pakistan on the Taliban Shura which largely resides in the Pakistani border town of Quetta has been instrumental in pushing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire.

According to Lisa Curtis, deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump, Washington has been pursuing "multiple lines of effort" for bringing peace to Afghanistan and an important component of that effort was to ensure that Pakistan played "a constructive role" in it. US and NATO troops in Afghanistan will also observe this truce.

The strategy behind the ceasefire offer is to create a pause in hostilities for a few days which could be extended further. The end game of the Ghani administration is to jumpstart military and political dialogue aimed at ending the war.

Well done, Donald!

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


Lost John Coltrane Recording From 1963 Will Be Released at Last (Giovanni Russonello, June 7, 2018, NY Times)

In the years leading up to "A Love Supreme," his explosive 1965 magnum opus, Coltrane produced eight albums for Impulse! Records featuring the members of his so-called classic quartet -- the bassist Jimmy Garrison, the drummer Elvin Jones and the pianist McCoy Tyner -- but only two of those, "Coltrane" and "Crescent," were earnest studio efforts aimed at distilling the band's live ethic.

But now that story needs a major footnote.

On Friday, Impulse! will announce the June 29 release of "Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album," a full set of material recorded by the quartet on a single day in March 1963, then eventually stashed away and lost. The family of Coltrane's first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, recently discovered his personal copy of the recordings, which she had saved, and brought it to the label's attention.

There are seven tunes on this collection, a well-hewed mix that clearly suggests Coltrane had his sights on creating a full album that day. From the sound of it, this would have been an important one.

"In 1963, all these musicians are reaching some of the heights of their musical powers," said the saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane's son, who helped prepare "Both Directions at Once" for release. "On this record, you do get a sense of John with one foot in the past and one foot headed toward his future."

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With Kim Jong-un, Trump is mirror-imaging. That's a mistake. (Jung H. Pak, June 8, 2018, Brookings)

Kim is not a businessman, and wealth--in Trump's sense of the word--is not what he is looking for as he continues his maximum engagement strategy. Trump's mirror-imaging has the potential to lead to policymaking that doesn't really comport with the realities of this thorny national security problem.

Kim is highly unlikely to give up nuclear weapons to get a McDonalds franchise in Pyongyang. And his pivot toward engagement is probably aimed at trying to reduce China's appetite for sanctions implementation.  If we are to believe Kim Jong-un, he has completed the nuclear project that his grandfather started and his father nurtured. North Korea's identity is wrapped up in the idea of being a nuclear state--it's in its constitution, its monuments, its rhetoric, and in its culture. To trade that away for money from Americans would be the ultimate form of dishonor and betrayal to its founding principles.

So when the Trump administration talks about American capitalism helping to develop North Korea, Kim sees as American "imperialists" seeking to exploit the country's people and resources. Kim Kye-kwan, the North Korean first vice foreign minister, said in response to such U.S. declarations: "We have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in the future, too."

When two sides sit down to negotiate, one has generally already won.  The staggering thing about this sit-down with the Norks is that Donald has not only abandoned one of our key interests in North Korea but reversed it: he promises to become the regime's guarantor.

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Augustine's "Confessions" Unpacked: a review of I Burned for Your Peace: Augustine's Confessions Unpacked, by Peter Kreeft (Louis Markos, 6/10/18, Imaginative Conservative)

I mentioned above that Dr. Kreeft helped me see that my old mentor's hatred of Augustine was likely linked to Augustine's belief in Original Sin. Sadly, most moderns who practice introspection do so as a means of identifying other people, or institutions, to blame for their sinful behavior. (That is why moderns have identified guilt as the problem rather than as the signal that there is a problem.) Augustine does not allow himself that easy way out. He is fully aware both of his sinful nature and his sinful choices.

What we do always manifests what we are. Where else could our deeds come from? That is why God does not accept our lying excuses: "the devil made me do it" (Eve), or "the woman You gave me made me do it" (Adam), or "my apelike ancestry made me do it" (Darwin), or "my capitalist economy made me do it" (Marx), or "the hormones of my libido made me do it" (Freud).[3]

Modern readers love to emphasize that the great Augustine was once a sexual libertine. That claim, though greatly exaggerated, is a true one, but not quite in the way that our post-sexual revolution era would like it to be. As Dr. Kreeft reminds us, Augustine was quite aware that the Christian faith of his mother toward which he was attracted held out only two options: celibacy outside marriage or chastity within marriage. Augustine knew that he was sinning with his mistress, even as he knew that his sin was a form of addiction--but he couldn't pull himself out of his self-destructive lifestyle.

Augustine is seeking after love--ultimately, the love of God--but he keeps going astray, vainly trying to satisfy his yearning for love on lesser objects. Augustine knows this; that is why he is perpetually restless as he seeks to rest his heart in the one who placed the yearning within him. Augustine is at heart a rebel, but not a rebel against sexual morality; to the contrary, he rebels against his enslavement to sexual sin, to the horrible Pauline reality (Roman 7:15-20) that he continually does the very thing he does not want to do.

One of Dr. Kreeft's simplest but most profound insights is that the Confessions is first and foremost a prayer to God. Indeed, unless we read it as a prayer, we will not understand it; we will only study it. Augustine "is not talking to us and letting God listen in; he is talking to God and letting us listen in."[4] Or, to put it another way, Augustine "wrote the book to help us look at him and at ourselves only through God's eyes."[5] Those who read the Confessions as a tell-all book to satisfy their vain curiosity, and perhaps even to feel superior to Augustine, will miss completely its meaning and its purpose. If we are not convicted and inspired by Augustine's transformation in Christ to seek our own true freedom and peace, then we might as well close the book and turn on Oprah.

It's not just that Original Sin helps us understand why none of us are the men we wish to be, but that it made our faith the only anti-utopian belief system among men.

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Hiring Workers Is a Struggle (John Lippman, 6/09/18, Valley News)

Upper Valley Produce co-owner James Gordon is having to fill-in on the loading dock. Lake Morey Resort owner Mark Avery has had to dive into the "dish pit" in the kitchen and wash dishes.

FujiFilm introduced higher-paid weekend work shifts to entice students, retirees and stay-at-home spouses out of the house and onto the shop floor.

FitKids Childcare at the River Valley Club is offering $500 signing bonuses for new employees and an appointment for a massage at the club spa will take a week because there are not enough massage therapists to go around.

And if you're planning major home renovation projects or even want to built a home -- well, maybe next year. There are not enough carpenters, dry board installers or painters in the area to do the work.

This is what 2.2 percent unemployment looks like for businesses in the Upper Valley.

A workforce labor shortage is forcing employers to go to unusual lengths to make up for the absence of workers. This, in some cases, is leading to foregone revenue and sales, as not enough people can be found to fill open positions to help meet the demand for goods and services.

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Demand for Electric SUVs Not Being Met (Mark Phelan, 6/10/18, Detroit Free Press)

While customers clamor for more SUVs like the Toyota RAV4, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Traverse and Honda HR-V and as electric-drive technology advances rapidly, it's virtually impossible to find an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle in the fast growing urban-utility vehicle segment.

Mitsubishi builds the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV. Mitsubishi, for crying out loud.

That's no knock on the Outlander, but it demonstrates a shocking bankruptcy of imagination at Chevy, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen. Each of those brands literally builds millions more vehicles than tiny Mitsubishi. But the little brand with the triple-diamond badge was the only one that understood: At the intersection of growing environmental awareness and soaring SUV sales lay a new class of vehicles that deliver the height and room of an SUV and run on batteries at least some of the time. Most people buying urban utilities don't care about off-road ability or towing capacity. Half of them probably aren't sure if they've got all-wheel drive.

They just want to sit up high, see what's around them and have a big space behind the rear seat.

A meaningful number would love to plug in for their daily driving and slash how often they have to buy gas, but the leading automakers have declined to build plug-ins and EVs with the height and room that made SUVs a hit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


Russia's Putin would be ready to host G7 in Moscow (Denis Pinchuk, 6/10/18, Reuters) 

Russia did not choose to leave the G7 and would be happy to host its members in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday when asked about U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that Russia should have been at its latest meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Focus on winning over Scots to independence from UK, Sturgeon tells SNP (Elisabeth O'Leary, 6/09/18, Reuters)

Sturgeon's speech was upbeat, focusing on a new SNP economic report which tackles the weaknesses of the economic arguments from the 2014 vote.

"It doesn't pretend there are always easy answers - no one believes that. But it does lay strong foundations for independence. Even with no extra growth from independence, the deficit can be turned around in five to 10 years," she said.

There were also policy offers such as a three percent pay rise for most staff in Scotland's national health service.

Sturgeon also argued for more immigration to the sparsely populated northern tip of Britain and greater powers to control it as a central feature of economic growth.

Scotland's population, much of which is rural and dispersed unlike the rest of the UK, is aging more rapidly than other parts of the country.

Immigration, however, is the thorniest political issue in the Brexit negotiations, and limiting the number of foreigners who enter the UK was a central element on which Britain's overall 2016 vote to leave the European Union rested.

"It's time for powers over migration to come to Scotland."  

Pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May's government to abandon unrealistic targets to curb immigration has emerged from many sides, including businesses and her own party ranks: Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has criticized the government's targets as impractical.

June 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:49 AM


Trump White House under fire for lack of Muslim-American representation at Ramadan celebration  (Tara Isabella Burton, Jun 8, 2018, Vox)

The White House has hosted an Iftar dinner annually since the Clinton administration. However, President Donald Trump -- breaking with tradition -- passed on hosting one in 2017, causing controversy. This year, however, the Iftar dinner was no less controversial.

No Muslim-American leaders or activists appear to have attended the dinner. (Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to provide a final guest list), and it is not clear if any were asked.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Bulgaria To Replace Soviet MiG Jets With NATO Allies' Planes (Radio Liberty, June 09, 2018)

Bulgaria's parliament on June 8 approved a plan to spend about $2 billion (1.6 billion euros) to purchase 150 combat vehicles and 16 new or used fighter jets to replace its aging Soviet-designed MiG-29s.

Problems with Bulgaria's fleet of 15 Soviet aircraft have raised safety concerns among the country's military pilots, who refused to fly in a training operation last October in a bid to speed up the new acquisitions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 AM


Here's Anthony Bourdain's Foreword to Marilyn Hagerty's Book 'Grand Forks' (Hillary Dixler Canavan,  Aug 19, 2013, Eater)

If you're looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you'd find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling--or even the knife-edged criticism of an AA Gill or a Sam Sifton--you will not find it here.

The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people.

For 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has been covering the restaurant scene in and around the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, population 52,000. She also, it should be pointed out, writes a total of five columns a week, about history and local personalities and events, in addition to her writing about restaurants and food. As one might expect, she knows personally many of her subjects. Given the size of her territory, it is not unusual for her to write about the same restaurant two or more times in a single year. In short, she is writing about a community that she is very much a part of.

If you knew her name before picking up this book, it was probably because of her infamously guileless Olive Garden review which went viral, caused first a tidal wave of snarky derision--followed by an even stronger anti-snark backlash--followed by invitations to appear on Anderson Cooper and The TODAY Show, dinner at Le Bernardin, an appearance on Top Chef, an Al Neuharth Award, a publishing deal--a sudden and unexpected elevation to media darling.

Why was that?

What is it about the 86-year-old Ms. Hagerty that inspired such attention and affection?

Why should you read this book?

Of the 7,000 pages of articles and reviews I read while assembling this collection, there is little of what one would call pyrotechnical prose. Ms. Hagerty's choices of food are shockingly consistent: A "Clubhouse sandwich," coleslaw, wild rice soup, salads assembled from a salad bar, baked potatoes. She is not what you'd call an adventurous diner, exploring the dark recesses of menus. Far from it. Of one lunch, she writes:

"There were signs saying the luncheon special was soup and a Denver sandwich for $2.25. In places where food service is limited, I tend to take the special. I wasn't born yesterday."

She is never mean--even when circumstances would clearly excuse a sharp elbow, a cruel remark. In fact, watching Marilyn struggle to find something nice to say about a place she clearly loathes is part of the fun. She is, unfailingly, a good neighbor and good citizen first--and entertainer second.

But what she HAS given us, over all these years, is a fascinating picture of dining in America, a gradual, cumulative overview of how we got from there... to here.

Grand Forks is NOT New York City. We forget that--until we read her earlier reviews and remember, some of us, when you'd find sloppy Joe, steak Diane, turkey noodle soup, three bean salad, red Jell-o in OUR neighborhoods. When the tuft of curly parsley and lemon wedge, or a leaf of lettuce and an orange segment, or three spears of asparagus fashioned into a wagon wheel, were state of the art garnishes. When you could order a half sandwich, a cup of soup. A pre-hipster world where lefse, potato dumplings and walleye were far more likely to appear on a menu than pork belly.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:00 AM


Trump's not wrong about pardoning himself (Michael W. McConnell, June 8, 2018, Washington Post)

When President Trump tweeted that he has the constitutional authority to pardon himself, he likely weakened his case in the minds of most ordinary people. Why would he talk about pardons if he hasn't done anything for which he might need one? But as a legal and constitutional matter, Trump is not wrong. Presidents do have the constitutional authority to pardon themselves, albeit at the considerable risk of impeachment if they do so.

The president's pardon power was intentionally made broad, even though the framers of the Constitution were well aware that it could be abused. They understood the pardon as an essential final check against miscarriages of justice and overly harsh applications of the letter of the law -- and more importantly, as a device for national reconciliation after episodes of political unrest. George Washington used the power this way after the Whiskey Rebellion, Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War, and Jimmy Carter after Vietnam.

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says the president "shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." The exception for impeachment shows that the clause extends to presidential misconduct, and suggests the ultimate remedy is impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, rather than criminal prosecution.

Given that a pardon requires an admission of guilt--acceptance of the pardon--this is exactly how the case should proceed and then Congress can just remove him without hearings.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 AM


All Icelanders Are Now Organ Donors (JELENA ĆIRIĆ, June 07, 2018, Iceland Review)

As of next year, all Icelanders will be assumed organ donors unless they explicitly state otherwise. The Icelandic parliament approved a new law yesterday which assumes all individuals consent to organ donation upon their death, Vísir reports. The new regulations take effect on January 1, 2019.

Good public policy needs to exploit the natural lassitude of the hoi polloi.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 AM


Top Hill Democrat Says Mueller Should Consider Perjury Charges Against Trump-Russia Witnesses: Adam Schiff blasts Devin Nunes for not releasing investigation transcripts. (DAVID CORNJUN. 7, 2018, Mother Jones)

In the letter, Schiff noted that Rep. Mike Conaway (Texas), who led the Russia investigation for the committee's Republicans, and other GOPers on the panel had repeatedly promised to make these transcripts public at the end of the inquiry. But, Schiff wrote, they have "abandoned this pledge under the unsupported pretext of protecting the Special Counsel's investigation." Schiff reported that he has asked Mueller if he has any objections to the committee releasing the transcripts and that Mueller has none.

"[U]ntil the Majority lives up to its commitment to make the transcripts public," Schiff wrote, "they must be shared with Special Counsel to assist his investigation and, as appropriate, to allow him to assess whether witnesses violated federal law by providing false testimony."

Questions have been raised about the accuracy of testimony presented to the committee by such key witnesses as Donald Trump Jr., Erik Prince, and Roger Stone. And Democratic members of the committee have long grumbled that the Republicans in control have declined to follow up on testimony that the Democrats suspect was inaccurate or misleading. They note that the Republicans declined their requests for call-back interviews and for subpoenas of records and documents that could be used to verify or challenge testimony.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Schiff remarked that he had previously asked Nunes to provide specific transcripts to Mueller regarding witnesses who might have testified untruthfully but that Nunes would not commit to sharing this material with Mueller. Schiff also said that Mueller has signaled to the committee an interest in the testimony of particular witnesses. But Schiff noted that he "can't elaborate" regarding which witnesses and that the committee has not yet received any formal requests from Mueller for transcripts. If Mueller did make such a request, Schiff explained, it would be up to Nunes to decide whether or not to comply.

In the interview, Schiff said that the Democratic members of the committee are conducting legal research to determine whether there are any mechanisms that would allow the Democrats on their own to provide transcripts to Mueller in cases involving possible perjury or obstruction of justice. "If the transcripts contain possible evidence of a crime," he remarked, "there might be methods to share them with the special counsel." He criticized the GOP committee majority for reneging on its commitment to make public the transcripts and claimed one reason for this is that the transcripts "reveal how often the majority acted as defense lawyers for the witnesses."

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


Hamilton and a lesson in citizenship (Greg Weeks, Apr 6, 2018, ST. Louis Post-Dispatch)

This was one of the most inspiring events I'd ever witnessed. People from around the world, many with unpronounceable names, sat excitedly. They held small American flags in anticipation of the time they would take the oath. One young Asian man even wore patriotic socks: One sock had stripes and the other, stars. Most were smiling broadly, and some were even crying.

