July 31, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


U.S. senior official says he flagged risks for children from border separations (Yeganeh Torbati, Richard Cowan, 7/31/18, Reuters) 

A senior official at the U.S. agency charged with caring for migrant children believed separating them from their parents carried "significant risk" of harm and said on Tuesday concerns had been raised internally before the Trump administration made it official policy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM



[I]nstead of helping the president's cause, Giuliani's gaffes undermined the president's defense. During an interview with Fox & Friends on Monday, Giuliani said he had been "looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. . . . Collusion is not a crime." That statement shifted the emphasis away from Trump's frequently tweeted assertion that there was "no collusion." Speaking on CNN on Monday morning, Giuliani disclosed that there was a planning meeting to prep for Donald Trump Jr.'s June meeting with Russians that was attended by the president's eldest son, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates, and others. Later, in an interview with Fox News, Giuliani reversed himself, claiming that this alleged meeting--which Cohen has never mentioned publicly--"never, ever took place" and was "a figment of [Cohen's] imagination." [...]

"Kelly [has] been trying to get rid of Rudy for two months," one outside adviser to the White House told me. "And Don McGahn hates Rudy with intensity of 1,000 burning suns." Of course, McGahn and Kelly have their own problems with the boss. According to two sources, Trump has clashed frequently with McGahn, whom Trump has told people is too cautious. One flash point: a source said McGahn has told Trump that the Justice Department should not cooperate with the House Freedom Caucus's request for documents in their effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Kelly, meanwhile, is a survivor. Yesterday afternoon, Trump marked his first year as chief with a tweet. "Congratulations to General John Kelly. Today we celebrate his first full year as @WhiteHouse Chief of Staff!" Trump wrote. Afterward, according to two sources familiar with the matter, Trump turned to aides and said, "Now can I get rid of him?" 

You've got to really hate immigrants to stick around for this.
Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


The Justice Department Finds 'No Responsive Records' to Support a Trump Speech (Benjamin Wittes, July 31, 2018, LawFare)

"According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country."

Donald Trump, speech before a joint session of Congress, February 28, 2017

"On June 12, 2018, you reached an agreement with [the Justice Department] to resolve certain issues in dispute in this litigation, whereby [Justice] would conduct a search for records containing data of (i) all individuals convicted of all terrorism-related offenses (domestic and international) between 2001 and the date of the initial search, or (ii) all individuals convicted of all domestic terrorism-related offenses between 2001 and the date of the initial search. . . . [N]o responsive records were located."

Justice Department letter to Benjamin Wittes, July 24, 2018

It isn't every day that the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledges formally that the President of the United States lied in a speech to Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM



While carbon taxes and tariffs superficially resemble each other, they are different in important ways -- and those differences explain the case for carbon taxes and the case against tariffs.

Both a tariff on imports and a tax greenhouse gas emissions will affect consumer prices and raise revenue. With a carbon tax, redistribution is used to bolster the policy. In the case of the MCA, revenue goes to funding other tax cuts and to infrastructure spending, both of which offset the costs of the new carbon tax to the poor. MCA revenue also funds research to decrease the long-term costs of transitioning to low-carbon energy. Those are transfers, and would lead to increased government spending, but they are aimed at reducing the burden of carbon pricing and investing in economically productive projects.

Of course, new government spending does not come for free. A carbon price, though levied on producers and emitters, will increase the prices to households of energy and consumer goods whose production leads to carbon emissions. Those increased costs will be real, but small in aggregate. The most comprehensive analysis of the MCA indicates that the negative effect on GDP will be small, reducing annual output in the first decade by a steady 0.1--0.2 percent against current policy.  

That small burden will be worth it in the long term because a carbon tax corrects for a market failure, by creating an artificial price signal to represent the damages expected from today's carbon emissions that will add up over the next few centuries. While estimates of the future damages from CO2 emissions vary widely, it is hard to argue they are zero and credible estimates reach much higher than the carbon prices imposed by the Market Choice Act (see chart below). By pricing carbon emissions at or below expected damages, thereby reducing emissions at a lower cost than the economy would suffer in the future, we can expect overall welfare to go up in the long term. That is one of the key insights of climate economics.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Open vs Closed: The rise and fall of Left and Right (Peter Franklin, 31 JULY 2018, UnHerd)

The decline of the mainstream Left isn't just an issue for one side of the political divide. A Left incapable of making a difference to economic policy calls into question the relevance of the entire Left-Right spectrum.

A clear sign that old distinctions are collapsing is the growing ease with which parties of the mainstream Left and Right now find themselves in government together. For instance, three of the last four German governments have been 'grand coalitions' between the centre-right Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats. Since 2010, Left-Right coalitions have been formed in a number of other European countries including Italy, the Netherlands and Austria. One could argue that Emmanuel Macron's En Marche! movement is also a Left-Right coalition - albeit in the form of a new party designed for the purpose.

The old model of centre-left and centre-right alternating in government and opposition can no longer be taken for granted. Parties and politicians that were once rivals for power are increasingly likely to find themselves as partners.

There is a parallel here with the political realignment that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. A clear sign that the liberal parties of the '19th-century Left' had ceased to be the actual left was when they joined forces with their old enemies on the Right - against the rising influence of socialism.

But how exact is the parallel between what happened to '19th-century Left' and what might be happening now to the '20th-century Left'?  

Is there, for instance, an emerging '21st-century Left', capable of (a) redefining Left and Right as completely as the socialists did a hundred years ago; and (b) displacing the previous incarnation of the Left at the ballot box ?

There is, but only up to a point.

Ideologically, left-wing populist movements are good at saying what they are against (neoliberalism, etc), but not so good at articulating what they are for. There is no new 'big idea' whose impact is even remotely comparable to that of socialism in the 20th century. 

The closest it gets are the 'post-work' ideas6 of the accelerationists and others. However, 'post-workism' is a response to economic conditions that don't exist yet i.e. a super-productive economy in which human workers are largely replaced by robots. The socialism of the late 19th was able to flourish in the 20th because it was a response to economic conditions that most people experienced in their daily lives. Furthermore, the socialist parties of the era - whether communist, democratic socialist or social democrat - offered not just a protest against those conditions, but also a means of changing them.

Protest can still make an impact at the ballot box, of course. In countries across Europe, there's no doubt that the populist Left has taken votes away from the mainstream left.

And yet the radical Left is not the only, or even the biggest, threat to the mainstream Left. In many countries, the most shattering blow to the latter's voter base has come from populists who don't belong to any kind of Left: a far from exhaustive list includes UKIP in the UK, the National Front in France, the AfD in Germany, the Five Star Movement and the League in Italy, the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, the Danish People's Party in Denmark, the Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, the Freedom Party in Austria and, of course, the 'alt-right' and the wider Trump phenomenon in America.

With the exception of Five Star, these movements are usually classified as 'right-wing populists'. 

They are certainly populist in the sense of being anti-establishment, but in what what sense are they right-wing? In terms of the economic issues that are most definitive of the conventional left-right political spectrum, parties of the 'populist Right' are generally to the Left of the mainstream Right and often to the left of the mainstream Left too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM

SO MUCH WINNING... (profanity alert):

After '30 days of sh-t,' GOP midterm elections fear rises (Byron York, July 30, 2018, Washington Examiner)

Looking back, each change in the strategist's mood has been the result of whatever President Trump was doing at that particular moment. His current anguish is the product of what he called "30 days of sh-t." By that, he meant the period of time beginning with Trump's decision to separate families crossing illegally into the United States and ending with his performance at the Helsinki summit.

Both hurt Republicans, the strategist said, but probably the Trump-Putin summit hurt more. When the president met with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, he said, many Republican-targeted voters saw a certain method in the madness. It actually helped GOP candidates. But when Trump met Vladimir Putin, those voters didn't see the method part.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


'It's a significant shift in our thinking': Business takes fresh look at Democrats (LORRAINE WOELLERT and MARIANNE LEVINE 07/31/2018, Politico)

Business groups, at war with President Donald Trump over trade and immigration, say they're taking steps to rebuild the political center -- including taking fresh looks at moderate Democrats.

The American Bankers Association this month began airing ads in support of candidates for the first time, including Democrats Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Rep. Lou Correa of California. The International Franchise Association has more than doubled its support to Democrats this cycle, with 27 percent of its donations going to centrists in the party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which leans heavily Republican, endorsed Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey over Republican John McCann, who has the support of former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka.

Even the powerful Koch network appears to be withholding some support for the Republican Party, if not outright supporting Democrats. Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said at a donor retreat Monday that the political network would not help Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in his Senate race against Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), citing inconsistencies on a range of Koch priorities.

"Republicans aren't the only people who have great ideas for business," International Franchise Association President Robert Cresanti said. "We really need more members of Congress that are in the middle and are willing to listen to both sides."

"It's a significant shift in our thinking," Cresanti said. "Before, it was you're either with us 100 percent of the time or you're against us."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


The Death of a Once Great City: The fall of New York and the urban crisis of affluence (Kevin Baker, Harper's)

New York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city's supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the "paper economy" of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here--a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great.

As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world's largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.

This is not some new phenomenon but a cancer that's been metastasizing on the city for decades now. And what's happening to New York now--what's already happened to most of Manhattan, its core--is happening in every affluent American city. San Francisco is overrun by tech conjurers who are rapidly annihilating its remarkable diversity; they swarm in and out of the metropolis in specially chartered buses to work in Silicon Valley, using the city itself as a gigantic bed-and-breakfast. Boston, which used to be a city of a thousand nooks and crannies, back-alley restaurants and shops, dive bars and ice cream parlors hidden under its elevated, is now one long, monotonous wall of modern skyscraper. In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in.

By trying to improve our cities, we have only succeeded in making them empty simulacra of what was. To bring this about we have signed on to political scams and mindless development schemes that are so exclusive they are more destructive than all they were supposed to improve. The urban crisis of affluence exemplifies our wider crisis: we now live in an America where we believe that we no longer have any ability to control the systems we live under.

Those of us who have been in New York for any amount of time are immediately suspected of nostalgia if we dare to compare our shiny city of today unfavorably, in any way, with what came before. So let me make one thing perfectly clear, as that old New Yorker Dick Nixon used to say, and list right now all the things I hated about the New York of the Seventies: crime, dirt, days-old garbage left on the street, cockroaches, the Bronx burning, homelessness, discarded hypodermic needles on my building's stoop, discarded crack vials--and packs of burned-out matches--on my building's stoop, cockroaches that scattered everywhere when you turned on the light, entire Brooklyn neighborhoods looking like a bombed-out Dresden, subway cars on which only one door--or no door--opened when the train came in, subway cars cooled in summer rush hours only by a single fan that swung slowly around and around, deindustrialization, those really big cockroaches that we called water bugs for some reason and that crunched under your feet.

New York today--in the aggregate--is probably a wealthier, healthier, cleaner, safer, less corrupt, and better-run city than it has ever been. The same can be said for most of those other cities seen as recent urban success stories, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, Atlanta to Portland, Oregon.

Which is what cities ought to be: office parks/entertainment centers.

The real challenge is moving their poorer populations to the 'burbs.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


N.H. Schools Ranked Among Best in Nation, Denying Democrats Another Target in Governor's Race (Michael Graham, 7/30/18, Inside Sources)

More good news about the Granite State has political insiders asking: What are New Hampshire Democrats going to run on in the 2018 governor's race?

The economy? Uh....no. New Hampshire has the hottest economy in New England and one of the best in the US.

Jobs? Unemployment is down to 2.7 percent in the Granite State-the third-lowest rate in the U.S.   The worry among employers isn't the unemployed, it's finding workers to fill jobs.

Housing? New Hampshire's one of the best states on affordable housing, too.

And now a new analysis of public schools in the U.S. ranks New Hampshire at #4 in the nation, with high ratings in both education performance and student safety. So now add schools to the list of New Hampshire "Top 10" performances of the past few months.

July 30, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Trump Keeps White Supremacist Donations To 2020 Campaign (Ben Fractenberg, July 30, 2018, The Forward)
Almost exactly a year ago, white supremacists, Jew haters and racists of various stripes gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia at what they called the "Unite the Right" rally. One person was killed; many were injured and armed marchers menaced the town's only synagogue during Shabbat services.

Trump told reporters, "I think there is blame on both sides," after the white nationalist-planned Aug. 12, 2017 protest turned violent.

Now campaign filings reviewed by the Forward show that a participant in that event has donated to President Trump's reelection campaign, as have two neo-Nazis. The filings show that the campaign is aware of the contributions, as they have redirected them -- but not returned them. Experts say fundraising committees have a responsibility to vet donors.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Trump administration eyes capital gains tax cut for wealthy: NY Times (Reuters) 

The Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress to grant a $100 billion tax cut to wealthy Americans by allowing taxpayers to account for inflation while determining capital gains tax liabilities, the New York Times reported on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Think Tank: Medicare For All Has $32-Trillion Federal Price Tag (Charles Fain Lehman, July 30, 2018, free Beacon)

The paper, authored by Mercatus scholar Charles Blahous, assesses the fiscal impact of Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) Medicare for All Act. The proposal, which would see the rollout of Medicare coverage to all Americans regardless of age, was a hallmark of Sanders's run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. [...]

This enormous price tag is actually marginally less than current projected national health expenditures over the same period of time. The paper finds that under ideal conditions, national health expenditures (NHEs) would be about $90 billion less in 2022 under the Medicare for All plan, thanks in large part to a drop in administrative costs and a slight fall off in personal health spending.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM

Dear orrin,

Our $3 book sale ends tomorrow, Tuesday, July 31! It's your last chance to add some excellent titles to your library at a fraction of the retail price. 

You can choose from 56 books. And for the first time, you can purchase a bunch of ebooks for just $1.50 each.

If you're anything like me, that many choices can be overwhelming. So where do you start?

One way is to embrace the wisdom of crowds: it turns out the 3 most popular titles are acclaimed books that help us understand our past, present, and future. They are:
  • American Cicero by Bradley J. Birzer, whom author Joseph Pearce describes as "one of today's finest biographers." You don't want to miss this exceptional short biography of an unjustly neglected Founder, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
  • After Tocqueville, which the historian John Willson calls "the best book on democracy in the past hundred years"
  • Papal Economics, which takes you on an enlightening tour through papal teachings on economics, from Leo XIII in the 19th century to Pope Francis today
You can see the full list of titles here. Remember: this sale ends tomorrow, so shop now! 


Jed Donahue
Editor in Chief, ISI Books 

P.S. You'll find many of these titles available for only $1.50 as ebooks.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


What is Bigfoot erotica? A Virginia congressional candidate accused her opponent of being into it. (Ron Charles, July 30 , 2018, Washington Post)

Our weird political era just got a little hairier. For the first time, millions of Americans are asking, "What is Bigfoot erotica?"

That question has been inspired by Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat who's running for Congress in Virginia's 5th District. On Twitter this Sunday, Cockburn accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a "devotee of Bigfoot erotica." Her tweet included a crudely drawn image of Bigfoot -- with the monster's genitalia obscured -- taken from Riggleman's Instagram account. She added, "This is not what we need on Capitol Hill."

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


This Kentucky congressional candidate wants to grant immigrants amnesty (Thomas Novelly, 7/30/18, Louisville Courier Journal)

Hank Linderman is challenging Guthrie, the Republican congressman who since 2009 has represented Kentucky's 2nd congressional district, which includes Bowling Green, Owensboro and Elizabethtown. 

"I am calling for action to help the millions of undocumented people already working in our communities, serving in our military and raising families by granting amnesty," linderman said in a statement. Amnesty would be given for "qualified" immigrants living in the U.S. as of July 4, he said. 

We could have avoided this whole debacle if W had just used the presidential pardon power.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


Rudy Giuliani just obliterated the goal posts on Trump-Russia collusion  (Aaron Blake, July 30, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump's lawyer/spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani appeared on Fox News's and CNN's morning shows on Monday to downplay the idea that colluding with the Russians would have even been illegal and to argue against strawmen.

The most notable portion of the interviews was when Giuliani rekindled the idea that collusion isn't even a crime. Trump's defenders have occasionally noted that the word doesn't appear in the criminal code -- which is true but misleading-- but Giuliani took it a step further: He basically suggested Trump would have had to pay for Russia to interfere on his behalf.

"I don't even know if that's a crime -- colluding with Russians," Giuliani said on CNN. "Hacking is the crime."

EMERGENCY ALERT:  We are no longer pretending that Donald was not in bed with Vlad.  Our new line is that it was perfectly acceptable to collude, to ask Vlad to hack Hillary and to accept the hacked material in exchange for sanctions relief.  Stand by for further reversals...

Rudy's Big Admission? (Josh Marshall, July 30, 2018, TPM)

In a back and forth with CNN's Alisyn Carmerota, he appears to say that two days before the meeting with the Russian lawyer there was a planning meeting to prepare for that meeting. This prep meeting would have been on June 7th, 2016. Giuliani says that meeting included Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort, Rick Gates and others.

Now, I've had some off the grid moments in the last ten days. But I don't think I'd ever heard of this planning meeting. If nothing else, it suggests that the Trump team took the planned encounter with the Russian government emissary much more seriously than they've suggested to date. And then there's Rick Gates, Manafort's deputy. As we know, Gates is now a cooperating witness. Big problem for the Trump Team, if he was at such a planning meeting.

Giuliani's key aim throughout is to insist that Trump was not in that meeting. He seems to allow that Cohen was in the meeting, just that Cohen's lying about Trump's presence. But that point (Cohen's presence) is less clear to me. Again, watch the video.

The other point is the date: June 7th. That's the date when Trump made that primary election night victory speech where he teased his upcoming anti-Hillary speech where he'd reveal a bunch of new dirt on Hillary, a speech that ended up never happening.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


How Russia Persecutes Its Dissidents Using U.S. Courts: Russia's requests to Interpol for Red Notices--the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant--against Kremlin opponents are being met with increasing deference by the Department of Homeland Security (NATASHA BERTRAND, 7/30/18, The Atlantic)

Much attention has been paid to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the fear of a repeat in the upcoming midterms. Less examined, however, has been Russia's abuse of Interpol and the American court system to persecute the Kremlin's rivals in the United States--a problem that the Atlantic Council described in a recent report as another form of "interference" by Russia. Russia's requests to Interpol to issue Red Notices--the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today--against Kremlin opponents are being met with increasing deference by the Department of Homeland Security, according to immigration attorneys and experts in transnational crime and corruption with whom I spoke.

Interpol cannot compel any member country to arrest an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice, according to its guidelines, and "the United States does not consider a Red Notice alone to be a sufficient basis for the arrest of a subject because it does not meet the requirements for arrest under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution," according to the Justice Department. But the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. immigration courts are effectively facilitating "backdoor extraditions," as one immigration attorney said, in their reliance on Red Notices as a basis for detention and, ultimately, removal.

For Local Cops In Germany, No Talk Of 'Sanctuary Cities' (Martin Kaste, 7/30/18, Morning Edition)

Dave Schmidtke, at the Refugee Council, doesn't see how migrants can learn to see police as friend and helper, given the current system.

"[Migrants] are afraid of talking to police people, especially as a witness or something, because they are always thinking, 'Maybe some of the information is getting used to deport me some day.' "

In the U.S., the response to this problem is often the "sanctuary city" approach, in which local police avoid participating in immigration enforcement, and county jails restrict how much information they share with federal officials about foreign-born inmates. In Germany, though, that idea seems to be a non-starter.

"I can't believe that would be a German idea," says Sven Hüber, a chief inspector with the German federal police and an official with the country's biggest police union, the Gewerkschaft der Polizei. He's strongly pro-immigration, but he doesn't see how you can put up a barrier between police work and immigration enforcement.

"It's a matter of security. Especially because during the wave of migrants in 2015 and 2016, we realized there are some people coming whom we need to watch very, very closely and keep tabs on them," Hüber says.

He says German police shouldn't be shielded from the unpleasant reality of deportations. Cops should know what it's like, for example, to roust a peaceable family out of their beds at 5 a.m. to put them on a plane. And he's suspicious of any suggestion that deportations should be handled by some kind of separate, specialized law enforcement agency, such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in the U.S.

"If those officers' job consist of nothing but catching people to deport them, people whose only crime is being in the country without permission -- what does that do to those officers?" he asks. "What does it to their heads and their souls?"

Poisons them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Lifelong friendship has a beauty all its own (Matthew Syed, 10/16/17, Times of London)

The two most precious friendships of my life came to a tragically premature end. Mark, who was my best friend since nursery, with whom I shared so much, and who was regarded by my parents as a third son, died in 2008 from cancer.

Tony, who I got to know in my thirties after moving to Richmond, also became like a brother. We spoke every day, met four or five times a week, and went on holiday together. We shared our problems and celebrated each other's successes. He died of a heart attack a few months before he was due to be best man at my wedding in 2011.

As the anniversary of Mark's death comes around again this week, I have found myself reflecting rather a lot upon the beauty of friendship. That devotion to people with whom you share no genes or romantic attachment, but who are so deeply entwined in your life, your hopes, your identity that it is almost impossible to imagine life without them.

People with whom you share the most magical moments, but who are also there when you are on the floor and need help. People whose love is expressed not just in kindness, but in the rebukes they issue when you act like a fool. People whose intimacy becomes so habitual that their dreams become yours, and yours theirs.

Tony and Mark were so precious that, all these years on, I experience their absence like two missing limbs. Thomas Aquinas, I think, put it best: "There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


The business challenge of our time is creating meaningful work (SEBASTIAN BUCK, 7/30/18, Fast Company)

According to the 2018 World Value Index (created by enso, where I work) , nationally representative research we conduct each year, only 14% of Americans strongly agree that the values of their employer match their own. Another 28% say they somewhat agree, meaning a majority of Americans are spending the majority of their productive lives in environments they don't fully believe in. There's not a huge variation between different types of people: higher income people, men, and younger people recorded a little higher than others, but none of the 20 population segments we looked at exceeded 25% strong agreement with their employer's values. This finding lines up with other research that suggests a chronic disconnect between people and their employers: Gallup found 85% of workers globally are not engaged in their work.

Some people find this unsurprising. "Working for a paycheck" is deeply ingrained in culture and the reality of many job-but it should shock us. It's not a stretch to imagine that people operating in an environment that does not reflect their values are not bringing the best of themselves-or anything like it-to work.

With an industrial revolution mindset, perhaps this doesn't matter: in the pin factory, labor was a commodity, and fostering employees' enthusiastic belief in the company was less important than establishing good production processes that made people effective at functional tasks. 

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


GOP Candidate Corey Stewart's Spokesperson Called Majority-Black Cities 'S[***]holes' (Kelly Weill, 07.29.18, Daily Beast)

Corey Stewart, the Republican candidate for Senate in Virginia, has been shunned by his own party over his ties with neo-Confederate groups and his refusal to condemn white supremacist violence. That hasn't stopped several activists who express similarly extreme views from working for Stewart.

One of Stewart's spokespersons, Rick Shaftan, tweeted that three majority-black U.S. cities were "s[***]holes" and repeatedly warned against opening businesses in black neighborhoods. Shaftan, along with Stewart's other spokesperson, previously worked on behalf of an anti-Semite running for House Speaker Paul Ryan's seat in Wisconsin.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Bad Blood (PATRICIA J. WILLIAMS, 7/17/18, TLS)

[I]f  some contemporary US policies seem uniquely inhumane, it is important to recognize how many of them have direct historical precedent. It's perhaps easy to see in the logic of America's mass incarceration, or its so-called "school-to-prison pipeline", or the internment camps where ethnic Japanese citizens were confined during the Second World War, or the enduring scar of slave auctions by which familial relationships were rendered irrelevant as children were snatched from their mothers and sold as chattel. Less well remembered, however, is the Progressive Era's embrace of social Darwinism - a pseudoscience popular in Britain and Europe as well, but which, in America, came together as a powerfully institutionalized set of laws and enforcement mechanisms premissed on a mixture of misogyny, class bias, race panic and anti-immigrant resentment. It was during this period, from the late 1800s through to the first half of the twentieth century, that New York's infamous Eugenics Records Office was formed to issue "pedigrees" of Nordic purity. This was the era of the Social Hygiene movement, which justified moral purges, intimate oversight of poor women's reproductive choices, separation of children from parents, mass sterilizations, and the indefinite detention of those deemed "unfit". This, too, was a time when the "American Plan" for eugenic manipulation flourished and grew - and which, when studied and implemented by Nazi Germany, morphed into the Final Solution.

This long-ignored history is the subject of Molly Ladd-Taylor's Fixing the Poor: Eugenic sterilization and child welfare in the twentieth century, which studies the impact of efforts to "contain" and distinguish the variously and often incoherently defined problems of "delinquency", "immorality", "imbecility", "waywardness" and "feeblemindedness". Poor people, particularly women and girls, were suspected disproportionately of being the source of such conditions. Ideologically, "treatment" was framed as an issue of public health, but Ladd-Taylor shows that an even greater concern was sparing the public purse. Thus, sorting the "deserving" from the "undeserving" poor became a primary metric in deciding quarantine, steril­ization, education, or release. Venereal disease, prostitution and mental disability were seen not only as social contagions but also as biologically incorrigible, genetic, innate. "Pauperism" became an economic disease, a parasite on the public dole and a burden on taxpayers; its elimination was paramount.

Ladd-Taylor literally follows the money that underwrote hospitals, prisons and special schools, using the state of Minnesota as an exemplar. There, as in many states, public policy was driven to a great degree by per­ceptions of economic class as embodied. Thus, middle-class youths were often privileged as "too independent" and therefore in need of more home-training, more moral uplift, firmer parental intervention. Indeed, "delinquency" became normalized as a stage of white middle-class boys' development. They needed "guidance, not strict punishment", according to one judge quoted by Ladd-Taylor, because such boys had energy, initiative and "are the ones who, under proper conditions, make the very best citizens". This belief grew out of the common law tradition of seeing the state as protector, underpinned by depictions of the juvenile court judge as a "wise and kind father".

In contrast, the working class and very poor were treated as inherently dependent on state resources - destined for eternal pauperism, in other words. These latter became ciphers for contagion, carriers of corruption, and therefore in need of confinement. The distinction between the deserving and the undeserving rested on quite explicit assumptions of heritable worth: at one end, "innocent" delinquents needed more care and support; at the other, "dangerous" defectives warranted strict control for fear of their contaminating others and multiplying. Families were torn apart in this sorting process: those children deemed "in suitable condition of body and mind to receive instruction" were housed in institutions such as the Stated Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna, Minnesota, until they could be "placed out to work or adopted". In the mid-1880s, the school's superintendent, Galen A. Merrill, rationalized: "There are parents who are not worthy to rear citizens of this republic".

July 29, 2018

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Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Passion and poetry from saxophonist JD Allen (Bill Beuttler,  JUNE 02, 2018, Boston Globe)

"I won't talk much," said tenor saxophonist JD Allen after introducing his bandmates, bassist Noah Jackson and drummer Rudy Royston, at the start of his set at Scullers on Friday. "But I love to play."

He then proved both points over the next 90 minutes or so, leading the group through at least a dozen tunes with nary a pause to announce their titles. Sometimes the songs bled into each other without a break, as when mid-set Allen blew a couple of controlled squawks to conclude the standard "Stardust," Jackson flashed Allen a look as he realized what was afoot, and the trio glided directly into "Jawn Henry," an Allen original inspired by the legend of the steel-driving man who matched hammer blows with a steam engine.  [...]

Allen, of course, was the focal point. He has been quoted saying that he is drawn to the trio format because "it allows for the greatest note in the world, which is space." But holding an audience's interest without harmonic backing is no small feat for a saxophonist. Sonny Rollins famously excelled at it. And so does Allen.

There was an emotional depth to Allen's playing that transformed blues lines into poetry. He played occasional flurries of notes but was unafraid to slow down and emphasize long ones. It was obvious that melody counts mightily to him, whether written or improvised, and he played them with grace and passion at Scullers.

That there was considerably less than a full house to watch him do so didn't faze him. As Allen was overheard telling an audience member after the show, "Sometimes I just play to heaven."

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Study: Private Schools Aren't Better at Educating Kids Than Public Schools (Valerie Strauss, 7/26/18, The Washington Post)

University of Virginia researchers who looked at data from more than 1,000 students found that all of the advantages supposedly conferred by private education evaporate when socio-demographic characteristics are factored in. There also was no evidence found to suggest that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools benefit more from private school enrollment.

The results confirm what earlier research found but are especially important amid a movement to privatize public education -- encouraged by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos -- based in part on the faulty assumption that public schools are inferior to private ones. [...]

"You only need to control for family income and there's no advantage," Pianta said in an interview. "So when you first look, without controlling for anything, the kids who go to private schools are far and away outperforming the public school kids. And as soon as you control for family income and parents' education level, that difference is eliminated completely."

Kids who come from homes with higher incomes and parental education achievement offer young children -- from birth through age 5 -- educational resources and stimulation that other children don't get. These conditions presumably carry on through the school years, Pianta said.

Pianta and Ansari used a longitudinal study of a large and diverse sample of children to examine the extent to which attending private schools predicts achievement and social and personal outcomes at age 15.

They started with data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. That was a 10-site research project that followed children from birth to 15 years with a common study protocol, including an annual interview and observations at home and school and in the neighborhood. In that yearslong study, there were 1,364 families that became study participants, with ethnicity and household income largely representative of the U.S. population, though Pianta and Ansari looked at 1,097 of those children for their analysis.

The Pianta-Ansari study examined not only academic achievement, "which has been the sole focus of all evaluations of private schooling reported to date, but also students' social adjustment, attitudes and motivation, and even risky behavior, all of which one assumes might be associated with private school education, given studies demonstrating schooling effects on such factors." It said:

"In short, despite the frequent and pronounced arguments in favor of the use of vouchers or other mechanisms to support enrollment in private schools as a solution for vulnerable children and families attending local or neighborhood schools, the present study found no evidence that private schools, net of family background (particularly income), are more effective for promoting student success."

"In sum, we find no evidence for policies that would support widespread enrollment in private schools, as a group, as a solution for achievement gaps associated with income or race. In most discussions of such gaps and educational opportunities, it is assumed that poor children attend poor quality schools, and that their families, given resources and flexibility, could choose among the existing supply of private schools to select and then enroll their children in a school that is more effective and a better match for their student's needs. It is not at all clear that this logic holds in the real world of a limited supply of effective schools (both private and public) and the indication that once one accounts for family background, the existing supply of heterogeneous private schools (from which parents select) does not result in a superior education (even for higher income students)."

Pianta and Ansari note in the study that previous research on the impact of school voucher programs "cast doubt on any clear conclusion that private schools are superior in producing student performance."

...because ideology tells us that public education doesn't work.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Hamilton the Lawyer : a review of Alexander Hamilton, and the Development of American Common Law Kate Elizabeth Brown  (CARSON HOLLOWAY, 7/23/18, Law & Liberty)

Brown offers her readers entrée into many forgotten, but nonetheless fascinating and important, questions. For example, as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton had to figure out whether it was possible to pardon a violator of customs law when part of the fine owed by the violator was supposed to be paid to the person who reported the violation.

This is a tricky question. On the one hand, the Constitution empowers the executive to issue pardons. On the other hand, that power was thought to relate to criminal liability only, and not to extend to the private rights of individuals. In other words, a pardon could absolve a man of his punishment--of what has often been called his "debt to society"--but could not relieve him of what he owed to another individual. For did not the customs law give the informant a legal right to his portion of the fine? Hamilton and his colleagues in the executive branch concluded--quite sensibly, and in accord with analogous English practice, as Brown writes--that the pardon could be issued, but conditioned on the pardoned man's paying the informant the latter's portion of the fine.

In another interesting circumstance, Hamilton was confronted with the question whether a municipality could tax the interest on federal securities. The issue arose when William Lowder, the Chairman of Boston's Board of Assessors, wrote to Hamilton, boldly requesting a list of Bostonian holders of federal bonds, so that the city could tax their interest as personal property.

Hamilton's response is surprising, in a way. It is not surprising that he refused to comply, but the reason he gave is perhaps not what we would expect. Hamilton is famous for having anticipated, in his Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, the arguments for a broad reading of the Necessary and Proper Clause that later appeared persuasive to the Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819). The request of the Boston Board of Assessors also gave Hamilton an opportunity to think about a variation on the other issue that later arose in McCulloch: whether a state could tax the activities of the federal government. It is almost certain that Hamilton would have agreed with John Marshall's ruling in McCulloch that a state could not tax the operations of a federally chartered bank, and with Marshall's related ruling in Weston v. Charleston (1829) that a city cannot tax the interest on federal securities. Yet in 1791, Hamilton raised no such constitutional objection to Boston's proposed tax. He simply refused to comply with the Board of Assessors' request on the grounds that it was incompatible with the public credit of the United States and damaging to "the value of the public stock." [...]

His Common Law Conservative Side

Hamilton was also, Brown explains, a defender of an "extensive" interpretation of the common law. The constitution of the state of New York contained a provision receiving, or adopting as law in New York, the common law of Great Britain. This provision forced New York lawyers and courts to ask: What is the common law? Is it merely the sum of the decisions of the courts at Westminster? Or is it the whole English legal inheritance, as expressed in innumerable decisions, built up over centuries, in courts operating across the entire realm? Hamilton took the latter, more "extensive" view; and this, too, defies our usual understanding of him as a kind of centralist. Here, after all, he was contending that the political community's identity is to be found not just in the rulings of its central authority but also in the customs and usages found in its localities.

We are also used to seeing Hamilton as an innovator, the creator of a new financial and economic order. He sought--in opposition to rivals like Thomas Jefferson--an America that left behind its predominantly agrarian character and built up its institutions of finance, industry, and commerce. Nevertheless, Hamilton's veneration of the whole of the common law marks him, again, as a kind of conservative trying to chart a way forward by the light of principles deeply rooted in his civilization's past.

Finally, we quite reasonably consider Hamilton, especially in contrast to Jefferson, to be a defender of public order and the public authority. Hamilton was a revolutionary, but one who worried that the spirit of 1776, if not channeled properly, might habituate people to disobedience and lawlessness. When, in the early 1790s, the Whiskey Rebellion arose in opposition to the excise tax, Hamilton thought the disturbances would in the end have to be suppressed by the threat of force, so everyone could see that the government could not be defied with impunity. (Jefferson tended to view such rebellions, within limits, as a healthy thing in a republic.)

July 26, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Before the Fall of the Roman Republic, Income Inequality and Xenophobia Threatened Its Foundations: In a new book, history podcaster Mike Duncan describes what preceded Caesar's rise to Emperor (Lorraine Boissoneault, 11/16/17, SMITHSONIAN.COM)

One topic you describe at length is economic inequality between citizens of Rome. How did that come about?

After Rome conquers Carthage, and after they decide to annex Greece, and after they conquer Spain and acquire all the silver mines, you have wealth on an unprecedented scale coming into Rome. The flood of wealth was making the richest of the rich Romans wealthier than would've been imaginable even a couple generations earlier. You're talking literally 300,000 gold pieces coming back with the Legions. All of this is being concentrated in the hands of the senatorial elite, they're the consuls and the generals, so they think it's natural that it all accumulates in their hands.

At the same time, these wars of conquest were making the poor quite a bit poorer. Roman citizens were being hauled off to Spain or Greece, leaving for tours that would go on for three to five years a stretch. While they were gone, their farms in Italy would fall into disrepair. The rich started buying up big plots of land. In the 130s and 140s you have this process of dispossession, where the poorer Romans are being bought out and are no longer small citizen owners. They're going to be tenant owners or sharecroppers and it has a really corrosive effect on the traditional ways of economic life and political life. As a result, you see this skyrocketing economic inequality. 

Do you see parallels between land ownership in Rome and in the modern United States?

In the Roman experience, this is the beginning of a 100-year-long process of Italy going from being a patchwork of smaller farms with some large estates to nothing but sprawling, commercially-oriented estates. And yes, the United States is continuing to go through a very similar process. At the founding of our republic, everybody's a farmer, and now everything is owned by what, Monsanto?

Moving beyond just strictly agricultural companies, large American corporations are now employing more and more people. There seems to be this move away from people owning and operating their own establishments, and they're instead being consumed by large entities. You're talking about the Amazons of the world swallowing up so much of the market share, it just doesn't pay to be a clerk in a bookstore or own a bookstore, you end up being a guy working in a warehouse, and it's not as good of a job. 

Could the Roman senators have done anything to prevent land being consolidated in the hands of the few?

It doesn't really feel like they could've arrested the process. Fifteen years after some land bill, you'd ask, "Who has the land? The poor?" No, they all just got bought up again. There never was a good political solution to it. The problem of these small citizen farmers was not solved until 100 years later when they simply ceased to exist. 

If the Senate couldn't solve that one problem, could they have prevented the end of the Republic?

There were things that could have been done to arrest the political collapse. People felt like the state was no longer working for them, that the Assemblies and Senate weren't passing laws for the benefit of anyone but a small group of elites. This resentment was threatening the legitimacy of the Republic in the eyes of many citizens.

Even if they couldn't necessarily stop the acquisition of these huge properties or estates, there were other reforms they could've made to transition people from one version of economic reality to another: providing free grain for the cities, providing jobs building roads, trying to find places for these people to do economically meaningful work that's going to allow them to make enough to support their families.

So why didn't they take action and make those reforms?

The Gracchi wanted to reform the Republican system, but they also wanted to use those issues--economic inequality, grain for the plebs--to acquire political power for themselves. [Rival senators] believed this was going be terrible. If the Gracchi had been able to pass all of these popular pieces of legislation, they would have had more influence, and that was something their political rivals could not abide by. It created a desire to defeat the Gracchi above all. Old rules of conduct didn't matter, unspoken norms weren't as important as simply stopping the Gracchi from getting a win.

When Tiberius Gracchus introduced the Lex Agraria [to redistribute land back to poorer citizens], the Senate hired a tribune to veto it. This had never happened before. A tribune was supposed to be a defender of the people, and this was a popular bill. If it came to a vote, it was going to pass. It was not illegal what he was doing, but it was completely unprecedented, and this led Tiberius Gracchus to respond with his own measures, saying, "I'm going to put my seal on the state treasury so no business can be transacted." [Tiberius was later murdered by the senators.] The issues themselves almost ceased to be as important as making sure your political rival didn't get a victory.

This is really what crippled the Senate. It's 100 years of focusing on internal power dynamics instead of enlightened reform that caused the whole Republic to collapse. 

When did this in-fighting start to threaten the republic?

It starts to fail after the imperial triumphs [over rival nations]. With Rome being the most powerful nation in the Mediterranean world, and senatorial families controlling unimaginable wealth, there wasn't any kind of foreign check on their behavior. There was no threat making the Senate collectively say, "We need to stay together and can't let our internal fights get out of hand because that will leave us weak in the face of our enemies." They didn't have that existential fear anymore.

The other big thing is, with a new style of popular politics, you start having way more confrontations. Roman politics until about 146 B.C. was built upon consensus. By the period of my book, it becomes a politics of conflict. People start ignoring the old unspoken ways of doing business and the whole thing rolled down hill till it was warlords crashing into each other. 

...that using capitalist means to transfer wealth to the broad populace gives the potentially most alienated members of society a vested interest in its continued success.  In being progressive it is the great mechanism of conservatizing the electorate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:13 PM


Republicans Voted to Block Jeff Sessions' Attacks on Asylum-Seekers Fleeing Domestic Violence (NOAH LANARD, JUL. 26, 2018, Mother Jones)

A bipartisan group of representatives in Congress voted on Wednesday to block part of the Trump administration's latest attack on migrants entering the country as asylum-seekers. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used his control over America's immigration court system to rule that people fleeing domestic and gang violence will rarely be eligible for asylum. On Wednesday afternoon, the House appropriations committee voted across party lines to block the Department of Homeland Security from using any funds to implement Sessions' decision, which is known as "Matter of A-B-." [...]

"It's a rebuke from the Congress to the attorney general for his interpretation set forth in Matter of A-B-," says Gregory Chen, the director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association,  a group that represents more than 15,000 attorneys and law professors. "And that is a significant step to recognize, even if it's just at the committee level."

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), who introduced the amendment, said on Wednesday that there was "no doubt" that Sessions' decision "diminishes the already limited likelihood" that people fleeing gang and domestic violence will receive protection in the United States. "We're not going to let this draconian directive stand," he said.

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) joined Rep. David Price in supporting the measure. "As the son of a social worker, I have great compassion for those victims of domestic violence anywhere," he said, "especially as it concerns those nations that turn a blind eye to the crimes of domestic violence." Yoder cited his vote for the Violence Against Women Act as one of the reasons why he was backing the measure. (In 2013, Sessions was one of 22 Republican senators who voted against reauthorizing that law.)

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Meadows backs off impeaching Rosenstein after leadership talks (OLIVIA BEAVERS, 07/26/18, The Hill)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) says he is tabling his efforts to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after having several meetings with Republican leadership, stating that he would instead pursue contempt if the Justice Department (DOJ) does not turn over documents Congress is seeking. 

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Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


Coca-Cola says it's raising soda prices after Trump tariffs (EMILY BIRNBAUM, 07/25/18, The Hill)

Coca-Cola Company on Wednesday said they will raise the price of their signature sodas this year in part because of the financial strain caused by President Trump's tariffs. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Jonah Goldberg's Burkean Turn: His latest book is a flawed but valuable warning not to forsake our national inheritance. (MATT PURPLE, July 26, 2018, American Conservative)

Reading Goldberg's Suicide of the West, one is struck by its similarities to another book: Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now. Both Goldberg and Pinker--the former occasionally cites the latter--defend the fruits of modernity against what they see as an epidemic of ingratitude. We live in the wealthiest, freest country in the wealthiest, freest time in the history of the world, yet we're nonetheless restless, unthankful. But whereas Pinker's view of the modern West is durable and determinist--a thundering wave of progress that scatters objectors like so much chum--Goldberg sees it as delicate and precarious, easily shattered by a sudden move in the wrong direction. It is also unnatural, a contrast to "the natural state of mankind" that Goldberg characterizes as "grinding poverty punctuated by horrific violence terminating with an early death." We escaped that muddy prison almost by accident, thanks to the triumph of liberal ideas evolved tortuously over centuries until they came to full blossom in Great Britain. And our return to incarceration is still very much a possibility.

It should be obvious that Goldberg, one of the Right's most sulphurous Donald Trump critics, sees the president as on the wrong side of this battle. But it is in all of our mirrors, not just Trump's gold-framed one, that he spots the agent of our destruction. Human nature itself is forever beckoning us out of the modern world, back into our primordial state. The Christians call it the Fall, Kant lamented the "crooked timber of humanity," Madison more innocently observed that men aren't angels. However you characterize our innate potential for evil, Goldberg worries it might yet tear down all that we've accomplished. He's particularly bothered over tribalism, our tendency to fracture into antagonistic identity groups, which he sees as a deeply embedded feature in man's nature. Classical liberalism requires a suspension of this tribal instinct so that man is governed as an individual, not a member of a group or class. Today, though, tribalism is reasserting itself. Goldberg sees this both on the Right with the Trump phenomenon and the Left with its unbending creed of identity politics.

The battle lines, then, don't so much track between Trump and social justice warriors, opposite sides of the same coin so far as Goldberg is concerned. They run between those who seek to defend our liberal traditions and those who yearn to tear them down in pursuit of an Atlantis mirage masking a barbarian past. This divide is chronological: the greatest change ever in political affairs came at the end of the 17th century, when the Glorious Revolution affirmed the primacy of Britain's parliament, John Locke published his Second Treatise on Government, and man began a rapid ascent out of poverty. Goldberg refers to this unbelievable stroke of good fortune as "the Miracle." The divide also manifests itself in modern philosophy. Goldberg's historical villains are the Romantics, inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom he pits against Locke and figures of the Enlightenment. Whereas Rousseauians believe that "man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains," Lockeans contend that society keeps man free by protecting his rights; whereas Rousseauians demand that man conform to a collectivized "general will," Lockeans see the individual as the necessary political unit.