I looked into these faces and imagined what they'd gone through to get to this point. They'd left their land for a nation "conceived in liberty." They found themselves in a foreign culture along with a possibly foreign language. They studied our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and our government. They learned our history and heard the risks our forbears took to enable this experiment in democracy.

These soon-to-be citizens showed me how easy it is for us born-in-America citizens to take our country for granted. Growing up, American history was a bit boring for me, and civics was almost a near-death experience. For them, however, being a citizen of the United States was a coveted goal for which they had struggled. For me, it was something I was given. Being a citizen for them was a source of pride. For me, it was an entitlement.

This was humbling. All Americans have a civic duty. It's easy to abdicate that duty when we enjoy the fruits of living in this country without regarding the responsibilities necessary to maintain them.

Christians especially bear this obligation.

June 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Don'€t Eat Before Reading This: A New York chef spills some trade secrets. (Anthony Bourdain, 4/19/99, The New Yorker)

Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It's about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It's about danger--risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.

Gastronomy is the science of pain. Professional cooks belong to a secret society whose ancient rituals derive from the principles of stoicism in the face of humiliation, injury, fatigue, and the threat of illness. The members of a tight, well-greased kitchen staff are a lot like a submarine crew. Confined for most of their waking hours in hot, airless spaces, and ruled by despotic leaders, they often acquire the characteristics of the poor saps who were press-ganged into the royal navies of Napoleonic times--superstition, a contempt for outsiders, and a loyalty to no flag but their own.

A good deal has changed since Orwell's memoir of the months he spent as a dishwasher in "Down and Out in Paris and London." Gas ranges and exhaust fans have gone a long way toward increasing the life span of the working culinarian. Nowadays, most aspiring cooks come into the business because they want to: they have chosen this life, studied for it. Today's top chefs are like star athletes. They bounce from kitchen to kitchen--free agents in search of more money, more acclaim.

I've been a chef in New York for more than ten years, and, for the decade before that, a dishwasher, a prep drone, a line cook, and a sous-chef. I came into the business when cooks still smoked on the line and wore headbands. A few years ago, I wasn't surprised to hear rumors of a study of the nation's prison population which reportedly found that the leading civilian occupation among inmates before they were put behind bars was "cook." As most of us in the restaurant business know, there is a powerful strain of criminality in the industry, ranging from the dope-dealing busboy with beeper and cell phone to the restaurant owner who has two sets of accounting books. In fact, it was the unsavory side of professional cooking that attracted me to it in the first place. In the early seventies, I dropped out of college and transferred to the Culinary Institute of America. I wanted it all: the cuts and burns on hands and wrists, the ghoulish kitchen humor, the free food, the pilfered booze, the camaraderie that flourished within rigid order and nerve-shattering chaos. I would climb the chain of command from mal carne (meaning "bad meat," or "new guy") to chefdom--doing whatever it took until I ran my own kitchen and had my own crew of cutthroats, the culinary equivalent of "The Wild Bunch."

A year ago, my latest, doomed mission--a high-profile restaurant in the Times Square area--went out of business. The meat, fish, and produce purveyors got the news that they were going to take it in the neck for yet another ill-conceived enterprise. When customers called for reservations, they were informed by a prerecorded announcement that our doors had closed. Fresh from that experience, I began thinking about becoming a traitor to my profession.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


New Book: Trump Team, Not Deep State, Revealed Flynn's Talks With Russians: Obama aide Ben Rhodes writes that he learned about Mike Flynn's parley with the Russian ambassador not from 'unmasked' surveillance intercepts but from Trump's own people. (Spencer Ackerman, 06.07.18, Daily Beast)

Flynn "took a couple of weeks after his own appointment to accept Susan Rice's invitation to meet," Rhodes writes. "His own transition team volunteered to us that he'd met with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, before meeting with the American official he was replacing."

Rhodes didn't hear about that firsthand, he clarified, as the Trump transition team didn't deal with Rhodes. ("You're kind of PNG," Rhodes quotes the outgoing Obama team's transition director telling him, meaning 'persona non grata,' someone who is not welcome.) 

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Senate Investigators May Have Found a Missing Piece in the Russia Probe (NATASHA BERTRAND, JUN 7, 2018, The Atlantic)

Curt Weldon, a Republican and former Pennsylvania congressman, lost his re-election campaign more than a decade ago following an FBI probe into his ties to two Russian companies. He has "connections to both Russia and the Trump campaign" that are raising suspicions among senators, a spokeswoman for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said. Feinstein is the committee's ranking member, and wants to interview Weldon, the spokeswoman said.

The reasons for the committee's interest in Weldon are murky, but his ties to Russia are significant. Members of Congress believe, for example, that Weldon may lead to answers about why the Trump administration sought to lift sanctions on Russia in the aftermath of the 2016 election despite a public statement by intelligence agencies that the Kremlin tried to help Trump win.

As Donald himself promised Vlad, it was all about the sanctions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


With Mueller Closing In, Manafort's Allies Abandon Him (Kenneth P. Vogel, Sharon LaFraniere and Jason Horowitz, June 7, 2018, NY Times)

The special counsel's accusation this week that Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, tried to tamper with potential witnesses originated with two veteran journalists who turned on Mr. Manafort after working closely with him to prop up the former Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, interviews and documents show.

The two journalists, who helped lead a project to which prosecutors say Mr. Manafort funneled more than $2 million from overseas accounts, are the latest in a series of onetime Manafort business partners who have provided damaging evidence to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Their cooperation with the government has increasingly isolated Mr. Manafort as he awaits trial on charges of violating financial, tax and federal lobbying disclosure laws.

Mr. Manafort's associates say he feels betrayed by the former business partners, to whom he collectively steered millions of dollars over the years for consulting, lobbying and legal work intended to bolster the reputation of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine. Mr. Manafort has told associates that he believes Mr. Mueller's team is using the business partners to pressure him to flip on Mr. Trump in a manner similar to the one used to prosecute the energy giant Enron in the early 2000s by a Justice Department task force that included some lawyers now serving on Mr. Mueller's team.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Justice Department Secretly Accessed New York Times Reporter's Email and Phone Records (ELLIOT HANNON, JUNE 07, 2018, Slate)

The Justice Department seized years' worth of a New York Times reporter's email and telephone records as part of an investigation into a leak of classified information, the Times reported Thursday, a potentially troubling development for press freedom under the Trump administration that appears set to continue aggressive Obama-era tactics in combatting unauthorized disclosures.

Information wants to be free.
Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Melania Trump's spokeswoman's response to Rudy Giuliani is lit (Kate Bennett and Dana Bash, 6/07/18, CNN)

Thursday afternoon, the first lady's communications director fired back at Giuliani.
"I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani," East Wing communications director Stephanie Grisham told CNN in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


'Carbon Sucking' Could Fuel Cars (Jim Efstathiou Jr., 6/07/18, Bloomberg News)

A Canadian startup is testing a system that sucks carbon dioxide from the air and converts it into fuel for cars and other vehicles.

Carbon Engineering's technique combines several common manufacturing processes and will eventually be able to produce fuel for about $4 a gallon, according to David Keith, a Harvard University professor and co-founder of the company.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Trump leaving G7 early, after leaders promise to confront him over tariffs (Catherine Garcia, 6/08/18, The Week)

The news of Trump's early departure came after both French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they would confront Trump at the summit about new tariffs he imposed on U.S. allies. Earlier in the evening, Macron tweeted about Trump being excluded from the traditional joint statement signed by leaders at the end of the G7 summit, saying Trump "may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be." 

His bone spurs must be acting up....

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Steve King Sounds Alarm: Estb. Is Stampeding GOP Towards Amnesty Cliff (Breitbart News, 7 Jun 2018)

The House GOP leadership will push a new amnesty bill today that does not set upper limits on an amnesty or even cut migration levels but which does exclude reforms found in Rep. Bob Goodlatte's immigration reform bill, sources tell Breitbart News.

In November, if House Speaker Paul Ryan gets his way, most GOP legislators "will be on record in support of amnesty," Iowa Rep. Steve King told Breitbart News. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought (Jeff Tollefson, 6/08/18, Nature)

Siphoning carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere could be more than an expensive last-ditch strategy for averting climate catastrophe. A detailed economic analysis published on 7 June suggests that the geoengineering technology is inching closer to commercial viability.

The study, in Joule, was written by researchers at Carbon Engineering in Calgary, Canada, which has been operating a pilot CO2-extraction plant in British Columbia since 2015. That plant -- based on a concept called direct air capture -- provided the basis for the economic analysis, which includes cost estimates from commercial vendors of all of the major components. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Trump's Lies Betray His Desperation (Steve Chapman, June 7, 2018, Creators)

He insists over and over that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. But we already have evidence there was -- in the form of guilty pleas by Trump aides Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russians.

We have evidence in the 2016 meeting hosted by son Donald Jr. and attended by son-in-law Jared Kushner with a Russian lawyer who had promised information from the Kremlin incriminating Hillary Clinton. Meeting secretly with Russians in hopes of cooperating for mutual benefit is collusion, whether illegal or not.

This week, we got confirmation that the statement Donald Jr. issued -- claiming the meeting was primarily about adoption issues -- was dictated by his father. When The Washington Post reported that last year, the White House denied the story. In a memo to Mueller obtained by The New York Times, however, Trump's lawyers admitted it was true.

Yet he has insisted that "nobody's found any collusion at any level." The assertion is not only false; it's flagrantly, obviously false.

Yeah, but....the IG report!

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


China trade surplus with US widens again (Deutsche-Welle, 6/08/18)

The trade deficit between the United States and China grew again in May, a report from Beijing's General Administration of Customs revealed Friday.

The Chinese surplus with the world's leading economy stood at $24.6 billion (€20.8 billion), about $2.4 billion larger than in April, and also higher compared with the same period a year earlier.

June 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Qatar Won the Saudi Blockade (HASSAN HASSAN | JUNE 4, 2018, Foreign Policy)
A year ago Tuesday, a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia imposed a historic land, maritime, and air blockade on Qatar. The measures were designed to strong-arm Doha to comply with a list of demands that involved alleged support for Islamic extremists throughout the Middle East, including within the four countries -- Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia -- that later became known as the anti-Qatar quartet.

The quartet received added momentum one day after the start of the blockade from U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted: "So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding ... extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"

A year on, however, Qatar has not only weathered the storm -- it also appears to have emerged as the main winner of the conflict.

Always bet on liberal democratic values.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Study: Democrat College Students Far Less Tolerant Of Opposing Views Than Republicans (HANK BERRIEN, June 6, 2018, DailyWire)

The Dartmouth, America's oldest college newspaper, conducted a study of roughly 4,400 undergraduates at Dartmouth University to determine how tolerant students were of opposing viewpoints, and found that, surprise, surprise, Republicans were far more tolerant than Democrats.

The study found that students who were Democrats were far less likely to tolerate someone with an opposing viewpoint than Republican students. 82% of Democrats averred they would be less likely to date someone with opposing political beliefs; only 42% of Republicans agreed, and only 47% of Independents agreed. Additionally, 55% of Democratic respondents said they would be less likely to befriend someone with an opposing political viewpoint, while 21% of Independents and only a paltry 12% of Republicans agreed.

The prejudice extended beyond friendships or romances; 38% of Democratic students were less willing to take classes from a Republican professor while only 23% of Republican students felt that way about Democratic professors.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Delaying Immigration Reform Is a Missed Opportunity for Republicans (JEB BUSH June 6, 2018, TIME)

First, it is past time to truly secure our border, and there are new technologies to supplement physical barriers that can be more effective at a dramatically lower cost than constructing a 2,200-mile wall-- an unrealistic idea that has little chance of coming fully to fruition, regardless of who pays for it. Considering the latest idea is to "crowdfund" the estimated $21.6 billion project, it would seem pragmatic to focus on the achievable, including bolstering drone surveillance and improving infrastructure that will allow for better monitoring of our border.

Second, we must end the diversity lottery -- which results in 50,000 visas annually -- and narrow family reunification to what every other country allots for: spouses and minor children. Chain migration accounts for a substantial portion of immigrant entrances into our country with no respect to merit or prospective benefit to our nation.

Countries like Canada and Australia have prioritized economic-driven factors in their immigration systems, with substantial benefits for their economies. Based on current research, we already know legal immigrants are almost twice as likely to start a business than individuals born here, comprise a quarter of all entrepreneurs in the country and are three times more likely to file patents for innovations.

Dramatically cutting legal immigration isn't the answer. We need a guest worker program linked to market demand. We need to make it easier for foreign students gaining valuable college educations here to obtain work visas. And we must reform the H-1B visa program to help address the 6.7 million job openings that remain unfilled because employers can't find enough skilled workers.

Third, we must modernize our system, overhaul the bureaucracy and effectively enforce our immigration laws. The biggest immigration problem we face is the large population of immigrants who overstay their visas, accounting for a full two-thirds of those here illegally in recent years. Investments in our court system and law enforcement are critical -- currently, there is a backlog of more than 700,000 cases before immigration judges. E-Verify, a Department of Homeland Security resource that enables businesses to check if prospective employees are eligible to work in the U.S., must be enhanced and made mandatory to use; employers who don't should face sanctions. We also have to improve the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act so it no longer provides an unintended incentive for sending Central American children into the country illegally.

Finally -- and likely the most difficult element to achieve consensus on -- we need to address the full population of illegal immigrants in our country today.

For all law-abiding DREAMers, there should be a path to citizenship. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


U.S. Household Net Worth $100 Trillion in First-Quarter 2018 (Reuters, 6/07/18) 

U.S. households added $1 trillion to their wealth in the first three months of this year, boosted by rising stock prices and home values, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday.

U.S. household wealth reached $100.8 trillion in the January-March period.

...folks have nowhere near as much debt as they should, given the return on investment vs the cost of borrowing.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Top Democrat on House Intel Committee seeks release of all Russia probe interviews (Mike Memoli / Jun.07.2018, NBC)

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrote to the committee's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., two weeks ago requesting that the dozens of transcripts be released, saying they could shed "additional light on the issues of collusion and obstruction of justice."

While Mr. Schiff's rectitude has been admirable, his job does require some gamesmanship.  Forcing the admission that Donald and Devin can't afford openness is long overdue.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Social Security's future is safe (Christian Weller, 6/07/18, The Conversation)

The trustees report stated that the federal government will have to tap Social Security reserves to pay a small portion of promised benefits in the current fiscal year for the first time since 1982. They also projected Social Security can continue to pay 100 percent of benefits through 2034 by relying in part on the money in the trust funds.

At that point, the trust funds will be depleted, and Congress will need to decide whether to increase revenue, cut benefits or both. Otherwise, Social Security will be able to pay just 79 percent of promised benefits in 2035 and a little less for the foreseeable future.

Social Security's projected shortfalls over the coming decades are larger than initially estimated because, as my research has shown, rising economic inequality has pushed more individual income beyond the reach of its payroll tax, which was capped at $127,200 in 2017. This has meant less revenue and higher costs than projected.

Despite the alarmist headlines, however, this is neither the end of the world or the end of Social Security. The trust funds were never intended to be left alone - and indeed have been tapped many times since they started.

In other words, addressing the financial shortfall poses a manageable long-term challenge. For example, increasing the payroll tax by just 2.88 percentage points would cover the expected shortfall over the next 75 years.

The annual shortfall is also equivalent to about 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. To put this in perspective, that's less than the 1.4 percent of GDP the recent tax cuts are projected to cost in 2019.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Giuliani says people in the porn business are not credible. (Christopher Massie, 6/07/18, CNN)

When Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that Stormy Daniels has no credibility because she is is a porn star, he neglected to mention that his client, President Donald Trump, has appeared in three Playboy videos that feature nudity and softcore pornographic content.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Trump urges punishment for former House IT worker (Devlin Barrett, June 7, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump weighed in Thursday on a pending criminal case involving a former technology staffer for congressional lawmakers -- another instance in which he publicly lobbied for a specific legal outcome and appeared to embrace and promote unfounded allegations.

The case surrounding Imran Awan and his wife has been the subject of interest among conservatives and conspiracy theorists for more than a year. [...]

Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, called it "highly improper for the president to weigh in on a pending case and to urge the Justice Department not to accept a plea deal involving Mr. Awan and his wife."

She noted if the Awans' plea talks break down, "the defendants would have a good case to say the negotiations were obstructed by the president's tweet."

...anti-Muslim hysterics, obstruction of justice and tweeting.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


White House Analysis Finds Tariffs Will Hurt Growth, as Officials Insist Otherwise (Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, June 7, 2018, NY Times)

A White House economic analysis of President Trump's trade agenda has concluded that Mr. Trump's tariffs will hurt economic growth in the United States, according to several people familiar with the research.