It is from Rousseau that we get Marxist utopias and reactionary theocracies--excuses, really, for the brutal rule of one tribe over another, while the Lockeans find their paramount expression in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Suicide of the West, then, is at its heart an apologetic for the American project against those who view it as incurably diseased. That and Goldberg's contention that the United States can be ruined only from within, not by a foreign enemy such as the Soviet Union, distinguish this Suicide from its Cold War-era namesake. Goldberg doesn't get around to mentioning Burnham until page 115, whereupon he quickly (and correctly) dismisses him as too enamored with the politics of power rather than the power of ideas. Ideas, Goldberg counters, can change the world, just as Enlightenment insights did three centuries ago. This intellectual tradition is our supreme inheritance, the best political arrangement we will ever have, and in need of preservation lest it be displaced.

To his credit, Mr. Goldberg dislikes the title.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


The Conservative Case for Universal Healthcare: Why in five years, the American right will embrace socialized medicine. (CHASE MADAR • July 25, 2017, American Conservative)

Don't tell anyone, but American conservatives will soon be embracing single-payer healthcare, or some other form of socialized healthcare.

Yes, that's a bold claim given that a GOP-controlled Congress and President are poised to un-socialize a great deal of healthcare, and may even pull it off. But within five years, plenty of Republicans will be loudly supporting or quietly assenting to universal Medicare.

And that's a good thing, because socializing healthcare is the only demonstrably effective way to control costs and cover everyone. It results in a healthier country and it saves a ton of money.

That may seem offensively counterintuitive. It's generally assumed that universal healthcare will by definition cost more.

In fact, in every first-world nation that has socialized medicine-whether it be  a heavily regulated multi-insurer system like Germany, single-payer like Canada, or a purely socialized system like the United Kingdom--it costs less. A lot, lot less, in fact: While healthcare eats up nearly 18 percent of U.S. GDP, for other nations, from Australia and Canada to Germany and Japan, the figure hovers around 11 percent. (It's no wonder that smarter capitalists like Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway are bemoaning the drag on U.S. firm competitiveness from high healthcare costs.) Nor are healthcare results in America anything to brag about: lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and poor scores on a wide range of important public health indicators.

...since they build personal wealth.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Trump Just Called Off His Trade War With Europe. Score One for the Globalists. (JORDAN WEISSMANN, JULY 25, 2018, Slate)

No new tariffs while negotiating a new trade deal: It sounds a lot like Trump has agreed to restart negotiations on something akin to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal that collapsed in 2016. Meanwhile, Germany no longer has to worry about Trump rear-ending its auto-industry with tariffs. Result: win-win.

Unwinding the steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliatory tariffs by Europe: Again, this just involves pushing reset on some of Trump's more aggro trade moves.

Europe buys more soybeans: It's not entirely clear to me how Juncker is going to arrange this, since the European Commission is a bureaucratic body that isn't typically in the business of purchasing overseas commodities, but either way, it's a nice olive branch that probably won't cost buyers in France or Germany much given that U.S. soybean prices are globally competitive. It does give Trump an opportunity to say he's looking out for American soybean farmers whose products have been hit with heavy tariffs in China, however, so he gets a PR victory.

Europe buys more natural gas: During the press conference, Juncker said that the EU would build more terminals to import liquified natural gas from the United States. But it's unclear what that means, exactly. Europe has already started purchasing more gas from the U.S. in recent years, and the commission president's statement left a good deal of ambiguity about what exactly would change.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


FBI Would've Been Derelict Not to Use Steele Dossier for the Carter Page FISA Warrant (Daniel S. Goldman, Barbara McQuade, Miriam Rocah, July 25, 2018, Brennan Center)

One source upon which many of these critiques rely (including those of President Donald Trump) is Andrew C. McCarthy, who, like the three authors, is a former federal prosecutor. On Fox News and in the National Review, McCarthy makes three primary arguments: (1) the so-called Steele dossier was "the driving force behind the Trump-Russia investigation"; (2) the FISA court was not told that the Clinton campaign was behind Steele's work; and (3) the FBI did not "verify" the factual allegations contained in the dossier.  

McCarthy's first two points should be quickly dismissed. The first Page FISA application [...] was not obtained until October 2016, well after the Trump-Russia investigation began and even after Page himself had left the campaign.  McCarthy (and Trump) attempt to pinpoint the Page FISA application as the central reason for the initiation of the Trump-Russia investigation in a sleight-of-hand attempt to discredit the investigation, but the facts just don't support that assertion. 

The facts also do not support McCarthy's second point (one that Congressman Devin Nunes misleadingly emphasized in his infamous memo about the warrant): that the FISA court was not informed about the Clinton campaign's financial support for Christopher Steele's work. In fact, the original application included more than a one-page footnote extensively informing the court about the fact that Steele was hired essentially to dig up dirt on Donald Trump, which more than adequately informs a court of his potential bias. Whether the Clinton campaign was the source of the payments -- which Steele has testified before Congress that he did not know, because he was retained by Fusion GPS -- is irrelevant to the substance of the disclosure of potential bias.  Nothing more is required or necessary in a warrant application than revealing the fact of a source's potential for bias.  

The third point, and the crux of McCarthy's argument, is that the FBI did not properly "verify" the information in the application, which is a technical requirement in a FISA application. McCarthy claims that the FBI was not permitted to rely solely on hearsay information provided by Steele, its source of information, but rather was required to test the credibility of, and reliance on, each sub-source who gave information to Steele.  But that is simply not what is required in FISA applications (or criminal wiretap applications), and in particular under the Woods Procedures that govern FISA applications. Under FISA, "verification" simply requires both the FBI and lawyers in the Department of Justice to verify that the facts as set forth in the affidavit are supported by evidence obtained as part of the investigation. That does not mean, however, that the FBI is required, for example, to travel to Russia to interview a sub-source to confirm that the sub-source actually did tell Steele what Steele reported to the FBI. That, of course, almost certainly would not be possible. It is therefore not surprising that McCarthy cites no authority for his assertion that such a step is required. 

The reason why hearsay information is permitted in warrant applications is simple: It is hard enough for law enforcement to develop sources who can infiltrate criminal organizations or foreign threats to our national security. If the FBI were required to not only learn of the information from its own sources but also confirm that information with the sub-sources, it would not be able to do its job. Instead, the FBI is legally entitled to rely upon the assertions of a previously credible source, such as Steele, in relaying information from other sub-sources to whom the FBI does not have direct access.      

Our nation's law permits this process because the standard for a warrant such as this one is probable cause, not the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt that applies in a criminal trial. McCarthy characterizes the FISA application to include "serious, traitorous allegations against an American citizen and, derivatively, an American presidential campaign." That is wrong. The FISA application made no such allegations nor did it charge Page with a crime or violation of law. Rather, in order to further investigate credible allegations of wrongdoing, the FISA application simply provided evidence that there was probable cause to believe that Carter Page was an agent of a foreign power and may have, or may be about to, commit violations of criminal law. 

Probable cause means a "fair probability." It is more than a "mere suspicion" but far less than the "reasonable doubt" standard required to convict someone of a crime. While information from a source such as Steele's more than meets this probable cause standard, that is clearly not all that the warrant relied upon. Just from what we can see in unredacted form -- and the majority of the application is redacted -- it also walks through Page's interactions several years ago with Russians who were eventually charged with being agents of Russian intelligence. McCarthy somehow claims that he knows that the redacted sections do not corroborate or add to Steele's information. But he misses the point. Even if the specific details in the Steele dossier are not directly confirmed, the fact that other evidence unrelated to the dossier corroborates the dossier's main allegations is sufficient to support a finding of probable cause. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


'I'm not going to be a punching bag anymore': Inside Michael Cohen's break with Trump (Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker, July 25, 2018, Washington Post)

In the nearly four months since FBI agents raided his office, home and hotel room, Cohen has felt wounded and abandoned by Trump, waiting for calls or even a signal of support that never came. Cohen got frustrated when Trump started talking about him in the past tense, panicked last month when he thought the president no longer cared about his plight, and became furious when Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani contradicted some of his accounts, according to his associates.

In Cohen's gravest hour, as one associate described it, Trump was "leaving him out in the wilderness."

The result is open warfare between attorney and former client. Cohen has chosen to morph from Trump's pugnacious defender to a truth-teller without regard for any possible political or legal ramifications for the president, according to Lanny Davis, one of Cohen's attorneys.

"He had to hit a reset button," Davis said in an interview. "He had to say he respected the FBI. He had to say he believed the intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election. He had to describe the Trump Tower meeting as extremely poor judgment at best. And, ultimately, he said, 'I'm not going to be a punching bag anymore,' which he had been when he said, 'I'll take a bullet.'"

Cohen's actions appear to be driven more by his outrage over the president's indifference and feelings of betrayal -- coupled with the personal and financial weight of the criminal case being assembled by federal prosecutors -- than by a legal strategy to help his case. [...]

Inside the White House, Trump raged about the release of his and Cohen's September 2016 conversation about financing the deal with McDougal, a former Playboy model, to sell the rights to her story of an alleged 10-month affair with Trump to American Media Inc., the owner of the National Enquirer, which never published her account. [...]

The government has seized more than 100 recordings that Cohen made of his conversations with people discussing matters that could relate to Trump and his businesses and with Trump himself talking, according to two people familiar with the recordings. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Sharp Increase In Gun Suicides Signals Growing Public Health Crisis (BRIAN MANN, 7/26/18, NPR Morning Edition)

The conversation around gun violence in the U.S. usually focuses on homicides, urban crime and mass shootings. But the overwhelming majority of gun deaths in America don't involve bad guys with guns. They're caused by people deliberately harming themselves. In fact, Paugh's harrowing experience echoes again and again across America, with more than 60 gun-suicides every day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's best data, from 2006 through 2016, show that roughly 218,000 Americans ended their lives using a firearm over that period.

"I believe we have a major public health crisis that we're not doing nearly enough about," said Jennifer Stuber, policy director of Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington, which works to educate people in gun culture about the risks of firearm suicide. [...]

Suicide attempts are fairly common, Nestadt said, but usually they're unsuccessful. The data show that having a gun available in the home or workplace make those attempts at self-harm far more likely to succeed.

"A firearm ends in death in a suicide attempt about 85 percent of the time, compared to something like poisoning, which only ends in death about 2 percent of the time," he said.

Researchers say suicide tends to be a highly impulsive act. Studies show that if you can limit access to the deadliest means of self-harm, like a pistol or a shotgun, the moment of crisis will often pass quickly. People contemplating suicide usually won't go looking for another way to hurt themselves. Also, people who survive a suicide attempt, after using less lethal means, rarely try again.

Another important finding in Nestadt's research and other studies shows that the people most at risk of gun suicide tend to be white men in America's small towns. That means they're the people most deeply attached to gun culture.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Is the Amazon effect behind low inflation? (Deutsche-Welle, 7/26/18)

The Japanese central bank has a problem. For years, it has been flooding the financial markets with crazy amounts of money. The goal is to drive inflation higher, to meet its target of around 2 percent. But so far it has had little success on this front. In June, inflation in Japan hovered at 0.8 percent.   

From the point of view of the central bank, this rate, which is still comfortably high, is largely due to the climb in global crude prices. Without it, the price rise was a mere 0.2 percent, a level that's perilously close to deflation -- a situation that central bankers fear and desperately try to avoid as it can trigger a vicious cycle of falling prices and declining investment that can ultimately result in a severe recession.

But this isn't only a problem in Japan. In other regions of the world, central banks are also working diligently to push inflation up toward their target value. The European Central Bank (ECB), for instance, will continue to buy bonds worth €30 billion ($35 billion) every month until at least September. Despite their efforts, ECB chief Mario Draghi and his lieutenants have so far been unsuccessful in this regard, with core inflation in the eurozone remaining well below 2 percent.

July 25, 2018

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Putin's Soccer Ball for Trump Had Transmitter Chip, Logo Indicates (Vernon Silver, July 25, 2018, Bloomberg)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's gift of a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump last week set off a chorus of warnings -- some of them only half in jest -- that the World Cup souvenir could be bugged. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham even tweeted, "I'd check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House."

It turns out they weren't entirely wrong. Markings on the ball indicate that it contained a chip with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Truck drivers are overtired, overworked and underpaid (Michael Belzer, 7/25/18, The Conversation)

A 2010 survey by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed that, on average, long-haul truck drivers work 50 percent more hours than typical workers and regularly violate U.S. regulations limiting commercial driver work hours for safety reasons.

Long working hours and intense economic pressure are important to everyday motorists, because the truck driver's workplace is everyone's roadway. Trucking casualties claim not only the lives of truck drivers, but a significant number of other roadway users - pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobile drivers and passengers. In 2015, 3,836 people lost their lives in heavy vehicle crashes in the U.S.

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


Poll: Dems lead GOP by 12 points in generic House ballot (JACQUELINE THOMSEN, 07/25/18, The Hill)

Democrats hold a 12-point lead over Republicans on a generic House ballot a little more than three months before the November midterm elections, according to a new poll.

Democratic candidates were favored over Republican candidates 51 percent to 39 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The poll found that while Republicans and Democrats largely backed their own parties, 50 percent of independent voters would vote for Democrats, while 33 percent of independents backed GOP candidates.

If the GOP won't hold Donald accountable America will.

Posted by orrinj at 2:36 PM


Closed Loophole Confirms the Unreality of the Quantum World (Anil Ananthaswamy, July 25, 2018, quanta)

The theoretical physicist John Wheeler once used the phrase "great smoky dragon" to describe a particle of light going from a source to a photon counter. "The mouth of the dragon is sharp, where it bites the counter. The tail of the dragon is sharp, where the photon starts," Wheeler wrote. The photon, in other words, has definite reality at the beginning and end. But its state in the middle -- the dragon's body -- is nebulous. "What the dragon does or looks like in between we have no right to speak."

Wheeler was espousing the view that elementary quantum phenomena are not real until observed, a philosophical position called anti-realism. He even designed an experiment to show that if you hold on to realism -- in which quantum objects such as photons always have definite, intrinsic properties, a position that encapsulates a more classical view of reality -- then one is forced to concede that the future can influence the past. Given the absurdity of backward time-travel, Wheeler's experiment became an argument for anti-realism at the level of the quantum.

But in May, Rafael Chaves and colleagues at the International Institute of Physics in Natal, Brazil, found a loophole. They showed that Wheeler's experiment, given certain assumptions, can be explained using a classical model that attributes to a photon an intrinsic nature. They gave the dragon a well-defined body, but one that is hidden from the mathematical formalism of standard quantum mechanics.

Chaves's team then proposed a twist to Wheeler's experiment to test the loophole. With unusual alacrity, three teams raced to do the modified experiment. Their results, reported in early June, have shown that a class of classical models that advocate realism cannot make sense of the results.

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


New Canadians are injecting vigour into the country's religious life: Religions gather strength as they cross the ocean (Erasmus, Jul 25th 2018, The Economist)

As in many western countries, the share of Canadian citizens who call themselves Christian is in long-term decline. Those who profess "no religion" (which does not necessarily mean an indifference to the spiritual) is rising. But compared with people born in Canada, newcomers to the country are much more likely to practise a faith, regardless of whether they were devout back in the homeland. Young immigrants are more inclined to engage in regular worship than their parents. And whatever they believe or practise, new Canadians seem to have a more positive attitude towards religion than longer-established ones. A poll commissioned this summer by Cardus, a think-tank, found that 57% of immigrants thought religion-based organisations had a good effect on society, while only 36% of Canadians in general held that view.

The results of all this are tangible in Vancouver, a port that attracts upwardly-mobile migrants from across the Pacific as well as Canadians from farther east who may be searching for a less conventional lifestyle. The city's Catholic churches are now packed. At popular mass times, it is hard to find room to sit or kneel. But the sermon will probably be in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.  

Without the influx of pious Filipinos, it would be a different story. According to Pavel Reid of the Catholic archdiocese of Vancouver, the church would be closing parishes (as is the case elsewhere in Canada) were it not for the new arrivals from a land which is 80% Catholic. "Fifty years ago it was common to set up 'ethnic' parishes...but every parish is a Filipino parish now," he says.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


White House May Have Broken Federal Law by Doctoring Trump-Putin Video (Ronn Blitzer, July 25th, 2018< Law & Crime)

One of the most damning moments in President Donald Trump's joint press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin no longer happened. At least, that's how it would appear if you go by the official White House records of the event.

At one point in the presser, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Putin, "President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?"

"Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal," Putin responded.

The White House's transcript of the event leaves out the first part of Mason's question, about wanting Trump to win the election. [...]

What cannot be quite as easily explained is why the beginning of Mason's question was edited out of the video of the event posted on the White House's YouTube channel. Around the 2:18:23 mark of the video, Putin finishes his previous response, and the next question from Mason does not include that part where he asked about whether Putin wanted Trump to win.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


This Former British Spy Exposed the Russian Hackers (HALEY BYRD, July 25, 2018, weekly Standard)

On Friday, July 13, the Justice Department charged 12 Russian military intelligence officials with hacking Democratic National Committee (DNC) email servers as well as leaking stolen documents to outlets such as WikiLeaks, in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Among those least surprised by the charges was former British spy Matt Tait.

I first met Tait in the fall of 2017, when he was in Washington, D.C., to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The cheerful, lanky 29-year-old does not look or act like someone who is being carefully watched by both U.S. and Russian intelligence communities, nor like someone who has traveled the world as a consultant for technology companies and spent four years working at the U.K.'s top digital intelligence agency.

Despite his modest demeanor, Tait was a key player in deciphering Russian election interference. On June 15, 2016, when the first trove of stolen documents from the DNC was leaked online under the pseudonym Guccifer 2.0; before the FBI launched an investigation into election interference; and before the U.S. intelligence community attributed the cyberattacks to the Russian government, Tait used publicly available information to compile incriminating evidence of metadata and technical slip-ups against the Russian intelligence agency GRU, concluding that the attack bore the hallmarks of a classic Russian influence campaign.

God bless the Mother country.

Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM


America's Most and Least Popular Governors (CAMERON EASLEY, July 25, 2018, Morning Consult)

The popularity of Republican governors in solidly blue Northeastern states has been a thematic mainstay of Morning Consult's quarterly Governor Approval Rankings since their launch in 2016.

The Republican Party is not Right.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


For Russian business, Putin's summit win over Trump turns sour (Polina Devitt, Andrew Osborn, 7/25/18, Reuters) 

Russia's political and business leaders were quick to chalk up last week's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump as a victory for Vladimir Putin. Now some fear Putin may have overplayed a winning hand and are bracing for a U.S. sanctions backlash. [...]

While the sanctions proposed by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Bob Menendez were seen by most political risk analysts as unlikely in the near term, new curbs contemplated by other U.S. lawmakers targeting the energy and metals sectors are more realistic, they say.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


To understand fossils, scientists are baking their own: How to condense a 10,000 year cooking time into 24 hours. (Erin Blakemore, 7/25/18, Popular Science)

You'll need an organism--preferably one with hard bones or a shell. Add fine-grained sediment and rapid burial and in 10,000 years or so, you'll be well on your way to a deliciously durable fossil.

It's a cooking project that can only take place in Earth's test kitchen, and the baking time is admittedly long. But what if there were a quicker way--think microwave instead of slow cooker? A group of paleontologists think they've discovered a way that upends tradition and could give others in the field new insights into the way things fossilize. They published a paper on their method today in the journal Paleontology. [...]

For the less patient, there's a new option: "bake" fossils by packing the work of tens of thousands of years into a 24-hour period.

Field Museum researcher Evan Saitta and his colleagues call their method "sediment-encased maturation," and it involves pressing samples into clay tablets which are then baked in an oven at 3500 psi--about the pressure of a professional-grade power washer, and roughly equivalent to the pressure of rock in the shallow parts of Earth's crust, where fossils are found. The result looks and acts like a real-life fossil. They tested the method on feathers, lizards, and leaves.

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Syrian pilot killed when warplane shot down by Israel: source (Reuters, 7/25/18)

The pilot of a Syrian warplane which Israel said on Tuesday it had shot down was killed, and the plane crashed in Islamic State-held Syrian territory near the Israeli-occupied Golan heights, a non-Syrian source close to Damascus told Reuters.
A shooting war between Bibi and Baby would be ideal, as it would destabilize both regimes.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


The Trump Administration Just Took a Sincere Step to Fix a Piece of Obamacare (JORDAN WEISSMANN, JULY 25, 2018, Slate)

On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a new version of the regulation governing Obamacare's risk-adjustment system, which stabilizes the individual insurance markets by redistributing money from carriers with unusually healthy customers to those with unusually sick customers. Earlier this month, the government had unexpectedly halted payments under the program, claiming that it had to do so because a federal district court judge in New Mexico had struck down the government's risk-adjustment formula in February. (It's worth noting that the judge's decision was particularly nit-picky, essentially concluding that the government hadn't sufficiently justified a piece of the formula in writing during the official rule-making process.) Insurance companies warned that the move could eventually push premiums higher by throwing more uncertainty into the market. The new interim final rule is designed to address some of the court's concerns and allow the risk-adjustment money to flow as normal.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Artificial intelligence outperforms the repetitive animal tests in identifying toxic chemicals (Thomas Hartung, 7/25/18, The Conversation)

Our computerized testing is possible because of Europe's REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorizations and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation: It was the first worldwide regulation to systematical log existing industrial chemicals. Over a period of one decade from 2008 to 2018, at least those chemicals produced or marketed at more than 1 ton per year in Europe had to be registered with increasing safety test information depending on the quantity sold.

Our team published a critical analysis of European testing demands in 2009 that concluded the demands of the legislation could only be met by adopting new methods of chemical analysis. Europe does not track new chemicals below an annual market or production volume of 1 ton. But the similar size U.S. chemical industry brings about 1,000 chemicals at this tonnage range to the market each year. However, Europe does a much better job in requesting safety data. This also highlights how many new substances should be assessed every year even when they are produced in small quantities below 1 ton, which are not regulated in Europe. Inexpensive and fast computer methods lend themselves to this purpose.

Our group took advantage of the fact that REACH made its safety data on registered chemicals publicly available. In 2016, we reformatted the REACH data, making it machine-readable and creating the largest toxicological database ever. It logged 10,000 chemicals and connected them to the 800,000 associated studies.

This laid the foundation for testing whether animals tests - considered the gold standard for safety testing - were reproducible. Some chemicals were tested surprisingly often in the same animal test. For example, two chemicals were tested more than 90 times in rabbit eyes; 69 chemicals were tested more than 45 times. This enormous waste of animals, however, enabled us to study whether these animal tests yielded consistent results.

Our analysis showed that these tests, which consume more than 2 million animals per year worldwide, are simply not very reliable - when tested in animals a chemical known to be toxic is only proven so in about 70 percent of repeated animal tests. These were animal tests done according to OECD test guidelines under Good Laboratory Practice - which is to say, the best you can get. This clearly shows that the quality of these tests is overrated and agencies must try alternative strategies to assess the toxicity of various compounds.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Pro-Confederate Birther Introduced Maria Butina's Handler to NRA Chief: The unlikely union of the American gun-rights movement and Moscow starts with G. Kline Preston IV, a Tennessee attorney who says he'd like Vladimir Putin to run the U.S government. (BETSY WOODRUFF, ADAM RAWNSLEY, SPENCER ACKERMAN, 07.24.18 , Daily Beast)

The first American to introduce two of the major players at the heart of a shocking Russian spy scandal has such deep ties to Moscow that he has doubted Barack Obama's American citizenship in the course of demonstrating his affinity for Vladimir Putin.

"As long as U.S. is electing foreign-born presidents," tweeted Tennessee attorney G. Kline Preston IV in 2013, "I propose Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin."

Two years later, at a rally featuring soon-to-be-President Donald Trump, Preston tweeted: "Donald Trump today in Nashville. He is a friend of Russia." He wrote the message in Russian.

In other words, at the very beginning of what appears to be an audacious geopolitical gambit to pivot the American right in Moscow's direction is a birther who has explicitly stated a preference for Vladimir Putin to run the United States of America. He's also something of a Confederate enthusiast, according to his Facebook activity. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Spotting CNN on a TV Aboard Air Force One, Trump Rages Against Reality (Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, July 24, 2018, NY Times)

On the first couple's recent trip overseas, Melania Trump's television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

He raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox -- his preferred network over what he considers the "fake news" CNN -- and caused "a bit of a stir" aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times. The email, an internal exchange between officials in the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency last Thursday, also called for the ordering of two additional televisions to support Beam, a TiVo-like streaming device, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel.

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.

The channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative. As his aides work to keep him insulated from the outside world, Mr. Trump is doubling down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.

Reality is the enemy of the Right/Left.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Cohen Releases Tape of Trump, Inflaming Feud (Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Jim Rutenberg, July 25, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Cohen is heard telling Mr. Trump that he will need to set up a company to arrange the payments.

Mr. Trump then asked, "What financing?"

"We'll have to pay," Mr. Cohen said.

Mr. Trump then appears to say, "Pay with cash."

Mr. Cohen then says, "No, no."

The word "check" is uttered, but it is not clear by whom, and the audio is then cut off.

Lanny J. Davis, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen and a longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, told The New York Times on Tuesday night that Mr. Cohen released the tape because he is "on a new path -- it's a reset button to tell the truth and to let the chips fall where they may."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Do heat waves fuel domestic violence? (MANUEL ANSEDE, 25 JUL 2018, El Pais)

Over this period, 23 women were killed by their current or former partners; 38,000 police complaints were filed for gender violence, and 61,000 calls were made to the 016 helpline for victims of domestic abuse. Published in Science of the Total Environment, the study, called "Heat wave and the risk of intimate partner violence," shows that for every degree that a given day's highest temperature goes over the 34ºC threshold, intimate partner femicides rise by 28.8%.

According to sociologist Carmen Vives, co-author of the report and president of the Spanish Epidemiology Society, "we have established a link between high temperatures and the killing of women that is sufficiently significant to be taken into account when devising alerts and protection protocols for heat waves."

July 24, 2018

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Half Of U.S. Voters Say Russians Have Something On Trump (Quinnipiac University Polling, 7/24/18)

American voters believe 51 - 35 percent "that the Russian government has compromising information about President Trump," according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. 

Republicans don't believe 70 - 18 percent there is compromising information, the only listed party, gender, education, age or racial group which does not believe it, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll finds.  [...]

The Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was a failure for the U.S., voters say 52 - 27 percent. The summit was a success for Russia, voters say 73 - 8 percent.  [...]

President Trump should defend all of America's NATO allies, American voters say 78 - 16 percent. 

A total of 68 percent of American voters are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about President Trump's relationship with Russia, while 32 percent are "not so concerned" or "not concerned at all." 

American voters give President Trump a negative 38 - 58 percent job approval rating, compared to a negative 43 - 52 percent rating in a June 20 Quinnipiac University Poll after the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

...don't think Putin "has something on him" even if it's a video with a dead hooker and a live boy.

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A New Law Shifts Israel Away From Democracy (ILENE PRUSHER, 7/24/18, TIME)

For 70 years, Israel has been sitting on a contradiction.

From the time its founders inked their Declaration of Independence in the shadow of war against Arab neighbors, Israel defined itself as a Jewish state--one that gave Jews a safe haven after the horrors of the Second World War. But the country's foundational document signed in May 1948 also promised that Israel would "ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." It guaranteed "freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture."

Seven decades later, it has become harder than ever for Israel to strike a balance between being a Jewish state and promising equal rights to all. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just tipped the scales--or rather, yanked them--in the direction of promoting the state's Jewish character. It's not clear that the equality outlined in the founders' vision statement remains a goal. It's certainly far from reality.

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"It's not the recording that is valuable," one person said. "It's the backstory." Another person close to Cohen said that he was privy to information that could be valuable to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2016 election. "When Michael says that he wants the truth out there, and that the truth is not the president's friend, he is not talking about marginal issues. He's talking about core issues at the heart of the Mueller probe," this person continued. Three people familiar with the situation believe that Cohen has discussed information about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, during which Don Jr., Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who promised to provide them with "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

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Are Things Getting Better or Worse?: Why assessing the state of the world is harder than it sounds. (Joshua Rothman, 7/24/18, The New Yorker)

Branko Milanović grew up in Yugoslavia, during the nineteen-sixties and seventies. He became an economist at the World Bank and then a professor at cuny; on his blog, Globalinequality, he discusses economics and reminisces about the past. Recently, he published a post about his youth. He had been reading histories of the postwar decades, by Svetlana Alexievich, Tony Judt, and others. Faced with these grim accounts, Milanović felt protective of his past. "However hard I tried," he wrote, "I just could not see anything in my memories that had to deal with collectivization, killings, political trials, endless bread lines, imprisoned free thinkers," and so on. Instead, he had mainly good memories--of "long dinners discussing politics," the "excitement of new books," "languid sunsets, whole-night concerts, epic soccer games, girls in miniskirts." He worried that, with the passage of time, it was becoming harder to imagine life under Communism as anything other than a desperate struggle with deprivation and repression. He titled his post "How I Lost My Past."

Was the past good or bad? Are we on the right track or the wrong one? Is life getting better or worse? These questions are easy to ask--pollsters and politicians love asking them--but surprisingly hard to answer. Most historical and statistical evidence shows that life used to be shorter, sicker, poorer, more dangerous, and less free. Yet many people, like Milanović, have fond memories of bygone years, and wonder if reports of their awfulness have been exaggerated. Others concede that life used to be worse in some ways, but wonder if it wasn't also better in others--simpler, more predictable, more spiritual. It's common to appreciate modernity while fearing its destructive potential. (Life expectancy may be higher today, but it will be shorter after the nuclear-climate-bioterror apocalypse.) If being alive now doesn't feel particularly great, perhaps living in the past might not have felt particularly bad. Maybe human existence in most times and places is a mixed bag.

Last year, the Pew Research Center asked people around the world whether life had been better or worse in their countries fifty years ago. A slim plurality of Americans said they thought life had been better. In 1967, the United States was embroiled in the Vietnam War. Protest marches were taking place around the country, crime was surging, and race riots were breaking out in Detroit, Newark, Milwaukee, and other cities. That spring, a wave of tornadoes injured thousands across the Midwest; members of the Black Panther Party, carrying shotguns and rifles, marched into the California statehouse to protest a racially motivated gun-control law. In June, the Six-Day War broke out. Americans lived in smaller houses, ate worse food, worked more hours, and died, on average, seven years earlier. On the other hand, nasa launched several moon probes and Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced" helped launch the Summer of Love. By an obscure retrospective calculus, the good appears to balance out the bad. Frightening events seem less so in retrospect. Memory is selective, history is partial, and youth is a golden age. For all these reasons, our intuitive comparisons between the past and the present are unreliable. Many Americans living in 1967 might well have thought that life had been better in 1917.

The actual data is illustrative of how disordered the Left and Right--which hate America as it exists--are.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Haley tells high schoolers to avoid 'own the libs'-style online behavior (MAYA LORA - 07/23/18, The Hill)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley kicked off a conservative conference of high school students on Monday by urging attendees to avoid inflammatory language in favor of demonstrating real leadership.

"Raise your hand if you've ever posted anything online to quote-unquote 'own the libs,' " Haley asked at the High School Leadership Summit at George Washington University.

The vast majority raised their hands in response, and then erupted into spontaneous applause.

"I know that it's fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you're accomplishing when you do this -- are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading?" Haley asked. "We've all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn't leadership -- it's the exact opposite."
"Real leadership is about persuasion, it's about movement, it's bringing people around to your point of view," she added. "Not by shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do."

Haley, who was introduced to the audience by her son, said leadership is lacking in this country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


This Shooting Should Sicken America's Armed Citizens (DAVID FRENCH, July 23, 2018, National Review)

In a nutshell, here's what happened. A young woman, her boyfriend (Markeis McGlockton), and their young son pulled into a handicapped parking spot at a convenience store. While the car idled, McGlockton went inside to get snacks. While inside, a 47-year-old man named Michael Drejka (who reportedly has an odd history of initiating confrontations over parking spaces) approached the car and started an argument with McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs.

McGlockton walked outside, saw Drejka and Jacobs arguing and pushed Drejka to the ground. While McGlockton stood a few feet away, Drejka pulled a gun and shot McGlockton in the chest. McGlockton staggered away, into the convenience store, where he died in front of his son.

Incredibly, the Pinellas County sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, is refusing to charge Drejka, citing Florida's stand-your-ground" law. At a news conference, Gualtieri said, "The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm." This is an inexcusably bad misstatement of the law. Drejka should be charged, and law-abiding Florida gun owners should demand accountability.

Mr. French is a smart guy, but doesn't understand that "gun rights" are the same as "reproductive rights".  

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Government: 463 migrant parents may have been deported without their children (Nick Miroff, July 23, 2018, NY Times)

The Trump administration said in a court filing Monday that 463 parents of migrant children are no longer present in the United States, indicating that the number of mothers and fathers potentially deported without their children during the "zero tolerance" border crackdown could be far larger than previously acknowledged.

We particularly need immigrant families that already have children.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Israel Picks Identity Over Democracy. More Nations May Follow. (Max Fisher, July 22, 2018, NY Times)

Amid a moment of national euphoria, Israel's founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, emerged from retirement in July 1967 to warn Israelis they had sown the seeds of self-destruction.

Israel had just won a stunning military victory against its neighbors, elating Israelis with a sense that the grand experiment of a Jewish state might really work.

But Ben-Gurion insisted that Israel give up the territories it had conquered. If it did not, he said, occupation would distort the young state, which had been founded to protect not just the Jewish people but their ideals of democracy and pluralism.

Now, a half century and one year later, Israel has formally declared the right of national self-determination, once envisioned to include all within its borders, as "unique to the Jewish people." [...]

Above all, the law may be a choice between two visions of Israel that have come into growing tension. American diplomats have long issued a version of Ben-Gurion's warning: If Israel did not make peace with the Palestinians, they said, it would have to choose between its dual identities as a Jewish state and democratic one.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM



The siege of Mecca was the first act of modern international jihad, an opening salvo in the war between a radical version of Islam and the West. It was also a challenge to the House of Saud, which had ruled the Arabian Peninsula since 1744, a radicalizing event for a young Osama bin Laden and a preview of what became al-Qaida.

As soon as word of the assault filtered back to the capital, Riyadh, the country's shaken royal rulers clamped down with a near-total news blackout, cutting off all Saudi phone lines to the outside world and closing the borders. When Mecca's police finally scrambled to the scene a few hours later, they were repelled by gunfire and suffered high casualties. The Ministry of the Interior then did the previously inconceivable: It sent troops -- the national guard, the regular army and special forces -- into Mecca.

But first the ministry had to cut a deal. Muslim tradition holds that the mosque is so sacred it's forbidden to bear arms there. Before reluctant Saudi soldiers agreed to follow orders, the Ministry of the Interior had to secure an authorization, a fatwa, from Muslim clerics vetting the counterattack as permissible under the circumstances. according to Yaroslav Trofimov, former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of The Siege of Mecca.

You can pretty much know all you need to about the WoT by reading: Fromkin's Peace to End all Peace; Trofimov's Siege of Mecca; Wright's Looming Tower; and McCants's ISIS Apocalypse.

July 23, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Global Warming Linked to Higher Suicide Rates across North America (Dana G. Smith, July 23, 2018, Scientific American)

Suicide rates and temperatures are both on the rise, but are these two occurrences connected? A new study suggests maybe so. The research revealed hotter-than-average months corresponded to more deaths by suicide--and the effect isn't limited to the summer, even warmer winters show the trend.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Congratulations, You Are Now a U.S. Citizen. Unless Someone Decides Later You're Not. (Patricia Mazzei, July 23, 2018, NY Times)

Norma Borgoño immigrated to the United States from Peru in 1989. A single mother with two children, she set roots in the Miami suburbs, finding work as a secretary, dedicating herself to her church and, earlier this year, welcoming her first grandchild, a girl named Isabel, after Ms. Borgoño's middle name.

She took the oath of citizenship in 2007, a step she felt would secure her status in her adopted homeland. But hers, it turns out, is not a feel-good immigrant story: The Justice Department has moved to revoke Ms. Borgoño's citizenship, an action that could eventually force her to return to Peru.

Federal prosecutors in May filed a rare denaturalization case against Ms. Borgoño, 64, accusing her of committing fraud when she applied for citizenship and failed to disclose that she had taken part in a crime several years before she applied for citizenship -- though she had not at the time been charged with it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


U.S. Republican unveils bill calling for carbon tax (David Morgan, 7/23/18, Reuters) 

A Republican lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a bill calling for a carbon tax on Monday, saying he hoped the legislation would at the very least renew a U.S. debate on climate change that has languished for a decade.

The revenues should be used to reduce income taxes.
Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Communist-run Cuba starts rolling out internet on mobile phones (Sarah Marsh, 7/23/18, Reuters) 

Communist-run Cuba has started providing internet on the mobile phones of select users as it aims to roll out the service nationwide by year-end, in a further step toward opening one of the Western Hemisphere's least connected countries.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


U.S. judge allows five Manafort trial witnesses to testify in exchange for immunity (Reuters, 7/23/18) 

A federal judge said he would rule later on Monday over whether to delay the criminal trial of U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and that he planned to make public the identity of five witnesses who had been granted immunity to testify.

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


Why I miss George W. Bush more with every passing day (S.E. CUPP, May 18, 2018, KC Star)

There are the little things. Bush could laugh at himself. His self-deprecating sense of humor was famously disarming. He wasn't too proud to take a joke, nor was he punitive about jokes at his expense.

And while he could be pointed, he was never mean. A universe away from berating a war hero or mocking a disabled journalist, the meanest Bush ever got was in his penchant for nicknames, from "Hurricane Karen" for adviser Karen Hughes, to "Pootie Poot" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri says of his friend, then as much as now, he is "a person who doesn't have to be critical of everybody else, a person who understands how big these problems are, a person who just has a sense of the right way to conduct yourself as a former president."

While W. could range from inartful to inarticulate at times -- his gaffes are notorious -- Trump makes a daily virtue of his own ignorance and insists anyone who points out his willful ignorance is "establishment." When it's clear Trump is wrong, rather than admit or correct it, he simply calls it "fake news." That habit has trickled down to his communications shop and surrogates, and it's an embarrassing display.

Perhaps more importantly, Bush was "America Best," not "America First." He was hugely patriotic and optimistic about America's role in the world, but not in service of denigrating other countries or cultures. His tremendous commitment to the international AIDS crisis was, for him, an opportunity to help developing nations while elevating America's leadership.

We are, however, still living with the consequences of two things he chose not to do: amnesty and regime change in Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


BBC Documentary: Trump Accused Of Sexual Misconduct With Teenage Models (Chris Sosa, July 23, 2018, National Memo)

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


More Tennesseans are sporting Confederate flag license plates than ever before (Natalie Allison, Nashville Tennessean)

The number of Tennesseans now displaying Confederate battle flag license plates is higher than at any other point in the last decade, according to state data on the controversial specialty tags. [...]

At the end of the 2018 fiscal year in June, 3,273 Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates were active in Tennessee, a number 72 percent higher than at the end of the 2015 fiscal year when the display of Confederate flags was thrust into national debate.

The flag became a point of deep division and conflict following the June 2015 killings of nine African-American parishioners at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C.

July 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 PM


New Cuba Constitution, Recognizing Private Property, Approved by Lawmakers (Kirk Semple, July 22, 2018, NY Times)

Cuban lawmakers on Sunday approved a draft of a new Constitution that would seek to modernize the nation by recognizing the right to own private property and opening the door to the possible legalization of same-sex marriage, among other economic, political and social changes.

The document would also encourage foreign investment and strengthen the judicial system, including recognizing the presumption of innocence.

The draft Constitution would significantly reorganize the government. It calls for creating the position of a prime minister, who would share power with the president, and governorships for the nation's provinces.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 PM


Israel Cements Right-Wing Agenda in a Furious Week of Lawmaking (David M. Halbfinger, July 20, 2018, NY Times)

Wrapping up its business before a long summer recess, the right-wing, religious coalition that rules Israel's Parliament moved aggressively this week to push through its polarizing agenda, piling up points at the expense of its already weakened foes.

On Monday, it empowered the education minister to bar some groups that criticize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank from speaking in public schools. On Tuesday, it accelerated what critics call the creeping annexation of the West Bank by cutting off Palestinians' access to the Supreme Court in land disputes. On Wednesday, it blocked single men and gay couples from having children through surrogacy.

The capstone, though, came Thursday, with passage of a law granting the Jewish people an exclusive right to national self-determination. [...]

On Monday, the chairman of Brandeis University, Meyer G. Koplow, was interrogated by airport security on his way back to New York because, after attending a bridge-building session organized by the educational organization Encounter on the West Bank, he had thrown a brochure articulating the Palestinian point of view into his checked luggage.

He later received an apology from the government.

But in an online post, Michael J. Koplow, Mr. Koplow's son and an executive at the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal think tank, publicized his father's run-in over what he said was "the most rudimentary evidence of basic engagement with the Palestinians," calling the interrogation "yet another example in a seemingly never-ending string of the massive problem that Israel is having with American Jews.

"Israeli Jewish values and American Jewish values increasingly diverge," Mr. Koplow wrote in the post, "and for many American Jews, the values of openness, empathy, and non-discrimination are ones that are harder and harder to find in Israel."

Then, on Thursday, a Conservative rabbi in Haifa was awakened at his home and arrested by the police. He was charged with officiating at a wedding between a Jewish man and woman.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM



In Hannah Gadsby's highly acclaimed comedy special Nanette, she announces that she's quitting comedy. Jokes are too simplistic, she says: they convert her trauma into humor and obscure the ugly truth of her story. Comedy, says Gadsby, has prevented her from evolving.

Gadsby isn't the only comedian taking at least an occasional break from humor. The Daily Show host Trevor Noah recently used his platform to make a lengthy speech about the nature of national identity, arguing that he's right to celebrate the French World Cup players as both French and African. Last Week Tonight, hosted by ostensible comedian John Oliver, typically features straight, serious journalism, such an investigation into Miss America pageant's scholarships or discussions of Shariah law in Brunei. And the phenomenon of talk show hosts making earnest, quite un-funny political pleas is now so common that comedian Michelle Wolf recently did a skit parodying these monologues.

"I am gonna throw my pen down on the desk, and I'm gonna shake my head in crestfallen bewilderment. I'm gonna look you in the eye, and I'm gonna tell you that Trump is bad!," she cried. "Children in cages, gun reform yesterday, nevertheless I persisted, this is comedy now. And finally, the meticulously crafted clippable GIFable takedown that will fix everything, change minds, and save the republic."

If only their being unfunny was intentional.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Ethiopia has 'no option' but multiparty democracy, PM says (ELIAS MESERET, 7/22/18, Associated Press)

Ethiopia has "no option" but to pursue multi-party democracy, the reformist new prime minister said Sunday, again shaking up Africa's second most populous nation that for decades has been ruled by a single coalition.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's chief of staff announced the remarks on Twitter, saying they were made during a meeting with leaders of more than 50 national and regional parties, including ones from overseas, who demanded reforms in election law.

A multiparty democracy would need strong institutions that respect human rights and rule of law, Abiy said, according to chief of staff Fitsum Arega.

The 42-year-old prime minister has announced sweeping reforms since taking office in April, including the release of opposition figures from prison and the embrace of a peace deal that led to the surprising restoration of diplomatic ties this month with longtime rival Eritrea.

Just months ago Ethiopia, a nation of more than 100 million people, faced widespread anti-government protests demanding wider freedoms, with the U.N. human rights chief and others expressing concern over hundreds of reported deaths and tens of thousands of people detained. The economy, one of Africa's fastest-growing, suffered.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


The First Nationalist: The Right makes its peace with Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, July 22, 2018, National Review)

Professor Samuel H. Beer of Harvard, once a speechwriter for Franklin Roosevelt, lived nearly a century, from 1911 to 2007. If he'd lived a bit longer, he might have made a good speechwriter for Donald Trump.