The findings from the White House Council of Economic Advisers have been circulated only internally and not publicly released, as is often the case with the council's work, making the exact economic projections unknown. But the determination comes as top White House officials continue to insist publicly that Mr. Trump's trade approach will be "massively good for the U.S. economy."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


A Secretive Owner of Triple-Crown Contender Justify: George Soros (Melissa Hoppert and Matthew Goldstein, June 7, 2018, NY Times)

If the strapping chestnut colt Justify wins the Belmont Stakes on Saturday to become just the 13th horse in history to claim horse racing's Triple Crown, two of the three groups that have an ownership stake in the horse's breeding rights will be front and center during the celebration.

WinStar Farm, one of North America's leading thoroughbred racing and breeding operations, owns 60 percent of Justify's breeding rights. China Horse Club owns 25 percent. A third group, a secretive entity that holds the remaining 15 percent, will remain out of the spotlight because it vigorously avoids any public attention. It is a company controlled by top employees of the billionaire investor George Soros.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


Trump complains about traveling to Canada ahead of Singapore summit with Kim (Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, June 6, 2018, Washington Post)

The president has vented privately about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as their trade tensions have spilled into public view. He has mused about finding new ways to punish the United States' northern neighbor in recent days, frustrated with the country's retaliatory trade moves.

And Trump has complained to aides about spending two days in Canada for a summit of world leaders, believing the trip is a distraction from his upcoming Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with Trump's views.

In particular, the president said Tuesday to several advisers that he fears attending the Group of Seven summit in rural Charlevoix, Quebec, may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts -- and does not want to be lectured by them.

Additionally, Trump has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport -- as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct, advisers say.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


This Ohio factory thought it could bring U.S. jobs back from China. Then Trump got involved. (David J. Lynch, June 6, 2018, The Washington Post)

CLEVELAND -- Bill Adler was invited last year to bid on a contract to make commercial sausage stuffers for a company that wanted to replace its Chinese supplier. The customer had just one non­negotiable demand: Match China's price.

Adler, owner of metal-parts maker Stripmatic Products, thought he could. But even as he readied his proposal, talk of President Trump's steel tariffs sent the price of Stripmatic's main raw material soaring.

In April, with prices up nearly 50 percent from October and the first wave of tariffs in place, Adler's bid failed. His costs were too high.

Today, instead of taking business from China, Adler worries about hanging onto the work he has. He hopes that the president's tariffs are just a negotiating tactic.

"It's got to be short-term, or I've got to find another way to make a living," Adler said, only half joking. "It's going to be an ugly scenario if it doesn't end quickly."

Stripmatic's plight is an example of the hidden costs of Trump's "America First" protectionism. 

It's a high price to pay for hating the other.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


Ahmadinejad attacks Rouhani, Khamenei over nuclear deal (Al-Monitor, June 6, 2018)

In a new onslaught on moderate President Hassan Rouhani, former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has attacked the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the signature foreign policy achievement of the incumbent administration. [...]

Ahmadinejad also took a swipe at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying, "Despite all the claims, the sanctions are back. ... We don't seek to [say that] a person is blameworthy, because all officials approved [the deal]. We want to [learn] from experiences. We still don't know what happened in the [nuclear] talks. The members of parliament still state that they haven't seen the content of the [nuclear] agreement."

In an article, moderate Asr-e-Iran slammed the former president over his attack on Rouhani and the JCPOA, writing June 5, "Ahmadinejad has seemingly forgotten that most of the problems of today in Iran is because of himself and his government's decisions. ... Ahmadinejad, like an inexperienced youth, was flexing his muscles against the other sides."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Massive Genetic Study Reveals 90 Percent Of Earth's Animals Appeared At The Same Time (Nicole Arce, 5/30/18,  Tech Times)

Landmark new research that involves analyzing millions of DNA barcodes has debunked much about what we know today about the evolution of species.

In a massive genetic study, senior research associate at the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University Mark Stoeckle and University of Basel geneticist David Thaler discovered that virtually 90 percent of all animals on Earth appeared at right around the same time.

More specifically, they found out that 9 out of 10 animal species on the planet came to being at the same time as humans did some 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

"This conclusion is very surprising," says Thaler, "and I fought against it as hard as I could." [...]

In analyzing the COI of 100,000 species, Stoeckle and Thaler arrived at the conclusion that most animals appeared simultaneously. They found that the neutral mutation across species were not as varied as expected. Neutral mutation refers to the slight DNA changes that occur across generations. They can be compared to tree rings because they can tell how old a certain specie or individual is.

As to how that could have happened, it's unclear. A likely possibility is the occurrence of a sudden event...

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


How to rescue retirement: A bold plan for a transformed private retirement system that would actually provide financial security to older Americans. (JACOB S. HACKER, 06/07/2018, Politico)

First, it would feature a stronger Social Security system. I once believed Social Security needed to be moderately pared back. Now I'm convinced we should close its financing gap by raising additional revenues--mainly by lifting or eliminating the cap on earnings subject to its payroll tax and extending that tax to investment earnings. And we need to boost Social Security payouts for some vulnerable populations, such as women who were caregivers during their working lives.

Moreover, we should not raise the retirement age. A wave of startling studies have shown that workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution have experienced virtually no increase in life expectancy over the past two decades. Instead of subjecting these workers to ever more penurious post-work years, we should maintain earlier retirement as an option but increase the incentives for later retirement by boosting benefits for those who are able to wait.

Second, we need to fix 401(k)s. Too few workers are offered them, enroll in them or put enough in them--a reflection of perverse incentives built into their very structure. We should build on what people are familiar with, but 401(k)s need a major overhaul, not modest tweaks.

Step No. 1 of that overhaul is to make a 401(k)-style plan available to all workers, whether or not their employer offers one. Step No. 2 is to automatically enroll workers and set a default contribution rate. Workers could opt out only if they showed they had adequate retirement savings from other sources.

In turn, employers would be encouraged to match worker contributions to these plans, and government would offer additional matching funds for less affluent workers. These public contributions could and should replace the highly regressive tax subsidies now offered. In other words, tax breaks for higher-income workers should be capped to provide greater support for lower-income workers.

Universal 401(k)s with required contributions and public matching would represent a fundamental change for the better. Everyone would be covered; people would save much more. Moreover, because the accounts would be universal, workers wouldn't have to roll their benefits over when they lost or changed jobs; they could just keep the account. (Not surprisingly, many workers don't roll over balances today--faced with a job change, they spend rather than save the often modest sums in their accounts.)

Unlike the present system, however, revamped 401(k)s would be governed by the same rules that protect traditional pension plans against excessive investment in company stock (the problem, recall, that took down Enron's 401(k) plan). And the default investment option under 401(k)s would be a low-cost index fund with a mix of stocks and bonds that automatically shifts over time as workers age to limit market risk as workers approach retirement.

Finally, I would take one more step--OK, leap--toward a guaranteed benefit. Under this proposal, 401(k) accounts would be converted into a lifetime guaranteed income at retirement. These new annuities would be provided directly by Social Security. Today, 401(k)s can't offer a simple defined benefit, because private employers don't want to take on this task and private insurers lack the ability to spread risks over time and across large numbers of people. But that's something the federal government has the ability to do. If Social Security allowed people to convert some or all of their 401(k) accounts into a defined benefit, then 401(k)s could provide the same reliable monthly check that Social Security does.

Yale legal scholar Ian Ayres and I call this new public option "Social Security Plus." 

We all know where we're headed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Netanyahu concerned scrapped soccer match could portend future cancellations (Times of Israel, 6 June 2018)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday voiced concern over Argentina's "disappointing" decision to scrap its friendly soccer match against Israel, saying he hoped it did not foreshadow cancellations of future cultural events in the Jewish state.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Judge Calls Trump's Border Separations of Children `Brutal' (Erik Larson, June 6, 2018, Bloomberg)

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the suit, in which the American Civil Liberties Union argues that splitting up families at the border violates their due process rights.

The practice, spearheaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, caused widespread outrage after images of children in detention centers circulated on social media. The government argues separations are necessary to properly prosecute adults who cross into the U.S. illegally, while activists say children are being used as pawns in an informal policy intended to deter migrants.

"These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child," the judge wrote. The conduct, if true, "is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency."

June 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Trump Defends Wife, Melania, and Spreads Conspiracies About Her in the Process (Katie Rogers, June 6, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump marked the event by repeating and denying rumors about the first lady that have spread throughout social media.

"The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great First Lady, Melania," the president wrote on Twitter. "During her recovery from surgery they reported everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse. All Fake, she is doing really well!"

Wasn't the assumption that she'd fled to a sanctuary city?
Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


GOP congressman blasts Trump over spy claim (KYLE CHENEY and RACHAEL BADE, 06/06/2018, Politico)

Rep. Tom Rooney, a top Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, is ripping President Donald Trump's unsupported claim that the FBI inserted a spy inside his campaign.

"What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?" Rooney said in an interview on Wednesday. "You know what I'm saying? It's like, 'Lets create this thing to tweet about knowing that it's not true.' ... Maybe it's just to create more chaos but it doesn't really help the case."

Though Rooney isn't the first GOP lawmaker to question Trump's assertion, his comments were the most forceful repudiation to date from a Republican lawmaker. Rooney, a three-term Florida Republican who is retiring at the end of the year, was one of three GOP House members to lead the Intelligence Committee's year-long Russia probe after Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside.

Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


DOJ watchdog finds James Comey defied authority as FBI director, sources say (MIKE LEVINE, Jun 6, 2018, ABC News)

The draft of Horowitz's wide-ranging report specifically called out Comey for ignoring objections from the Justice Department when he disclosed in a letter to Congress just days before the 2016 presidential election that FBI agents had reopened the Clinton probe, according to sources. Clinton has said that letter doomed her campaign.

Before Comey sent the letter to Congress, at least one senior Justice Department official told the FBI that publicizing the bombshell move so close to an election would violate longstanding department policy, and it would ignore federal guidelines prohibiting the disclosure of information related to an ongoing investigation, ABC News was told.

In an interview in April, ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Comey: "If Attorney General Lynch had ordered you not to send the letter, would you have sent it?"

"No," Comey responded. "I believe in the chain of command."

But in backing Trump's ultimate decision to fire Comey last year, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein slammed Comey's letter to Congress and said it "was wrong" for Comey "to usurp the Attorney General's authority" when he announced in July 2016 that the FBI would not be filing charges against Clinton or her aides.

"It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement," Rosenstein said in a letter to Trump recommending Comey be fired. "At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors."

Horowitz's draft report cited Comey for failing to consult with Lynch and other senior Justice Department officials before making his announcement on national TV.

You can believe that Comey made a couple massive mistakes without thinking that the predominantly Republican and conservative FBI was conspiring to help Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


A Growing Drive to Get Homelessness to Zero (David Bornstein, June 5, 2018, NY Times)

The Gulf Coast of Southern Mississippi, a Continuum-of-Care community that spans six counties, is another region that reached functional zero for veteran homelessness in 2015. Today, any veterans who fall into homelessness there are linked almost immediately to service providers who help them get Veterans Affairs benefits and into housing in less than 30 days. "We're working to get back to our 2015 average of 11 days," said Mary Simons, the executive director of Open Doors Homeless Coalition, which leads collaborative efforts in the region.

In the Built for Zero methodology, after communities build a local team and are sharing real-time data, the next milestones are achieving steady reductions in homelessness, getting to zero and sustaining it. As they work more effectively, they also focus on other dimensions like youth and family homelessness, which are very different problems and require different responses.

The Gulf Coast community has been sustaining zero homelessness for veterans for two years. It has had to be continually vigilant. "In the middle of 2016, we noticed that some of the veterans who had been housed in the big push in 2015 were starting to experience difficulties," Ms. Simons said. "We saw names starting to come back on the list. 'My gosh, how do we figure out how to prevent homelessness from someone who's recently been housed?' If we didn't have real-time data, we wouldn't have known so quickly. We started looking at other parts of our system to see if people started showing up at the food bank or a day shelter before they became homeless."

Sure enough, they did. That allowed them to notify case managers across agencies to do checkups to try to stem the inflow. "Often times those checkups were the difference between that person falling back into homelessness or getting additional assistance," Ms. Simons said. "Preventing homelessness costs so much less and is less devastating for the person."

Another region that has ended veterans' homelessness and is closing in on ending chronic homelessness is Montgomery County, Md. Homeless advocates there have also been using name lists not just to identify people who are experiencing chronic homelessness but also to catch people who are on the verge of becoming chronically homeless.

They have also taken the unusual step of identifying people in permanent supportive housing who don't want to be there and would be safe in regular housing, which is less intrusive and less expensive. To make the change happen, however, they needed to persuade the county housing authority to approve funding. "In order to make a successful budget ask, we needed to show that we had looked at programs and found efficiencies," said Nili Soni, the continuum-of-care coordinator for Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services. The person-level data helped them make the case.

All of these local successes get turned into mini case studies and are logged in Built for Zero's menu of strategies. So if a community partner wants to know how to do effective street outreach or improve housing retention or get more landlords to accept people who have been homeless as tenants, there's an inventory of proven ideas to draw from. For example, when Ms. Jaeger and Ms. Walker, in Rockford, were looking for ways to encourage landlords to accept higher-risk clients, they read about a community that had created a fund that could reduce the financial risk for l andlords. Then they got the local community foundation to do the same.

When it comes to ending homelessness, the natural questions are: "Isn't this about resources? Having enough housing dollars?" Mr. Maguire said. "Yes, more resources are definitely needed, especially in high-cost housing markets. But that won't get you all the way. Many of our communities already have the resources they need to end veteran homelessness, and the thing holding them back is the challenge of developing a smarter, faster, more coordinated housing system for that money to flow through."

"If you look at what led to the eradication of smallpox," Ms. Haggerty of Community Solutions said, "it was the construction of a surveillance system -- a culture of iteration, habits of ongoing problem solving, understanding that it needs to be a team, data to keep you connected and focused. We're finding that that's at the core of ending homelessness, too. There will always be people having housing emergencies, but we can shrink it to a totally manageable number so that homelessness becomes rare, brief when it happens, and doesn't recur."

The solution to homelessness turns out to be housing.

Posted by orrinj at 3:20 PM


Kim Jong-un's next summits will apparently be with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad (Kelly Kasulis, June 06, 2018, GlobalPost)

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Sanders-Backed Candidate Comes Up Short in Iowa Primary ( Haris Alic, June 6, 2018, Free Beacon)

A former top aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) faltered in his bid for a U.S. House of Representatives seat on Tuesday, despite receiving extensive political backing from the self-described Democratic socialist.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting (Anthony Cormier (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Jason Leopold (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Emma Loop (BuzzFeed News Reporter), 6/06/18, BuzzFeed News)

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump's inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump's name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father's personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter. [...]

The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US's adversaries -- in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


What's the real reason Jared Kushner lost his security clearance? (Cockburn, 6 June 2018, Spectator USA)

A retired member of a US intelligence agency tells Cockburn there was another reason for revoking the temporary clearance. This source, having spoken to former colleagues still serving, says Kushner would habitually put in a stream of RFIs - Requests For Information - after he had seen the PDB or other briefings. These RFIs often related to places where his family or the Trump Organisation had business interests, or wanted to have them. There were instances, our source says, when this sensitive information was echoed back in US monitoring of calls between senior figures in the Middle East. One prince would be telling another prince secrets that the US intelligence agencies had only just gathered and passed to the White House. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


After malpractice caps, doctors ordered fewer invasive tests to diagnose heart attacks (ELIZABETH COONEY, JUNE 6, 2018, STAT)

Heart attack symptoms can be ambiguous, and there are no clear guidelines on which test to try when. But a new study published Wednesday in JAMA Cardiology has found one factor that appears to sway a doctor's behavior when diagnosing a heart attack: whether the state where he or she is practicing has enacted a law capping malpractice damages. These laws limit payments made to compensate plaintiffs for "pain and suffering."

A research team from George Washington University showed that in nine states with new malpractice damage caps, physicians ordered 24 percent fewer angiographies as a first test than physicians in 20 states without such caps. In those new-cap states, doctors also ordered 21 percent fewer coronary angiographies as a follow-up and 23 percent fewer coronary procedures such as stenting, which other research says is sometimes an overused procedure.

Health care reform is about reducing consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Trump's Travel Ban Is in Trouble at the Supreme Court: Justice Kennedy's ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case suggests the court's next big decision might go badly for the president. (RICHARD PRIMUS June 04, 2018, Politico)

[B]y framing the case as it did, the Court made its limited decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission a warm-up act for another decision expected later this month--one at least as anticipated as Monday's wedding-cake decision. That other case is Hawaii v. Trump, the case about the executive order banning entry into the United States by nationals of several countries, most of them majority-Muslim. That case, like the wedding-cake case, is about the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause. The author of Monday's decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, is generally assumed to be the swing vote in the entry-ban case. And over and over in Monday's decision, Justice Kennedy articulated positions directly relevant to the entry ban--all of them running against the Trump administration's position.

At issue in Hawaii v. Trump is whether the entry ban order results from anti-Muslim animus--that is, a kind of religious prejudice. Much of the fight is about whether courts should ignore President Trump's Islamophobic statements when reasoning about the purpose of the entry ban. In Monday's decision, Justice Kennedy made plain that it is appropriate to consider the prejudice in things government officials say when analyzing claims that those officials' actions are unconstitutionally discriminatory: The key to the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, for Kennedy, was a series of statements by two members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that displayed, or might have suggested, a prejudicial attitude toward the baker's religious beliefs.

Just because the sole excuse for the travel ban was Islamophobia is no reason to believe that he'll follow that framework.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


The Soros obsession: Why far-right conspiracy theories prevail (Patrick Strickland , 6/06/18, Al Jazeera)

Despite widespread condemnation by civil society groups and international watchdogs, the bill is the latest, and perhaps most concerning, realisation of the vast number of conspiracy theories surrounding the Hungarian-American Holocaust survivor. 

Soros's long-standing advocacy for liberal democracy and the acceptance of refugees in Europe and beyond is an ongoing source of contention in Hungary and several other countries on the continent. 

Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, explained that "Soros conspiracies have always been a marker for the radical right as opposition to mainstream conservatism".

Explaining that such theories found currency among some leftists in the past, Ross noted that Soros has been blamed for economic crises, the tanking of currencies worldwide and backing an uprising against Serbia's former ultra-nationalist ruler Slobodan Milosevic, who was toppled in 2001.

The far right's narrative, however, has anti-Semitic undertones.

"In a way, he fits the perfect sort of historic epistemological category in the national socialist tradition," Reid Ross told Al Jazeera.

"It used to be Rothschild, but today, Rothschild conspiracy theories are much easier to debunk than they were back then.

"Now you have George Soros filling that space that those conspiracy theories used to occupy."

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Democrats Must Reject Howard Schultz and His Radical Centrist Ideology (Eric Levitz, 6/06/18, New York)

In recent interviews, Schultz has argued that progressive Democrats have grown so rigidly ideological, they can no longer recognize basic political and policy realities.

He has also contended that the wealthiest nation in human history can't afford to provide public health insurance to all of its citizens; that the national debt is a bigger threat to the United States than climate change; and that Democrats would be wise to demonstrate "leadership" to the electorate - by calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

"It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left," Schultz told CNBC Tuesday. "I say to myself, 'How are we going to pay for these things,' in terms of things like single payer [and] people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don't think that's realistic."

Schultz went on to say, "I think the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations...The only way we're going to get out of that is we've got to grow the economy, in my view, 4 percent or greater. And then we have to go after entitlements."

In an interview with Time Magazine earlier this year, Schultz argued that any fair-minded Democrat - or Republican - would reach this same conclusion, if they only left "their ideology outside the room and recognized that we're here to walk in the shoes of the American people."

Balancing the budget is silly as economic policy, but it's not ideological.  People just, understandably, find deficits visually unpleasing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


McDonald's Kiosks Are The New Cashiers (Venessa Wong, 6/05/18, BuzzFeed News)

McDonald's will roll out self-order kiosks to 1,000 stores every quarter for the next two years, according to CEO Steve Easterbrook.

The kiosks were already in roughly 3,500 US McDonald's restaurants as of March, or about one-fourth of its domestic stores. They will be in about half of US restaurants by the end of 2018 and in all stores by 2020. McDonald's locations in Australia, Canada, and the UK are even further along in kiosk usage.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


A decade after entering service, the first A380s are being stripped and sold for parts (Oliver Smith, 6 JUNE 2018, The Telegraph)

Fresh doubts have been cast on the future of the world's largest passenger plane after a German leasing company said it plans to break up two A380s that nobody wants. [...]

The travails of the A380 have become something on an aviation soap opera in recent years. The model was launched to much fanfare in 2005 with commentators declaring it the future of air travel. But airlines were harder to convince and sales slowly ground to a halt. Just two new orders were received in 2015 and none in either 2016 or 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Why Is Trump Mad at Sessions? A Tweet Provides the Answer (Peter Baker, June 5, 2018, NY Times)

For nearly a year, President Trump has been relentlessly attacking his handpicked attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation that has so nettled him. And so in that sense, his tweet on Tuesday morning was simply the latest in a long string.

"The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself," Mr. Trump wrote. "I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined ... and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!"

But what made this tweet so striking was that it encapsulated the essential contradictions of Mr. Trump's arguments. In fewer than 280 characters, he acknowledged perhaps as explicitly as he ever has that the reason he is mad at Mr. Sessions is that the attorney general did not shut down the investigation into Mr. Trump's campaign. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


N.J. Races Go the Way Democratic Leaders Hoped (Steve Peoples And Michael R. Blood, 6/05/18, Associated Press)

A Democratic former Navy pilot earned the chance to take on a well-funded GOP state lawmaker in the suburbs of south New Jersey as a night of primaries across the country drew political battle lines for the November fight for control of Congress.

Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor, Navy pilot, and current Democratic establishment favorite bested a field of party rivals in the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

She'll take on Assemblyman Jay Webber in one of several races Democrats view as opportunities to pick up seats in their effort to retake the House.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


The Progressive Challenge That Wasn't (JOSH VOORHEES, JUNE 06, 2018, Slate)

The left may not love Dianne Feinstein, but California voters like her just fine. The five-term Democratic senator coasted to a first-place finish Tuesday in her state's "jungle" primary, in the process easily beating back a high-profile progressive challenge from state Senate leader Kevin de León.

Feinstein led the field by more than 30 percentage points in the early returns, and was quickly declared the winner by the Associated Press. The race for second in the nonpartisan primary--which will advance the top-two candidates to the general election, regardless of party--remained too close to call early Wednesday morning.

With nearly 20 percent of precincts reporting, de León was in a distant second place with just under 10 percent--running neck and neck with Republican James Bradley, a first-time candidate who was "shocked" to finish third in a poll a little more than a month ago.

June 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


In the Army and the Klan, he hated Muslims.: Now one was coming to Chris Buckley's home. (Steve Hendrix, Photos by Kevin D. Liles, JUNE 5, 2018, Washington Post)

Chris Buckley walks out to his porch, where the doormat once greeted customers at a Subway, and looks up and down the empty street.

"I admit it, I'm nervous," he says, lighting a cigarette with heavily tattooed hands.

His densely colored arms -- and much of his body -- are a paisley record of his many hates. KKK symbols dot his left knuckles, another surrounds his navel; an anti-government militia tag covers his neck. Most prominent is the big word in Arabic emblazoned on the back of his forearm: "Infidel."

"I wanted them to know I was the one the imam warned them about," he says, looking down at the mark he himself tattooed on his skin during a hot, angry week in Helmand province. It was one of three deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, during which the former Army sergeant fired thousands of rounds at an enemy he learned to despise.

Admitting to nerves doesn't come easily to a man who built his life denying fear, who thrived in combat, who never hesitated to snort or swallow any abusable substance, who burned crosses in public.

But months of halting transformation have led to this moment and the arrival of an unlikely guest. Buckley, a machine mechanic at a carpet mill, lights his second Marlboro in 10 minutes, blowing blue smoke into the warm spring morning.

"I worry that he's going to be disappointed," Buckley says, scanning the road, seeing nothing out his front door but the back of a Family Dollar store and a line of overflowing donated-clothing bins.

Leaving the door open, he paces back into the apartment, one of three carved out of a single-family home, where his two kids sleep on a frameless mattress in the only bedroom. Buckley and his wife, Melissa, sleep in the living room, next to the bathroom that has no door and a kitchen with only a dorm fridge. When Buckley is off probation for drug possession in February they hope to move to a better place.

Melissa, buttoning the collar of the floral dress her husband asked her to wear, is more concerned about his reaction than the visitor he's waiting for. The last time he got close to a Muslim, he shoved the man into a rack of potato chips in his own gas station.

She had spent years with that version of her husband, the onetime imperial nighthawk of the Georgia White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who despised "towel heads," swore Barack Obama was a Muslim agent and believed terrorists were pouring into the country disguised as refugees.

She was still getting to know this version, the one who had invited one of those refugees to their home.

"What if it's like the gas station all over again?" she asks, arranging a peony bloom in a plastic sippy cup.

"He's here," Buckley calls, flipping his cigarette as a black Mercedes sedan pulls under the pine trees.

Out steps a tall man with stylish glasses and glossy black hair. Like Buckley, he's 34. He has a nice car now that he is a doctor in Atlanta, two hours south, but he grew up in Kurdish refugee camps and apartments as bleak as the one he's about to enter in this small town in the North Georgia hills. It's the reason he's here, to see what a Kurd might have in common with an ex-Klansman.

"Are you ready for your blind date?" asks Heval Mohamed Kelli, his hand out, the faded shades of Syria faint in his accent.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Putin brags of close Trump relationship (Axios, 6/05/18)

Russian President Vladimir Putin tells Austrian TV that he and President Trump have a close working relationship, although it's complicated by U.S. politics.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:20 PM


Pardoned Sailor Says He'll Sue Obama, Comey (Marc Giller, 6/05/18, The Resurgent)

You might recall the story. Kristian Saucier was a machinist's mate serving on board USS Alexandria in 2012 when he admittedly violated regulations by snapping pictures of the engine room with his cell phone. He was later arrested in 2015 and sentenced to a year in prison for that crime, which the judge in the case decided was "beyond stupid" on Saucier's part but was not committed with malicious intent. During his hearing, Saucier tried to argue that he should be given the same leniency shown Hillary Clinton, whom the Justice Department had declined to indict for similar crimes, but the judge didn't buy it. Donald Trump mentioned the case frequently on the campaign trail, citing it as an example of the blatant double standard at work when it came to Crooked Hillary and the law.

Well, now Trump has pardoned Saucier--and the former sailor says he plans to file a lawsuit against the people who sent him to the clink while letting Hillary skate...

We do indeed have different standards for the admittedly guilty and those not charged with anything.

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM



So far, we have looked at the economics of UCC in the abstract. This section turns to the challenging issue of estimating the actual dollar cost of a specific UCC plan.

To date, the most ambitious attempt to do so is one by Jodi L. Liu of the RAND Corporation. Liu uses a detailed simulation model that includes population data, estimates of demand elasticities, and estimates of additional cost-saving measures, all drawn from reviews of the literature. She applies the model to two different national health care plans: a 2013 version of Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All proposal and a UCC plan outlined in 2012 in National Affairs by Kip Hagopian and Dana Goldman.

For purposes of estimation, Liu sets the parameters of the catastrophic plan as follows: The low-income threshold is 100 percent of the FPL. The deductible is 10 percent of eligible income. Copays are 5 percent, subject to an out-of-pocket maximum of 14.5 percent of eligible income. Given these parameters, households thus hit their out-of-pocket maximum at the point where health care expenses reach 100 percent of eligible income. Liu also assumes a fixed charge, waived for incomes up to FPL and assessed on a sliding linear scale up to a maximum of $3,350 at 300 percent of the FPL. She calls this charge a "tax," although Hagopian and Goldman themselves, writing in Forbes, call it a "premium." Liu does not model the cost of a package of free preventive services, even though the original Hagopian-Goldman plan that she draws on recommends such a feature.

The basic version of the UCC plan that Liu considers leaves Medicaid and Medicare intact, and covers everyone who does not participate in either of those programs. As such, it completely replaces all employer-sponsored insurance. She also considers variants that preserve employer-sponsored plans as optional alternatives.

Liu estimates that for 2027, the basic UCC plan would reduce total national health care expenditures by $211 billion, or about 8.7 percent. She estimates that total federal expenditures on health care would increase by $648 billion compared with expenditures under the ACA for that year. Of that increase, $524 billion would be covered by revenue from the dedicated tax/premium. The remainder would be slightly more than offset by increased revenue from income and payroll taxes due to elimination of the deduction for employer-sponsored insurance. As a result, the net impact of the basic UCC plan on the national budget would be a saving of $40 billion.

For comparison, Liu estimates that Sanders-style first-dollar coverage would increase total national health care expenditures by 18 percent and federal health care expenditures by 60 percent. Most of the additional federal spending for the Sanders plan would come from new taxes.

Next, Liu estimates potential savings in administrative costs for insurers and providers, together with further savings from negotiation of better prices for prescription drugs, hospital services, and other provider services. The net effect, with the further cost savings, would be a reduction of total national health care expenditures by $767 billion dollars, or 35 percent.

Although some of the $767 billion of further savings in national health care expenditures would accrue to individuals, Liu estimates that $556 billion of those savings would accrue to the federal budget. Including the further cost savings, then, total impact of the basic UCC plan on the federal budget would be a net saving of $596 billion, rather than the $40 billion estimated for UCC without further cost saving. Note also that the federal share of further cost savings of $556 billion is  slightly greater than the estimated $524 billion of revenue that would be raised by the tax/premium feature of the basic UCC plan. Putting this all together, then, total federal expenditures on health care would be $72 billion less than under the ACA even if the tax/premium were dropped from the plan.

Liu's estimates are carefully constructed and draw on the best available data. Nonetheless, they should be considered as illustrative, not as definitive. Further research might reach different conclusions regarding the responsiveness of health care consumers to system changes, the success of cost control efforts, and changes in tax revenues. Other investigators would doubtless want to explore the effects of changes in various UCC parameters, and to examine a broader UCC plan that replaced Medicaid and/or Medicare. Still, UCC proponents will find Liu's estimates encouraging, since they are consistent with the expectation that a reasonable UCC plan could be implemented without new taxes or large increases federal health care spending.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Tesla has installed a truly huge amount of energy storage (ADELE PETERS, 6/05/18, Co.Exist)

The cost of battery storage keeps falling; between 2010 and 2016, the price across the industry fell 73%, from $1,000 a kilowatt-hour to $273 a kilowatt-hour. By 2020, it may drop to $145 a kilowatt-hour, and by 2025, to $69.5 a kilowatt-hour.

The market is growing as renewable energy is also becoming cheaper and expanding. Batteries can be used to store any type of energy-on a grid with traditional fossil fuel plants, the technology can be used, for example, when power demand suddenly peaks on a hot day and thousands of air conditioners turn on (this helps avoid the need to fire up an extra coal or gas plant). But it's particularly critical for renewables, since batteries make it possible to use solar power at night, or wind power when the wind isn't blowing.

In Australia, the world's largest lithium-ion battery, installed by Tesla over an area the size of a football field at a wind farm, is saving consumers millions of dollars by making the grid more reliable. On the Pacific island of Ta'u in American Samoa, a solar microgrid using 60 of Tesla's large Powerpack batteries has fully replaced diesel power. In Hawaii, Tesla batteries store energy generated during the day at a solar farm on Kauai to release it at night. In Southern California, a Powerpack system handles peak energy demand without requiring extra fossil-fuel-powered plants to come online.

In Puerto Rico, after helping to provide emergency power following Hurricane Maria, Tesla is now installing permanent microgrids. More than 1,000 households on the island, like others around the world, now also use Tesla Powerwalls, the company's product for home electricity storage, which can be connected to home solar panels to help keep lights on after disasters. Powerwalls can also be connected to each other to form "virtual power plants." In Australia, for example, Tesla is working with the government on a new plan to distribute solar panels and batteries to 50,000 homes, which will work together to supply clean energy to the grid.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Could agricultural robots replace glyphosate? (Nils Zimmermann, 6/04/18, Deutsche Welle)

Professor Simon Blackmore, head of robotic agriculture at the UK's National Centre for Precision Farming at Harper Adams University in England, says that increasingly sensitive and precise sensors and instruments are being developed that can measure the "complex nature of the growing environment" on every square meter of farmland -- the soil and water conditions; the presence of pests and diseases; the location of weeds, and the size of crop plants.

In addition to measuring the state of a crop, robots will be able to actively improve growing conditions, not least by getting rid of weeds.

"We're developing a whole range of smart machines now that potentially might be able to replace the tractor and the combine harvester," Blackmore said. "And we're coming up with systems that will allow us to replace herbicides... One project I'm developing is called laser weeding."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


By Disinviting Eagles, Trumps Shows True Colors (Marcus Hayes, 6/05/18, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

In the end, Donald Trump couldn't stand the thought of another tiny crowd.

Not after the inauguration photos.

Not after so many Patriots no-showed last year. Even Tom Brady and his MAGA hat didn't show up.