In 1979 (about the time of my first political memories: inflation and gasoline rationing), Professor Beer took to the pages of The New Republic to advise a struggling President Jimmy Carter, offering him a way forward: nationalism. Nationalism, he wrote, was the real theme of FDR's administration and of the New Deal. What Roosevelt was after wasn't a socialist-style redistribution of income but a redistribution of power: among competing economic and social groups, to be sure, but, most important, to Washington, with the national government guiding the nation in an unprecedentedly direct manner toward the national ends defined by the president. Professor Beer wrote:

Franklin Roosevelt's nationalism was, first, a doctrine of federal centralization. The principle of federal activism, which some have seen as the principal dividing line in American politics since the 1930s, was introduced by the New Deal. But Roosevelt called not only for the centralization of government, but also for the nationalization of politics.

Those masochists familiar with the grotesque thing currently calling itself The New Republic will be surprised to learn that, in the view of one of its most distinguished contributors, the great hope for progressive victories was to be found in nationalism, and that the great obstacle to progressive achievement was identity politics -- "pluralism," in the language of the time. As I have said on too many occasions, more Beer:

In recent years American politics has been distracted by a new and destructive pluralism. This new pluralism disorganizes public policy and sets group against group. Its paralyzing and disorienting effects challenge citizens, leaders and above all the president to elicit and affirm a new nationalism that will again put us in mind of what makes us a people and again give direction to our public affairs.

It is significant that my National Review colleague Conrad Black has in these pages and elsewhere made original and eloquent defenses of two American presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Donald J. Trump. Black's biography Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom is one of the finest things ever written about Roosevelt, who emerges in Black's telling not as a lefty antecedent to Bernie Sanders but as a thoroughgoing nationalist, one committed to that "principle of federal activism" that Professor Beer wrote about, whose purpose was to bend the fractious political, regional, and economic blocs to a unified national purpose: recovering from the Depression, first, and then beating back savagery abroad. [...]

Goldberg's argument in Liberal Fascism was scorned by progressives (many of whom obviously had not actually read the book) who took his connection of progressivism to fascism as serving a merely pejorative purpose rather than a substantive one. But as Professor Beer wrote a generation ago, the question of federal activism is central to our politics, and nationalism is the spiritual energy of such activism. President Trump understands the federal government not as a guarantor of liberty but as an activist champion for American business interests, and nationalist hocus-pocus is deployed to prevent such inconvenient questions as why the interests of Americans who sell steel should trump the interests of Americans who buy steel, or why we should encourage automobile manufacturing rather than software engineering, commercial space exploration, or medical research.

Donald would have gladly kept the Jews out, maintained Jim Crow and put Japanese-Americans in cages.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Why the Magnitsky Act -- and Bill Browder -- continues to be the biggest thorn in Putin's side (Eric Lutz, July 21, 2018, Mic)

Sergei Magnitsky was representing Browder when the tax lawyer was arrested after blowing the whistle on government corruption in Moscow.

He died in 2009, after almost one year in a Russian prison.

Seeking to avenge his late lawyer and hold Putin's government accountable for its human rights abuses, Browder pushed the U.S. government to adopt the tough sanctions against Moscow.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) took up the cause, sponsoring the Magnitsky Act, which targeted numerous Russian officials believed to be responsible for the anti-corruption attorney's death.

Former President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2012, and the Global Magnitsky Act was passed in 2016 sanctioning foreign government officials involved in human rights abuses. Several other countries have adopted similar sanctions since.

The Magnitsky Act has long been reviled by Putin, as it hits the wealthy Russian strongman's government where it hurts. It could also imperil the money he's believed to have overseas, according to Browder.

"The Magnitsky Act puts his entire wealth at risk," Browder said. "It's personal for him and that's why he hates it."

The law blocks the targeted Russians and other human rights abusers from entering the U.S., freezes their U.S. assets and prevents them from doing business with American banks. As Browder has explained, this hurts Russian government officials who have long stashed stolen money in Western bank accounts.

"In Russia, after all, officers and bureaucrats could steal it again, the same way they had stolen it in the first place: a raid, an extortion racket, a crooked court case with forged documents -- the possibilities are endless," the Atlantic's Julia Ioffe explained in 2017. "Protecting the money meant getting it out of Russia. But what happens if you get it out of Russia and it's frozen by Western authorities?"

But it doesn't only hurt Putin and his cronies economically. According to Nina Jankowicz, a D.C.-based writer and analyst who specializes in Russian politics, the sanctions also undercut Putin's government on the world stage.

"What's most important is that [the sanctions are] a blow to the image Russia wants to project as a great power," Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, said in an email. "Instead it is one being chastised by a growing number of countries for its human rights abuses."

Fighting the sanctions have been a major focus of Putin's government -- including in some of its dealings with the Trump team that are currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM

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Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia (ELI OKUN, 07/22/2018, Politico)

The South Carolina Republican suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if Trump continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia.

That concern has dominated discourse in Washington since Trump's summit with Putin in Helsinki last week, at which he spoke more harshly of the FBI than of Russia.

"It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016," Gowdy told host Bret Baier. "So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue."

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick: 'The President Was Manipulated By Vladimir Putin' (July 22, 2018, All Things Considered)

A GOP Congressman and former FBI agent says he thinks President Trump was manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brian Fitzpatrick told NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered that he drew that conclusion after the two leaders appeared in Helsinki.

"The president was manipulated by Vladimir Putin," Fitzpatrick said. [...]

The Helsinki summit came days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued an indictment for 12 Russian intelligence agents accused of hacking Democratic emails and sowing confusion around the 2016 elections.

Fitzpatrick sits on the House committees on Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security. In his previous role as an FBI special agent, he said he was assigned to Ukraine and worked on counterintelligence, collecting Russian propaganda reports.

He told Martin he was "frankly sickened by the exchange" between Trump and Putin.

The congressman, who represents Pennsylvania's 8th District, said he shared his view with former CIA agent and fellow House Republican Will Hurd of Texas. Hurd wrote recently in The New York Times that Trump "actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign."

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


As a conservative, I despair at Republicans' support for Trump. His vision is not conservatism (Charles J Sykes, 22 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

Many Republicans have rationalized their support for Trump by pointing to tax cuts, rollbacks in regulation and Trump's appointments of conservative judges. But last week reminded us how many of their values they have been willing to surrender. Moral relativism and its cousin, moral equivalency, are not bugs of the Trump presidency; they are central to its diplomatic philosophy. Unfortunately, polls suggest that many conservatives are OK with that, despite the betrayal of what were once deeply held beliefs. [...]

Perhaps the best way to think about Trump's nativism and isolationism is to see them as recessive genes in conservatism that had been kept in check for generations. That also suggests another tradition exists, even if it is now in eclipse.

While it's easy (and tempting) to define a political movement by its worst aspects, it bears noting that modern conservatism also gave rise to Charles Krauthammer, Ross Douthat, Peter Wehner, Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake. In other words, it didn't have to be this way, and it doesn't have to continue in the future.

The real danger, however, in seeing Trump as the logical, organic product of conservatism is that it normalizes him. Discounting the peculiarity of his rise ignores the uniqueness of the danger he poses and the urgent need to confront the damage he is doing to the body politic and our political culture. If he is merely another Republican, there no cause for more than the usual alarm.

But last week reminded us that there is nothing normal about Donald Trump or the existential threat he represents. It is long past time for conservatives and Republicans to recognize that.

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


With the release of new documents, Devin Nunes's memo on Carter Page has gotten even less credible (Philip Bump, July 22, 2018, Washington Post)

Even based on what was known then, the hype surrounding Nunes's memo seemed to oversell the point. In short order, other revelations about the warrant application made it clear that the contents of the memo were iffy. It was the second time in two years that Nunes had gone to bat in defense of one of Trump's pet theories, and neither time worked out that well.

As it turns out though, Nunes's efforts to raise questions about the surveillance warrant, granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, were even less robust than they seemed at the time. With the release Friday of a redacted copy of both the initial warrant application targeting Page in October 2016 and the three 90-day extensions of the warrant, we can get a better sense of just how far from the mark the Nunes memo actually was.

...nothing can make Devin less credible; he's Rohrbacher level already.

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


This conservative would take Obama back in a nanosecond (Max Boot, July 20, 2018, Washington Post)

All of his faults, real as they were, fade into insignificance compared with the crippling defects of his successor. And his strengths -- seriousness, dignity, intellect, probity, dedication to ideals larger than self -- shine all the more clearly in retrospect.

Those thoughts are prompted by watching Obama's speech in South Africa on the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birth. I was moved nearly to tears by his eloquent defense of a liberal world order that President Trump appears bent on destroying.

The first thing that struck me was what was missing: There was no self-praise and no name-calling. Obama has a far better claim than Trump to being a "very stable genius," but he didn't call himself one. The sentences were complete and sonorous -- and probably written by the speaker himself. (Imagine Trump writing anything longer than a tweet -- and even those are full of mistakes.) The tone was sober and high-minded, even if listeners could read between the lines a withering critique of Trump's policies.

Obama denounced the "politics of fear and resentment," the spread of "hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories," and "immigration policies based on race, or ethnicity, or religion." Gee, wonder who he had in mind? He rightly noted that "we now stand at a crossroads -- a moment in time at which two very different visions of humanity's future compete for the hearts and minds of citizens around the world." He then rejected the dark vision propagated by Trump and the dictators he so admires. [...]

Can you believe that an Obama-era scandal was that the president wore a tan suit or put his feet up on the desk? (Actual Washington Times headline from Sept. 4, 2013: "Obama's foot on Oval Office desk sends shockwaves around the world.") Oh, to have those days back again -- before we had a president who was involved in indecent relationships with a Russian despot and (allegedly) a porn star.

What was supposedly the worst abuse of power committed by the Obama administration -- the IRS investigations of conservative organizations -- has been revealed as "fake news": It turns out that the IRS was also investigating liberal organizations. 

In an excellent episode of EconTalk, Russ Roberts and Jonah Goldberg surprise themselves by how much it turns out they agreed with the UR about and Mr. Goldberg ends with a soliloquy that would not be out of place at BrothersJudd.

Posted by orrinj at 11:15 AM


Film review: Netflix's The Skin of the Wolf: Paws for thought (Dominic Green, July 21, 2018, Spectator USA)

Samu Fuentes' The Skin of the Wolf, newly released into the digital wild by Netflix, is about the dangers of re-wilding. Some of us are already familiar with them: coyotes eating your pets, bears rifling through your trash cans, files of hikers spoiling your view by walking pointlessly from nowhere to nowhere, gangs of squirrels lounging under the street lights as they work out who gets which room in your home when they take over.

Civilization means de-wilding, said Freud, and re-wilding is the end of us. Freud knew all about this, because he took an annual walking holiday. Note the doctor's terminology. He went 'walking' in civilized garb--tweed plus-fours and coat--not 'hiking' in sweat-wicking plastic t-shirts and GoreTex trousers with too many pockets. He also wrote the case study of the Wolf Man, his analysis of the Russian aristocrat Sergei Pankejeff. It turned out that Freud, in his mythologizing zeal, misdiagnosed Pankejeff's dream.

The Skin of the Wolf is set in Asturias, in the Spanish Pyrenees, sometime in the nineteenth century. It concerns the domestic arrangements and allegorical fate of Martinon, a brutal wolf-hunter who survives by the skin of his teeth as the last and only inhabitant of a ruined village high in the mountains. Martinon (Mario Casas) has no one to speak to, except when he walks down to the village in the valley, a round trip of four days. He keeps his spirit up by grunting.

Martinon protects the villagers from the wolves, and the villagers pay Martinon by the pelt. When people lived among wolves, we had the good sense to despise and fear them. Now, living in cities, we romanticize them. When the wolves read White Fang and The Call of the Wild, they recognized our weakness for the myth of noble savagery. For decades, they have exploited our susceptibilities, and advanced towards the cities under cover of their propaganda unit, the huskies. The Skin of the Wolf is a setback for the advocates of the vulpine lifestyle.

Posted by orrinj at 11:03 AM


Printing homes: How 3D-printed houses could change the world (22 Jul 2018, Al Jazeera)

Known in the trade as "additive manufacturing", 3D printing was first developed in the 1980s. Due to more sophisticated types of printers, we can now print things like houses, clothes and spare parts for planes. Artificial limbs and internal organs are also among the latest list of uses for 3D printing. 

[3D printing in manufacturing] suits itself quite well to disaster areas or developing nations where the houses can be built very rapidly and built with a minimum of skills. All you actually need is the skilled people to maintain the printer.

Simon Hart, senior innovation lead, Innovate UK

Ultimately, not only could this manufacturing method revolutionise the way global goods are made, but some say it could even change how we live and construct homes. Advocates believe low-cost 3D homes could even help end homelessness, and in an eco-friendly manner. 

So how do you print a house? And what are the potential implications for global economics and trade?

Simon Hart, senior innovation lead in smart infrastructure at Innovate UK, talks to Counting the Cost.

"The technology is relatively mature on a smaller scale," says Hart. "Small-scale domestic 3D printers have been available, even for home use, for many years. What you're doing with a large scale 3D printer is extending the size and scale of the printer."

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Trump's Putin fallout: Inside the White House's tumultuous week of walk-backs (Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, July 21, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump further grumbled about the tough question he was asked by Jonathan Lemire, an Associated Press correspondent, wondering why that reporter had been called on rather than someone who might have asked an easier question.

Lemire asked whether Trump would denounce Russia's election interference to Putin's face, "with the whole world watching," and the president demurred. Aides tried to explain to Trump that nearly any journalist would have asked a similarly pointed question in that moment.

But, as one White House official said, "If you don't like the answer, you don't like the question."

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Most worker ants are slackers (David Shultz, Oct. 6, 2015 , Science)

Ants and bees have reputations as efficient team players. In Temnothorax rugatulus--a small brown ant found in pine forests in North America--division of labor is common, with workers specializing in tasks like foraging, building, and brood care. But new research shows that many ants in a colony seem to specialize in doing nothing at all. To get a closer look at how these ants filled their time, researchers marked every member of five lab-based colonies with dots of colored paint. Over the course of 2 weeks, a high-definition camera recorded 5-minute segments of the ants in action six times a day, capturing their behavior (or lack thereof). Out of the "workers," 71.9% were inactive at least half the time, and 25.1% were never seen working. A small fraction of the ants, just 2.6%, were always active during observation, the researchers wrote last month in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Germany's left and right vie to turn politics upside down (Philip Oltermann, 22 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

Leftwing politicians are singing the praises of border control while rightwingers call for expanding the welfare state. Old political certainties could be turned upside down in Germany this summer as the far ends of the country's political spectrum both moot a "national social" turn.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM

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In Defense of Slow, 'From-Scratch' Cooking (GRACY OLMSTEAD, January 23, 2018, American Conservative)

Food experts have had similar complaints over Americans' meal budgets: we spend less than 10 percent of our budget on food, and of that 10 percent, only 5.5 percent is allotted for cooking at home. We spend less of our cash on food than any other country--about half as much as French households do. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Teen's hot dog stand serves up food, inspiration with Minneapolis inspectors' blessing (Chris Bowling, 7/18/18,  Star Tribune)

The pop-up Mr. Faulkner's Old Fashioned Hot Dogs goes far beyond the traditional neighborhood kid's lemonade stand. It's a business with a permit from the city of Minneapolis.

Faulkner's venture, a tabletop of hot dogs, Polish sausages, chips, drinks and condiments, will travel around the North Side this summer, including stops at the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct, the Minneapolis Urban League and Sanctuary Covenant Church. Eventually he hopes to move into a food truck.

Sure, it's a chance for Faulkner to earn some extra spending money, but he says it's about more than that.

"I like having my own business," he said. "I like letting people know just because I'm young doesn't mean I can't do" anything.

He operates Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving about 20 customers a day. He likes the sense of accomplishment and enjoys projecting a positive image of black youth in his community, something he's aware isn't always shown.

The business started in 2016 when Faulkner saw an old hot dog grill at his uncle's house. After two years of starts and stops, Faulkner stuck with it this summer.

Then he hit a snag: The Minneapolis Health Department called. Someone had complained to the city about the hot dog stand.

But instead of shutting Faulkner down, the Health Department decided to help him meet its standards.

Health Department staff made sure he had the necessary equipment -- thermometers, food containers, hand sanitizer and utensil-cleaning stations -- as well as knowledge about proper food handling. Once he passed his health inspection, inspectors paid the $87 for the special event food permit, and the city-sanctioned stand opened for business.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Report: Rand Paul spent donor money on trips abroad, clothes shopping (Darcy Costello, 7/20/18,  Louisville Courier Journal)

Sen. Rand Paul spent hundreds of donor dollars on shopping trips and thousands on meals, travel and other expenses abroad, according to a report from nonpartisan watchdog groups released this week.

The spending was funneled through a political leadership committee, which are meant to enable lawmakers to donate to other political campaigns to secure leadership positions. But, according to the "All Expenses Paid" report, they're often used to fund "lavish lifestyles on their donors' dimes." 

Paul, Kentucky's junior senator, spent $11,043 at restaurants in Italy and Malta last year through his leadership PAC, Reinventing a New Direction, according to the report. 

In the same year, he spent $4,492 on limousine services in Rome and $1,904 on a hotel in Athens that boasts "breathtaking panoramic views." 

Column: Rand Paul's defense of Trump has demoted him from bulldog to poodle

More: Trump thanks Kentucky's Rand Paul for defending his Russia comments

His PAC, known as RAND PAC, also spent $337 on apparel at a Nebraska Men's Wearhouse, $438 on apparel at a shoe store on Madison Avenue in New York City, $201 at TJ Maxx and $1,575 at a restaurant in the Trump Hotel. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union: It championed an idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. (Natan Sharansky, July 20, 2018, NY Times)

Fifty years ago this Sunday, this paper devoted three broadsheet pages to an essay that had been circulating secretly in the Soviet Union for weeks. The manifesto, written by Andrei Sakharov, championed an essential idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. This radical argument changed the course of history.

Sakharov's essay carried a mild title -- "Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" -- but it was explosive. "Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of mankind by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships," he wrote. Suddenly the Soviet Union's most decorated physicist became its most prominent dissident. [....]

Sakharov's decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country's domestic behavior -- and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors," he often explained.

As Sakharov and his fellow dissidents in the 1970s and '80s challenged a détente disconnected from human rights, Democrats and Republicans of conscience followed suit. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan disagreed about many specific policies, but both presidents linked human rights and foreign policy. President Carter treated Soviet dissidents not as distractions but as respected partners in a united struggle for freedom. President Reagan went further, tying the fate of specific dissidents to America's relations with what he called the "evil empire."

Approaching the fight to win the Cold War as a human rights crusade as well as a national security priority energized Americans. It reminded them that, regardless of the guilt and defeatism of the Vietnam War or the shame and cynicism of Watergate, the country remained a beacon of liberty.

Isolationism, Realism and Nationalism are immoral.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


FBI releases FISA records on Carter Page surveillance (Brad Heath, July 21, 2018, USA Today)

Four federal judges separately approved the surveillance requests, each time saying the government had shown "probable cause" that Page was acting as an agent of the Russian government. Two of the four surveillance requests had been approved by top Trump appointees in the Justice Department, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The records released Saturday confirm that the FBI based its surveillance requests in part on the work of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer hired by a research firm working for Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, who compiled the now-infamous "dossier" alleging links between Russia and the Trump campaign. The FBI said in the application that Steele wasn't told who had hired him to conduct that work, but that Steele "was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit" Trump's campaign. The FBI said it believed Steele's work to be "credible."

But the records also show the FBI harbored broader suspicions - and broader evidence - about Page's possible ties to the Russian government. In applying for permission to wiretap him, investigators wrote that Page "has relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers."

More: Trump campaign adviser Carter Page acknowledges meeting with senior Russian officials: transcript

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee and one of a handful of lawmakers who has previously reviewed the surveillance orders, said the records "affirm that our nation faced a profound counterintelligence threat prior to the 2016 election, and the Department of Justice and FBI took appropriate steps to investigate whether any U.S. persons were acting as an agent of a foreign power."

Pity the poor True-believers who endlessly repeated every talking point Devin & Donald fed them.

What to Make of the Carter Page FISA Applications (David Kris, July 21, 2018, LawFare)

[F]or those who don't remember, the controversy about these FISA applications first arose in February when House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes released a memo claiming that the FBI misled the FISA Court about Christopher Steele, the former British secret agent who compiled the "dossier" on Trump-Russia ties and who was a source of information in the FISA applications on Page. The main complaint in the Nunes memo was that FBI whitewashed Steele--that the FISA applications did not "disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele's efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials."

In response to the Nunes memo, the Democrats on the committee released their own memo. That memo quoted from parts of the FISA applications, including a footnote in which the FBI explained that Steele was hired to "conduct research regarding Candidate #1," Donald Trump, and Trump's "ties to Russia," and that the man who hired him was "likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump's] campaign."

Based on this back and forth between the HPSCI partisans, I wrote on Lawfare at the time that the FBI's disclosures on Steele "amply satisfie[d] the requirements" for FISA applications, and that the central irony of the Nunes memo was that it "tried to deceive the American people in precisely the same way that it falsely accused the FBI of deceiving the FISA Court." The Nunes memo accused the FBI of dishonesty in failing to disclose information about Steele, but in fact the Nunes memo itself was dishonest in failing to disclose what the FBI disclosed. I said then, and I still believe, that the "Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy."

Now we have some additional information in the form of the redacted FISA applications themselves, and the Nunes memo looks even worse.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Audience Jeers VA Senate Candidate Who Says Trump 'Stood Up To Russia' (Oliver Willis, July 22, 2018, Shareblue)

When the topic came up at the debate, Kaine said Congress had a role to play in protecting the independence of investigators like special counsel Robert Mueller.

As part of his response, Stewart defended Trump and asserted, "We have a president who is standing up to the Russians."

The obviously false assertion was a bridge too far for the audience, who laughed in shock at Stewart and his claim. [...]

He wouldn't condemn the white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia. He called Paul Nehlen, the self-described "pro-white" candidate running for Paul Ryan's Wisconsin seat a "personal hero."

And Stewart has repeatedly defended keeping up monuments to the pro-slavery Confederacy.

Now on the campaign trail, Stewart has defended fellow traveler Trump from criticism about his weakness on Russia. And he was laughed at for doing so.

This is the state of the Republican Party under Trump.

July 21, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


Sheriff who backed Roy Moore allegedly had sex with teen girl (Max Jaeger July 19, 2018, NY Post)

The Alabama sheriff who threw his support behind accused jailbait-chaser Roy Moore's failed Senate bid is now under investigation for allegedly having sex with an underage girl.

Mary Elizabeth Cross, 41, says Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin threw drug-fueled parties with underage girls and had sex with her four times in 1992 when he was 29 and she was just 15 years old -- below Alabama's age of consent, which is 16.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


U.S. tariffs to cost Germans up to 20 billion euros this year: report (Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's tariffs will lead to a drop in prosperity in Germany this year and are likely to cost Germans up to 20 billion euros ($23.44 billion), the head of German think-tank IMK said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Russia continues to shape narrative of Helsinki summit (Karen DeYoung, 7/20/18, Washington Post)

Russia already has sent formal proposals to Washington for joint U.S.-Russia efforts to fund reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria and facilitate the return home of millions of Syrians who fled the country, following "agreements reached" by President Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the three-star head of the Russian National Defense Management Center, said Friday.

The point is to tie Vlad down in Syria, not help him get out.  But the UR was his enemy; Donald is an ally.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Here's proof your doctor isn't truly listening to you (Funto Omojola, 7/20/18, Moneyish)

Patients only get about 11 seconds on average to explain the reason for their visit before getting interrupted by their doctors, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Out of the 112 patient and doctor interactions videotaped and observed by researchers, only 36% of patients were asked about the reason they were there in the first place. And 27 out of the 40 (67%) who got a chance to explain why they were there got interrupted after just 11 seconds.

Rather than giving them a chance to fully express their concerns, researchers found that physicians commonly relied on assumed reasons patients were visiting based on their referrals. "When patients come to a visit, they are coming in with specific concerns and a problem," Dr. Naykky Singh Ospina, the lead researcher of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Florida, told Moneyish. "So as physicians, we should listen and let them tell their stories so we can collaborate and help them solve it."

And studies in the past have shown the same poor communication trends between doctors and their patients. A similar 2001 study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that on average, patients spoke for 12 seconds after the doctor entered the room before being interrupted. And a fourth of the time, doctors interrupted patients before they finished speaking.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Trump backers seize on case of jailed UK far-right activist (JOE JACKSON, 7/21/18, AP)

Supporters of US President Donald Trump are taking up the cause of an anti-Islam activist jailed in Britain for contempt of court, raising fears of a far-right revival.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, widely known by his pseudonym Tommy Robinson, was imprisoned for 13 months earlier this year for live-streaming outside a court in breach of reporting restrictions around a trial.

Robinson is the founder of the English Defence League (EDL), a fringe group protesting perceived threats from Islamic extremism, and he has a string of convictions on charges including assault, fraud and drugs possession. [...]

The new cause celebre of the populist far-right in Britain even breached diplomatic circles after Sam Brownback, Trump's envoy for international religious freedom, raised the issue with British ambassador Kim Darroch at a June lunch. [...]
Robinson gained notoriety in Britain after the EDL staged demonstrations in 2013 which often ended in clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators.

He was previously jailed for using someone else's passport to enter the United States, which had refused him entry because of drug offenses, and has a number of other convictions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Two Russian Police Officers Killed By Gunmen In Daghestan (Radio Liberty, July 21, 2018)

Two police officers in the Kizilyurtovsky District of Russia's volatile Daghestan region were killed on July 20 when their patrol was attacked by gunmen, a police spokesman said.

The Muslim-majority republic borders Chechnya, where Moscow has waged two wars against separatists since the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, and security forces there often face militant violence.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Between the lines: Visas harder to obtain amid immigration crackdown (Stef W. Kight, 7/21/18, Axios)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has continued its visa crackdown, recently releasing memos that make it easier for immigration officials to deny visa applications and begin deportation proceedings for those whose extensions or renewals are denied. [...]

The Trump administration and many advocates for cutting immigration levels believe that these kinds of visas take jobs from American workers, and accuse companies of taking advantage of the programs in order to pay less for labor.

"USCIS is simply starting to enforce the law," Mark Krikorian, executive director for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, tells Axios. "Given the bottomless demand for the 1 million green cards we give out each year, holding applicants to strict standards is just common sense."

July 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Stream Online the Complete "Lost" John Coltrane Album, Both Directions at Once (July 20th, 2018, Open Culture)

Expectations ran high when it was announced last month that a lost (!) John Coltrane album, Both Directions at Once, had been discovered by the family of his ex-wife Naima, and would finally be released for fans to hear. Would it prove worthy of Sonny Rollin's comparison to "finding a new room in the Great Pyramid"? Such discoveries can lead to dead ends and disappointments as often as to revelations. In this case, the album yields neither, which is not to say it isn't, as Chris Morris writes at Variety, "a godsend."

The album lives up to its title, chosen by Coltrane's son Ravi, as a transitional document, stunning, but not particularly surprising. Hear all 7 cuts on the single-disc version of the release on this page, with typically excellent playing by Coltrane's classic quartet (bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones, and pianist McCoy Tyner) and an early take on "one of the warhorses of the Coltrane catalog"--"Impressions"--including three additional takes on the Deluxe Version, which you can stream on Spotify here or purchase here.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Right-wing media called him a leftist terrorist. He appears to be a pro-gun conservative (Tom Kludt, July 20, 2018, CNN)

After he was arrested earlier this week by authorities in South Dakota, Mark Einerwold immediately became a character in an ongoing narrative within conservative media, where he was depicted as the latest example of a left-wing domestic terror threat.

Headlines from a variety of right-leaning outlets asserted that Einerwold was a member of "Antifa," the radical anti-fascist group that has reportedly been accused of domestic terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security and has been the subject of stories on the likes of Fox News and Breitbart.

Einerwold was arrested on Tuesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on burglary charges for thefts in surrounding communities. Law enforcement there said they found bomb-making materials and illegal guns in his home, as well as a two-page anti-government document and a jacket that contained the word "Antifa" in his car.

But a cursory glance at Einerwold's Facebook account suggests that he is anything but supportive of Antifa. The profile is littered with pro-Second Amendment memes, and posts that lionize the American flag and criticize welfare recipients.

His "likes" include the Tea Party, online conservative personality Graham Allen and the pro-police movement Blue Lives Matter. Just last month, in fact, Einerwold posted a news report about Antifa -- though he hardly endorsed the group. "This is what the social justice looks like," he wrote. "These are the people taking over our campuses. They are militant, they are dangerous."

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


What #MeToo and Hooking Up Teach Us About The Meaning of Sex (Elizabeth Schlueter and Nathan Schlueter, July 19th, 2018, Public Discourse)

As Joyner, Donna Freitas, and others have shown, the primary motive of those who "hook up" is not sexual pleasure, but power, or the achievement of victory over another. Victory is won by having sex without caring, without vulnerability. In other words, hooking up inverts the intrinsic meaning of sex, transforming eros, the desire for intimate embodied union with another person, with its attendant emotional and physical vulnerability, into thumos, the desire for domination, recognition, control, and independence. The #MeToo movement has exposed the ugly and predatory underside of the revolution waged under the banner of radical feminism, and it highlights the ironic result that men have the upper hand in the new sexual marketplace. 

This inversion of the personal meaning of sex in the hook-up culture reveals the deeper contradiction at the heart of the sexual revolution itself. Underlying the apparent trivialization of sex for the sake of more "love" or more widely available sexual pleasure is the pursuit of a much more radical personal agenda: sexual autonomy for its own sake. Why sexual autonomy? If sex has a unique connection to our personhood and is also fundamentally erotic, an experience of going out of oneself, of potentially life-altering vulnerability and risk, then our sexuality is the most patent reminder that human beings are not radically autonomous.  

This explains the otherwise mysterious fixation of modern liberals on sex. If human vulnerability and dependence are to be vanquished, the decisive battle must take place on the field of sex. It is precisely here that radical autonomy must prove itself, and why modern liberalism has made uncommitted sex the chief "liturgy" of its religion of personal identity (and why inebriation is its chief sacrament). At the heart of the sexual revolution is the dogma that sex is the privileged arena where, in the words of the Supreme Court, I define and express my own "concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). 

In the harsh light of #MeToo, core assumptions and achievements of the sexual revolution don't seem quite so attractive. In these latter days of Tinder and hooking up, all pretensions to the "love" part of "free love" have been shed, along with the naïvete of the hippie generation. We are left with just "free"--as in cheap--sex.  Perhaps all the sexual revolution can really deliver is a world where sex is a kind of weapon in the never-ending battle to continually create and achieve autonomous personal identity. No wonder asexuality has recently emerged as another strange feature of the modern sexual landscape. If sex is really about making war, not love, there are many who would rather opt out of such a destructive game.  

Reflecting on the experiences behind #MeToo and the hook-up culture teaches us that something is deeply broken at the heart of the sexual revolution. The pathetic scramble to shore it up with consent speech codes only casts doubt on its key doctrines, bearing negative witness to the need for a comprehensive form of consent that is worthy of sex between persons--worthy of sexual love. 

There was an interesting, and more expansive, discussion of these sorts of issues--the self-made self--on the most recent EconTalk podcast:

Patrick Deneen on Why Liberalism Failed (Russ Roberts, Jul 9 2018, EconTalk)

Political Scientist and author Patrick Deneen of the University of Notre Dame talks about his book Why Liberalism Failed with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. By liberalism, Deneen means the modern enterprise--the push for self-actualization free of the constraints of tradition, family, and religion that typifies modern culture. He argues that both the left and the right have empowered the state and reduced liberty. He argues for a smaller, more local, more artisanal economy and a return to the virtues of self-control and self-mastery.

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature (Natalie Wolchover, July 20, 2018, Quanta)

Proof surfaced in 1898 that the reals, complex numbers, quaternions and octonions are the only kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. The first three of these "division algebras" would soon lay the mathematical foundation for 20th-century physics, with real numbers appearing ubiquitously, complex numbers providing the math of quantum mechanics, and quaternions underlying Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. This has led many researchers to wonder about the last and least-understood division algebra. Might the octonions hold secrets of the universe?

"Octonions are to physics what the Sirens were to Ulysses," Pierre Ramond, a particle physicist and string theorist at the University of Florida, said in an email.

Günaydin, the Penn State professor, was a graduate student at Yale in 1973 when he and his advisor Feza Gürsey found a surprising link between the octonions and the strong force, which binds quarks together inside atomic nuclei. An initial flurry of interest in the finding didn't last. Everyone at the time was puzzling over the Standard Model of particle physics -- the set of equations describing the known elementary particles and their interactions via the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces (all the fundamental forces except gravity). But rather than seek mathematical answers to the Standard Model's mysteries, most physicists placed their hopes in high-energy particle colliders and other experiments, expecting additional particles to show up and lead the way beyond the Standard Model to a deeper description of reality. They "imagined that the next bit of progress will come from some new pieces being dropped onto the table, [rather than] from thinking harder about the pieces we already have," said Latham Boyle, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada.

Decades on, no particles beyond those of the Standard Model have been found. Meanwhile, the strange beauty of the octonions has continued to attract the occasional independent-minded researcher, including Furey, the Canadian grad student who visited Günaydin four years ago. Looking like an interplanetary traveler, with choppy silver bangs that taper to a point between piercing blue eyes, Furey scrawled esoteric symbols on a blackboard, trying to explain to Günaydin that she had extended his and Gürsey's work by constructing an octonionic model of both the strong and electromagnetic forces.

"Communicating the details to him turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated, as I struggled to get a word in edgewise," Furey recalled. Günaydin had continued to study the octonions since the '70s by way of their deep connections to string theory, M-theory and supergravity -- related theories that attempt to unify gravity with the other fundamental forces. But his octonionic pursuits had always been outside the mainstream. He advised Furey to find another research project for her Ph.D., since the octonions might close doors for her, as he felt they had for him.

But Furey didn't -- couldn't -- give up. Driven by a profound intuition that the octonions and other division algebras underlie nature's laws, she told a colleague that if she didn't find work in academia she planned to take her accordion to New Orleans and busk on the streets to support her physics habit. Instead, Furey landed a postdoc at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She has since produced a number of results connecting the octonions to the Standard Model that experts are calling intriguing, curious, elegant and novel. "She has taken significant steps toward solving some really deep physical puzzles," said Shadi Tahvildar-Zadeh, a mathematical physicist at Rutgers University who recently visited Furey in Cambridge after watching an online series of lecture videos she made about her work.

Furey has yet to construct a simple octonionic model of all Standard Model particles and forces in one go, and she hasn't touched on gravity. She stresses that the mathematical possibilities are many, and experts say it's too soon to tell which way of amalgamating the octonions and other division algebras (if any) will lead to success.

"She has found some intriguing links," said Michael Duff, a pioneering string theorist and professor at Imperial College London who has studied octonions' role in string theory. "It's certainly worth pursuing, in my view. Whether it will ultimately be the way the Standard Model is described, it's hard to say. If it were, it would qualify for all the superlatives -- revolutionary, and so on."

We are all Designist.

Posted by orrinj at 2:52 PM


Lawyer Cohen taped Trump discussing payment to Playboy model: NYT (Reuters, 7/20/18) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Trump before the 2016 presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump, the New York Times reported on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Donald Trump's "denaturalisation task force" is on a mission to rescind US citizenship (SOPHIE MCBAIN, 7/20/18, New Statesman)

Writing in the Washington Post this week, Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump administration, proposed that American citizenship should no longer be a birthright. Alternating between dull (and misleading) legalese and glaring xenophobia, he argued that the US is allowing citizenship to be "debased" and dismissed as "an absurdity" the notion that anyone born in the US can be American. Trump should issue "an executive order to specify that the children of noncitizens are not citizens," he advised.

Under what warped and racist worldview does the child of an immigrant threaten to "debase" citizenship, one wonders. The answer gives an indication of the spirit of Anton's suggestion that the insecurity of being undocumented should be inherited through the generations, that babies born to parents who have lived in the US for decades should be treated unequally before the law.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


League Of The South Reaches Out To 'Russian Friends' (Peter Montgomery | July 19, 2018, RightWing Watch)

Amid the controversy over President Trump's recent summit with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the neo-Confederate League of the South announced this week that it will soon be introducing a Russian language section to its website."To our Russian friends," a missive on the League's website, is signed by Michael Hill, the group's president. An excerpt:

We understand that the Russian people and Southerners are natural allies in blood, culture, and religion. As fellow Whites of northern European extraction, we come from the same general gene pool. As inheritors of the European cultural tradition, we share similar values, customs, and ways of life. And as Christians, we worship the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our common faith binds us as brothers and sisters.

We Southerners believe in societies based on real, organic factors such as shared blood, culture, and religion, and all that stems naturally from these salient factors in the human experience. As fellow White Christians who are grounded in the sublime traditions of our common European cultural heritage, we believe that the Russian people and the Southern people are natural allies against the destructive and impersonal impulses of globalism.

Hill, who teaches that the defeat of Nazi Germany was "an unmitigated disaster for Western Christian civilization," warned in this week's post that there are "forces that would like to pit us against one another."

In case you wondered why Trumpbots keep defending Donald/Vlad: it's just race.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


White House official grumbles that DNI Dan Coats is 'going rogue' (The Week, July 19, 2018)

Coats was onstage with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, when she broke the news to him that the White House had announced the Trump administration invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall. He chuckled, and revealed he knew nothing about this, adding, "That's going to be special." He also told Mitchell he would have advised President Trump not to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, especially with only two interpreters in the room with them.

Trump advisers were "in an uproar," staffers told The Washington Post, with one senior official saying, "Coats has gone rogue."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Now in Living Color: Ted Williams's Last Game (Bill Pennington, July 19, 2018, NY Times)

Bill Murphy, a 19-year-old student at an art college in Boston, skipped class on Sept. 28, 1960, and bought a $2 ticket to Fenway Park. Ted Williams was playing his last game in the major leagues.

Even more auspiciously, Murphy brought his 8-millimeter color film camera with him.

"I wasn't a rabid fan, but something told me to go," Murphy said last month. "I took my camera to the front row and shot scenes as I roamed freely around the park all afternoon."

A few days after the game, Murphy developed the film. There was Williams, one of the best hitters to ever play the game, clouting the last of his 521 home runs for the Red Sox in his fabled final at-bat. Murphy showed the film to his father and a few friends then tossed it into a desk drawer where it has remained since, all but hidden.

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu (John Updike, 10/22/60, The New Yorker)

Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs--hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn't tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted "We want Ted" for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.

July 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Beauty and Modern Art: As modern art has drifted away from traditional Beauty, it has also abandoned Truth and Goodness, rejecting God, religion, and nature in one fell swoop (Sarah Kaderbek, 7/17/18, Imaginative Conservative)

St. Thomas Aquinas defines Beauty as possessing three characteristics: wholeness, proportion, and radiance, and this definition captures a certain type of beauty succinctly.[1] On its most objective, physical level, Beauty relies on these three characteristics. It is not hard to accept that a fresh rose is more Beautiful than a blighted one; it simply is.

However, simple Beauty does not encompass the totality of Beauty. The healthy, lush green tree is Beautiful, but there is also a certain Beauty in a twisted, gnarled trunk. There is something more about it, not just its physical appearance, which appeals to us and is Beautiful though its physicality lacks simple Beauty.

A similar phenomenon is often seen in humanity. There are some people who simply are more Beautiful; their physical forms possess wholeness, proportion, and radiance to a higher degree than others. However, to reduce the Beauty of humanity to this almost purely physical sense of the word is to ignore that oftentimes, the most Beautiful people are not the most whole, proportioned, and radiant. All of us have met someone who, while not physically Beautiful in this simple sense, is breathtakingly Beautiful, and this fact cannot be reduced to a subjective opinion. There is something Beautiful about these people, just as there is something Beautiful in the withered tree, in the crumbling wall, in suffering and pain.

Harder to define (as the term suggests) is complex Beauty. While simple Beauty resides in the physical form of the thing itself and appeals to our intellect and heart, complex Beauty resides in the intellect and appeals to the senses. This is where the line between objective Beauty and subjective opinion often begins to blur, since it is extremely hard to give any concrete reason for the Beauty of these things beyond "I feel that it is Beautiful."

However, I believe that complex Beauty is Beautiful because it is True or Good. This troika of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness is often talked about in conservative, creative, and artistic circles... and for good reason. The transcendentals (Beauty, Truth, and Goodness) succinctly capture the desires of the human heart, and these values are the mirrors by which we see the light of the God reflected in this world. The transcendentals, however, cannot merely be taken individually; they interact on a fundamental level. There is Goodness in Truth and Truth in Goodness, etc. Thus, complex Beauty can be said to exist in the True and/or Good.

Applying this definition to the above examples, the withered tree and the crumbling wall are Beautiful because they point to the Truth and Goodness of suffering which is in itself Beautiful because of the Truth and Goodness of suffering's redemptive quality, etc. A person can be objectively, simply Beautiful in a physical sense, but he can also be objectively, complexly Beautiful, when the Truth about who they are and the Goodness of their soul radiate from their body, when the soul is manifest in the form of the body. Thus, when we discuss art, we must take into account these two "types" of Beauty.

In regard to the subject of the work of art, simple and complex Beauty apply as described above.

However, they also come into play regarding the style of the work. Man acts as a sub-creator when making art, and he therefore naturally seeks to capture Beauty in imitation of the style of the true Creator. Thus, simple Beauty exists in the style of a work when it clearly reflects nature. God, Beauty Himself, reflects His Own Beauty in Creation; therefore, man reflects Beauty most clearly and simply when he mirrors nature in his art.

Thus, any stylistic decision which purposely deviates from nature must do so for the sake of more effectively communicating Truth and Goodness (complex Beauty) in order to retain Beauty itself. There must be a correspondingly high communication of complex Beauty to make up for the loss of simple Beauty. For example, Byzantine iconography does not seek to mirror nature but to convey theological Truths through its stylistic deviations; it remains Beautiful in a way that is often hard to express.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Freed by Robots? : a review of The End of Work: Why Your Passion Can Become Your Job, by John Tamny (Michael S. Bernick, July 13, 2018, City Journal)

 Tamny, director of the Center for Economic Freedom at Freedom Works and editor of Real Clear Markets, sees the replacement of jobs by automation as a positive development that will free individuals to create economic roles reflecting their interests. The proper role of government, says Tamny, is to let it happen, restrain its impulse to intervene, and essentially let a thousand flowers bloom.

The new economy has created more room for specialized services and niche products. In the past, people with passions for, say, animal-training, or physical fitness, or fine wines, might have halfheartedly worked in routine jobs just to pay the bills; in an era of greater economic prosperity and larger discretionary incomes, people can make their living as animal-care specialists, personal trainers, and sommeliers. The range of outlets for creative content has expanded, too. Technology has made it possible to look beyond a handful of television networks, music producers, or legacy book publishers. Today, we can record and post our own songs, publish our writing, and broadcast video productions with accessible and affordable equipment once available only to major media companies. [...]

Tamny sees a bright future ahead if policymakers recognize the role of economic freedom. "Just as the division of labor among humans leads to much better work outcomes, so will the rise of automation benefit the worker. Only the outcome will be many multiples greater than that which springs from human divisions of labor." He welcomes the rise of robot workers. "Imagine the future if robots achieve their potential to erase all manner of work forms," he writes. "How very exciting."

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


GOP Senator Defects, Sinks Trump Judicial Nominee With History of Racist Writing (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JULY 19, 2018, Slate)

Ryan Bounds' nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was derailed on Thursday when South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott announced he could not support the nominee because of his history of racist writing.

Donald Trump nominated Bounds, who currently serves as an assistant U.S. attorney, to the 9th Circuit in September. A staunch conservative, immigration hardliner, and member of the Federalist Society, Bounds appeared to be coasting to an easy confirmation until the liberal group Alliance for Justice uncovered bigoted statements he made as a Stanford student in the 1990s. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Warren: 'I Believe in Markets Right Down to My Toes' (Andrew Kugle, July 19, 2018, Free Beacon)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said on Thursday that she believes in financial markets all the way down to her toes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


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A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Result (Charlotte Graham-McLay, July 19, 2018, NY Times)

A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent.