On their way to winning Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles were a team at the forefront of NFL player protests during the national anthem the last two seasons. The ownership group largely despises the administration, but the team and Trump's representatives spent weeks hammering out a trip to Washington that was palatable to all. Recently, a handful of Eagles said they would boycott the White House portion. A handful more said they might not go.

Still, the visit was set for today. On Monday evening, Trump disinvited the Eagles. Why? Because he couldn't stand to have so few show him fealty.

June 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Just Say It's Racist (ADAM SERWER, 6/04/18, The Atlantic)

It was a framing that might have worked with any other two presidents. On Friday, The New York Times published a comparison of how Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, approached controversies over racism. "Obama offered balm. Trump drops verbal bombs. But both were accused, in a polarized country, of making racial tensions worse," the paper tweeted. That bland equivalence between the first black president and his white successor, who rode to the White House on a racist conspiracy theory denying Obama was born in the United States, provoked a firestorm of criticism on social media.

That fact alone shows how impossible it is to approach the Trump presidency the way the media might approach any other administration--indeed, bafflingly, the article briefly references birtherism without acknowledging Trump's embrace of the conspiracy theory, and how it affected his political fortunes. The relationship between Trump and Obama is historically unique in that the former was elected by a racial backlash to the latter, another point the piece declines to acknowledge, whether to refute or affirm.

Instead, the piece is constructed around the juxtaposition of the criticism that Obama encountered for acknowledging the racism black Americans still face with the fact that Trump is often accused of racism. The piece notes that after Obama spoke at a funeral for nine black people murdered by a white supremacist, "some people, mostly white, accused him of dividing the country when he spoke empathetically about the racism faced by black Americans." By contrast, in the Trump era, "People often debate whether what the president did or did not say was a sign that he was racist."

The president's overtly prejudiced remarks about religious and ethnic minorities, in a country where the accusation of racism is often regarded as morally equivalent to racial discrimination, poses a challenge for media outlets seeking to accurately represent the views of the president and his supporters without enraging either of them.

...the more likely you are to invoke Godwin's Law.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Is Donald Trump a Bernie Bro? (CHARLES J. SYKES, June 4, 2018, Weekly Standard)

In fairness, Steve Bannon has never really pretended to be a conservative.

"I'm a Leninist," Steve Bannon told Ronald Radosh, back in 2013. "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."

That included, of course, such antiquated ideas as free markets, fiscal conservatism, and small government. "Like [Andrew] Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," he boasted to Michael Wolff back in November 2016. "The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. .... It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution--conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

In retrospect, the reference to the 1930s--not an especially great decade for conservative policy--ought to have been a tip-off. So it probably should not come as a great shock to hear that Trump's chief ideologist's grand new vision includes incorporating a socialist as a part of the future of his movement, while flirting with the far right European parties.

"Europe is about a year ahead of the United States. ... You see populist-nationalist movements with reform [here]. ... You could begin to see the elements of Bernie Sanders coupled with the Trump movement that really becomes a dominant political force in American politics."

Of course, it's tempting to brush this off as Bannonite grandiloquence, but the crossover between Trumpism and Bernie-ism has always been an undercurrent of Bannon's vision and Trump's campaign.

More than anything else, they are united in their hatred of the America that actually exists.
Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Radio Address to the Nation on the Canadian Elections and Free Trade (Ronald Reagan, November 26, 1988)

My fellow Americans:

This week, as we prepared for Thanksgiving, Canada held an important election, and I'm pleased to again send my congratulations to Prime Minister Mulroney. One of the important issues in the Canadian election was trade. And like our own citizens earlier this month, our neighbors have sent a strong message, rejecting protectionism and reaffirming that more trade, not less, is the wave of the future.

Here in America, as we reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for, we should take a moment to recognize that one of the key factors behind our nation's great prosperity is the open trade policy that allows the American people to freely exchange goods and services with free people around the world. The freedom to trade is not a new issue for America. In 1776 our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, charging the British with a number of offenses, among them, and I quote, ``cutting off our trade with all parts of the world,'' end quote.

And that same year, a Scottish economist named Adam Smith launched another revolution with a book entitled ``The Wealth of Nations,'' which exposed for all time the folly of protectionism. Over the past 200 years, not only has the argument against tariffs and trade barriers won nearly universal agreement among economists but it has also proven itself in the real world, where we have seen free-trading nations prosper while protectionist countries fall behind.

America's most recent experiment with protectionism was a disaster for the working men and women of this country. When Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff in 1930, we were told that it would protect America from foreign competition and save jobs in this country -- the same line we hear today. The actual result was the Great Depression, the worst economic catastrophe in our history; one out of four Americans were thrown out of work. Two years later, when I cast my first ballot for President, I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who opposed protectionism and called for the repeal of that disastrous tariff.

Ever since that time, the American people have stayed true to our heritage by rejecting the siren song of protectionism. In recent years, the trade deficit led some misguided politicians to call for protectionism, warning that otherwise we would lose jobs. But they were wrong again. In fact, the United States not only didn't lose jobs, we created more jobs than all the countries of Western Europe, Canada, and Japan combined. The record is clear that when America's total trade has increased, American jobs have also increased. And when our total trade has declined, so have the number of jobs.

Part of the difficulty in accepting the good news about trade is in our words. We too often talk about trade while using the vocabulary of war. In war, for one side to win, the other must lose. But commerce is not warfare. Trade is an economic alliance that benefits both countries. There are no losers, only winners. And trade helps strengthen the free world.

 Yet today protectionism is being used by some American politicians as a cheap form of nationalism, a fig leaf for those unwilling to maintain America's military strength and who lack the resolve to stand up to real enemies -- countries that would use violence against us or our allies. Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies; they are our allies. We should beware of the demagogs who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends -- weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world -- all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion; it is an American triumph, one we worked hard to achieve, and something central to our vision of a peaceful and prosperous world of freedom.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


The Evidence That Trump and Putin Concocted a Cover Story for the Trump Tower Meeting (Martin Longman June 4, 2018, Washington Monthly)

Now, as I already mentioned, the Trump team knew that emails revealing all of these unsavory aspects of the meeting existed. Jared Kushner's lawyers had unearthed them at least three weeks prior and updated his security clearance application prompting a visit from the FBI. They also knew that the emails were responsive or would be responsive to both congressional inquiries and the investigation of the Special Counsel. And early on the morning of July 7, 2017 they were approached by reporters from the New York Times who apparently knew about the meeting but not about the emails.

As it happened, President Trump had a prescheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 on July 7. He also had a second meeting that night that had not been scheduled. When this second meeting was revealed, it caused quite an uproar. For one, the White House did not volunteer that the second meeting had taken place. They also couldn't get their story straight about how long it lasted. Trump said it was "brief" but a senior White House official told CNN the discussion lasted "nearly an hour." No other American officials were present for the conversation which was a complete violation of protocol, yet Putin had a translator who facilitated the back-and-forth.

The official explanation was that Melania had been seated at dinner with Putin while Trump had been seated far away with the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who did not speak any English. Growing bored, Trump decided to amble over to his wife. In other words, the president sat down to have a nearly hour long private conversation with Putin because Putin just happened to be seated with the First Lady.  All they did was exchange pleasantries.

Of course, since early that morning the entire Trump team had been scrambling and strategizing to figure how to respond to the Trump Tower meeting story they knew the New York Times was about to report. The subject was obviously on the president's mind, especially since it centered around his son. Did Trump discuss potential cover stories with Putin during their second meeting? Was that perhaps his real motivation in violating protocol and speaking privately with a foreign head of state with no American officials in tow to be witnesses?

Going back to that July 19, 2017 interview President Trump gave to the New York Times, you'll see something very interesting in retrospect.

TRUMP: [Melania] was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that's the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about -- things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

HABERMAN: You did?

TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump's son] had in that meeting.

So, by his own admission,  the president joined Putin uninvited at the July 7 dinner and discussed Russian adoptions with him. On July 8, on Air Force One, he "dictated" the Russian adoption cover story despite protests from members of his family, legal team and other advisers.

While Hicks allegedly assured the group that the emails would never surface, causing the spokesman for the legal team to resign out of concern that she and Trump were obstructing justice, the New York Times told them they knew of their existence the very next day. And then they reported on that, too. Even worse, their sources were "three advisers to the White House briefed on the [Trump Tower] meeting and two others with knowledge of it."

By July 11, 2017, the Trump team realized that the New York Times had obtained actual copies of the emails and was preparing to publish them. To get ahead of that blockbuster story, Donald Jr. preemptively released the emails on his own in a series of tweets and did his best to rationalize and minimize them.

The next step was to try to protect the president. Trump insisted that he had no prior knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting and had only learned that it taken place at all a few days earlier.  But, of course, his lawyers had known for weeks and his son-in-law had been interviewed by the FBI about the matter on June 21.

By the end of the July, the Washington Post was reporting that the president was totally responsible for the adoption alibi.

The report said that President Trump had "overruled the consensus" of Trump Jr, Kushner, aides, and lawyers, who favored issuing "transparent" reports "because they believed the complete story would eventually emerge." The Post reported that Trump personally dictated, worked on, and released a version in Trump Jr's name with claims which "were later shown to be misleading". Some advisors reportedly feared "that the president's direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup."

In response to that article, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely declared on August 1, 2017 that Trump "certainly didn't dictate, but ... he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do". Her statement is now directly contradicted by the letter Trump's own lawyers sent to Robert Mueller on January 29, 2018.

You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr. His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.

There's much more to this story, including strong indications that Trump actually was aware of the Trump Tower meeting at the time. But for our purposes, here, we can skip over those facets of this scandal. I will instead summarize the evidence that Trump and Putin colluded on the adoption story.

Trump acknowledges that he had a conversation with Putin on the evening of July 7, 2017 where by his own design no American witnesses other than his wife were present. That entire day, his staff had been preoccupied with figuring out how to respond to an impending nightmare involving the president's son. Trump, by his own admission, says that he and Putin discussed the adoption issue, which was tied in Putin's mind to the Magnitsky Act. The president then proceeded to board Air Force One and dictate a partially false and wholly misleading statement over the strong objections of some family members and staff. The statement omitted all references to the Magnitsky Act, sanctions, or dirt on the Clintons and focused exclusively on the adoptions issue that he had just discussed with Putin. The president then lied about having dictated that response, although his lawyers have admitted to the Special Counsel that he was solely responsible for it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


How Governors Can Give All Students 'Freshman Year for Free' (Jeb Bush & Steve Klinsky, June 04, 2018, Real Clear Policy)

Modern States Education Alliance, a philanthropic organization dedicated to making college more affordable and more accessible, has pioneered "Freshman Year for Free," through its website ModernStates.org. It provides more than 30 top quality online college courses to anyone for free, and can lead to a full year of real academic credit at more than 2,900 traditional colleges and universities, from Purdue to the University of Wisconsin to Morehouse.

The courses are taught by top university professors, and include free online textbooks as well, with one course for every subject tested by the College Board's well established College Level Examination Program (CLEP). The CLEP exams have been around for more than 50 years, and are particularly useful because they can be taken by people of any age, any day of the year, at 1,800 different assessment centers worldwide. 

Students can now go to ModernStates.org as easily as they visit Netflix. They then simply download a course, pass a CLEP exam and become eligible for credit when they enter any of the thousands of traditional four-year universities that accept a passing score on the CLEP exam for credit. Modern States spent more than three years developing the website and courses in partnership with professors from Columbia University, Purdue, Johns Hopkins, SUNY (State University of New York schools) and other leading universities. It is also itself paying the College Board's $85 per course exam fee for the first 10,000 test takers.

That's where the opportunity for governors comes in. For $85 per CLEP exam, far less than the cost of tuition for college credits, governors across the country can enable students to take a CLEP test for free and earn college credit. 

Just make it an alternative to senior year of high school.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM



[R]obinson is no free-speech martyr, either. Some say he has been 'targeted' by the British state for his work 'exposing' the 'Islamification' of Britain. Some have talked about a media 'blackout' after his arrest. But the complete details of why he was arrested were published today, and this was only delayed because of further conditions imposed by the court. The idea that Robinson was arrested for his ideas is contrary to what we know about the case. Anyone else doing what Robinson did, in these circumstances, would also have been arrested and jailed.

The reaction to Robinson's arrest shows us how confused the free-speech debate has become. On the left, free speech is dismissed as a tool for the spread of fascist ideas. On the right, it is invoked in situations that have little or nothing to do with the free exchange of ideas. Arguing for free speech does not mean arguing for the right of anyone to do or say anything they want at any time. Contempt-of-court laws, which Robinson seems determined to violate, are not in and of themselves an attack on free speech. They represent a narrow curb on what can be said and when, so as to make sure trials aren't prejudiced. There may well be occasions in which such laws are used by the police to limit free speech. But Robinson's arrest was not an example of this. The men he targeted are entitled to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. Robinson was not arrested because of what he said. He was arrested because of when and how he chose to say it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


NBC's Craig Melvin grills Bill Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in tense Today interview (Kimberly Alters, 6/04/18, The Week)

Melvin noted that detractors say Clinton should've resigned after admitting to having an affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and asked the former president whether if he were president "now, in 2018," he would've handled things differently.

Clinton immediately took a defensive tack, saying, "I don't think it would be an issue because people would be using the facts, instead of the imagined facts. If the facts were the same today, I wouldn't [do anything differently]." He added that he believes that "a lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted" from the 20-year-old scandal, blaming the renewed interest on people who are "frustrated" about the "serious allegations" of sexual assault made by many women against President Trump.

"I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution," Clinton said, before acknowledging that while he publicly apologized at the time to Lewinsky and her family, he never personally offered his contrition. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Supreme Court cites agency hostility in ruling for Christian baker (DEBRA CASSENS WEISS, JUNE 4, 2018, aba jOURNAL)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday that Colorado's Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise rights of a Christian baker by showing hostility to his explained religious reasons for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Kennedy's narrow decision stressed the hostility shown to religious claims of the baker, Jack Phillips, who owned Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Kennedy said the difficult case asks the court to reconcile two principles: the authority of states to protect the rights and dignity of gay people who seek goods and services for their weddings, and the rights of people to free speech and free exercise of religion.

"Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases," Kennedy wrote, "the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's consideration of this case was inconsistent with the state's obligation of religious neutrality."

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Free trade puts Republican megadonors on collision course with Trump (Doina Chiacu, Caren Bohan, 6/04/18, Reuters)

The embrace of free trade principles by major Republican donors comes as Trump pursues aggressive measures against trading partners from China to Canada and U.S. allies in Europe, in line with his campaign pledge to pursue better trade deals.

An infusion of money into media, grassroots mobilization, lobbying and policy analysis into the domestic debate on free trade could embolden Republican candidates in the November congressional elections to part ways with the president on the issue.

Republican lawmakers, already grumbling about some of Trump's trade initiatives, outright condemned the Commerce Department announcement last week on impending tariffs on steel imports and aluminum to be imposed on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


Galston on the New "Revolt of the Masses" (AURELIAN CRAIUTU, 6/04/18, Law & Liberty)

In Galston's view, populism is always accompanied by a distinctive set of well-defined policies and a certain art of governance with a clear inner logic.[2] It cuts across the Left and the Right, and is semantically eclectic. Rightwing populists tend to attack immigrants and scapegoat minorities, foreign countries, or independent NGOs, while leftwing populists attack the banking system, large corporations, and, more recently, denounce police or state brutality. Either way, populism appears as a form of politics "that reflects distinctive theoretical commitments and generates its own political practice," writes Galston. It is based on a "dyadic" and Manichaean vision that divides society into two opposing forces and pits an allegedly homogenous and virtuous "people" against a corrupt and ill-intentioned elite, identified with the establishment.

Populist leaders uniformly claim that only they represent the "true" voice and will of the "real" people or the "silent majority," and stigmatize all other politicians as illegitimate or corrupt. Moreover, populists view themselves as arch-democrats who challenge establishment values and elites. They believe that ordinary citizens are better suited than experts or politicians to make key decisions about most aspects of their lives. [...]

He designates anti-pluralism as the most important aspect of populism. Anti-pluralism is divisive and inhibits compromise among the many groups that contend for power in society. By endorsing an idiosyncratic view of virtual representation, populists slowly undermine the general confidence in democratic norms, procedures, rules, and institutions. They adopt--and encourage their supporters to adopt--conspiracy theories and constantly look for scapegoats on which to blame all of the problems their countries face. Genuine debate based on solid evidence and reasoned argument is gradually replaced by alternative facts and loud denunciation of one's opponents.

Relying on a nice quote from Lincoln--"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. ... As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew"-- Galston urges a  new way of thinking as we try to grasp the roots and the nature of our present discontent. He is concerned that the concept of populism has become a dangerous weapon, especially if one takes into account how it seeks to undermine key liberal principles. The fact that populism seems to be more an emotion-laden stance than an ideology only contributes to its heightened appeal in times of crisis. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Would a Former President Get Secret Service Protection in Prison? (DANIEL ENGBER, JUNE 04, 2018, Slate)

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Trump's phone call with Macron described as 'terrible' (Michelle Kosinski and Maegan Vazquez, 6/04/18, CNN)

A call about trade and migration between US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron soured last week after Macron candidly criticized Trump's policies, two sources familiar with the call told CNN.

"Just bad. It was terrible," one source told CNN. "Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can't handle being criticized like that."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


'Replica' in jeep next to Kobach stunned onlookers at Shawnee parade. City apologizes. (HUNTER WOODALL AND MIKE HENDRICKS,  June 02, 2018, KC Star)

Kris Kobach made his way through a parade in Johnson County Saturday morning, waving from an American flag colored jeep with a large gun mounted in back.

The city of Shawnee later issued an apology for Kobach's display.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Daily life in Gaza: 'There is no future in this place': Gaza residents give an insight into their daily lives under Israel's siege. (Al Jazeera, 02 Jun 2018)

As Trump's daughter and adviser, Ivanka, inaugurated the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, Israeli soldiers shot dead 60 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,200 others along the border with Gaza.

Palestinians now describe the mounting fury and desperation in Gaza over Israel's land, air and sea blockade, which began in 2007 following Hamas victory in Gaza elections the previous year.

There is also increasing frustration with the failure of Palestinian politicians to come together and act on behalf of their citizens more effectively. 

"There's no money because of all the wars and unemployment," Nafez Adayess, a baker, tells Al Jazeera.

"There's no work, nothing to keep busy with, nothing. There's four guys sitting around [but] there's [only] enough work for an hour. Four men and we're barely making enough to feed ourselves".

Almost four years after the 2014 war, Gaza's continued isolated has devastated its economy, impoverished its population and left 60 percent without jobs, adequate electricity and health services.

Aid organisations say around 90 percent of Gaza's water is not safe to drink, Raw sewage is pumped directly into the sea because there is not enough electricity to power the sewage. 

"We live in a prison," says Nahed Alghool, who delivers drinking water.

"People don't know what to do, the situation is difficult."

International human rights organisations have repeatedly condemned Israel's blockade and related restrictions, saying that they contravene international humanitarian law.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


All Roads Still Lead to Medicaid Expansion (Jonathan Bernstein, 6/03/18,  Bloomberg News)

Medicaid expansion is still going strong. And Virginia may have just given us a preview of another wave.

The Virginia Legislature on Wednesday, despite very narrow Republican majorities in both chambers, voted for the piece of Obamacare that the Supreme Court had made optional for the states. After Virginia, there are only 17 holdouts -- including Texas and Florida.

What's really important is that no state has gone in reverse, even those states that switched from Democratic to Republican governments after implementing expanded Medicaid. I'm going to take a short victory lap on my prediction from five years ago: "The future of this is now pretty clear: It's going to work just as the original Medicaid roll-out did. That was also optional for states, and many of them declined the first time around, but eventually all 50, no matter how conservative, found themselves participating. The key -- and I expect this to be true of the ACA Medicaid expansion as well -- is that the decisions were one-way. Over time, some of the decliners decided to join, but no state walked away."

The inevitable result of not offering a universal alternative to Obamacare was always National Health.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 AM


Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore (ALEXIS C. MADRIGAL  MAY 31, 2018 , The Atlantic)

In the moment when a phone rang, there was an imperative. One had to pick up the phone. This thinking permeated the culture from adults to children. In a Hello Kitty segment designed to teach kids how the phone worked, Hello Kitty is playing when the phone starts to ring. "It's the phone. Yay!" she says. "Mama! Mama! The telephone is ringing. Hurry! They are gonna hang up."

Before ubiquitous caller ID or even *69 (which allowed you to call back the last person who'd called you), if you didn't get to the phone in time, that was that. You'd have to wait until they called back. And what if the person calling had something really important to tell you or ask you? Missing a phone call was awful. Hurry!

Not picking up the phone would be like someone knocking at your door and you standing behind it not answering. It was, at the very least, rude, and quite possibly sneaky or creepy or something. Besides, as the phone rang, there were always so many questions, so many things to sort out. Who was it? What did they want? Was it for ... me?

"Hello, Madrigal residence," I would say, and it would make sense of everything for me and whoever was on the other end of the line.

This became a kind of cultural commons that people could draw on to understand communicating through a technology. When you called someone, if the person was there, they would pick up, they would say hello. If someone called you, if you were there, you would pick up, you would say hello. That was just how phones worked. The expectation of pickup was what made phones a synchronous medium.

I attach no special value to it. There's no need to return to the pure state of 1980s telephonic culture. It's just something that happened, like lichen growing on rocks in the tundra, or bacteria breaking down a fallen peach. Life did its thing, on and in the inanimate substrate. But I want to dwell on the existence of this cultural layer, because it is disappearing.

No one picks up the phone anymore. 

The Wife stopped me from putting the following on the voicemail message for the mailbox we finally just got rid of:

"Hello, you're reached the Judd residence; we're probably here but not answering; we probably won't listen to these messages; if we listen we probably won't respond, but feel free to leave one if you so desire."

Apparently, that's a tad too rude...

June 3, 2018

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 Trump's lying seems to be getting worse. Psychology suggests there's a reason why. : To psychologists interested in the science of lying, Trump's increasing mendacity presents an interesting question. (Tali Sharot and Neil Garrett, May.23.2018, Think)

[O]ur research points to yet another intriguing explanation -- a biological process called emotional adaptation.

Emotion plays an important role in constraining dishonesty. If we feel bad when we lie, we are less likely to do so. But if this uncomfortable feeling were to magically disappear, research suggests we would in turn lie more. In one study, students who were given a pill called a beta-blocker, which reduces emotional arousal, were more likely to cheat on an exam than students who were given a placebo. In other words, without that uncomfortable physiological feeling that accompanies dishonest behavior, people were more likely to cheat.

Research we conducted at University College London with our colleagues Dan Ariely and Stephanie Lazzaro, which was published in 2016 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, showed that the intensity of the emotional response people experience when they act dishonestly is reduced every time they lie. And this reduction (which scientists call emotional adaptation) makes them likely to lie more over time.

In our experiment, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Center for Advanced Hindsight, we gave a group of 80 individuals the opportunity to lie again and again in a financial task in order to gain money at another person's expense. We found that the volunteers started with relatively small lies, cheating by only a few cents, but slowly over the course of the experiment lied more and more. While they were doing so we recorded their brain activity using a brain imaging scanner. We found that the emotional network in the brain responded less with each additional lie. The greater the drop in the brain's sensitivity to dishonesty, the more people lied the next time they had a chance.

Repeated dishonesty is a bit like a perfume you apply over and over. At first you easily detect the powerful scent of a new perfume. But over time and with more applications you can hardly sense its presence, so you apply more liberally. This happens because neurons in your olfactory bulb desensitize to the smell of the perfume. Similarly, it appears that our response to our own acts of dishonesty is strong at first, but over time decreases. Like students taking beta-blockers, your capacity for being dishonest increases.

The picture becomes more alarming when we consider that individuals adapt not only to their own dishonesty but also to that of others. Research Harvard professors Francesca Gino and Max Bazerman shows that people are less likely to criticize the unethical actions of others when such behavior increases gradually over time. Politically speaking, this suggests that voters (and perhaps even the president's own advisors) may desensitize to the president's falsehoods in the same way that they do to overused perfume, making them less likely to act to correct this pattern of behavior. The absence of sanctions could in turn be interpreted as a "green light" by the president.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


For Some Breast Cancer Patients, The Chemo Decision Just Got Easier (SARA KILEY WATSON, 6/03/18, NPR)

A study published Sunday finds that many women with early-stage invasive breast cancer could safely forgo chemotherapy, if they score in the midrange or lower for risk that their cancer will recur, as measured by a commonly used genomic test

The study, published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine, finds that patients who fall in the intermediate risk zone do as well with hormone therapy alone as with chemo plus hormone therapy after surgery. "[The findings] are both important and significant, and also practice-changing," says, Dr. José Baselga, a medical oncologist and physician in chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who was not involved with this research. "Basically, it's going to spare a lot of unnecessary chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer."

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Trade sanctions against America won't work. Sanctioning Trump himself might. (Scott Gilmore May 31, 2018, Maclean's)

As I've pointed out before, the President can be successfully engaged, and countries like Ukraine, China, and Qatar have demonstrated this. When they want something from the United States, they skip the State Department, and even the White House staff. Instead of approaching their problem state-to-state, they go state-to-man. These countries focus on what Trump wants on a personal level - to enrich his family. So Beijing granted Ivanka trademarks, Qatar invested in one of Jared's office towers, and Ukraine, with Slavic candor, simply wired half a million dollars to the President's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

For the most part, the western allies understand that if we want the U.S. to do something we must negotiate with the man himself. What we have not grasped yet is, as strange as it sounds, the President of the United States is more concerned about promoting his interests than defending America's.

Consider that Trump refuses to censure Russia for interfering in the election, because while it may have hurt America, it helped him. And even though these new tariffs will likely cost the U.S. over 140,000 jobs (according to the conservative Heritage Foundation), he will not repeal them because they make him look strong to his base. Other countries that have figured this out have begun to openly bribe the President to get the foreign policy decision they need.

America's erstwhile allies must also recognize that the President has adopted previously unimaginable new rules, and play accordingly. But, instead of bribing him with personal carrots, I would suggest we consider applying personal sticks. Instead of asking ourselves how we can help the President or his family, we should ask: How can we hurt him? And, Trump has already given us an answer.

Until this President, every previous modern occupant of the White House divested their assets upon assuming office. This eliminated the possibility personal business interests might benefit from political decisions. Conversely, it prevented others from threatening the President by attacking those assets. Trump, by refusing to give up his businesses, and by flagrantly violating the emoluments clause, has inadvertently handed us the perfect stick.

I propose that instead of taxing the import of American serviettes, we tax Trump. In the spirit of the Magnitsky Act, Canada and the western allies come together to collectively pressure the only pain point that matters to this President: his family and their assets. This could take the form of special taxation on their current operations, freezing of assets, or even sanctions against senior staff. Canada could add a tax to Trump properties equal to any tariff unilaterally imposed by Washington.  The European Union could revoke any travel visas for senior staff in the Trump organization. And the United Kingdom could temporarily close his golf course.

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For Heitkamp, a Lift From an Unlikely Source: The Koch Brothers (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, June 1, 2018, NY Times)

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the centrist Democrat from North Dakota who is fighting a pitched battle to save her seat, has gotten a lift from an unlikely source: the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group backed by Charles G. and David H. Koch, unveiled a digital ad campaign on Friday thanking Ms. Heitkamp for her support of recently passed legislation that loosened regulations on small and medium-size banks that were swept up in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The ad is the latest evidence that the brothers, often at odds with President Trump, may be moving away from strictly partisan work on behalf of Republicans in favor of initiatives that will advance their libertarian-leaning legislative priorities, including free trade, immigration legislation and access to medicines, regardless of party affiliation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Trump lawyers say he 'dictated' statement on Trump Tower meeting, contradicting past denials (Marshall Cohen, June 2, 2018, CNN)

"You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.," the letter said, according to The New York Times, which published a copy of it.[...]

The misleading statement, issued in July 2017 to The New York Times, obfuscated the true nature of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, which was attended by Donald Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is now a senior White House adviser, and a group of Kremlin-tied Russians.

One of those Russians, lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, brought up the Magnitsky Act at the meeting, a 2012 American law punishing Russian human rights violators that she has lobbied extensively to overturn. She reached out to Trump's team after he was elected to try to lobby on the Russian sanctions, CNN has reported.

While the premise of the Trump Tower meeting was for the Russians to deliver damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the statement initially put out in Trump Jr.'s name said the participants "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children" and omitted mention of Clinton.

After the initial statement came out, news outlets reported Trump was involved in preparing the statement. Some reports said he helped draft it, others said he personally "dictated" the words. Trump Jr., meanwhile, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in private testimony in September, released last month, that he didn't speak to his father about the statement, but that the President "may have commented through Hope Hicks," the then-White House aide, and that some of those comments might have made it into the statement.

In their public responses to the news reports, however, Sekulow and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied Trump's role.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


GOP Moderates Rebel on Immigration  (Alan Fram and Nicholas Riccardi, 6/02/18, Associated Press)

Across the country -- from California's lush Central Valley to suburban Denver to Curbelo's district of strip malls, farms and the laid-back Florida Keys -- moderate Republicans such as Curbelo are under hefty pressure to buck their party's hardline stance on immigration. After years of watching their conservative colleagues in safe districts refuse to budge, the GOP middle is fighting back -- mindful that a softer position may be necessary to save their jobs and GOP control of the House.

"Members who have priorities and feel passionate about issues can't sit back and expect leaders" to address them, Curbelo said. "Because it doesn't work."

Curbelo, 38, is seeking a third term from a district that stretches from upscale Miami suburbs to the Everglades and down to eccentric Key West. Seventy percent of his constituents are Hispanic and nearly half are foreign-born. Those are among the highest percentages in the nation, giving many of them a first-hand stake in Congress' immigration fight.

Curbelo and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., whose Modesto-area district thrives on agriculture powered by migrant workers, have launched a petition drive that would force House votes on four immigration bills, ranging from liberal to conservative versions. Twenty-three Republicans have signed on, two shy of the number needed to succeed, assuming all Democrats jump aboard.

Another supporter of the rare rebellion by the usually compliant moderates is Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a former Marine who learned Spanish when his district was redrawn to include Denver's diverse eastern suburbs. In an interview, [...]

The centrists favor legislation that would protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They back a path to citizenship for these immigrants, who have lived in limbo since President Donald Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, called DACA. Federal courts have blocked its termination for now.

June 2, 2018

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Self-driving cars will kill people and we need to accept that (JAYSON DEMERS, 6/02/18, The Verge)

First, we need to recognize that no matter what safeguards we put in place or how cautious we are with rolling out self-driving technology, autonomous vehicles are going to be involved in fatal collisions.

There are 325 million people in the United States and more than 260 million registered vehicles. Cars and pedestrians are constantly engaging in a world with random variables, from unexpected traffic patterns to crazy weather conditions to sudden falling objects obstructing the road. With a fleet of vehicles traveling millions of miles, it's inevitable that some conditions could make an accident unavoidable--no matter how advanced the driving algorithm is.

No matter what, people are going to die at the "hands" of an autonomous vehicle.

Next, we need to acknowledge just how bad human drivers are at controlling their own vehicles - and how they compare to autonomous vehicles. In 2016, there were 40,200 vehicular fatalities just in the United States. A Stanford review found that 90 percent of accidents are caused, at least in part, by human error, whether that's overcorrecting, falling prey to a distraction, or drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Some quick math tells you that's 36,180 lives that were lost because a human behind the wheel of a car made a mistake, with similar numbers year over year.

Despite this, our standards for human testing are incredibly lax. Anyone can get a driver's license, and the majority of the United States population either drives or rides in a car on a regular basis--even though your odds of dying in a car accident over a lifetime are something like 1 in 114, which is relatively high. Autonomous vehicles may actually already be capable of transporting us more safely than comparable human drivers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Trump's Lawyers Cite Outdated Statute in Long Letter to Mueller Rejecting Interview Request (DANIEL POLITI, JUNE 02, 2018, NY Times)

In what the New York Times describes as "a brash assertion of presidential power," the president's lawyers claim he can't actually obstruct the investigation into Russia's involvement in the presidential election because Trump has the power to "if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon." That broad view of presidential power could be at the heart of any legal battle over a subpoena.

Yet any battle in the courts may not turn out so well for Trump's attorneys considering their understanding of obstruction of justice law seems to, at the very least, be outdated. In one portion of the letter, the president's lawyers say investigators are looking into Trump asking then FBI chief James Comey to end the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. According to Trump's lawyers, that couldn't have possibly been obstruction because Trump didn't know Flynn was under investigation. But the attorneys cite an outdated statute to make that claim, failing to mention that a broader 2002 law makes it a crime to obstruct an investigation even before it officially starts. "The president's lawyers do not mention this statute, whose existence appears to render several of their arguments beside the point," notes the Times.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Trump Is Preparing to Prop Up Unprofitable Coal Plants With 'Emergency' Subsidies (Eric Levitz, 6/02/18, New York)

As with so many other myths about American conservatism, the Trump era has turned the GOP's supposed reverence for "small government" into dark comedy. A few short years ago, Republicans were decrying the Obama administration's attempts to subsidize sustainable-energy development as "crony capitalism." And when then-President Obama adopted an expansive interpretation of the Clean Air Act -- and began aggressively using his executive authority to combat carbon emissions -- Republicans lamented his efforts as a tyrannical usurpation of Congress's authority.