The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens.

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


How to crack consciousness : It's what makes us human - but despite the best efforts of philosophy and science, the nature of our experience of reality remains elusive. (WILL SELF, 7/128/18, New Statesman)

 Just as sequencing the human genome failed to result in our physical nature becoming fully legible, so the vast amount of data provided by these scans has proved incommensurate with my - or anyone else's - experience of the redness of a particular apple.

Tim Parks, in his book on consciousness, clamps this conundrum to the laboratory bench where it originates. First, he quotes from the summary of a 2016 paper in the journal Nature, entitled "Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Progress and Problems": "When the content-specific NCC neurons in this example [face recognition] are activated artificially... the participant should see a face even if none is present, whereas if their activity is blocked, the participant should not be able to see a face even if one is present." Then Parks drily observes: "In general, the logic here is that scientists should be able to recreate, or recall, more or less every experience by stimulating our brains in certain ways. However, there are not many accounts of this actually occurring."

Not many? In fact, none at all - unless you count the sort of commonplace reactions that mice exhibit when you place their skulls in clamps and make them smell stuff. Reading Parks's account of his lengthy interview with Professor Hannah Monyer, the Heidelberg-based neuroscientist responsible for the mouse-clamping, I was reminded of conversations I had with physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. In both instances, such is the near-infinite complexity of the subjects being investigated, that if more advanced equipment were to be built, I suspect yet more infinitesimal occurrences of the phenomena will indeed be detected.

Which is not to say that this data will solve the basic conundrum: how is it that the roughly 1,400 grams of grey mush inside our skulls can produce our hopes, fears and dreams - as well as allowing us to revisit the very specific redness of a particular apple, one perhaps seen many years since?

I found the physicists at CERN, despite their preoccupation with the ultimate nature of matter, to be distinctly spiritual in their outlook: convinced that Humanity (with a capital "H"), had some sort of Destiny, to discover the Truth. Of course, when I put it to them that their anchorite existence on the outskirts of Geneva, together with their ritualised attention to the sublime, psychically allied them most obviously to an order of monks or nuns, they demurred furiously: physics is emphatically not metaphysics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


'Hamilton' director Thomas Kail on sparking interest in American history  (Joe Heim, July 17, 2018, Washington Post)

This generation of school kids will know more about Alexander Hamilton than any previous generation, including his own. That's an amazing influence you've had.

What we've been finding is that this has been part of a movement that has sparked an interest in early American history far beyond "Hamilton." We have students presenting their own material, and you'll see a poem about Phillis Wheatley by a 17-year-old student, and you'll see a song from Abigail Adams's perspective. Neither of them are characters in our story, but for some reason they spark for those students. And that's my hope, that this is just an ignition for something much larger. As a mediocre history major and the brother of a sixth-grade teacher, nothing would make me happier.

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


Democrats Chant 'USA' on House Floor After Hoyer Speech Blasting 'the Russian Bear' (David Rutz, July 19, 2018, Free Beacon)

House Democrats chanted "USA!" on the floor on Thursday in response to a speech by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) about protecting the integrity of American elections against foreign meddling.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D., Ill.) introduced the Democratic Motion to Recommit on election security funding, saying the American people were watching at a pivotal moment and slamming President Donald Trump for not challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin to his face over 2016 election meddling.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Human-driven cars to disappear, says SoftBank's Son (MITSURU OBE, July 19, 2018, Nikkei Asian Review)

"In less than 50 years, people will no longer be allowed to drive by themselves in the city or on expressways unless they have a special license," Son predicted, as such motorists could cause traffic congestion and accidents. When human drivers are all replaced by self-driving cars, the streets will no longer need traffic lights, he said.

Son was laying down a challenge to the prevailing mindset of the Japanese auto industry, which has been slow to embrace emerging technologies such as autonomous driving and ride sharing, citing safety concerns.

"Japan is stupid for not allowing ride-sharing," Son openly slammed the Japanese government. 

He warned that the country is now "falling far behind the global front runners -- the U.S. and China." Son himself is investing heavily in innovative overseas companies through his SoftBank Vision Fund, the world's biggest technology investment vehicle with committed capital of almost $100 billion. This is helping place him at the forefront of emerging trends.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Why did Trump choose to parrot Putin on Montenegro? (John R. Schindler, 18 July 2018, The Spectator)

Let's omit the oft-encountered, vaguely homoerotic Trumpian obsession with strength. Neither shall we dwell on Trump's glancing reference to NATO's Article V, the collective defense provision, the alliance's cornerstone, which the president did not mention because he presumably has never heard of it. Trump implied that Montenegro - NATO's newest member, which joined last year - is an aggressive place which may drag America into World War III.

In fact, Montenegro is a tiny country of scarcely more than 600,000 people. It's known mostly for its sunny Adriatic beaches, and in recent centuries it hasn't attacked anyone except rampaging Ottomans. Its military has fewer than 2,000 troops, its army is a single light infantry battalion lacking armor or modern artillery, and its "air force" is a squadron of aging helicopters. Who exactly is Montenegro going to attack?

Neighbouring Serbia was far from pleased with Montenegro's NATO accession - the two countries, having been joined (not always happily) in Yugoslavia from 1918, divorced in 2006 - since it cut off their former Adriatic coastline, leaving Serbia landlocked. However, Serbia's mostly ramshackle military only looks impressive compared to Montenegro's, even with Moscow's recent gift of six MiG-29 fighters (aging aircraft to bolster Serbia's handful of truly ancient MiG-29s that Moscow sold to Yugoslavia in the 1980s), Not to mention that nobody in Serbia wants to invade Montenegro, which Serbs view as errant kin rather than a real foe. That NATO could destroy Serbia's military without breaking a sweat is also a mitigating factor.

Where, then, does Trump's bizarre belief that little Montenegro is a big problem for America come from? It may not be irrelevant that Moscow was very upset about that tiny Balkan country joining the Atlantic Alliance.

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Guns, God And Trump: How An Accused Russian Agent Wooed US Conservatives (Vera Bergengruen, 7/19/18, BuzzFeed News)

People who spoke to BuzzFeed News about their interactions with her, as well as a review of her interviews, writings and extensive social media posts, paint a picture of someone who knew how to push all the right conservative buttons.

Hers was a startlingly effective performance.

By the time she appeared on the popular radio show of evangelical author Eric Metaxas, who later endorsed Trump and served on his evangelical advisory council, her life story -- or at least what she said was her life story -- rolled off her tongue with practiced ease.

"My story is simple -- my father is a hunter, I was born in Siberia," she explained in the July 2015 interview, echoing previous talking points in which she often drew parallels to parts of the US, like South Dakota, where guns are "necessary for survival" to defend lives and property.

"That seems appropriate, somehow," Metaxas interrupted, sounding delighted, when she described founding her gun rights organization in a "Moscow version of a McDonalds," telling her friends "we need to fight for our gun rights."

"Wow, I just love the idea of this," he said. "To think...because you know, those of us in in America can be very parochial, we forget that the fight for liberty goes on for all around the globe in different guises."

Metaxas did not respond to a request for comment.

Butina also seemed to know exactly what a conservative evangelical audience would want to hear, earnestly speaking about the growing number of churches in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the "great history of Christian religion" that she had in common with US evangelicals, her audience.

"When we talk about Russian and American relationships, the main point is Christianity, in both countries," she told Metaxas.

According to the story she has told in Russian and English-language interviews, Butina was born in Barnaul, Siberia, in 1988. After graduating from Altai University in her hometown with a degree in political science and education, she started a small business selling furniture but "then moved to Moscow, where power and money is better," she wrote in an outline for a presentation she gave at the University of South Dakota in April 2015.

In Moscow, she began working for Alexander Torshin, a powerful Russian banking official and close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was sanctioned by the US in April, and founded her pro-gun "Right to Bear Arms" group in 2011.

Some experts say that the very existence of such an organization in Russia, which has stringent gun laws and little public support for loosening them, should have tipped off US authorities from the start.

"It just doesn't exist," Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and an expert on Russia's economic policy, said about what Butina and Torshin touted as a grassroots Russian gun rights group. "It's a ridiculous front organization with the purpose of infiltrating American groups and forging cooperation with the NRA."

That's the case made by US authorities. Over the course of five years, with the help of Torshin and and an as yet officially unidentified American ally, Butina relentlessly forged connections with NRA officials and others deemed to be influential in US policy. Long before she moved to Washington, DC on a student visa in August 2016 to study at American University, she had logged thousands of miles in trips from Moscow to Tennessee, Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin to build relationships with pro-gun advocates and conservative groups.

As part of her efforts, she gave out honorary memberships to her Russian gun rights organization in the form of an ornamental blue and silver framed plaque, to people ranging from then-NRA president Jim Porter to Oleg Volk, a Tennessee-based photographer who makes pro-gun posters and graphics.

It went both ways - the connections she and Torshin made also visited them in Russia. David Keene, who served as NRA president from 2011 to 2013 as well as chairman of the American Conservative Union, attended her organization's event in Moscow in 2013. The next year, Keene invited Butina to the annual NRA convention, where she attended the group's annual Women's Leadership Luncheon as a guest of former NRA President Sandy Froman. A larger group of NRA and Republican officials was hosted by Butina's group in Moscow in December 2015.

Ideologues exist to be played.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Russian state TV: Trump 'smells like an agent of the Kremlin' (Caroline Orr, July 18, 20181, ShareBlue)

[E]ven the most seasoned Kremlin propagandist couldn't have written a better script than the one Trump delivered when he sided with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community and then blamed the poor state of U.S.-Russia relations on America's "foolishness and stupidity."

Speaking about Trump's remarks after the summit, Russian state TV hosts Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov could barely contain their laughter as they ridiculed Trump for attacking the country he supposedly leads.

"It is very bizarre, you can't bash your own country like that -- especially when you're the President," said Popov, according to the translation provided by Russian media analyst Julia Davis, who first pointed out the exchange Tuesday night.

"When Trump says our relations are bad because of American foolishness and stupidity, he really smells like an agent of the Kremlin," Skabeeva added.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Britain has identified Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack: PA (Guy Faulconbridge, 7/19/18, Reuters) 

British police have identified several Russians who they believe were behind the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the Press Association reported on Thursday, citing a source close to the investigation.

Russian ex-spy says he was on Kremlin 'hit list' along with poisoned Skripal (Richard Engel and Kennett Werner / Mar.29.2018, NBC News)

The former Russian double agent got a terrifying message on his birthday: He was on a Kremlin hit list along with Sergei Skripal, another ex-spy who weeks later was poisoned with a nerve agent in a case Britain blames on Vladimir Putin's government.

"Be careful, look around, something is probably going to happen,'" the former agent, Boris Karpichkov, says an old friend told him on the telephone in mid-February. "It's very serious, and you are not alone."

Among the names on the list was that of Skripal, whom Karpichkov didn't know at the time but whose poisoning alongside his daughter, Yulia, on March 4 on British soil inflamed tensions between the Kremlin and the West and triggered international condemnation. The two are in a hospital in Britain, where Skripal is in critical condition. Yulia is "improving rapidly" and is no longer in critical condition, the hospital treating the pair said Thursday.

Also on the Kremlin's list, he says, were several other ex-KGB agents, as well as Christopher Steele, author of a 35-page dossier alleging collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Bill Browder, the driving force behind a set of U.S. sanctions against Russian individuals known as the Magnitsky Act, was there as well, he adds.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


The Tyrant and His Enablers (Stephen Greenblatt | Excerpt adapted from Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, Longreads)

From the early 1590s, at the beginning of his career, all the way through to its end, Shakespeare grappled again and again with a deeply unsettling question: how is it possible for a whole country to fall into the hands of a tyrant?

"A king rules over willing subjects," wrote the influential sixteenth-century Scottish scholar George Buchanan, "a tyrant over unwilling." The institutions of a free society are designed to ward off those who would govern, as Buchanan put it, "not for their country but for themselves, who take account not of the public interest but of their own pleasure." Under what circumstances, Shakespeare asked himself, do such cherished institutions, seemingly deep-rooted and impregnable, suddenly prove fragile? Why do large numbers of people knowingly accept being lied to? How does a figure like Richard III ascend to the throne?

Such a disaster, Shakespeare suggested, could not happen without widespread complicity. His plays probe the psychological mechanisms that lead a nation to abandon its ideals and even its self-interest. Why would anyone, he asked himself, be drawn to a leader manifestly unsuited to govern, someone dangerously impulsive or viciously conniving or indifferent to the truth? Why, in some circumstances, does evidence of mendacity, crudeness, or cruelty serve not as a fatal disadvantage but as an allure, attracting ardent followers? Why do otherwise proud and self-respecting people submit to the sheer effrontery of the tyrant, his sense that he can get away with saying and doing anything he likes, his spectacular indecency?

Why do large numbers of people knowingly accept being lied to?

Shakespeare repeatedly depicted the tragic cost of this submission -- the moral corruption, the massive waste of treasure, the loss of life -- and the desperate, painful, heroic measures required to return a damaged nation to some modicum of health. Is there, the plays ask, any way to stop the slide toward lawless and arbitrary rule before it is too late, any effective means to prevent the civil catastrophe that tyranny invariably provokes?

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


In pre-dawn move, police grill Conservative rabbi about weddings he conducts (MARISSA NEWMAN, 7/19/18, Times of Israel)

A Conservative rabbi was hauled in by police before dawn on Thursday for questioning over wedding ceremonies he conducts outside the state-run Chief Rabbinate, in a radical departure from the state's longstanding non-enforcement of the issue.

Police knocked on Rabbi Dov "Dubi" Haiyun's door in the northern city of Haifa around 5 a.m. to bring him in for interrogation, following a complaint by a local rabbinical court, according to a spokesperson for the Masorti Movement in Israel, which is analogous to the US Conservative Movement.

The rabbinical court spokesperson, in a statement, accused Haiyun of performing a wedding of a Jew born of an extramarital affair, known as a mamzer.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM



Russian Hackers May Have Leased Infrastructure From U.S. Providers Who Talked to Investigators

To take over first the DCCC network and then the DNC network, GRU hackers, according to the indictment, used a spear-phishing email, which tricked the recipient into entering their password on a malicious site. They then used the victim's credentials to access DCCC's internal network and installed custom malware called X-Agent on "at least ten DCCC computers," according to the indictment. Soon thereafter, the indictment states, the hackers pivoted to DNC's network. From one of the DCCC computers, the Russian hackers allegedly "activated X-Agent's keylog and screenshot functions to steal credentials of a DCCC employee who was authorized to access the DNC network." Armed with DNC login credentials, they were able to access "approximately thirty-three DNC computers." Once on the DNC network, they compromised DNC's Microsoft Exchange Server, gaining access to thousands of emails.

After someone hacks a computer and installs spyware, the attacker then sends commands to the spyware to send data back to them. This is typically done by connecting to a computer known as a command and control, or C2, server.

According to the indictment, the computer that the Russians leased to act as X-Agent's C2 server was located in Arizona. After they had allegedly infected computers in the DCCC network with X-Agent, they logged into this C2 server in order to issue commands to specific hacked computers to log keystrokes and take screenshots.

The indictment goes so far as to specify exactly what data was collected on this C2 server, and at what times. For example, it says that on April 14, the Russians surveilled a DCCC employee's computer for eight hours, during which time they captured "communications with co-workers and the passwords she entered while working on fundraising and voter outreach projects."

In the midst of the hack, the DNC discovered what was going on and hired security firm CrowdStrike to investigate it for them. On June 15, CrowdStrike published a blog post, scarce on details, announcing the compromise of the DNC network and attributing the hack to Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, code names for the GRU hacking units.

Five days after CrowdStrike's blog post, according to the indictment, the Russians allegedly deleted all of the logs from their C2 server that "documented their activities," including their login history.

The fact that the U.S. government had access to the keystrokes and screenshots collected by the C2 server, and even knew at what point in time the GRU agents deleted the activity logs and login history from the server, leads me to believe that the hosting provider likely started to cooperate with the investigation, including possibly sharing snapshots of the hard drive connected to the C2 server. This would allow the investigators to have access to this information.

It also appears that the hackers were unaware that the DNC was on to them until after CrowdStrike published their findings. They appeared to have deleted logs from their C2 server after U.S. investigators already had access to it.

In addition to leasing a server in Arizona, the Russians also allegedly leased a separate server in Illinois that they used for a separate piece of malware called X-Tunnel, which was responsible for compressing and then uploading gigabytes of stolen documents from the DCCC and DNC networks to the server in Illinois "through encrypted channels." It is possible that government investigators obtained information from the hosting provider they leased this server from, as well.

Several Other Companies Must Also Have Talked to Investigators
The quantity of technical details related to GRU's 2016 cyberattacks show that the U.S. government has some impressive capabilities. But the primary capability they appear to have used wasn't technical, it was legal: the subpoena. The U.S. government can compel companies to hand over data.

Based on reading the indictment, I think that the U.S. government almost certainly received data from Bitly, Twitter, Facebook, Google, WordPress, and probably from several other companies, including BitPay or other cryptocurrency payment processors, VPN providers, VPS hosting providers, and domain name registrars, among others. (Twitter and WordPress declined to comment. BitPay said, "BitPay has received subpoenas from U.S. government agencies but how the information is to be used or why it is requested is not shared with us." Facebook and Google did not respond to a request for comment.)

With access to all of the information that companies have related to specific accounts, like IP addresses the attackers used to login to services from, time stamps of when they were active, copies of emails and direct messages sent, and potentially images of the hard drives attached to servers used in the attack, it's possible to paint a very detailed picture.

The U.S. Likely Compromised At Least Two GRU Officers' Computers

One thing that stood out while reading the indictment is how many times the document mentioned exactly what one of the defendants, GRU cyber operations officer Ivan Yermakov, was researching on the internet, and when:

"On or about March 28, 2016, YERMAKOV researched the names of Victims 1 and 2 and their association with Clinton on various social media sites."

"For example, beginning on or about March 15, 2016, YERMAKOV ran a technical query for the DNC's internet protocol configurations to identify connected devices.", "On or about the same day, YERMAKOV searched for open-source information about the DNC network, the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton.", "On or about April 7, 2016, YERMAKOV ran a technical query for the DCCC's internet protocol configurations to identify connected devices."

"During that time, YERMAKOV researched PowerShell commands related to accessing and managing the Microsoft Exchange Server."

"On or about May 31, 2016, YERMAKOV searched for open-source information about Company 1 [CrowdStrike] and its reporting on X-Agent and X-Tunnel."

How could the U.S. investigators have access to this information? Two explanations come to mind. The most likely is that the National Security Agency compromised Yermakov's computer and regularly logged his keystrokes or accessed his browser history. Another explanation would be that Yermakov used Google while logged into an account to do these searches, and the investigators learned his search history from Google. I find the latter to be less convincing because the search engine Yandex is much more popular in Russia, and are GRU officers really stupid enough to use California-based Google?

Another defendant, Anatoly Kovalev, an officer assigned to a different GRU cyber unit, was mentioned only in connection to attacks on the U.S. election infrastructure, not on the Democrats specifically. But one mention stood out:

"In or around August 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an alert about the hacking of SBOE 1 [State Board of Election 1, probably the state of Illinois] and identified some of the infrastructure that was used to conduct the hacking. In response, KOVALEV deleted his search history. KOVALEV and his co-conspirators also deleted records from accounts used in their operations targeting state boards of elections and similar election-related entities."

How could U.S. investigators know that Kovalev deleted his search history, as well as records belonging to multiple online accounts? Again, I believe the most likely scenario is that the NSA compromised his computer, accessed his browser history, and perhaps logged his keystrokes and took screenshots from his computer using a C2 server of their own.

My guess is that after GRU's fatal mistake, logging into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account from their Moscow-based IP address, U.S. investigators learned who worked in that office, what their roles were in the hack, and ultimately, infected some of their workstations with malware to gather further evidence.

July 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


State Department Silent on MH17 Anniversary Following Trump-Putin Firestorm (ROBBIE GRAMER, AMY MACKINNON | JULY 18, 2018, Foreign Policy)

Every year since a Russian missile downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, the U.S. State Department has issued a statement to mark the anniversary.

But on the anniversary this year--a day after U.S. President Donald Trump met in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin--the State Department was conspicuously silent about it.

Officials there prepared a draft statement that was sharply critical of Russia for its alleged role in the attack. But for reasons the State Department has not explained, it was never issued.

Based on a cached version of the U.S. embassy's website in Moscow, it appeared on the homepage briefly on Tuesday but then was quickly taken down. One U.S. official confirmed this account to Foreign Policy.

"Four years after the downing of MH17, the world still awaits Russia's acknowledgement of its role," read the draft, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy.

"It is time for Russia to cease its callous disinformation campaign and fully support the next investigative phase ... and the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the downing of flight MH17."

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM


Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law (Maayan Lubell, 7/18/18, Reuters)

Israel passed a law on Thursday to declare that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, something members of the Arab minority called racist and verging on apartheid.

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While National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to a source, thought Trump's remarks were ill-advised, he believed that walking them back would only add fuel to the outrage pyre and make the president look weak. But Chief of Staff John Kelly was irate. According to a source, he told Trump it would make things worse for him with Robert Mueller. He also exerted pressure to try to get the president to walk back his remarks. According to three sources familiar with the situation, Kelly called around to Republicans on Capitol Hill and gave them the go-ahead to speak out against Trump. 

Too bad he has no honor of his own anymore.
Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


'Shame!' Opposition MKs cry foul as Hungarian PM set to visit (Times of Israel, 7/18/18)

Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday protested the upcoming visit of Hungary's Prime Minister Victor Orban, censuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his embrace of the controversial European statesman who once praised a former Nazi ally.

Under Netanyahu's leadership, ties with Orban have warmed, prompting criticism from the local Jewish community over the Hungarian prime minister's attacks on Jewish billionaire George Soros, which critics say toy with anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Asked if Russia still targeting U.S., Trump says 'no'  (Reuters, 7/18/18)

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not believe Russia is still targeting the United States, contradicting U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow was continuing to meddle in American elections.

Hardly seems fair that the price you pay for defending racial hygiene includes becoming little Walter Duranty clones.

Russia urges U.N. to mull easing North Korea sanctions as U.S. seeks action (Reuters, 7/18/18)

"The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious," said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea's energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


It's time to impeach the president (Jason Villalba,  July 18, 2018, Texas Tribune)

I am a Republican today because of Ronald Reagan. He instilled in me the principles that have guided my life, personally and politically. I believe in fiscal conservatism, American exceptionalism, a moral rubric based on Judeo-Christian values, and on a basic fealty to the essential standards set by our forefathers: truth, liberty, self-sacrifice and basic goodness.

And yet, today, our own president of the United States mocks these basic tenets. Since Donald J. Trump has been president, he alone has increased the national debt by over $1 trillion. Yes. One trillion dollars. The fastest any president in U.S. history has accrued that level of debt.

Our president has mocked and belittled our immigration laws, our intelligence agencies, our foreign policy strategy and even the American people. We have been called "stupid," "weak," "a joke" and "pathetic," all by our own president.

Our president has reveled in sexually engaging with those actively trafficking in the pornography industry and he has ridiculed those religious leaders who would deign to question him for doing so. He mocks and laughs at those Christians who would question him.

I was one of the only Republican elected officials in the country to plead with the American voters to abandon this charlatan prior to his election. For my transgressions, I was summarily unelected from the Texas Legislature. I have no regrets. I always do what I believe is right. That is not politically expedient, but it helps me sleep at night.

But verily I say unto you today, if we do not stop this man now, today, over 500 days into his presidency, we will be equally culpable in what he has planned for our great nation. President Trump thinks you are a fool. He believes you will never abandon him. And he believes that there is almost nothing that he can do that would cause you to abandon supporting him.

But what he doesn't know is that you are not a fool. You, like me, are an American. And no man will own your heart and mind like this president thinks he owns you.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM



WHEN WE MET in early March, Jonathan Albright was still shrugging off a sleepless weekend. It was a few weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had killed 17 people, most of them teenagers, and promptly turned the internet into a cesspool of finger pointing and conspiracy slinging. Within days, ultraconservative YouTube stars like Alex Jones had rallied their supporters behind the bogus claim that the students who survived and took to the press to call for gun control were merely actors. Within a week, one of these videos had topped YouTube's Trending section.

Albright, the research director for Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, probes the way information moves through the web. He was amazed by the speed with which the conspiracies had advanced from tiny corners of the web to YouTube's front page. How could this happen so quickly? he wondered.

So that weekend, sitting alone in his studio apartment at the northern tip of Manhattan, Albright pulled an all-nighter, following YouTube recommendations down a dark vortex that led from one conspiracy theory video to another until he'd collected data on roughly 9,000 videos. On Sunday, he wrote about his findings on Medium. By Monday, his investigation was the subject of a top story on Buzzfeed News. And by Thursday, when I met Albright at his office, he was chugging a bottle of Super Coffee (equal parts caffeine boost and protein shake) to stay awake.

At that point, I knew Albright mainly through his work, which had already been featured on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. That, and his habit of sending me rapid-fire Signal and Twitter messages that cryptically indicated he'd discovered something new that the world needed to know. They came five at a time, loaded with screenshots, links to cached websites, and excerpts from congressional testimony, all of which he had archived as evidence in his one-man quest to uncover how information gets manipulated as it makes its way through the public bloodstream. This is how Albright has helped break some of the biggest stories in tech over the past year: by sending journalists a direct message late in the night that sounds half-crazy, but is actually an epic scoop--that is, if you can jump on it before he impatiently tweets it out.

So when I finally asked to meet Albright, the man who's been conducting some of the most consequential and prolific research on the tech industry's multitudinous screwups, I expected to find a scene straight out of Carrie Mathison's apartment: yards of red string connecting thumbtacked photos of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Bannon, and Vladimir Putin. At the very least, rows of post-docs tapping away on their Macbooks, populating Excel spreadsheets with tips to feed Albright their latest.

Instead, his office--if you can call it that--sits inside a stuffy, lightless storage space in the basement of Columbia University's journalism school. The day we met, Albright, who looks at least a decade younger than his 40 years, was dressed in a red, white, and blue button-down, khakis, and a pair of hiking boots that haven't seen much use since he moved from North Carolina to New York a little more than a year ago.

From a hole in the ceiling, two plastic tubes snaked into a blue recycling bin, a temporary solution to prevent a leaky pipe from destroying Albright's computer. His colleague has brightened her half of the room with photos and a desk full of books. Albright's side is almost empty, aside from a space heater and three suitcases he keeps at the ready as go-bags for his next international lecture. A faux window in the wall opens on yet another wall inside the basement, or as Albright calls it, "basically hell."

And yet, out of this humble place, equipped with little more than a laptop, Albright has become a sort of detective of digital misdeeds. He's the one who tipped off The Washington Post last October to the fact that Russian trolls at the Internet Research Agency reached millions more people on Facebook than the social media giant initially let on. It's Albright's research that helped build a bruising story in The New York Times on how the Russians used fake identities to stoke American rage. He discovered a trove of exposed Cambridge Analytica tools in the online code repository Github, long before most people knew the shady, defunct data firm's name.

Working at all hours of the night digging through data, Albright has become an invaluable and inexhaustible resource for reporters trying to make sense of tech titans' tremendous and unchecked power.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


For the Love of Mars : Why settling the Red Planet can lift us from our antihuman malaise (James Poulos, New Atlantis)

Since at least Dante, the poetic vision of destiny in the West has bound up together love and the heavens. In this sense our highest poetry worked to reconcile and harmonize the personal at its most intimate and the natural at its most cosmic -- in Dante's case, through the Divine. That sort of poetry could be described as a practice of the art of humanism, properly understood. Yet strangely, despite remarkable leaps forward in spacefaring technology that promise to unite the personal and the cosmic in an epochal way, today's Western vision of destiny has become fractured and contested. It is no longer accepted belief that poetry, divinity, destiny, and the personal love of being human are all constituent parts of a harmonious experience of being.

This problem -- and it is a problem -- is encapsulated in the uncertain place of Mars in the human conversation today. That conversation is dominated by matters of politics, science, and economics. Though it is obvious that these things should play a role in how people wrestle anew with the age-old question of our relation to Mars, something is badly and historically amiss in the absence of love, humanism, and poetry from these conversations. It is no excuse that ours is a time of fantastically powerful governments and technologists, one in which money, moreover, threatens to become the measure of all things. If the public imagination regarding Mars has been dimmed in the West, it is on account of our failing memory of the ancient role of the cosmic in practicing the art of humanism, and the failure of our poets to access and rehearse that role anew, amid conditions that ought to be recognized as hugely favorable.

The difficulty is not just one of disenchantment, although a disenchanted and unpoetic view of Mars will pose great difficulties. The disenchantment of Mars signals a deeper and broader disconnect with, and alienation from, the humanist wellspring of poetry: the love of being human. The antihumanism welling up in today's utopian and dystopian visions of technological destiny not only pulls our view down from Mars, the cosmos, and the heavens; it turns our view against ourselves. Our technological destiny shifts from one in which human life radiates outward from Earth to one wherein humanity is so rotten that our future must cease to be human at all, whether by becoming subhuman or superhuman.

Western poets have drawn upon love to teach by example the art of humanism. They have used love to help us make sense of our place in the world -- longing for home yet eager to wander -- and in that way, of the whole physical reality that surrounds us and situates our life, on Earth and beyond. Since Mars is part of that landscape, restoring a truly humanist vision to the question of our Martian destiny means regarding Mars in terms of love. Rather than limiting ourselves to the political, scientific, and economic questions about the use and advantage of Mars, we must also ask the poetic question about the presence of love in our relationship to Mars. Is not Mars so special and so ripe with specific possibility, waiting for us and the fast approaching moment when we might settle it permanently, that we are obliged to speak of Mars with love, in love? Would we not speak wrongly, even falsely, if we spoke any other way of the only place available to us to make our first home away from our home planet?

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM

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Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Scientists are speeding up evolution to build climate change resistance (ADELE PETERS, 7/18/18, Co.Exist)

The goal: to cross-breed species that survived recent coral bleaching-a heat-driven process that causes the coral to expel its symbiotic algae, turning it white and eventually killing it-to create offspring that have a better chance in the hotter, more acidic ocean of the future.
It's one example of so-called assisted evolution-an attempt to help species adapt to a changing environment more quickly than they are likely to through natural selection. Thousands of miles away, in British Columbia, researchers are studying the genetics of pine trees so breeders can breed trees that better resist a particular disease that is increasing with climate change. With thousands of other plants and animals at risk of extinction-in the Amazon alone, around 34,000 plants may be extinct by the end of the century if the planet warms two degrees-it's possible that assisted evolution is an approach that may eventually be used more widely.

"I think assisted evolution will allow us to buy some time until the world addresses greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and climate warming," says Madeleine van Oppen, a University of Melbourne professor helping lead the research at the at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, where researchers use a "sea simulator" that precisely mimics the conditions of the changing ocean to test which coral are hardiest.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Now We All Know What Putin Has on Trump (Julia Ioffe, 7/17/18, GQ)

By the summer of 2016, after a well-timed dump of stolen DNC e-mails nonetheless failed to prevent Clinton from clinching the Democratic nomination, there was only one person who wasn't her. And--as we then suspected and now know--the Kremlin was working to help elect that person, Donald Trump. Trump spoke glowingly of wanting to be friends with Putin and resetting relations with Russia; Clinton, long described as a hawk, was a realist on Russia. She understood Putin well, and Putin knew that. Not only had Clinton publicly questioned the integrity of Russia's rigged elections when she was Secretary of State; she was also a representative of the Obama administration, which Putin loathed. Obama had imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea. Obama had sent Michael McFaul, a well-known scholar of democratization in Russia and color revolutions, to be ambassador to Russia just before Putin's 2012 elections, something Putin came to see as a form of meddling. Kremlin TV went with the line that McFaul was there to overthrow Putin, and according to McFaul's new memoir, Putin drank the Kool-Aid. [...]

What didn't occur to me was the most obvious option, the one we saw revealed in Helsinki. When Putin was asked if he had compromising materials on Trump, Trump interjected and said, "I have to say, if they had it, it would have been out long ago." And it's true. It's been out for ages, since the October 2016 warning by the intelligence community, then the January 2017 report from the Director of National Intelligence, then the drip-drip-drip of revelations in the press, and indictment after Mueller indictment, the last installment coming just three days before the Helsinki presser. Trump was right. It is out there.

The kompromat is the election result itself, and Trump is lashing out at the people who are trying to get him to do something on its basis: the press, the Democrats, the intelligence community, Robert Mueller, and Trump's own Department of Justice. We are the ones saying, Do this or else. And Trump is, predictably, lashing out. The only person, it seems, who knows how to use the blackmail to his advantage is Putin. True to the intelligence training he spoke about today, Putin knows his subject and his supple psychology, the nooks and crannies of his insecurities and obsessions. Why threaten him when you can get him to do your bidding with simple flattery: Of course we didn't interfere, Donald. You won fair and square. You did it all by your genius self.

...has been that the collusion can't be a crime because they did it publicly.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Obama Schools Democrats on Capitalism and Democracy (Steve Berman, 7/18/18, The Maven)

In the Age of Trump, where truth is not as fleeting as it isn't a double-negative, and policy is whatever hormone-induced blurts gurgle unfiltered through our president, Democrats seriously only have to do one thing to win the hearts and minds of America. They have to remain sane and on the popular side of most issues important to Americans. Unfortunately, they can't do it, but they have a secret weapon who can, if they'd only listen to him.

Former President Barack Obama may have given the legacy speech of his life from South Africa. [...]

On race baiting and victimhood:

But democracy demands that we're able also to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds, but maybe they'll change ours. And you can't do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start. And you can't do it if you insist that those who aren't like you -- because they're white, or because they're male -- that somehow there's no way they can understand what I'm feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters. 

On objective truth (something most progressives deny exists):

Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet-driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they're caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they'd be like, "Ah, man." Now they just keep on lying. 

On capitalism versus socialism:

But we can learn from the last 70 years that it will not involve unregulated, unbridled, unethical capitalism. It also won't involve old-style command-and-control socialism form the top. That was tried; it didn't work very well. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


The Latest Russia Twist: Criminal Charges Against Mariia Butina (Victoria Clark, Mikhaila Fogel, Matthew Kahn, Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes, July 16, 2018,  Lawfare)

Trump is not the only one that the criminal complaint should humiliate. Only a few months ago Rep. Adam Schiff--the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee--complained publicly that the committee majority was releasing its report without even interviewing the individuals involved in this bizarre episode. The majority report "ignores significant outstanding questions about individuals who sought to set up this backchannel," wrote Schiff and the Democratic members of the committee, "including why Torshin and Butina were interested in connecting the Trump campaign to Putin, what they sought to get out of that connection, why they enlisted the support of NRA colleagues, and whether others in the campaign were communicating with Russia through the NRA." The Justice Department action Monday--even as the president was busy, in McCain's words, "abas[ing] himself ... before a tyrant"--rather vindicates Schiff's curiosity.

Before turning to the details of the allegations, a few antecedent points:

First, this was not an action by Mueller but by the Justice Department's National Security Division (NSD) and the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. Precisely why that is so is not entirely clear from the documents. The activity described in the criminal complaint and the accompanying affidavit certainly covers the period of the 2016 election campaign. It certainly includes allegations of Russian "meddling" or "interference" in the U.S. political system. Mueller would almost certainly have been within his rights had he considered this matter within his jurisdiction under a grant of authority that includes "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." Whether Mueller passed the matter off to the NSD, or whether it originated there, the fact that this investigation is being handled outside of the special counsel's office shows the discipline Mueller is exercising in not taking on matters that aren't strictly related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. He passed the Michael Cohen investigation off to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. And this one--though more obviously linked to the matter of Russian electoral interference--ended up, by one means or another, not in his shop but in the NSD and with the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

These decisions reflect discipline and modesty on Mueller's part; he is not building an investigative empire the way Kenneth Starr did, to Starr's own great cost. And they have a very happy collateral effect: They significantly reduce the potential consequences of a Mueller firing. If Trump were to fire Rod Rosenstein or Mueller or both in a fit of pique tomorrow, the Michael Cohen investigation would continue. This prosecution would continue. The Russian hacking indictment has been passed to the NSD.

There is no investigative Fort Knox here that the president can easily disrupt. He cannot fire his way to impunity any longer--if he ever could.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


LABOUR CRISIS: MP quits and blasts Jeremy Corbyn as 'CLEAR RISK to national security' (REBECCA PERRING, Jul 18, 2018, Daily Express)

In a scathing resingation letter posted on Twitter by BBC poltiical editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Woodcock personally attacked Mr Corbyn, saying: "I have promised to fight for local jobs, promote a credible alternative government, protect the shipyard and ensure the safety of my constituents through strong defence and national security.

"I now believe more strongly than ever that you have made the Labour Party unfit to deliver those promises and would pose a clear risk to UK national security as Prime Minister."

Mr Woodcock said Labour had been "taken over" by the "hard left" and accused it of "tolerating" anti-Semitism. 

He used the letter to attack the direction of the party under Mr Corbyn's leadership, saying: "The party for which I have campaigned since I was a boy is no longer the broad church it has always historically been.

"Anti-Semitism is being tolerated and Labour has been taken over at nearly every level by the hard left, far beyond the dominance they achieved at the height of 1980s militancy.

"There is little chance of returning the Labour party to the inclusive, mainstream electoral force my constituents desperately need."

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Trump Is Fighting the Entire Republican Party to Defend Putin (Jonathan Chait, 7/17/18, New York)

Well before Trump had even disembarked from his trip to Finland, Republican members of Congress and his own aides were registering their dismay at his performance. Trump defended his behavior in an interview with Sean Hannity, one of the few high-profile Republicans slavish enough to defend his open-channel collusion. As of Tuesday morning, he was still hoping to bring his party around. By afternoon, the pressure to climb down had grown too intense. John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff, was, incredibly, telling Republican members of Congress to criticize the president. Trump's own secretary of State and vice-president begged him to reverse himself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


The Queen's Not-So-Subtle Nod to Barack Obama  (STEPHANIE PETIT, July 17, 2018, People)

While receiving the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar for an audience at Windsor Castle on Thursday, the day Trump arrived in England, the Queen donned the American State Visit Brooch. The vintage ornament, a small green flower, was a gift from former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama during their state visit in 2011.

The Obamas reportedly hand-picked the personal gift -- which featured 14-karat yellow gold, diamonds and moss agate -- at Washington D.C.'s Tiny Jewel Box store.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


What Mueller Knows About the DNC Hack--And Trump Doesn't: The president's bizarre obsession with "the DNC server" defies logic or even a basic understanding of what actually happened. (THOMAS RID, July 17, 2018, Politico)

First off, CrowdStrike, the company the DNC brought in to initially investigate and remediate the hack, actually shared images of the DNC servers with the FBI. For the purposes of an investigation of this type, images are much more useful than handing over metal and hardware, because they are bit-by-bit copies of a crime scene taken while the crime was going on. Live hard drive and memory snapshots of blinking, powered-on machines in a network reveal significantly more forensic data than some powered-off server removed from a network. It's the difference between watching a house over time, carefully noting down who comes and goes and when and how, versus handing over a key to a lonely boarded-up building. By physically handing over a server to the FBI as Trump suggested, the DNC would in fact have destroyed evidence. (Besides, there wasn't just one server, but 140.)

An advanced investigation of an advanced hacking operation requires significantly more than just access to servers. Investigators want access to the attack infrastructure--the equivalent to a chain of getaway cars of a team of burglars. And the latest indictments are rich with details that likely come from intercepting command-and-control boxes (in effect, bugging those getaway cars) and have nothing to do with physical access to the DNC's servers.

The FBI and Robert Mueller's investigators discovered when and how specific Russian military officers logged into a control panel on a leased machine in Arizona. They found that the GRU officers secretly surveiled an empoyee of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee all day in real time, including spying on "her individual banking information and other personal topics." They showed that "Guccifer 2.0," the supposed lone hacker behind the DNC hack, was in fact managed by a specific GRU unit, and even reconstructed the internet searches made within that unit while a GRU officer with shoddy English skills was drafting the first post as Guccifer 2.0. None of this information could have possibly come from any DNC server.

With help from the broader intelligence community, the FBI was able to piece all these details together into the bigger picture of the GRU's vast hacking effort. The complexity of high-tempo, high-volume hacking campaigns means that attackers can make myriad mistakes; Mueller's latest indictments reveal just how successful American investigators have been at exploiting those repeated errors and uncovering more and more information about what Russia did.

The Russian spies, for example, reused a specific account for a virtual private network (a purportedly secure communication link) to register deceptive internet domains for the DNC hack, as well as to post stolen material online under the Guccifer 2.0 front. Cryptocurrency payments--the kind the Russians used to pay for registering the DCLeaks.com site and their VPN--were neither as anonymous nor as secure as the GRU thought they would be. Third-party platforms including Google, Twitter and the link-shortening service Bitly were convenient and reliable for Russian hackers, but they could also be subpoenaed. Mueller's team did exactly that, reconstructing how, when and how frequently Russian intelligence officers communicated with WikiLeaks, which they used as an outlet for the stolen material. The Russians weren't even particularly careful: WikiLeaks and the Russians officers, in a major cock-up, encrypted the hacked emails, but did not encrypt the details of their collaboration. And in using a Bitly account to automate the shortened links sent out to targets of their email-phishing scheme, the GRU left an investigative gold mine: a vast target list of more than 10,000 potential victims' email addresses.

American spies could even watch the Russian spies trying, in vain, to cover their tracks, likely in real time. Indeed, the Russian officers made so many mistakes that it is almost surprising the GRU even tried to be stealthy. The U.S. intelligence community has stunning visibility into GRU hacking operations--not just against the DNC, but against the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DCCC and state election infrastructure. The notion that all this high-resolution visibility hinges on physical access to "the DNC server" defies logic or even a basic understanding of what is actually happening.

The Mueller indictment of GRU officers is so detailed and comprehensive that it represents a major humiliation for what used to be one of the world's most respected intelligence agencies. One can imagine laughter over at FSB and SVR, Russia's other intelligence agencies, which are traditionally fierce rivals of GRU.

July 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


America's cultural divide isn't growing: So what explains increasing partisanship? (Democracy in America, Jul 17th 2018, The Economist)

THE idea of two Americas is a trope of political commentary: a population divided in mutual incomprehension by income, race, religion or region--flyover country versus coastal elite. The idea that cultural fissures are growing is used to explain increasing political rancour and the rise of Donald Trump. But those explanations may need tempering. Two papers on cultural distance, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in June, suggest the idea of cavernous and expanding cultural fissures is over-wrought.

The point, of course, is that, at the End of History, there is no longer an ideological divide, only a party identification one.  On the other hand, the extreme wings of both parties are so far out of the mainstream as to make each party seem an abomination to the other. If you are a Democrat, the Nativism/racism/Islamophobia of the Right tars all Republicans; if a Republican, it's easy enough to justify loathing any Democrat based on the abortion-on-demand mantra of the Left.  Meanwhile, overwhelming majorities of Americans of both parties support open immigration and severe abortion restrictions.

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 PM


EU and Japan sign trade deal covering a third of the world's economy (Alanna Petroff and Ivana Kottasová, July 17, 2018, CNN)

The European Union and Japan signed a huge free trade deal on Tuesday that cuts or eliminates tariffs on nearly all goods.

The agreement covers 600 million people and almost a third of the global economy. It's also a major endorsement of a global trading system that is under increasing threat from protectionism.

It will remove tariffs on European exports such as cheese and wine. Japanese automakers and electronics firms will face fewer barriers in the European Union.

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


This teacher on a plane talked about her low-income students. Passengers overheard and gave her more than $500 in cash. (Allison Klein, July 17, 2018, Washington Post)

Chicago schoolteacher Kimberly Bermudez has always been the chatty type.

So when she was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Florida to visit her parents last week, and her seatmate asked her what she did for a living, she told him about her first-grade students, all of whom come from low-income families. Some students at the school are homeless, she said.