Now, the Trump administration is preparing to unilaterally bestow massive subsidies on unprofitable coal companies by invoking extraordinary executive powers that can only be legally exercised in the context of a national- security emergency.

Six major allies blast US over tariffs (Donna Borak, June 2, 2018, CNN)

Finance ministers from the G7 expressed "disappointment" over unilateral trade actions taken by the US government, and they asked US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin to communicate their concerns to President Trump.

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Rhode Island Becomes Latest State to Pass New Gun-Reform Laws (Benjamin Hart, 6/02/28, New York)

One bans bump stocks, the devices that modify semiautomatic rifles into automatic-fire weapons. Though bump stocks rarely make an appearance in shootings, they were used to deadly effect by Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year. Since then, the federal government has moved to ban them, though that process could take years.

The other bill is a so-called "red flag" law, which lets authorities seize firearms from those who authorities deem a risk to themselves or others. Rhode Island's law allows state police to petition a state court for an "extreme risk protection order." A judge can then permit authorities to take a resident's firearms temporarily; the law allows the person in question a hearing within two weeks to assess whether such a seizure is warranted. Eight other states have similar laws on the books, including Florida, which passed one in the aftermath of the Parkland shootings in February.

The state's House and Senate passed both bills overwhelmingly before Raimondo's signature on Friday.

The new laws may seem like relatively piecemeal measures, but as the Providence Journal notes, "they were almost unimaginable as recently as two years ago at the Rhode Island State House, where the gun lobby has powerful supporters and lobbyists, including a former House speaker whose portrait literally loomed, from the wall, over past hearings on stymied gun-control measures."

But the shootings in Las Vegas, Parkland, and Santa Fe, Texas changed the equation.

The National Rifle Association fought against both bills...

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A Woman Dedicated to Saving Lives Loses Hers in Gaza Violence (Iyad Abuheweila and Isabel Kershner, June 2, 2018, NY Times)

She had become a fixture at the weekly protests along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip from Israel, a young woman in a white paramedic's uniform rushing into harm's way to help treat the wounded.

As a volunteer emergency medical worker, she said she wanted to prove that women had a role to play in the conservative Palestinian society of Gaza.

"Being a medic is not only a job for a man," Razan al-Najjar, 20, said in an interview at a Gaza protest camp last month. "It's for women, too."

An hour before dusk on Friday, the 10th week of the Palestinian protest campaign, she ran forward to aid a demonstrator for the last time.

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


The Most Important Thing that the New York Times Left Out (Marian L. Tupy and Chelsea Follett | @HumanProgress)

The Homo sapiens has been on this earth for 200,000 years. For 99.9 percent of that time, we lived in ignorance, poverty and misery. What has changed? Reading the NYT, the reader is left with the impression that "good stuff," like manna from heaven, suddenly was conjured up out of thin air. 

Not so. The key to the improvements in the lives of ordinary people over the last 200 years were industrialization and trade, which generated historically unprecedented rates of growth. And the importance of growth cannot be overemphasized. There is not a single example of a country emerging from widespread poverty without sustained economic growth. As University of Oxford Professor Paul Collier writes, "Growth is not a cure-all, but lack of growth is a kill-all." 

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


Found: Roseanne Season 2, the Lost Episodes: In which our columnist reveals the riveting, pathos-filled episodes of Roseanne that we'll never get to see, thanks to those globalist snowflakes at ABC. (Rick Wilson, 06.01.18, Daily Beast)

We could discuss how Roseanne is infected with the same strain of dumb conspiracy disease that has eaten the brains of much of the GOP base like a memetic Creutzfeldt-Jacob prionic parasite. We could mock the social media meltdown over Kim Jong Don meeting with Kim Jong Kim in the Oval Office. We could hold up the ludicrous Trumpian defenses Roseanne's tweets about Valerie Jarrett to ridicule. "But Bill Maher compares Trump to a baboon, so Roseanne is totally not racist comparing a black women to a monkey" is a bad look, people. I'm trying to help you here.

Sure, we could worry about the desperate, fawning, oh-please-love-me need of today's Republicans to have some celebrity, any celebrity, embrace Esoteric Trumpism. We could talk about how that led the Trump and the GOP into bed with a crank like Roseanne. We could ponder why King Stompy Foot of the Kingdom of Delicate Egos is ragetweeting apology demands to ABC.  

That would be fun, but it would be missing the big story. The big story is how the cancellation of Roseanne endangers a vital cultural window into red-state America and how the Liberal Snowflake Globalist Soros-Progressive Deep State Antifa Supersoldiers, Bilderbergers, Illuminati, and Lizard Alien Overlords who run ABC have insulted the Real America and the President of Real America.

...is how consistently they strive to earn the disdain of decent people and then say they only entertained disdainful ideas because of your disdain.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Congressional Candidate In Virginia Admits He's A Pedophile (Jesselyn Cook & Andy Campbell, 5/31/18, HuffPost)

On the phone, he was open about his pedophilia and seemingly unfazed about his long odds of attaining government office.

"A lot of people are tired of political correctness and being constrained by it," he said. "People prefer when there's an outsider who doesn't have anything to lose and is willing to say what's on a lot of people's minds."

When asked whether he's a pedophile or just writes about pedophilia, he said, "It's a mix of both. When people go over the top there's a grain of truth to what they say."

Asked whether there was a "grain of truth" in his essay about father-daughter incest and another about raping his ex-wife repeatedly, he said yes, offering that plenty of women have rape fantasies. 

Which partisans would defend him depends only on his abortion, immigration and 2nd amendment positions.

Yet Another Report Indicates That the Trump White House Worked Closely With a Twice-Convicted Pedophile (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, JUNE 01, 2018, Slate)

NBC posted a story Friday about a crony of Jared Kushner's named Rick Gerson who may have been involved in a still-mysterious backchannel meeting between Trump advisers and officials from Russia and the United Arab Emirates in the Seychelles in January 2017. Gerson, NBC says, was brought into the Seychelles plan through a UAE lobbyist named George Nader when they both attended a different meeting in New York City with Kushner. [...]

Here's the other thing about George Nader: He was convicted of child pornography charges in Virginia in 1991 and of sexually abusing minors in the Czech Republic in 2003.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Kim's tunnel explosions a goodwill gesture? Not so fast (Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen,  June 1, 2018, CNN)

No weapons inspectors or nonproliferation experts were invited to witness the detonation, and now initial assessments indicate that the show was essentially a charade.

"The explosions seem to have been too small" for scientists to have discerned any significant geologic activity such as collapsing tunnels, an international arms control official who follows North Korea closely told CNN.

"The fact that journalists were reportedly only around 500 meters from the explosions is a good indication that these were small blasts. And the amount of dust leads us to believe that they were quite superficial," the official said.

This finding is also underscored by US intelligence.

The entire program is fake.

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 AM


Special report: How the robot revolution is changing our lives (Mike Allen, 6/02/18, Axios)

The upsides:

Manual, back-breaking jobs will go away (this is good only if replaced by better gigs). Far less time will be spent doing menial tasks like driving or cleaning. And your ability to get more of what you want, when you want it, will be greatly enhanced.

Health care will be more precise and sophisticated: Medical robots could make surgery more precise, and micro-bots will target the delivery of drugs within the body. Empathetic ones could help care for us as we age. Soft, flexible ones could aid in search and rescue operations.

Robots and other autonomous devices will power apps on your phone that advocate for you with doctors; and could cut through government bureaucracy.

The next big wow to your house will be smart appliances, especially in your kitchen: Your refrigerator will know its contents and order refills, and will communicate with your oven and dishwasher -- to make us even lazier and less essential than we already are. 

Manuela Veloso of Carnegie Mellon University told Axios that ultimately humans will be in control of how robots operate and the role they play: "These robots did not come from Mars and fall on Earth. They were invented by us and they will continue to be invented by us."

Posted by orrinj at 9:56 AM


Trump allies gang up on Gowdy: The GOP lawmaker was once a conservative hero. Now he's under fire on the right for balking at Trump's 'spygate' theory. (KYLE CHENEY 06/02/2018, Politico)

Rep. Trey Gowdy has been a pitbull investigator for Republicans for years. Now, he's is in President Donald Trump's doghouse for daring to challenge the president's unsupported claim that Democrats and their sympathizers in the FBI embedded a spy in his 2016 campaign.

Trump allies have been pummeling Gowdy in recent days, branding him a gullible or clueless backer of the intelligence community. Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, labeled him "uninformed." Another Trump-tied attorney, Victoria Toensing, said Gowdy "doesn't know diddly-squat" about the particulars of federal investigations. And Fox News host Lou Dobbs tagged him a "RINO" -- a term for a fake Republican.

It's the latest twist in Gowdy's enigmatic tenure in Congress. Once a conservative hero for his headline-grabbing inquisitions of the Obama administration -- over the "Fast and Furious" gun-running program and alleged IRS targeting of conservatives, as well as his highly charged Benghazi probe -- Gowdy has also bedeviled partisans by sometimes refusing to toe a pro-Trump line. At times, Trump himself has seemed perplexed; in the span of two years, the president once hailed Gowdy as a brilliant lawmaker before bashing him as a failure and then embracing him once again.

..are the ones who can be less partisan because they're retiring/retired.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


Why some scientists say physics has gone off the rails (Dan Falk / Jun.02.2018, NBC News)

"All of the theoretical work that's been done since the 1970s has not produced a single successful prediction," says Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada. "That's a very shocking state of affairs."

This doesn't mean physicists aren't busy; the journals are publishing more research than ever. But Turok says all that research isn't doing much to advance our understanding of the universe -- at least not the way physicists did in the last century.

Physicists today "write a lot of papers, build a lot of [theoretical] models, hold a lot of conferences, cite each other -- you have all the trappings of science," he says. "But for me, physics is all about making successful predictions. And that's been lacking." [...]

The most celebrated ongoing experiments have failed to produce some long-anticipated discoveries.

Take the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the enormous particle accelerator built underground near Geneva, Switzerland. After it confirmed the existence of the Higgs Boson, physicists hoped research at the LHC would quickly yield evidence of supersymmetry, a sort of supplement to the Standard Model that predicts an array of new, heavier particles that correspond to the known ones -- but no luck yet.

Ditto for the search for dark matter particles being conducted at facilities including the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota and the Gran Sasso lab in central Italy. No dark matter particles have yet been found.

And if string theory so far has resisted experimental verification, the so-called multiverse -- the idea that our universe is but one of many and perhaps an infinite number of universes -- seems to some scientists more like science fiction than a description of reality.

"What does it mean for something to exist if you can't observe it?" asks Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany. "I think that's a discussion that belongs safely in the realm of philosophy," she adds. "People can believe in the multiverse all they want -- but it's not science."

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


Once Ruled By Taliban, Residents Of Pakistan's Swat Valley Say Army Should Leave (Diaa Hadid, 6/02/18, NPR)

The Taliban, based in Imam Dherai, took control of the entire Swat Valley and held power until the Pakistani military retook the area in 2009. But nearly a decade later, the soldiers remain. Military checkpoints dot the roads. Residents say soldiers occupy government buildings in their towns and villages. And they say the military has overstayed its welcome.

When a Pakistani airstrike crushed the radio station in 2009, many residents said they cheered. Fazlullah escaped, and now leads the Pakistani Taliban, who remain violently opposed to the Pakistani state.

"It's a black chapter of our history," Waris, a 22-year-old Swat Valley resident, said with a sigh. "We prefer to forget it." He requested NPR only use his first name because he still fears the Taliban.

Still, he pointed out, "There is also our Malala Yousafzai."

Pakistan's Nobel Peace laureate, who recently returned to Swat for the first time since she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, was born and raised here. As a child, she defied the Taliban by calling for girls' education.

Fawad, a 28-year-old activist, said the army routinely points to Swat as a success story. He preferred not to use his full name, to avoid possible repercussions from the military.

"As they are saying, we have established peace in Swat," Fawad said. "We want them to give full authority to civilian government -- to police and local government."

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM


Catalan nationalists back in power, target secession in challenge to Sanchez (Jesús Aguado, Ingrid Melander, 6/02/18, Reuters) 

Nationalists regained control of Catalonia's government on Saturday and immediately pledged to seek independence for the wealthy region, posing a swift challenge to new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who took office on the same day.

The new Catalan cabinet was sworn in after months of tensions with the central government, ending Madrid's seven-month direct rule of the region, imposed by Sanchez's predecessor after separatists declared independence.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Apartheid with Chinese characteristics: China has turned Xinjiang into a police state like no other (The Economist, May 31st 2018)

Hasan is one of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a Turkic-language people, who have disappeared in Xinjiang, China's north-western province. It is an empty, far-flung place; Hasan's home town of Yarkand is as close to Baghdad as it is to Beijing. It is also a crucial one. The region is China's biggest domestic producer of oil and gas, and much of the fuel imported from Central Asia and Russia passes through on its way to the industries of the east coast. It is now a vital link in the Belt and Road Initiative, a foreign policy which aims to bind the Middle East and Europe to China with ties of infrastructure, investment and trade.

But on top of that it is the home of the Uighurs, the largest Muslim group in the country, and ethnically quite distinct from the Han Chinese. A recent history of Uighur unrest--in particular bloody inter-ethnic violence in Urumqi in 2009 that followed the murder of Uighurs elsewhere in China--and subsequent terrorism have sent the government's repressive tendencies into overdrive. Under a new party boss, Chen Quanguo, appointed in 2016, the provincial government has vastly increased the money and effort it puts into controlling the activities and patrolling the beliefs of the Uighur population. Its regime is racist, uncaring and totalitarian, in the sense of aiming to affect every aspect of people's lives. It has created a fully-fledged police state. And it is committing some of the most extensive, and neglected, human-rights violations in the world.

The government is building hundreds or thousands of unacknowledged re-education camps to which Uighurs can be sent for any reason or for none. In some of them day-to-day conditions do not appear to be physically abusive as much as creepy. One released prisoner has said he was not permitted to eat until he had thanked Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, and the Communist Party. But there have been reports of torture at others. In January, 82-year-old Muhammad Salih Hajim, a respected religious scholar, died in detention in Urumqi.

Kashgar, the largest Uighur city, has four camps, of which the largest is in Number 5 Middle School. A local security chief said in 2017 that "approximately 120,000" people were being held in the city. In Korla, in the middle of the province, a security official recently said the camps are so full that officials in them are begging the police to stop bringing people.

As a result, more and more camps are being built: the re-education archipelago is adding islands even faster than the South China Sea. Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology in Kortal, Germany, has looked at procurement contracts for 73 re-education camps. He found their total cost to have been 682m yuan ($108m), almost all spent since April 2017. Records from Akto, a county near the border with Kyrgyzstan, say it spent 9.6% of its budget on security (including camps) in 2017. In 2016 spending on security in the province was five times what it had been in 2007. By the end of 2017 it was ten times that: 59bn yuan.

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How can you build wealth when you don't have enough money? This guy has the answer (Elyse Steinhaus, May 29, 2018, Marketwatch)

Nearly 20 years ago, you and Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler developed 'Save More Tomorrow,' a program that helps people shore up a secure retirement. Can you tell us more about that?

Benartzi: Save More Tomorrow [is] a savings tool that consists of three central components: First, we asked people to commit now to saving more in the future. This helps them avoid 'present bias,' or the tendency to overvalue immediate rewards at the expense of long-term intentions. Second, we proposed that increases in their savings rates were linked to future pay raises. This minimizes the influence of loss aversion--the tendency to experience the pain of loss more intensely than the pleasure of an equivalent gain--since their take-home pay never decreases. Third, once enrolled, [employees] remained in the program unless they opted-out. This makes good use of inertia, which is the tendency to stick with your current path.

According to the latest calculations, it's estimated that [Save More Tomorrow] has helped approximately 15 million Americans significantly boost their savings rate.

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Founding philosophy: A review of The Political Theory of the American Founding by Thomas G. West. (Michael Anton, June 2018, New Criterion)

 West is forthright about the enormous influence of the early moderns--especially Locke--on the founders' natural-rights doctrine. But he finds illumination from an earlier philosophic tradition that distinguishes, while recognizing the essential connectivity, between "form and matter."

For the American founders, the matter was their country as they found it: the people, their language, traditions, customs, and religion(s); the topography, resources, and climate; its site, situation, and relations with neighbors and other world powers. In other words, the "brute facts." The form was the regime, or mode of government, and above all the principles informing that mode. There may be, as the ancient Greek philosophers assert, one regime that is simply best. But even they quickly add that this best form is not always practicable or possible; it is suitable only for the finest matter, and only in those rare instances when circumstances permit. Philosophers from Plato to "the celebrated Montesquieu" (Madison's phrase) insist that form must always suit matter. The great task of statesmanship facing the American founders was to devise a form consistent with timeless truths about human nature--above all, equal natural rights--while appropriate to the particular characteristics and circumstances of the actual American people at that time.

The above should suffice to dismiss another error, this one from a certain quarter of the contemporary Right, which holds that any appeal to equal natural rights amounts to "propositionism"--as in, the "proposition that all men are created equal"--which in turn inevitably leads to the twin evils of statist leveling and the explicit or tacit denial that there is anything distinct about the American nation. In this telling, "all men are created equal" is dangerous nonsense that means "all men are exactly the same." Among other dismal policies we are allegedly compelled to enact if we recognize the existence of equal natural rights are redistribution, racial quotas, and open borders.

Refuting this is easy, and well-trodden, ground. The true meaning of natural equality is clear from the founders' words, as West shows, and in Lincoln's, and in the works of scholars such as Harry V. Jaffa, and in West himself. But like a picket fence that must be continually repainted if it is to remain white, there are some self-evident truths that must be restated over and over.

West does so, in perhaps the clearest articulation of natural human equality penned since the founding itself. The idea is elegantly simple: all men are by nature equally free and independent. Nature has not--as she has, for example, in the case of certain social insects-- delineated some members of the human species as natural rulers and others as natural workers or slaves. (If you doubt this, ask yourself why--unlike in the case of, say, bees--workers and rulers are not clearly delineated in ways that both groups acknowledge and accept. Why is it that no man--even of the meanest capacities--ever consents to slavery, which can be maintained only with frequent recourse to the lash?) No man may therefore justly rule any other without that other's consent. And no man may injure any other or infringe on his rights, except in the just defense of his own rights. The existence of equal natural rights requires an equally natural and obligatory duty of all men to respect the identical rights of others.

Because men are driven by passions as well as reason, the temptation to violate the rights of others is always present, especially in the strong over the weak. Men in the state of nature-- that is, without government, whether understood as a pre-political state or one following the dissolution of a political order--while free, are thus at grave risk of injury and depredation. Such afflictions are not merely bad for individual men, they violate a moral standard which nature provides but leaves to man to enforce. Moreover, in the state of nature, men cannot utilize to their full potential those talents God and nature have given them. Living well requires not merely the society of others, but also security, which requires government. Hence men consent to government to secure their equal natural rights and to thrive within that security. Upon establishing a government, men conditionally cede some of their rights and liberty to secure the far larger remainder. For instance, men must surrender to government their natural right to inflict just punishment personally. (This insight was not the founders' innovation. The lesson of Aeschylus's Oresteia is that if there is to be lasting civilization, private vengeance must give way to pubic penalty.) This ceding is conditional because men's rights remain the gift of God and nature, not of government, and men's consent can be withdrawn if the government fails in its duties or abuses its powers. Therefore, there is an inalienable natural right "to alter or to abolish" an oppressive or incompetent government.

Men naturally differ in virtue, intelligence, and talent. This natural inequality will inevitably lead to unequal outcomes, especially when equal natural rights to use unequal talents are properly secured. Since excellence in husbandry, the arts and sciences, commerce, and many other endeavors is a boon to individual men, to society, indeed to all mankind, inequality of outcomes is welcome and just.

These principles, while universally valid for all men in all times and places, are subject to practical limits. First, any social compact--and hence any political community--is inherently particular. Its scope and authority extend only to those men who have consented to its terms, and whose membership has been consented to by all other citizen-members. The equal natural rights of all men do not demand or imply world government or open borders. To the contrary, a social compact without limits is impossible, a self-contradiction. A compact that applies indiscriminately to all is not a compact. If--as the founders insist--mutual consent is an indispensable foundation of political legitimacy, then the political community must be invitation-only. Moreover, the same "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" that endow men with inalienable natural rights similarly entitle the nations of the world to a "separate and equal station" with respect to other nations. "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master," Lincoln said. Applied to international relations, we may similarly express the founders' thought: as no nation is by right a colony, none should be an empire.

Second, as noted, form must fit matter. It is, in the founders' view, a sad but intractable fact that not all peoples in all times and places are ready or able to assume the responsibilities of liberty or to secure their equal natural rights through republican government. (Here is a lesson our own political leaders should have heeded before upsetting the imperfect but--at least before they intervened--stable political order of the Middle East.) The particular traditions, customs, laws, talents, education, religious practices, and private habits of America's largely English-descended colonists made that people especially--perhaps uniquely-- qualified to devise, institute, and maintain a regime based on equal natural rights.

West shows that the founders, far from being hostile to or dismissive of religion, tradition, and other non-rational sources of guidance for human life, saw these things as not only broadly useful for political society but fully compatible with natural rights and absolutely indispensable to a political order based thereon. In the founders' view, it is reasonable that the God who both revealed the Decalogue and is author of the natural world created that world with natural moral principles that accord with His law. The alternative--moral commands with no basis in, or that contradict, nature--seemed to the founders profoundly irrational and implausible.

But the founders also agreed that religions and traditional sources of human guidance should not be authoritative for politics. In Europe, resting political legitimacy on religion led, first, to a millennium of oligarchic stagnation and, later, to bloody religious wars. Any attempt to do so in America would also crash into the many deeply held religious convictions on the new continent. Whose understanding of God would rule? Better to ground politics in a reasoned account of human nature that admits man's inability to know the mind of God and respects each person's equal natural right to follow his own conscience in matters of worship. Similarly, traditions not infringing on the equal natural rights of others were to be tolerated, and even celebrated. Under the new "form," men would be freer to live as men than ever before in human history.

This points to other, closely related but distinct, errors with which West also contends. In doing so, he is unafraid to criticize many eminent scholars, some of them ostensibly on "his side," as conservatives, Straussians, or both. One such error identifies the founding as identical with "liberalism"--in that term's original, Enlightenment meaning--and holds that the founders' political theory emphasizes rights at the expense of duties, or even that the founders' idea of rights logically excludes any concept of duty. At the extreme, this view insists that the founders saw getting and spending as the ends of political life. Another error admits that there is a "republican" as well as "liberal" element to the founding but finds the two in irresolvable tension. Another allegedly irresolvable tension is said to be that between equality and liberty.

West answers all of this, both in the book's more theoretical first part and in its more practical second and third parts. We have seen that, according to the founders, the concept of equal natural rights is logically incoherent without a concomitant duty to respect the rights of others. Morality and virtue, they insisted, are indispensable both for private happiness and for the common good. The former is too often simply identified with "liberalism," the latter with "republicanism," as if the two are always at odds. The founders didn't see any conflict, and neither does West. Similarly, equality and liberty are the two inherent sides of the same philosophic coin. Men are equal in being equally free of domination by others, and they are justly free because they are naturally equal.

Our social compact--republican liberty--requires that the surrender of rights be equal for all men and recognizes that this is what makes a free society functional.

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Border Crossings Defy Crackdown (Nick Miroff, 6/01/18, The Washington Post)

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to publish its closely watched monthly arrest totals in coming days, and Trump administration officials are bracing for a new eruption from the president. He has treated the statistics as a gauge for the success of his hard-line immigration policies, and when border arrests fell to historic lows in the months after his inauguration last year, Trump touted the decrease as a personal triumph.

Since then, migration trends have reversed. In March and again in April, border arrests exceeded 50,000, the highest monthly totals of Trump's presidency, sending him into fits of rage, aides say. Trump unloaded on DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a Cabinet meeting May 9, scorching her for nearly 30 minutes over the spike in illegal crossings, while demanding she "close" the border.

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According to Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, Alexander Downer, the former top Australian diplomat to the U.K., passed information about a conversation he had on May 10, 2016 with Papadopoulos to the U.S. embassy in London.

Downer claimed that Papadopoulos told him during a barroom conversation that Russia had information that was potentially damaging to Hillary Clinton. Downer has said he found the comment "interesting," and contacted his Australian colleagues. The information also made its way to Elizabeth Dibble, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London, according to Strassel.

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Herbert Hoover's Ghost (Bret Stephens, June 1, 2018, NY Times)

In the grip of the Great Depression, the 31st president was under intense political pressure to sign the Tariff Act of 1930, better known as Smoot-Hawley after its Republican authors in Congress. Hoover himself was a somewhat reluctant protectionist. And while 1,028 economists signed a petition imploring the president not to sign, he could not then know that "Smoot-Hawley" would become a byword for economic folly. Between 1930 and 1933, the value of global trade declined from $4.9 billion to $1.8 billion.

Trump has no such excuses. The economy is humming. The overwhelming majority of Americans want more trade deals, not fewer, and are leery of a trade war. Congressional Republicans are broadly pro-trade and aren't trying to push the administration into a political corner. And the opposition to tariffs among professional economists is about as universal now as it was then.

The same might be said for many U.S. executives who know something about how the tariffs will work. On Friday I spoke with Gary Stein, C.E.O. of Houston-based Triple-S Steel, which sells about one million tons of steel products a year, mostly for construction and heavy manufacturing. He calls the tariffs "just juvenile."

"These guys in Washington don't understand how real supply lines work," he says. "You can't crack the economy on the end of a whip like that when you are dealing with real jobs and real people and real products coming across borders. There's a lot of special stuff that comes from only one mill, and now suddenly you can't get it or it's going to cost you 25 percent more."

So what motivates the president to pick these fights? Rust-belt politics surely plays a role. But it's also the same ideological obsession he has held since at least the 1980s -- as dated and ugly as his mullet -- not to mention his sneering indifference to what was once called "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

When the Wall Street Journal editorial board (of which I was then a member) asked Trump in 2015 whether he worried that his immigration and trade policies could have disastrous political effects in Mexico, he answered: "I don't care about Mexico honestly, I really don't care about Mexico." Next month, Mexicans, who do care, will likely elect their most anti-American president in nearly 50 years.

...who at least got to govern an America that still honored Jim Crow laws....

June 1, 2018

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Vermont will pay people $10,000 to move there and work remotely (Kathryn Vasel, June 1, 2018, CNN Money)

The state has a new law that will pay workers to move there and work remotely. Governor Phil Scott signed the legislation on Wednesday.

Eligible workers can get up to $5,000 a year, not to exceed $10,000 over two years, through the state's new remote worker grant program.

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Study: You Can Get Whites to Oppose Welfare With This One Weird Trick (Eric Levitz, 6/01/18, New York)

The fact that there has never been a mass constituency in the United States (or any other Western democracy) for financing tax cuts for the rich by scaling back aid to the poor and working class has always been a problem for the conservative movement. But Republicans have long known a nifty trick for overcoming that obstacle to their regressive agenda: Get white Americans focused on their racial fears and resentments, and a lot of them will vote vote against the blacks instead of the plutocrats -- and some will even come to believe that welfare programs don't redistribute resources from the wealthy to working people, but rather, from diligent whites to indolent minorities.

A new study from sociologists at Stanford and UC Berkeley confirms the efficacy of this maneuver. During Barack Obama's first term as president, the share of white Americans who expressed opposition to welfare rose sharply in surveys -- as did the percentage who evinced high levels of racial resentment. To determine if there was a causal relationship between these developments -- which is to say, if racial anxieties (ostensibly triggered by the election of a black president) were turning white Americans against welfare -- the researchers designed a pair of experiments.

In one, they primed white respondents to contemplate the possibility that the United States will become a majority-minority nation within a half-century, by showing them a chart of U.S. demographic change -- and then asked them about their views on welfare programs. In another, they provided respondents with demographic information about which racial groups benefit most from each safety-net program before gauging their support for such policies.

In both cases, the priming increased support for welfare cuts: When whites were encouraged to consider their racial group's declining demographic dominance -- and when they were alerted to the fact that African-Americans disproportionately benefit from certain social welfare programs -- they became more receptive to "small government" conservatism.

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Why Low-Skilled Immigrants Work Especially Hard: The main reason that low-skilled immigrant men work more often than other low-skilled men is that these immigrants have made better personal decisions. (David J. Bier, November 7, 2016, Cato at Liberty)

For as far back as we have data, immigrant men without high school degrees in their prime years (25-54) have held jobs far more often than similar native-born men. Moreover, the gap in employment between the average low-skilled immigrant man and the similar native-born man is growing. In 1995, there was an 18 percentage point difference in the employment rates of the two groups. By 2014, the difference was 31 points.

1. Low-skilled immigrant men look for work. The single most important reason that immigrants perform better than lower-skilled natives is that they actually search for jobs in the labor market. As Figure 2 shows, more than 1 in 3 low-skilled native-born men in their primes are not even looking for jobs, compared to just 1 in 13 immigrant men. The gap is also growing. In 1995, there was a 17 percentage point difference between the share of low-skilled immigrant men and low-skilled native-born men who were out of the workforce entirely. By 2014, the difference had reached 25 points. It's hard to get a job without first looking.

2. Low-skilled immigrants use less welfare. As a 2013 paper by the Cato Institute demonstrated, poor immigrants use significantly less welfare than poor native-born citizens. Moreover, as I have shown previously, immigrant labor force participation rates grew in response to the welfare reform that Congress passed in 1996. The 1996 law barred all noncitizens from welfare, except for legal permanent residents who had been in the country for more than five years. This incentivized them to seek jobs, and during this time, overall immigrant employment rates surpassed the native-born rates. This surge in employment caused their income to rise so much that their rates of poverty actually declined. Native-born men have faced much less pressure to reenter the labor market.

3. Low-skilled immigrant men commit far fewer crimes. Immigrant men are much less likely to be incarcerated than similar native-born men. Figure 3 provides the incarceration rates for native and foreign-born men ages 18 to 39, and in every Census year since 1980, the foreign-born rate is half or less than half the native-born rate. This is also true for high school dropouts from the top sending countries for unauthorized immigrants. Almost 1 in 9 native-born men ages 18 to 39 without a high school degree were incarcerated in 2010, compared to just 1 in 59 Mexican-born men. Criminal records and unemployment resulting from incarceration provide serious obstacles to the ability of native-born men to find employment.

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Atheists Are Sometimes More Religious Than Christians: A new study shows how poorly we understand the beliefs of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular. (SIGAL SAMUEL  MAY 31, 2018, The Atlantic)

Second, the researchers found that American "nones"--those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular--are more religious than European nones. The notion that religiously unaffiliated people can be religious at all may seem contradictory, but if you disaffiliate from organized religion it does not necessarily mean you've sworn off belief in God, say, or prayer.

The third finding reported in the study is by far the most striking. As it turns out, "American 'nones' are as religious as--or even more religious than--Christians in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the U.K."

"That was a surprise," Neha Sahgal, the lead researcher on the study, told me. "That's the comparison that's fascinating to me." She highlighted the fact that whereas only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty, 27 percent of American nones say this.

America is a country so suffused with faith that religious attributes abound even among the secular. [...]

Woodhead pointed to another finding in the Pew study: Most Western Europeans still believe in the idea of the soul. "So it's not that we're seeing straightforward secularization, where religion gives way to atheism and a rejection of all aspects of religion," she said. "We're seeing something more complex that we haven't fully got our heads around. In Europe, it's about people disaffiliating from the institution of the Church and the old authority figures ... and moving toward a much more independent-minded, varied set of beliefs."

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Make elotes, Mexican corn-on-the-cob and summer's perfect dish (Kevin Pang, 5/29/18, The Takeout)

Elote asado (charcoal-grilled corn with cream, cheese and chile)

Serves six; recipe courtesy Topolobampo in Chicago

6 ears fresh sweet corn, in their husks
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup thick cream or commercial sour cream mixed with a little milk or cream
1/3 cup crumbled Mexican queso anejo or queso fresco, or cheese like Parmesan, feta, cotija, or farmer's cheese
1 Tbsp. hot powdered chile (ground chile de arbol, guajillo, or New Mexico chile)

1. About an hour before serving, place the ears of corn in a deep bowl, cover with cold water and weight with a plate to keep them submerged. Light your charcoal fire and let it burn until the bed of coals is medium-hot; adjust the grill four inches above the fire.

2. Lay the corn on the grill and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently, until the outer leaves are blackened. Remove, let cool several minutes, then remove the husks and silk. About 10 minutes before serving, brush the corn with melted butter, return to the grill and turn frequently until nicely browned. Serve right away, passing the cream, cheese, and powdered chile for your guests to use to their own liking. Serve with a wedge of lime.

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The World's Biggest Diamond Miner Said It Would Never Sell Stones Made in a Lab--Until Now. (BLOOMBERG, 5/29/18)

De Beers is moving to sell diamonds made in a lab rather than formed underground over billions of years.

The world's biggest diamond miner for years vowed that it wouldn't sell stones made in laboratories. Now, it has U-turned on that pledge and will start selling man-made stones for about $800 a carat, according to a memo sent to its customers and obtained by Bloomberg News.