He asked her: "What's the most challenging part of your job?"

When children come to school hungry, she said, and seeing hard-working immigrant parents struggling to provide basic necessities for their families.

"You can't control what happens at home," Bermudez, 27, said in an interview with The Washington Post, recalling what she told him. "These parents are amazing. They will go without for their child."

The seatmate replied that his company donates to schools such as hers, and she enthusiastically said her charter school, Carlos Fuentes Elementary, would welcome it. All the teachers and administrators in the school go into their own pockets to help the kids with whatever they need -- underwear, soap, school supplies -- because of how much they care, she said.

A moment later, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see the man seated in the row behind her, who had a baby on his lap.

He apologized for eavesdropping. Then he handed her a stack of cash.

"Do something amazing," he told her.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Abe Foxman on Trump's Helsinki comments (Jacob Kornbluh, July 17, 2018, Jewish Insider)

"It's a sad day for America, for the free world, for democracy, for Israel, and the Jewish people. We all depend on America, its strength and respect. And America, because of its president, is now unpredictable, unstable, disloyal, disrespectful towards friends and allies. It's a very, very dark day because who can you depend on? Who can you trust to be there for you? It's very scary.

Foxman on Israel's reaction to the Trump-Putin summit: "It troubles me because you can't isolate this one thing from the whole picture. First of all, we don't know what [this deal] means. We have no idea what was discussed, we may never know the truth, and we don't know whether we are being sold out. Hearing that section did not give me any comfort, it just gave me more anxiety because, in this type of relationship, this type of unpredictability, I don't want to be part of it at this moment. And we are being thrown around by both sides as 'look at this accomplishment.'"

"Israel has to first and foremost work to protect its national security interests, and therefore Putin is a very significant player. I understand the need for Netanyahu and Putin to work as closely as possible."

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


The Wisdom of Eric Hoffer--Part I: Eric Hoffer was fascinated by the fanatic. (Lawrence W. Reed, 7/17/18, FEE)

To the hardscrabble longshoreman, the phenomenon of fanaticism was rooted in a crisis of confidence in one's self, a kind of "self-renunciation." The "true believer" believes that sinister forces, not any shortcomings of his own, are the cause of his victimhood--the remedy for which is to replace his helpless individuality with the power of a collective juggernaut (especially if he can lead the parade himself). There being no shortage of fanaticism in the news today, it should go without saying that Hoffer's observations are as relevant as ever. Now, let's read a sample of them in Hoffer's own words, excerpted from The True Believer:

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

"Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?"

"Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority."

"Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both."

"People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief of the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility."

"Collective unity is not the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty of the true believer is to the whole--the church, party, nation--and not to his fellow true believer. True loyalty between individuals is possible only in a loose and relatively free society."

"Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil."

"The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world." [...]

"The frustrated, oppressed by their shortcomings, blame their failure on existing restraints. Actually, their innermost desire is for an end to the 'free for all.' They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society."

Food for thought?

This self-loathing is what you've heard this week, as Donald raged against America, the Atlantic Alliance, etc.  The fanatics of Right and Left are united by their hatred of the America we live in.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


Russian establishment chalks up Trump summit as a win for Putin (Christian Lowe, 7/17/18, Reuters) 

Russia's political and media establishment heralded talks between the Russian and U.S. leaders in Helsinki as a victory for Vladimir Putin in breaking down Western resolve to treat Russia as a pariah.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Trump vs. Strzok: It's the embattled FBI agent, not the president, who models American values. (WILLIAM SALETAN, JULY 16, 2018, Slate)

[A]nyone who watched Strzok (the name is pronounced struck) testify saw just the opposite: an honest law enforcement officer standing up to a corrupt president. And that's why Trump attacked him. Trump doesn't want Americans to get ideas or inspiration from Strzok. He doesn't want them to see what backbone looks like. I'll tell you what it looks like: Republicans tried to put Strzok on trial, and Strzok put Trump on trial instead.

The hearing focused on the now-infamous texts Strzok exchanged in 2016 and 2017 with his then-paramour, FBI attorney Lisa Page. Strzok apologized for the circumstances: for cheating on his wife, for snarking about some Trump supporters, and for exchanging the texts on FBI work phones, which led to a controversy that has damaged the credibility of the FBI and the Russia inquiry. But Strzok destroyed the central charge against him: that he skewed the investigations.

Strzok acknowledged that like most people, he has political opinions. He argued that cops, like jurors, are simply obliged to set aside those opinions when assessing evidence. He challenged lawmakers to show that his opinions had affected any investigative decisions. They couldn't. Strzok cited the Justice Department inspector general's report on the Clinton investigation, which found no evidence that he had done anything to favor Clinton or hurt Trump. He noted that immediately after learning that some of Clinton's emails were on a laptop belonging to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, he assigned agents to check it out. And despite having known before the election about the investigation into the Trump campaign, he hadn't leaked it.

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'Very much counter to the plan': Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin (Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, July 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday's summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin would end differently -- without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump's remarks were "very much counter to the plan," the person said.


Helsinki Summit: A Time for Choosing--Three observations by former senior CIA officer (Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, July 16, 2018, JustSecurity)

Donald Trump said what he said in Helsinki because he believes it.  Our own president believes in the zeitgeist of the 21st century autocrat, the leader who controls events and is able to crush all barriers to absolute rule.  Trump respects the strong, the unbridled leader who through the force of personality and a position of strength are able to bully and silence their critic.  Free press. "Fake news." Rule of law.  What's the law? Pardon militiamen and rule-of-law-crushing sheriffs instead.  Civil rights and civil liberties?  Gone too far and needs a correction. For Donald Trump, the core values of American democracy are to overcome, not to respect and defend.

This is a time for choosing. Government officials, senior and junior alike, take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States, not to obey any single President. The calculus of whether to resign or stay must be based on whether one is able to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States from within or from without. Serving the interests of this president is not serving the country.

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Klavan: Trump Made 'A Left-Wing Mistake' At The Helsinki Summit (DAILY WIRE, July 16, 2018)

Trump's mistakes, said Klavan, are always "left-wing mistakes." As an example, Klavan pointed to Trump's big summit with Putin on Monday. "If you pay attention when [Trump] makes a real faux pas, as I think he did this morning, it's always a left-wing mistake," said Klavan.

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I'm Bill Browder. Here's the Biggest Mistake Putin Made When Trying to Get Access to Me Through Trump (BILL BROWDER, 7/17/18, TIME)

Putin offered to allow American investigators to interview the 12 Russian intelligence agents just indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in exchange for allowing Russians to have access to me and those close to me. This is no idle threat. For the last ten years, I've been trying to avoid getting killed by Putin's regime, and there already exists a trail of dead bodies connected to its desire to see me dead. Amazingly, Trump stood next to him, appearing to nod approvingly. He even later said that he considered it "an incredible offer." [...]

Since 2012, Putin has made it perhaps his largest foreign policy priority to have the Magnitsky Act repealed. But none of his efforts have worked. Not only has it not been repealed, it's spread to six additional countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the Baltic states and Gibraltar. There are eight other countries with Magnitsky Acts on deck: Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, South Africa and Ukraine. The Magnitsky Act is going viral, and countries that have Magnitsky Acts are sanctioning Putin's cronies, who I imagine soon will be sanctioned by other countries as well.

In addition, the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign has investigated and found the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed and was killed over. There are now a number of live law-enforcement investigations around the world determining just who benefited from this crime. These have resulted in tens of millions of dollars of frozen assets. Furthermore, these investigations don't only put at risk the beneficiaries of this crime, but the benificiaries of many other similar crimes. These people are ready to kill to keep their money. Losing it would be devastating. [...]

The biggest mistake that Putin made in his offer today to effectively swap me for the 12 Russian agents is that he went to the wrong head of state. Although I was born in America, I emigrated to the United Kingdom 29 years ago and am a British citizen. If he really wants me, he better go talk to Theresa May, who might have a few choice words for him after Russian agents spread the military-grade nerve agent Novichok across the cathedral town of Salisbury, England.

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The Moral Imagination & Imaginative Conservatism: a review of The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling, by Gertrude Himmelfarb  (Eva Brann, 7/17/18, Imaginative Conservative)

What they all have in common is a "moral imagination" (a term introduced by Edmund Burke) and their distinctive varieties of conservatism. There are, for example, the new-fangled middle-class Tories, men who begin to be called Conservatives in the 1830s--"Tory men and Whig measures" as Disraeli, himself an old-fashioned Tory, defines them in his novel Coningsby. In his Tory adherence, Disraeli makes a pair with John Buchan. (It is a delight to learn something of the dark complexity of Buchan, whose adventure stories have given me such acute pleasure, which I had ascribed to a residual juvenility in me.)

The moral imagination seems to run not incidentally but necessarily in tandem with a certain aspect of conservatism, what I think of as "imaginative conservatism." For "moral imagination," as contrasted with, say, "social conscience," is the representation to oneself of concretely visualized human conditions and consequences, as opposed to ideal rational constructions abstracted from living detail. But this imagination, the kind that is affirmingly receptive rather than strenuously constructive, is fed by remembered experience, be it worldly or fictive, and that means, in turn, that it is inevitably past-nurtured. Oakeshott, the most single-minded and most recent representative of this way of being, whose pairable predecessor is Burke, says:

The disposition to be conservative is, then, warm and positive in respect of enjoyment, and correspondingly cool and critical in respect of change and innovation; these two motivations support and elucidate each other.

Gertrude Himmelfarb is very far from being an ideological schoolmarm, but I wonder whether there is not lurking in these essays a gentle lesson to her fellow conservatives: If you mean to capture hearts rather than rouse anger, cultivate the imaginative kind of conservatism and its language.

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Trump's 'Missing DNC Server' Is Neither Missing Nor a Server (Kevin Poulsen, 07.16.18, Daily Beast)

The "server" Trump is obsessed with is actually 140 servers, most of them cloud-based, which the DNC was forced to decommission in June of 2016 while trying to rid its network of the Russian GRU officers working to help Trump win the election, according to the figures in the DNC's civil lawsuit against Russia and the Trump campaign. Another 180 desktop and laptop computers were also swapped out as the DNC raced to get the organization back on its feet and free of Putin's surveillance.

But despite Trump's repeated feverish claims to the contrary, no machines are actually missing.

It's true that the FBI doesn't have the DNC's computer hardware. Agents didn't sweep into DNC headquarters, load up all the equipment and leave Democrats standing stunned beside empty desks and dangling cables. There's a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with a deep state conspiracy to frame Putin.

Trump and his allies are capitalizing on a basic misapprehension of how computer intrusion investigations work. Investigating a virtual crime isn't a like investigating a murder. The Russians didn't leave DNA evidence on the server racks and fingerprints on the keyboards. All the evidence of their comings and goings was on the computer hard drives, and in memory, and in the ephemeral network transmissions to and from the GRU's command-and-control servers.

When cyber investigators respond to an incident, they capture that evidence in a process called "imaging." They make an exact byte-for-byte copy of the hard drives. They do the same for the machine's memory, capturing evidence that would otherwise be lost at the next reboot, and they monitor and store the traffic passing through the victim's network. This has been standard procedure in computer  intrusion investigations for decades. The images, not the computer's hardware, provide the evidence.

Both the DNC and the security firm Crowdstrike, hired to respond to the breach, have said repeatedly over the years that they gave the FBI a copy of all the DNC images back in 2016. 

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Bush-appointed judge announces end to national borders, suspends deportations (Daniel Horowitz, July 16, 2018, Conservative Review)

We all knew this feigned outrage over separating families had nothing to do with separating families, but with ensuring a steady flow of poor and dangerous elements into our country to be released into our communities and never heard from again. Now we have the proof. After the Trump administration marshalled all its security resources away from our border priorities in order to reunite the families, district Judge Dana Sabraw has now placed a halt on their deportations, even as unified family units.

The ACLU, which now dictates the location of all immigration litigation and, by extension, our immigration policies, demanded that the newly reunited families be given one week to determine their next legal moves. Sabraw granted the request until the government submits briefs in response!

There are no words to describe just how unprecedented this is or how it violates all aspects of settled immigration law.

Sabraw, a George W. Bush appointee, is the same judge who legislated from the bench that the administration must unite all criminal aliens with their children in just two weeks, a very dangerous policy to children. Then he refused to allow the government to take the time to conduct DNA tests and track down proper documentation to prove familial ties, even when they found that 20 percent of the "parents" were unfit to regain custody or weren't even their parents. This judge is violating all legal norms in his pursuit of a political agenda, and ironically, he doesn't even care about these kids.

Moreover, Sabraw is now saying that the American taxpayer must foot the bill to reunite these people rather than the aliens paying for it. "It doesn't make any sense for any of the parents who have been separated to pay for anything," bellowed Sabraw on Friday.

So much Winning :(

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


CNN: Former Trump aide canceled interview because he was unable to defend the president (The Week, July 16, 2018)
On Erin Burnett OutFront Monday night, the CNN host was down a panelist, as Michael Anton, President Trump's former top national security spokesman, bowed out following Trump's much-derided press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Burnett was joined by journalist Julia Ioffe and CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon, but noted there was a person missing. "Michael Anton was going to be here," she said, but "he canceled, and he knows I'm going to tell you this, because he said he could not defend the president on his actions today." Anton, using a pseudonym, was behind the essay "The Flight 93 Election," which tried to convince conservatives wary of Trump to vote for him anyway because "2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM



Most of the news from the Palestinian territories usually hits all expected dour notes -- the violence, the political rift between Gaza and the West Bank, a tight Israeli military cordon that some would call prudent, others suffocating. And yet that grim roundup obscures some unexpected good news, and possibly a source for hope: the relative economic stability of the West Bank, which is practically inaccessible to many Gaza residents, thanks to strict Israeli immigration laws.

That shift is encouraging, considering that the World Bank predicted the global economy itself would only grow by 3.1 percent in 2018. The rest of the Middle East and North Africa region has "declined markedly," according to the World's Bank's annual outlook published in January, down to just 1.8 percent in 2017 after 5 percent the previous year.

The West Bank, on the other hand, is stacking growth, adding to an increase of 3.5 percent the year before, according to a report from the International Labour Conference (ILC) this summer. Conditions in the landlocked territory that includes East Jerusalem and Ramallah were better than in its noncontiguous neighbor of Gaza, creating a tale of two economies in the Palestinian territories.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 AM


Iceland's extraordinary, futuristic churches: The unique, modernist masterpieces that reflect mythology, nature and the country's turbulent history. ( Addison Nugent, 13 July 2018, BBC)

Dotted throughout Iceland's rocky, otherworldly terrain are structures that seem to have been formed from the earth by a numinous hand. These geometric, often asymmetrical buildings look like the dwellings of the 'hidden folk' of Icelandic mythology, perhaps the last refuges of the ice giants Odin was unable to exterminate. But in fact, they are simply Icelandic interpretations of communal staples found in most cities and towns throughout the world: churches.

These buildings are examples of Iceland's unique take on modernist architecture. While modernist churches are certainly not unique to Iceland, its approach to the movement is singular in that it is deeply informed by its cultural history and landscape.

Icelandic Modernism was born of a 20th-Century push to create a distinctive architectural style after centuries of Norwegian -- followed by Danish -- rule. The brightly coloured timber houses that line the streets of Icelandic towns were often wholly imported from Norway, and 19th-Century stone houses were mostly designed by the Danish government. It was not until cement --  a material that could endure the harsh climate and that did not have to be imported --  was introduced, that a uniquely Icelandic style could be created.

...there's a statue of Leif Erickson in front of   Leif Erickson in front of Hallgrímskirkja, a gift from the American people.

July 16, 2018

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Trump's Helsinki humiliation (Axios, 7/16/18)

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

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US Indicts Russian Gun Activist Who Interacted with NRA and the Trump Campaign (DAN FRIEDMAN AND DENISE CLIFTON, JUL. 16, 2018, Mother Jones)

Federal prosecutors have charged Maria Butina, a Russia gun-rights activist with a long history of interactions with the National Rifle Association and Donald Trump's presidential campaign, for conspiring to act as a Russian agent without registering with the US Department of Justice.

In a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday, federal prosecutors charge that Butina, 29, who enrolled as graduate student at American University in fall 2016, developed "relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation." The complaint says the activity occurred between 2015 and February of 2017. 

Prosecutors say that Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank. Though that official is not named in court documents, the description matches that of Aleksander Torshin, who was among Russian officials sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April. 

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Obamacare, once a GOP target, is now a midterm rallying cry for Democrats (Sean Sullivan, July 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Democratic candidates and groups are trumpeting support for popular elements of President Barack Obama's signature law and attacking Republicans for trying to rescind them in last year's failed repeal-and-replace effort. Liberal activists are also seeking to convince centrist senators that confirmation of Trump's new Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, would increase the odds that the law known as Obamacare would be dismantled by the courts

The strategy marks a dramatic turnabout from the previous two midterms when many Democrats avoided defending Obamacare, and illustrates the extent to which the law has taken root as millions of Americans have come to depend on it. Republicans, who relentlessly attacked Democrats for supporting the ACA in 2010 and 2014, are now largely steering their campaigns toward different topics.

"When they were running against Obamacare, they were really just running against Obama. And they were causing people to fear the unknown. And that was effective," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in an interview. "Now, it's no longer theoretical, rhetorical or even political for most of these folks. They don't want to be harmed."

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


New York Times Runs Cartoon Depicting Trump, Putin as Gay Lovers (Alex Griswold, July 16, 2018, Free Beacon)

In a cartoon published and boosted by The New York Times, President Donald Trump fantasizes about having a gay relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

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Putin Arrives Late For Helsinki Summit, Keeps Trump Waiting (JOSEPH CURL, July 16, 2018, Daily Wire)

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Tracing Guccifer 2.0's Many Tentacles in the 2016 Election (David E. Sanger, Jim Rutenberg and Eric Lipton, July 15, 2018, NY Times)

The effort by the team that posed as Guccifer to disseminate the fruits of the audacious cyberattack shows how aggressively the Russian operatives worked in 2016 to interfere with the presidential election. They showed dexterity in navigating their way through the national political debate and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of American electoral politics.

In addition to WikiLeaks, the Russians made contact with Americans who held sway both in Republican circles and with Mr. Trump, the indictment says. It does not assert that the Americans knew that Guccifer 2.0 was a creation of Russian spies.

Those figures included Roger J. Stone Jr., the longtime Trump friend who exchanged messages with Guccifer during the campaign but said in an interview on Saturday that he did not believe at the time that Russian state actors were behind it. "I originally thought he was a Romanian hacker because that's what he claimed to be," Mr. Stone said.

There was Lee Stranahan, who is now a co-host of "Fault Lines" on the Russian-owned Sputnik radio network but back then was at Breitbart News, whose chief during that period, Stephen K. Bannon, joined Mr. Trump's campaign that August.

The indictment mentions that Guccifer 2.0 had sent some documents to a lobbyist in Florida, which had been previously reported. But it also reveals that a congressional candidate whom it did not name connected with the operatives, looking for stolen documents about a political opponent, which were then sent.

Using Guccifer 2.0 as their main means of communication, the Russian agents had regular contact with both conservative and mainstream journalists, the indictment said. In one case, it said, the Russians gave an unidentified reporter a password to view documents. The Smoking Gun said in a Twitter message that it was the "reporter" in the reference. In another case, according to the indictment, the Russians conferred with a writer about the timing of one planned leak; Mr. Stranahan announced on Twitter that he was the writer, then at Breitbart.

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What progressives like about Trump's trade war (Jeff Spross, 7/16/18,  The Week)

[A]fter I spoke with several economists on the left and reviewed their recent writings, it became clear to me that many of them believe Trump actually gets a decent amount right on trade.

Many progressive economists broadly agree with Trump that America's trade relationships with other countries are a dysfunctional mess -- and that they've done serious damage to American workers.

"It would be deeply unwise to ignore the power of [Trump's] message," Heather Boushey and Todd Tucker -- the chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and a political scientist at the Roosevelt Institute, respectively --recently wrote at Vox. They pointed to evidence that the start of global trade relations with China in 2000 decimated jobs and wages for blue-collar workers here in America.

Trump has responded to this reality with massive tariffs -- something some progressive economists agree with, at least in principle.

"Tariffs are sorely needed to retaliate for theft of intellectual property, state-owned enterprises, overcapacity, and other forms of unfair trade, including more than a decade of massive currency manipulation," Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) told me.

Like Trump, many progressive wonks are deeply critical of the world's free-trading order. 

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Trey Gowdy explains why he got owned by FBI agent Peter Strzok: 'Public hearings are a circus' and a 'freak show' (David Edwards, 15 JUL 2018, Raw Story)

During an interview on CBS, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan referred to a recent hearing where Republicans attacked FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was accused of being biased against President Donald Trump. The hearing, however, backfired on Republicans when Strzok lectured Gowdy about not using the proceeding as a ruse to cover up the president's "disgusting" attacks on the FBI. [...]

"WPublic hearings are circus," Gowdy replied. "That's why I don't like to do them. I don't do many of them. I mean, it's a freak show."

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The MAGA Trolls Meet Their Match In Sacha Baron Cohen And "Who Is America?" : Sacha Baron Cohen -- a consummate troll himself -- is a perfect foil to the current political climate of grift and trolling. (Charlie Warzel, 7/15/18, BuzzFeed News)

The week began with a quick trailer that showed former vice president Dick Cheney signing a "waterboarding kit" and ended with a series of news reports and furious statements from politicians like Roy Moore, Sarah Palin, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio admitting they'd been duped by Baron Cohen's "evil," "exploitive" and "truly sick" interview tactics. By Sunday morning, a bootlegged clip of the first episode, in which Baron Cohen convinces former and current members of Congress to back a program that would arm kindergartners with guns ("Kinderguardians"), ricocheted around Twitter. In a matter of days, Baron Cohen didn't just break into an impenetrable news cycle, he upended it, disorienting an untold number of bullshit artists, lawmakers, and anyone too quick to accept an interview request. The trolls, it seems, were not prepared for Baron Cohen.

This is far from Baron Cohen's first attempt at this style of subversive comedy. Over the last 15 years, Baron Cohen has duped celebrities, racist frat bros, and Donald Trump. The shtick might be old, but Baron Cohen's new interviews -- particularly his "Kinderguardians" segment -- feel perfect for both our current moment and many of the interview subjects he's picked. Despite the awkwardness and ethical ambiguity, there's a grim catharsis at play while watching Baron Cohen bait a gun rights advocate into making an infomercial to sell firearms to toddlers. Around the time Baron Cohen's character tricks a former congressman to advocate on camera for 4-year-olds to familiarize themselves with the "rudimentary use of mortars," it becomes clear that Baron Cohen -- a consummate troll himself -- is a perfect foil to the current political climate of grift and trolling.

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THE WORLD OF RAYMOND CHANDLER AND 'THE BIG SLEEP': How Chandler Reinvented Himself and the Crime Novel (OWEN HILL, PAMELA JACKSON, AND ANTHONY RIZZUTO, 7/16/18, Excerpted and adapted from the editors' introduction to The Annotated Big Sleep)

After short stints in St. Louis and San Francisco, Chandler moved to Los Angeles in 1913. Ever peripatetic, it took him six more years to settle permanently there. The city served not only as setting but in some ways as the other major character in the Philip Marlowe novels. Its character was set by its sudden expansion, and the self-promotion and greed that went with it. It was a city of excess, escapism (Hollywood!), tawdriness, exhibitionism, and corruption. In the nineteen-teens it was the fastest-growing city on earth, hyped and hustled like perhaps no other city ever had been. The population of Los Angeles ballooned threefold between 1910 and 1930, from approximately 310,000 to about 1,250,000, with the formerly barren greater L.A. County housing two and a half million. In this time, the streets were paved, automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages and the electric railway system, and the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built to heist water from the Owens Valley 250 miles away. Corruption was rife, and politicians and law enforcement often worked in tandem with the LA "System," the syndicate of organized crime. Los Angeles was also a city of sin, a proto-Las Vegas surfeited with prostitution and gambling. Journalist Carey McWilliams wrote that "Los Angeles is the kind of place where perversion is perverted and prostitution prostituted." Chandler grafted this "vast melodrama of maladjustment," as L.A. historian Richard Rayner aptly calls it, onto his fiction. This wonderfully dysfunctional backdrop beckoned many writers. Chandler would later proudly claim that before him "Los Angeles had never been written about," but that wasn't exactly true. Both Paul Cain and James M. Cain (no relation) had started publishing their brutally hardboiled Angelino stories in the early 1930s. Horace McCoy's dark LA novel They Shoot Horses, Don't They? was published in 1935. They were soon joined by Nathaniel West, whose Hollywood novel The Day of the Locust came out the same year as The Big Sleep. And Chester Himes' critical look at race and class in Los Angeles, If He Hollers Let Him Go, would follow six years later. Mike Davis has said that LA Noir writers like Chandler, Chester Himes, and others represent an alternate public history of Los Angeles.

After arriving in Los Angeles, Chandler worked first as a bookkeeper and then as an executive for the Dabney Oil Syndicate. There he saw firsthand some of the corruption endemic to the oil industry and the justice system. He always saw his adopted hometown through the eyes of an outsider. In 1950 he would reflect, "I arrived in California with a beautiful wardrobe, a public school accent, no practical gifts for earning a living, and a contempt for the natives that, I am sorry to say, persists to this day."

Chandler was a successful executive in the oil industry as the Depression hit in 1929 and deepened in the following years. When he was sacked by Dabney Oil in 1931, it wasn't because of the wider economic collapse, nor because he was "intrigued" out of the job, as he later averred, but because of unacceptable behavior and too many lost weekends. (See the note to Marlowe's firing in Chapter Two of the novel). Finding himself out of work at the age of forty-three, two years into the Great Depression, it seemed that Chandler was in for hard times.

Chandler took it as an opportunity to do "what I had always wanted to do--write." But he had to find a way to make it pay. He later recalled, "In 1931 my wife and I used to cruise up and down the Pacific Coast in a very leisurely way, and at night, just to have something to read, I would pick a pulp magazine off the rack. It suddenly struck me that I might be able to write this stuff and get paid while I was learning." He never underestimated his chosen task. After the publication of his first story in December 1933 he wrote to friend William Lever, "It took me a year to write my first story. I had to go back to the beginning and learn to write all over again."


The pulp magazines (so called because they were printed cheaply on wood-pulp paper) were ubiquitous at newsstands, bus stations, and drugstores. They were a cheap, gaudy source of popular entertainment that sometimes mixed in subversive social commentary with tales of adventure and derring-do. The format, invented in 1882 as a vehicle for children's adventure stories, was tremendously popular when Chandler was growing up. By the 1920s there were pulps specializing in each popular sub-genre: detective stories, westerns, love stories, adventure stories, sea stories, stories of the occult, and so on. During the Depression these sources of cheap entertainment provided vital escape for the downtrodden and disenfranchised.

Black Mask was widely regarded as the best of the bunch. It was founded in 1920 by drama critic and editor George Nathan and journalist, culture maven, and scholar H.L. Mencken as way to fund their tonier magazine, The Smart Set. Its early subtitle announced "Western, Detective, and Adventure Stories," but due to popular demand the crime stories--and specifically the newly-invented "hard-boiled" detective fiction--took over.

Hardboiled fiction was a revolutionary change in the mystery genre. Edgar Allen Poe generally receives the credit for inventing detective fiction (which he called "tales of ratiocination," meaning, generally, stories of rational deduction) in three short stories in the 1840s starring the eccentric genius Auguste Dupin. Arthur Conan Doyle followed Poe's lead when he invented his own brilliantly eccentric hero named Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Early twentieth-century crime fiction generally fell in step behind Poe and Doyle, giving us genteel amateurs like Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, Dorothy Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey, and the estimable Ellery Queen. The stories were often "puzzle mysteries" or "whodunits" where the reader played along with the detective to interpret the clues and solve the mystery. One of these authors, S.S. Van Dine (the pseudonym of American art critic Willard Huntington Wright), even published the rules for this type of literary game in his 1928 essay "Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories." (Rule number one: "The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described." Just try this with The Big Sleep!)

This is now considered the Golden Age of detective fiction. Chandler and his fellow hardboiled practitioners roundly rejected this legacy. When Chandler has Philip Marlowe trenchantly declare that "I'm not Sherlock Holmes or [Van Dine's] Philo Vance" in Chapter Thirty of The Big Sleep, he's making a statement as much about the genre that Marlowe is playing in as about the kind of detective Marlowe is. Chandler's powerful manifestos on behalf of the American hardboiled rejection of "drawing-room mysteries" can be found in two key essays: his magnificent 1944 essay "The Simple Art of Murder," and the introduction to Trouble Is My Business, with which we began our own introduction.

Black Mask and other hardboiled pulps like Dime Detective and Detective Weekly cut a new path. John Carroll Daly broke in the hardboiled style with his story "The False Burton Combs" in 1922; his success was enormous, and he was emulated by Black Mask writers throughout the decade. The style was less a continuation of the existing tradition of detective fiction than a critical reaction to the corruption and excesses of the 1920s and a stylized representation of the organized crime networks spawned by Prohibition. This social context gave rise to a widespread popular demand for crime-related stories in all forms: print, movies, word of mouth, newsreels, gangster films, true-crime journalism, novels, short stories--you name it. As Luc Sante puts it, "the art of lawlessness began a major upward trend all over the world" at this time.

Hardboiled, as a subgenre, is infamously "American." To recall Chandler's terms: it is the mystery going native. Hardboiled captured the violence of the twenties and the desperation of the thirties in substance, and displayed them formally in a brutal, clipped, but--in the case of Hammett and Chandler, at least--distinctly poetic style. The phrase "hard-boiled" is itself an Americanism. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, to be "hard-boiled" is to be "one who is toughened by experience; a person with no illusions or sentimentalities." In the eloquent words of mystery novelist Walter Mosley, the hardboiled style is "elegant and concise language used to describe an ugly and possibly irredeemable world," a style which captivates us "the way a bright and shiny stainless-steel garbage can houses maggots and rats." As Mosley indicates, the world according to hardboiled is not only tough but vibrant: a gritty, profoundly urban setting teeming with underworld life--booze, sex, drugs, violence--and the decadence of the wealthy and powerful. Hammett elevated the form in a series of stories in the first half of the twenties, but truly revolutionized it with his novels Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, and The Maltese Falcon (all first serialized in Black Mask between 1927 and 1929).

Hammett and Black Mask editor Joseph Shaw derived a literary program to lend psychological and linguistic realism, not to mention literary status, to what was becoming a very formulaic, "lowbrow" form. Toward this end, Hammett mixed hardboiled with Hemingway--shaken, not stirred. For Chandler, as for Hammett, Hemingway was "the greatest living American novelist." Hemingway's 1926 The Sun Also Rises became the hardboiled touchstone, with its interior monologue, stark prose, and colloquial turns of phrase. "It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime," protagonist Jake Barnes reflects, "but at night it is another thing." (It's tempting to consider Hemingway's characters' drunken quest for hard-boiled eggs a literary in-joke.)

In the "Simple Art of Murder," Chandler establishes the genealogy of the form that he chose to work in. He links Hammett back to Hemingway, but Hemingway back to Theodore Dreiser, Carl Sandburg, and Ring Lardner--the sinewy tradition of the American literary vernacular mixed with social and psychological realism, which itself grew out of the nineteenth-century Naturalist movement. The key figures here are Frank Norris, especially for subject matter, and Stephen Crane, for substance and style. Norris wrote on corruption and greed among economic forces in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Crane, generally underestimated as one of the influences in this context (and one of Hemingway's greatest early influences) was the author of taut, ironic tales of impending violence. In "Simple Art," Chandler calls this realistic style a "revolutionary debunking of both the language and the material of fiction." "You can take it clear back to Walt Whitman if you like," Chandler says--and probably further back than that, in England anyway, to Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, which famously announced a turn to "real language of men" in its Preface/manifesto of 1800. "It probably started in poetry," Chandler says coyly; "almost everything does."

If, for Hammett, the most important work was Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926), then for Chandler it was Hammett's Maltese Falcon (1930). Yet for all their similarities--and we will note several places where Chandler overlaps with, and even lifts from Hammett, during the course of The Big Sleep--they are profoundly different. Chandler, coming after, can take Hammett's realism and use of the vernacular à la Hemingway as given. He adds two crucial components that make him distinct: a dose of idealism and a strong strain of humor. Another key difference is between Hammett's San Francisco and Chandler's Los Angeles. For all their differences, Chandler made clear that Hammett paved the way for him. "I give him everything," he wrote to Blanche Knopf in 1942.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Poll: Where You Watch TV News Predicts Your Feelings On Immigration (JOEL ROSE, 7/16/18, Morning Edition)

The poll of more than 1,000 people asked about Trump's immigration policies and proposals and about which immigrants should get priority in the U.S. system. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish from June 19-20. Most respondents said they got their news mainly from TV.

On some questions, people who get their TV news primarily from Fox News or CNN are even further apart than Republicans and Democrats, with viewers of the other big TV networks somewhere in between.

Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson says he's surprised to find a connection in the data that's even stronger than partisanship.

"People who get their news from Fox News actually take the strongest anti-immigrant position of any group we looked at in this survey," Jackson said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


40% vacancy: Feds release illegal immigrant families instead of filling detention centers (Stephen Dinan, 7/15/18,  The Washington Times)

The government pays for thousands of detention beds for illegal immigrant families, but nearly 40 percent of them were sitting unused in late June, even as the Department of Homeland Security was rushing to release parents and children into communities.

The empty beds were revealed in court documents late last month. Lawyers who monitor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's facilities said two major facilities were running well below capacity.

ICE's biggest facility in Dilley, Texas, can hold 2,400 parents and children -- but on June 27 and 28 it was at just 63 percent capacity, with 886 beds empty, the detainee logs showed.

Although the beds were empty, the government was still paying for them.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Voter Turnout Is Up, Especially Among Democrats. What Does That Mean for November? (ALAN GREENBLATT, JULY 11, 2018, Governing)

More than half the states have held primary contests this year, representing nearly two-thirds of the country's population. Nearly 14 million people have cast votes in Democratic primaries so far -- an increase of nearly 60 percent from four years ago. On the Republican side, 12.3 million people have cast votes, which is an increase of just under 20 percent.

In the Colorado primary last month, Democratic turnout nearly tripled, rising 197 percent from 2014 levels. Republican turnout, by comparison, was up by about 30 percent.

"I don't think you can look at that and not see that the intensity is on the Democratic side," says Dick Wadhams, a GOP consultant and former chair of the Colorado Republican Party. "We would sure be crowing about it if more Republicans were voting in primaries."

July 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


In 1970, Milton Friedman Called for Unilateral Free Trade Rather Than Retaliation. We Still Haven't Learned That Simple Lesson. (Mark J. Perry  , 7/16/18, FEE)

In August of 1970, Friedman's Newsweek op-ed titled "Free Trade" was in response to a bill Congress was considering at that time to impose import quotas on textiles and shoes to protect the textile industry in the Carolinas from foreign competition and cheap imports. The "favorite whipping boy" of the protectionists back then was Japan, and Friedman referred to Japan throughout his article. I've taken the liberty of modifying and updating Friedman's op-ed slightly by substituting China for Japan in order to reflect the "favorite whipping boy" of today's protectionists. And I've also updated the last paragraph to reflect today's favored domestic industries being artificially protected from competition with Trump's tariffs.

The proponents of protectionism say, "Free trade is fine in theory but it must be reciprocal. We cannot open our markets to foreign products if foreigners close their markets to us." China, they argue, to use their favorite whipping boy, "keeps her vast internal market for the private domain of Chinese industry but then pushes her products into the U.S. market and complains when we try to prevent this unfair tactic."

The argument sounds reasonable. It is, in fact, utter nonsense. Exports are the cost of trade, imports the return from trade, not the other way around.

Suppose China were incredibly successful in her alleged attempt to restrict imports into China, managing to dispense with them entirely. Suppose that China were incredibly successful in her alleged attempts to push exports to the U.S., managing to sell us large quantities of assorted goods. What would China do with the dollars she received for her exports? Take crisp greenbacks back to Beijing to stash in the vaults of the Bank of China? Let deposits at U.S. banks pile up? Jolly for us. Can you think of a better deal than our getting fine textiles, shiny cars and sophisticated TV sets for a bale of green printed paper? Or for some entries on the books of banks? If the Chinese would only be willing to keep on doing that, we can provide all the green paper they will take.

China does impose numerous restrictions on trade--though in recent years she has been reducing them. Those trade restrictions hurt China and they hurt us--by denying them and us mutually profitable trade. In China no less than in the U.S., concentrated producers exert a greater influence on government than widely diffused consumers and are able to persuade the government to fleece the consumer for the benefit of the producers.

However, we only increase the hurt to us--and also to them--by imposing additional restrictions in our turn. The wise course for us is precisely the opposite--to move unilaterally toward free trade. If they still choose to impose restrictions, that is too bad but at least we have not added insult to injury.

This is clearly the right course for action on economic grounds. But it is also the only course of action that is in keeping with our political position in the world. We are a great nation, the leader of the free world. Yet we squander our political power to appease the steel, aluminum and washing machine industries! We should instead be setting a standard for the world by practicing the freedom of competition, of trade and of enterprise that we preach.

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM


Turkey and the coup attempt: How it changed the country's behaviour (Rabia Iclal, Sunday 15 July 2018, Middle East Eye)

The July 2016 coup bid, carried out, the government says, by supporters of exiled Fethullah Gulen, was the bloodiest in modern Turkish history. Social observers and analysts report that the anger and fear it generated still permeate Turkish society two years later.

Nurullah Ardıc, an associate professor of sociology at Istanbul Sehir University, said that while the defeat of the coup had strengthened social bonds, it had also weakened the prestige of the military, police, religious groups and even NGOs.

According to a survey on social cohesion in Turkey conducted by the Istanbul Policy Centre (IPC), an independent research policy institute at Sabanci University, between January and February 2018, 47 percent of Turks were happy about the measures taken by the government to restructure the state after 15 July, against 21 per cent who were not.

Pinar Akpinar, an academic at the centre, said: "One cannot really speak of an overall 'change' of society but, rather, the alleviation of fears."

She said the coup had touched on several existential fears of Turks, including Sèvres syndrome, named after the post-First World War treaty which abolished and then divided the Ottoman Empire.

That fear, Akpinar said, meant that "people from very different segments of society united under a perceived threat of their country being carved up".

But that moment of unity, she said, was very short-lived. "Eventually, Turkish politics went back to its usual agenda of polarisation."

Like Alkilic, Adviye Gul, 17, took to the street on the night of the attempted coup, along with four other members of her family. She headed for Istanbul's Sarachane district, where she and hundreds of others gathered outside the municipality building to prevent it being taken over by coup plotters.

"We went out to the streets, praying," she said. "We stood against the traitors and occupiers, with bare hands and the love of our land.

"Normally, I'm a very young person with dreams for the future, and I wouldn't risk my life. But, that day, my god had completely taken the fear from us." 

Eventually, forces who backed the coup opened fire on the crowd: Gul was hit in the arms and remained in a critical condition for four days.

Before the coup she had always been interested in politics. But now she has taken more of an interest and watches the news more frequently.

"I am now awake to the facts about our history and the dangers we face today. As a young Turk, I'm now more hopeful and confident about my future."

As news of the coup reached the wider world, the response from the West was slow in coming, with many governments lukewarm in their support for Erdogan.

Gurkan Zengin, formerly news director of Al Jazeera Turk, who wrote Kusatma (Siege) about the coup attempt, said that events in July 2016 woke Turkish society to the "level of danger the Gulen movement poses to Turkish society".

He said that the general perception was that the US wanted to depose Erdogan and his regional policies by using Gulenist supporters.

"No one in Turkey can believe that any military coup can occur in a Nato country without approval from the Pentagon or another US security and intelligence apparatus."

That sense, academics believe, was also at play on 24 June 2018, when Turkey held its first presidential and parliamentary election since the attempted coup, despite the two events being almost two years apart.

Ali Yasar Saribay, political sociologist at Uludag University, said: "It can be safely concluded that 15 July had a decisive influence on the 24 June election results, meaning that Erdogan was supported by the electorate, against the West."

He said that several of the political, legal and economic measures that Erdogan's ruling AK Party had taken after 15 July were not fully backed by the West.

"The support in the election was not only a show of favour for Erdogan, but a political reaction against the Western world fuelled by instinctive preservation of the state. It's difficult to understand this without taking into consideration the sensitive points of the state-society relations in Turkey historically."

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Trump's ambassador lobbied Britain on behalf of jailed right-wing activist Tommy Robinson (Mark Hosenball, 7/15/18, Reuters) 

Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained to the British ambassador in Washington D.C. about the treatment of an English right-wing activist who is in jail for disrupting a trial, according to three sources familiar with the discussion. [...]

Reuters was unable to determine why the top U.S. official responsible for defending religious freedom would try to intervene with the British government on behalf of an activist who has expressed anti-Islamic views.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Mueller's Blockbuster Indictment: With the special counsel's latest indictment, Americans are one step closer to knowing the truth of what happened during the 2016 election. (PAUL ROSENZWEIG, JUL 13, 2018, The Atlantic)

[T[hese forensic details are stunning, and the import of their publication is far broader that the verisimilitude they lend to the allegations. At a minimum, the level of detail here makes it difficult to deny the truth of what they assert. Take but one example--the question of the identity of Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer 2.0 was an on-line persona who claimed to be behind the hack of the Democrat emails. He also claimed he was not a Russian but rather an independent Romanian hacker. The evidence of the indictment, linking web searches by the Russian conspirators to posts by Guccifer 2.0 is damning indeed.

But perhaps more saliently, the level of detail suggests that the veil of anonymity that has long protected hackers is slowly being torn apart. The forensic information here (doubtless sourced from the intelligence community) makes it clear that, with enough time and effort, the chances of penetrating a secret operation are much higher than they have been in the past. That's a good thing for American counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations, but it is not necessarily a good thing for social or political dissent--especially not that in authoritarian Russia.

Fourth, Wikileaks is revealed to be, at best, a pawn of Russian intelligence and at worst part of a coordinated Russian operation. Wikileaks affirmatively solicited DNC material from Guccifer 2.0, and scheduled its release immediately before the Democratic National Convention, in an effort to harm the Clinton campaign. If they knew that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian operative, they were willing participants; if they did not then they were dupes. Either way, anyone who continues to take Wikileaks seriously as a journalism outlet strains credulity. Their anti-America and anti-Clinton bias is demonstrable.

Finally, Trump adviser Roger Stone is in a great deal of trouble and the specter of "collusion" is more real now than it has been in the past. Stone, who the indictment describes as "in regular contact with senior members of the [Trump] presidential campaign" was also in regular contact Guccifer 2.0, now known to be the front for Russian intelligence. Stone had previously given conflicting statements about the state of his knowledge as to Guccifer 2.0's identity, and about what, if anything, he did with information he may or may not have received. But the indictment now puts Stone's actions squarely in focus and will, undoubtedly, result in more scrutiny of his conduct by prosecutors.

Moreover, the indictment also alleges that the Russian attempt to hack the Clinton campaign's emails began, quite literally, on the very day that Trump publicly asked the Russians to find Hillary's missing emails. This may well be nothing more than a case of conscious parallelism, but when combined with the Stone allegations, it is yet another strand of evidence suggesting actual contact and collaboration between Trump supporters and the Russians.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


The car industry needs to embrace open source (RAMI SASS, 7/15/18, TNW)

In 2017, a report from Visual Capitalist showed that software for the automotive market contains upwards of 100 million lines of code. To give some perspective, only Google, with all of their services, was said to have more code in their products.

If the automotive market wants to stay ahead of these software giants, who may have their own ambitions of breaking into the car making game, they need a secret weapon to give them that nitrus boost into the next generation of development.

Automakers have begun to understand that if they are going to have a shot at beating Silicon Valley at their own game, then they are going to have to pool their resources and work smarter together.

One of the ways that they are already doing this is in their use of open source components. This software is written and maintained by the open source community and made available for reuse by others so long as they follow their licenses.

Open source components are essentially the building blocks of software, comprising between 60-80 percent of the code base in modern applications. These reusable components give developers a fast and free way to solve problems and add powerful features to their products without having to write new code themselves.

In hopes of making code sharing in the industry a reality, the majority of stakeholders -- including Panasonic, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota, and many more -- have joined with The Linux Foundation's Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project.

The goal of the AGL initiative is to create a space, through the Unified Code Base (UCB), where developers can contribute to projects, which in turn will be available to developers at other companies. Through this code sharing, companies can speed up their development of products without having to reinvent the wheel.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


The quantified heart (Polina Aronson & Judith Duportail, 7/15/18, Aeon)

Some people might be more comfortable disclosing their innermost feelings to an AI. A study conducted by the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles in 2014 suggests that people display their sadness more intensely, and are less scared about self-disclosure, when they believe they're interacting with a virtual person, instead of a real one. As when we write a diary, screens can serve as a kind of shield from outside judgment.

Soon enough, we might not even need to confide our secrets to our phones. Several universities and companies are exploring how mental illness and mood swings could be diagnosed just by analysing the tone or speed of your voice. Sonde Health, a company launched in 2016 in Boston, uses vocal tests to monitor new mothers for postnatal depression, and older people for dementia, Parkinson's and other age-related diseases. The company is working with hospitals and insurance companies to set up pilot studies of its AI platform, which detects acoustic changes in the voice to screen for mental-health conditions. By 2022, it's possible that 'your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family,' said Annette Zimmermann, research vice-president at the consulting company Gartner, in a company blog post.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Some MAGA hats made in China may increase in price because of tariffs (JOHN BOWDEN, 07/14/18, The Hill)

A California-based company that sells "Make America Great Again" hats similar to the official hats sold by the Trump campaign says its prices may rise in response to trade tensions with China prompted by President Trump's tariffs.

David Lassoff, who runs the company IncredibleGifts, told ABC News that prices of the hat could double from between $9 and $12 to at least $20 if he is forced to abandon his Chinese manufacturers and make the hats in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


How the Russians hacked the DNC and passed its emails to WikiLeaks (Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, July 13, 2018, Washington Post)

The DCCC served as the hackers' gateway to the DNC. Armed with the credentials of a DCCC contractor authorized to gain access to the DNC network, the GRU infiltrated the national committee, eventually gaining access to 33 computers, according to the indictment.

Once inside the DCCC and DNC computers, the hackers searched for keywords related to the 2016 election, prosecutors allege. In mid-April 2016, they searched one DCCC computer for terms including "hillary," "cruz" and "trump," the indictment states. The hackers also copied particular DCCC folders, including one labeled "Benghazi Investigations." And they "targeted" computers that contained information about opposition research and "field operation plans" for the 2016 election.

The hackers used computer network infrastructure that they leased inside the United States, including in Arizona and Illinois, to move files from the targeted computers.

On June 22, the indictment stated, WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 asking to have access to the material, saying "it will have a much higher impact" on its site.

The GRU made repeated attempts to transfer the stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks beginning in late June 2016. On July 14, the Russians got an email to WikiLeaks with an attachment titled "wk dnc link1.txt.gpg." The attachment contained an encrypted file with instructions on accessing an online archive of hacked DNC documents, the indictment said.

On July 18, WikiLeaks confirmed it had "the 1Gb or so archive" and would release the material "this week," according to the indictment.

On July 22, three days before the Democratic National Convention opened, WikiLeaks put up the DNC email archive of more than 20,000 emails and other documents hacked by the GRU, the indictment said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


'Conservativism' Review: Holding On to the Good Things (RICHARD ALDOUS, 7/14/18, WSJ)

On one level this slim volume is the ideal primer for those who are new to conservative ideas -- a kind of "conservatism: the greatest hits."  Smith, Burke, Jefferson, Arnold, T.S. Eliot, Leo Strauss : They're all here.  Less commonly celebrated writers, such as Michael Oakeshott and James Burnham, are restored to their place in the canon.  Others who did not identify as conservatives -- such as George Orwell and, stretching the point almost to breaking, Simone Weil -- are claimed philosophically for the tradition.

Mr. Scruton is an agreeable companion.  His style is brisk and often amusing, and he has a nice way of summarizing complexity without being simplistic.  Individual thinkers fit within a broader narrative that sets out to show how modern conservatism, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries as a defense of tradition during debates over popular sovereignty, became an appeal on behalf of religion and culture against materialism in the 19th century.  It then joined forces with classical liberals, such as Friedrich Hayek, in the fight against socialism in the 20th century and eventually became today "the champion of Western civilisation" against its enemies, notably "political correctness" and religious extremism.  "In all these transformations something has remained the same," Mr. Scruton writes, "namely the conviction that good things are more easily destroyed than created, and the determination to hold on to those good things in the face of politically engineered change."

Among Mr. Scruton's many strengths is an ability to make fresh the ideas of writers who may otherwise appear bloodless or, worse, heartless.  Adam Smith, for example, is famous (and often reviled on the left) for his defense of the market economy in The Wealth of Nations.  But Smith himself saw his less well-known work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, as the more important book.  There he developed his theory of the "impartial spectator," that part of ourselves that allows us to assess our own thoughts, feelings and actions and to pass judgment on their moral worth. 

This ability to view ourselves from the outside, to see ourselves in fact as others see us, is for Smith the greatest of social goods, because it creates sympathetic feelings -- the foundation of community -- and implies a responsibility for others that will inevitably place limits on freedom.  This idea, Mr. Scruton argues, is at odds with the extreme liberal view, which values the freedom of the individual "above all other things."  The conflict, he says, is "one of the principal political issues of our time."  It is a battle over whether liberty requires us to look at our own conduct and that of others from the standpoint of impartiality -- to be able to say, in other words, that sometimes we may be wrong and that others within our community, even if they're our opponents, may have a point. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Worker wages drop while companies spend billions to boost stocks ( IRINA IVANOVA, 7/11/18, CBS News MONEYWATCH)

Six months after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act became law, there's still little evidence that the average job holder is feeling the benefit.

Worker pay in the second quarter dropped nearly one percent below its first-quarter level, according to the PayScale Index, one measure of worker pay. When accounting for inflation, the drop is even steeper. Year-over-year, rising prices have eaten up still-modest pay gains for many workers, with the result that real wages fell 1.4 percent from the prior year, according to PayScale. The drop was broad, with 80 percent of industries and two-thirds of metro areas affected.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


GOP Candidate Disavows 'Jews Must Be Stopped' Robocalls -- But Sticks With Holocaust Denial (Alyssa Fisher, July 12, 2018, The Forward)

Although the call's message is consistent with his anti-Semitic rhetoric -- he's an known Holocaust denier -- Fitzgerald denied responsibility, writing on his congressional campaign site Wednesday that it was the work of a person known as The Road To Power. [...]

Despite his disavowals, Fitzgerald's campaign website includes plenty of anti-Semitic claims. It falsely says that 9% of U.S. government officials are dual citizens of Israel and that Jews played a "prominent role" in the African slave trade, and celebrates a "courageous" elderly German woman who was sentenced to two years in prison for denying the Holocaust.

"Why is the holocaust the ONLY historical issue that cannot be questioned without fear of fines and/or imprisonment in eighteen countries - and counting - throughout the world?" Fitzgerald wrote on May 16.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


By allowing towns to segregate, Israel may cross a different kind of red line: The wounds of America's redlining policy, which led to segregated housing, still fester 50 years after it was rescinded. Will the nation-state bill put Israel on the same path? (Joshua Davidovich, 13 July 2018, Times of Israel)

It took over 30 years for the US to reverse course, passing the Fair Housing Act that outlawed discrimination in April 1968.

Yet according to Rothstein and other historians, the damage had already been done, and even 50 years later, cities still bear not only the scars but festering open wounds of those policies.

A 2017 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that inequalities persisted as late as 2010 along border areas between red and yellow, and yellow and blue areas. "The maps had a causal and persistent effect on the development of neighborhoods through credit access," the authors wrote.

"We still have a very, very segregated society, in terms of housing and [by extension] schools," Brown University sociologist John R. Logan recently told US News and World Report.

According to Rothstein, a large part of the problem was the fact that by the time blacks could buy in more affluent areas, the homes there were already out of reach because prices had risen so much.

"In Levittown, there were very inexpensive homes. They sold for $8,000 to $9,000 [$100,000 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars] a piece. African American families could have afforded those and could have moved out of public housing," Rothstein said, referring to the post-war New York suburb where blacks were forbidden. By the time the town was desegregated, those homes were out of reach. "Today they are worth $400,000 to $500,000. The white families who purchased them gained enormous equity appreciation."

Meanwhile, blacks were in debt to unregulated money lenders, the only places they could get a loan, and even after 1968 some banks continued to practice racist lending policies.

The resulting legacy is rampant inequality, in both wealth and opportunities for escaping poverty. Black communities continue to not only be separate but unequal.

"Nationwide today African American wealth is about 10 percent of white wealth, but African Americans make 60 percent as much as whites. That's an enormous difference," said Rothstein, pointing the legacy of segregated housing as the main factor keeping blacks in poverty.

"Discrimination ... laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government--through housing policies--engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day," wrote Ta-Nehesi Coates in a landmark 2014 Atlantic article titled "The Case for Reparations."

"An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating."

Historians say the racist housing policies were a way to continue segregating communities after the Supreme Court knocked down explicitly racist zoning regulations.

In Israel, clause 7B of the controversial Nation-State Bill presents a virtual mirror of those century-old processes in the US, using law to directly further existing arrangements.

Much housing in Israel is already de-facto segregated. Towns describe themselves as Jewish or Arab, aside from the odd mixed city like Haifa or Lod, and even these places have Jewish or Arab neighborhoods.

It's extremely rare for a Jew to have an Arab neighbor or vice versa, but until now it has never been part of the country's de facto constitution to enforce those separations.

The clause, which has come under vociferous criticism and may now be softened, would "authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community."

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


U.S. oil boom delivers surprise for traders - and it's costly (Julia Payne, Devika Krishna Kumar, Dmitry Zhdannikov, 7/15/18, Reuters) 

The world's biggest oil traders are counting hefty losses after a surprise doubling in the price discount of U.S. light crude to benchmark Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 in just a month, as surging U.S production upends the market.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Illinois elections board 'very likely' named in Mueller indictment of Russian hackers, officials say. (Monique Garcia, Patrick M. O'Connell, 7/14/18, Chicago Tribune)

Though the Mueller probe continues to make national waves, Illinois voters have known about the cyberattack for nearly two years. It was discovered in July 2016, and the FBI issued an alert the following month. The timeline listed in the indictment matches up with what the state publicly acknowledged about a data breach in 2016.

Still, state officials said Friday's charges help put to rest some uncertainty.

"We are grateful that DOJ has identified who the perpetrators are," state election board spokesman Matt Dietrich said at a hastily arranged news conference at the Illinois Capitol. "We never had anything on paper until today, and even then we don't have a firm statement saying 'Yes, it's you,' although we think it's more than likely 'yes.' "

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Emirati Prince Flees to Qatar, Exposing Tensions in U.A.E. (David D. Kirkpatrick, July 14, 2018, NY Times)

Sheikh Rashid's flight to Doha appears to be the first time in the nearly 47-year history of the U.A.E. that a member of one of its seven royal families has publicly criticized its rulers, according to scholars of the region. In an interview with The New York Times, Sheikh Rashid accused Emirati rulers of blackmail and money laundering, though he provided no evidence to support his claim.

He also spoke publicly about tensions among the Emirates that were previously discussed only in whispers -- notably resentments over Abu Dhabi's leadership of the U.A.E.'s military intervention in Yemen.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi, he charged, did not consult the emirs of the other six Emirates before committing their troops to the war, now three years old, against an Iranian-allied faction in Yemen. But soldiers from smaller emirates, such as Fujairah, have filled the front lines and accounted for most of the war deaths, which Emirati news reports have put at a little more than 100.

"There have been more deaths from Fujairah than anywhere else," Sheikh Rashid said, and he accused Abu Dhabi of hiding the full death toll.

He said he decided to give the interview in the hope that public attention to his case would protect his family in Fujairah from pressure by Abu Dhabi, and he appeared to hope that threatening further disclosures might give him leverage against Abu Dhabi as well. "I am the first in a royal family going out of the U.A.E. and telling everything about them," he said.

But his arrival in Doha has also posed a dilemma for Qatar, in part because of uncertainty surrounding Sheikh Rashid's dispute with Abu Dhabi.

The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have led a campaign to isolate Qatar, cutting off all diplomatic and trade relations in an effort to pressure the tiny petroleum-rich monarchy to adhere to a common foreign policy and join their crackdown on political Islam. Adding to the pressure, Abu Dhabi has played host to a handful of exiled members of the Qatari royal family, playing up their criticism of the current emir and promoting them as alternative leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Public perception of crime rate at odds with reality

July 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Gov. Matt Bevin's 'disturbing' West End comments spark outrage (Thomas Novelly, 7/10/18, Louisville Courier Journal)

Gov. Matt Bevin said in a promotional video featuring the West Louisville chess club that some people might be surprised by the connection between the club and the neighborhoods it draws children from, unleashing a barrage of criticism on social media.

"I'm going to go in and meet the members of the West Louisville Chess Club," Bevin said in the video. "Not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town." [...]

Councilman David James, who represents District 6 in Louisville, was present at the event where Bevin filmed the promo. James said it is a sign of Bevin's deteriorating relationship with the state's African-American community. 

Didn't he ever watch Shelby Lyman cover chess on PBS?

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Man Who Harassed Woman Over Puerto Rican Flag Shirt Is Charged With Hate Crimes (Matt Stevens, July 11, 2018, NY Times)

A Chicago man who was caught on video harassing a woman over a Puerto Rican flag shirt was charged with felony hate crimes on Thursday, just hours after a police officer who ignored the woman's pleas for help resigned, the authorities said.

July 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Moscow now accused of US election meddling, in indictment (Eric Tucker, 7/13/18, Associated Press) 

Twelve Russian military intelligence officers hacked into the Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic Party and released tens of thousands of private communications in a sweeping conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, according to an indictment announced days before President Donald Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment represents special counsel Robert Mueller's first charges against Russian government officials for interfering in American politics, an effort U.S. intelligence agencies say was aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The case follows after a separate indictment that accused Russians of using social media to sow discord among American voters two years ago.

The 29-page indictment lays out how, months before Americans went to the polls, Russian officers schemed to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Stolen emails, many politically damaging for Clinton, appeared on WikiLeaks in the campaign's final stretch.

The charges allege the Russian defendants, using a persona known as Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 contacted a person who was in touch with the Trump campaign to offer help. And they say that on the same day Trump said in a speech, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into email accounts used by Clinton's personal office.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM



But from this crisis is emerging a series of fintech platforms that are helping young Nigerians save better. There's PiggyBank, which launched in 2016 and works on simultaneously securing money and instilling financial discipline. Customers earn a minimum of 6 percent annual interest, and if they keep their savings longer, can secure even higher returns. Between 2016 and 2017, it built a savings customer base of more than 53,000 registered users. CowryWise, which started in July 2017, combines digital savings and investments with wealth management, all online. Over the past year, its user base has grown 30 percent month-on-month. Alat, launched in May 2017, describes itself as Nigeria's first digital bank. Diamond Bank, a retail bank, in 2016 launched what it calls the Diamond eSUSU platform, modeled after Esusu, a traditional West African contributory and rotational savings practice.

Their strategies vary, but they share a common core market: Nigerian millennials. And they're tapping distrust of Nigeria's commercial banks while leveraging the digital comfort enjoyed by this demographic.

"Most millennials couldn't be bothered to save in banks because there is a general distrust of the banking system in Nigeria," says Seun Oyajumo, an investment and venture analyst, before arguing that digital savings platforms like PiggyBank appear to be clicking with this section of Nigerians better. "PiggyBank has taken a different approach to customer service and is not failing in its promises."

A year since launching CowryWise, founders Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola aren't sitting at ease, despite the rapid growth in their customer base. Because of the volatility of Nigeria's economy -- Africa's largest -- Ahmed emphasizes that just savings aren't enough. In addition to savings, CowryWise offers financial advisory services. "Because the Nigerian economy doesn't run as optimally as it is supposed to, saving will never be enough," says Ahmed. "Arming people with knowledge of finances is something that needs to be done."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Turkey's Gulen movement on the rise in Germany: After Turkey's foiled coup attempt in 2016, many supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen were driven out of the country. But in Germany, the movement is increasingly gaining influence (Gunnar Köhne, 7/13/18, Deutsche-Welle)

When the Turkish government crushed an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States. There were plenty of rumors about Gulen's involvement in the incident, yet the authorities in Ankara have so far failed to present conclusive evidence to prove this.

It is undisputed, however, that Gulen supporters previously held many positions in the Turkish state apparatus, which they used to their own advantage, and which Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tolerated. That is, until Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out.

After Turkey's foiled coup, Erdogan ordered an unprecedented purge of the state apparatus. Some 100,000 civil servants were fired and 40,000 jailed. Most of these individuals are suspected members or sympathizers of the Gulen movement, or Hizmet. Tens of thousands were forced to flee the country. Many of the 800 Gulen-affiliated schools in Turkey and across the world were forced to close. Turkish authorities pressured Muslim countries in particular, such as Kosovo and Malaysia, to shut down these schools and expel Turkish teachers.

In Germany, meanwhile, the situation is much more hospitable for Gulen supporters. They enjoy wide-ranging support from German media, political figures and even the country's Christian churches, as DW research reveals.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM



FIFA recently launched "Nations League" play to determine some qualifiers for the 2020 European Championships. Europe and North America will start Nations Leagues this fall, while FIFA hopes to take the concept worldwide soon. The governing body also envisions a "mini-tournament," held the year before the World Cup, to decide the final places in the Cup.

The Nations Leagues are promising ventures, but they're a bit redundant with qualifying games for the World Cup and continental championships. The mini-tournament idea is also interesting, but why make it so "mini"?

Instead, let's do this:

Reward the top 16 teams in the Global Nations League with direct qualification to the World Cup. They get one summer off, aside from some tune-up friendly matches.

Take the next 64 teams in the Global Nations League, including some from the lower tiers, and have them play off for the other 16 berths in the World Cup.

Split them into four 16-team tournaments in different sites across the globe.

Call the whole thing the Pre-Cup.

Tournaments pretty much suck until you get to the knockout round.  Just put every nation in a seeded bracket and play all knockout games.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Is There Really a 'China Model'? (Bonnie Girard, July 13, 2018, The Diplomat)

If China's model is so successful, and represents a viable and perhaps more appropriate development "alternative" to the American model, then why is China itself using a completely different economic and investment paradigm than its own in most of the rest of the developing world? If, as He Yafei declares, the Chinese model is so strong that it has allowed China to make "remarkable contributions to the world and U.S. economies," then why doesn't it apply the principles of that model in developing countries in which it has strong economic relationships and interests? For example, much of China's relationship with developing African and Latin American nations suggests that it accepts local terms and practices, and seeks to benefit economically from them.

This is very different from the 1980s and 1990s in China, when China was first becoming familiar with various aspects of business and contract law, and was indeed, inviting foreign assistance in formulating those laws. Along with other factors, this cooperation with the richer, industrialized nations of the world to create at least a semblance of a reliable international business framework and legal foundation, inspired foreign direct investment into China of unprecedented levels, which in turn played a large role in China's overall development.

Two other key conditions play a large role in the "China model." The first is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China's economic model rests on a one-party political system, which is part and parcel of the fabric of the country. The CCP is the connective tissue that ties all business, social, and public sectors together in China. Its presence and power had already been established by the time that it decided to let go of strict Marxist principles and allow a modicum -- which became a tidal wave -- of for-profit business to take root in the country. For good or for bad, there is no denying the pivotal role that the CCP plays in the "China model" of economic development.

China does not, however, any longer openly encourage other developing nations to develop their own communist parties, or to organize under Marxist (with Chinese characteristics) principles. Yet, as He surely knows and would agree with, without the CCP, the China model doesn't exist.

A second, more technical condition exists in the China model, one which has had a profound importance on the development of business at all levels in China. Chinese companies, whether domestic or foreign-owned, must be capitalized.

In its original iteration, all companies in China were required to deposit in a bank in China an amount of money, called Registered Capital, that authorities in the relevant Industry and Commerce Bureau deemed sufficient to start up, operate, and maintain the business as a going concern for at least a year. [...]

Do Chinese companies advise their counterparts in the developing countries in which they operate to require Registered Capital as a component of their company law? A review of the record would suggest no.

There is little evidence that China, in practice, promotes its own model of development in the developing countries in which it operates around the world.

July 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


North Koreans skip meeting to discuss remains of American troops: report (BRETT SAMUELS, 07/12/18, The Hill)

North Korean officials reportedly did not show up Thursday at a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials to discuss returning the remains of American soldiers, and instead suggested talking with United Nations military leaders about the issue.

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These 9 Candidates Have Ties To White Nationalists Or Nazis -- And They're All Republicans (Juliana Kaplan and Alyssa Fisher, July 11, 2018, The Forward)

More white nationalists are running for state or federal office than in any other election in modern history, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some of these candidates are proud, card-carrying Nazis, while others have had more subtle flirtations with the "alt-right." There's even a Jew among them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Zimbabwe's elections: a turning point? (Stuart Doran, 7/12/18, The Strategist)

In the 38 years since the end of colonial rule, Zimbabwe has never held an election in which Robert Mugabe has failed to participate--or win. The country gets its first chance in combined presidential and parliamentary polls on 30 July, following the November 2017 coup that brought the ancient autocrat's remarkable and seemingly interminable rule to an end. But will it make any difference?

The optimists point to new energy and new ideas, built around new leaders. Those who lean towards the ruling Zanu-PF party--from which Mugabe has been ejected--note that his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has adopted a modernising agenda, focused on economic reform and international reengagement. Supporters of the opposition, meanwhile, cite a renewed sense of unity and purpose since Mugabe's departure and the death in February of Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's long-time bête noire. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Nobody's Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care. (Will Leitch, 7/11/18, New York)

But the main reason attendance is down, in Major League Baseball as well as most of the other major professional sports, and the main reason owners and commissioners aren't sweating it too much, I'd argue, is because it can be. Teams don't really care anymore about bringing fans to the stadium -- at least not as much as they used to --because they no longer need people in the seats to make money.

Last year, the NFL brought in revenues of more than $17 billion, and Major League Baseball earned more than $10 billion, records for both sports. An increasingly small percentage of all that revenue came from attendance. The NFL attributes most of its 2017 improvement to a new Thursday Night Football television package and increased media payments from other properties. MLB's numbers, which grew even more the year before (when its Advanced Media arm spun off into its own company and was sold for $2.58 billion to Disney), came from expanded partnerships, local television ratings, and its own media-rights deals. Attendance has been down each of last seven years in MLB, and MLB's revenue has been up every single season. Knowing that, how much would you sweat attendance numbers?

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


The Role Kavanaugh Played in the Starr Investigation of Clinton (Fred Lucas, July 11, 2018, Daily Signal)

At the age of 33, Kavanaugh wrote most of the portion of the Starr report to Congress that laid out grounds for impeachment against Clinton. His broad grounds for impeachment included abuse of power for Clinton lying to the public and to White House staff and Cabinet officials. [...]

CNN legal pundit Jeffrey Toobin lamented how 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton must feel, seeing someone from the Starr team nominated to the high court.

"I mean, Brett Kavanaugh made his name by investigating not just the Starr--not just Whitewater, but the Monica Lewinsky part, the sexual details," Toobin said. "And his, you know, making his name for himself got him on the trajectory that he is today. And Hillary Clinton has to watch yet another Supreme Court nomination that she thought she was going to be able to [make]."

Kavanaugh and Bittman co-authored a Washington Post op-ed in November 1999 with fellow Starr team member Solomon Wisenberg defending the Starr investigation, responding to a critical piece by the Post's longtime liberal columnist Richard Cohen.

Their op-ed said, in part:

Contrary to Cohen's table-thumping, the record establishes that Starr was a thorough, fair, ethical, and successful prosecutor. His record is one of extraordinary accomplishment and integrity. And to us, Starr is an American hero.

Over time, fair-minded people will come to hail Starr's enormous contributions to the country and see the presidentially approved smear campaign against him for what it was: a disgraceful effort to undermine the rule of law, an episode that will forever stand, together with the underlying legal and moral transgressions to which it was connected, as a dark chapter in American presidential history.

The independent counsel's probe began with the investigation of the collapse of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, owned by the McDougal family, who entered into the Whitewater land deal with the Clintons. It expanded into the White House travel office firings, the White House's questionable obtaining of hundreds of FBI files relating to political opponents, and eventually, the Lewinsky matter.

The op-ed noted convictions in other matters, including that of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker for fraud. Further, it said it was U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno who referred other matters to the independent counsel, rather than Starr seeking to investigate other potential crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How the Know Nothing Party Turned Nativism into a Political Strategy  (MICHAEL TODD LANDIS, JULY 12, 2018, What it Means to be American)

Though the United States is a nation built by immigrants, nativism--the fear of immigrants and the desire to restrict their entry into the country or curtail their rights (or both)--has been a central strain in the national fabric from the beginning. Nativism waxes and wanes with the tides of American culture and politics, with some eras exhibiting more virulent anti-immigrant activism than others.

But few eras have exceeded the 1840s and 1850s, when a ferociously anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic secret society grew into a nativist political entity called the Know Nothing Party and briefly dominated the politics of a handful of states by stirring up violent outbursts before imploding over the slavery issue in 1855.

Though the United States always enjoyed robust immigration, it was not until the 1840s and 1850s that it became a divisive issue in politics. The highest level of immigration in U.S. history (as a proportion of overall population) occurred in 1854, in the wake of the massive influx of people from Ireland and the German states. The Irish were desperate to escape the infamous "potato famine," which struck in 1845, and the Germans were motivated by overpopulation and unemployment in their homeland.

Coastal cities, in particular New York, were the primary entry points for European immigrants, with Irish and Germans establishing their own neighborhoods, maintaining their ethnic identities, and becoming the new industrial working class. Many current residents, fancying themselves "natives" (with no sense of irony concerning actual Native Americans), were none too pleased, unfairly condemning the newly-arrived Americans as job-stealers, drunks, criminals, and--perhaps worst of all, to their way of thinking--Roman Catholics.

Religion was at the core of the fight over immigration in the 19th century. Though not all the Germans and Irish who disembarked in the antebellum period were Catholics, the majority were.

Not much of an excuse, but at least economics were less well understood then.

July 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Why Productivity Isn't Keeping Up With Technology (Peter R. Orszag, July 11, 2018,  Bloomberg)

The disconnect between productivity growth and the technology revolution has triggered a sharp debate in economics. A scintillating new paper by Adair Turner of the Institute for New Economic Thinking suggests that rather than presenting a puzzle, the combination of technological innovation and low measured productivity growth is exactly what we should expect.  [...]

 He writes that "it is quite possible that an acceleration in underlying technological progress, which allows us to achieve dramatic productivity improvement in existing production processes, can be accompanied by a decline in total measured productivity." 

In other words, there is really no puzzle to explain.

The core of Turner's argument is that the impact of new technology on total productivity growth depends crucially on who accrues the income from the new inventions; what additional consumption they choose to enjoy with that income; and the nature of productivity advances in the sectors that workers are shifted into as a result. In particular, if those who directly accrue income from the new inventions choose to consume more services (such as personal services or artistic ones) that are hard to automate, the net result could be the coexistence of rapid technological progress and slow or nonexistent overall productivity growth.

So technological progress and productivity growth have tended to coexist in the past because the workers shifted as a result of the new technologies moved from one sector (say, farming) to another (manufacturing) and in both the sender and recipient sector rapid productivity growth was occurring.

What would happen, though, if the recipient sectors suffer from "Baumol's disease," which features limited potential for productivity improvements because it is hard to replace people with machines in those areas? Then, aggregate productivity growth will not march in lockstep with technological progress. 

Furthermore, as our incomes rise, we may demand more services with Baumol's disease characteristics. The employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlight the point. The top four occupations ranked by the number of new jobs projected to be created between 2016 and 2026, for example, are personal care aides, cooks and servers, registered nurses and home health aides. In all four cases, the service provided involves person-to-person interactions that are, at least for now, difficult to automate. That means productivity explosions are unlikely, whatever is happening in the rest of the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Soccer Is a Fundamentally Flawed Game (RICH LOWRY, July 10, 2018, National Review)

The problem from my amateur's point of view is that the regular action in soccer can't be relied on to create scoring. So a lot of it happens as a result of interruptions in play and referee calls -- on corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks.

I watched some of the Russia-Croatia game last weekend (which did have a thrilling finale), and the announcer kept saying after a goal something like: AND ANOTHER BIG SET PIECE IN THIS WORLD CUP! Well, yeah. When else does something happen? This creates the incentive for players to flop and pretend they've just gotten shot in the leg. If a referee falls for it, the tactic might change soccer history.

And then there are the penalty kicks. They have much too much of an element of randomness since the goaltender has to guess which way to jump. This is absurd and makes ending a tied game on penalty kicks a travesty.

The World Cup of Set Pieces: How Teams Are Living Off Dead-Ball Plays (GRANT WAHL, July 10, 2018, Sports Illustrated)

Set pieces fueled deep World Cup runs for England and Uruguay, to say nothing of Russia 2018 itself. Through the quarters, 30% of the tournament's goals had come on free kicks and corners, outpacing the previous high of 23% (in '02 and '06) among the five most recent men's World Cups.

Even in the unwatchable NBA, free throws only account for about 16% of scoring.  The problem is not just that the scoring comes from stoppages in play but that it makes officiating such an integral part of the game. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Is Lab-Grown Meat Really Meat? (ROSE EVELETH, JULY 11, 2018, Slate)

After centuries of a veritable monopoly, meat might have finally met its match. The challenger arises not from veggie burgers or tofu or seitan, but instead from labs where animal cells are being cultured and grown up into slabs that mimic (or, depending on whom you ask, mirror) meat. It currently goes by many names--in-vitro meat, cultured meat, lab-grown mean, clean meat--and it might soon be vying for a spot in the cold case next to more traditionally made fare. To put it bluntly: the kind that comes from living animals, slaughtered for food.

Cultured-meat manufacturers like Just Inc. and Memphis Meats are hoping to provide consumers with meat that is just like its predecessor, that tastes and looks and feels and smells exactly the same as something you might get in stores today but will be more sustainable. Whether that will turn out to be true won't be clear for some time. But there's another, more immediate battle heating up between the cattle industry and these new entrants into the meaty ring. So buckle up and put on your wonkiest hat, because the labeling war is about to begin.

In February, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association wrote a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking the government to ban cultured-meat companies from using the terms meat and beef at all.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


GOP Senators Tell Contradictory Stories About Moscow Trip (Andrew Desiderio, 07.10.18, Daily Beast)

A top Republican senator shocked his colleagues when he suggested, after returning from a trip to Moscow with fellow GOP lawmakers, that U.S. sanctions targeting Russia were not working and the Kremlin's election interference was really no big deal.

Now, the senators who joined him for the series of meetings with senior Russian officials are sharply disputing not only Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-WI) conclusions--but also his account of what went on behind closed doors in Moscow.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Secular Materialism Can't Make Sense of Reality (Justin Dyer, July 10th, 2018, Public Discourse)

Setting aside whether the concept of good is meaningful in this context, let us note that the problem was acknowledged in Western theology and jurisprudence before neuroscientists began studying the brain. Biblical commentators, for example, have long interpreted one of the consequences of the fall of man to be humanity's tendency to elevate material reality as the ultimate or highest source of meaning. As R.R. Reno writes in his recent commentary on Genesis, synthesizing the insights of classical Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant interpreters, "When the eye of the soul becomes carnal, taking the physical and finite as the measure of all things, the testimony of creation awakens a sense of shame. We know ourselves pursuing a futile life-project--even as we commit ourselves to its futility." Smilansky and others, of course, might see this tradition as useful nonsense. Tabling that question, we can say that people have long been aware of the disheartening implications of a worldview that makes the physical and finite the measure of all things, and it arguably is our deep longing for the infinite and immortal that leads us to be disheartened.

In light of this unease, and the disparity between materialism and experiential reality, the practical question for us today is what it would take for the people who control the key institutions in our society to embrace the old idea that we are rational animals capable of making decisions fraught with moral consequence. So long as our choices are entirely determined by physical causes, however, freedom is an illusion. If freedom is an illusion, then nothing is right or wrong, since unavoidable necessity is not a moral category. The practical stakes for how we answer these abstract questions are high. In one of his best and most reflective essays on this topic, Lewis observed:

The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.

Lewis's observation does not mean the natural law exists (although he of course thought it did). His narrower point is that the idea of natural law is essential to the idea of freedom, because, as he wrote elsewhere, it provides the foundation of "a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery."

In the modern world, some have been tempted to dispense with the metaphysical baggage of the natural-law tradition, but without metaphysics we are left simply with physics, and physics is about power, leverage, and force. If power is all there is, then everything is about power, including the arguments we engage in as academics. The alternative to reason is strength: it has always been the alternative. In the reigning worldview of many intellectuals, material nature in an endless chain of cause-and-effect necessitates all human action. The strong rule, as must be the case, but strong can also mean clever, if cleverness helps one gain power. For this reason, many academics see law and public discourse as little more than linguistic power struggles, necessitated in advance by the course of matter.

It is a grim worldview that cannot give a coherent account of many of the fundamental concepts at the base of our law and politics, and cannot account for our actual lived experiences in the world. "Everyone knows," as the late Peter Lawler wrote, "that physics can't explain the physicist." Physics, by itself, simply explains away the physicist--and much else. The older theological and metaphysical view gave us two basic things that so far we have not been able to recover: a confidence in practical reason and a belief in freedom. Both grew out of a deeper philosophical anthropology that understood human beings as rational animals unique in their capacity to deliberate about the standards of justice rooted in human nature.

Materialists give away the game when they complain if you punch them in the face.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


US Tariffs Hurt Americans More Than Anyone Else (Walter E. Williams, 7/10/18, Daily Signal)

Guess what tariffs on Canadian lumber do to home prices. If you answered that they raise the cost and American homebuyers are forced to pay higher prices, go to the head of the class.

This retaliation policy is both cruel and not very smart. It's as if you and I were in a rowboat out at sea and I shot a hole in my end of the boat.

What should be your response?

If you were Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross or Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, you might advise retaliating by shooting a hole in your end of the boat.

If I were president, I'd try to persuade officials of other countries not to serve special producer interests by forcing their citizens to pay higher prices. But if they insisted, I'd say, "Go ahead, but I'll be damned if I'll do the same to Americans!"

The ruse used to promote producer interests through tariff policy is concern about our large trade deficit. It's true that we have a large current account trade deficit. However, that's matched exactly by a very large capital account surplus.

Translated, that means Americans buy more goods from other countries than they buy from us; that's our current account deficit. But other countries find our investment climate attractive and invest more in the U.S. than we invest in other countries; that's our capital account surplus.

July 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


GOP Congressional Nominee Seth Grossman Shared White Nationalist Articles (Aiden Pink, 7/09/18, The Forward)

New Jersey Republican congressional nominee Seth Grossman used his Facebook account to share articles from well-known white nationalist websites, Media Matters reported Monday.

One article, published on the white nationalist website American Renaissance and shared in 2014, claimed that black people "are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike."

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


Secret tape recordings rock Georgia governor race (Associated Press, Jul.09.2018)

Another secret recording is shaking up Georgia's Republican primary runoff in the governor's race.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's campaign was already rocked last month by the release of a secretly recorded conversation in which Cagle said he backed what he called "bad public policy" for political gain. Cagle's runoff opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, released another snippet of that conversation Monday.

In this 50-second piece , Cagle can be heard candidly discussing the GOP primary's sharp turn to the right, saying the five-man race came down to "who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest."

...that these guys are contemptuous of the voters who push them to take such positions?  

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Israel 'not ruling out' eventual ties with Syria's Assad (Dan Williams, 7/10/18, Reuters) 

Israel held out the prospect on Tuesday of eventual contacts with Syria under President Bashar al-Assad, in a nod to his regime-consolidating advances in a seven-year-old civil war that Israeli officials had initially predicted would topple him.

What quarrel can Israel have with a religious state occupying a Sunni majority?

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


George W. Bush Praises Nomination of Kavanaugh for Supreme Court: 'Outstanding Decision'
(David Rutz, July 9, 2018, Free Beacon)

"President Trump has made an outstanding decision in nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," Bush said in a statement. "Brett is a brilliant jurist who has faithfully applied the Constitution and laws throughout his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit. He is a fine husband, father, and friend--and a man of the highest integrity. He will make a superb Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


NOT EVERYONE LOVES PROUST (Emily Temple, 7/10/18, LitHub)

Kazuo Ishiguro, in an interview with HuffPo:

To be absolutely honest, apart from the opening volume of Proust, I find him crushingly dull. The trouble with Proust is that sometimes you go through an absolutely wonderful passage, but then you have to go about 200 pages of intense French snobbery, high-society maneuverings and pure self-indulgence. It goes on and on and on and on. But every now and again, I suppose around memory, he can be beautiful.

Evelyn Waugh, in a 1948 letter to Nancy Mitford:

I am reading Proust for the first time--in English of course--and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely no sense of time. He can't remember anyone's age. In the same summer as Gilberte gives him a marble & Francoise takes him to the public lavatory in the Champs-Elysees, Bloch takes him to a brothel. And as for the jokes--the boredom of Bloch and Cottard.

D. H. Lawrence, in his essay "The Future of the Novel":

Let us just for the moment feel the pulses of Ulysses and of Miss Dorothy Richardson and M. Marcel Proust . . . Is Ulysses in his cradle? Oh, dear! What a grey face! . . . And M. Proust? Alas! You can hear the death-rattle in their throats. They can hear it themselves. They are listening to it with acute interest, trying to discover whether the intervals are minor thirds of major fourths. Which is rather infantile, really.

So there you have the "serious" novel, dying in a very long-drawn-out fourteen-volume death-agony, and absorbedly, childishly interested in the phenomenon "Did I feel a twinge in my little toe, or didn't I?" asks every character of Mr. Joyce or of Miss Richardson or M. Proust. Is my aura a blend of frankincense and orange pekoe and boot-blacking, or is it myrrh and bacon-fat and Shetland tweed? The audience round the death-bed gapes for the answer. And when, in a sepulchral tone, the answer comes and length, after hundreds of pages: "It is none of these, it is abysmal chloro-coryambasis," the audience quivers all over, and murmurs: "That's just how I feel myself."

Which is the dismal, long-drawn-out comedy of the death-bed of the serious novel. It is self-consciousness picked into such fine bits that the bits are most of them invisible, and you have to go by smell.

Germaine Greer, writing in The Guardian:

If you haven't read Proust, don't worry. This lacuna in your cultural development you do not need to fill. On the other hand, if you have read all of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, you should be very worried about yourself. As Proust very well knew, reading his work for as long as it takes is temps perdu, time wasted, time that would be better spent visiting a demented relative, meditating, walking the dog or learning ancient Greek.

The point of such writing is not to entertain the reader but to dominate him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Democrats' little tent on abortion is holding them back (David Von Drehle, July 6, 2018, Washington Post)

Democrats at the national level have been debating for years over the precise dimensions of the party's tent and whether it has room for abortion dissenters. In 1992, the party drew a line by refusing to allow Pennsylvania's then-governor, Robert P. Casey -- who had recently lost the landmark abortion rights case Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the Supreme Court -- to deliver an antiabortion speech at the national convention. Years later, in what was widely viewed as a fence-mending moment, Casey's son, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., was given a featured slot at the 2008 convention.

But to let the issue flare up in the Midwest so close to Election Day suggests a lack of focus on the task at hand. Many voters are looking for alternatives to the increasingly harsh and frantic Republicanism of President Trump, and might be willing to take a fresh look at a Democratic Party comfortable with all types of diversity -- including diversity of ideas and beliefs.

There's no question that the wedge of abortion divides Democrats from Republicans in a general sense. But what do Democrats gain by sharpening the wedge? It won't help them win back the working-class Catholic voters of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who were so central to Trump's electoral college victory. Nor will it help them hold key Senate seats in otherwise red states such as Missouri, North Dakota and Montana.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


A Liberal's Case for Brett Kavanaugh (Akhil Reed Amar, July 9, 2018, NY Times)

The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice is President Trump's finest hour, his classiest move. Last week the president promised to select "someone with impeccable credentials, great intellect, unbiased judgment, and deep reverence for the laws and Constitution of the United States." In picking Judge Kavanaugh, he has done just that.

In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh. He sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the most influential circuit court) and commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists.

Judge Kavanaugh, who is 53, has already helped decide hundreds of cases concerning a broad range of difficult issues. Good appellate judges faithfully follow the Supreme Court; great ones influence and help steer it. Several of Judge Kavanaugh's most important ideas and arguments -- such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants -- have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.

Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


The Deadliest Drug (J.B. WOGAN | JULY 2018, Governing)

The total number of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities actually rose in both 2015 and 2016. "Drunk driving has been around since the automobile was invented and it's still the biggest killer on the highway," says J.T. Griffin, the chief government affairs officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Indeed, alcohol causes more traffic deaths per year than either speeding or driving without a seatbelt. 

In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report about the causes of the problem and potential solutions. "Yes, we made progress. No, we didn't get rid of it," says David Jernigan, a Boston University public health researcher who helped write the report. "Ten thousand deaths are too many."

The report provided a package of policy recommendations, one of which was for every state to lower the legal BAC limit from .08 to .05. In practical terms, that would mean most women couldn't drive after two glasses of wine in an hour; most men couldn't drive after three. The report is only the latest to call for a more stringent BAC limit: The National Transportation Safety Board has also called for a lower level. 

Up to now, no state has imposed a limit of .05, but that's about to change. Utah will go to .05 in December. In the past year, Delaware, Hawaii, New York and Washington state have also considered legislation to lower the limit. "It will change the conversation from, 'If you have been drinking too much, you shouldn't drive,' to, 'If you've been drinking, you shouldn't drive,'" says Utah Rep. Norm Thurston, who sponsored the .05 legislation. The new message -- that driving shouldn't occur after even moderate drinking -- "is probably what it should have been all along," he says. 

We can't automate fast enough.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


GET READY FOR THE BUSH COURT (Daniel Malloy, JUL 10 2018, OZY)

Few people in his position know the space so well. Brett Kavanaugh learned the nooks and crannies of the White House when he was working in the counsel's office, helping select conservatives to fill the federal judiciary, and then as George W. Bush's staff secretary -- an immensely important position that manages the paper crossing the president's desk. [...]

[I]f Kavanaugh does join the court, the conservative majority will be composed of the following:

A George H.W. Bush SCOTUS and appeals court nominee (Clarence Thomas)

A George W. Bush SCOTUS nominee who advised Gov. Jeb Bush during the 2000 Florida recount (John Roberts)

A George W. Bush SCOTUS nominee who was nominated to an appeals seat by George H.W. Bush (Samuel Alito)

A deputy attorney general in George W. Bush's Justice Department, later nominated by Bush to an appeals judgeship (Neil Gorsuch)

Brett Kavanaugh

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Did North Korea's Kim put potatoes over Pompeo? (AFP, 7/10/18)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have been too busy visiting a potato farm to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pyongyang's state media implied Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM



The announcement of Trump's Supreme Court nominee pick is merely days away -- yet one name on the list has some influential conservatives cringing behind the scenes.

That name is Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. [...]

Kavanaugh drew the ire of multiple influential conservative movement staffers and judicial activist who spoke with The Daily Caller, some on background due to their positions within the White House and decision-making judicial circles. Insiders say that the base criticism of Kavanaugh are beginning to reach Trump. "The White House Counsel's Office is reeling today on Kavanaugh," says one GOP judicial insider with direct knowledge of the selection process. "Kavanaugh is crashing and burning today. I cannot figure out how this happened in one day."

"The conservative grassroots I speak with are terrified that this will be another Harriet Miers," says Terry Schilling, executive director, American Principles Project referencing the ill-fated George W. Bush selection for SCOTUS, citing Bush family nepotism and lack of enthusiasm with the base as Kavanaugh weaknesses.

"Kavanaugh is Jeb Bush's pick for the Supreme Court," one senior administration official lamented. "This is the low-energy Jeb Bush pick. No one in the base will be animated by [Kavanaugh] -- especially Trump supporters who rejected the Bush legacy." [...]

Kavanaugh was a Bush campaign official and White House aide who married George W.'s personal secretary. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit in 2003 where he has presided in the minority ever since. Kavanaugh's confirmation was held up for three years on partisan lines by Democrats objection to his party ties.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


Colorado's strong jobs performance yet another sign of state's robust economy (DAVE LEMERY, JUL 9, 2018, Pueblo Chieftain)

WalletHub assembled rankings from 29 different categories to devise its ultimate scores for the 50 states. They were sorted into two main subcategories, "economic environment," where Colorado was only 19th best, and "job market," where Colorado finished first. [...]

The forecast noted that the state is still seeing strong employment growth, but the lack of workers could begin to drag on the state's economy. [...]

WalletHub reached out to experts in the field of employment to provide more context to their findings. They asked Bruce Sacerdote, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, what the government could do to encourage manufacturing growth in the years to come.

"The corporate tax cuts are a sensible way to stimulate business investment," Sacerdote said. "But the onshoring of manufacturing will look quite different than the manufacturing jobs that left. Coal mining is also heavily subject to substitution of sophisticated capital equipment to save labor. But given the greener and cleaner ways to produce energy [including fracked natural gas], perhaps we should not have policies to encourage additional coal production."

Sacerdote also suggested that there was no particular reason to expect that the strong growth in jobs in Colorado and nationwide is necessarily going to come to an end in the near term.

"Expansions do not die of old age," he said. "There is still ample room for labor force participation to grow. I am looking forward to at least another couple of years of robust job growth, but my random guess is no better than anyone else's."

Source: WalletHub

July 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


Africa's Revolutionary New Free Trade Area Could Lift Millions out of Poverty (Alexander Hammond  , 7/08/18, FEE)

Being able to trade freely with one's neighbors is vital for economic growth. In 2016, just 18 percent of Africa's total exports were traded within the African continent. In Europe and Asia, intra-regional trade accounted for 69 percent and 59 percent of total exports respectively.

If adopted, the AfCFTA has the potential to revolutionize African trade and add billions to the continent's GDP.

Under the AfCFTA, the UN Economic Commission on Africa estimates, intra-African trade could increase 52.3 percent by 2022. It could double again, after the final 10 percent of tariffs are removed. If adopted, the AfCFTA has the potential to revolutionize African trade and add billions to the continent's GDP.

Quality of government could also improve through competition to create welcoming and stable business environments.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM


Open-plan offices have a surprising effect on workplace communication (Lila MacLellan, July 5, 2018, Quartz)

Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of organizational behavior, built the research around a real-life renovation at the headquarters of an unnamed Fortune 500 company engaged in a "so-called war on walls."  He had employees wear people analytics badges that track (but do not record) conversations through anonymized sensors, which gave the professor and his co-author data they could compare against changes in online communication. (To minimize the effects of outside factors, their research took snapshots of two three-week periods that fell at that same point in different business quarters, one before walls were banished, and one after.)

In two studies, the researchers found that conversations by email and instant messaging (IM) increased significantly after the office redesign, while productivity declined, and, for most people, face-to-face interaction decreased. Participants in the first study spent 72% less time interacting in person in the open space. Before the renovation, employees had met face to face for nearly 5.8 hours per person over three weeks. In the after picture, the same people held face-to-face conversations for only about 1.7 hours per person.

These employees were emailing and IM-ing much more often, however, sending 56% more email messages to other participants in the study. This is how employees sought the privacy that their cubicle walls once provided, the authors reason. IM messages soared, both in terms of messages sent and total word count, by 67%  and 75%, respectively.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Miami grandma targeted as U.S. takes aim at naturalized immigrants with prior offenses (ADIEL KAPLAN, July 09, 2018, Miami Herald)

The United States government has long reserved its power to revoke citizenship for the rarest of cases, going after the likes of war criminals, child rapists and terrorist funders.

Norma Borgono is none of those. The 63-year-old secretary who immigrated from Peru in 1989 volunteers weekly at church, raised two children on a $500-a-week salary and suffers from a rare kidney disorder. But a week after her baby granddaughter came home from the hospital, Borgono received a letter from the U.S. government: The Department of Justice was suing to "denaturalize" her as part of an unprecedented push by the Trump administration to revoke citizenship from people who committed criminal offenses before they became citizens.

"I don't know what's going to happen if she goes to Peru," said her daughter, Urpi Ríos. "We have nothing there."

Borgono, a Miami resident for 28 years, is being targeted based on her minor role in a $24 million fraud scheme in the previous decade. As the secretary of an export company called Texon Inc., she prepared paperwork for her boss, who pocketed money from doctored loan applications filed with the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

When the feds caught wind of the scheme, Borgono cooperated. The secretary never made any money beyond her regular salary and helped the FBI make a case that put her former boss behind bars for four years. On May 17, 2012, Borgono took a plea deal and was sentenced to one year of house arrest, four years of probation and $5,000 of restitution.

Working two jobs, she paid off her restitution and was relieved of her sentence early. Two years after she put it all behind her, Borgono received the letter notifying her that the U.S. government wanted to take away her citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained (Will Sommer, 07.06.18, Daily Beast)

Plotters in the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One and foil President Trump's North Korea summit. A cabal of global elites, including top figures in Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the intelligence agencies, are responsible for nearly all the evil in the world. And now Trump is going to fix it all with thousands of sealed indictments, sending the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama straight to Guantanamo Bay.

Or at least that's how the world is going for the believers of QAnon, the complex pro-Trump conspiracy theory that's starting to having unpredictable effects in real life. The real  news can be bad for Trump, but in QAnon-world, the president and his supporters really are getting sick of winning. [...]

Since Q could be anyone with internet access and a working knowledge of conspiracy theories, there's no reason to think that Q is a member of the Trump administration rather than, say, a troll or YouTube huckster. But incredibly, lots of people believe it.

In April, hundreds of QAnon believers staged a march in downtown Washington, D.C. with a vague demand for "transparency" from the Justice Department. "Q" shirts have become frequent sites at Trump rallies, with one QAnon believer scoring VIP access. In June, an armed man in an homemade armored truck shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam and held up signs referencing QAnon. And celebrities like comedian Roseanne Barr and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling have signed on.

QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, "conspiracy theories are for losers," Uscinski said,

"Normally you don't expect the winning party to use them, except when they're in trouble," Uscinski said.

Not so much.  People believe in conspiracy theories because they hate reality, so it's entirely understandable.
Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Deporting the American Dream (Anita Isaacs and Anne Preston, July 9, 2018, NY Times)

Over the last few weeks we were in Mexico, beginning an oral history project documenting the migrant experience. Over the course of three weeks our team surveyed and interviewed more than 200 returning Mexican migrants, the vast majority of them deportees. Some were caught in roadblocks. Others were pulled over for running a stop light or for speeding. They were detained in American county jails and immigration detention centers before being sent to Mexico. Many had lived in the United States almost their entire lives.

And yet, despite that experience, when we asked them what they missed about the United States, their responses were automatic: "everything." "I feel American," they told us over and over again. And why wouldn't they? They grew up as the kids next door. They went to our children's schools and birthday parties. They attended our churches, played on our sports teams. As high schoolers they flipped hamburgers at McDonald's.

But they also always had it a little rougher. Occasionally they faced discrimination. Their parents worked multiple jobs, often seven days a week. They left home before their children woke up and returned long after they were asleep. Children as young as 8 shouldered the burdens of caring for younger siblings. They began working as soon as they reached high school. But their unauthorized status limited their job opportunities; they couldn't get a driver's license and college was a remote possibility. Some got into the same kind of trouble native-born children do, but most worked hard to keep their families afloat.

Still, the American dream meant everything to them. In optimistic terms rarely heard from native-born Americans, they described the United States as a place where success was possible. Whether they lived in a big city or small town, in a red state or a blue state, they overwhelmingly recall an American society that was genuine, open, diverse and accepting.

One man teared up remembering his childhood friend, Matthew, with whom he played baseball, swam in the neighborhood pool and shared tacos and mac and cheese. Another missed ice fishing on frozen Minnesota lakes, using snowmobiles fashioned with special drills that he helped assemble through his work at a fiberglass factory. He shared another memory: After introducing his friends to guacamole, they insisted on eating at his place. "We had an arrangement: They'd bring the avocados," he'd make the dip.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Med Schools Adding Nutrition to Training (Rachel Cernansky, 7/08/18, The Washington Post)

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, are partly related to or affected by nutrition, according to Martin Kohlmeier, a research professor in nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For those experiencing risk factors early on, a change in diet is important.

"People are gaining a pound or two a year, and nobody says anything. But then by age 50 or 55, they've often gained 30 or 40 pounds, which has huge impacts on their health," said Walter Willett, an epidemiology and nutrition professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "In the younger years, middle age, people are acquiring the risk factors that often don't show up as major diseases until later in life."

"You can practice only what you know," Kohlmeier said.

According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, malnutrition is prevalent but underrecognized in the United States. That does not surprise Kohlmeier, who said, "This is what happens when you don't teach nutrition."

He oversees UNC's Nutrition in Medicine project, which offers educational modules for medical students. But Kohlmeier said these are far from enough. "You cannot learn in two hours what it takes 20 hours to learn," he said. In a 2015 survey of 121 four-year medical schools, Kohlmeier and colleagues found that 71 percent did not require at least 25 hours of nutrition education and that fewer than 20 percent required a nutrition course -- fewer even than 15 years before.

"The biggest thing that drives a lot of medical schools to put particular things in their curriculum is what gets tested on the boards. And unfortunately, as of right now, doctors are not tested on what foods a patient should eat," said Tracy Rydel, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Stanford and UNC are among medical schools working to turn that tide by integrating nutrition into their curriculums.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


REVIEW: of Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal
 By Ken Bensinger (Jay Price, July 9, 2018, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Now, as then, the Justice Department's investigation turns on the work of a government number-cruncher: in this case, IRS agent Steve Berryman. Working out of a nondescript office in California, Berryman happens onto the case of Chuck Blazer, a high-ranking official of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, and CONCACAF, its North and Central American subsidiary.

Wildly bearded and obese, Blazer occupies not one but two $18,000-a-month apartments (one for him, and the adjacent unit for his cats) on the 49th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan, keeps a condo in Miami, and dines alongside the New York elite at Elaine's -- all on pro soccer's dime.

Oh, and one other thing: Much to Berryman's excited surprise, he discovers Blazer hasn't paid a nickel in taxes -- or bothered to file a return -- in 15 years of skimming millions from all manner of soccer transactions.

Armed with that knowledge, and the RICO statutes designed to combat organized crime, it's only a matter of time before Justice Department attorneys and Berryman's FBI counterparts get Blazer to plead guilty to tax evasion and turn cooperating witness -- even wearing a wire to implicate unsuspecting former co-conspirators.

After that, in the words of the Watergate mole known as Deep Throat, they "follow the money," flipping one dirty mogul to get to the next.

July 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Returning to Manzanar (Inyoung Kang, July 6, 2018, NY Times)

During World War II, up to 120,000 American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were evicted from their homes and held in remote camps.

Mas Okui was one of them. He was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, but his father and maternal grandparents were immigrants from Japan. 

Every year, Mr. Okui, 86, visits Manzanar, where he and his family were imprisoned. His purpose is to remember -- and to educate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Is democracy really in danger? The picture is not as dire as you think. (Daniel Treisman, June 19, 2018, Washington Post)

How serious are the challenges to democracy today? One way to assess this is to examine historical experience, using the best global data available. Doing this, I find a picture that -- although hardly inspiring -- is less dire than much commentary suggests.

Scholars use a number of ratings to classify countries' political systems. I examined four common ones -- those of Polity; Freedom House; Boix, Miller, Rosato; and VDEM. All code which states in a given year are democracies or, in Freedom House's case, "free" countries.

Far from suggesting a major retreat, all four sources show the global proportion of democracies at or near an all-time high.

For instance, Polity's measure -- which combines assessments of political competition, constraints on the executive, and openness of executive recruitment -- put the proportion of democracies in 2016 at 59 percent, up from 50 percent in 2000. Each of the other three was within 4 percent of its all-time peak.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


A journalist's conscience leads her to reveal her source to the FBI. Here's why. (Margaret Sullivan, July 8, 2018, Washington Post)

It's pretty much an inviolable rule of journalism: Protect your sources.

Reporters have gone to jail to keep that covenant.

But Marcy Wheeler, who writes a well-regarded national security blog, not only revealed a source -- she did so to the FBI, eventually becoming a witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of President Trump's possible connections to Russia. [...]

"For her to go to the FBI, that made my jaw drop," said Daniel Drezner, a Tufts University professor of international politics. (He doesn't know her personally but has followed her work.)

"It's like Glenn Greenwald calling up the CIA and saying I've discovered a mole," Drezner said. [...]

Her blog post centers on a text message she says she got from the source on Nov. 9, 2016 -- about 14 hours after the polls closed -- predicting that Michael Flynn, who would be Trump's appointee for national security adviser, would be meeting with "Team Al-Assad" within 48 hours. Russia has been perhaps the Assad regime's staunchest ally.

As she noted: "The substance of the text -- that the Trump team started focusing on Syria right after the election -- has been corroborated and tied to their discussions with Russia at least twice since then."

Wheeler won't say when she went to the FBI other than that it was in 2017. In December 2017, Flynn flipped, pleading guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian government during the presidential transition; Trump had fired him in February.

In addition to the knowledge of her source's inside information, Wheeler said, she had reason to believe that the source was involved with efforts to compromise her website and other communications. And perhaps most important, that he was involved in cyberattacks -- past and future -- that had done and could do real harm to innocent people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


3D printing will bring artificial limbs to patients in Madagascar and Togo (IAFRIKAN NEWS, 7/08/18)

3D printing technology is being used to help provide prosthetic and orthopedic support for patients in need. The 3D printing technology being trialed in Madagascar and Togo by Humanity & Inclusion (HI), formerly Handicap International, is part of Impact 3D, a program that began in November 2017 and is funded by the Belgian Development Agency.

The orthotics, artificial limbs, are created using 3D scanners and 3D printers.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


How the Townshend Brothers Accidentally Sparked the American Revolution (PATRICK GRIFFIN, MAY 31, 2018, What it Means to be American)

Americans normally see our Revolution as the culmination of a long period of gestation during which a free people finally threw off their colonial shackles and became what they were destined to be. On the Fourth of July, we commemorate a moment in 1776 that encapsulates all that we as Americans were, are, and hope to be. We consider ourselves a nation bound together by God-given rights and a pact with each other and with our government that we will stand as a free people. The ideas laid out in the Declaration are, then, widely said to mark us as Americans.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don't say this to act as a "myth-buster"; rather, to put that moment in a more accurate context so that we might understand it better. In the years just before 1776, Americans did not consider themselves "American" in any substantive way. They regarded themselves as Britons living in America.  [...]

 In 1767, [Charles Townshend, as Chancellor of the Exchequer] introduced duties on select goods to fund an American administration that could serve as the basis for a centralized empire.

It did not seem at the time to be a high-risk tax policy. Americans, after all, considered George III to be, in an expression of the period, "the best of all kings." They reveled in their lives, liberty, and property, rights that were guaranteed to them as British subjects.

But in crafting his idea of empire, Townshend set off a backlash--not because the British subjects in America were somehow different, but because they were so similar in outlook.

Charles Townshend's policies placed the British Americans in a bind, one that would lead to 1776. When Bostonians and others up and down America's Atlantic coast contested Charles' duties, they did not think they were declaring independence. Far from it. They pushed back in hopes of holding onto a loosely federated understanding of empire that would allow them to retain their traditional liberties while continuing to profit from the Atlantic trade.

It would have been better for everybody if George had demanded that we be granted representation in the British Parliament or else he'd recognize a parliament of our own, with him as sovereign.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


South America's World Cup is over but Uruguay are an example to everyone: Uruguay were eliminated in the quarter-finals in Russia but their approach to football - and life - should be applauded (Jorge Valdano, 8 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

When the most epic moment of Uruguayan football came, the famous Maracanazo, his figure took on heroic proportions. "There are 11 of them and 11 of us too" he told his team-mates in the tunnel, adding: "they're made of wood". Outside were 200,000 Brazilians who had no doubt that glory awaited them that day. But glory awaits no one. You have to go and find it. Legend has it that in the silence after Uruguay scored, Obdulio could be heard asking for "more blood". Given that every time we talk about Uruguay we talk about Garra Charrúa, that warrior spirit, it is appropriate to clarify here that the blood he demanded was that of his team-mates, not his opponents. There is mythology too, the tales are not always entirely true: this Uruguay team in Russia has again demonstrated that.

In the midst of that surreal atmosphere, described as the "Waterloo of the tropics", Ghiggia scored the goal that my friend Mario celebrated, for the umpteenth time, in a café in Milan. A small country, proud in the best sense of the word, with players for whom humility appears to be a profession, continues to pay tribute to those who laid the first stones in the edifice of Uruguay's footballing glory, and in the best manner imaginable: by imitating them, or trying to.

 They fought for every centimetre of turf; killed for every ball; never felt like visitors anywhere
Obdulio was the incarnation of a great player. To define what it is that makes a great team, you need only hear the story of Jorge Fucile during the 2010 quarter-final when Uruguay played Ghana. Fucile offered to sacrifice himself, volunteering to take the place of condemned man and cause celebre Luis Suárez. You will remember it: in the last second of the game, Suárez reached out with his hand to make a save on the goalline. Penalty, red card. With swift reflexes sharpened over thousands of games on the street, Fucile approached the referee and said: "You're right, sir. It was me: send me off." It didn't work but that's not really the point. The theory says that to be a true team-mate, you have to be prepared to subsume your individuality into that of the group, to put yourself at the service of the collective. Fucile did something that goes well beyond that: he was prepared to sacrifice the natural desire for glory that every footballer feels at a World Cup because he understood that Suárez was more necessary than he was in that battle and, if it came to it, in the next battle too. Ghana missed the penalty and Uruguay went through.

In 2018, Uruguay are still Uruguay. At this World Cup, they were the same collective they always were, a lesson in life and in defeat too. They appeared at the team hotel in shorts and flip flops, drinks of mate in hand. I feel admiration every time I see the first team to encounter footballing glory living with such extraordinary normality. Extraordinary and normality might seem mutually contradictory terms, but in this case and in these times they go together because remaining so normal having reached a footballing level this high is an almost heroic feat. And this is a subject worth pursuing. Given that more than one team departed the World Cup because of the sin of frivolity, afflicted by something approaching vanity, Uruguay pose a question: could it be that humility is more important than we think?

They have departed now, it is true, knocked out by France. But they did so on the same day as Brazil - a nation of three million against a country of 208 million. None of the countries in the Americas that dwarf them outlasted them. This is a loss, yes. But it is a lesson too. Uruguay are different, unique. They may lack the resources that others on the continent have in abundance, but they have something that those nations do not, that the rest could benefit from embracing. That allows Uruguay to compete, yet it goes beyond the pitch. It is lasting.

The BBC podcast had a great interview about Uruguay with Suarez's old strike-partner Diego Forlan.

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


Founding philosophy: A review of The Political Theory of the American Founding by Thomas G. West. (Michael Anton, June 2018, New Criterion)

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. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


Kurt Gödel and the mechanization of mathematics (JULIETTE KENNEDY, TLS Online)

[G]ödel showed that truth and provability cannot be identical, because one concept is definable, while the other is not. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that mathematical truth, which has to do with objectivity and existence, is not the same thing as the concept of formal proof, which has to do with evidence and justification.

Gödel knew that because of the anti-metaphysical bias in the air at the time, mainly emanating from the so-called Vienna Circle, which he attended from time to time, logicians would not have accepted his proof, given that the concept of truth, together with its undefinability, played such a central role in it. So Gödel published neither this first proof of the incompleteness theorem nor the theorem on the undefinability of truth, only speaking of them many years later - a remarkable show of restraint, given the importance of those theorems.

Here now is a sketch of the proof of the First Incompleteness Theorem that Gödel published in 1931. The definability of provability played a role in Gödel's original proof, as I sketched above, as did self-reference. The phenomenon of self-reference can be harmless, as when one says of oneself, that one is thirsty. But it can also create paradoxes in natural language, the most notable of which is the Liar's Paradox.

To see this, consider the natural language sentence S, where S stands for: "This sentence is false".

S is self-contradictory. For if S is true then what it says about itself must be the case: it is false. On the other hand, if S is false then what it says of itself, namely that it is false, is true. This shows that S is true if and only if it is false. Or in technical terms, that S has no truth value.

With arithmetization, Gödel was able to express the Liar's Paradox in Peano arithmetic, but with provability in place of truth, to wit: "This sentence is unprovable" rather than "This sentence is false".

It is very striking that with such an apparently trivial device, namely the encoding of syntax, one could prove such a devastating theorem. In fact, Gödel wondered about this himself, referring to his proof as a "parlour trick" in conversation with the logician Georg Kreisel.

Even more striking is the fact that Gödel held to his rationalistic view of mathematics (and of philosophy) throughout his life, even in the face of his own theorems. "As to [mathematical] problems with the answer Yes or No," he said in the 1930s, "the conviction that they are always decidable remains untouched by these results." Decidable by humans, that is, using methods that transcend any given finite set of computational rules.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials (Andrew Jacobs, July 8, 2018, ny tIMES)

A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother's milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced. [...]

In the end, the Americans' efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure -- and the Americans did not threaten them.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


Inside Pompeo's Fraught North Korea Trip (Nick Wadhams, July 8, 2018, Bloomberg)

As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Pyongyang at 10:54 a.m. on Friday he had few details of his schedule in the North Korean capital -- even which hotel he and his staff would stay in.

Not much was clear aside from lunch with counterpart Kim Yong Chol to start filling in the "nitty-gritty details'' from the Singapore declaration signed between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, according to his spokeswoman Heather Nauert. A handshake with Kim Jong Un, at least, seemed certain.

Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol in Pyongyang on July 7.Photographer: Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty Images
In the end, Pompeo stayed at neither of the hotels where he thought he'd be. The North Koreans took him, his staff and the six journalists traveling with the delegation to a gated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital, just behind the mausoleum where the bodies of regime founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il lie embalmed and on occasional display.

It was the start of a confused visit of less than 30 hours, marked by a pair of lavish banquets that the secretary and his staff appeared to dread for their length and the daunting number of courses presented by unfailingly polite waiters. He only learned of his own schedule hours ahead of time, and the meeting with Kim Jong Un never happened -- despite strenuous efforts from his staff.

Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM


For many waiting in Tijuana, a mysterious notebook is the key to seeking asylum (Cindy Carcamo, JUL 05, 2018, LA Times)
The notebook holds nearly 2,000 names of foreigners waiting to seek asylum in the United States. It's origins are unclear, but it was created after U.S. border officials began to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the San Ysidro port of entry.
All conversations stopped when they saw the notebook.

Men, women and children -- asylum seekers from Central America, Mexico, Africa and beyond -- parted to make way for its keeper.

The Mexican woman named Gaby waded through the crowd. She clutched the ledger-like notebook, its spine reinforced with duct tape.

Mothers scooped up their toddlers. Older children dropped their toys. Fathers hushed infants.

The notebook holds the names of hundreds of asylum seekers -- from Guadalajara to Ghana -- all trying to make their case at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

It is an improvised response, an attempt to inject order into chaos. Getting in the notebook is paramount. For the desperate foreigners whose future hinges on it, the stakes are high.

Nearly 2,000 people seeking asylum in the United States have put their name in the notebook. Its origins are unclear, but it was created after U.S. border officials began to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The notebook became a way for the immigrants to keep track of who is next in line. The book's guardian -- always an asylum seeker -- scrawls each person's name and country of origin in blue ink. The names of those who already entered the port of entry to make their case for refuge are highlighted in yellow or pink.

On this day, the crowd clamored for information. The notebook held answers: How many people were ahead ? How many people were let in the day before? How much longer would they have to wait?

Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Kids as young as 1 in US court, awaiting reunion with family (AP, 7/08/18)

The 1-year-old boy in a green button-up shirt drank milk from a bottle, played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground and occasionally asked for "agua."

Then it was the child's turn for his court appearance before a Phoenix immigration judge, who could hardly contain his unease with the situation during the portion of the hearing where he asks immigrant defendants whether they understand the proceedings.

"I'm embarrassed to ask it, because I don't know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law," Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the 1-year-old boy.

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


The science wars behind football's penalty shoot-outs: Teams are now talking science instead of luck or fate when discussing penalty shootouts. (David Cox, 7/08/18, Al Jazeera)

Over the past four years, major European teams have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on analysts who examine hours and hours of video footage to identify potentially decisive trends.

Such is the intensity of preparation that when a match goes to penalties, even the five first-choice penalty takers are typically selected based on scientific information and psychometric evaluations which identifies the players that will prove most resilient to the pressure of such a situation.

Even the precise order is often decided through using this data, with studies showing that the first and fifth kicks are the most important, so they need to be taken by those most robust to handling stress.

"We did this kind of testing well in advance of the World Cup to ensure that if a shoot-out came around, there would be a calmness in the way in we approached it," said England manager Gareth Southgate who masterminded his country's first World Cup shoot-out victory over Colombia in the last-16.

"You want as much of your analysis and thinking done well beforehand to avoid making any decisions on the spur of the moment."

Psychometric evaluations are the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scientific battleground before a penalty shoot-out.

Following a trend set by clubs in the English Premier League and La Liga in recent years, most of the teams in the World Cup now either employ independent consultants to gather penalty data or subscribe to services provided by teams of analysts at large companies such as Opta. 

Essentially, if you put the ball above waist level to either side of the goalie the only way it doesn't go in is if the kicker misses the goal frame.

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


The biomechanics of a perfect penalty kick: Something to keep in mind during the World Cup: it's harder than it looks. (Tim Bennett, 7/08/18, The Conversation)

Research which looked at previous World Cups and European Championship tournaments shows that the successful conversion of a penalty resulted in a 61% increased chance of winning--this decreased substantially to 29% if the penalty was missed. All of which makes the ability to score a penalty kick in a competitive match of critical importance, especially considering the low number of goals scored during a typical game.

Kicking a stationary ball from the penalty spot was first introduced in 1902 with the ball situated 12 yards from the goal. In 1997 the kick rules were amended to allow goalkeepers to move sideways along the goal line prior to the ball being kicked.

The importance of this rule change has been highlighted in kicking research, which shows that if the goalkeeper has a greater opportunity to distract the player--think waving arms--it results in a higher percentage of saved penalties. This is particularly the case in situations that provoke higher levels of anxiety for the penalty shooter, like a World Cup deciding penalty kick.

In this sense then, it's important the kicker isn't distracted by the goalkeepers tactics when lining up to take a penalty kick--which can take less than 400 milliseconds in flight time to the goal mouth.

Former Polish goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, used the distraction strategy very effectively in the 2005 Champion's League final: he saved two penalties from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko, and distracted Serginho enough for him to strike his effort over the bar.

The most important kicking skill in football is the instep kick or the "laces" kick. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


This House Costs Just $20,000--But It's Nicer Than Yours (ADELE PETERS, 7/08/18, Fast Company)

For over a decade, architecture students at Rural Studio, Auburn University's design-build program in a tiny town in West Alabama, have worked on a nearly impossible problem. How do you design a home that someone living below the poverty line can afford, but that anyone would want-while also providing a living wage for the local construction team that builds it?

In January, after years of building prototypes, the team finished their first pilot project in the real world. Partnering with a commercial developer outside Atlanta, in a tiny community called Serenbe, they built two one-bedroom houses, with materials that cost just $14,000 each.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Keep New York's Speed Cameras: State legislators shouldn't block a critical piece of safety infrastructure. (Nicole Gelinas, July 3, 2018, City Journal)

New York's five-year-old network of cameras near schools has reduced speeding, and thus reduced injuries and, most likely, prevented deaths, but now, in a case of byzantine politics and self-dealing, the Republican-led state senate wants to end the program. Republican leaders aren't just acting against New Yorkers' interests; they're acting against their own, and against those of downstate businesses. With GOP control over the senate hanging in the balance in November, it's unwise for the party to be seen as skimping on safety.

Though it has nearly half of the state's population, New York City holds surprisingly little control over its own affairs. Even on something as uncontroversial as regulating speeding, the state legislature and Governor Cuomo are ultimately in charge. Five years ago, during the final spring of the Bloomberg administration, state lawmakers refused to approve the cameras, causing the then-mayor to "erupt in fury," as the New York Times put it. Bloomberg directed his ire at three legislators in particular, warning that the "parents of the child when a child is killed" should call one or all of them: Dean Skelos, senate majority leader; Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans; and Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican. The lawmakers backed down and approved a plan for 20 school zones that summer.

The program was modest. The city could install cameras in 20 of the city's 2,300 school zones (expanded to 140 a year later). The violation for a vehicle caught on camera going more than 10 miles above the legal speed limit was $50, a fraction of the $288 minimum cost of a school-zone speeding ticket and state surcharge. The city couldn't issue violations outside a range of 1,320 feet around a school, nor could it issue violations outside of school hours (plus one hour before and after school). Unlike police-issued speeding tickets, the violations do not accrue points on a driver's license or result in higher insurance costs; the violation is attached to a car, not a person.

Despite these limitations, Bloomberg's insistence that cameras would improve safety has proved correct.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


The Neymar challenge is the latest trend sweeping the internet (Narjas Zatat, 7/08/18, Independent)

The #NeymarChallenge is quickly sweeping the internet.

How does it work? Fans yell Neymar's name at the top of their lungs, a little like 'The floor is laval!' and other fans immediately dive to the ground dramatically, feigning an injury. 

The failure to consistently give yellow cards for simulation blights the game, but the acting itself demonstrates how mistaken it is to attach such a high value to being fouled in the first place--a penalty kick should only be awarded if the foul denies an obvious opportunity to shoot on goal. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Qatar Open To Larger Tournament (The Associated Press, July 08, 2018)

One option stands out. A playoff round involving 32 nations from which 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional group stage.

That format was rejected in January 2017 by FIFA's ruling council when it agreed to expand the World Cup. The 48 teams at the 2026 edition, which is set to be staged in the United States, Canada and Mexico, will play in 16 groups of three teams.

FIFA said last year that the playoff round idea was disliked because sudden-death losers would feel they were going home before the real World Cup started with 32 teams.

A further barrier to 48 teams in Qatar is any format would add to the 28-day World Cup program already agreed for November-December 2022, which is already a departure from the regular mid-year schedule.

Europe's top leagues have said it would be unacceptable for them to lose another weekend of fixtures in November to add extra World Cup playing days.

Make it a 64 team final, but the entire tournament, including qualifiers, knock-out games, hosted by the higher seeded team.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 AM


Thousands cheer Ethiopian leader's visit to former enemy Eritrea for unprecedented summit (Paul Schemm, July 8, 2018, Washington Post)

The rumored visit was confirmed by Abiy's chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, on Sunday morning.

"Abiy Ahmed has left to Eritrea, Asmara today to further deepen efforts to bring about lasting peace between the people of Ethiopia & Eritrea," he tweeted. "Our two nations share a history & bond like no other. We can now overcome two decades of mistrust and move in a new direction."

Nearly 30 years ago, the future leaders of the two countries were comrades in the struggle against Ethiopia's communist dictatorship. But after its overthrow and Eritrea's declaration of independence, relations soured despite close cultural and linguistic ties.

Ethi­o­pia's new reformist prime minister, Abiy, broke the deadlock between the two countries on June 5 by accepting the 2000 peace agreement that ended the war, which would involve ceding territory still held by Ethi­o­pia.

Events moved quickly after that, with Isaias accepting the overtures as a "positive" move and sending a delegation led by his foreign minister to Addis Ababa a week later. Now there has been talk of reopening long-closed air links between the two countries this year.

The summit will probably involve negotiations on how to begin the complex process of returning territories to each other and separating populations as well as restoring ties.

Under Abiy, Ethi­o­pia appears to be embarking on a new path of reform, but Eritrea has been characterized as one of the most authoritarian states in Africa.

July 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


Defense contractor detained migrant kids in vacant Phoenix office building (Aura Bogado, Ziva Branstetter and Vanessa Swales / July 6, 2018, reveal News)

A major U.S. defense contractor quietly detained dozens of immigrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets during three weeks of the Trump administration's family separation effort, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.

Videos shot by an alarmed neighbor show children dressed in sweatsuits being led - one so young she was carried - into the 3,200-square-foot building in early June. The building is not licensed by Arizona to hold children, and the contractor, MVM Inc., has claimed publicly that it does not operate "shelters or any other type of housing" for children.

Defending the administration's policy to separate families at the border in a May interview with NPR, White House chief of staff John Kelly promised: "The children will be taken care of - put into foster care or whatever."

Whether or not these children were taken from their parents, that "whatever" for them was the vacant building tucked away in a midtown Phoenix neighborhood. It is not listed among shelters operating through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or on the state child care licensing website.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Immigrant NYC Grandparents Detained While Visiting Son-in-Law at Fort Drum, Family Says (Chris Glorioso, Jul 6, 2018, NBCNY)

A Mexican family from Brooklyn says they were headed upstate to Fort Drum to celebrate Independence Day with an Army sergeant family member when border patrol agents questioned their parents' New York City IDs, and then took them to a detention facility hundreds of miles away. 

Eduardo Silva tells News 4 New York that his parents, Concepcion and Margarito Silva, have lived in New York for two decades. They came to the country undocumented from Mexico but in 2007 they were approved for an official Department of Labor work permit. 

Eduardo said they had valid New York City IDs, which they'd used to access military bases before, but on July 4, when they came to the gates of Fort Drum, they were stopped by military police. 

Perla Silva, another daughter of the detained couple, took video showing the part of Fort Drum where her parents were taken into custody. She said in a matter of minutes, Border Protection agents arrived and took her parents to the federal ICE detention center hundreds of miles away in Buffalo.  [...]

"He's about to be deployed again while my sister is pregnant, and he works so hard for his country, and he loves his country so much," said Perla Silva.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Evidence That New Tariffs, Not Immigrants, Are Costing Jobs (Stuart Anderson , 7/07/18, Forbes)

The Trade Partnership analysis concluded:

"The tariffs, quotas and retaliation would increase the annual level of U.S. steel employment and non-ferrous metals (primarily aluminum) employment by 26,280 jobs over the first one-three years, but reduce net employment by 432,747 jobs throughout the rest of the economy, for a total net loss of 400,445 jobs;

"Sixteen jobs would be lost for every steel/aluminum job gained;

"More than two thirds of the lost jobs would affect workers in production and low-skill jobs.

"Every state will experience a net loss of jobs."

One reason for this result is that nearly 40 times more people in America work in jobs that use steel and aluminum than in jobs connected to producing steel and aluminum. "American workers making steel/aluminum: 170,000. American workers consuming steel/aluminum: 6.5 million," notes trade attorney Scott Lincicome.

Behind the numbers are stories of companies and workers affected by the tariffs and retaliation from other countries. "One week after the Commerce Department recommended heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum in February, Mr. Czachor [CEO of the American Keg Company] gathered 10 of his 30 workers in a conference room at work and broke the news that they were being laid off," according to the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post reported that at Stripmatic Products in Ohio because of higher steel prices due to the tariffs "the $1 million in new factory investment and the 10 new jobs it would have created have evaporated."

The U.S. farm sector is also at risk due to retaliation for, among other things, a separate set of tariffs against Chinese imports. "Worries over a looming trade war have already hit Iowa pork producers' pocketbook to the tune of $240 million from falling prices, and the damage will likely grow, industry leaders say," reported the Des Moines Register. "The pork industry will have to downsize modestly," according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

Let's contrast this turmoil created by a protectionist U.S. trade policy with positive news about the impact of immigrants on native employment. "The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives' unemployment or reduce their labor force participation," concluded a recent study for the National Foundation for American Policy by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville. "Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group."

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


They Came Here to Serve. But for Many Immigrants, the Army Isn't Interested. (Dave Philipps, July 6, 2018, NY Times)

Recruit Zhang, an immigrant from China, joined the United States military on the promise that enlisting would lead to American citizenship. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and was handed an Army T-shirt. But, after two years of delays, there came a sudden discharge that has left him reeling.

"They just said one word: I was 'unsuitable,'" said the 30-year-old, who has a wife and child and a business management degree. He asked that only his last name be used. "I came here legally, made an agreement to stay legally, and they have not kept the agreement."

A growing number of foreign-born recruits who joined the United States military through a special program created to recruit immigrant troops with valuable language and medical skills are being terminated before they can qualify for citizenship. Lawyers for the recruits say at least 30 have been discharged in recent weeks and thousands more are stuck in limbo -- currently enlisted but unable to serve -- and may also be forced out.

They are being cut even as the Army has been unable to meet its 2018 recruiting goals.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


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Jim Jordan says all five Ohio State accusers know the truth, but are lying instead  (Jennifer Smola  & Jessica Wehrman,  Jul 6, 2018, Columbus Dispatch)

 On the day a fifth former Ohio State wrestler emerged to say U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan knew about sex abuse by a team doctor, the Urbana Republican said all five know the truth but are lying anyway.

Jordan, former assistant wrestling coach for the Buckeyes, linked the statements from his former team members to his aggressive questioning of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein last week about the investigation into whether Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election, and his consideration of running for speaker of the House.

But in the Fox News interview, Jordan made a distinction between "conversations in the locker room" and reporting abuse, saying overhearing chatter in the locker room "is a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse."

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


California Must Be Doing Something Right (Matthew Winkler, May 29, 2018, Bloomberg)

California's 4.9 percent increase in GDP last year was more than twice the gain for the U.S. and enabled the state's jobless rate to slide to 4.2 percent, the lowest on record since such data was compiled in 1976. Per capita income since 2013 grew 20.5 percent, making California the perennial No. 1. Among the biggest states sharing the Trump agenda, Texas remains an also-ran with less than a third of California's $31.8 billion in receipts from agriculture, forestry and fishing and $63 billion less than California's $289 billion in equivalent GDP as the nation's largest manufacturer, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the Texas unemployment rate is lower at 4.1 percent, California's is falling faster and its total workforce of 17 million is 37 percent greater and has increased 2 million during the past five years, more than any other state.

Investors also make California the best-performing state, with 462 native companies in the Russell 3000 index producing a 587 percent total return (income plus appreciation) during the past decade, 262 percent the past five years, 76 percent the past two years, and 27 percent the past year -- easily surpassing the Russell 3000's total return of 371 percent, 154 percent, 59 percent, and 22 percent, respectively. In the market for state and local government debt, California also is superior, representing more than 20 percent of the No. 1 BlackRock Strategic Municipal Opportunities Fund, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. [...]

Brown said that the market forces driving California ahead of other states are inexorable: "China also appears to be ready to adopt ever increasing requirements for zero emissions vehicles. That's the biggest market. That is the market, and they have to sell into it with electric cars and California is trying to do the same thing as well as the states that follow us. It can't be resisted. It's too powerful a force."

Investors already are benefiting from the trend, reflected in analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg showing the sales of California clean companies rising 29 percent, 16 percent and 11 percent in 2018, 2019 and 2020, compared to 17 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent for similar out-of-state firms.

Shares of California's clean companies, which spend twice as much on research and development as their out-of-state peers, gained an average of 70 percent the past two years, or 23 percentage points more than the average return for the rest of the country. At the same time, California's clean companies created twice as many jobs as their counterparts elsewhere. Productivity also is unsurpassed in California, where the revenue per employee of clean companies rose 7 percent last year, while it fell 3 percent outside the state, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The new California law mandating that new homes be built with solar energy is a boon for the renewable industry. San Francisco-based Sunrun Inc., whose shares appreciated 122 percent the past 12 months, will report sales growth of 36 percent in 2018, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The same analysts predict Sunrun will appreciate another 21 percent by December.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Marvel's Spider-Man and Doctor Strange co-creator Steve Ditko dies at age 90 (AP, 07 July, 2018)

While Lee embraced his status as a creative god among comics fans, appearing at conventions and in constant cameos in Marvel's films, Ditko was a recluse who won the worship of the most hard core comic-book geeks.

They were quick to praise him and the massive influence he had on art, film and culture Friday.

"Thank you Steve Ditko, for making my childhood weirder," fantasy author and graphic novel author Neil Gaiman said in a series of tweets to his 2.7 million followers. "He saw things his own way, and he gave us ways of seeing that were unique. Often copied. Never equalled. I know I'm a different person because he was in the world."

Edgar Wright, director of films including Baby Driver and Shaun of the Dead, said on Twitter that Ditko was "influential on countless planes of existence".

"Comics are unimaginable without his influence," tweeted Patch Zircher, a comic-book artist who has worked on Batman and Superman comics for rival DC Comics. "He co-created Spider-Man, which will be remembered as significant as Doyle creating Sherlock Holmes or Fleming creating James Bond. Spider-Man may outlast them both."

English television and radio host and comic books super-fan Jonathan Martin tweeted that Ditko was "the single greatest comic book artist and creator who ever lived".

The son of a steel-mill worker, Ditko was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1927. He served in the army in Europe after second world war and began working in comics in the 1950s in New York, eventually landing a drawing job with Marvel forerunner Atlas Comics.

Jack Kirby, Lee's artist on the Fantastic Four and many other Marvel characters, took a stab at creating Spider-Man in 1961, but Lee was unsatisfied and gave the gig to Ditko, who gave Spidey the essential look he still has today.

Ditko left Marvel in 1966, but returned in 1979. One of his later creations was Squirrel Girl, who after her debut in 1992 became a cult favourite among comics fans.

He maintained a writing studio in Manhattan until his death, but had no known surviving family members and was incredibly reclusive, turning down nearly all offers to do interviews, meet fans or appear at movie premieres.

...Kirby's lines (which peaked with Frank Miller) or Ditko's circles (perfected by John Byrne).

July 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 PM


Uruguay Had the Perfect Plan to Beat France. Uruguay Did Not Beat France. (ERIC BETTS, JULY 06, 2018, sLATE)

Sometimes in sports you can come up with the perfect plan and it still won't be good enough.

Consider Uruguay's World Cup quarterfinal against France, which was a lot closer than the 2-0 score would lead you to believe. Uruguay fought back and for a time exposed a superior French side using all the weapons at its disposal: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to 71-year-old manager Óscar Tabárez.

Tabárez was leading Uruguay for the fourth time at the World Cup despite being diagnosed in 2016 with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which has him relying on a crutch or a wheelchair for mobility. He has been coaching nearly all these players for their entire international careers, and it's clear he knows how to squeeze every ounce of potential from a side representing a nation of just 3 million people.

Uruguay played aggressive, physical defense, combined in interesting and unexpected ways on counterattacks, and rarely spurned good chances. Its set-piece dominance in this World Cup had been absolute. Center backs Diego Godín and José Giménez are among the world's best at attacking and defending dead balls. Every foul whistled or ball knocked out of play seemed a small Uruguay victory.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


Immigrant soldier sues Defense Department for discharging him without explanation (LORELEI LAIRD, JULY 6, 2018, ABA Journal)

A private in the U.S. Army Reserve has sued the Army for discharging him without warning or explanation, apparently because of his participation in a program for immigrants.

As the Associated Press reported July 5, the U.S. Army has been discharging soldiers who are not U.S. citizens. That includes Lucas Calixto, the private second class who sued the Army on June 28 for his sudden discharge. [...]

Calixto enlisted in the Army Reserve in early 2016 and has not been subject to any discipline or complaints, according to the complaint. In fact, it says, he was promoted to private second class shortly before his discharge. His lawsuit argues that the Army violated its own rules, Department of Defense rules and his due process rights by offering no explanation or chance to respond. Army regulations require that someone who is the subject of an "unfavorable administrative action" should be given a comprehensive, detailed written statement of the reasons for the action, and a chance to respond.

Calixto's lawsuit asks the court to revoke the discharge order and issue a declaratory judgment saying the Army failed to follow its own rules.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 PM


Family separation lawsuit offers chilling details as Trump administration says it will fulfill federal court order (NewsHour, Jul 5, 2018)


So, Lisa, separately from all that, there's a set of legal documents, legal filings from a number of states. They're suing the federal government. Tell us about what you see there.



This is an extraordinary trove of firsthand accounts from people who have experienced this policy. First, let's talk about that lawsuit. It's 17 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit.

What they want, a few things. They want a court to order that this policy is unconstitutional and it must stop permanently. They also want courts to order that asylum seekers be allowed to process and go through the border without being detained.

Now, as that court case works out, the states filed 1,000 pages, nearly 1,000 pages of documentation of people who have experienced this process or have knowledge about it.

Poring through those documents, Judy, is the firsthand accounts that we have been trying to get our hands on for so long. And just overall, we see many themes that are the same, many parents who were separated with little or no notice that they would be separated. Sometimes, they were taken away to a hearing, returned to find their child had been taken.


Tell us a little bit about what you see there. What are these families saying?


First, we learned a lot about what these families in this legal documentation says how the physical situation was for them.

First of all, 15-by-15 size cells with 30 to 50 adults, sometimes children in them as well, with one toilet usually for those people to share. Usually, there's some privacy. However, it's still in the same room. And children and adults sharing that space. They're called iceboxes.

Many, many people of these refer them as so cold that they had to huddle together on cement floors. We also have some very gripping and frankly difficult-to-read personal testimonies. I want to point to one of them.

This is from a mother whose 14-month-old child was separated from her and from the father. They were reunited after 85 days. She wrote- "The child continued to cry when we got home and would hold on to my leg and would not let me go. When I took off his clothes, he was full of dirt and lice. It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us."

She went on to say that she had thought, her child being so young, he wouldn't have really significant effects from the separation. But when she was reunited with him, she's worried that now actually he is really feeling and has changed because of the separation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Most Americans oppose key parts of Trump immigration plans, including wall, limits on citizens bringing family to U.S., poll says (Dan Balz and Scott Clement, July 6 , 2018, The Washington Post)

Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration's now-rescinded policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, and smaller majorities also disagree with the president's call to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to restrict legal immigration by limiting citizens from bringing parents and siblings to this country, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll. [...]

Democrats appear more energized than Republicans about the fall elections, especially in battleground districts. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters in those districts, 59 percent say the midterms are extremely important, compared with 46 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Overall, registered voters say they prefer to vote for a Democrat over a Republican for the House, 47 percent to 37 percent. The margin on that question is not statistically larger in battleground districts, standing at 12 percentage points.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Republicans on Russia trip face scorn and ridicule from critics at home (Karoun Demirjian, July 5 , 2018, Washington Post)

Republican lawmakers who went to Russia seeking a thaw in relations received an icy reception from Democrats and Kremlin watchers for spending the Fourth of July in a country that interfered in the U.S. presidential election and continues to deny it.

"Cannot believe GOP, once the party that stood strong against Soviets & only a decade ago sought to democratize the Middle East, is now surrendering so foolishly to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Kremlin's kleptocracy -- only two years ­after Russia interfered in U.S. election," tweeted Clint Watts, an information warfare specialist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and frequent featured expert before congressional panels examining Russian influence operations.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


AP NewsBreak: US Army quietly discharging immigrant recruits (MARTHA MENDOZA and GARANCE BURKE, 7/05/18, AP) 

Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged, the Associated Press has learned.

The AP was unable to quantify how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment program have been booted from the Army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.

"It was my dream to serve in the military," said reservist Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian immigrant who filed a lawsuit against the Army last week. "Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military."

Some of the service members say they were not told why they were being discharged. Others who pressed for answers said the Army informed them they'd been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.

July 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


The Best Way to See the U.S. Is by Train (William D'Urso, Jul 1, 2018, Outside)

Trains have long endured as a fixture of American industry, transporting goods and people across the country and forging what has become the United States as we know it. They still do a lot of that stuff, but long ago they stopped being a primary mode of long-haul transportation. Now they're mostly fun to gawk at while you match their speed from the highway.

Trains are more expensive than buses and cheaper than airplanes. They're definitely more spacious than both, and they chug along at just the right speed--slow enough to take in scenery and fast enough not to be bored by it--through mountain canyons, over fields of grass the settlers once trod on horseback, past decaying factory towns and deep forests.

"These secret pleasures of a railroad summon forth a vision of a sweet pastness, a lost national togetherness," wrote author Tom Zoellner in his book Train: Riding the Rails in the Modern World. "The train is a time traveler itself, the lost American vehicle of our ancestors, or perhaps our past selves."

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Has "Freedom" Lost Its Ring? (Jessica Hooten Wilson, Spring 2018 - Intercollegiate Review Online)

If, however, we distinguish between one interpretation of freedom--liberty--and another--license--we are able to use the word with accuracy. In John Milton's Paradise Lost, a poem that illustrates the human fall from reasonable and just into slavish and unjust creatures, the angel Michael explains to the postlapsarian Adam that he has lost "true liberty" because it was "twinned" with "right reason." Liberty, in this rendering, is freedom to act according to reason. For those of us predisposed to think of freedom as "doing whatever we want," we may be surprised to hear the traditional definition of freedom. Writers such as Milton--and before him Dante, Boethius, and others--considered an autonomous individual let loose to pursue her desires freely to be a soul enslaved. The "freedom" to consume, to surrender to your appetites, or to pursue your goals at the expense of others, in the traditional understanding, would be called "license." On the heels of Milton, political philosopher John Locke considered such license detrimental to society. Only liberty was an appropriate freedom within a society.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


E.P.A. Chief Scott Pruitt Resigns Under a Cloud of Ethics Scandals (Coral Davenport, July 5, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Pruitt had been hailed as a hero among conservatives for his zealous deregulation, but he could not overcome a spate of ethics questions about his alleged spending abuses, first-class travel and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Earlier on Thursday, The New York Times reported on new questions about whether aides to Mr. Pruitt had deleted sensitive information about his meetings from his public schedule, potentially in violation of the law.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


The big picture: How Corporate America is silencing the gun industry (Michael Sykes, 7/04/18, Axios)

[C]orporate entities are hesitant to support gun manufacturers and sellers as today's social media age of instant reactions increasingly demands that corporations take a stand on social issues.

Payment processing firms are limiting firearm transactions, per the Chicago Tribune.

Some financial institutions, including the Bank of America and Citigroup, have both restricted their business with gun manufacturers and buyers in recent months.

Walmart raised the age requirement to purchase firearms to 21 in February.

Dick's Sporting Goods also raised its minimum age to purchase firearms to 21 -- and banned the sale of assault-style weapons.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


They Walked Out On Birthright To See Palestinians -- And Created Their Own Conflict (Aiden Pink, June 28, 2018, The Forward)

Katie Fenster says that she wasn't planning on walking out on her Birthright Israel tour when she arrived. But during the free 10-day trip, she grew increasingly frustrated that the answers to her questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "all came from one perspective" and did not include Palestinian views. "We felt like we weren't being engaged with honestly," she told the Forward.

So on Wednesday, the final day of activities on her trip, she and four other women staged a walkout in Tel Aviv, meeting up with the controversial anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence for a tour of Hebron in the West Bank, where they met with Palestinians and saw a shrine dedicated to an Israeli terrorist.

The video taken of the walkout, which has since gone viral, shows the five women being angrily confronted by other trip participants and their Israeli tour guide, who accused them of "pulling a fast one" and "trying to enforce [their] opinions on the rest of the participants." [...]

"Judaism is about asking questions," she added. "It seems so surprising that they would be upset at us for asking questions."

Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM


Why America needs more immigrants (The Economist, Jun 25th 2018)

Rogelio Sáenz of the University of Texas and Kenneth M. Johnson at the University of New Hampshire used data from the National Centre for Health Statistics of the Centre for Disease Control to find that deaths amongst non-Latino whites surpassed births in the same group for the first time in history two years ago. The white non-Latino population declined in 26 states in 2016, up from four states in 2004. Declining fertility and rising mortality both played a role: between 1999 and 2016, the number of non-Latino white births fell by 11%--with a particularly rapid decline during the financial crisis--while the number of deaths rose by 9%.

The trends are unlikely to reverse much: every year, there are fewer white non-Latino women of child-bearing age and more white old men and women. The median age of this demographic group has risen from 39 in 2000 to 43 in 2016.

The researchers' work suggests that recent Census Bureau forecasts for white non-Latino population size are probably biased upward. But even those forecasts suggested that in 2020 there would be 70,000 fewer births than deaths among that population group, with its overall size only sustained in that year by migration. And even accounting for migration, the forecasts predict the white non-Latino population will fall by about a quarter of a million people each year by 2030 and nearly three quarters of a million a year by 2050.   

Minorities and migrants are filling the gap.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Studies: Mass Detention of Migrant Families is Unnecessary, Inefficient (Eleanor Acer, July 5, 2018, jUST sECURITY)

At Human Rights First, we provide pro bono legal representation to refugees seeking asylum. From this experience, we know that asylum seekers who are afforded accurate information and legal representation overwhelmingly appear for their immigration removal hearings. Recent government data, published by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), reveals that 97% of represented mothers whose cases were initiated in 2014 were in compliance with their immigration court hearing obligations three years later, as Human Rights First detailed in a February 2018 analysis of that data. A new comprehensive statistical study, conducted by Professor Ingrid Eagly and colleagues, reveals that 86 percent of families appeared for their hearings and 96 percent of families seeking asylum attended all their hearings. With legal representation, 97 percent of asylum seekers appeared for all hearings.

In cases where people need some appearance support, there are other options, as my colleague Robyn Barnard and I pointed out in our summary of the Top 10 Reasons Family Incarceration is Not a Solution. For instance, ICE operated a Family Case Management Program that resulted in 99% attendance for ICE check-ins and appointments, as well as 100% attendance at court hearings. The program used professional social workers to provide education about participants' responsibilities, individualized family service plans and other case management support. Launched by ICE, the program was operated by GEO Group, the private prison company which also operates many immigration detention facilities. Despite the program's successes, ICE mysteriously canceled the program last year.

Faith-based groups have also initiated case management programs that are community-based. For example, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) piloted small, privately-funded community-based models, showing promising initial results with program compliance rates of 96 to 97 percent.

DHS's own advisory committee recommended expansion of community-based case management programs rather than family detention. Concluding that detention is "never in the best interest of children," the committee recommended DHS "discontinue the general use of family detention, reserving it for rare cases when necessary following an individualized assessment of the need to detain because of danger or flight risk that cannot be mitigated by conditions of release." The DHS Advisory Committee specifically recommended that "[i]f necessary to mitigate individualized flight risk or danger, every effort should be made to place families in community-based case-management programs that offer medical, mental health, legal, social, and other services and supports, so that families may live together within a community."

As the CATO Institute's Alex Nowrasteh explains, another ICE program, an intensive supervision program operated by BI Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary the GEO Group Inc, resulted in a 99.6% appearance rate at immigration court hearings, and a 91.1% compliance rate with court orders, meaning these participants either left the country as ordered or earned legal status. The "full service" program involved both case management and monitoring through the use of technology and visitation, while "technology assisted" programs use only monitoring by technology - including electronic ankle monitors.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Al Qaeda-backed terror group bans single-use plastic bags (Times of Israel, 7/05/18)

According to the newspaper, the website broadcast an audio clip in which Mohammed Abu Abdullah, al-Shabaab's governor in the Jubaland region, said that plastic bags "pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike."

According to the BBC there was no mention of how the ban was to be enforced; however, fear of violence at the hands of the terrorists means that their edicts are usually followed. [...]

This is not the first time terrorists have shown concern for the environment -- documents seized during the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan included a letter in which he called on Americans to help then-president Barack Obama fight "catastrophic" climate change and "save humanity," the Reuters news agency reports.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Our Say: Today, we're walking in the Fourth of July parade to help Annapolis heal (Capital Gazette, 7/04/18)

We're hurting, but we know Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are, too. It's so difficult to grasp that our community was the site of a mass shooting; that Annapolis has joined the names synonymous with abhorrent violence.

On Independence Day, we're not taking part in the parade because we stand for some brand of political thought or calls for gun control or arguments against. We will not be there for those who are mad at the president or those who are mad at people who are angry with the president. Even those in the world of journalism who have offered a breathtakingly welcome wave of support for us aren't the reason we'll walk.

We'll be on West Street and Main Street because we want our readers and our community to see that we believe things will, eventually, be OK again. Eventually.

Have a glorious Fourth.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


American cities are reviving-but leaving the poor behind: The post-industrial U.S. "legacy" cities are experiencing a renaissance. But lower-income, majority-black enclaves are struggling more than ever. (EILLIE ANZILOTTI, 7/05/18, Fast Company)

The popular narrative of gentrification goes something like this: In cities, young, affluent college grads move into lower-income neighborhoods of color, and before long, coffee shops and hip boutiques start to replace older stores. It's not long before the real estate developers and agents follow and the rents skyrocket. This narrative is largely derived from cities like New York, D.C., and Seattle, where population growth-especially due to an influx of wealthy people-is far outstripping the housing supply, and essentially all neighborhoods are changing and becoming more expensive.

But cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which are the focus of Mallach's book, have only recently begun to welcome new residents. These new people were likely drawn, Mallach says, by jobs at the educational and medical institutions like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore that have slowly but surely replaced the manufacturing industries that anchored the cities in the past. Gentrification in these places is more gentle, and revolves around not displacing residents (because there were so few to begin with), but more around filling in gaps.

The movement of young people into Lawrenceville, for instance, brought a swath of new amenities and investment. While some, like a yoga studio, might prompt older residents to roll their eyes, Mallach writes, others, like better grocery stores and improved transit, offer fairly universal benefits. It's still affordable, because Pittsburgh is still affordable, and Mallach argues that if Lawrenceville hadn't experienced that initial influx of young residents, it may very well have declined: "The reality," he writes, "is that today most neighborhoods that don't survive, go downhill."

The latter situation, Mallach says, is something that low-income, majority-black neighborhoods in U.S. legacy cities are all too familiar with. And even as the cities around them draw buzz and New York Times culture pieces, and as the Lawrencevilles of the landscape start to turn around, they're unlikely to do the same. In American cities, race and poverty are inextricably linked, and in these post-industrial cities, as Mallach writes, "the revival is ignoring the poor."

Cities make fine business parks, entertainment complexes and temporary housing for young professionals, but no one else should live there--especially if they have children. Like Disneyworld, they should empty overnight.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


The good news about black men in America (W. Bradford Wilcox, @WilcoxNMP Wendy Wang, Ronald Mincy, July 3, 2018 | CNN

Our new report, "Black Men Making It In America," spotlights two pieces of particular good news about the economic well-being of black men.

First, the share of black men in poverty has fallen from 41% in 1960 to 18% today. Second, and more importantly, the share of black men in the middle or upper class -- as measured by their family income -- has risen from 38% in 1960 to 57% today. In other words, about one-in-two black men in America have reached the middle class or higher.

This good news is important and should be widely disseminated because it might help reduce prejudicial views of black men in the society at large, and negative portrayals of black men in the media. It should also engender hope among all African-Americans -- particularly young black males.

Correcting overly negative depictions and attitudes regarding black men is important because they shape how black men are treated, and how black men view their potential. Alan Jenkins, executive director of Opportunity Agenda, a social justice organization, noted that "Research and experience show that expectations and biases on the part of potential employers, teachers, health care providers, police officers, and other stakeholders influence the life outcomes of millions of black males."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Clean energy will do to gas what gas has done to coal: Globally, solar and wind projects now have the lowest life-cycle cost of all electricity sources (Jules Kortenhorst & Mark Dyson, 5/30/18, WEF)

Natural gas is currently cheap and its power plant technology is mature. This is why it is so prominent in electricity production and why so much investment is planned for it. But innovation in other technologies is quickly catching up and will likely put that investment in natural gas at risk. RMI analysis found that the costs of renewable energy, battery storage and energy efficiency are continuing to fall very quickly. In the US, benchmark prices for wind, solar photovoltaic and battery projects have fallen by 65-90% in the past 10 years. They are forecast to continue falling by a further 50% or more through 2030. Globally, solar and wind projects now have the lowest life-cycle cost of all electricity sources, according to data from the World Economic Forum released in December 2016.

The rapid pace of decline in cost has important implications for the global market for new gas infrastructure. Even in the US, with its domestic sources of cheap natural gas, the recent RMI report found that a portfolio of renewable energy, battery storage and energy efficiency can often be developed at a lower cost than a new gas-fired power plant, with lower financial risk and zero carbon emissions. RMI also found that because the cost to develop new clean energy portfolios is falling so rapidly, they are likely to beat just the operating costs of efficient gas-fired power plants within the next two decades.

RMI's US-focused analysis suggests that hundreds of billions of dollars of planned investment in natural gas infrastructure could be stranded over the coming decades, despite the US' abundance of cheap, local gas. In many global markets, imported LNG is much costlier than domestic gas in the US (adding US$2-4/MMBtu). In other markets, such as Western Europe, political risks associated with gas supply could limit availability or raise prices even further. As prices for renewable energy fall quickly around the world, more and more markets will find it attractive to lock in low-cost renewables, instead of paying more for natural gas-based power generation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


WANT A WIFE? GROW A BEARD (Melissa Pandika, NOV 30 2016, OZY)

A team led by Barnaby Dixson of the University of Queensland concluded that women find men with scruff attractive as short-term partners, but gravitate to full-on beards for long-term relationships.

Although it's not clear why women view a bearded man as a keeper, earlier research suggests that beards make men look more mature and socially dominant -- in other words, more likely to take the lead, whether it's overseeing a project or rounding everyone up for happy hour. The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, propose that a full beard does double duty, masking extremely masculine features -- which signal a potential Mr. Hit and Quit -- while also advertising husband qualities.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


The robodoctor will see you now (Mark Piesing, 05 JULY 2018, UnHerd)

The heroic age of the surgeon, they believe, is coming to an end for the same reasons the age of the pilot and driver did. Robot surgery offers patients more precise and less invasive keyhole surgery than they get from a human with a scalpel, gown and mask. In time, whole new operations may become possible.

More precise surgery means faster operations, quicker recovery times and less chance of secondary infection - of vital importance with an ageing population and the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections. It is predicted that in some countries, 40% of the population may be over 65 by the middle of the century. And deaths from these opportunistic infections could amount to 50 million a year globally by 2050. The robots could save them.

Robotic surgery would also mean busier operating theatres and patients spending less time in hospital beds afterwards. It would make recruitment easier, when the predicted shortage of 100,000 doctors in the USA becomes a reality.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Assad critic seizes chairmanship of key Iran parliament commission (Ehsan Bodaghi July 4, 2018, Al Monitor)

After 14 years, the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission has a new chairman. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh will replace Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who has headed the commission since 2005. Although both men are conservatives, they differ greatly in the policies they have adopted in the past. They also diverge in terms of the support they have derived from parliamentary factions. As such, the leadership shift is viewed by observers as much more than simply a game of musical chairs. Indeed, a commission headed by Falahatpisheh will likely experience very different days ahead. [...]

But more than anything, the difference between Boroujerdi and Falahatpisheh can be seen in how they coordinate their policies based on the viewpoints of Iran's leadership, and particularly how their stances on two key foreign policy issues are completely opposite (one being Syria and Iraq, and the other Iran's relations with Russia). Boroujerdi is among the Iranian politicians who are close allies to movements in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. In recent years, he has traveled to these countries on several occasions and has expressed strong support for President Bashar al-Assad during visits to Syria.

Conversely, Falahatpisheh is perhaps among one of the first officials within the Iranian political establishment who has strongly criticized Assad's policies. Referring to a call by the Syrian president for regional states not to turn Syria into a theater for their own conflicts in the aftermath of a series of Israeli airstrikes, Falahatpisheh retorted on May 12, "Bashar al-Assad's passive stance comes as Iranian youths have been losing their lives while defending the territorial integrity of Syria for the past six years. It was after these measures that Russia began its support, and after the conditions for stabilizing the Syrian government, that Bashar al-Assad's international equations moved forward."

Their views on Russia also differ. While Boroujerdi is among those within the political establishment who believe that Iran should strengthen its tilt toward Russia and China, Falahatpisheh has a completely different view. In August 2016, when Iran allowed Russia to use an air base in the northwestern Iranian city of Hamadan for operations in Syria, he was the only person who criticized the move, calling it "against the constitution." Moreover, in June, he said, "Iranians have repeatedly been a plaything in Russia's [self]-interest seeking policies."

As such, the evident differences in the political positioning of these two men can only guarantee one thing: Looking ahead, the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission is about to be reshaped.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Who Really Stands to Win from Universal Basic Income? (Nathan Heller, 7/05/18, The New Yorker)

One cause of the program's especial popularity in Northern California is also a reason for the urgency of its appeal: it is a futurist reply to the darker side of technological efficiency. Robots, we are told, will drive us from our jobs. The more this happens, the more existing workforce safety nets will be strained. In "Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream" (2016), the labor leader Andy Stern nominates U.B.I. as the right response to technological unemployment. Stern, a lifetime labor guy, is a former president of the two-million-member Service Employees International Union. But he thinks that the rise of robots and the general gig-ification of jobs will "marginalize the role of collective bargaining," so he has made a strategic turn to prepare for a disempowered working class. "You go into an Apple store and you see the future," he quotes an economist saying. "The future of the labor force is all in those smart college-educated people with the T-shirts whose job is to be a retail clerk." (This presumes that people will frequent brick-and-mortar shops in the first place.)

By Lowrey's assessment, the existing system "would falter and fail if confronted with vast inequality and tidal waves of joblessness." But is a U.B.I. fiscally sustainable? It's unclear. Lowrey runs many numbers but declines to pin most of them down. She thinks a U.B.I. in the United States should be a thousand dollars monthly. This means $3.9 trillion a year, close to the current expenditure of the entire federal government. To pay, Lowrey proposes new taxes on income, carbon, estates, pollution, and the like. But she is also curiously sanguine about costs, on the premise that few major initiatives balance out on the federal books: "The Bush tax cuts were not 'paid for.' The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not 'paid for.' " When the country wants to launch a big project, she insists, the double joints and stretchy tendons of a giant, globalized economy come into play.

This open planning won't exactly soothe the cautious. A big reason for chariness with a U.B.I. is that, so far, the program lives in people's heads, untried on a national scale. Then again, by the same mark, the model couldn't be called under-thunk. The academic counterpart to Lowrey's journalistic book is Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght's recent "Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy" (Harvard), a meticulously comprehensive, frequently persuasive accounting of U.B.I.'s superiority by measures economic, philosophical, and pragmatic. Like Lowrey, they see basic income as a sound social program and a corrective "hope": not a perfect system, but better than anything else.

Traditionally, a challenge for means-tested aid is that it must determine who is most deserving--a vestige of the old Elizabethan system. Often, there's a moralizing edge. Current programs, Lowrey points out, favor the working poor over the jobless. Race or racism plays into the way that certain policies are shaped, and bureaucratic requirements for getting help can be arcane and onerously cumulative. Who will certify the employee status of a guy who's living on the streets? How can you get disability aid if you can't afford the doctor who will certify you as disabled? With a universal income, just deserts don't seem at issue. Everybody gets a basic chance.

Observers often are squeamish about that proposition. Junkies, alcoholics, scam artists: Do we really want to hand these people monthly checks? In 2010, a team of researchers began giving two-hundred-dollar payments to addicts and criminals in Liberian slums. The researchers found that the money, far from being squandered on vice, went largely to subsistence and legitimate enterprise. Such results, echoed in other studies, suggest that some of the most beneficial applications of a U.B.I. may be in struggling economies abroad.

Like many students of the strategy, Lowrey points to Kenya, where she reported on a U.B.I. pilot in a small village. (She won't say which, for fear of making it a target for thieves--a concern worth counting as significant.) The pilot is run by a nonprofit called GiveDirectly, and is heavily funded through Silicon Valley; in that respect, it's a study in effective philanthropy, not a new model of society. But the results are encouraging. Before GiveDirectly sent everyone the equivalent of twenty-two U.S. dollars a month (delivered through a mobile app), Village X had dirt roads, no home electricity, and what Lowrey genteelly calls an "open defecation" model for some families. Now, by her account, the village is a bubbling pot of enterprise, as residents whose days used to be about survival save, budget, and plan. (The payments will continue until 2028.)

A widow tells her, "I'll deal with three things first urgently: the pit latrine that I need to construct, the part of my house that has been damaged by termites, and the livestock pen that needs reinforcement, so the hyena gets nothing from me on his prowls." A heavy-drinking deadbeat buys a motorbike for a taxi business, sells soap, buys two cows, and opens a barbershop. His work income quadruples. He boasts to Lowrey of his new life.

Purely as a kind of foreign aid, Lowrey suggests, a basic income is better than donated goods (boxes of shoes, mosquito nets), because cash can go to any use. The Indian government's chief economic adviser tells her that, with a U.B.I. of about a hundred U.S. dollars a year, India, where a third of the world's extreme poor live, could bring its poverty rates from twenty-two per cent to less than one per cent. Those figures are stunning. But India is in the midst of major bureaucratic change. Would there be any chance of a U.B.I. finding a foothold in the entrenched U.S. political climate?

Advocates have noted that the idea, generally formulated, has bipartisan support. Charles Murray, the conservative welfare critic, was an early enthusiast. His book "In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State" (2006) called for a U.B.I. of ten thousand dollars a year, plus catastrophic health insurance, to replace existing social programs, including Social Security. Rather than fester for years under the mismanaging claws of Big Government, he thought, money could flow directly to individual recipients. "The UBI lowers the rate of involuntary poverty to zero for everyone who has any capacity to work or any capacity to get along with other people," Murray declared.

But although politically dissimilar people may support a U.B.I., the reasons for their support differ, and so do the ways they set the numbers. A rising group of thinkers on the left, including David Graeber and Nick Srnicek, tout a generous version of U.B.I. both as a safety net and as a way to free people from lives spent rowing overmanaged corporate galleons. Business centrists and Silicon Valley types appreciate it as a way to manage industry side effects--such as low labor costs and the displacement of workers by apps and A.I.--without impeding growth. In "The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future" (Hachette), Andrew Yang, the Venture for America founder who has already filed for Presidential candidacy in 2020, recommends the model as a way to bypass kludgy governmental systems. He imagines it paired with something he calls "human capitalism." "For example, a journalist who uncovered a particular source of waste, an artist who beautified a city, or a hacker who strengthened our power grid could be rewarded with Social Credits," he explains. "Most of the technologists and young people I know would be beyond pumped to work on these problems."

Many of the super-rich are also super-pumped about the universal basic income. Elon Musk has said it will be "necessary." Sir Richard Branson speaks of "the sense of self-esteem that universal basic income could provide to people." What's the appeal for the plutocracy? For one thing, the system offers a hard budget line: you set the income figure, press start, go home. No new programs, no new rules. It also alleviates moral debt: because there is a floor for everyone, the wealthy can feel less guilt as they gain more wealth. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


There is no productivity crisis, experts say (Steve LeVine, 5/27/18, Axios)

[I]n a presentation at the Dallas Fed on Friday, Chad Syverson, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, said technological history has been one of lag-times between the launch of new technologies and their visibility in productivity numbers. In work he did with MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock, Syverson said advances in artificial intelligence in particular simply have not worked their way through the economy and into complementary products.

He cited analogies:

At least half of U.S. factories remained unelectrified until 1919, three decades after the invention of the first functional AC motor.

It wasn't until the 1980s, more than 25 years after the invention of the integrated circuit, that computers had penetrated U.S. businesses.

It took two decades for e-commerce to reach 10% penetration of retail.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 AM


Hispanic Texans on pace to become largest population group in state by 2022 (ALEXA URA AND NAEMA AHMED, JUNE 21, 2018, Texas Tribune)

With growth among the Hispanic population in Texas continuing to easily outpace growth among white Texans, it's likely the state will reach that demographic milestone as soon as 2022. That's according to the state demographer and new population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The new figures, which account for the state's population growth through July 2017, reflect the extent to which the white population growth rate pales in comparison to growth among Texans of color since 2010 -- a disparity that has set the Hispanic community on its way to becoming a plurality of the state's population.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Gina's Way  (DANIEL C. VOCK | JULY 2018, Governing)

It was in the midst of all that economic distress and political distrust that Raimondo introduced herself to Rhode Island voters. Her first step was to run for state treasurer, which fit her background as a venture capitalist. As a Rhodes scholar with an economics degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale, she had impeccable credentials. But she also had authentic connections to blue-collar Rhode Island. Raimondo often relayed the story of her father being laid off from his job in Providence when the Bulova watch factory closed. She says she jumped into politics because libraries around the state were shutting down, a point that hit home for her because her grandfather learned English at his local public library.

Raimondo moves comfortably in these two worlds. But, inevitably, these worlds collide.

They certainly did after the Central Falls bankruptcy, in which Wall Street investors remained unscathed but retired city workers faced steep benefit cuts. "It broke my heart to see 75-year-old firefighters saying, 'I can't buy food. I can't buy my medicine. I can't stay in my house,'" Raimondo said in an interview with the podcast Freakonomics earlier this year. She worried the same thing would happen to teachers and other workers in the state pension funds, which were also dangerously underfunded. "I decided, I'm not going to do that. It's not about my politics, it's about shoring up the system. ... There are a lot of people in this system who need their pension to be there in 30 years, and it wasn't going to be. My tagline at the time was, 'This is math, not politics.'" 

She insisted that existing benefits had to be reduced, and said that if lawmakers didn't act, the system would be broke in 25 years. She proposed eliminating cost-of-living increases and moving recipients into a system that more resembled the riskier 401(k) plans used in the private sector. After Raimondo made her case around the state, lawmakers in 2011 passed her proposal by wide margins. Unions fought the deal unsuccessfully. They eventually reached a settlement with the state several years later, but resentment over the issue, particularly among teachers unions, has never really died away.

Raimondo's pension victory boosted her profile, setting up her campaign for governor in 2014. She narrowly won a three-way primary against two labor-friendly Democrats, then won the governorship in November in another three-way race. Raimondo didn't dwell on the pension fight during her campaign, although it galvanized support for her opponents. Instead, her message in that race was all about job creation. It still is.

During Raimondo's term as governor, she has appeared countless times touting one commitment or another by companies to bring or add jobs to Rhode Island. She joined the head of General Dynamics Electric Boat in May to tout the creation of 1,300 jobs. Electric Boat is expanding to build parts for a new class of nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy. Raimondo has announced 500 new jobs from Infosys, an Indian tech company; 75 jobs at a tech center for Johnson & Johnson; 50 new positions for GE Digital; 300 additional jobs for Virgin Pulse, a health software company; and 700 jobs for Infinity Meat Solutions to package and process meat. And the list goes on.

But Raimondo has backed more controversial projects as well. She appeared with the CEO of Deepwater Wind in 2016, when the company started building the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Residents of nearby Block Island tried to fight the new development because it obstructed their view of the ocean, but the governor forged ahead anyway. This spring, she signed off on a deal to let the company construct a wind farm that would produce 13 times as much energy as its first project. Meanwhile, Raimondo backed an effort to build a $1 billion natural gas-fueled power plant in the northern part of the state, despite fierce objections from environmentalists and local residents. 

Laurie White, the president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, credits Raimondo for rebuilding the state's economic development agency, which had languished under previous governors. "There were zero tools in the toolbox," she says. "The state didn't even have marketing materials. This governor understands what a contemporary economic development agency must do today to be in the game in order to win."

The company officials who appear with Raimondo to announce new jobs often tout the tax incentive packages that the state has offered to lure them there. Most of those incentives were created under the Raimondo administration. "Massachusetts and nearly every other state in the Northeast still uses incentives. And they've been doing it for years," Raimondo explained in her State of the State address this year. "Until recently, though, our leaders didn't have a strategy and, because of that, Rhode Islanders got left behind. And the few times our past leaders did take action, they put all their eggs in one basket or chased special deals. Any way you slice it, Rhode Islanders got hurt."

The governor's supporters note that some of the biggest state tax credits companies can qualify for require them to actually create jobs before they get the tax subsidy. In the end, they argue, the jobs will bring in more than enough money to pay for the breaks that drew them to Rhode Island. But to the governor's opponents, especially the ones lining up to run against her this year, the tax breaks smack of "corporate welfare," gifts to out-of-state companies that won't change the fundamentals of a broken Rhode Island economy. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 AM


Lesson Plan: After Decades of Reform, Has Chicago Finally Learned How to Fix Education?  J. BRIAN CHARLES | JULY 2018, Governing)

The phone call Janice Jackson had been waiting for came in early December. She was going to be named interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). A protégé of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she would be taking over the third largest school district in the nation. She was also getting the job she had predicted for herself since her days as a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A month after her appointment, the city closed the deal by dropping the word "interim" from her title.

Jackson has joined a long list of Chicago schools CEOs who have attracted national attention for their role in the city's seemingly endless series of reform efforts. One of them, Arne Duncan, went on to become U.S. education secretary in the Obama administration. Another, Paul Vallas, narrowly missed in a bid for governor of Illinois in 2002 and is currently campaigning to succeed Emanuel in city hall. 

But Jackson, who is 41 years old, has also taken over an institution that has never been able to divorce itself from Chicago's reputation for political controversy and corruption. Her rise to CEO was hastened by the resignation of Forrest Claypool, a former county commissioner and head of the Chicago Transit Authority, who was the target of an ethics investigation during his short tenure running the city schools. Before Claypool, Barbara Byrd-Bennett ran CPS until she was indicted and later sentenced to prison for steering contracts to a former employer and accepting kickbacks as compensation. 

Jackson is managing a district that has lost more than 50,000 students since 2000, triggering the closure of nearly 50 elementary schools and breeding resentment in much of the city. School administrators have been caught falsifying attendance and graduation rates. And recently the district has come under fire for not doing enough to stop rampant sexual abuse of students by staff. 

Still, good news landed on Jackson's desk just before she took the reins at CPS. New research from Stanford University showed that Chicago schoolchildren between the third and eighth grades were improving their performance at a faster rate than those in 96 percent of the school districts in the country. A significant number of Chicago pupils who came into third grade far behind their peers nationally were said to be attaining six years of academic growth in five school years. 

July 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt: Tactical postmortems must also factor in those things which cannot be planned for, as Spain and Germany can attest (Jonathan Wilson,  4 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

And, as so often, there is a danger when dealing with general trends in overlooking specifics. The reason for the early exits of Germany and Spain are manifold, and only partly related to tactics. Joachim Löw admitted his side had been arrogant and had perhaps not seen the warning signs. Perhaps he selected too many established names on reputation rather than recent form. The squad seems to have been riven by cliques.

Löw himself was perhaps found out: at the last World Cup he struggled to get the balance right between attack and defence and was bailed out by Miroslav Klose, who scored a vital goal against Ghana before offering a focal point to the forward line from the quarter-final on. Here, without Klose, or an in-form Thomas Müller, there was no edge to Germany's attack and so despite 65.3% possession over the group stage, their threat was limited. Combine that with their issues in checking opposing counterattacks - damningly highlighted in pre-tournament friendlies - and the only outcome can be disappointment.
It's natural, of course, that the longer a mode of play exists, the more strategies spring up to counter it. Xavi observed two years ago that Spain often struggled against a 3-5-2 (such as Chile deployed against them in 2014 and Italy in 2016) because it is difficult to press high against a team with five passing outlets at the back, particularly if they have two centre-forwards to occupy the central defenders. That was the route Russia's coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, took, and it worked - but Spain were also guilty of wastefulness in midfield in a way their champion sides were not.

No one is better on strategy and the history of strategy than Mr. Wilson, but a few American observations:

(1) When an opponent plays defensively and packs defenders into the box it tends to neutralize your advantage in skills.  at that point, if you don't have a striker or two up front who can head a ball in off a cross, you're always going to struggle to score.  You can temper this advantage if you have a midfielder who can score from range, but Spain never replaced Xavi Alonso.

(2) alternatively, you could choose to absorb some pressure yourself and then hit the other team on the break, with a more open field to play with. But, if your team is old, as both Spain and Germany are, you not only lose that second option--you just don't have enough pace for an effective counter-attack--but are going to have even more trouble getting anyone open in the attacking zone.

(3) Meanwhile, the ability to play that sort of quick counter depends on having a strong back four to cover if you lose the ball, measured in a very different way than soccer analysts think of it: not the four defenders but your goalie two central defenders and your holding midfielder.  Spain used to have Casillas, Puyol, Pique and Busquets in those spots, all of whom were great.  Neither Germany nor Spain is terribly good in those positions this year (though David DeGea should be). [by this measure alone, we'd expect Brazil to win and Uruguay to be dangerous.]

Combine it all and there's really no reason to expect an old, ball possession team with weak defense to do terribly well.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


The only question is whether the PSA is funded by the Watermelon Growers or the Fireworks Vendor Association...
Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Happy 4th, everybody.  Seems a good day to ask what folks are enjoying reading, watching, listening to.

I have a (roughly) two hour dog walk every day, but dropped off the hounds and kept going so I could finish this fabulous podcast in three days:


American Fiasco (WNYC Radio)

Join host Roger Bennett of Men in Blazers for this story of the U.S. men's soccer team that swaggered onto the international stage and set out to win the 1998 World Cup in France. When they arrived, they faced only one serious opponent: themselves. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Freakonomics Radio, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media and many more.

It fairly cries out to be made into a movie or miniseries, a la Damned United.

Statcast Podcast:

Statcast™ is changing the way we watch baseball, and we're only beginning to figure out how it will revolutionize the game. Mike Petriello, Matt Meyers and special guests discuss what this groundbreaking technology is teaching us.  

Be sure to follow @Statcast on Twitter for the best daily video clips featuring this new technology!

Listen to or download individual episodes below, subscribe via iTunes or use your RSS reader so you never miss a single episode.

PitcherList Podcast

Having two Rotisserie teams, I listen to CBS Fantasy Baseball Today every day, but for pure baseball enjoyment, these are the two most enjoyable analytical casts. 


Chance the Rapper : Coloring Book (Kris Ex, MAY 17 2016, Pitchfork)

When Chicagoan Chance the Rapper delivered his verse on "Ultralight Beam," the opening song from Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, there was a lot going on--sly homage was being paid to West; rappers were being put on notice ("This is my part/Nobody else speak"); and, most importantly, Chance was encapsulating his past, asserting his present, and telegraphing his future. He was finally positioning himself as a rapper to be reckoned with from a mainstream podium, but he was also delving deep into Christian ideology, with allusions to Noah's Ark and Lot's wife, with his "foot on the Devil's neck 'til it drifted Pangaea."

That verse rolled out the red carpet for Kanye's long-awaited album, but it doubled as an announcement of Chance's new Coloring Book (then given the working title Chance 3), which may very well be the most eagerly-anticipated hip-hop project this year that doesn't come attached to an actual record label. West billed his album as "a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it," but The Life of Pablo wasn't that; it was a rap album with some gospel overtures. Coloring Book, however, fits the billing, packing in so much gospel verve that it sounds like Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir are going to drop into half the tracks and recite 1 Timothy 4:12 in chorale. Instead, we get Kirk Franklin promising to lead us into the Promised Land, alongside appearances by demonstrated materialistic heathens like 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, and Future--and the result is an uplifting mix that even an atheist can catch the Spirit to.

Francis and the Lights : Farewell, Starlite! (Cameron Cook, OCTOBER 6 2016, Pitchfork)

 The album's focus is, rightfully, "Friends," a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Kanye West. It's a deeply affecting, mellow slice of alternative R&B, gliding along on a placid sea of finger snaps and interlocking vocal harmonies by all three artists, like some impossibly cool barbershop trio. When Starlite sings, "We could be friends/Just put your head on my shoulders," it's lusher than velvet. It sounds more like a lovesick supplication than a call for restraint. Francis and the Lights have been compared to Peter Gabriel before, but nowhere has this been more apparent as "May I Have This Dance," a song that truly could be added to a reissue of So without anyone batting an eyelid. Its subtle Afro-pop drumbeat and jubilant chorale of lyrics about reclaiming lost love are so evocative of mid-'80s art pop that it defiantly stands out as an example of the kind of diversity Farewell, Starlite! could desperately use more of.


Review: 'Bosch' and the Art of the Pure Police Procedural (Mike Hale, April 13, 2018, NY Times)

Developed for television by Eric Overmyer from novels by Michael Connelly, the show accommodates the modern serial drama's requirements for psychology and back story. Bosch's daughter and ex-wife are significant characters, and the unsolved murder of his mother (with its echoes of the Black Dahlia case) continues to haunt him in Season 4. (A fifth season has already been ordered.)

But the soul of the series is procedural crime-solving, and that's more than ever the case in the new season, which focuses on the murder of an African-American lawyer who was about to go to court with a brutality case against the Los Angeles Police Department. [...]

Anchoring it all is the deliberate, heavy quietude of Titus Welliver's performance as Bosch, communicating untold skepticism and disdain through an arched eyebrow or a downturned lip. Mr. Welliver can suggest an entire personality in the way he stares at a whiteboard or silently chooses which chair to sit in, and the show has matched him with other nonhistrionic actors like Jamie Hector (as his partner), Sarah Clarke (his former wife) and Madison Lintz (his daughter).

The unhurried pace of "Bosch" can sometimes slow to a crawl, the writing can be workmanlike and the secondary story lines involving Bosch's family or Los Angeles politics can be thin. But when it errs, it errs on the side of literalness rather than falseness, of plainness rather than pretension. The show doesn't require patience so much as relaxation. Surrender to its hard-boiled charms, and it will treat you right.

Those requirements do make the plots way too busy, combining as many as three of the novels into one series, but we've loved Harry for a quarter century now and it's nice to see someone make good use of many of the actors from The Wire. One especially nice tough in the latest cycle is the use of a tunnel setting that the novels' Harry would love.


The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney  

Found the book at the Thrift Store the other day, but saw his documentary years ago and have long been a member of his Cloud Appreciation Society

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

It's always been a favorite, but I'm rereading after listening to an interview with a new translator on NR's great Books podcast.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Our wonderful, frustrating, dynamic, messy American republic (Edward Morrissey, July 4, 2018, The Week)

[F]ocusing on America's bad outcomes misses the point. A nation that governs itself owns its own mistakes -- and has the ability to rectify them. We create the laws under which we are governed, and when we don't like the outcomes, our elected officials have the ability to correct them. Our Constitution has been amended 18 times since its initial ratification to deal with the worst of the outcomes, including slavery, and even once to correct an earlier amendment prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Our Independence Day gave us the ability to set our own course, for better or worse. No doubt the worse outcomes of those decisions, and the slow process of correcting them, made our forefathers despair at times, too. The long string of injustices seen in our history belong to the people who governed at that time and plagued the people they served, but we remember them now to remind us of the responsibility we have to govern ourselves wisely and judiciously in the future. The successes and failures of self-governance provide the perspective necessary to keep a sharp check on the use of power, lest we create the disconnect that created the need for the Declaration of Independence in the first place. Sundering governance from accountability is the surest and the shortest way to arrive at such a crisis.

Freedom and self-governance may not be pretty, but it is the antidote for the ills of every other form of government. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Plea Deal For Former Congressional IT Staffer Debunks Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories (SCOTT NEUMAN, 7/04/18, NPR)

"The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems," prosecutors noted in the plea agreement signed Tuesday.

"Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information," it said.

The plea deal said the government had conducted "a thorough investigation of those allegations. Including interviewing approximately 40 witnesses."

The investigation was led by Trump-nominated U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, according to the Post.

Awan's attorney said in a statement that his client had been the target of "political persecution."

"There has never been any missing server, smashed hard drives, blackmailed members of Congress, or breach of classified information," he said in the statement, according to the Post. "Yet Fox News and its media children continued to peddle a story in perfect coordination with House Republicans and the President."

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM