September 30, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Pentagon's immigrant recruit program stymied  (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 9/30/18, AP)

Stricter Trump administration immigration policies have stymied Pentagon plans to restart a program that allowed thousands of people with critical medical or Asian and African language skills to join the military and become American citizens, according to several U.S. officials.

The decade-old program has been on hold since 2016 amid concerns that immigrant recruits were not being screened well enough, and security threats were slipping through the system. Defense officials shored up the vetting process, and planned to relaunch the program earlier this month.

But there was an unexpected barrier when Homeland Security officials said they would not be able to protect new immigrant recruits from being deported when their temporary visas expired after they signed a contract to join the military, the U.S. officials said. They were not authorized to publicly describe internal discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The program is called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI. The plan to restart it was backed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who believes that noncitizens can bring key skills, language abilities, and cultural knowledge to the military.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


SEC's focus on U.S. corporate bosses pays off with Musk settlement (Liana B. Baker, Michelle Price, 9/30/18, Reuters) 

A high-profile settlement with Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk exemplifies a recent push by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go after executives and not just their companies, securities law experts said.

In the last week, the SEC announced charges or penalties against eight corporate officials at six companies, including Tesla. The SEC pursued each on different grounds, but securities lawyers said they highlight a shift to an emphasis on personal wrongdoing that has accelerated under Jay Clayton, an appointee of U.S. President Donald Trump who has served as SEC chairman since May 2017.

"Clayton is focused on holding individuals liable and not just corporate entities," said Mary Hansen, co-chair of the white collar defense and corporate investigations practice at Drinker Biddle, who worked in the SEC's enforcement division for eight years.

"The public wants to see our law enforcement, whether it be civil or criminal, hold those individuals responsible. That's what is driving this focus on individual liability."

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


Otis Rush, Influential Blues Singer and Guitarist, Is Dead at 83 (Bill Friskics-Warren, Sept. 29, 2018, NY Times)

While Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, his predecessors from the city's South Side, popularized an amplified update of the bare-bones sound of the Mississippi Delta, Mr. Rush's modernized variant -- which came to be called the West Side sound because of its prevalence in nightclubs in that part of town -- was at once more lyrical and more rhythmically complex.

"The sound was a radical departure from the down-home records that dominated the market at the time," the producer Neil Slaven, contrasting Chicago's West Side sound with its South Side counterpart, observed in the notes to a compilation of Mr. Rush's 1950s recordings for the independent Cobra label.

Mr. Rush's output for Cobra showcased his lacerating, vibrato-laden electric guitar lines and his gritty, gospel-inspired vocals -- throaty mid-register groaning, thrilling leaps of falsetto. Holding sway beyond Chicago, his adopted hometown, this early body of work served as a rich repository of material for the blues-rock bands of the 1960s.

The British group John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, which featured Mr. Clapton on lead guitar, included a version of Mr. Rush's slow-burning 1958 shuffle, "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)," on its 1966 album, "Blues Breakers." Led Zeppelin reimagined Mr. Rush's grinding 1956 hit, "I Can't Quit You, Baby," on its debut album, "Led Zeppelin"; the Rolling Stones updated the same song in 2016 on their album "Blue and Lonesome."

The Texas guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan named his band after Mr. Rush's minor-key tour de force "Double Trouble." Virtuoso rock guitarists including Johnny Winter and Duane Allman have also cited Mr. Rush as an influence.

Mr. Rush's guitar technique owed a debt to the discursive single-string voicings of jazz players like Kenny Burrell and jazz-inspired bluesmen like T-Bone Walker and B. B. King. But it was also attributable to the fact that Mr. Rush played his instrument left-handed and upside down. Curling the little finger of his pick hand around the bottom E string of his guitar enabled him to bend and extend notes, to dazzling emotional effect.

Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


What happens when life insurance companies track fitness data? (Angela Chen, Sep 26, 2018,  The Verge)

Last week, life insurance company John Hancock Financial announced that it would only sell so-called interactive policies that allow customers to share fitness data in exchange for discounts. Though customers can opt out of the program, the 156-year-old company's decision has created worry about privacy precedents and unintended consequences.

Broadly speaking, "interactive policy" means the company receives extra data and then uses it to adjust premiums or give discounts, according to a spokesperson from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. These policies are frequently used in the United Kingdom and are becoming more popular in health insurance and with individual companies, but one of the most well-known examples comes from car insurance. Companies like Allstate frequently strike a deal with interested drivers: install a monitoring device in your car and, if you're a safe driver, receive a discount in return.

For insurers, this seems like a win-win since both customers and life insurance companies want the customers to live longer. "The life insurance industry is the most logical setting for wellness," says Brooks Tingle, president and CEO of John Hancock Insurance. "We have relationships with customers that average 20 years and we make no bones about the fact that we stand to benefit if our customers live longer." This feature will likely bring healthier people to the company, too, because people who are already active are more likely to be attracted to the option of discounts if they meet predetermined goals. (John Hancock only offers discounts; they don't change the original premiums.)

At John Hancock, customers can earn discounts in many ways, including taking online nutrition classes, going to the doctor, and, of course, wearing a tracker and meeting predetermined fitness goals. The fitness option is compatible with most major trackers, users can receive a free Fitbit, and the policy has been very popular since it debuted in 2015, says Tingle.

Posted by orrinj at 11:15 AM


Depressed About the Future of Democracy? Study History: The liberal project has faced far greater challenges before (Norman Eisen, Sept. 29, 2018, NY Times)

I believe that democracy will beat back the illiberal wave, and that President Trump will be one of the first to go. My faith is based on the lessons of history. The liberal project has faced down much worse: the First World War, the Depression, World War II, the Cold War. And democracy overcame them all.

Today, Mr. Trump, like Mr. Putin, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, has presided over a head-on attack on the five pillars of the liberal project -- its personal, political, media, market and rule-of-law freedoms. His racial invectives assault personal equality. His criminalization of his opponents transgresses political norms. His threats against the news media (including even search engines) offend First Amendment values. His tariffs, crony capitalism and self-dealing make a mockery of free enterprise. And his constant assaults on his own Department of Justice and its personnel flout the rule of law.

But if you've studied the power of democracy to topple those far more formidable than Mr. Trump, it will come as no surprise that the pushback has been ferocious.

Supermajorities of Americans are repelled by Mr. Trump's personal attacks on a few of us, leaving him with approval ratings deep underwater. Politically, those numbers augur ill for his party in the midterms. This could mean that at least one house of Congress will have the will to use its subpoena power. The media has fought back with devastating effect, and Mr. Trump's tariffs and other distortions of free markets are being met with an outcry from the likes of even the Koch brothers.

But it is the rule of law that will have the most impact. August saw the simultaneous conviction of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman, and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, who identified Mr. Trump as a co-conspirator. That was followed by the news that two other close Trump associates had entered immunity agreements to testify about the hush money payments at issue. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


The Texas Senate race should frighten the Republican Party (KRISTIN TATE, 09/29/18, The Hill)

However, the future demography of Texas itself is the (to borrow a recent phrase) lodestar of the race. In a race between a Latino freshman Senator and Congressman that culturally appropriated a Latino sobriquet, Texas' population shifts are on clear display. Latino voters have increased their share of the Texas electorate and now make up over 39 percent of the population, up from 36.7 percent in 2010.

In the latest Quinnipiac poll Cruz carries a nine point lead, but is lagging behind Governor Greg Abbott's 19 point advantage. In the same poll, Cruz cinched white voters by a 66-32 margin but splits Latinos, with Cruz trailing O'Rourke 54-45 among them.

The race exemplifies two different strands of Texas' future. One is that Latino voters in the state, predominantly of Mexican heritage, are now the swing population in the state's elections. Abbott is leading Latino prospective voters, and is headed toward a landslide. This should give the Texas GOP hope that focused messaging and reinforcing shared family and economic values mean a fair fight for voters of all ethnic backgrounds.

The other is that outside forces really want Texas to stop being Texas. Cruz may have the ear of the political and economic establishment, but Beto has Washington! And Fairfax County! Cruz attempted to poke light at the situation with a clumsy joke about banning barbecue but it underlines the fact that a Beto victory would signify a substantial change to Texas -- and that you can't get the genie back in the bottle. And if the Democrats can strike so far into traditional GOP territory, what Republican-leaning states could be next?

From 2007 to 2016 almost 300,000 Californians moved to Texas. Count in the thousand per day more who move to Texas from New York, Illinois, and elsewhere. Full stop, Texas' demographics are changing. Major migration shows that middle class whites leaving other states for Texas retain their old voting patterns. Even if there is a roughly 50-50 Republican-Democrat split among these new residents, this still leaves both Texas more blue overall. Upper middle class, college educated whites are up for grabs, and Cruz's campaign must make them a top priority.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Russell Kirk and the Logos (BRADLEY J. BIRZER, September 27, 2018, Imaginative Conservative)

The real historian, as with the true poet, understands that one must recognize that the Logos is the center of all thought, all history, all grace, all goodness, and all purpose. "A reformed history must be imaginative and humane; like poetry, like the great novel, it must be personal rather than abstract, ethical rather than ideological," Kirk claimed. "Like the poet, the historian must understand that devotion to truth is not identical with the cult of facts." A search for history, then, is a search for the Logos. "Rather, the truths of history, the real meanings, are to be discovered in what history can teach us about the framework of the Logos," Kirk wrote, "about the significance of human existence: about the splendor and the misery of our condition."

The irony of this is that the best faculty for understanding the Logos is not through the very human passions or the intellect, but, rather, through the aristocratic soul, the mirror of the Divine. As St. John had written in the 9th verse of the first chapter of his gospel, the Logos (the Word) is "that which lighteth every man's soul." Man understands the world best, as such, through the Image provided to him by the Divine through his soul. "Images are representations of mysteries, necessarily," Kirk observed, "for mere words are tools that break in the hand, and it has not pleased God that man should be saved by logic, abstract reason, alone." If one takes the Image properly, as intended by the Image maker, it will "raise us on high, as did Dante's high dream." If soiled by the prideful ego, though, "it can draw us down to the abyss." The Image offered by the Divine allows us not to create that which can and should never be, but to discover that which has always been there, but either forgotten, ignored, or mocked. "It is imagery, rather than some narrowly deductive and inductive process, which gives us great poetry and scientific insights," Kirk stated in a 1977 public address, and "it is true of great philosophy, before Plato and since him, that the enduring philosopher sees things in images initially."

In his own arguments, Kirk drew upon centuries and centuries of tradition. One of the Inklings--the group centered around J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in the 1930s and 1940s--had written perceptively in his Oxford undergraduate thesis:

"Our sophistication, like Odin's, has cost us an eye; and now it is the language of poets, in so far as they create true metaphors, which must restore this unity conceptually, after it has been lost from perception. Thus, the 'before-unapprehended' relationship of which Shelley spoke, are in a sense 'forgotten' relationships. For though they were never yet apprehended, they were at one time seen. And imagination can see them again."  Tolkien himself, named after St. John and having taken St. John as his patron saint, wrote to his former student, W.H. Auden, each person is "an allegory . . . each embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life."

For Tolkien and Kirk (as well as Owen Barfield, quoted above), the Logos provided the eternal and incorruptible essence of divine and human existence, while the mythos (story and history) gave the individual and personal manifestations of the Logos a context, rooted in a specific space and time. Writers, public intellectuals, professors, scholars, and men of letters, Kirk argued, must especially embrace the public duty of serving the Word.

"This unity and this spirited defiance of the vulgar came, in considerable part, from the Schoolmen's [Thomist Scholastics] convictions that they were Guardians of the Word, fulfilling a sacred function, and so secure in the right" in their medieval universities. Americans, too, have inherited this sacred duty. "The principle support to academic freedom, in the classical world, the medieval world, and the American educational tradition, has been the conviction, among scholars and teachers, that they are Bearers of the Word--dedicated men, whose first obligation is to Truth, and that a Truth derived from apprehension of an order more than natural or material." the recognition of the primacy of aesthetics and the sufficiency of Faith.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


The Economic Effect of Immigration Policies: Analyzing and Simulating the U.S. Case (Andri Chassamboulli, Giovanni Peri, 9/2018, NBER Working Paper No. 25074)

In this paper we analyze the economic effects of changing immigration policies in a realistic institutional set-up, using a search model calibrated to the migrant flows between the US and the rest of the world. We explicitly differentiate among the most relevant channels of entry of immigrants to the US: family-based, employment-based and undocumented. Moreover we explicitly account for earning incentives to migrate and for the role of immigrant networks in generating job-related and family-related immigration opportunities. Hence, we can analyze the effect of policy changes in each channel, accounting for the response of immigrants in general equilibrium. We find that all types of immigrants generate higher surplus for US firms relative to natives, hence restricting their entry has a depressing effect on job creation and, in turn, on native labor markets. We also show that substituting a family-based entry with an employment-based entry system, and maintaining the total inflow of immigrants unchanged, job creation and natives' income increase.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM

NIKKI 2020:


Republicans need a candidate who can bring dignity and respect back to the White House, and who can competently lead our country both home and abroad. Republicans need Nikki Haley.

It would be easy for skeptics to say that Republicans want to see a woman at the top of the ticket, given the low approval ratings of the Republican Party among women. But that's not why we should support a candidate Haley.

Haley was a very successful governor of South Carolina, has gained tremendous experience in foreign affairs and is fiscally conservative. And, most of all, she has tremendous skills in diplomacy, both foreign and domestic.

Based in New York, Haley has stayed out of the quagmire of Washington's swamp. She has managed her relationship with the president with more guile and shrewdness than any of her colleagues. And, she has remained true to her values by articulating her point of view without resulting in a public rebuke from the president.

In April of this year, Haley appeared on Face the Nation, and she said that there would soon be new sanctions directed at companies linked to Syria's chemical weapons program. Soon after, Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, attempted to walk back that announcement, suggesting Ambassador Haley suffered from "momentary confusion." The ambassador's response was pitch-perfect: "With all due respect, I don't get confused."

With one sentence, she showed the country, and the world, that she was tough, restrained and not afraid to speak up for herself. And that was hardly the only example.

After the violence in Charlottesville, the ambassador referred to the "horrible acts" and wrote in an email, obtained by CNN, that "we must denounce them at every turn, and make them feel like they are on an island and isolate them the same way they wish to isolate others." When asked if she discussed it with the president, she simply replied that she had a "personal conversation" with him and would "leave it at that."

She's the only one escaping this dumpster fire unscathed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Judge's ruling may force Kansas Army officer's adopted Korean daughter to leave US (RICK MONTGOMERY, 9/29/18, The Kansas City Star)

A retired Kansas Army officer has lost his fight in federal court over his adopted daughter's citizenship status, meaning she may have to return to her native South Korea.

Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber of Lansing sued after federal immigration authorities rejected visa and citizenship applications for his legally adopted daughter Hyebin, a Korean-immigrant niece legally brought to the U.S. by Schreiber and his spouse in 2012, when the girl was 15.

Schreiber's service the following year in Afghanistan caused the couple to put off Hyebin's Schreiber's legal adoption until she was 17. An adoption lawyer had advised that, under Kansas law, that was OK as the cutoff date to complete the process was Hyebin's 18th birthday.

But under immigration law, foreign-born children must be adopted before reaching 16 to derive citizenship from their American parents.

Jeff Sessions's Unqualified Praise for a 1924 Immigration Law (ADAM SERWER, JAN 10, 2017, The Atlantic)

During an October 2015 radio interview with Stephen Bannon of Breitbart, now a top adviser to the president-elect, Sessions praised the 1924 law saying that:

In seven years we'll have the highest percentage of Americans, non-native born, since the founding of the Republic. Some people think we've always had these numbers, and it's not so, it's very unusual, it's a radical change. When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly, we then assimilated through the 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America. We passed a law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we're on a path to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.

Sessions comments were first flagged by the liberal blog Right Wing Watch.

The 1924 immigration law, known as the Johnson-Reed Act, drastically limited immigration and made permanent restrictions designed to keep out Southern and Eastern Europeans, particularly Italians and Jews, Africans, and Middle Easterners, barring Asian immigration entirely.

September 29, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Nancy Pelosi calls Brett Kavanaugh "hysterical," says he is unfit to serve on the Supreme Court (GRACE SEGERS, September 29, 2018, CBS News)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh "hysterical" and said that he was temperamentally unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. Pelosi made the comments in an interview Saturday at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


American dream come true (Hadley Barndollar,  Sep 29, 2018, Seacoast Online)
KITTERY, Maine -- It was the American dream for Michael and Chen Leung.

A modest storefront tucked at the end of a Route 1 building, representing a 7,000-mile journey.

They began as farmers in China living in poverty, eventually crossing the globe to provide a "plentiful palace" of food for the people of Kittery and beyond.

After 25 years of food service at Chun Ping Lau, and virtually no rest, the Leungs will end their tenure operating the beloved Chinese restaurant, and pass the reins to another immigrant couple, who bear a dream akin to the one they had many years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


American Sovereignty Is Safe From the UN (Bruce Jones, 9/28/18, Foreign Affairs)

The United States has less reason to worry about its sovereignty than any other country in the world. No other country enjoys as much freedom from external interference--military, economic, or diplomatic. Which is why other national leaders find it perplexing that U.S. presidents addressing the United Nations invariably find it necessary to proclaim yet again that they will never allow any arrogation of U.S. sovereignty. 

"We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy," U.S. President Donald Trump declared this week in his second UN General Assembly speech. "America is governed by Americans." He was hardly the first U.S. president to make the point. George H. W. Bush put it positively in his 1991 address to the General Assembly, seeing international institutions as an asset in service of an international order "in which no nation must surrender one iota of its own sovereignty." George W. Bush had a UN ambassador--John Bolton, now Trump's national security adviser--famous for his fierce defense of sovereignty. Even Barack Obama, despite his reputation for openness to global cooperation and multilateralism, strongly defended U.S. sovereignty in his 2013 address at the UN: "Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance, and the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order."  
What's so strange about this repeated message, and the underlying anxiety it reflects, is not just that there is in reality so little threat to U.S. sovereignty.

...except as regards trade, where a functional market requires a surrender of sovereignty.

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Why America Faces a Doctor Shortage: Outdated accreditation standards have not kept pace with a changing world and the spiraling costs of medical education. (Tim Rice, September 26, 2018, City Journal)

For more than 75 years, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), a joint venture of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), has been tasked with maintaining excellence in American medical education by accrediting all medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. At first glance, LCME seems like a necessary and useful organization. But is it?

Its effect on the training of U.S. doctors is counterproductive. The cost in time and money of becoming a doctor in America is now so prohibitive that it's constraining the supply--the U.S. is facing a projected shortfall of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by 2030. My colleague Chris Pope and I have suggested that this problem could be solved if American students could begin studying medicine immediately after high school and complete their studies in six or seven years, not eight, which is the U.S. norm. Countries where medical students can follow this path wind up with more physicians per capita, lower rates of physician pay, and comparable medical quality with that in the U.S.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


Kavanaugh and the Blackout Theory: It is both easy and common to drink, act and then have no memory of it. (Sarah Hepola, The New York Times)

One of the trickiest things about blackouts is that you don't necessarily know you're having one. I wrote a memoir, so centered around the slips of memory caused by heavy drinking that it is actually called "Blackout," and in the years since its 2015 release, I've heard from thousands of people who experienced them. No small number of those notes contain some version of this: "For years, I was having blackouts without knowing what they were." Blackouts are like a philosophical riddle inside a legal conundrum: If you can't remember a thing, how do you know it happened?

In the days leading up to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a theory arose that he might have drunk so much as a teenager that he did not remember his alleged misdeeds. The blackout theory was a way to reconcile two competing narratives. It meant that Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth but so was Brett Kavanaugh. He simply did not remember what happened that night and therefore believed himself falsely accused. Several questions at the hearing were designed to get at this theory, but it gained little ground.

I want to be clear, up front, that I cannot know whether Judge Kavanaugh experienced a blackout. But what I do know is that blackouts are both common and tragically misunderstood.

At the Center of the Kavanaugh Accusations: Heavy Drinking (Mike McIntire and Ben Protess, Sept. 26, 2018, NY Times)

Another former classmate, Dr. Elizabeth Swisher, now a gynecologic oncologist in Seattle, said it would be "a lie" to say that he "never had a blackout" from drinking in college.

"I saw him very drunk many times and there is no way he remembers everything about every night," she said.

Several Yale classmates recounted an incident during Judge Kavanaugh's senior year: After a bout of drinking, they said, he tried to break into the enclosed back of a pickup truck belonging to one of them, and later refused to apologize or repair the damage. [...]

Judge Kavanaugh's own comments over the years leave little doubt that heavy drinking was a feature of his youth. On his high school yearbook page from 1983, he labeled himself the Keg City Club treasurer, noting "100 Kegs or Bust," and the "biggest contributor" to Beach Week Ralph Club, apparently a reference to throwing up.

In a 2014 speech to Yale Law students (a transcript of which was posted on Twitter by a Washington Post reporter), Judge Kavanaugh spoke fondly of two episodes during his time at the law school that involved heavy drinking. In one, he said, he organized a bus trip for a baseball game and night of barhopping in Boston, during which students did "group chugs" from a beer keg -- "only for us to return falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m."

Another time, he said, he was at a class banquet during his final year, where he had "more than a few beers" beforehand, and a drunk friend fell and broke a table before getting up and being refused any more drinks by the bartender.

"I actually still possess a photo of him sprawled on the floor on top of the table," Judge Kavanaugh said.

While an undergrad at Yale, Judge Kavanaugh joined two organizations with reputations for hard partying. One was Delta Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity that several former Yale students described as a magnet for hard-drinking athletes who liked to party and pull pranks. DKE members marched around campus with women's underwear hanging from poles, and would print T-shirts for a drinking competition called Tang that featured "beer- and sex-inspired witticisms," according to the Yale student newspaper. Judge Kavanaugh also joined Truth and Courage, a secret society for seniors known largely as a drinking club.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Data Show a Clear Correlation Between Economic Freedom and Prosperity: The latest EFW once again shows the deep and continued link between economic freedom and important indicators of human well-being. ( Alexander Hammond , 9/29/18, FEE)

Yet again, Hong Kong takes the top spot in the EFW rankings--a position it has held since 1980. Singapore remains second, as it has since 2005. The remaining top 10 most free nations are: New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, the United States, Georgia, Mauritius, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, the latter two being tied for 10th spot. The three least free countries are Argentina, Libya, and Venezuela.

The positions of the economies in the EFW matter because there is a significant correlation between economic freedom and human well-being. To analyze this, the Fraser Institute splits the 161 measured countries into quartiles (i.e. each quartile represents a quarter of the economies) based on their level of economic freedom.

The average income in the freest quartile of nations is a staggering 7.1 times higher than the average income in the least free quartile ($40,376 and $5,649 respectively). The bottom 10 percent of income earners in the freest countries make, on average, 7.9 times more than the poorest 10 percent in the least free quartile. Comparatively, extreme poverty (as defined by the World Bank as an income of $1.90 per day) is almost non-existent in the freest countries. 

History Ended.
Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


It's de rigueur to decry what an awful spectacle the Kavanaugh nomination has become, but we take quite the opposite view.

At its core what we see is an exercise where a man with every societal "privilege"--gender, race, elite schooling, wealth, political ties, position--is being held accountable just as the lowliest citizen would be.

And, we see a previously disadvantaged member of the society--a woman--being afforded the opportunity for justice, irrespective of the power of the other party.

For most Americans the controversy is this simple: if he is guilty of what he is accused of his nomination should be withdrawn; if he is not he should be confirmed.

An FBI investigation will go some way to determining if we can say one or the other with more certainty than we can currently.

This is a process to celebrate, not denigrate:

Classical republican writers maintained that to be free means to not be dominated--that is, not to be dependent on the arbitrary will of other individuals. The source of this interpretation of political liberty was the principle of Roman law that defines the status of a free person as not being subject to the arbitrary will of another person--in contrast to a slave, who is dependent on another person's will. As the individual is free when he or she has legal and political rights, so a people or a city is free insofar as it lives under its own laws. (*)

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Abolish the death penalty (George F. Will, September 28, 2018, Washington Post)

Madison's case compels us to focus on the death penalty in its granular reality: Assisting someone who is non-ambulatory, and bewildered because he is (in Stevenson's phrase) "memory-disordered," to be strapped down so an executioner can try to find a vein -- often a problem with the elderly -- to receive a lethal injection. Capital punishment is withering away because the process of litigating the administration of it is so expensive, and hence disproportionate to any demonstrable enhancement of public safety, but also because of a healthy squeamishness that speaks well of us.

Sixty years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the Eighth Amendment -- particularly the idea of what counts as "cruel" punishments -- "must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Concerning which, two caveats are apposite: "Evolving" is not a synonym for "improving," and a society can become, as America arguably is becoming, infantilized as it "matures." That said, it certainly is true that standards of decency do evolve and that America's have improved astonishingly since 1958: Think about segregated lunch counters and much else.

Conservatives have their own standards, including this one: The state -- government -- already is altogether too full of itself, and investing it with the power to inflict death on anyone exacerbates its sense of majesty and delusions of adequacy.

At present, the main alternative to the death penalty seems to be keeping the prisoners whose crimes we find most repellant in permanent solitary confinement, which is literally a form of torture.  If we were to start defining "decency" downwards, wouldn't we eventually arrive at the conclusion that it's too cruel to punish crime at all? 

The better objection in this case seems to be that someone who is not mentally accountable can not be held morally accountable.

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:20 AM


Purity or Universalism? (Sami J. Karam, 9/28/18, Quillete)

The world's main competing social and political blocs can therefore no longer be understood as a historic confrontation between East and West, North and South, Socialism and Capitalism, or Christendom and Islam. Although some politicians remain wedded to them, these models do a poor job explaining the present state of play. The main competition now is between universalism and the wish to be pure. Purity manifests itself in thought or ideological orthodoxy--polarized media such as Fox and MSNBC and college campuses--or as geographic localism, as seen in the resurgence of nationalism. By contrast, universalism is about the competition for ideas (not orthodoxy) and about globalization and diversity (not localism).

The orthodoxy is motivated by a 'progressive' belief that society is perfectible and that any backsliding in the 'wrong' direction is unacceptable. Adherents to this belief ascribe a righteousness and inevitability to social change usually reserved for scientific discovery. The localism has its roots in disenchantment with globalization, nation building, mass migration, rent-seeking cosmopolitan elites, and international institutions. Its main effect has been to re-energize a nationalism and a populism thought to have died in the West at the time of Naipaul's speech. As Anne Applebaum remarked in a recent essay about Poland for the Atlantic, "Sooner or later, the losers of the competition were always going to challenge the value of the competition itself."

The two principal building blocks of universal civilization are globalized competition--not only in goods, but also in ideas--and freer movement of people. But competition creates winners and losers. The winners have often been individuals or groups with a weaker connection to ideology or to geography (say investment bankers who can work as effectively in New York, London, or Hong Kong). By contrast, the losers have typically had a stronger connection to ideology or geography or both and have increasingly sought to capitalize on that connection.

Of course, universal civilization committed many errors of its own that contributed to its fall from favor. Rising inequality and rampant cronyism have played a part in convincing people in many countries that globalization does not share its wealth widely and does not spread its opportunities universally. So, Naipaul was right to identify a "wish to be pure" but he was wrong to believe that it appeared in only a few places that were culturally different from the West. We have it here, on the Left with orthodoxy and on the Right with localism.

But where does this wish to be pure come from? It is a way to change the rules of the game. If you can't win at game A, switch to game B where your odds may be better. If competitive capitalism doesn't deliver for you, switch to cronyism or to socialism. If the competition of ideas is a strain and you resent the financial success of the more competent, switch to the cleansing orthodoxy of a party line. If globalism and diversity don't work for you and you envy the progress of the immigrant or minority, switch to localism and ethnocentric nationalism.

After the spoils of competition have been distributed, those who consider that they got less than their just deserts have an incentive to question why and how somebody deserves something. In their upended logic, if winners have deserved more by going to college, then there is something wrong with college; or if it looks ex-post that it was helpful to some people to be part of a certain ethnic group, then there is something wrong with that group; or if intellectual property (software, media, technology) has delivered more wealth than real property (real estate, extractive industries, gold), then there is something wrong with intellectualism.

There are two main ways of deserving:

Merit: This is about competitive performance, hard work, and competence. It is the ethos of universalism.

Faith and Identity: This is about loyalty to God or to the group. It is the ethos of the wish to be pure.

The rewards of merit are largely uncontrollable, especially in a hyper-competitive society. But faith and identity can deliver for people who organize in groups to restrict competition from outsiders.

There is a global trend today of people in many countries looking for a shortcut towards success by reinforcing their identity, through either orthodoxy or localism. This pursuit of purity holds that if a person were truer to his identity, then his mind and body will be cleansed of the toxins that contribute to his misery. If a believer is more religious, his co-religionists and his god will reward his devotion, respectively; if a nationalist is more patriotic, his nation will reward his loyalty; and if a person of a certain gender or race is more representative of his demographic, his community will reward his solidarity.

This mode of thinking is no longer chiefly found in developing countries or god-fearing theocracies. The global wish for purity is nearly everywhere and it is spreading.

The main problem with the quest for purity is that it is fine in one's own home or church but it becomes a problem in the public square, which--by virtue of being inherently diverse and competitive--is configured to resist the wish to be pure. In all but the most homogeneous countries or regions, the desire for purity is difficult to reconcile with competitive politics.

It is not merely pejorative to state that the Left and Right are anti-American, for it is democracy, capitalism and protestantism that they oppose, the marketplace having proven hostile to their true beliefs..

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


Judge Denies Trump's Request to Dismiss Foreign Payments Lawsuit (Katie Benner, Sept. 28, 2018, NY Times)

The ruling was a step toward empowering Congress "to hold the president accountable," said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who originally filed the lawsuit along with Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. Nearly 200 Democrats joined them.

Mr. Blumenthal said that the president has violated the clause by collecting trademarks from China, rent paid by foreign governments at his real estate properties worldwide and government approvals for his business dealings. He also suggested that Mr. Trump's businesses may have collected payments and benefits that are unknown to Congress.

If Judge Sullivan finds that Mr. Trump has violated the emoluments clause, congressional Democrats can ask for information in the discovery phase of the lawsuit about any foreign benefit related to his global business dealings, including payments, trademarks, intellectual property and regulatory advantages.

"We can look at his books and tax returns in order to determine what emoluments he's accepted," Mr. Nadler said. If evidence of financial fraud is found in the course of discovery, Mr. Nadler said that information would be made public and turned over to law enforcement officials.

"This gives Congress an opportunity to invoke our congressional right to make sure that the president is loyal to the U.S. and not to his own pocketbook," Mr. Nadler said.

Judge Sullivan also said that the courts had to step in because Mr. Trump would not voluntarily allow Congress to exercise its constitutional right to oversee the payments he takes from foreign governments.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Why Our Model Thinks Beto O'Rourke Really Has A Chance In Texas (Nate Silver, 9/28/18, 538)

When building a statistical model, you ideally want to find yourself surprised by the data some of the time -- just not too often. If you never come up with a result that surprises you, it generally means that you didn't spend a lot of time actually looking at the data; instead, you just imparted your assumptions onto your analysis and engaged in a fancy form of confirmation bias. If you're constantly surprised, on the other hand, more often than not that means your model is buggy or you don't know the field well enough; a lot of the "surprises" are really just mistakes.

So when I build election forecasts for FiveThirtyEight, I'm usually not surprised by the outcomes they spit out -- unless they're so surprising (a Republican winning Washington, D.C.?) that they reflect a coding error I need to fix. But there are exceptions, and one of them came in the U.S. Senate race in Texas between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke. I was pretty sure that once we introduced non-polling factors into the model -- what we call the "fundamentals" -- they'd shift our forecast toward Cruz, just as they did for Marsha Blackburn, the Republican candidate in Tennessee. That's not what happened, however. Instead, although Cruz is narrowly ahead in the polls right now, the fundamentals slightly helped O'Rourke. Our model thinks that Texas "should" be a competitive race and believes the close polling there is no fluke. [...]

Some factors hurting Cruz have nothing to do with Cruz himself, but rather with the state of Texas. Historically, the incumbency advantage is larger in small, idiosyncratic states and smaller in larger, more diverse ones. This is why Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono's incumbency advantage in Hawaii is much larger than Cruz's in Texas or Sen. Bill Nelson's in Florida, for example. In addition, Congress's overall approval rating is low, which hurts incumbents in all states and all parties.

Still, Texas is a red state -- redder in statewide elections than in presidential ones, in fact -- and Cruz won by a fairly healthy (although by no means overwhelming) margin in 2012. That ought to be enough to offset a blue national environment as measured by the generic congressional ballot. If you add up the first four indicators in the table -- incumbency, state partisanship, Cruz's previous margin of victory and the generic ballot -- they'd project him to win by about 9 percentage points.

It's the other factors that push the race toward toss-up status, however. When a challenger has previously held an elected office, they tend to perform better with each level higher that office is. To run for Senate, O'Rourke is giving up his seat in the U.S. House, which is a higher office than had been held by Cruz's 2012 opponent, Paul Sadler, a former state representative. Strong incumbents tend to deter strong challengers from entering the race, but Cruz wasn't able to do so this time. Cruz also has a very conservative voting record, one that is perhaps "too conservative" even for Texas. The model actually penalizes O'Rourke slightly for his DUI scandal, but because the scandal has been public knowledge for a long time, the model discounts its importance.

Fundraising is another influential factor hurting Cruz. Ordinarily, you'd expect an incumbent to have a pretty healthy fundraising advantage. Instead, O'Rourke had more than doubled Cruz in dollars raised from individual contributors as of the end of the last filing period on June 30 -- an advantage that will probably only increase once the campaigns file their next fundraising reports, which will cover up through Sept. 30.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Funded by US, now Israel's Iron Dome maker expects to sell it back (Middle Easy Eye, 27 September 2018)

Just two weeks ago, London-based Al-Khaleej Online reported that Israeli officials had overcome their misgivings and consented to sell the Iron Dome system to Saudi Arabia, on the condition that it not be used against any of Israel's allies in the region.

The system, according to the report, is expected to arrive in the kingdom within three months and will be used to intercept missiles shot by Houthi revels in Yemen.

Israel and the Sa'uds have an obvious shared interest in thwarting democracy; the US has the opposite interest.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Barcelona researcher develops 3D printer that makes 'steaks' (PABLO G. BEJERANO, 28 SEP 2018, El Pais)

Barcelona is a world hub for research in haute cuisine and 3D printing. Now, a scientist named Giuseppe Scionti has brought both elements together by creating an alternative to meat that can be printed out. His "steaks" are made entirely of plant-based ingredients, and manage the difficult feat of imitating the texture of meat, if not quite the look.

A 31-year-old researcher from Milan who specializes in biomedicine and tissue engineering, Scionti has spent three years developing his creation at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).

He sees his idea as a way to reduce the impact of animal agriculture, and also wants to present the project to the World Food Organization because the meat could be produced with specific properties to combat malnutrition.

If it tastes like meat it is.

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


'We share a deep concern': Democratic senator fights back tears defending Jeff Flake (Eli Rosenberg, September 28, 2018, Washington Post)

On Friday afternoon, Coons and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) withdrew to an anteroom, delaying the Senate Judiciary Committee's scheduled vote on whether to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate floor. Earlier, Coons had reportedly choked up when he was told by a CNN reporter that Flake planned to vote yes on Kavanaugh's nomination. But at some point Flake decided to make what amounted to a compromise. He would back Kavanaugh's nomination for a full Senate vote but withhold his support in a floor vote unless the FBI was allowed to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by the nominee.

That decision, a concession to the repeated requests made by Democrats, brought Coons nearly to tears. The senator rewarded Flake's nod to bipartisanship -- and due process -- with effusive praise and was unafraid to give the Republican senator credit for taking a stand. What followed was one of the more stirring expressions of cooperation during a week in which Washington's rank and well-publicized partisanship shocked even the city's most jaded observers.

"Let me simply say this. Senator Flake is a genuine conservative," Coons told reporters. "He and I do not share a lot of political views, but we share a deep concern."

He then paused, appearing to choke up, and said "Sorry," before continuing.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons' kind gesture leaves Republican Bob Corker fighting tears (Nicole Gaudiano, 4/24/18, USA TODAY)

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons' kind gesture for a friend on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is drawing accolades from Republicans and even left one fighting back tears.

The Delaware senator on Monday changed his committee vote from "no" to "present" on CIA Director Mike Pompeo's nomination for secretary of State, allowing the nomination to advance to the full Senate for consideration -- even though Coons opposes him.

The move didn't change the final outcome of the vote. But it spared Coons' friend, Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, from having to rush back from a close friend's funeral services in Atlanta and other senators from having to wait until at least 11 p.m. for his return.

For Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn. -- who had been complaining before the vote about partisanship on the panel -- Coons' gesture clearly came as a welcome break from the tension on Capitol Hill.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Exclusive: Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web: With an ambitious decentralized platform, the father of the web hopes it's time's up for corporate tech giants like Facebook and Google. (KATRINA BROOKER, 9/29/19, Fast Company)

Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It's a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web.

"The intent is world domination," Berners-Lee says with a wry smile. The British-born scientist is known for his dry sense of humor. But in this case, he is not joking.

This week, Berners-Lee will launch, Inrupt, a startup that he has been building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months. Backed by Glasswing Ventures, its mission is to turbocharge a broader movement afoot, among developers around the world, to decentralize the web and take back power from the forces that have profited from centralizing it. In other words, time's up, Facebook, Google, Amazon. For years now, Berners-Lee and other internet activists have been dreaming of a digital utopia where individuals control their own data and the internet remains free and open. But for Berners-Lee, the time for dreaming is over.

"We have to do it now," he says, displaying an intensity and urgency that is uncharacteristic for this soft-spoken academic. "It's a historical moment." Ever since revelations emerged that Facebook had allowed people's data to be misused by political operatives, Berners-Lee has felt an imperative to get this digital idyll into the real world. In a post published this weekend, Berners-Lee explains that he is taking a sabbatical from MIT to work full time on Inrupt. The company will be the first major commercial venture built off of Solid, a decentralized web platform he and others at MIT have spent years building. [...]

On his screen, there is a simple-looking web page with tabs across the top: Tim's to-do list, his calendar, chats, address book. He built this app-one of the first on Solid-for his personal use. It is simple, spare. In fact, it's so plain that, at first glance, it's hard to see its significance. But to Berners-Lee, this is where the revolution begins. The app, using Solid's decentralized technology, allows Berners-Lee to access all of his data seamlessly-his calendar, his music library, videos, chat, research. It's like a mashup of Google Drive, Microsoft Outlook, Slack, Spotify, and WhatsApp.

The difference here is that, on Solid, all the information is under his control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod-which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations.

Were it possible, this would then allow us to monetize our data and sell it to the businesses for whom it has tremendous value.
Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


U.N. Brief: The Laugh is on Trump: China and Russia foil Pompeo's maximum pressure campaign for North Korea. (COLUM LYNCH, ROBBIE GRAMER | SEPTEMBER 28, 2018, Foreign Policy)

China and Russia pressed the U.N. Security Council Thursday to ease economic sanctions on North Korea, marking a sharp break with the United States and its campaign to maintain a policy of "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang until it eliminates his nuclear weapons program.

The big-power clash dealt a blow to the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hosted the council session, to rally support to maintain economic pressure on North Korea as he lays the groundwork for a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Pompeo met Wednesday with North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, to lay the groundwork for the summit. At Thursday's meeting, he urged the council to remain steadfast in enforcing sanctions.

"We must not forget what's brought us this far: the historic international pressure campaign that this council had made possible through the sanctions it imposed," he said. "Enforcement of U.N. Security Council sanctions must continue vigorously and without fail until we realize the fully, final, verified denuclearization."

China and Russia had their own plans, however. 

It was so much fun when even some critics were insisting that Donald at least deserved credit for his North Korea "breakthrough"...

September 28, 2018

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Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Lavrov notes Trump blamed China, not Russia, for U.S. election meddling  (Reuters, 9/28/18) 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took pleasure in pointing out on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump this week accused China, not Russia, of interfering in U.S. elections.

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Russian-US tycoon boasted of 'active' involvement in Trump election campaign (Luke Harding,  28 Sep 2018, The Guardian)

A Russian-American businessman who donated a substantial sum to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential election effort boasted to a senior figure in Moscow that he was "actively involved" in the Republican candidate's campaign, the Guardian can reveal.

Simon Kukes said he was helping Trump with "strategy development" and shared photos of his 29-year-old Russian girlfriend posing with the future president. [...]

Kukes's donations began two weeks after the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, when Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner discussed "dirt" on Hillary Clinton with a Russian lawyer.

In total Kukes gave $273,000 (£207,000) to Trump Victory - a fundraising committee that distributes donations between the candidate, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties. He had no previous history of giving money to political causes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


In first call Trump told Sissi he loves The Bangles' 'Walk like an Egyptian' (Times of Israel, 9/28/18)

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Why Did An Octopus-Wielding Sea Lion Slap A Kayaker In The Face? (RACHEL D. COHEN, 9/28/18, NPR)

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Ted Cruz Says Mark Judge, Alleged Kavanaugh Accomplice, Would Take the Fifth if Called Before Congress (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, SEPT 28, 2018, Slate)

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking at the Committee's Friday meeting, said such a subpoena would be pointless because even if Judge were called to testify, he'd plead the Fifth:

It is not complicated what would happen if he were subpoenaed. If he came before this committee, any defense lawyer would tell Mr. Judge not to testify. Now I understand politically Democratic members of the Senate would very much like to see a man who has struggled with addiction most of his life pleading the Fifth. At that would make great theatrics. That would make a great political theatrics. It wouldn't help one iota in the search for the truth. 

This is strange for Cruz to acknowledge given that he--and nearly every other Republican--are insistent that it's been proven that no assault involving Kavanaugh and Judge ever took place, and beyond that that no party like the one Ford describes ever took place. If that's such an established fact, then how could Judge possibly put himself in legal jeopardy by stating as much at a hearing?

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Trump Called Christine Blasey Ford "Credible" And Said He's Not Sure Kavanaugh's Nomination Will "Continue Onward" (Ellie Hall, 9/28/18, BuzzFeed News)

President Donald Trump on Friday called Christine Blasey Ford's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee "compelling" and "credible," adding that he was not sure if Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court would "continue onward."

Here is where Donald's detachment from reality serves the nation so well.  He thinks he gets another bite at this apple.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


How Trauma Affects Memory: Scientists Weigh In On The Kavanaugh Hearing (RHITU CHATTERJEE, 9/28/18, NPR)

Another factor that affects how memories are stored is alcohol use.

"Generally alcohol can make people forget things," says Mary Beth Miller, a clinical psychologist at the University of Missouri, Columbia who has studied the impact of alcohol consumption on making and retrieving memories.

Earlier this month, Ford told The Washington Post that she remembers Kavanaugh being "stumbling drunk" whereas she recalls having one beer that night.

Other accusers who did not testify Thursday have also suggested Kavanaugh was part of a group of friends who indulged in heavy drinking in the 1980s.

In his testimony, Kavanaugh said he likes beer, but he denied ever drinking so much that he didn't remember things.

Miller says memory loss from alcohol -- blackouts -- are very common among young people.

"In a blackout, you're walking around, talking to people," says Miller. "And a lot of times in a blackout people will be very coherent. You're just doing your thing, and people don't know, because it's hard to know if someone's in a blackout state."

These blackouts are what scientists call "fragmentary" blackouts, where someone has partial memory loss, but "you can usually recall, if someone reminds you later."

These fragmentary blackouts can occur at low blood alcohol concentrations, as low as 0.06, she says. (For comparison, the legal limit for driving is 0.08 in all states except Utah.)

Miller also says that animal studies suggest that "adolescent brains are actually more sensitive to the memory impairing effects of alcohol."

A permanent memory impairment, what scientists call "en bloc blackout," has a beginning and an end, says Miller, and the person cannot remember anything that happened in between. She says these typically occur at higher blood alcohol concentrations, around 0.24.

This is because higher amounts of alcohol prevent short-term memory from being converted to long-term memory, says Miller.

"And people with a history of heavy drinking are more likely to have more memory deficits," she adds. her choosing to hang around with blackout drunks if not drunk herself.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Hyatt hotels won't rent to hate groups, CEO says; Muslim group claims a victory (Hugo Martin, SEP 28, 2018, LA Times)

The Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Virginia hosted a group in September called ACT for America, which describes itself as an organization dedicated to educating and training Americans to "help prevent criminal activity and terrorism."

But Muslim Advocates accuses ACT for America of being a "white supremacist-aligned anti-Muslim hate group." Muslim Advocates has pressed Hyatt and other hotel companies to refuse to rent to ACT for America.

...but no one wants to be held accountable for their speech.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Senate Judiciary Committee Asks White House to Open FBI Probe Into Kavanaugh (INAE OH, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018, Mother Jones)

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday formally requested the White House open an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

"The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today," the committee said in a statement.

It's unclear how the committee will define "current credible allegations." Three women have publicly come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh. The announcement follows a last-ditch call from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to delay the confirmation process until an FBI investigation is completed. He was joined by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

Here's the Real Reason Why Republicans Don't Want an FBI Investigation (Matt Naham, September 27th, 2018, Law & Crime)

Andrew Bringuel, a now-retired FBI Agent Supervisor Instructor and Researcher at the FBI Academy's Behavioral Science Unit with more than 27 years of experience, told Law&Crime that SSBIs like the one being requested by Democratic lawmakers take a while. The typical one takes 7 months.

"The reason GOP and Kavanaugh might not want an FBI Investigation is because a typical SSBI takes 7 months," he explained. "Even expedited it may take more than a month or two, which of course drags into the mid-terms."

Donald's attention span is already exhausted.
Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Republicans sustain critical self-inflicted wound from emotionally painful Kavanaugh hearing (Alex Lockie, 9/28/18, Business Insider)

In back-to-back testimonies, Ford and Kavanaugh couldn't have appeared any more different. Ford gave slow, steady, consistent and at times scientific answers portraying a past trauma she had lived with for decades. Kavanaugh's voice boomed through an angry opening statement where he mourned the near overnight loss of his and his family's social standing. [...]

For Republicans trying to confirm Kavanaugh before exploring every possible investigative avenue, they risk confirming a justice that may later be rocked by further evidence of misconduct.

Republicans could have withdrawn Kavanaugh's nomination after such a wealth of adamant accusers stepped forward. They could have completed the FBI investigation before the hearing. They could have elevated women in the party onto the Judiciary Committee to avoid the bad optics of an all male panel.

Going into the 2018 midterm elections in November, that look increasingly make-or-break for the party, Kavanaugh and Trump have been plummeting in the polls, even among the GOP. Kavanaugh, now accused by four women, likely won't stop providing bad headlines for the party for weeks to come.

But whether or not Kavanaugh gets confirmed on Friday, the Republicans have suffered a self-inflicted wound by their public alignment with a powerful man accused of sexual misconduct and their attempts to minimize the suffering of a woman who credibly alleges traumatic abuse at Kavanaugh's hands.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Magazine of Jesuits Urges Withdrawal of Kavanaugh Nomination (The Associated Press, Sept. 28, 2018)

The magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States has publicly withdrawn its endorsement of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court justice following testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Jesuit-educated Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her decades ago. [...]

The reversal is significant given Kavanaugh has repeatedly cited his Catholic faith and Jesuit education in defending himself against Ford's accusations. In his opening statement Thursday, Kavanaugh twice referenced his days as a student at the Jesuit-run Georgeown Prep high school in Washington, when Ford said the alleged assault occurred.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


American Bar Association calls for halt to Kavanaugh confirmation (Josh Noble, 9/28/18, Financial Times)

In a letter addressed to the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, who both questioned both Mr Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday, the ABA said the process should be delayed until an FBI investigation could take place.

"Each appointment to our nation's highest court (as with all others) is simply too important to rush to a vote," Robert Carlson, president of the ABA wrote.

"Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate's reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Kavanaugh's Testimony Was a Master Class in American Male Entitlement (Amanda Arnold, 9/28/18, The Cut)

He cried.

Repeatedly, over everything from his dad's calendars to his family to lifting weights.

He brought up his daughter.

In an attempt to prove that he means no "ill will" to Ford and her family, Kavanaugh recalled one praying with his 10-year-old daughter and wife, during which the former allegedly asked to say a prayer for Ford.

"The other night, Ashley and my daughter Liza said their prayers," she said through tears. "And little Liza, all of 10 years old said to Ashley, 'We should pray for the woman.' That's a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old."

And all his female friends, who tell him he is a good person.

Kavanaugh claimed that he's friends with quite a few women, and said one had even confided in him about being sexually assaulted.

"One of those women friends from college -- a self-described liberal and feminist -- sent me a text last night that said, 'Deep breaths. You're a good man, a good man, a good man,'" he said, holding back tears, before proceeding to read texts from two other women who support him.

What could be better than the role reversals on who's condemning him for being emotionally labile and manipulative!

September 27, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 PM


Rachel Mitchell's disappearing act confirms GOP blunder  (JOHN BRESNAHAN, RACHAEL BADE and JOSH GERSTEIN 09/27/2018, Politico)

The negative reviews down at the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. were far more blunt, with one administration official calling the hearing a "disaster" for Kavanaugh's confirmation hopes. The official said Republican lawmakers made a mistake by hiring a woman out of fear of the optics of Ford being questioned by an unbroken line of old white men.

Trump allies who want to see Kavanaugh confirmed were concerned that Mitchell had not managed to poke any holes in Ford's account or character that would make her story less believable. But during the Judiciary Committee's lunch break, they were still holding out hope that her lines of questions would lead to a breakthrough finale.

"Rachel Mitchell not only is not laying a glove on her, but, in my view, is actually helping her credibility by the gentility with which these questions are being asked and the open-ended answers that the witness is being permitted to give" Trump ally and former Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News. "The president cannot be happy with this."

As the hearing continued with testimony from Kavanaugh in the afternoon, Republicans soon pushed Mitchell aside. She asked a couple of a rounds of questions at the outset of the session, laying out a definition of sexual activity and asking if he'd ever engaged in such actions with Ford, which Kavanaugh denied.

Mitchell also asked him about drinking to the point of "black out," which he again denied. She may have actually done some damage to the nominee by beginning to question him about a party mentioned on his calendar which appeared to involve at least two people Ford identified as being at the event where she was attacked. But she never returned to complete that line of questioning.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Brett Kavanaugh's Opening Statement Was a Defiant Howl of Rage Against Democrats (MARK JOSEPH STERN, SEPT 27, 2018, Slate)

"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," Kavanaugh said, his voice raised. "The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced 'advice and consent' with 'search and destroy.' " He took direct aim at Democrats, asserting: "Since my nomination in July, there's been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation." He continued:

Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would, "oppose me with everything he's got." A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as "evil." Evil--think about that word--and said that those who supported me were "complicit in evil." Another Democratic senator on this committee said, "Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare." A former head of the National Democratic Committee said, "Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come."

"You sowed the wind," he admonished Democratic senators, and now "the country will reap the whirlwind."

Kavanaugh denounced "Democratic members of this committee," calling their behavior during his earlier hearings "an embarrassment." He accused them of "lying in wait" to spring false accusations upon him when "it looked like I might actually get confirmed." He described "this whole two-week effort" as "a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election." He alleged that this effort was driven by "revenge on behalf of the Clintons"--a reference to his tenure as a prosecutor on Ken Starr's team during the 1990s--"and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups." He insisted he was the victim of "grotesque character assassination."

Indeed, that was the theme of Kavanaugh's testimony: that he is the victim, that Democrats and Clinton allies are engaged in a conspiracy to destroy his nomination and reputation. He demanded sympathy, crying and yelling in turn. "I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process," he said. "You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit."

Who did he think he was addressing and for what purpose?  Was he running for RNC chair but need to shore up his support on the Right?

He was unjudicial, unbalanced, unmanly and wholly partisan, feeding into every one of the critical narratives about him.  

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Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Anti-sexual harassment trainings should teach people how their brains work (Elizabeth Weingarten, September 26, 2018, Quartz)

One crucial part of any training is to deepen participants' understanding of the nature of the problem--especially why it continues to be so pervasive. Some experts do this through exercises that show participants gaps in their own knowledge.

For instance, gender stereotypes can contribute to harassing behavior or "gender policing.": The latter occurs when women ( or men) don't act in accordance with their gender stereotypes--for instance, if a woman is in a male-dominated field like mining--and they are harassed and disparaged not for sexual purposes, but in order to drive them from that field and make them question their belonging. In order to shed light on how pervasive and blinding these stereotypes can be, Eden King, an associate professor of  industrial-organizational psychology at Rice University, asks her students to solve a common riddle.

The riddle sets up a story about a father and his son who get into a car crash that kills the father. The son is rushed to the hospital. But just as he's going into surgery, the surgeon yells, "I can't operate on this boy, he's my son!" How is this possible? Of course, the surgeon is the boy's mother -a reveal that both often surprises participants (especially if they couldn't get the riddle) and also demonstrates the pervasive nature of a problematic way of thinking.

In her trainings, Gerberg  relies on a different kind of reveal. She asks her participants to guess the percentage of sexual harassment that's reported, and then shares the actual (very low) numbers. Piquing participants' interest in this way, she says, means they'll more actively engage with the material, and remember it better.

It also sheds light on a critical cognitive gap between our perceptions and reality. Although much of what motivates human behavior hinges on a simple question--is everyone else doing it?--we're not great judges of what other people are actually doing, particularly if we can't see them in action.

That's particularly true when it comes to sexual harassment. Researchers have found, for instance, a significant gap between men's perceptions of how many of their peers are engaging in harmful harassing behavior, which they estimate to be nearly everyone, and the reality, which is much smaller. This misperception may prevent men from intervening to stop bad behavior (rendering things like bystander intervention training less effective), or even make them more likely to engage in the behavior themselves because, they reason, everyone is doing it. For instance, someone may privately think it's wrong to make sexist jokes, but mistakenly think that everyone else holds a different view--that sexist jokes are no big deal. Behavioral scientists call that phenomenon "pluralistic ignorance." It's a brain behavior that can keep people silent, willing to look the other way, and give rise to toxic and hostile workplace environments that tolerate or normalize sexual harassment. Explaining pluralistic ignorance is another way to help elucidate why sexual harassment happens, and to give people an opportunity to discuss what kinds of harassing or sexist behavior have become normal in their office. It's this dialogue that can shift cultural norms, which can ultimately help drive behavior change.  

Power is another factor that can widen the gap between perception and reality, and another potential discussion point in a training that incorporates cognitive science explanations for why harassing behavior so often flows from an unequal power dynamic. Having power can, for instance, make individuals more likely to think others will be romantically interested in them, sometimes leading them to perceive romantic interest when it doesn't exist. This is known as the overperception bias. Researchers also find that regardless of power and gender, many of us underestimate how hard it can be for the recipient of an unwanted romantic gesture to say "no" to a request, a fact that can be useful for any employee thinking about hitting on a colleague.

Learning about moral licensing could also help close the reality-perception gap by exploring our tendency to dismiss or excuse certain kinds of negative behaviors. We engage in moral licensing when there's a disconnect between our behavior and the perception we have of ourselves as good, moral people. In this case, we're forced to justify our behavior so that it matches with this image, lest we experience cognitive dissonance. One way we do this is by using a virtuous act  like running a 5K to offset a weekend of Netflix and chilling. At work, we may excuse or dismiss bad behavior (like sexual harassment) by remembering our past good behavior (like starting a women's empowerment initiative).

Just as we morally license our own behavior, we can do the same for the behavior of people with whom we work. If you've seen your boss do good things--for instance, starting that women's empowerment initiative--you might be more likely to forgive him for a few inappropriate comments at a meeting, or even for making a pass at you at a party. Could an understanding of this dynamic give you more confidence to call him out next time it happens?   

Once we understand a little bit more about our own brains, we can journey into the minds of our colleagues through a tactic called perspective-taking, which some research suggests could also prevent harassment. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


The Liberal vs. the Pro-Lifer: Every time we fight, we're replaying an old argument that's rooted in our drastically different political views. (RICHARD BROOKHISER and JEANNE SAFER, SEPT 19, 2018, Slate)

Jeanne: Did I have feelings about this? Absolutely. Profound ones. But something had changed in what I felt was important to do about my feelings. In a long marriage you have to learn a lot of things or else you'll kill each other or get a divorce. And I had finally learned, for this and hopefully for other things too, that there was no upside in my talking about it with you. Also, I had other people I could talk to about it.

Richard: As you said, we haven't changed our opinions at all. You send a check every year to NARAL and I send a check to the Human Life Review.

Jeanne: I'm closing my ears. I don't want to know!

Richard: Well we don't announce this. We don't say how much we send!

Jeanne: But do you see how we're talking about it now? That's the important thing. If you can laugh about abortion, you can laugh about anything.

Richard: No, we're not laughing about abortion. We're laughing about arguing about abortion.

Jeanne: Yes, you're absolutely right. The number of things we agree about, or find intriguing about each other, or exciting about each other, or constantly new about each other, trumps, to such a great degree, this subject for us.

Richard: We've also passed the Cancer Test.

Jeanne: That is: When you're lying in bed getting chemotherapy, you don't ask the party registration of the person who's standing by your side, getting you through it. That's what matters.

Richard: We each have had cancer. You twice, me only once. You learn a lot about the person you love, caring and being cared for. First, you realize the sheer effort involved--showing up at the hospital, keeping track of meds and doctors, keeping track of the sick person's ordinary life. Second, you appreciate the devotion that propels the effort.

You're funny and lively, smart and wise, feisty and true. I was lucky to meet you and am lucky you love me. Let the pollsters make of that what they will.

Jeanne: As long as you're getting me through whatever it is I'm going through, or delighting me in every kind of way, you can think whatever you want! I don't feel a need to discuss something that doesn't go anywhere anymore. I don't feel I'm betraying what I believe in. The world's a big place and people have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with things that I feel are absolutely essential. I think this is part of real adulthood and maturity. I'm not going to lose you over how you think about abortion. I would be losing the center of my life.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Why we should fear Corbyn's socialism (Stephen Daisley, 27 September 2018, The Spectator)

The event has been reported as the party's most radical in years but it was just as stage-managed and spun as in the New Labour era. Fudges on Brexit and deselection were finagled by the leadership and the unions. MPs were told to keep their speeches to a maximum of seven minutes, or 17 for those quoting extensively from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Rallies were held in support of the leader, Tom Watson pretended to be some kind of moral ballast, and the feminists got shafted again. Proceedings closed as they always do with a rousing rendition of 'The Red Flag', which remains the party's preferred anthem despite stiff competition from 'Throw the Jew Down the Well'. 

Look again, though, at policy. Free childcare, 400,000 green jobs, and reduced carbon emissions. Which of those would Tony Blair disagree with? Certainly pledges on worker share ownership of large firms were to the left of Blair , but any number of credible soft-left Labour leaders (plus Ed Miliband) would have been happy to endorse the principle. Ditto much of the talk of renationalisation. Andy Burnham promised to take the railways back into public ownership during the 2015 leadership campaign and nationalising utilities would be more dramatic if both Miliband and Theresa May hadn't advocated energy price caps. On the biggest political (though not the biggest popular) issue of the day, Brexit, the Corbyn Party continues to fudge, with the occasional moment of clarity quickly melted back down into the viscous goo below. 

It would be contrarian to argue that the Corbyn Party isn't to the left of the party it replaced. It is, but not by as much as its dreamy-eyed foot soldiers believe. When he wasn't palling around with the IRA and assorted anti-Semites, Corbyn spent much of his backbench career opposing Neil Kinnock from the left. How times change, and men of unshakeable principle too. For I can't think of any policy espoused by Corbyn that Kinnock would have disagreed with in his time as Labour leader. If anything, Corbyn is more conservative. He went to the country last year on a pro-Trident manifesto, whereas Kinnock went into his first election as leader pledging to 'inform the Americans that we wish them to remove their cruise missiles and other nuclear weapons from Britain'. Public opinion has lurched to the left and the left's figurehead ambles sluggishly after it. 

If this is Corbynism -- if it's really just a harder edge on the soft-left -- why go to all the trouble of electing a life-long far-leftist to push bog-standard social democracy? It can't be charisma -- Corbyn has none. It can't be charm -- same. Maybe young lefties like him for the same reason a generation of film school freshmen swooned over Pauline Kael, a middle-aged broad who mimicked their patois and told them what they wanted to hear. Don't underestimate the power of rhetoric. Rhetoric matters and in rhetorical terms Corbyn is at odds with the last three decades of bland managerialism. Talk of 'a broken economic system', 'the political and corporate establishment' and 'the old way of running things isn't working any more' pushes buttons in much the same way strikingly similar language has for Trump, Vote Leave, the SNP and the nativist governments of Hungary and Italy. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Massive House Map Continues to Grow (Ally Mutnick, Sept. 26, 2018, National Journal)

Internal Democratic polling conducted in August and September revealed the party's candidate leading or trailing by small margins in a dozen seats on the outer edges of the battlefield. And outside money is already starting to flow beyond the 50 or so districts that initially drew major TV ad reservations.

The GOP's top House super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, funneled nearly $3 million into a few sleeper races that had previously received little national attention. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee booked more than $100,000 of airtime in Republican Rep. Mike Kelly's northwestern Pennsylvania district, which President Trump carried by 20 points.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM

September 26, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Senate probing new allegation of misconduct against Kavanaugh (Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Heidi Przybyla, Sep.26.2018, NBC)

A Republican aide on the committee said the conversation took place shortly after noon. While Republican staff posed questions to Kavanaugh, their Democratic counterparts were also on the call but did not ask any questions.

According to an anonymous complaint sent to Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Kavanaugh physically assaulted a woman he socialized with in the Washington, D.C., area in 1998 while he was inebriated.

The sender of the complaint described an evening involving her own daughter, Kavanaugh and several friends in 1998.

"When they left the bar (under the influence of alcohol) they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh, shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually."

"There were at least four witnesses including my daughter." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


The latest episode of the Slow Burn podcast could hardly be more topical, or hilarious.  It focuses on how feminists reacted to Bill Clinton's scandals and the divide between those who thought that feminism meant liberating women to make their own crappy decisions about sex and those who thought it meant that men would finally be held accountable for what had always gone on in "private" relationships.  Basically, the libertines are all now arguing the opposite in the Brett Kavanaugh scandal, that women need to be protected from bad choices and the men who exploit them.  Of course, Donald's defenders forsook any notions of morality long ago....

And, sadly, the podcast continues to treat Bill Clinton's admitted obstruction of justice in the Paula Jones case as a mere bit of trivia in the Lewinsky affair.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Supreme Confusion (Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, Sept. 25, 2018, NY Times)

Bret: I share your enthusiasm for the Texas Senate race, for a couple of small reasons and one very big one. Small reasons: I like Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic challenger, and I like the idea that Texas can turn a bit purple if you have a candidate with energy, wit and a human touch.

The big reason is that I despise Ted Cruz. That is "D-e-s-p-i-s-e," in case I haven't spelled out my loathing clearly enough. Would you like to know why?

Gail: Oh, gosh, please go on.

Bret: Because he's like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife -- by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson's character in "The Shining." Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because "New York values." Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that's just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he's conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he's the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that's what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected.

Otherwise, you might say I'm his No. 1 fan.

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


Brazil opinion poll shows Bolsonaro leads Haddad but loses runoff (Reuters, 9/26/18) 

Brazil's far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro has only a six-point lead over surging leftist Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad, and would lose a second-round runoff against him next month, a new opinion poll showed on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Beto O'Rourke, the Reaganesque Anti-Trump: People are often drawn to candidates who seem the opposite of the incumbent president.   (Cass R. Sunstein, September 25, 2018, Bloomberg)

O'Rourke is a unifying force. He's charitable to political opponents. He casts those who disagree with him in a generous light. He insists that despite those disagreements, we are united in our commitment to large ideals.

O'Rourke has been compared to Robert F. Kennedy in his 1968 campaign. But he also has a large dose of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Like Kennedy in 1968, O'Rourke is a terrific listener. He has a unique capacity to defuse tense situations and to guide tough conversations. As a campaigner, he has a sympathetic understanding of people with diverse points of view.

Like Reagan, O'Rourke has a generous, sunny, optimistic disposition. He comports himself with dignity. In an angry time, he can disagree without being disagreeable.

In their different ways, Kennedy and Reagan were also divisive figures. O'Rourke really isn't, at least thus far. He deplores polarization (and often says so). He is acutely aware that social divisions, and accusations of bad faith, are disabling the search for pragmatic solutions. [...]

Like Reagan, O'Rourke knows how to mix gentleness with moral commitment. Like Reagan, he uses the word "American" with reverence. He gives people a sense that he is on their side, not in their face.

In terms of his political positions, O'Rourke isn't easy to pigeonhole; he's creative and impressively unpredictable. A firm advocate of health care for all, he also received a pretty solid score from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2017 -- as good as or better than all but one of the current Democratic senators.

Since he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, he has been focused on veterans and on improving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with special attention to mental health. He opposes President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., but one of his key reasons might be new to you: He objects that the government's use of eminent domain, to take the property of local landowners, would compromise property rights. In that respect, he embraces a longstanding argument of Republicans and political conservatives.

But what makes O'Rourke so unusual is his consistent rejection of we-they politics -- of anything that smacks of Manichaeism. He likes to say, "We're not running against anyone, any party, or anything." He stresses the importance of working "with everyone -- Republicans, independents, Democrats alike -- to get the job done." He adds, "We will not allow anyone to be taken for granted or written off."

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM


Total Compensation Reflects Growth in Productivity: The share of national income going to employees is at approximately the same level now as it was in 1970. (Lester Picker, 9/25/18, NBER)

The relation between wages and productivity is important because it is a key determinant of the standard of living of the employed population as well as of the distribution of income between labor and capital. If wages rise at the same pace as productivity, then labor's share of national income remains essentially unchanged. In Did Wages Reflect Growth in Productivity? (NBER Working Paper No. 13953), Martin Feldstein presents specific evidence that the share of national income going to employees is at approximately the same level now as it was in 1970. [...]

Total employee compensation was 66 percent of national income in 1970 and 64 percent in 2006. This measure of the labor compensation share has been remarkably stable since the 1970s. It rose from an average of 62 percent in the 1960s to 66 percent in the 1970s and 1980s, and then declined to 65 percent in the 1990s where it has remained from 2000 until the end of 2007.

Feldstein concludes that two principal measurement mistakes have led some analysts to conclude that the rise in labor income has not kept up with the growth in productivity. The first is a focus on wages rather than total compensation: because of the rise in fringe benefits and other non-cash payments, wages have not risen as rapidly as total compensation. Feldstein feels it is important to compare the productivity rise with the increase in total compensation rather than the increase in the narrower measure of just wages and salaries.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh (Not for the Squeamish)  (SEAN FITZPATRICK, 9/24/18, Crisis)

The Loved One is crass, irreverent, perverse, and merciless. These qualities, however, are a source of sanity because they are the merciful means by which people of culture and reverence, made, as the Psalmist says, a little less than the angels, can have a good laugh. Chesterton famously wrote, "Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly." Not only is it good to take things lightly, it is a good habit. It is even advisable to laugh at serious things now and then. In fact, this is especially advisable for serious things, since they are the most in need of a little jocularity. Nothing on this earth is, or ever should be held, beyond the ticklish reach of humor. Not even things as lofty as Love, Death, Art, or Religion. To cite Mr. Chesterton again, "It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it," and well said.

All things should be taken with a sense of humor, which is only common sense. Humor may even be considered a basis for sanity, for it provides the relief and balance we all need to avoid insanity. It keeps us level. It keeps us healthy. We are refreshed more readily by absurdities than by analyses. Only a hat-chase on a windy day can bestow the hilarious and humbling and wholesome reminder that, though man is the steward of nature, he is subject to it at the same time. It is just one of the wonderful jests of the human race which all must run, even and especially when it is after a hat.


Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


These are the last days on the beat for Fenway's famous bullpen cop (Stan Grossfeld, September 25, 2018, Boston Globe)

When Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter went head-first into the Red Sox bullpen during a playoff game in 2013, Boston Police officer Steve Horgan became the most famous bullpen cop on the planet.

Nearly five years after David Ortiz's grand slam, he is still joyously re-creating his touchdown pose, which has become a famous Boston sports photo. Fans still line up before every game to get selfies taken with Horgan.

But time is running out.

The 33-year veteran is retiring in January.

"I feel it's just time to move on," he said in a Fenway Park interview interrupted several times by fans raising their arms.

"I want to pursue cooking. The first thing I want to do is go to the King Arthur Baking School and learn how to make bread properly."

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


With growing support from women, Democrats poised for major gains in midterm, new poll shows (David Lauter, SEP 26, 2018, LA Times)

Democrats had a 14-point margin, 55% to 41%, when likely voters were asked which party's candidate they would cast a ballot for if the election were held now. If that advantage holds up until election day, just less than six weeks away, it would almost surely be large enough to sweep a Democratic majority into the House. [...]

Roughly 3 out of 4 likely voters said they saw their vote this fall as an opportunity to express a view of Trump. For many, that view is negative: Those saying they planned to register opposition outnumbered Trump supporters, 45% to 29%.

Likely voters disapprove of Trump's overall performance in office by 57% to 39%, the poll found. Almost half of likely voters, 49%, said they "strongly" disapprove, while just under one-quarter, 24%, strongly approve.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


NH has 3rd-lowest rate of violent crime, according to FBI statistics (Union Leader, September 25. 2018)

New Hampshire is once again in an enviable spot following the release of the FBI's latest crime rate data.

The Granite State had the third-lowest rate of violent crime in 2017 -- 198.7 incidents per 100,000 residents -- trailing only Vermont (165.8) and Maine (121). Violent crime was down slightly nationwide, and it was the second year in a row that New Hampshire's rate decreased.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


#MeToo Falls to Tribalism: Disturbing new polls suggest voters only believe sexual assault when the other party is accused of it. (GRAYSON QUAY • September 25, 2018, American Conservative)

Like criminal justice reform, sexual assault should be a bipartisan issue. By turning accusations into spectacular show trials, we do violence to the victims (Ford is currently in hiding after receiving death threats) and to our own political discourse. Instead of worrying about optics and party politics, we should be focusing on people and facts. We have a justice system for exactly this purpose, and I wholeheartedly support a thorough FBI investigation of Ford's claims.

Unfortunately, it isn't surprising that the Ford numbers and the Monahan numbers are almost exactly opposite. There's no incentive to be objective. After all, every time a member of one party misbehaves, the other party benefits. When Trent Franks resigned after allegedly trying to pay a female staffer to serve as his wife's surrogate and then offering to impregnate her through sexual intercourse, it proved to liberals and leftists that Republicans were a patriarchal cabal working tirelessly to make The Handmaid's Tale a reality. On the other hand, the downfalls of Hollywood types like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. led to endless think pieces laying all the blame at the feet of the sexual revolution and its progressive supporters.

Neither side is right. Sexual misconduct is not solely the result of some right-wing attempt to re-impose patriarchy, nor is it entirely a symptom of the abandonment of traditional morality. It is a persistent human problem on which no ideology has a monopoly, no matter how convenient that would be for those on the other side. Men are generally larger, stronger, and more aggressive than women. As long as this remains true, society will have to cope with sexual assault and misconduct. Simply voting for the right party won't make it go away.

We ought not waste this opportunity to get rid of as many of these guys as possible.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


U.S. has most to lose from trade war, China would benefit: ECB (Reuters, 9/26/18)

The ECB study simulates a 10 percent U.S. tariff on all imports and an equivalent retaliation from other countries. It suggests the United States would bear the brunt of diminished trade and of damage to consumer and investor confidence.

"Estimation results suggest that the United States' net export position would deteriorate substantially," the ECB said in the study. "In this model, U.S. firms also invest less and hire fewer workers, which amplifies the negative effect."

September 25, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Attorney General Ken Paxton defends Texas law requiring students to stand for Pledge of Allegiance (EMMA PLATOFF, SEPT. 25, 2018, Texas Tribune)

The morning of Oct. 2, 2017 was not the first time that India Landry, a senior at Windfern High School outside Houston, refused to stand when the Pledge of Allegiance came on over the intercom.

The protest had gotten her kicked out of her English class five times; her law teacher told her she was disrespectful, according to a 2017 lawsuit. But on that October morning, when the then-17-year-old refused to stand, she was expelled.

Landry, who is black and had sat through the daily Pledge of Allegiance some 200 times as a form of protest, was sitting in the principal's office that morning when the pledge rang through over the intercom. When she failed to stand, court documents allege, Principal Martha Strother told her, "Well, you're kicked outta here."

"This is not the NFL," the principal's secretary told her, according to court documents.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

That expulsion -- which a court filing says was reversed days later with little explanation -- has sparked a legal battle that this week expanded to include Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who intervened in the case on Tuesday. [...]

Paxton said in a statement Tuesday that "school children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge."

Frain v. Baron, 307 F. Supp. 27 (E.D.N.Y 1969)
District Court, E.D. New York
Filed: December 10th, 1969

Precedential Status: Precedential

Citations: 307 F. Supp. 27

Docket Number: 69-C-1250, 1347

Author: Orrin Grimmell Judd

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

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

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

Of pertinence to the present case, the opinion recognized that "The freedom asserted by these appellees does not bring them into collision with rights asserted by any other individual." 319 U.S. at 630, 63 S.Ct. at 1181. Justice Jackson also foreshadowed the present case by commenting that "liberty and justice for all," unless accepted merely as an ideal, "might to some seem an overstatement." 319 U.S. at 634, n. 14, 63 S.Ct. at 1183, n. 14.

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

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

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

"These petitioners merely went about their ordained rounds in school. Their deviation consisted only in wearing on their sleeve a band of black cloth, not more than two inches wide. They wore it to exhibit their disapproval of the Vietnam hostilities and their advocacy of a truce, to make their views known, and by their example, to influence others to adopt them. They neither interrupted school activities nor sought to intrude in the school affairs or the lives of others. They caused discussion outside of the classrooms, but no interference with work and no disorder. In the circumstances, our Constitution does not permit officials of the State to deny their form of expression."
Tinker thus places on the school authorities the burden of justifying a particular *32 restriction on student expression. The student is free to select his form of expression, so long as he does not materially infringe the rights of other students or disrupt school activities.

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

"the Board is required under Shelton [Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479 [81 S. Ct. 247, 5 L. Ed. 2d 231] (1960)] and other cases to adopt means for promoting student patriotism that do not impair the personal liberties of teachers." Report, at p. 11.
Respondent advances no persuasive reason why the approach of Tinker should not be used here. Accordingly, it is not incumbent upon plaintiffs to convince the court that the offered alternative of leaving the room during the Pledge of Allegiance constituted punishment. Rather, respondent must convince the court that the particular expression of protest chosen by plaintiffs, remaining seated, materially infringed the rights of other students or caused disruption.

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

"the right in a peaceable and orderly manner to protest by silent and reproachful presence, in a place where the protestant has every right to be." (Emphasis added.)
In Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 89 S. Ct. 1354, 1366, 22 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1969), Mr. Justice Harlan, one of the dissenters in Tinker, stated that the First Amendment provides "freedom to express publicly one's opinions about our flag, including those opinions which are defiant or contemptuous."

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

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

"The District Court concluded that the action of the school authorities was reasonable because it was based upon their fear of a disturbance from the wearing of the armbands. But, in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Any departure from absolute regimentation may cause trouble. Any variation from the majority's opinion may inspire fear. Any *33 word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the views of another person, may start an argument or cause a disturbance. But our Constitution says we must take this risk * * *."
See also Tuttle, J., dissenting, in Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District, 392 F.2d 697, 705-706 (5th Cir. 1968); In re Peck, 38 L.W. 2285 (N.Y.App.Div. 4th Dept., Oct. 30, 1969) (holding that judge cannot forbid female attorney to wear miniskirt because of fear of distraction or disruption).

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

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

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

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

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

"The refusal of some religious sects today to swear an oath of allegiance to the flag infuriates many citizens who find themselves unable to consent to a set of principles different from the one they hold." The Meaning of "Law and Order," 74 Case & Comment, Nov.-Dec., 1969, p. 45 at p. 46.
The policy of the New York City Board of Education is a sincere attempt to prevent disorders which may develop as the reaction of infuriated members of the majority to the silent dissent expressed by plaintiffs. The flaw in the policy is that the constitution does not recognize fears of a disorderly reaction as ground for restricting peaceful expression of views. As the court said in Tinker:

"Freedom of expression would not truly exist if the right could be exercised only in an area that a benevolent government has provided as a safe haven for crackpots." (393 U.S. at 513, 89 S.Ct. at 740).
Preliminary Injunction
On the basis of the facts and legal authorities, the court is satisfied that plaintiffs have a strong possibility of ultimate success on the merits, that the grant of a preliminary injunction will cause no appreciable harm to defendants, and that denial of an injunction would be prejudicial to plaintiffs.

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

It is therefore ordered

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Jeff Sessions Couldn't Get State AGs to Back His Campaign Against Tech: His meeting in DC didn't go as planned. (TONYA RILEY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2018, Mother Jones)

Officials from 13 states and the District of Columbia gathered at the Department of Justice Tuesday morning. Entering without an official public agenda, it was unclear what the meeting would actually be about. Just this past weekend, reports of a leaked memo suggested that the Trump administration might be gearing up to instruct the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to investigate online platforms like Facebook and Twitter for anti-trust violations. Speculation leading up to the meeting strongly suggested that the Department of Justice would hone in on the potential of anti-trust actions against big tech on the basis of conservative bias, accusations that have been a repeated refrain from Republican lawmakers and the president in recent weeks. 

But, according to one attorney general at the meeting, it seemed like Sessions was the only person who wanted to talk about political bias, with the majority of the attorneys general instead deeming the path "too dangerous."

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Divorce rate sinks as marriages happen later, among those with more money and education (BEN STEVERMAN, 9/25/18,  BLOOMBERG)

New data show younger couples are approaching relationships very differently from baby boomers, who married young, divorced, remarried and so on. Generation X and especially millennials are being pickier about who they marry, tying the knot at older ages when education, careers and finances are on track.

The result is a U.S. divorce rate that dropped 18% from 2008 to 2016, according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen.

Demographers already knew the divorce rate was falling, even if the average American didn't. Their question, however, was why? And what do current trends mean for the marital prospects of today's newlyweds?

One theory is that divorce rates are falling largely because of other demographic changes -- especially an aging population. Older people are less likely to get divorced, so maybe mellowing boomers were enough to explain the trend. Cohen's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau survey data, however, suggests something more fundamental is at work. Even when he controls for factors such as age, the divorce rate over the same period still dropped 8%.

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Gary Keith and Ron, the Magi of Mets Nation: With the Mets out of playoff contention for months, the broadcast trio has been the main reason for fans to keep watching. (Devin Gordon, Sept. 25, 2018, NY Times Magazine)

For fans, a local broadcast booth is like part of the family, which is one of those baseball clichés that happens to be true. It also cuts both ways. We've all got relatives like Gary Keith and Ron, whom we learn from and who make us laugh and whose emotions are riding the same roller coaster as our own, and so we make time for them as often as we can. And we've all got relatives who, like too many broadcast booths, have been repeating themselves for 20 years; and yes, sure, a part of us loves them, but another part of us fantasizes about smothering them with a pillow.

"There are a lot of baseball announcers who talk like they think baseball announcers ought to talk. They lack self-awareness and seem to be beaming in from another dimension," said Bryan Curtis, columnist and host of a podcast about the media for The Ringer, the sports and culture commentary site. Gary Keith and Ron, he continued, are "actually unique" and succeed despite having "an incredibly hard job: How do you make a hopeless season fun?"

The answer begins with Gary. Ron calls Gary "the greatest docent of Mets history," but encyclopedic knowledge isn't necessarily a virtue. What really matters is that he gets the difference between a perceptive detail and a useless piece of trivia. The previous night, deGrom, whose wondrous season has been kneecapped by feeble run support, again got no help, exiting a scoreless game after eight innings. Gary observed that the Mets' home batting average had dropped to just .207, worse than any team since 1910 and a number that pushes the limits of mathematical possibility. It was becoming a season of Hasn't Happened Sinces, and Gary was ready.

Ron, meanwhile, is cerebral (Yale) and a splendid explainer of top-shelf pitching. He's concise, with flawless timing -- a rare asset in sports announcing. During one late-season game the Mets were actually winning 3-0, with the reliever Robert Gsellman on the mound, no one out in the top of the ninth, and the Nats' shortstop, Trea Turner, at the plate, Ron got to work. It seemed like a low-risk situation, but as soon as Gsellman fell behind three balls to one strike, Ron sensed danger. "Three-run lead, can't walk a hitter," he said sharply. Ron is from Hawaii and generally speaks in welcoming tones, but suddenly his intensity lit up, and instead of a rambling list of strategic options, he threw a heater, which is exactly what he wanted Gsellman to throw. "Challenge him, make him put it in play!" Gsellman obeyed, whistling two straight 96-mph fastballs past Turner.

Keith is still stopped on the street for his "Seinfeld" appearance in 1992, but he has been more like the Cosmo Kramer of the Mets' booth -- a sui generis human specimen who couldn't be more Keith Hernandez if he tried, and he is definitely trying. He is also a former M.V.P. and a lifetime .296 batter who won 11 Gold Gloves in a row and who, according to modern sabermetrics (and to me), has a real case for entry into the Hall of Fame.

"Look at that scar," he said, more insistently now.

It was very crowded in there, which made Keith's scar easy to see. Citi Field opened in 2009, but the broadcast booth feels as if it were teleported from Shea Stadium circa 1978. Every expense has been spared. There's a T-shaped metal bar wedged under the broadcast counter to stave off imminent collapse. Gary looked up from his scorecard and glanced down at Keith's scar, wordless but not uninterested.

"I stuck my foot in a lawn mower when I was a kid," Keith said. "I almost ripped the tendon up my leg. Would've ruined me for life. No Mets!" His eyes went wide at the horrifying counterfactual, the "Sliding Doors" of it all. "Imagine it, Gar -- no Mets!"

Gar imagined it for a moment, then returned to his scorecard. From my vantage point behind him, the crown of his head was so perfectly egg-shaped I imagined myself tapping it with a spoon. Ron slipped through a crevice back into the booth, reclaimed his chair and put on his headset. Ten seconds and we would be back from break. Keith did a long leonine stretch, and then somewhere in his brain a neuron fired.

"Do you like Chicago deep-dish pizza?" he asked no one in particular. "I never did."

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


How to be militant: Diana Darke explores 'the three golden rules that militant leaders must follow to win', and why Islamic State fails (Diana Darke, 9/18/19, TLS)

[Max Abrahms, one of the world's leading experts on terrorism] set out on a mission to plug this hole, studying the tactics of hundreds of global militant groups, including the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, the PKK, the IRA and the African National Congress. He examined the public pronouncements of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi, Chairman Mao and Nelson Mandela to come up with a clear formula for success - three golden rules that militant leaders must follow to win. 1. Don't kill innocent civilians. 2. Create a highly centralized structure under a clever leader. 3. Maintain your brand through total denial when things go wrong. [...]

Abrahms's research shows that terrorism on civilians obstructs victory and is damaging to public sympathy for the cause. The IRA, for example, quickly learned this and issued warnings to minimize casualties, even apologizing to safeguard their image where blame was unavoidable. Abrahms marvels at how, by contrast, "ISIS never got the message". When its operatives publicly beheaded the US journalist James Foley in August 2014 and attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January 2015, they merely convinced both Barack Obama and François Hollande to devote their presidencies to crushing them. When IS began terrorist attacks against innocent tourists inside Turkey, President Erdoğan changed tack from allowing jihadists to cross into Syria to join the extremists and instead granted US planes permission to bomb them from Turkey's İncirlik airbase. By July 2017 the US-led coalition had virtually destroyed the caliphate and killed 60,000-70,000 IS fighters in the largest counter-terrorism campaign the world has ever assembled. Yet, as Abrahms marvels, "think-tank pundits spent years extolling the strategic genius of Islamic State for blowing up random victims in soccer stadiums, markets, rock concerts and nightclubs etc". In practice IS lost political credibility and sympathy among mainstream Muslims by demonstrating that "the path to the golden age of Islam is to be paved with viciousness and gore".

Up to 80 per cent of jihadists, Abrahms tells us, have been assessed by scholars as being "largely ignorant about Islam". Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself only turned to Islamic theology when he failed to get the grades to study law. An analysis on al-Qaeda operatives in the West found that "they went to bars and frequented prostitutes more often than they went to the mosque". A report on foreign fighters in Syria found that they tended to be "thrill-seekers" looking for adventure in an arena where they felt they had impunity. The Briton Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John, achieved his notoriety through videotaping his beheadings of Western journalists and aid workers; his "gruesome acts" led to him getting killed by drone in November 2015 and were "deeply counterproductive" for IS. Their decentralized leadership ensured "a lower quality fighter". Al-Baghdadi violated all the rules for rebels, with his "modus operandi of decentralised carnage".

Hezbollah's techniques, on the other hand, under its canny long-time secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, have been highly successful. The group has gradually become the key player in Lebanon's government, thanks to its centralized, hierarchical structure, giving clear instructions to its fighters from the top. Its leaders also invested a full year in teaching each recruit "the ideological goals of Hezbollah" so that each knew what he was fighting for. If an attack caused heavy civilian casualties, the leadership resorted to a denial of involvement. "Strategic dunces" like al-Baghdadi claimed organizational responsibility for everything, "thereby ensuring the world coalesced against them".

If blame is inescapable, Nasrallah has tended to make public apologies to minimize the PR fallout, as in the summer of 2006 when Hezbollah rocket fire killed two Israeli-Arab children in Nazareth. "I apologize to this family", he said on Al-Jazeera, "we consider them martyrs for Palestine." The many tables and figures Abrahms uses to validate his research provide clear evidence for what works and what doesn't.

The success of the Irgun, ANC, IRA, Hezbollah, etc. and the failure of Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. are also tied directly to the extent to which their stated goals implicate Western ideals, giving them legitimacy.  Violence on behalf of democratic self-determination is not terrorism.  Violence on behalf of illiberal authoritarianism/totalitarianism is.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


On Fox, Brett Kavanaugh Mounts an Aggressive, Specific Defense (DAVID FRENCH, September 24, 2018, National Review)

Each of these specific denials is subject to fact-checking (though it could get quite personal), and if any of these denials fails that fact check, he may face real issues with wavering Republicans.

First -- in the claim that's rocketing around Twitter -- he asserted that he was a virgin throughout high school and for many years afterward. In a vacuum, the claim is hardly notable. After all, it's common for believing Christians to either wait for sex until marriage or to postpone sexual activity much longer than their peers. But in context, it strongly contradicts the image of a lecherous, wannabe rapist.

Second -- he denied ever drinking to the point of memory loss. He was never blackout drunk. This is a crucial claim. If he had been blackout drunk, it's entirely possible that he could have engaged in sexual misconduct that the couldn't recall. In other words, Ford could tell the truth and Kavanaugh could be too wasted to remember his own misdeeds. But Kavanaugh forecloses this possibility. He claims no memory gaps.

Third -- he denied going to any parties in the area where Ford claimed the party took place. Again, this is a highly specific denial. He didn't just deny attending the party with Ford, he denied attending any party in the general area.

The most common "guilty" confession of aging men is how long they retained their virginity, willingly or not....

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Kushner's mission improbable: Winning over wealthy Trump skeptics (ALEX ISENSTADT,  09/23/2018, Politico)

Jared Kushner huddled behind closed doors with some of the Republican Party's most powerful donors at a midtown Manhattan hotel earlier this month.

The mission: convince them that the Trump White House isn't a mess.

While the administration raced to extinguish that day's firestorm -- President Donald Trump's denial of Hurricane Maria's 2,975-person death toll -- Kushner insisted that the circuslike perception is wrong.

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Robert Mueller is playing a long game on the Russia investigation, and it's paying off (Norman Eisen and Asha Rangappa,  Sept. 24, 2018, USA Today)

Mueller has given up very little in buying that time -- and in agreeing to accept written answers from Trump. The reported offer only covers questions about possible collusion. On that front, Mueller may already have enough evidence without Trump's testimony, especially now that he has cooperation from Manafort and reportedly from Trump's Mr. Fix It, lawyer Michael Cohen.

Neither does the delay likely affect Mueller's obstruction of justice case, given the amount of already known evidence pointing to Trump's corrupt intent in firing former FBI Director James Comey. At this point, Mueller has contemporaneous notes from Comey's conversations with the president, in which he asked for "loyalty" and for the FBI to let go of its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn (who has pleaded guilty to making false statements and will be sentenced Dec. 18). 

Mueller also has the president's own admission on national television that he fired Comey because of the "made-up" Russia story. And Mueller has had numerous unfettered interviews with White House counsel Don McGahn -- who knows of Trump's efforts to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing from the Russia investigation, and may have more information about Trump pressure on the intelligence community to officially clear his name. 

Nor has Mueller given up his ultimate weapon. He could, if he chooses, issue a subpoena to compel the president to testify. By building a paper trail that shows he has tried everything in his power to obtain the president's voluntary cooperation, Mueller is strengthening his case if it ever does go to court.

In the meantime, the delay could even help add to Mueller's obstruction case against the president. With every angry tweet that rails against the Russia probe, Mueller or his own attorney general, Trump adds to Mueller's gallery of exhibits showing Trump's "corrupt" intent to quash the Russia investigation.

The protracted negotiation with Mueller, moreover, provides a specific issue for the president to focus on with his lawyers and a channel for him to vent his frustrations. Allowing the president to believe he is calling some shots and pushing back on the investigation gives Trump the illusion of control and makes him less likely to panic, lose his temper, and impulsively try to fire Mueller or his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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The Most Successful Firms Aren't Focused on Raising Wages, RBA Suggests (Michael Heath, September 25, 2018, Bloomberg)

The Reserve Bank of Australia may have solved the weak wage growth puzzle that's beguiling economists the world over: the most successful firms just aren't placing much priority on higher salaries.

"High productivity firms would appear to be using most of their higher levels of productivity to reduce prices and increase profit margins rather than passing most of it on to their workforce in higher wages," RBA economist Geoff Weir said in a discussion paper published Tuesday. "The productivity 'laggards' have limited scope to pay higher wages."

In his paper, 'Wage Growth Puzzles and Technology,' Weir says the uneven take-up of new technology by companies is seeing an increased disparity in productivity performance. He cites that as a key factor in the longer-run issue of why labor's share of national income has been falling, and the shorter-term one of why nominal wages have been weaker than forecasts predicted.

Own the company; don't work for it.  Or, ideally, own the company you work for.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Iran's Terms to Reopen Nuclear Talks? Trump Has to Back Down (David E. Sanger, Sept. 24, 2018, NY Times)

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, visiting the United States for the first time since President Trump exited the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, said Monday that the only way his country would consider new talks with Washington is for Mr. Trump to reverse himself and honor the agreement. [...]

While he declared that Mr. Trump's strategy of trying to crush the Iranian economy with sanctions would fail, he expressed no anger and portrayed his government as the one that was abiding by international agreements that the United States had tossed aside. [...]

On Monday evening, Mr. Rouhani got a boost from the remaining signatories of the Iran nuclear accord. They issued a defiant statement, reaffirming their commitment to the deal and vowing to find ways to circumvent Trump administration sanctions to continue to do business with Iran.

"The participants recognized that Iran has continued to fully and effectively implement its nuclear related commitments as confirmed by 12 consecutive reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency," said the statement, which was signed by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran.

The statement was read first in English by Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign affairs chief, and then in Farsi by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders in New York.

As part of their effort to save the Iran deal, the ministers agreed to create a special vehicle that would facilitate legal financial transactions with Iran and protect companies doing business with the country from American reprisals.

September 24, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


The Creator Of One Of YouTube's Top Tween Channels Was Arrested For Molesting A Minor. YouTube Is Keeping The Channel Up. (Charlie Warzel, 9/24/18, BuzzFeed News)

For weeks now, SevenAwesomeKids, part of one of YouTube's biggest and most active tween/teen girl channel networks, has been suspiciously dormant. The reason: Its owner and proprietor, Ian Rylett, was arrested this August in Florida for "lewd and lascivious molestation" involving one of the young girls who makes videos for his channels.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


New York Times, New Yorker Spar Over Kavanaugh Story (Benjamin Hart, 9/24/18, New York)

[W]hen the New York Times addressed the allegations in a story about Kavanaugh's confirmation battle,  it didn't exactly allay those concerns with this passage:

The New York Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate Ms. Ramirez's story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge. Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the episode and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.

Particularly for those already primed to be suspicious of The New Yorker story, the Times' account was proof that there was less to it than met the eye.

The original New Yorker story seemed pretty self-damning:

She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh's role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections....

At that point, we're skirting awfully close to just creating "memories."

The more damaging portion of that piece would seem to be this one, though not necessarily for Judge Kavanaugh:

After seeing Judge's denial, Elizabeth Rasor, who met Judge at Catholic University and was in a relationship with him for about three years, said that she felt morally obligated to challenge his account that " 'no horseplay' took place at Georgetown Prep with women." Rasor stressed that "under normal circumstances, I wouldn't reveal information that was told in confidence," but, she said, "I can't stand by and watch him lie." In an interview with The New Yorker, she said, "Mark told me a very different story." Rasor recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual. She said that Judge did not name others involved in the incident, and she has no knowledge that Kavanaugh participated. But Rasor was disturbed by the story and noted that it undercut Judge's protestations about the sexual innocence of Georgetown Prep. 

It is at least plausible that a culture of using alcohol to render women semi-helpless did exist amongst this group of men.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


The Gods of Nation & Blood: Henri De Lubac and The Heresy of Racism (Joseph S. Flipper, September 24, 2018, Commonweal)
Passivity in the face of ethno-nationalism is a danger for today's church as it was for the French church of the 1940s. Though in immensely different circumstances, we live under a campaign of dehumanization and are caught up in the political mechanisms of imprisonment and death. Like Charles Maurras, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (who happens to be Catholic) has become the spokesman for a religious nationalism that preserves a shared culture, religion, and race. In his 2014 remarks to the Human Dignity Institute's conference at the Vatican, Bannon explained that the West must recover its religious vision to overcome its present and future challenges. With regard to Islam, he explained, "our forefathers...did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places.... It bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West." However, when Bannon speaks of saving the religious vision of the Christian West, he is not speaking of God or of personal conversion, but instead of the recovery of an ethnos, a people, and its Christian religious heritage. His is a vision that borrows from the Christian faith while falsifying it. Despite Bannon's departure from the White House, his ethno-nationalist vision has been preserved in ideology and policy.

The ascendency of this vision, along with concurrent growth of white supremacist groups in the United States, requires discernment and action from the church. But racism has often been subject to misdiagnosis among Catholics. In response to last summer's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which one person was killed and nineteen injured, some bishops initially framed the problem as a political one, over which there may be many opinions. As the facts in Charlottesville became better understood, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston rightly named the problem--"the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism"--and called the church to "stand against every form of oppression." Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, however, provided the better diagnosis: "Racism is a poison of the soul. It's the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness that has never fully healed." He ended on a pessimistic, though perhaps more realistic, note: "We need to start today with a conversion in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others. That may sound simple. But the history of our nation and its tortured attitudes toward race proves exactly the opposite." In the wake of Charlottesville, the USCCB formed an ad hoc committee against racism that is working to discern a response to racism in the American context.

Theologically understood, racism is more than a sin. It constitutes a heresy that undermines the very identity of the church. Taking form in ideology and systemic exclusion, racism threatens to co-opt Christianity because it offers a powerful anti-Christian narrative about who we are as human beings while invoking Europe's "Christian heritage." We should be alarmed not only at the physical violence racism provokes, but also at the signs of the re-animated gods of nation and blood.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Israel chooses identity over democracy (Shlomo Ben-Ami, 9/24/18, The Strategist)

[T]he nation-state law is not just another means of accumulating political capital among an increasing identity-focused electorate. There is another motivation at play--one that poses an even more serious threat to Israeli democracy.

Israel is a prosperous, advanced economy, but it is built on a labor market that is too small. Arab Israelis, however, represent a considerable labour pool (as does the Orthodox Jewish community, among whom the labour-force participation rate is much lower than among secular Jews). To advance its interest in Arab Israelis' economic and social integration, in December 2015 the Israeli government approved a truly historic five-year plan.

Nearly three years later, the integration of Arab Israelis is progressing apace. According to the 2017 Israel Democracy Institute Index of Arab-Israeli relations, 70% of Israel's Arabs speak fluent Hebrew, and 77% are not interested in separation. Moreover, Tel Aviv University's Amal Jamal has highlighted the consistent increase in the number of Arab academics in Israel and the emergence of an Arab middle class in the country. This goes, he found, with a rise in national sentiments.

This is where the nation-state law comes in. The increasing integration and prosperity of Arab Israelis is empowering them to push back against discriminatory policies. With the nation-state law in place, however, their legal recourse will be severely constrained.

But this may not only be a matter of silencing an increasingly empowered minority; Israel's government could be laying the groundwork to suppress the Arab majority that would emerge if (or when) it annexes the occupied Palestinian territories. In this sense, the nation-state law is a kind of hedge against the government's own expansionist policies--and a potentially devastating blow to Israeli democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


This is the most sexist place in America. For women born there, it will have significant impacts. (The Lily News, August 23, 2018)

If you want to move to the least sexist state in America, then head to New Hampshire, according to an index of sexist attitudes developed by economists at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and National University Singapore.

Alternatively, they found the most sexist state to be Arkansas.

"Sexism is highest in the Southeast and least extreme in New England and the West," the researchers wrote. "The figure shows that there is substantial variation in mean sexism across states within each geographic region of the country."

What's more, they found that state-level distinctions can have significant impacts on women's lives, including her wages and the age at which she marries and has children -- and can even make her later earnings lower, even if she moves to a place with less sexism.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


We Weren't Made for Endless Work: To be fully human, we need to put down our phones for a while. (GRACY OLMSTEAD, September 24, 2018, American Conservative)

It is important, I think, that our attempts at intentionality do not just involve setting our smartphones or computers aside and "accomplishing" things in real time. Often, when we aren't staring at screens, we are engaging in some form of busywork. We spend non-distracted moments in a frenzy of activity: doing dishes, folding laundry, paying bills, et cetera. And while all these things are engaging and important, they should not and do not contain the whole of contemplation.

Josef Pieper suggested that our fixation on busyness stems from modern man's suspicion of grace: "man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift."

Leisure, in contrast, "is only possible when a man is at one with himself, when he acquiesces in his own being...[leisure] implies (in the first place) an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being 'busy,' but letting things happen." [...]

It is easy to slip into distractedness and inattentiveness if we are not cultivating daily rhythms that emphasize the present and the real over the possible and the virtual. That's why Sherry Turkle suggests that we carve out "sacred spaces" in our day in which we set aside our devices and seek to truly focus on each other. The dinner table is a good space for this--but I also feel that I could do a better job abandoning my devices for intentional daily spurts of play with my daughter. Otherwise, leisure is too quickly interrupted by a text or email or phone call.

We don't always like to hear that rest and "play" can nourish our souls. Owning up to that truth would require slowing down and doing "unimportant" things with no material, measurable benefit. It would require acknowledging our need for grace, and our own inability to accept the world as gift. But our existence was never meant to fixate around work--at least not if the ancients are to be believed. Leisure makes us human.

So go on a walk tomorrow and search for "tiny perfect things." Play a board game after the dinner dishes are put away. Read a favorite book aloud. Pull out the sidewalk chalk.

Whatever you do, rest and delight in the present--knowing that work and emails and social media and news (or whatever else absorbs your brain) can wait.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Fears of Maldives Crisis Ease After President Concedes Election Loss (Hassan Moosa and Maria Abi-Habib, Sept. 24, 2018, NY Times)

While the opposition painted Sunday's election as a final stand to preserve the Maldives' nascent democracy -- just a decade old -- the vote was also seen as a critical referendum at a time when the archipelago nation has been caught between the influence of China, on one hand, and India and the West on the other.

[M]r. Solih's win will probably not roll back Chinese influence here. India and the United States have been unable to match China's spending across South Asia as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, which Beijing says will secure commercial interests but which skeptics say will also expand its global military footprint.

Instead, Mr. Solih has signaled that he will try to hedge between global powers and restore the warm ties the country once shared with India, which has watched China's rise in the region with concern. In the past, the opposition leader has promised to strengthen relations with neighboring countries to preserve security in the Indian Ocean.

On Sunday, voters turned out in vast numbers, forming long lines requiring hours of wait time.

The streets of Malé, the capital island, were adorned with flags and banners of pink and yellow, the colors of the governing and opposition parties. The election had an almost carnival-like atmosphere, with voters exiting polling sites to take selfies and posing for pictures showing their fingers dipped in ink.

"I think we are still voting for freedom, to get freedom," said Hussain Rasheed, a 53-year-old diver, as he proudly displayed a finger stained with voting ink outside a polling center. "We can't get justice without freedom. In hundreds of years of this country, we haven't really got justice."

But the nation held its breath on Monday, waiting for Mr. Yameen to concede defeat. In the 2013 presidential election, the Supreme Court stepped in to annul the first round and then delayed later rounds. Many have worried this time that Mr. Yameen might put pressure on the judiciary to do it again, or to use security forces to declare military rule.

Still, such a clear and publicly announced defeat could make it difficult for Mr. Yameen to sway the military, especially given that the jailed former president and opposition figure Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is said to still command respect within the security forces.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Saudi Arabia is at its least stable in 50 years (Bruce Riedel, September 23, 2018, Al Monitor)

The crown prince's signature policy initiative is the war in Yemen. A senior royal, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, publicly blamed Mohammed bin Salman for the war in an interview this month in London. Ahmed is the king's half brother and the son of Ibn Saud, the founder of the modern kingdom. The video of the prince's comments went viral in the kingdom; Ahmed said publicly what many others have been saying privately about the war for months.

The war is now in its fourth year with no end in sight. The Houthis have fired over 60,000 rockets across the border to depopulate scores of Saudi border villages and almost 200 ballistic missiles at Saudi cities, including Riyadh. The Royal Saudi Air Force and its partners have wrecked the feeble infrastructure of Yemen and caused dozens of attacks on civilians. Yemen is now in a "death channel," as one observer calls the catastrophe.

The United Nations said this month that three-quarters of Yemenis are at risk of malnutrition and disease. Eight million do not know where their next meal will come from and 5 million may soon join that category of extreme malnutrition and risk. The Saudi blockade is Mohammed bin Salman's strategy as defense minister and he deserves accountability for its results. The war has produced an anti-Saudi reaction worldwide.

The blockade of Qatar is another foreign policy debacle for the crown prince. A prominent clerical reformer has been arrested and may be executed for criticizing the blockade. The Gulf Cooperation Council has all but collapsed.

There is much speculation that the Saudis had a role in the Sept 22 attack in Ahvaz, Iran. The crown prince has publicly said he wants to fight Iran inside Iran. The Ahvaz attack is certain to fuel sectarian tensions throughout the region and inside the kingdom.

At home, the roundup of prominent Saudis last fall at the Ritz-Carlton has led to capital flight and much reduced foreign investment. Confidence in the economy and the prince's handling of economic issues is dropping. His signature plan to open up ARAMCO is now dead, the king having killed it. The prince arrests any independent voice -- even if it is supporters of allowing women to drive, which he pushed for.

Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah. It's a floating palace longer than a football field and with many perks. It is also a potential escape hatch. 

Luring the Sa'uds deeper into unwinnable and deestabilizing anti-Shi'a conflicts is as big a foreign policy coup as miring the Russians in Syria.  If only either of them was intentional...

Toppling the Wahabbist regime is the big enchilada of the war against Salafism.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Russia says will send newer S-300 missile systems to Syria (AP, 9/24/18) 

Russia's defense minister says Moscow will send more modern S-300 missile defense systems to Syria following last week's downing of a Russian plane.

Syrian government missile defense systems last week shot down a Russian military plane, killing all 15 people on board. Russia laid the blame squarely on Israel, saying that its fighter jet pushed the Russian aircraft into the line of fire.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Israeli's Military Is World Class. But Is It Ready?: Two conflicting verdicts on Israel's military are stirring old anxieties. (Zev Chafets, September 24, 2018, Bloomberg)

[A] scathing critique of the IDF's culture and readiness from a retired general has created a debate within Israel about whether the country has become complacent. It's a debate worth having, even if some of the fears are likely overblown.

The criticism came earlier this month from Yitzhak Brick, a hero of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, who has been the IDF ombudsman for the past decade. He is not a member of the IDF general staff, but an independent actor who is leaving his post on Jan. 1, after a 10-year stint.

In a thick dossier sent to the Minister of Defense and the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security, Brick detailed what he sees as serious weaknesses in the IDF's operational abilities and war-fighting doctrine. The report is classified "secret" but its wide distribution ensured it was efficiently leaked.

According to Haaretz military correspondent Amos Har-el, Brick raised concerns about what he sees as the erosion of the IDF's ground forces, and also the general staff's unwillingness to investigate itself and correct its mistakes.

Was listening to Yoram Hazony discuss his book on the virtues of nationalism on the Law & Liberty podcast yesterday and considering why the regimes that advocate for tribal rule are so corrupt, as witness Bibi & Donald. The basic reason seems obvious: they appeal to voters almost entirely on the basis of membership in a racial group, with their only real policy prescriptions consisting of benefitting that group to the exclusion of others.  Essentially, they have offered a corrupt and corrupting bargain and justified it on the basis that the "other" represents some sort of existential threat.  It is then pretty hard for those who buy into the bargain and believe in the threat to hold the leadership accountable and it is easy for said leaders to sell the notion that the destabilizing effects of such accountability would weaken "us" and help "them." Having forsaken republican liberty for the "enemy," good luck applying it to the regime.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Christine Blasey Ford Reaches Deal to Testify at Kavanaugh Hearing (Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, Sept. 23, 2018, NY Times)

In a preview of his defense, Judge Kavanaugh planned on Sunday to hand over to the Judiciary Committee calendars from the summer of 1982 that do not contain evidence of a party similar to the one described by Dr. Blasey. His team plans to argue that the calendar pages represent a piece of evidence that fails to corroborate Dr. Blasey's account, according to a person familiar with the defense.

But the calendar pages from June, July and August of that year, which were reviewed by The New York Times, also in no way disprove her accusation. Along with a list of statements from other potential witnesses insisting they do not remember the episode, the pages only reinforced on Sunday that Judge Kavanaugh's fate will rest in the hands of individual senators who must decide whose account they believe.

Senators looking to confirm or refute the allegations will face a nearly impossible task. Complicating matters, Dr. Blasey has said she does not recall the specific date or location of the house where the alleged incident occurred, though she believes it was during the summer of 1982.

Judge Kavanaugh's prospects were further clouded on Sunday when The New Yorker reported on a new allegation of sexual impropriety: A woman who went to Yale with Judge Kavanaugh said that, during a drunken dormitory party their freshman year, he exposed himself to her, thrust his penis into her face and caused her to touch it without her consent.

In a statement, Judge Kavanaugh denied the allegation from the woman, Deborah Ramirez, and called it "a smear, plain and simple." The New Yorker did not confirm with other eyewitnesses that Judge Kavanaugh was at the party.

The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge. Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.

September 23, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 PM


3-D printed gun advocate Cody Wilson jailed in Houston after arrest in Taiwan (Keri Blakinger, September 23, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

Cody Wilson was arrested at a restaurant in Taipei City late Friday, according to Taiwanese media.The 30-year-old is now being held in the Harris County jail on $150,000 bail, pending transfer to Travis County for prosecution.

The so-called "crypto-anarchist" and owner of Defense Distributed was wanted for sexual assault of a child after he allegedly exchanged naked pictures with a 16-year-old he met on, then took her to an Austin hotel and paid her $500 for sex.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


This New Poll Is Terrible News for Republicans (DAN FRIEDMAN, SEPTEMBER 23, 2018, Mother Jones)

Democrats hold a 12-point lead in congressional preference among registered voters according to a new poll that suggests trouble for Republicans in the midterm congressional elections in six weeks.

The new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Donald Trump is dragging down his party,  with nearly six-in-ten saying they'd like to see significant changes in the direction President Donald Trump has been leading the country. 

We made this mess; it's up to us to clean it up.

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


America's Jews are watching Israel in horror (Dana Milbank, September 21, 2018, Washington Post)

My rabbi, Danny Zemel, comes from Zionist royalty: His grandfather, Rabbi Solomon Goldman, led the Zionist Organization of America in the late 1930s, and presided over the World Zionist Convention in Zurich in 1939. So Zemel's words carried weight when he told his flock this week on Kol Nidre, the holiest night of the Jewish year, that "the current government of Israel has turned its back on Zionism."

"My love for Israel has not diminished one iota," he said, but "this is, to my way of thinking, Israel's first anti-Zionist government."

He recounted Israel's transformation under Benjamin Netanyahu: the rise of ultranationalism tied to religious extremism, the upsurge in settler violence, the overriding of Supreme Court rulings upholding democracy and human rights, a crackdown on dissent, harassment of critics and nonprofits, confiscation of Arab villages and alliances with regimes -- in Poland, Hungary and the Philippines -- that foment anti-Semitism. The prime minister's joint declaration in June absolving Poland of Holocaust culpability, which amounted to trading Holocaust denial for good relations, earned a rebuke from Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial.

"The current government in Israel has, like Esau, sold its birthright," Zemel preached.

Similarly anguished sentiments can be heard in synagogues and in Jewish homes throughout America. For 70 years, Israel survived in no small part because of American Jews' support. Now we watch in horror as Netanyahu, with President Trump's encouragement, leads Israel on a path to estrangement and destruction.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Moscow: Israel 'Misled' Russian Military In Syria Plane Downing (Radio Liberty, September 23, 2018)

Russia has doubled down on its allegation that Israel is to blame for the downing of a Russian military plane over the eastern Mediterranean Sea nearly a week ago, saying it was caused by "misleading information" provided by the Israeli military.

Syrian government forces mistook the Il-20 reconnaissance plane for an Israeli jet on a bombing mission and shot it down off Syria's northwestern province of Latakia on September 17, killing all 15 servicemen onboard.

Russia's Defense Ministry blamed the plane's loss on Israel, accusing the country's military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defense systems. 

Bogging Russia down in Syria was genius.

September 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 10:35 PM


Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford say she has accepted Senate Judiciary Committee's request to testify against Kavanaugh (Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan and Emma Brown, September 22, 2018, Washington Post)

As negotiations continued, Leland Keyser, a woman Ford told The Washington Post was present at the party where she alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her, came forward to say she had "no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present," according to an email her lawyer sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, obtained by The Post. In a brief interview at her home in Silver Spring, Keyser said she was close friends with Ford and that she believes Ford's allegation.

Before her name became public, Ford told The Post she did not think Keyser would remember the party because nothing remarkable had happened there, as far as Keyser was aware.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Ex-White House aide revises Flynn sanctions conversation account: report (Reuters, 9/22/18)

 An ex-White House official has revised a previous statement by telling investigators that former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have referred to sanctions when they discussed his calls with a former Russian envoy, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

K.T. McFarland's statement revised an earlier assertion to FBI agents that sanctions on Russia did not come up when she spoke to Flynn in December 2016 about his calls with Sergey Kislyak when he was the Russian ambassador to the United States, the newspaper said, quoting unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


White House Drafts Order to Look Into Google, Facebook (Ben Brody & Jennifer Jacobs, September 22 2018, Bloomberg) 

The White House has drafted an executive order for President Donald Trump's signature that would instruct federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to open probes into the practices of Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Facebook Inc., and other social media companies.

The Right is the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 1:56 PM


Clinton would beat Trump in landslide in 2016 re-run, says Hill.TV poll (The Hill, 9/21/2018)

Eight percent of respondents said they would not vote in such a hypothetical match-up, while 4 percent declined to state a preference. With those options excluded, the percentage of those who said they would vote for Trump increased to 41 percent, while the percentage of those who said the same for Clinton went up to 50 percent.

In the official government tally, Clinton won 48.2 percent of the vote nationwide. Trump finished with 46.1 percent but was able to claim the presidency by winning the Electoral College. 

...100% of voters would be taken off guard...
Posted by orrinj at 10:28 AM


Trump's Stance on Refugees Is a Disgrace: His administration is repudiating a proud tradition of helping those in greatest need. (Editorial Board, September 19, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's decision to cut the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. hardly comes as a surprise. Even by this administration's standards, however, the policy just announced is impressive in its heartlessness, cynicism and dishonesty.

The current cap of 45,000 refugees a year is already the lowest since Congress created the refugee resettlement program in 1980, when the U.S. admitted a record 207,116 refugees under President Ronald Reagan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has lowered it to just 30,000 for the coming fiscal year. Because of onerous vetting procedures, the number actually admitted will be fewer still. (Despite the cap of 45,000, the U.S. is on pace to admit and resettle 21,000 refugees this year, down from 85,000 in 2016.)

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:49 AM


Billionaire Backer of Maria Butina Had Russian Security Ties (Mike McIntire, Sept. 21, 2018, NY Times)

An oligarch who helped finance a Russian gun rights activist accused of infiltrating American conservative circles has been a discreet source of funds for business ventures useful to the Russian military and security services, according to documents and interviews.

The oligarch, Konstantin Nikolaev, emerged in July as the enigmatic backer of Maria Butina, the activist charged with conspiring to use the National Rifle Association to cultivate Republicans in the United States. Mr. Nikolaev has acknowledged underwriting her gun rights advocacy in the past, but denies any involvement in a Russian influence operation and says his only dealings with his government are limited to routine business needs.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


How a British music publicist ended up in the middle of the Russia storm (Rosalind S. Helderman, September 22, 2018, Washington Post)

He said he has no doubt that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign (though he insists it was not with his help) and believes Trump's team was open to such assistance. He praised the special counsel, whom Trump has accused of running a "witch hunt," for investigating an issue with global stakes.

After more than nine hours with Mueller's team, Goldstone has also drawn some conclusions about what the special counsel is pursuing. Investigators were focused less on the details of the Trump Tower meeting that followed his email invitation to Trump Jr., he said.

Rather, prosecutors were keenly interested in his observations about the Trumps' relationship with Aras and Emin Agalarov, Russian father-and-son billionaires who financed Trump's Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 and then requested the 2016 sit-down at Trump Tower -- as well as the Agalarovs' relationship with the Kremlin, he said.

"They weren't as interested in the minutia," Goldstone said. "It was a bigger picture thing." [...]

Goldstone, a dual citizen of the United States and Britain who currently lives in New Jersey, said he thought Trump would win the presidency, but he added that he was never a political fan of the real estate developer. Independent Bernie Sanders was more his speed, he said, though he has never voted.

However, Goldstone had high hopes for his Russian client once Trump's candidacy took off: Perhaps Emin Agalarov would be invited to sing at the inauguration or visit the White House.

So he was peeved when Agalarov called on the morning of June 3, 2016, and asked him to use his pull with the Trump family for something else entirely.

Agalarov explained that his father had met that day with a "well connected" Russian lawyer, someone Agalarov said was either a current or former prosecutor. The lawyer had damaging information about Russian funding of the Democrats, Agalarov relayed. He asked Goldstone to get a meeting with "the Trumps" so the information could be passed along.

Goldstone said he was confused. What lawyer? What information? But Agalarov either didn't know or refused to answer, insisting Goldstone should just secure the meeting and not worry about such details, Goldstone recalled. (Balber, the Agalarov attorney, said the singer does not recall telling Goldstone the information had to do with Russian funding for Democrats.)

At the time, Goldstone said, it never occurred to him that the offer might be unethical or even illegal. "Hindsight is a beautiful thing," he said.

Sitting in his apartment in Hoboken, Goldstone dashed out an email to Trump Jr., whom he had met at a dinner in New York and with whom he occasionally corresponded.

He wrote that Aras Agalarov had met with "the Crown Prosecutor of Russia," a phrase he remembered from his time in England. He said that the prosecutor had provided information that "would incriminate Hillary" and was "very high level and sensitive," all of which he said struck him as reasonable assumptions based on what Agalarov told him.

The most provocative detail: Goldstone wrote that the information was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Christine Blasey Ford made her choice. Now she needs to tell her story to the Senate (COKIE ROBERTS Sep 20, 2018, ABC News)

In this age of anonymous Twitter postings, a brief appearance on TV can elicit the most hateful and misogynistic messages, some of them downright frightening. So, I can imagine how awful the missives headed Ford's way must be.

But she made the choice to reveal her identity, knowing that it would upend her life. Now, she needs to tell her story to the people who will decide whether Brett Kavanaugh ascends to the Supreme Court -- the members of the United States Senate.

Absent that, she has put herself and her family in harm's way to no end.

The confirmation will proceed.

...that some are denying the validity of the 6th Amendment. The more specific the accusation against Mr. Kavanaugh the less likely he could refute it honestly--assuming the levels of drunkeness included--but he obviously can have no coherent answer to such an amorphous one.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


The EU Is Looking Like Europe's Next Failed Empire: It needs the U.S. and NATO help to avoid the fate of the Austro-Hungarians. (James Stavridis, September 20, 2018, Bloomberg)

What can the U.S. do to help avert the demise of the European Project?

First, based on a year of extensive travel throughout Europe, I can testify that there is still a hunger for U.S. engagement and leadership -- but without overt preaching or obvious interference. Americans should be talking at every level about the value of a unified Europe; conducting high-level discussions not just with officials from partner nations but also from the European Parliament and European Union; expanding trade and cultural missions at the EU level; coordinating economic policies through the IMF and World Bank; and supporting EU institutions wherever we can. 

Second, NATO is at the absolute center of a unified Europe -- the overlap between the EU and the security alliance is almost perfect (just a few countries are in one but not the other). Anything the U.S. can do to support NATO ultimately supports the idea of a unified continent. Even in Hungary, where the EU is viewed with increasing skepticism, NATO remains very popular. I heard again and again how proud Hungarians are to be in the alliance, and for all the current friendliness with Russia they remember well the harsh times under the Warsaw Pact and the 1956 invasion by Soviet troops.

We should take advantage of this sentiment not only in Hungary, but in Poland, Italy and other NATO member-states where anti-EU attitudes are growing. This could involve conducting NATO exercises locally in ways that help the economy; appointing representatives from these nations to key positions in the NATO standing command; conducting frequent high-level visits by U.S. and NATO senior officers such as the supreme allied commander; and praising the efforts of these nations on operational missions from Afghanistan to the Balkans to counter-piracy. NATO can be one element in a broader strategy to maintain the strength of the trans-Atlantic bridge, and thus of efforts to keep the EU moving forward.

Finally, the U.S. should continue to explore wider economic and trade relationships with Europe in the broadest sense. At the heart of this could be a revitalized Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the on-again/off-again effort to bind the U.S. and European economies in the largest free-trade zone in world history. Despite the antipathy of the Donald Trump administration to multilateral trade agreements (it canceled the Pacific version of this, the Trans-Pacific Partnership), there is an extremely compelling geopolitical case to be made that T-TIP should be back on the table -- especially if Russia continues to make inroads against EU and NATO unity.

The European Project, to the extent it is supposed to be a transnational political regime, was always doomed.  Properly constructed it should just be a trade agreement, which all nations should be invited to join. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Russians Rally Across The Country Against Plan To Raise Retirement Age (Radio Liberty, September 22, 2018)

Older Russians worry they won't live long enough to collect benefits. Younger Russians fear keeping people in work for longer could diminish their chances of finding a job.

The proposal has caused a dip in President Vladimir Putin's popularity.

He responded by offering some concessions, but argued that the hike is necessary.

Putin has insisted that raising the retirement age for men and women was essential because Russia's working-age population was shrinking.

He added that the reforms had been delayed for years and risked causing inflation and increasing poverty.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


The Hollywood Reporter: Remembering the New Yorker's Lillian Ross, who chronicled the second half of the twentieth century with her trademark brand of reporting, one year after her death. (DAVID HAYES, SEPTEMBER 17, 2018, Hazlitt)

In May of 1950, a thirty-one-year-old New Yorker staff writer named Lillian Ross became the talk of the town when the magazine published her sharply-observed, massively detailed profile of Ernest Hemingway. Around the same time, she began following the noted screenwriter and director John Huston as he was making his much-anticipated movie, The Red Badge of Courage, based on Stephen Crane's Civil War novel.

Two years later, "No. 1512," Ross's remarkable anatomy of the Hollywood studio system and the fate of Huston's film, appeared as a four-part serial in The New Yorker and in book form, as Picture: A Story About Hollywood, a few months later (available again in April 2019 from NYRB Classics). Hailed at the time as one of the first examples of nonfiction written like fiction--it wasn't, of course; fictional devices have been used by writers of nonfiction since at least the nineteenth century--Ross is on record as having consulted with New Yorker editor (and later her long-time lover) William Shawn early in her reporting, telling him: "I don't know whether this sort of thing has ever been done before, but I don't see why I shouldn't try to do a fact piece in novel form, or maybe a novel in fact form." [...]

Granted by Huston and the studio, MGM, the kind of carte blanche access that has virtually disappeared in today's spin-doctored culture, Ross, using her favorite 3 x 5-inch spiral Clairefontaine notebooks and micro-point Uni-Ball pens, recorded the making of the movie with stenographic precision, detailing all the compromises, the noble intentions, and self-absorbed foolishness of Hollywood, often in long chunks of what seem to be verbatim dialogue. It feels as though she's present everywhere, a technique that's similar to "participant observation," a form of qualitative data collection used in sociology and anthropology. In the introduction to her 2015 anthology, Reporting Always, Ross simply called it "writing a piece as if it were a miniature movie."

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Rip Van Winkle and the Spirit of '76 (ELIZABETH AMATO9/08/18, Imaginative Conservative).

One of the problems that emerges during the ratification debate was the question: how will the spirit of the American people be nurtured for republican government? Anti-Federalists worried over the character of the American people. Pace the Federalists, they had a hard time imagining how an extended republic connected by ties of self-interest could maintain itself. How could such a state nurture the proper virtues for self-governance and cultivate a healthy jealousy and defense of liberty against potential, but inevitable, threats. [...]

Washington Irving, who born in 1783 and named after General Washington, knew a thing or two about being in the generation after the founding. It might be expected that Irving would write popular piece mythologizing our founders, like Longfellow's account of Paul Revere, or to retell in heroic terms a famous battle like Bunker Hill. Irving, however, does not attempt to present any of these key events or heroes (though later in life Irving does undertake a biography of his namesake, in five volumes). Instead, he depicts the changes the founding had on Rip's ordinary village by showing (as it were) before and after snapshots. Absenting the revolution effectively reveals its impact on the character of the American people. [...]

In Rip's village, before the revolution, there is a kind of liberty enjoyed by its inhabitants--the liberty of having no responsibilities and cares. Little is expected of Rip by society and so Rip obligingly does little in return.  He is carefree and disinterested in the affairs of the world, because they do not concern him and he has little means of participating in them. Neither the political nor social order encourages Rip to take care of his responsibilities. While freedom from political cares would seem to allow Rip more time to devote to his private affairs, instead the same lack of attachment and care pervades his private life. Only his wife harps on him to take more interest and care with his farm and family.  The lesson Rip must learn is that liberty rightly understood depends on accepting what is within one's care. Otherwise, one is simply slumbering like Rip in the mountains with ghostly companions.

After awakening, Rip returns to his village, which happens to be an election day.  He notes several transformations and he's quite befuddled to explain them. We readers know that Rip has slept through the American founding and yet we experience with him the surprise of seeing how his sleepy village changed.

Aside from physical changes to the village, the strangest transformation is how "[t]he very character of the people seemed changed." In the tavern, he finds a large crowd of "tavern politicians" engaged in fierce discussion and lively debate. Instead of sleepy, disinterested discussion over scraps of bygone news under the watchful approval of Nicholas Vedder, the discussion has a "busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it."

Elections, of course, are a defining feature of self-government. Irving, however, does not show the act of voting itself. Irving's insight is that the bare act of voting is not what shapes a people's character. Taking part in the debate and deliberations animates a free society, because it is how one truly takes part for what happens in public affairs. It matters how ordinary people vote and so debate is crucial for persuading and convincing others. Elections vest the citizen with a responsibility, but responsibility with the charm of being "self-important."

Partisanship replaces tutelage to local big-wig's opinion. Rip's former companions are replaced with "a lean, bilious-looking fellow...haranguing, vehemently," "a busy little fellow," and a "self-important old gentleman." The former two men pelt Rip with questions about his political party. Partisanship gets a lot of bad press, but the thing to keep in mind here is that it means that your opinion matters in the new republic. Every citizen may have her opinion solicited with as much solicitation as a monarch's. Nothing less than which party holds political office is at stake.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Vatican says Pope recognizes legitimacy of seven Chinese bishops (Reuters, 9/22/18) 

The Vatican said on Saturday that Pope Francis had recognized the legitimacy of seven state-appointed Chinese bishops as part of a historic provisional agreement with Beijing.

It's not easy to be more contemptible than Donald, 'Awful abuses': US denounces China's treatment of Uighurs (AFP, 9/22/18):

"Hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of Uighurs are held against their will in so-called re-education camps where they're forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses," Pompeo said in a speech on the state of religious freedom around the world.

"Their religious beliefs are decimated," Pompeo said.

In a letter to Pompeo and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and both Republican and Democratic members of Congress late last month called for sanctions on Chinese officials implicated in the internment of Uighurs.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM



In a far corner of YouTube, gathering cyber dust is a video of a concert in 1985. Although its 22,000 views hint that it's more significant than a video of your average high school rock band or birthday party, they certainly don't indicate that what you're watching is footage of tiny Latvia's mass defiance of its then ruler, the Soviet Union -- and the beginning of what would come to be known as the Singing Revolution. [...]

The Soviet fanfare had ended and a few state-approved Latvian folk songs were allowed. "Then the audience finally came to life," recounts Īvāns. "Everybody understood that this was the last chance to resist."

You can hear the crowd begin to chant, "Gaismas pils, Mednis!" They knew the famous Latvian conductor Haralds Mednis was among the spectators, and they called on him to perform "Gaismas pils," or "The Fortress of Light," a folk song that would become the anthem of the independence revolution. In front of baffled KGB and Soviet leaders, who didn't see such a spontaneous interruption coming, the Latvians sang about an ancient castle that sinks below the earth after a foreign invasion -- and then rises once Latvians speak its name. The metaphor for overcoming Soviet occupation was blindingly obvious, and the clip captures some Latvians singing loudly next to others who keep their mouths shut, afraid of the consequences such a public display of national loyalty might arouse.

The surprise finale went unpunished, and in the coming years, the Soviet grip on the country began to crumble -- almost as if the Latvian people had successfully invoked their castle that night. 

The Cold War was unlosable and protracting it was tragic on our part.
Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Indispensable Remedy: The Broad Scope of the Constitution's Impeachment Power (Gene Healy, September 12, 2018, Cato)

This study touches on most of the specific charges directed against President Trump, but it does not answer the question of whether he should be impeached and removed from office. Instead, it is designed to serve as a primer on the purpose, history, and scope of the Constitution's impeachment provisions -- and a corrective to some of the popular myths that have grown up around the remedy.

First among those myths is the notion that impeachment is reserved solely for criminal abuses of office. Perversely, as the power of the office has grown, that misconception has ensured that the federal official with the greatest capacity to do harm now enjoys stronger job protection than virtually any other American.

But the remedy James Madison described as "indispensable ... for defending the community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the Chief Magistrate" isn't limited to violations of the law or abuses of official power. As the 1974 House Judiciary Committee report on "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment" put it, impeachment was "intended to reach a broad variety of conduct by officers that is both serious and incompatible with the duties of the office." "A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]," Massachusetts' Elbridge Gerry insisted at the Constitutional Convention, and "a bad one ought to be kept in fear of them." Through the exercise of the "sole Power of Impeachment," the House can call even the most powerful federal officer to account. That power should never be invoked lightly, but neither should Americans fear to wield it, should it become necessary.

In large part, because both Bill Clinton and his team and Ken Starr and his focused on the President's sexual misconduct, the Senate ended up exonerating him for perjury and obstructing justice in the Paula Jones case, which was indisputable.

This set a horrid precedent and also provided the blueprint that the Trump team is following, trying to obscure the indisputable collusion and obstruction by playing up extraneous trivialities.

Even setting aside the value to America and the world of removing Donald from office, it will be a worthwhile exercise just to make impeachment more regular and re-establish republican norms.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


A Skeptical Consumer's Look at Chiropractic Claims: Flimflam in Florida? (Bruce Thyer and Gary Whittenberger, January / February 2008, Skeptical Inquirer)

The late Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This skeptical principle can be applied generally to the area of consumer affairs and more specifically to the claims of chiropractic, an "alternative healing" approach now practiced widely throughout the United States and other parts of the world.

Chiropractic practice began in 1895, when D.D. Palmer administered a 'chiropractic adjustment' to a deaf man who reportedly regained his hearing. Palmer, a grocer and 'magnetic healer,' made great claims about the importance of his new treatment for human ailments. According to Palmer, "A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases . . . the other 5 percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column."

The very existence of vertebral subluxations and their etiological role in health problems is uncertain and subject to considerable controversy, since there is very little empirical evidence in support of the efficacy of chiropractic (see Crelin 1973; Keating, Charlton, Grod, Perle, Sikorski, and Winterstein 2005).

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


FOOD 101 (Robert L. Wolke, September 20, 2000, Washington Post)

Some of the most respected names in food have variously praised sea salt as tasting clean, pure, fresh, rich, bright, subtle, delicate, saline, sweet (!), sharp, gentle, refined, balanced and well-rounded. (One cannot help but marvel at the human imagination.) In contrast, granulated shaker salt has been scorned as tasting acrid, bitter, tinny, harsh, nasty, metallic, acidic, shrill, characterless and "like a mouthful of chemicals." (News flash: All salt is chemical, and if you're filling your mouth with it, no wonder you don't like it. And a special note to West Coast sea-salt fans: The shaker salt that you condemn so vehemently has most likely been taken from the sea.)

There is no denying that some of the finer (read more expensive), genuine sea salts--and they may sell for more than 100 times the price of shaker salt--have unique flavor characteristics. But to paraphrase an infamous presidential parsing, it depends on what you mean by "flavor."

A food's flavor consists of three components: taste, smell and texture. With salt, we can eliminate smell, because salt has no odor. (People who claim that sea salt has "the fresh aroma of the sea" undoubtedly also hear voices.) That leaves taste--what the taste buds actually detect--and texture--how it feels in the mouth.

First, the taste. As I pointed out in my previous column, most food-grade salt is close to 99 percent pure sodium chloride. Whether it came from land or sea, pure sodium chloride tastes like pure sodium chloride: salty. Period. The remaining one percent of impurities is a mere one-hundredth of the fraction of an ounce of salt that a person consumes in a given dish. It's simply too far-fetched to expect that to make any difference. In short, specifying sea salt as an ingredient in a recipe is just plain silly. Those sea-loving recipe writers should put their palates where their mouths are, so to speak.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


The Modern Composer Who Turned Against the Avant-Garde (Joseph Pearce, June 2017, Imaginative Conservative)

As editor for the past sixteen years of the St. Austin Review, a journal of Catholic culture, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of all that's good, true, and beautiful in contemporary art, music, and literature. For the most part, the pulse is strong and beats from a heart that seems healthier than it has been for decades. We seem to be at the dawn of a Christian cultural revival, awash with new novelists, poets, painters, sculptors, architects, and composers, which would have been difficult to predict at the turn of this century. Even as the secular culture decays into a decomposing, deconstructing mess, or what might be called nihilism's self-annihilation, new Christian culture seems to have been resurrected. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pioneering courage and conviction of Michael Kurek, whose latest album, The Sea Knows, all that is so vibrant and exciting in the Traditionalist avant-garde.

Before delving into the music on the new album, let's learn a little about Mr. Kurek himself. One of the most respected classical composers alive today, his works have been performed by symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles on five continents (excluding only Antarctica and Africa). His numerous prizes for composition include the prestigious Academy Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy's highest annual "lifetime achievement" award in music. He serves on several professional boards and committees, including the Classical Grammy Awards Nominations Committee in Los Angeles. His music has been performed on radio or TV throughout the world, in France, England, Germany, Japan, Korea, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Russia, Portugal, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Sweden and, of course, the United States.

What makes Mr. Kurek so exciting is the manner in which he is a traditionalist rebel in the midst of the barren and inspirationally bereft musical establishment, his music serving as an oasis of edifying beauty in the midst of the atonal desert. "Traditional classical music by people like Brahms (and, I hope, me) has a narrative quality, a musical storyline," he writes, "like a river with a forward-moving current that pulls you along through time until you feel transported to some transcendent perception by the climax or by the end. Another metaphor is that a piece of narrative music makes a dramatic argument, in which its themes are like the characters in a play who discuss and undergo character development, so that by the end you see (hear) them in a different way."

Mr. Kurek laments that "the craft of narrative composing has been lost," something that he blames squarely on the nihilistic pretensions of the modern music academy. Trained in this academy, he began to feel that the "dissonant," "atonal," and "discordant" methods of composition which he'd been taught were fundamentally flawed. "As a young convert to Christianity, I was slow to discern the philosophical underpinnings of the techniques I was being taught. My present philosophy of pursuing truth, virtue, and beauty based upon the principles of both natural law and Christianity only gradually emerged as something I could articulate."

As Mr. Kurek's own musical imagination, and the music he was writing, began to be transformed, he encountered opposition from within the music academy's ivory tower, even as his compositions began to gain popularity among concert goers. "I see now it was because I was writing not within the kind of post-modern accessibility that was now acceptable in academe but in a fundamentally traditional style."

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM

60-40 NATION:

Nike Is Winning the Colin Kaepernick Wars (DAVID FRENCH, September 15, 2018, National Review)
In our present, politicized age, we're seeing two things happen at once. First, multiple major corporations have stripped away any pretense of neutrality and are now openly on the progressive side of American political debates. Second, the vast majority of those corporations have paid no meaningful price for their progressive activism.

Just ask Nike.

Days after it announced a multi-million-dollar deal with Colin Kaepernick, prompting a minor stock dip and a torrent of stories detailing how foolish the company was to "alienate half its customer base," its stock gained back all the losses and it was reported that its sales had actually "skyrocketed" in the days after it launched its campaign.

If you followed the online debate the announcement touched off, you might ask: How can this be? Conservatives seemed furious.

Good one!

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Republican Paul Gosar's own siblings star in Democrat campaign ad (Deutsche Welle, 9/22/18)

Siblings of Arizona Republican Representative Paul Gosar have denounced their brother's views and endorsed his rival in a video campaign for Democratic candidate David Brill launched Thursday.

The ads show six of the conservative congressman's siblings condemning their brother's stance on issues such as immigration, the environment and healthcare, and pledging their support to Brill, who hopes to unseat Gosar in Arizona's 4th Congressional District, the Phoenix New Times reported.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Gunmen kill 24, including 12 Revolutionary Guards, in attack on Iran military parade: ISNA ((Reuters, 9/22/18)  

Gunmen fired on a military parade in southwestern Iran on Saturday, killing 24 people, half of them members of the Revolutionary Guards, state news agencies reported, in one of the worst attacks ever on the elite force.State television said the assault, which wounded more than 60 people, targeted a stand where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic's 1980-88 war with Iraq. [...]

The semi-official news agency ISNA said an unnamed spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards blamed Arab nationalists backed by Saudi Arabia for the attack.

September 21, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 PM


Trump HUD Secretary Ben Carson claims Kavanaugh allegations are part of a centuries old socialist plot (Christina Wilkie, 9/21/18, CNBC)

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson told an audience of conservative activists on Friday that the sexual assault allegations facing President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court are part of a plot by socialists to take over America that dates back more than a century.

"If you really understand the big picture of what's going on, then what's going on with Kavanaugh will make perfectly good sense to you," Carson said at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington. "There've been people in this country for a very long time, going all the way back to the Fabians, people who've wanted to fundamentally change this country."

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 PM


What is Dark Matter? Even the Best Theories Are Crumbling (Korey Haynes | September 21, 2018, dISCOVER)

We've built incredibly sensitive, bizarre instruments to look for them. These include vats of liquid xenon stored miles underground, and telescopes looking for dark matter particles decaying into things we can see and measure, like gamma rays. It includes the Large Hadron Collider, one of the most expensive science experiments ever built. And we haven't found them. We haven't found the WIMPs themselves, and we haven't found convincing evidence that they exist.

Except, of course, for the persistent evidence we can't ignore that says the universe is heavier than what we can see.

At this point, the unsettling feeling is growing again. Decades ago, scientists were confident about the existence of the "luminiferous aether" as a medium to carry light. Now, that's looked back on as a clumsy belief that should have been dropped far earlier than it was. Scientists persisted because they were sure that light, like sound, required a medium to move through in spite of the evidence piling up against that concept. Having been fooled once, scientists have to ask: Is dark matter the new ether?

For decades, a few rogue scientists have stood hopefully at the edge of respectability, offering their theory called Modified Newtonian Dynamics, or MOND. Essentially, it says that physics doesn't work as we know it at the largest scales. It says we've been drawing the wrong conclusions, and dark matter isn't required to explain the universe. No one has managed to develop a theory of MOND that adequately explains the universe around us, but it occasionally gains converts simply because the competing theory of dark matter has a glaring flaw: we can't find it.

Perhaps we're wrong about something in the standard model that defines how the tiniest particles in the universe behave and interact, and dark matter exists, but in a very different form than we're expecting. Or perhaps we are wrong about the laws of gravity.

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 PM


Friction heats up between Russia, Israel over downed aircraft (Ben Caspit September 21, 2018, Al Monitor)

The Russians are playing a game of cat-and-mouse with Israel. In a statement he released Sept. 18 to restore calm, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Israel did not down the aircraft. Nevertheless, the Russians are continuing to raise and lower the flames in this serious crisis with Jerusalem. Israel's greatest concern is that the Iranians will make a hasty effort over the coming days to expedite the transfer of precision and long-range missiles to Hezbollah, taking advantage of the temporary freeze on operations in Israel and the fact that for the next two or three weeks, the IDF would not dare to continue its marathon attacks after having intensified them over the last year. [...]

Israel believes that Iran is trying to concentrate its activities on increasing Hezbollah's supply of "tie-breaking" weapons, particularly in those areas with an extensive Russian presence, in the hope that it will create friction between Israel and Russia. According to this assessment, the downing of a Russian jet as a result of the IAF attack is a "tie-breaking" incident planned in Tehran in the hope that the Russians would instruct Israel to declare northern Syria -- or at least its airspace -- off limits to Israeli jets. While such a declaration has not been made, the Russians announced Sept. 19 that the area is partly closed for a week so that they can conduct a "military exercise." It is clear to all the parties involved that this is an exercise in leadership.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Rod Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment (Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, Sept. 21, 2018, NY Times)

The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump's firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president's dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


Trump Tower Meeting Planners Moved Millions, Mueller Now Investigating (Anthony Cormier & Jason Leopold, 9/21/18, Buzzfeed news)

On June 3, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. received one of the most striking emails of the presidential campaign, offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government's "support for Mr. Trump."

Trump Jr. responded 17 minutes later: "if it's what you say I love it."

That email led to a meeting at Trump Tower that has become a central focus of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

But the very day that email was sent, another exchange was taking place behind the scenes.

Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that $3.3 million began moving on June 3 between two of the men who orchestrated the meeting: Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump, and Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, a longtime Agalarov employee once investigated for money laundering.

That money is on top of the more than $20 million that was flagged as suspicious, BuzzFeed News revealed earlier this month, after the money ricocheted among the planners and participants of the Trump Tower meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Beto O'Rourke's Race Against Ted Cruz Is Officially a 'Toss-up' (Eric Levitz, 9/21/18, New York)

Beto O'Rourke is closing in on the Zodiac Killer. For months now, Ted Cruz's Democratic challenger has been racking up Facebook followers and piling up campaign cash. O'Rourke has routinely out-fundraised the Republican incumbent -- despite refusing to take PAC money -- as he's made his presence known in all 254 counties of the Lone Star State and on every major social-media platform in cyberspace. Somehow, he even persuaded the Texas Republican Party to dedicate an entire Twitter campaign to how cool he was in high school. [...]

This week, for the first time ever, a major pollster found O'Rourke leading Cruz, while another depicted the race as a statistical tie. Those surveys remain outliers -- judging by the polls alone, Cruz still boasts a significant (if not quite comfortable) average lead of about 4.5 percent. But the Cook Political Report does not base its forecasts primarily on public polls. Rather, the reputable election prognosticator rates races on the basis of its conversations with strategists in both parties, as well as campaigns' internal polling. And this week, such conversations led Cook to revise its expectations for the Cruz-O'Rourke contest: Now, the forecaster no longer considers the race "lean Republican," but rather, a "toss-up."

Cook staffer Jennifer E. Duffy offers this more detailed analysis:

GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz isn't terribly popular, and while that might not necessarily be a problem is a red state, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and his message have generated a great deal of enthusiasm among Democrats and independents, as well as Democratic donors across the country who have filled his campaign war chest. At this point, he has outraised Cruz and outspent him on television. A Toss Up rating makes both parties nervous: Republicans for obvious reasons and Democrats because it creates an expectation that they will start spending money on the race ... O'Rourke has earned this rating, but getting the last couple of points to overtake Cruz and win the seat will be difficult though not utterly impossible.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


Why Did This GOP Candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania Tell a Bizarre Story About Raccoons? (DAN SPINELLI, SEPTEMBER 21, 2018, Mother Jones)

[E]xpressions of admiration took a bizarre turn last week during a campaign stop in Wilkes-Barre, a city in the northeastern part of the state. In an attempt to explain Trump's appeal to the voters who earned him the presidency, Wagner borrowed from an allegory originally published in Infowars, the far-right outlet run by conspiracy monger--and persona non grata on Facebook and Twitter--Alex Jones. 

Here's a relevant portion of what Wagner said, as transcribed by PennLive, a Central Pennsylvania news site:

"You've been on vacation for weeks. You come home and your basement is infested with raccoons. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement.

"You want them gone immediately. You call the city. You call four different exterminators, but nobody can handle the job. But there's this one guy and he guarantees to get rid of them, so you hire him.

"I'm not referring to Donald Trump here, but I'm referring to the raccoon guy. You don't care if the guy smells, you don't care if the guy swears and you don't care if he drinks a lot and you don't care how many time he's been married. You don't care if he has a plumbers crack.

"You simply want the raccoons gone. You want the problem fixed, he's the guy, he's the best period. That's the raccoon guy. Here's why we want Trump. Yeah he's got faults and I'm not going to read exactly what's on here, but we really don't care. This county is mess because politicians suck.

There's a whole lot to unpack there. 

The original Infowars article, which was attributed to an anonymous "80 year old American," goes further in making a direct comparison to immigrants and refugees. "This country is weak, bankrupt, our enemies are making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegal aliens and bringing tens of thousands of Muslim refugees to America, while leaving Christians behind to be persecuted," the piece states.

Wagner's story seems to traffic in some of the derogatory rhetoric Republicans have used to describe undocumented immigrants in the past--"rats and roaches" being a prominent example, along with Trump's infamous description of Mexicans as "vermin" who carry crime and drugs. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Trump delays release of Russia probe documents  (Reuters, 9/21/18) 

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said documents from the federal Russia probe would not immediately be released, just days after he ordered them to be made public, citing concerns by the U.S. Justice Department that doing so could harm the investigation.

Dang, it's tough to be a Trumpbot.  He goes out and personally refutes every idiotic argument you make on his behalf.

Posted by orrinj at 11:42 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Texas Republicans apologise to Indians for 'offensive' Hindu ad (BBC, 9/20/18)

The ad, published to celebrate a Hindu festival for the elephant-headed deity Ganesha, also included the political message: "Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours." [...]

"While we appreciate the Fort Bend County GOP's attempt to reach out to Hindus on an important Hindu festival, its ad -- equating Hindus' veneration of the Lord Ganesha with choosing a political party based on its animal symbol -- is problematic and offensive," said HAF Board Member Rishi Bhutada in an official statement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Internal GOP Poll: Pelosi Beats Trump in a Head-to-Head Matchup (Bloomberg, September 21, 2018)

President Trump likes to mock Nancy Pelosi, but a private survey conducted for the Republican National Committee finds that she's actually more popular--and beats the president when the midterm election is framed as a contest between the two.

The internal poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, asks registered voters who they support "when the November election is framed by Trump and Pelosi." Overall, respondents prefer Pelosi-aligned candidates over Trump-aligned candidates by 5 points, 50 percent to 45 percent. Among independents only, Pelosi still prevails by a 4-point margin. The poll was completed on Sept. 2.

Between health care, tax cuts, guns and Nancy, all the GOP attacks work in favor of the Democrats.
Rust Belt States That Powered Trump Win Are Now Spurning Republicans (John McCormick, September 21, 2018, Bloomberg)

The situation confronting Republicans is typified in Wisconsin, where Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 22,748 votes, or 0.8 percentage points.

While times are generally good in the Badger State -- the unemployment rate in July was 2.9 percent, down from 3.5 percent in the month Trump took office, and below the national average -- Republican candidates are struggling.

Governor Scott Walker, once a rising Republican Party star, is fighting for his political life, according to a Marquette University Law School Poll released on Sept. 18. The survey showed Democrat Tony Evers with the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared to 44 percent for Walker.

Also in Wisconsin, Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat pummeled by millions of dollars in negative advertising from conservative groups, led her Republican challenger, state Senator Leah Vukmir, 53 percent to 42 percent.

Trump's job approval has fallen to 42 percent in the state, down from 45 percent in Marquette's August poll. Among independent voters, a pivotal group, 41 percent approve of his performance.

Many voters in Wisconsin, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says is among the states most vulnerable to a prolonged trade war, are also skeptical of Trump's tariffs on China and other nations. More than half -- 58 percent -- think free trade agreements have generally been a good thing for the U.S. economy, while 25 percent think they have been bad for the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Google staff discussed tweaking search results to counter travel ban: WSJ (Reuters, 9/21/18) 

Google employees brainstormed ways to alter search functions to counter the Trump administration's controversial 2017 travel ban, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing internal emails.

Google employees discussed how they could tweak the company's search-related functions to show users how to contribute to pro-immigration organizations and contact lawmakers and government agencies, the WSJ said. The ideas were not implemented.

More's the pity....

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Democrats' enthusiasm to blunt Trump soars for congressional election: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Chris Kahn, 9/21/18, Reuters)

White women Democrats over the age of 60 are leading the way: 74 percent said they are certain to vote on Nov. 6, up 18 percentage points from four years ago.

Among Republicans, 64 percent of older white women expressed certainty to vote, down 4 points from 2014 and a shift in the enthusiasm gap of 22 percentage points. [...]

The opinion poll, conducted from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16, found that Democrats have the edge in enthusiasm within most major demographic groups: college graduates, people between 18 and 34 years old - the so-called millennial generation - and mid-career adults.

Even among groups often thought to favor U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, like whites without a college degree and avid church goers, those who identify as Democrats are more interested in voting this year, while Republicans are not.

We Republicans are, rightly, ashamed of ourselves.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


September 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Internal GOP Poll: 'We've Lost the Messaging Battle' on Tax Cuts (Sahil Kapur  and Joshua Green, September 20, 2018, Bloomberg)

A survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee has led the party to a glum conclusion regarding President Donald Trump's signature legislative achievement: Voters overwhelmingly believe his tax overhaul helps the wealthy instead of average Americans.

By a 2-to-1 margin -- 61 percent to 30 percent -- respondents said the law benefits "large corporations and rich Americans" over "middle class families," according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg News.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Walmart wants to bring its 'everyday low prices' to health care (Tami Luhby, September 19, 2018, CNN Money)

Already one of the nation's leading pharmacies, Walmart could look to provide more low-cost health services, including basic medical care through nurse practitioners, physician assistants or even doctors, experts predict.

Big discounters such as Walmart may also offer primary care, nutrition and weight counseling and chronic disease management, said Sam Glick, a partner in Oliver Wyman's health and life sciences consulting practice. That's one of the main advantages physical retailers have over their online competitors.

"There's a certain amount of health that's about laying hands," Glick said.

Expanded care was a key motivation behind Walmart's reported negotiations with Humana (HUM)earlier this year. The two were exploring a variety of options, including Walmart purchasing the health insurer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What is health care's allure for Walmart? Medical services typically have higher margins than store products. Since they are often provided in person, there is more opportunity for consumers to pick up other items while visiting the store. And usage is growing, especially as the United States' population ages.

In particular, Walmart is eyeing both the Medicare and Medicaid markets since many of its customers are senior citizens and lower-income Americans. Its prices are generally lower than at pharmacy chains, such as CVS.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Detroit welcomes immigrants to spur the city's revival (Jason Margolis, 9/18/18, PRI: The World)

"Right now, immigrants are the only growing source of population in the city of Detroit," says Steve Tobocman, the director of Global Detroit, a group partly funded by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and dedicated to helping revive derelict neighborhoods by making Detroit more attractive and welcoming for immigrants. "Michigan is the only state that lost population in the 2010 census."

Michigan's population has since stabilized and has grown by roughly 80,000 since the 2010 Census, with foreign-born making up 6.4 percent of the state, about half the national average, but relatively high compared with other Midwestern states. 

"They are a source of life and vibrancy, and they are creating jobs that help everyone in the community," says Tobocman, speaking at an Indian restaurant in a neighborhood known as "Banglatown," a community straddling the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck with a lot of South Asian residents. "[Immigrants] are providing retail services that make this community thrive, and providing a tax base. And frankly, occupancy to the vacant structures that are critical to retaining the African-American residents in the region so that this neighborhood doesn't fall the way that some of the more disinvested ones have."

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


How Putin's Oligarchs Got Inside the Trump Team (SIMON SHUSTER, 9/20/18, TIME)

Already Mueller's probe has shown the range of assets Putin brought to bear on the 2016 campaign. Russian hackers stole and leaked the private emails of Trump's opponents and worked to polarize and enrage voters by manipulating social media, according to evidence made public by Mueller. Russian diplomats wooed Trump's advisers, who were eager for information that could hurt Hillary Clinton's chances.

But it is oligarchs like Deripaska, wielding extraordinary wealth and global connections, who may have played the most important role in the Russian influence campaign. Putin himself has suggested as much. Onstage with Trump at a press conference in Helsinki on July 16, the Russian leader said he "can imagine" private Russian businessmen supported Trump's bid for the presidency. "And so what?" Putin demanded. "They don't represent the Russian state."

In fact, their ties to the state are a lot closer than Putin let on. From the very beginning of his 19 years in power, the Russian President has turned his country's wealthiest men into a loose but loyal band of operatives. In exchange for lucrative deals with the government, or simply protection from the authorities, these billionaires have gathered contacts at the highest levels of U.S. politics, high enough to influence policy in the service of the Russian state. "These are cats that like to bring dead mice to the Kremlin," says Mark Galeotti, a leading expert in Putin's influence operations at the Prague-based Institute of International Relations.

And in the Trumps, the oligarchs found plump targets. One Russian billionaire hosted Ivanka Trump and her husband, the President's senior adviser, Jared Kushner, at a gala in Moscow in 2014. Another has links to a $500,000 payment to Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen in 2017. A third ran a propaganda operation that pumped pro-Trump content into the news feeds of millions of American voters. In the heat of the presidential race, a fourth tycoon arranged the meeting where a Russian lawyer offered dirt on Clinton to Trump's closest aides. And then of course there was Deripaska, whose years of fishing for friends in Washington eventually got the chairman of a presidential campaign on the line.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Trump blasts Congress over 'ridiculous' spending bill: 'Where is the money for the wall?' (BRETT SAMUELS, 09/20/18, The Hill)

"I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?" Trump asked in a tweet.


Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


In Russia's Far East, a Clumsy Attempt to Steal an Election Backfires: Blatant electoral fraud in the Primorsky Krai gubernatorial election spells trouble for Putin. (Sergey Radchenko, September 21, 2018, The Diplomat)

Russia prides itself on a sophisticated country-wide voting system. Local protocols are fed into the computer network, and are made publicly available, by the polling station, on the Central Election Commission's website. There is thus a degree of transparency in the system, which of course does not prevent the usual practices like the illegal use of administrative resources, carousel voting, and vote buying (all long part and parcel of the Russian electoral process).

But sometimes even the usual practices fall short. Faced with what seemed like an inevitable victory by the opposition candidate, the local election authorities resorted to desperate measures: fabricating protocols. The unfortunate impartiality of the computer system immediately exposed where the fraud took place, with a number of polling station suddenly showing Tarasenko with 95 percent of the vote, and a few registering a staggering 100 percent.

Tarasenko's failure to win the election in the first round, held on September 9, was widely perceived as a setback to Putin and his party, United Russia. Putin's popularity had been sagging for months. Sluggish economic performance and pervasive corruption have eroded the regime's political legitimacy. An unpopular pension reform package caused a swell of protests across Russia. Tarasenko's failure at the polls was a sign, however tentative, of a society awakening from slumber.

Putin hurried to the rescue of his beleaguered candidate. In Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum (held from September 11-13), Putin endorsed Tarasenko's candidacy, telling him that "everything will be fine." The fabrication of election protocols showed that Putin meant what he said. But the crudeness of the fraud beggared belief. Ishchenko called on his supporters to protest, and briefly declared a hunger strike.

Why would anyone falsify the election results in such an incredibly shameless but also incredibly stupid manner? The evidence suggests that the scam was a local initiative, spearheaded by insecure officials who were stunned by what was shaping to be an upset of national magnitude. Local electoral manipulation is not unheard of in Russia. It's the standard in Chechnya, for example. But the fact that fraudulent elections now take place across Russia - from Chechnya to the Far East - is itself a telling reminder of the deep systemic rot.

Embarrassed by the sham, the election authorities ruled on September 19 to invalidate the results and hold new elections. The head of Russia's Central Election Commission, Ella Panfilova, promised to "ruthlessly cancel" any election that occasioned instances of fraud. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


How the Republicans Fell for Trump's Overconfidence Game (Walter Shapiro, 9/20/18, Roll Call)

Certainly, the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign deserves its own Measuring-the-Drapes Wing in the Overconfidence Hall of Fame.

Perhaps a last-minute swing through Wisconsin and Michigan might not have made a difference since Clinton rallies were often flat and lifeless. But what remains baffling was the decision by the imperturbable Clinton high command to curtail state polling during the closing weeks of the campaign.

All this brings us to the most laughable manifestation of overconfidence in the 2018 campaign. It comes courtesy of an internal Republican National Committee poll obtained by Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek.

The survey, conducted in early September, found that 57 percent of devoted Trump supporters believe there is absolutely no chance the Democrats can take back the House. As the accompanying report, written by the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, bluntly states, "We need to make real the threat that Democrats have a good shot of winning control of Congress."

Think about this for a moment. Convinced that polls are rigged for the Democrats (remember 2016) and conditioned by a president who denounces all criticism as "Fake News," strong Trump backers have convinced themselves that the Republican Congress is an impregnable fortress. Of course, conditioned by Fox News, the minds of many of these MAGA-hat Republicans are also an impregnable fortress.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Russia demands 'further explanations' from Israel on downed plane (JUDAH ARI GROSS, 9/20/18, Times of Israel)

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday demanded Israel open an investigation into the downing of a Russian surveillance plane over Syria by Syrian air defense operators on Monday night in a deadly strike the Kremlin has blamed on the Jewish state.

Posted by orrinj at 1:10 PM


Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Endorses Local Politician Accused of Peddling "Racist Conspiracies" (DAVID CORN, SEPTEMBER 20, 2018, Mother Jones)

Last week, Mother Jones reported that controversial, Putin-loving Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) had hobnobbed at a fundraiser with an alleged Holocaust denier--after being criticized for his previous association with this fellow. This week, Rohrabacher, who is in a tough race to hold on to his Southern California congressional seat, pulled a similar move: he endorsed a local politician who has been described by one media outlet as a "peddler of racist conspiracies."

On Tuesday, Rohrabacher posted on his Instagram feed a photo of him with Gracey Larrea-Van Der Mark, a candidate for a school board seat in Huntington Beach, California. He endorsed her and called her a "patriot."

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM

A SENSE OF WHO YOU ARE (profanity alert):

New racial controversy batters DeSantis: This is the fifth race-related issue concerning the Florida candidate, his gubernatorial campaign or one of its supporters. (MARC CAPUTO, 09/20/2018, Politico)

A Republican activist who donated more than $20,000 to Ron DeSantis and lined up a speech for him at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club called President Obama a "F---- MUSLIM N----" on Twitter recently, in addition to other inflammatory remarks.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


The Plot to Subvert an Election: Unraveling the Russia Story So Far :For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack: hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies -- and President Trump's claims that it's all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means. (SCOTT SHANE and MARK MAZZETTI, 9/20/18, NY Times)

Consider 10 days in March. On March 15 of that year, Mr. Trump won five primaries, closing in on his party's nomination, and crowed that he had become "the biggest political story anywhere in the world." That same day in Moscow, a veteran hacker named Ivan Yermakov, a Russian military intelligence officer working for a secret outfit called Unit 26165, began probing the computer network of the Democratic National Committee. In St. Petersburg, shift workers posted on Facebook and Twitter at a feverish pace, posing as Americans and following instructions to attack Mrs. Clinton.

On March 21 in Washington, Mr. Trump announced his foreign policy team, a group of fringe figures whose advocacy of warmer relations with Russia ran counter to Republican orthodoxy. Meanwhile, Unit 26165 was poring over the bounty from a separate attack it had just carried out: 50,000 emails stolen from the Clinton campaign's chairman.

On March 24, one of the members the Trump foreign policy team, George Papadopoulos, sat in the cafe of an upscale London hotel with a Russian woman who introduced herself as Mr. Putin's niece and offered to help set up a meeting between the Russian president and Mr. Trump. The woman and the adviser exchanged frequent messages in the weeks that followed. Today, Mr. Padadopoulos is unsure that those messages came from the person he met in the cafe.

The Russian intervention was essentially a hijacking -- of American companies like Facebook and Twitter; of American citizens' feelings about immigration and race; of American journalists eager for scoops, however modest; of the naïve, or perhaps not so naïve, ambitions of Mr. Trump's advisers. The Russian trolls, hackers and agents totaled barely 100, and their task was to steer millions of American voters. They knew it would take a village to sabotage an election.

Russians or suspected Russian agents -- including oligarchs, diplomats, former military officers and shadowy intermediaries -- had dozens of contacts during the campaign with Mr. Trump's associates. They reached out through email, Facebook and Twitter. They sought introductions through trusted business connections of Mr. Trump's, obscure academic institutions, veterans groups and the National Rifle Association.

They met Trump campaign aides in Moscow, London, New York and Louisville, Ky. One claimed the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton; another Russian, the Trump campaign was told, would deliver it. In May and June alone, the Trump campaign fielded at least four invitations to meet with Russian intermediaries or officials.

In nearly every case, the Trump aides and associates seemed enthusiastic about their exchanges with the Russians. Over months of such probing, it seems that no one alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the foreign overtures.

Mr. Trump's position on the Russian contacts has evolved over time: first, that there were none; then, that they did not amount to collusion; next, that in any case collusion was not a crime. That is mere semantics -- conspiracy is the technical legal term for abetting the Russians in breaking American laws, such as those outlawing computer hacking and banning foreign assistance to a campaign.

Whether Mr. Trump or any of his associates conspired with the Russians is a central question of the investigation by Mr. Mueller, who has already charged 26 Russians and won convictions or guilty pleas from the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn; the former campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates; and from Mr. Papadopoulos. Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, has pleaded guilty in a separate case.

But none of the convictions to date involve conspiracy. There remains an alternative explanation to the collusion theory: that the Trump aides, far from certain their candidate would win, were happy to meet the Russians because they thought it might lead to moneymaking deals after the election. "Black Caviar," read the subject line of an email Mr. Manafort got in July 2016 from his associate in Kiev, Ukraine, hinting at the possibility of new largess from a Russian oligarch with whom they had done business.

Nina L. Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School and the great-granddaughter of the Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, said that what Russia pulled off, through creativity and sheer luck, would have been the envy of Mr. Putin's predecessors: puncturing the American sense of superiority and insisting on Russia's power and place in the world.

"This operation was to show the Americans -- that you bastards are just as screwed up as the rest of us," Professor Khrushcheva said. "Putin fulfilled the dream of every Soviet leader -- to stick it to the United States. I think this will be studied by the K.G.B.'s successors for a very long time."

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Walmart is where the trade war comes home (Nathaniel Meyersohn, 9/19/18, CNNMoney)

Other retailers and consumer goods companies, including Ace Hardware and Joann fabric and craft stores, also lobbied the administration.

Target (TGT) said the tariffs will "hurt American consumers," and said working families will pay more for school and college essentials like notebooks, calculators, binders and desks.

The administration did not bend to the company's plea. It imposed tariffs on those goods -- although it did spare bicycle helmets, high chairs, car seats and playpens from the final list. It also left off Apple Watches and Air Pods, a reprieve for Apple.

Target and Walmart will now face a tough choice: They can absorb the higher costs from tariffs by taking a hit to their profit margins, or they can pass some of the price increases on to their customers.

"Either consumers will pay more, suppliers will receive less, retail margins will be lower, or consumers will buy fewer products or forego purchases altogether," Walmart warned in its letter.

The National Retail Federation, a trade group, estimated that a 25% tariff on furniture would cost Americans $4.5 billion more per year, while a 25% levy on travel items like luggage and handbags would cost an additional $1.2 billion.

Washing machines were an early example of how tariffs filter down to shoppers. The Trump administration imposed a 20% trade penalty on washers earlier this year, and laundry equipment prices spiked close to 20% in recent months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Walmart will have to wrestle with the price question in a big way. Of the company's $500 billion in sales last year, about $50 billion was linked to Chinese imports or investments in Chinese businesses, estimated Greg Melich, a retail analyst at MoffettNathanson.

And raising prices is anathema to Walmart, a company that controls 10% of the US retail market and has a customer base of low- and middle-income Americans.

"Given that Walmart was such a huge source of cheap products for low income customers over the years, this really hurts the very people that Trump professes to help," said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst for research firm Forrester.

Racism isn't cheap.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


'The Apprentice' book excerpt: At CIA's 'Russia House,' growing alarm about 2016 election interference (Greg Miller, September 19, 2018, Washington Post)

In the months leading up to the 2016 election, senior Russia House officials held a series of meetings in a conference room adorned with Stalin-era posters, seeking to make sense of disconcerting reports that Moscow had mounted a covert operation to upend the U.S. presidential race.

By early August, the sense of alarm had become so acute that CIA Director John Brennan called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. "I need to get in to see the president," Brennan said, with unusual urgency in his voice.

Brennan had just spent two days sequestered in his office reviewing a small mountain of material on Russia. The conference table at the center of the dark-paneled room was stacked with dozens of binders bearing stamps of TS/SCI -- for "top secret, sensitive compartmented information" -- and code words corresponding to collection platforms aimed at the Kremlin.

There were piles of finished assessments, but Brennan had also ordered up what agency veterans call the "raw stuff" -- unprocessed material from informants, listening devices, computer implants and other sources. Clearing his schedule, Brennan pored over all of it, his door closed, staying so late that the glow through his office windows remained visible deep into the night from the darkened driveway that winds past the headquarters building's main entrance.

The description of Brennan and this article is adapted from "The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy," a Washington Post book, which will be published Oct. 2 by Custom House. [...]

At the time of Brennan's request for a meeting with President Barack Obama, election anxiety about Russia was already surging. Weeks earlier, WikiLeaks had dumped nearly 20,000 emails stolen from Democratic Party computers, material from an audacious hack that authorities almost immediately traced to the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, was praising Russian President Vladimir Putin with inexplicable vigor and had even called on Russian spy agencies to hack his opponent.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Trump feels angry, unprotected amid mounting crises (Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, September 19, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump's declaration that "I don't have an attorney general" was not merely the cry of an executive feeling betrayed by a subordinate.

It was also a raw expression of vulnerability and anger from a president who associates say increasingly believes he is unprotected -- with the Russia investigation steamrolling ahead, anonymous administration officials seeking to undermine him and the specter of impeachment proceedings, should the Democrats retake the House on Nov. 6. [...]

"Everybody in the White House now has to look around and ask, 'Who's taping? Who's leaking? And who's on their way out the door?' It's becoming a game of survival," said a Republican strategist who works in close coordination with the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

Some of Trump's allies believe he has legitimate cause for worry.

"The president should feel vulnerable because he is vulnerable -- to those that fight him daily on implementing his agenda," Stephen K. Bannon, a former chief White House strategist, wrote in a text message.

Amen. Always bet on America,

September 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


FBI, DOJ Plan Redactions Despite Trump's Document Order (Chris Strohm, September 19, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump has demanded the "immediate declassification" of sensitive materials about the Russia investigation, but the agencies responsible are expected to propose redactions that would keep some information secret, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are going through a methodical review and can't offer a timeline for finishing, said the people, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter.

Meanwhile, he's also acknowledged that not only has he not read any of the material but that he's basically just responding to the talking heads who think there must be a conspiracy hiding somewhere. It's another delicious disaster of his own making.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Democratic Primary Turnout Is Up 64%. Will That Matter in November?: Republicans, by comparison, saw 22 percent more people vote this season than in the 2014 midterms. (ALAN GREENBLATT | SEPTEMBER 19, 2018, Governing)

The primary season came to a close last Thursday in New York. Across the country this year, citizens cast nearly 23 million votes in Democratic primaries. That's more than the 19 million votes that were cast in Republican primaries -- and a big jump over the 14 million votes cast in Democratic primaries back in 2014. That year, 15.5 million votes were cast in Republican primaries.

Democratic turnout doubled in 14 states this year, compared with 2014, while doubling in only one state's GOP primary. That was Vermont, where Democratic turnout increased by an even greater percentage. Republican turnout was up at least 70 percent in Connecticut, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

"Republicans have tended to show up more than Democrats, but there's a lot of enthusiasm among Democrats for remaking the composition of state and local bodies," says Edie Goldenberg, a University of Michigan professor of public policy.

Democrats this year appear to be motivated in large part by the presidency of Donald Trump, whom they view with nearly universal disdain.

"Unfortunately, anger's a pretty powerful motivator, and the left is motivated -- more so by the president and others in Washington than me -- but they're motivated," Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker told Governing in an interview last month.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


'The Most Dangerous Branch' portrays the Supreme Court as a threat to democracy: Former Newsweek legal affairs editor David A. Kaplan makes a strong and compelling case that the Supreme Court will remain over-involved in setting and amending policy and laws. (Erik Spanberg, 9/05/18, CS Monitor)

The biggest problem Kaplan has with the judiciary branch is its propensity to insert itself into policy debates that would be better served through the back and forth of legislative adjustments and voter sentiment (not only looking to Congress, but also state and local laws and ordinances). In doing so, the court demoralizes Congress in particular from deciding, or attempting to re-shape, issues and laws. How does that happen? Conventional wisdom holds that the court will decide the hottest-button issues, as it has ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Even before the opening page, Kaplan's message is clear from the title. "The Most Dangerous Branch" resonates even more with Court and legal aficionados. Alexander Bickel, the late Yale Law professor and renowned Supreme Court follower and commentator, wrote a seminal history called "The Least Dangerous Branch," published in 1962. Bickel, who died in 1974, was known for his belief in judicial restraint, a philosophy based on hewing as closely to possible to the specific determination of a case without broadening a ruling or judgment beyond that narrow scope. Following that formula, the courts leave it to the legislative and executives branches - and, in doing so, the broader populace who vote for and against lawmakers - to establish policy.

During the 2016 presidential election, 70% of voters in exit polls said appointments to the Supreme Court were the most important factor, or one of the most important, when deciding whether to support a candidate. Such figures demonstrate the court-as-policy-setter motif has not just infected governing bodies, but the populace as a whole.

Or, as Kaplan writes, "'Judicial activism' is what the other guy does. But in truth, everybody's an activist now." The point hammered home by the author is that democracy ceases to exist in a society governed by the judiciary.

He finds ample hypocrisy on the left and right alike, ripping what he describes as the squishy arguments of Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion in Roe determining access to abortion as a right, and Antonin Scalia, a frequent dissenter on gay rights and author of the 2008 Heller decision determining an individual right to own guns is part of the Second Amendment.

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


Kavanaugh, too? Christine Blasey Ford's account is missing key details of assault (Penny Nance, Sept. 19, 2018, USA Today)

Twenty years after Bill Clinton -- then the attorney general and highest ranking law enforcement officer in the state of Arkansas -- allegedly raped Juanita Broaddrick, she remembered every detail as she told NBC's Lisa Myers during a prime time interview. She even remembered Clinton biting her lip during the attack and smirking as he left the room -- arrogantly telling her she needed to take care of it.

Something awful happened to all three of us. But Dr. Ford's inability to remember key details of the attempted rape she's alleging, in pointing an accusing finger at D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh -- who's been nominated to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court -- could lead to something awful as well. If Judge Kavanaugh is innocent -- perhaps a victim of mistaken identity -- but still denied the crowning achievement of a life in the law, that would indeed be a travesty.

Ford can't remember the year the incident happened, she can't remember how she got to the house party, or how she got home. She told no one about it at the time and the issue came to the forefront during a couples therapy session six years ago. Her therapist's notes never mention Kavanaugh and actually mention four boys involved, although she says there were only two.

Judge Kavanaugh has vigorously denied Ford's claim, not just saying this particular incident didn't happen but that no such incident happened in his entire life. The Senate Judiciary Committee, and the American people, are scheduled to hear from both of them on Monday.

For Ms Ford to be taken seriously she needs to make a serious accusation.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


'Rising out of Hatred' chronicles one man's ideological metamorphosis: Derek Black's account of turning away from a familial and ideological legacy of hate is at once disturbing and uplifting. (David Holahan, 9/18/18, CS Monitor)

[H]is white nationalist pedigree was impeccable. His parents were racists; his father once headed the Alabama chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. His extended family members were virtually all white nationalists and he dated like-minded girls growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida. His godfather was David Duke, the nationally prominent white power proponent and former Grand Wizard of the KKK. Derek's mother once had been married to Duke.

Before Derek was born, his father, Don Black, and a small group of ragtag racists were arrested in 1981 for plotting to invade the small Caribbean island of Dominica and turn it into a "white utopia." They never made it out of the United States. Don Black served three years in federal prison.

Derek Black attended his first white nationalist convention at age nine and by high school, he and his father hosted a local radio program on which they discussed such burning questions as, are Jews white? They are not, the duo averred. 

In 1996, Don Black also had established Stormfront, the nation's first major racist website; one regular visitor was Dylann Roof. In 2015, Roof gunned down nine black congregants in a South Carolina church and is awaiting execution. Derek helped manage Stormfront and even started a separate white nationalist website for children.

In 2010, Derek Black went off to college, hoping that students and faculty would remain clueless about his racist bona fides (so much for white pride). Although New College in Sarasota was largely white, he began to encounter fellow classmates of color, including a Peruvian immigrant, as well as a nice young girl who - he discovered after growing fond of her - was Jewish.

It was a brave new world for Derek. Here, in the flesh, were the people whom he was denouncing in Internet forums and on the radio. And, surprise, surprise, he liked them, and they liked him - some of them even continued to engage with him after he was outed as a white nationalist. His friend Matthew still invited him to Shabbat dinners. 

The tug of war for Derek's soul was on: his family and old pals pulling in one direction, his new friends in the other.

In 2016, disturbed by the result of the presidential election, Derek Black went public with his apostasy. He recognized Donald Trump's game plan. He had used it himself to win a seat as a committeeman for Palm Beach County in 2008, when he was just 19 years old. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Spain reveals Trump planned WALL in Sahara Desert to deal with Europe's 'migrant problem' (Natalia Penza, 9/19/18, Daily Express)

SPAIN'S Foreign Minister Josep Borrell has revealed US President Donald Trump suggested a wall in the Saharan Desert as the solution to Europe's migration problems.

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


Trump: "I don't have an attorney general" (Axios, 9/19/18)

"I don't have an Attorney General. It's very sad. ... A lot of people have asked me to [fire Sessions]. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did."

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Gwynne Dyer on the future of the world (Conversations, ABC)

Gwynne Dyer was trained as a military historian.

He's served in the navies of Canada, the US, and the UK.

As an historian, Gwynne's research has focused on war, and the upheaval of civilizations.

He thinks the current turmoil is not a prelude to global chaos, but rather a sign of growing pains, as the world enters a new phase.

While automation will increase wealth and productivity, it will continue to eliminate countless jobs.

Gwynne says this means finding new ways to put real money in the pockets of people who are forced into unemployment.

In turn, we will have more time to devote to raising kids, caring for older people, and pursuing meaningful work.

Good Pod fodder.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


Robots or Jobs? The Tax Law's Uncertain Impact on Communities: State and local leaders need to pay a lot of attention to how businesses take advantage of the federal law's capital-investment provisions. (Donnie Charleston, 9/19/18, Governing)

Our economy has been moving for quite some time toward a new normal whereby capital investment, job growth and wage growth are increasingly disconnected from one another.

This is reflected in a number of underlying trends. One of those is the evolving structure of our economy, which now features more knowledge-based firms that exhibit huge productivity numbers while relying on relatively few workers. Another trend is industries adopting automation and machine-learning technologies that replace human inputs. This is where full expensing becomes important. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, nearly half of manufacturers added automation in 2017 -- before the new tax law's full-expensing provision took effect.

And there are other industry-level automation trends underway that we should be paying attention to. MIT economist David Autor's research shows, for example, that workers are contributing less added value to the final products they produce, a decline due to increased automation.

What does all of this mean for local governments? That will depend on the structure of the local economy. As Autor notes, the adoption rate of labor-saving technologies differs by industry, and by extension it differs across geography. So it's time for state and local government leaders to start analyzing automation trends in each of their major industries and sub-sectors, paying particular attention to those with the highest level of automation or robot penetration, including transportation, plastics and chemicals, metals, food, and electronics.

The point of an economy is to create wealth, so we ought not disincentivize productivity/profits.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


'They remain puppets': Sesame Street, once again, shuts down speculation over Bert and Ernie's sexual orientation (Elahe Izadi, 9/19/18, Washington Post)

"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Why women - including feminists - are still attracted to 'benevolently sexist' men (Pelin Gül & Tom R. Kupfer, 9/19/18, The Conversation)

If a man offers to help a woman with her heavy suitcase or to parallel park her car, what should she make of the offer?

Is it an innocuous act of courtesy? Or is it a sexist insult to her strength and competence?

Social psychologists who describe this behavior as "benevolent sexism" firmly favor the latter view.

But researchers have also revealed a paradox: Women prefer men who behave in ways that could be described as benevolently sexist over those who don't.

How could this be?

Some say that women simply fail to see the ways benevolent sexism undermines them because they're misled by the flattering tone of this brand of kindness. Psychologists have even suggested that benevolent sexism is more harmful than overtly hostile sexism because it is insidious, acting like "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

As social psychologists, we had reservations about these conclusions. Aren't women sophisticated enough to be able to tell when a man is being patronizing? [...]

In our recently published research, we asked over 700 women, ages ranging from 18 to 73, in five experiments, to read profiles of men who either expressed attitudes or engaged in behaviors that could be described as benevolently sexist, like giving a coat or offering to help with carrying heavy boxes.

We then had the participants rate the man's attractiveness, willingness to protect, provide and commit, and their likelihood of being patronizing.

Our findings confirmed that women do perceive benevolently sexist men to be more patronizing and more likely to undermine their partners.

But we also found that the women in our studies perceived these men as more attractive, despite the potential pitfalls.

So what made them more attractive to our participants? In their responses, the women in our study rated them as more likely to protect, provide and commit.

...and not Ms Ford not at all. Men have a higher standard of care.

Many men are sexually harassed in the workplace - so why aren't they speaking out? (Robin Bailey, 3/13/18, The Conversation)

Academic research supports the idea that women do experience more sexual harassment in the workplace than men. However, emerging evidence suggests that sexual harassment against men in the workplace also exists and is on the rise.

When all reported complaints of sexual harassment to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Employment Practices agencies was analysed between 1997 and 2011, most of the cases were reported by women, however, the percentage of cases filed by men between these dates increased by 15%.

In a similar long-term study of 522 workers, up to 58% of women and 37% of men reported experiencing some level of sexual harassment. This sample seems to indicate that the gap is not as wide as some believe.

Overall, sexual harassment against men is not as widely studied as sexual harassment against women; this has called into question whether the reported figures of men who have been sexually harassed may actually be much higher than currently stated. On top of this, men may be more reluctant to report sexual harassment than women. There are a number of suggested reasons for this - stigma being one of them. Many men may be too embarrassed to report sexual harassment, or they may consider it to be "unmanly" to report such behaviour.

Another reason may be perceptual differences. What is deemed to be sexual harassment may differ between men and women. A number of findings indicate that men can view certain behaviour, deemed as sexual harassment by women, as less threatening or serious - and sometimes even flattering.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


The US has become a nation of suburbs (Christopher Boone, 9/19/18, The Conversation)

Since 1970, more Americans have lived in the suburbs than central cities. In 2010, suburbanites outnumbered city and rural dwellers combined for the first time. We Americans live in a suburban nation.

Despite several concerted efforts by city governments to lure residents, suburbanization continues largely unabated. Census figures from earlier this year show that suburbs of warm climate "Sun Belt" cities in the South and West continue to grow, while cities in the cold climate "Snow Belt" of the Midwest and Northeast decline.

Smaller metropolitan areas with fewer than 500,000 people have also grown, related to an improving economy and job creation in smaller urban centers. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Binge drinking and blackouts: Sobering truths about lost learning (Jamie Smolen, 9/19/18, The Conversation)

Tens of thousands of college students nationwide will cheer for their football teams this weekend. Some of those who show up for the game after tailgate drinking may not remember the highlight touchdowns that they cheered so loudly for. Others may have trouble remembering even a rousing celebration of victory. Binge drinking, the leading type of alcohol misuse for college students, is the culprit. Drinking too much too fast can cause memory loss, sometimes called a blackout, erasing any recollection of an enjoyable life event.

What's more, research is suggesting that binge drinking in the college brain can impair not only learning but memorizing. Deficiencies in both of these crucial neurocognitive processes would probably make studying very difficult, and far less productive. In such a case, maintaining a high academic standing might be impossible.

While many young people may euphemistically refer to binge drinking as "partying," those of us who study addiction know that it is a serious health risk for young people. We have long known of the immediate risks from assault, death by motor vehicle and suicide linked to drinking. But the effects of binge drinking affect learning inside and outside the classroom and can have adverse effects on making successful transitions throughout life.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Is Trumpism a new religion?: The loss of churches leaves a gap which populist politics can fill (Peter Franklin,  19 SEPTEMBER 2018, UnHerd)

Which brings us to the actual subject of this UnPacked: Trumpism - and, in particular, Alex Wagner's argument in the Atlantic that Trump worship, if not quite a religion in its own right, is a religion substitute:

"You could draw a straight line from a disenfranchised, pessimistic, resentful audience to Trump's brand of fear-driven, divisive politics, but this would leave out an equally important part of the Trump phenomenon, and something critical to its success: the elation. Go to a Trump rally, speak to Trump supporters, and the devotion is nearly evangelical."

As Henry Olsen explains in regard to both America and Germany, there's strong evidence for a link between support for populism and decline of religious adherence among previously religious populations. The loss of churches - and also other community institutions - leaves a gap which populist politics is well placed to fill.

Of course, it's a poor substitute for community, let alone true faith. Populism is to social capital what junk food is to nutrition, but on it other hand it's cheap, accessible and habit-forming.

Wagner quotes W Bradford Wilcox who has tweeted a wealth of evidence on the difference between Trump voters who do attend church regularly and those who don't. Those who never or seldom went to church were significantly more likely than the weekly congregants to have less favourable views of ethnic minorities, to say white identity was very important to them, to want stricter controls on immigration and to have supported Trump in the Republican Primaries. Perhaps most significantly, the 'unchurched' group were less likely to be satisfied with their family relationships, neighbourhoods and communities than those at the other end of the churchgoing scale.

The cultlike fanaticism with which they deny reality is especially revealing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Checkmate: In chess, as in life, there are no guarantees (Thomas Chatterton Williams, September 19, 2018, American Scholar)

I like to believe that the amount of effort that I've put into learning the game and practicing against superior players should give me the upper hand in these encounters, and yet ... it doesn't. Not always, anyway, and not nearly as frequently as I would hope. Every game starts afresh, and when we played last week, I took one game from my brother, before he proceeded to beat me soundly. The experience exposed a meaningful parallel between the game I love and the broader life it mimics: there are no permanent victories.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Trump rails on top Florida ally over Hurricane Maria flap  (ALEX ISENSTADT and MARC CAPUTO 09/18/2018, Politico)

President Donald Trump is privately lashing out at one of his top allies, Ron DeSantis, angrily accusing the Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee of publicly betraying him.

The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis -- who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump's strong support -- as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president's assertion that the Hurricane Maria death toll was inflated by Democrats for political purposes. aren't Trumpbot enough. Denying the personal corruption is easy; the true believers defend the policies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM



Unlike Kavanaugh, Barrett, 46, has no White House records and less than a year of court writings for senators to scrutinize, only law review articles and public comments. Based on what we know of her record, "I can't think of an area of law where she would vote differently than Kavanaugh on high-profile issues," says Ilya Shaprio, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. But there is one key difference: a less consistent respect for legal precedents, aka stare decisis.

Barrett argued in a 2013 Texas Law Review article that because of the way Supreme Courts had been weaponized by ideological interests from both parties, "a more relaxed form of constitutional stare decisis is both inevitable and probably desirable."

"I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it," Barrett wrote. That should be much scarier to the abortion rights crowd than Kavanaugh's past mild, criticisms of the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion from a constitutional standpoint.

This almost inevitably has to play out with the Democrats "winning" by putting an ideologue on the Court because of gender.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Why Russians Keep Visiting Mariia Butina in Prison: Take it from this former spook: It ain't because they're concerned about her well-being. (ALEX FINLEY, September 17, 2018, Politico)

Since her arrest in Washington, D.C., in July, Mariia Butina, the gun-slinging Russian student accused by the U.S. government of being a spy for her Motherland, has been languishing in a jail cell. Earlier this month, in documents arguing Butina should be held in detention because she is a flight risk, prosecutors revealed that Butina has gotten quite a bit of attention from top Russian officials.

According to the prosecution's filing, the Russian government has conducted six consular visits to Butina and passed four diplomatic notes to the U.S. Department of State about her case. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken twice to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to complain about Butina's incarceration and prosecution. As prosecutors noted, in the days following Butina's arrest, the official Kremlin Twitter account changed its avatar to a picture of her and launched #FreeMariaButina. RT--a Russian news outlet funded by the Russian government--has written a number of articles about her, decrying her prosecution and detention. According to prosecutors, "Russia has issued more diplomatic notes on the defendant's behalf in the past month than for any other Russian citizen imprisoned in the United States in the past year. Put simply, the Russian government has given this case much more attention than other cases."

As a former intelligence officer, I found these details intriguing. It seems likely that Russian officials visiting Butina in prison are looking to protect more than just the rights of a Russian citizen. They are looking to protect their ongoing intelligence operations. 

If you'd funneled $30 million through the NRA to the best asset your country had ever had you'd want to protect your investment too.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Obamacare lawsuit boosts Democrats in state AG races: The threat to protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions has injected new energy and cash into many races. (ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN, 09/18/2018, Politico)

With a blue wave already forecast for this November's midterm elections, and the battle over the Affordable Care Act now playing out in the courts rather than in Congress, Democrats seeking to claim as many as a half dozen attorney general seats are using a lawsuit brought by 20 Republican AGs to abolish Obamacare as a political battering ram -- highlighting its threat to the health law's popular protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The lawsuit has already injected unexpected energy and cash into many of the 30-plus races across the country for state attorneys general -- a dozen of which are seen as competitive. Democratic challengers in battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona are attacking the incumbents for bringing the lawsuit and vowing to withdraw their states from the case or join with states defending Obamacare.

Many are cutting ads saying the lawsuit could threaten health coverage for tens of millions of people with preexisting conditions, from children with cancer to adult diabetics, and holding rallies featuring people who struggled to obtain insurance before Obamacare due to a health condition.

Even in deeply conservative Texas, where the Republican governor is set to coast to an easy reelection, Democratic challenger Justin Nelson has relentlessly hammered the already scandal-plagued state Attorney General Ken Paxton on his role as the lead plaintiff in the case and is now within one point of Paxton in the polls.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Supreme Court green-lights order requiring 'dark money' groups to name political donors (Peter Weber, 9/19/18, The Week)

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed a lower-court ruling to take effect that will require nonprofit advocacy groups to disclose the names of political donors at least through the 2018 midterm elections, handing a win to campaign finance reformers and a loss to Crossroads GPS and other nonprofits that specialize in using secret "dark money" donations to influence political campaigns.

Last month, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., had sided with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against Crossroads GPS, an influential conservative group, and threw out a decades-old Federal Elections Commission (FEC) rule shielding donors to political nonprofits. With the Supreme Court denying Crossroads GPS's request for a stay, "we're about to know a lot more about who is funding our elections," said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


Sometimes Voters Just Want Competence (Froma Harrop, September 18, 2018, Creators)

The conservative National Review recently put forth the "riddle" that four of the six states in deep-blue New England have Republican governors. Three of them -- Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Phil Scott in Vermont and Chris Sununu in New Hampshire -- are quite popular. These states don't send a single Republican to Congress.

"Why, then, are Republicans doing so well?" the article asks.

There's no mystery. It's because most of the voters don't give a rat's tail whether their governors have a "D" or an "R" after their name. New Englanders tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and so are their Republican governors.

The Republican leaders in Washington, on the other hand, are socially conservative and fiscally reckless. The parade of $1 trillion federal deficits now coming our way is entirely the handiwork of the Trump administration and enabling Republicans. These numbers are astounding, especially given the strong economy.

Some of the most fiscally responsible governors, meanwhile, are Democrats. California's Jerry Brown will be leaving office with a budget surplus of $9 billion. As governor of Vermont, Democrat Howard Dean was so tight with the purse that frustrated liberals called him "the best Republican governor we ever had."

Maryland is a liberal state with a moderate Republican governor. Larry Hogan is polling well ahead of his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous. Several prominent state Democrats have endorsed him. The reason is simple: He's doing the job.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Aging Japan: Military recruiters struggle as applicant pool dries up (Linda Sieg, Ami Miyazaki, 9/19/18, Reuters)

Amid a rock-bottom birth rate, the number of Japanese age 18 to 26 - the core of the recruitment pool - has shrunk to 11 million from 17 million in 1994. That group is forecast to shrink to 7.8 million over the next 30 years.

That has left the SDF unable to hit recruitment quotas since 2014. Overall, the military was only able to recruit about 77 percent of the 9,734 lowest-rank enlisted personnel it had sought in the year ending in March.

"Twenty years from now, unless we can replace a considerable number of people with robots, it'll be hard to maintain the current level of war capability," said Akihisa Nagashima, a former parliamentary vice defense minister and conservative independent lawmaker.

The rest are right behind.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Tightening Texas race boosts Democrats' hopes of taking Senate: Reuters poll (Chris Kahn, 9/19/18, Reuters)

Among the bright spots for Democrats: U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke of Texas had a 2-percentage-point lead over Cruz among likely voters in the state and U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had a 3-point lead over Republican congresswoman Martha McSally in the race to succeed U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, one of Trump's most vocal critics from within his own party.

Both leads are within the poll's 4-percentage-point credibility intervals, a measure of precision, meaning the candidates are drawing about the same level of support.

The finding suggests that O'Rourke has a shot at becoming the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.

"There's a possibility it could happen. I'm not saying probable. But it's possible," said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

September 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Roseanne Says Her Character Will Die From an Opioid Overdose on The Conners, and She's Not Pleased (ISABEL TORREALBA, SEPT 18, 2018, Slate)

During an interview with right-wing activist Brandon Straka, Roseanne Barr revealed how she believes her character will die in the upcoming Roseanne spinoff, The Conners: an opioid overdose. "They had her die of an opium--or a opioid overdose," she said. "It wasn't enough to just do what they did to me. They had to so cruelly insult the people who loved that family and that show. They had to cruelly insult them. And that's what they chose to do, so there's nothing I can do about it."

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Brazil's explosive election: democracy at stake in a pillar of the West (Adam Mitchell, September 18, 2018, Spectator USA)

Loved and loathed, the leftist former president Lula continues to cast a great shadow, holding court from jail after a corruption conviction that even some of his fiercest opponents have questioned. His fans adore him for alleviating poverty and symbolising an era of optimism, while his detractors see his years in office as a period of corrupt misrule. For as long as possible, Lula's Workers' Party -- the PT -- maintained the pretence that the former metalworker would be on the ballot on October 7, keeping his millions of loyal voters fired up and giving him a big lead in the polls. But a ruling from Brazil's top electoral court forced the charade to an end, and on September 11 the PT anointed its second-choice candidate, Fernando Haddad. The party's new slogan assures voters that 'Haddad is Lula', and polls have shown that the strategy has started to pay off.

The other main shadow hanging over the election is that of Jair Bolsonaro, a controversy-courting former soldier, who recently sustained a stab wound while out campaigning and has been recovering in hospital. His rough manners and promises to shoot gangsters and sweep away corruption appeal to a broad base of hacked-off citizens, and polls have consistently predicted that he will make it handily into a runoff on October 28. Bolsonaro's rhetoric has included saying he would beat a gay couple kissing in public, and that a female politician wasn't worth raping. His unconventional approach and attention-grabbing antics -- delighting his fans and winding up his enemies -- have fuelled talk of him being a kind of Brazilian Donald Trump. Many urbane Brazilians have been shocked to see old friends backing him on social media, which has become a poisoned agora in which people on all sides have been slamming shut the window of friendship and storming off to coddle their alternative versions of the truth.

In his 1976 hit 'Meu caro amigo', the Brazilian musician Chico Buarque sang out a letter to a friend in exile, telling him that although rain still followed shine and there was plenty of samba and football, life under Brazil's military dictatorship was dark. But in today's Brazil, even the national sport has become a faction-ridden battleground. When the Tottenham Hotspur star Lucas Moura backed Bolsonaro on Twitter recently, the explosive reaction provided a fresh example of the hard feelings on either side of the debate. Meanwhile, many left-leaning Brazilians feel that the use of the national football strip at pro-impeachment demonstrations has sullied a once unifying symbol.

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


RNC internal poll finds GOP in danger due to complacent Trump voters: report (MORGAN GSTALTER, 09/18/18, The Hill)

Fifty-seven percent of people who identified as strong Trump supporters said Democrats don't have a chance to win big, while 37 percent believe they do, according to the poll.

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


In search of the real Frankenstein: Was a Somerset scientist and his daring electrical experiments the inspiration for Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece? (Marianna Hunt, 18 Sep 2018, The Spectator)

Flashback four years to 1814. Scribbled in the diary of the future Mary Shelley are the words: 'Shelley and Clary out all the morning. Read French Revolution in the evening...Go to Garnerin's. Lecture on Electricity; the gasses and the Phantasmagoria.' It was at this lecture in London that one Somerset scientist, known as 'the Thunder and Lightning Man', laid out his theories on how to harness the power of storms to create electricity.

Amid the wild Quantock Hills the crashes and explosions emanating from an isolated manor house sparked off rumours of devils dancing on electricity wires and hell itself unleashed. In fact, the manor's owner, Andrew Crosse, was channeling lightning strikes by capturing the electrical discharge inside jars in his 'philosophy room', to use for medical purposes. The sounds let off by the electricity discharging created blasts that were often mistaken for the sounds of man-made storms.

Crosse's own letters report his amazement at the deafening noises and five-hour long 'stream of fire' let out by his electrical experiments which 'must be witnessed to be conceived'. Could it be that the man-made thunder claps of the 'Wizard of the Quantocks', as locals nicknamed Crosse, inspired Mary Shelley's eccentric scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who in another 'stream of fire' from 'a most violent and terrible thunderstorm' begins his search for the secret to creating human life?

Not only her main character, but Mary Shelley and her poet husband too were obsessed with the power of electricity. Growing up Percy Shelley would 'practise electricity' on his family, administering them small shocks at the dinner table. While studying at Oxford University he even threatened to electrocute the son of his cleaner.

This year a new story has emerged from two centuries worth of shadows: the tale of Mary Shelley in Bath. It was here that the author experienced the most dramatic events of her life and wrote the majority of Frankenstein. Yet, besotted with its Austen heritage, only in 2018 did the Somerset city commemorate Shelley's connection to Bath. Mary Godwin arrived in the city the mistress of a married man with the beginnings of a story in her mind. Hit by news of the suicides of her lover's wife and her own half-sister, she left Bath with a husband, a new surname, a baby on the way, and with an almost complete manuscript for her novel. This February the city of Bath finally decided to embrace its Mary Shelley legacy by installing a plaque dedicated to the writer. Did Shelley use her time in Somerset to visit the laboratory of 'The Electrician' of the Quantocks? We may never know, but the pages of her novel are tantalisingly suggestive.

Eerily enough, some years after the publication of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus as Shelley subtitled it, Andrew Crosse announced that he himself had created life from his experiments. He claimed that one day as if from nowhere appeared on his desk 'the perfect insect, standing erect on a few bristles which formed its tail'. A few days later the Acarus crossii (named after their creator) began moving their legs. Just as Prometheus was tortured for daring to challenge the powers of Creation, Crosse was devastated by the ensuing accusations of blasphemy and became increasingly reclusive.

PODCAST: The Body Electric: Ever since the Romans put electrogenic fish on their heads to cure migraines, we've wondered what electric shocks can do to our brains. (Tom Standage and Seth Stevenson, Secret History of the Future)

We've used electricity to treat our brains for thousands of years, from placing electric fish on our heads to cure migraines to using electroconvulsive therapy to alleviate depression. But over time, our focus has shifted from restoring health to augmenting our abilities. Should we be wearing battery-powered caps to improve our concentration or implanting electricity-emitting devices to expand our thinking capacity? Guests include Bryan Johnson, CEO of Kernel.

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM


Government borrowing soars despite robust economy (Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, September 11, 2018, Wasington Post)

The U.S. budget deficit is reaching levels that are abnormally high for a robust economy, and lawmakers from both parties are proposing ideas that would make the deficit swell even further.

The government spent $895 billion more than it brought in from taxes and other revenue sources during the past 11 months, the Congressional Budget Office said this week, a 33 percent increase from one year before.

Typically, the deficit shrinks during strong economic times, as the need for costly government support wanes and tax revenue rises. In 2000, the last time the unemployment rate was at its current level of 3.9 percent, the government ran a surplus, meaning tax revenue eclipsed all spending.

In fairness to the GOP, a balanced national budget is not an economic matter, but an aesthetic one. In normal times, it demonstrates that government is functional.

To the extent, then, that the party despises government, a functional one is problematic.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM



WHEN SEAN PARKER was young, he cofounded Napster and changed the way we listen to music. In his twenties, he helped jump-start Facebook and changed the way we interact with each other. Now, at age 38, he's set on changing something else: the way we treat disease. The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which he founded in 2016, has dedicated $250 million toward using new technologies like Crispr to teach the human body to vanquish cancer. Alex Marson is a scientist building the tools to do just that. His research at UC San Francisco and the Parker Institute rejiggers the DNA of T cells--your immune system's sentinels--to better recognize and attack malignant mutineers. Parker and Marson sat down to talk about Crispr, genome editing, and the most exciting coding language today: DNA. --Megan Molteni

Sean Parker: I first learned about the therapeutic potential of Crispr a few years ago, and back then it really only allowed us to remove a gene or prevent it from functioning. The ability to completely reprogram a cell's functions seemed like an ambitious, distant possibility.

Alex Marson: Yeah, for the past few years we could only use Crispr to make cuts inside of cells and snip away portions of DNA. But now we have a paste function. We showed in a Nature paper in July that if we mix our Crispr components in just the right recipe, we can zap the T cells with a bit of electricity to send in the genome-editing machinery. Then we can make edits that are about 750 nucleotides long at multiple sites, which starts to give us enough flexibility and real estate to give cells dramatic new functions. We're now able to paste in a new T cell receptor, which is designed to recognize an antigen found on some cancer cells, giving us T cells that attack only the cells that carry that signal.

Parker: This was total science fiction up until very recently! But because of your breakthrough, we can now get into the source code and fundamentally alter the capabilities of not just T cells but any cell type.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Republicans Are Favorites In The Senate, But Democrats Have Two Paths To An Upset (Nate Silver, 9/18/18, 538)

Many of the individual race forecasts in the FiveThirtyEight Senate model, which launched on Wednesday, look pretty optimistic for Democrats. The model shows Sen. Joe Manchin in a strong position to retain his seat in West Virginia, for instance. It has Democrats as ever-so-slight favorites to win the GOP-held Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona. It thinks Democratic incumbents like Missouri's Claire McCaskill and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp could close well down the stretch. It even gives Democrat Beto O'Rourke a credible shot in Texas -- although it has Sen. Ted Cruz as the favorite in the race. [...]

Just how uphill a task is that for Democrats? We currently forecast Democrats to win the popular vote for the U.S. House by 8 to 9 percentage points (similar to their advantage on the generic congressional ballot) -- a margin that by almost any definition would qualify as a "wave election." As a point of comparison, Republicans won the House popular vote by 7 percentage points in 1994 and in 2010, and Democrats won it by 8 points in 2006, all of which are usually considered wave years. But our model thinks that even an 8- or 9-point advantage would probably not be enough for Democrats to win the Senate. Instead, they would need around an 11-point advantage in the House popular vote before becoming favorites to claim the Senate, our model estimates.

But just as Republicans are far from doomed in the House, they are far from safe in the Senate. Democrats need to gain only a net of two seats to take control of the Senate, and they have five plausible opportunities: Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and (most debatably) the Mississippi special election, which involves a nonpartisan blanket primary on Nov. 6 with a potential runoff three weeks later. Meanwhile, Republicans have three very good opportunities to pick off Democratic incumbents -- those are McCaskill in Missouri, Heitkamp in North Dakota and (surprisingly) Bill Nelson in Florida -- and there are several other states where they're still in the running, such as Indiana. But no one of those races is a sure thing for Republicans. In fact, the Classic and Deluxe versions of our model have Republicans as slight underdogs in all of the Democratic-held seats, although the polling-driven Lite version of the forecast has them favored in North Dakota and Florida.

In essence, there are two ways by which Democrats might win the Senate: a macro path and a micro path.

An awful lot of Republicans sold their consciences to Donald in exchange for a Court seat or two.  What happens to turnout if this nomination heads South?

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Squirrels Driving Farmers Nuts (David Sharp, 9/18/18, Associated Press)

There's a bumper crop of squirrels in New England, and the frenetic critters are frustrating farmers by chomping their way through apple orchards, pumpkin patches and corn fields.

The varmints are fattening themselves for winter while destroying the crops with bite marks.

Robert Randall, who has a 60-acre orchard in Standish, Maine, said he's never seen anything like it.

"They're eating the pumpkins. They're eating the apples. They're raising some hell this year. It's the worst I've ever seen," he said.

Evidence of the squirrel population explosion is plain to see along New England's highways, where the critters are becoming roadkill.

It's almost impossible to drive any distance right now without running one over and the roads look like they've replaced macadam with rodent carcases.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Faced with a teacher shortage, West Texas school district may be latest to go virtual: As an oil boom increases housing hosts and lures staff away, the Ector County school board has struggled to recruit and retain enough teachers. (TEO ARMUS SEPT. 18, 2018, Texas Tribune)

Faced with a drastic shortage of teachers, one West Texas school district may join a small but growing group of Texas communities settling for hiring some only available via screens.

The Ector County school board, which oversees Odessa and its western suburbs, will consider a proposal Tuesday to contract with "virtual teachers" through an Austin-based company, Proximity Learning, in order to fill some of its 240 vacant teaching positions.

"We'll look at any opportunity to fill those vacancies, and this is potentially a way to have certified teachers in front of our kids every day," said Michael Adkins, a spokesperson for the district.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Kurds step up efforts to form self-government in northeast Syria (Sardar Mlla Drwish September 18, 2018, Al Monitor)

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) has formed a new autonomous administration for northeastern Syria.

Meeting Sept. 6 in Ain Issa, in Raqqa province -- where US forces and the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) remain -- the SDC created the General Council of Self-Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria.

The General Council will coordinate between Kurdish-majority autonomous administrations and the civil councils of areas with Arab majorities. It will form executive committees to govern the area, which is under Kurdish control.

The General Council includes representatives of local councils and legislative and executive authorities affiliated with the administrations of Al-Jazira (Al-Hasakah), Kobani, Manbij, Raqqa and al-Tabaqa provinces, and the northern part of Deir ez-Zor province. The new council will work under the umbrella of the SDC, the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) controlling northeastern Syria.

Farid Ati (Kurdish) and Siham Qeyro (Syriac) were elected to co-chair the General Council. The group also established a board of five members representing Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds, Syriacs and Christian Assyrians.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Germany plans to lower hurdles for skilled workers from abroad  (Reuters, 9/18/18) 

Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government is working on a new immigration law to tackle labor shortages in Germany by attracting skilled workers from countries outside the European Union.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Brett Kavanaugh's High School Friend Isn't Helping the Nominee's Case: The alleged witness in the Kavanaugh case wrote a memoir about his own schoolboy days as blackout drunk. (STEPHANIE MENCIMER, SEPTEMBER 15, 2018, Mother Jones)

In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing this month, Kavanaugh referenced his time at the Catholic institution with great reverence: "The motto of my Jesuit high school was 'Men for others.'‌ I've tried to live that creed."

But the school Judge has described in his books is a very different sort of place. In his 2005 book, God and Man at Georgetown Prep, which is now out of print, Judge apparently paints the school as overrun with gay priests who promote a form of liberalism that wrecks Catholic education. He also describes an institution where alcoholism was rampant, a theme he detailed in his 1997 addiction memoir, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk.

That book chronicles Judge's time as a teenage alcoholic. Like many works of the genre, it devotes a lot of ink to the kinds of debauchery that leads to Alcoholics Anonymous and recovery. While there's nothing in the book that resembles the incident reportedly described in the private letter given to the FBI, Judge says his own blackout drinking while he and Kavanaugh were Georgetown Prep students "reached the point where once I had the first beer, I found it impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated."

He describes, for instance, what happened after a night of heavy drinking with friends at a Georgetown bar. "The next thing I knew, I was lying on a bathroom floor. I was curled up in the fetal position with saliva running out of the side of my mouth," Judge writes, explaining that he had inexplicably woken up inside a nearby Four Seasons Hotel. He writes that he called his mom for help getting home. "I must have come over here and passed out," he tells her. 

The amount of drinking Judge describes himself undertaking might suggest his memory of those days may not be entirely reliable. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Syrian rebels see Idlib deal as victory, Damascus as test for Turkey (Reuters, 9/18/18) 

Syrian opposition officials praised a deal between Russia and Turkey over Idlib province on Tuesday, saying it had spared the rebel-held region a bloody government offensive and would thwart President Bashar al-Assad's aim of recovering all Syria.

One of the things that has confused folks most about the war is that none of Assad's "allies" share his war aims.

September 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 10:48 PM


Reports: Russian Military Plane Carrying 14 Disappears Near Syrian Coast (Radio Liberty, September 18, 2018)

News reports say a Russian military surveillance plane with 14 crew members has disappeared over the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and CNN says Syrian anti-aircraft forces may have shot it down.

Russia's state news agency TASS quoted a Defense Ministry official as saying that the Il-20 aircraft disappeared from radar at around the same time that Israeli F-16 fighters attacked targets in the Syrian province of Latakia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Colin Kaepernick donates $25,000 to abortion group (Cassy Fiano-Chesser, September 14, 2018 , Live Action)

At 19, Kaepernick's birth mother found herself pregnant, and wanted to give her son the best life he could possibly have. She wanted him to have adoptive parents who could provide him with love, a family, and instill in him her love for sports. Rick and Teresa Kaepernick adopted Colin at five weeks old. And yet despite the fact that Kaepernick's birth mother chose life for him, Kaepernick has just donated $25,000 to a pro-abortion group.

He took to Instagram to announce his latest charitable beneficiaries, which included the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group dedicated to advancing abortion. They responded by saying the donation "made their day."

To match the death toll of abortion upon black victims, white cops would need to shoot and kill over 700 blacks a day.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Amb. Haley attacks Russia for undermining sanctions on North Korea (Abigail Williams, Sep.17.2018, NBC News)

"Russia has engaged in a concerted campaign in the Security Council to cover up violations of sanctions, whether they're committed by Russians or citizens of other states," U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Nikki Haley said in an address to the U.N. Security Council. "The United States has evidence of consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations."

Monday's urgent meeting of the Security Council followed accusations by Haley that Russia pressured U.N. experts to alter an independent report implicating Russian actors in violations of North Korea sanctions. After discovering that a section of the report on violations by Russia and other countries had been altered, the U.S. prevented the report from being made public.

Michelle v. Nikki in 2020 would almost make up for Hillary v. Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Between War and Peace: An Interview With Senior Hamas Leader Husam Badran: Current Hamas Political Bureau Member and former military commander, convicted of directing terror bombings that killed over 120 Israelis, including the bombings of the Sbrarro Pizza in Jerusalem and the Dolphinarium Discotheque in Tel Aviv, speaks to Tablet about the ongoing Gaza cease-fire negotiations with Israel (Elhanan Miller, 9/17/18, Tablet)

It is rare for a Hamas official to grant an extensive interview to a Jewish media outlet. But these are unusual times. My contact with Badran came through the connections of Rabbi Michael Melchior, a peace activist and former minister in Ehud Barak's government, with members of the Islamic movement in Israel and abroad. In a two-hour interview held in a restaurant in Istanbul, and conducted in Arabic peppered with Hebrew, Badran expounded on his worldview: Yes to realistic, ad hoc understandings with Israel, no to final status agreements the likes of the Oslo Accords. He took pains to present his movement's position as pragmatic, not dogmatic or messianic. He suggests that his organization's beliefs are not unlike those of the ideological right in Israel.

"The entire Israeli right believes in the whole Land of Israel and we believe that all of Palestine is historically ours," Badran explains. "But having recognized reality and the changing international situation, we've agreed to a Palestinian state on a part of the territory which the entire world considers occupied."

Hamas' top political echelon--Badran among them--is currently engaged in indirect talks with Israel in Cairo to renew the 2014 ceasefire, which both sides largely observed up until the recent flareup this summer. "If the Israelis knew the conditions for a ceasefire, they would be out on the streets protesting against the government for its hesitation," he asserts. "We offer Israelis a ceasefire for an agreed upon time frame. They will no longer hear red alerts. No longer suffer field fires. For that, the price they would need to pay would be nothing."

"Nothing," according to Badran, means the permanent opening of border crossings with Gaza to people and goods. This, he explained, would alleviate the plight of the Strip's 2 million residents, who suffer from 80 percent unemployment with rampant sickness and hunger.  While Hamas continues to demand the construction of a sea port and an airport, Badran says those infrastructures are secondary to the daily needs of ordinary Gazans.

"It will take three years to construct a port. A year to rebuild the airport. But the average Palestinian doesn't need an airplane to fly in, he needs an airplane not to bomb him. He needs medical treatment, he needs food."

The reason for the deadlock in solving the Gaza crisis is twofold, Badran explained: Fatah's obstructionism and Israel's flawed decision making. Over the past two years, Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority has upped its ante in a bid to force Hamas to hand over security control in the Gaza Strip. It has refused to pay Gaza's electric bill to the Israel Electric Corporation; discontinued medical transfers of patients out of the Gaza Strip and shipments of medicine into it; and slashed salaries to tens of thousands of civil servants in the Hamas-held enclave. Badran also argues that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's competition with political rivals on the right ahead of the upcoming elections has prevented him from taking bold moves to end the Gaza conflict.

The great irony of ending the Occupation is that in twenty or thirty years the two states will be so intertwined as to be indistinguishable.
Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


A Better Bailout Was Possible (ROB JOHNSON, GEORGE SOROS, 9/17/18, Project Syndicate)

We believe a critical opportunity was missed when the balance of the burden of adjustment was tilted heavily in favor of creditors relative to debtors in the response to the crisis and that this contributed to the prolonged stagnation that followed the crisis. The long-term social and political ramifications of this missed opportunity have been profound.

Back in September 2008, when then-US Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson introduced the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), he proposed using the funds to bail out the banks, but without acquiring any equity ownership in them. At that time, we and our colleague Robert Dugger argued that a much more effective and fair use of taxpayers' money would be to reduce the value of mortgages held by ordinary Americans to reflect the decline in home prices and to inject capital into the financial institutions that would become undercapitalized. Because equity could support a balance sheet that would have been 20 times larger, $700 billion could have gone a long way toward restoring a healthy financial system. [...]

No doubt the Obama administration helped to alleviate the crisis by reassuring the public and downplaying the depth of the problems, but there was a heavy political price to pay. The administration's policies failed to deal with the underlying problems, and by protecting the banks rather than mortgage holders, they exacerbated the gap between America's haves and have-nots.

Posted by orrinj at 2:36 PM


Brett Kavanaugh Gave a Speech About Binge Drinking in Law School: Following an allegation of a drunken assault, the speech takes on a different light. (PEMA LEVY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2018, Mother Jones)

Here is an excerpt of that speech:

I am approaching my eighth anniversary on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I am approaching the 24th anniversary of my graduation from this school. That means I am approaching the 24th anniversary of my organizing 30 classmates in a bus to go to Boston for a Red Sox game and a night of Boston bar-hopping, only for us to return falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m. One friend of mine, Steve Hartmann, actually had a Labor Law final the next morning. (I checked with him just yesterday to confirm that it was Labor Law.) True story.

On the bus, he actually had his book out and was reading his notes while people were doing group chugs from a keg. He got a P. I think the people doing the group chugs got H's. Fortunately for all of us, we had a motto, what happens on the bus stays on the bus. Tonight, you can modify that to what happens at the Fed Soc after-party stays at the Fed Soc afterparty.

We had a good run my third year. We got our work done, but we had our share of fun. During our third year class party, it was a beautiful night then as it is tonight. We were at the Lawn Club. No one had done their SAWs. Most people didn't even have their topics yet. But we didn't care that night. We had a memorable evening. It is fair to say that we had a few drinks. Indeed, as a classmate of mine and I were reminiscing and piecing things together the other day, we think we had more than a few beers before the banquet. Might have been at Toads. Not a good idea.

Anyway, toward the end of the evening a friend of mine who shall remain nameless - and this is a story that is really about a friend of mine, not about me where I am disguising myself as a friend of mine -- my friend broke a table in the Lawn Club reception area. Smashed it into multiple pieces. I actually still possess a photo of him sprawled on the floor on top of the table. 

Men our age should be embarrassed, not boastful, or at least both.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


New leak shows Julian Assange sought Russian visa in 2010 (RAPHAEL SATTER, 9/17/18, AP)

The Nov. 30, 2010 missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to The Associated Press.

The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange's budding relationship with Moscow.

The ex-hacker's links to the Kremlin would become increasingly salient before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when the FBI says Russia's military intelligence agency directly supplied WikiLeaks with stolen emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and other Democratic figures.

Thus Donald's relationship with Wikileaks.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Weighing the Allegations against Brett Kavanaugh (DAVID FRENCH, September 16, 2018, National Review)

Do not count me among those who would minimize this alleged assault. I went to a high school that had more than its share of drunken parties, and my classmates could do crazy and stupid things, but an act like this was beyond the pale. This isn't "boys will be boys." Actions have consequences, and it's hardly unjust to tell a person that if he mistreated another human being like this -- even a long time ago -- he has to remain "merely" a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since Kavanaugh has denied the story, however, the question of whether the event is so egregious that it should disqualify him is moot. At the very least, if the attack happened, he should be disqualified for lying.

If we accept the accuser's story at roughly face value, she was drunk enough to not recall details and the boys may well have been black out drunk.  She did not come forward at the time, which would have allowed them to apologize and deal with their problem.  And it seems entirely plausible that they would have different memories, if any, about the course of events.  

None of that excuses the behavior itself, but it does suggest that "lying" about it is the potentially most bogus charge.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Identity, Not Ideology, Driving the Democratic Party: White progressives badly underachieved in Democratic primaries for governor. African-American progressives dominated. (Josh Kraushaar,  Sept. 16, 2018, National Journal)

For an illustration of the power of identity over ideology in politics, look at the divergent results in two of the biggest Democratic governors' primaries in the country. Actress Cynthia Nixon, who received national attention for her insurgent campaign against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, performed dismally even though her opponent was reviled by the Left. Meanwhile: Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who barely had enough campaign cash to air television advertisements in Florida, achieved one of the most dramatic upsets in the 2018 cycle.

White progressive candidates performed dismally in Democratic gubernatorial primaries this year. Nixon, despite her celebrity, barely won one-third of the vote in New York against Cuomo. Progressive stalwarts like Chris Giunchigliani in Nevada, Dennis Kucinich in Ohio, and Daniel Biss in Illinois were crushed by more-pragmatic challengers. The cycle began when former Rep. Tom Perriello, a favorite of inside-the-Beltway liberals, lost badly to the more moderate Ralph Northam in Virginia.

But African-American candidates, all running to the left, greatly exceeded expectations in statewide contests. Gillum surged in the Florida primary's final days to overtake more moderate former congresswoman Gwen Graham, despite being badly outspent by his competition. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams cruised past a centrist challenger in a race that originally looked to be highly competitive. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous scored a decisive victory in Maryland's Democratic primary, exceeding early expectations. All three candidates benefited from a surge in black turnout in a midterm-election year.

The demographic patterns in these races are clear. African-American candidates were able to build an energized Democratic coalition of black voters, white liberals, and younger voters to swamp more-established candidates in primaries. But white liberal candidates struggled to expand their support beyond the most predictable precincts, unable to build racially diverse coalitions for their progressive messages.

In fairness, it seems pertinent that Mr. Cuomo is the not unpopular incumbent.

September 16, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Robert Mueller Is Winning: The special counsel outmaneuvered Trump's implicit offer to pardon Paul Manafort and secured his most significant victory yet. (MATT FORD, September 14, 2018, New Republic)

On Friday, Manafort finally cracked from the pressure. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a D.C. courthouse. He also admitted his guilt to ten charges on which the Alexandria jurors failed to reach a verdict. And in exchange for a lighter sentence to be determined later, Manafort gave Mueller his prize after eleven months of labor: a binding agreement to "cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly ... in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation to be relevant."

This is the moment that Trump feared and tried to prevent. Manafort is one of the few people who can provide details about the extent of the campaign's interactions with the Russian government during the last election. His extensive connections to Moscow-aligned figures in Eastern Europe make him the likeliest vector for whatever conspiracy may have existed between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to sabotage Hillary Clinton's presidential bid in 2016. Manafort's cooperation will likely shed new light on key moments during that fateful year: He's the only American, for example, who participated in the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 that isn't related to Trump by blood or by marriage. [...]

The result is perhaps Mueller's most important victory yet, and a vindication of his quiet, patient strategy in the investigation. Federal prosecutors in white-collar and organized-crime cases often begin by bringing charges against low-level members, often on unrelated charges. Investigators then work their way up the chain of command by offering leniency in exchange for cooperation and testimony against higher-level conspirators. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Concession by the Trump Administration Caps Off a Big Legal Victory for Separated Families (NOAH LANARD, SEPTEMBER 14, 2018, Mother Jones)

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Trump administration to reunite a family separated at the border: a Congolese woman identified in court documents as Ms. L and her seven-year-old daughter. Half a year later, the lawsuit has forced the government to reunite more than 2,000 children with their parents. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs reached an agreement with the Justice Department that caps off separated families' legal victory over the Trump administration and its now-abandoned separation policy.

Under the new agreement, parents who were separated from their children will get another chance to prove that they're eligible to apply for asylum in the United States. If they fail to do so, they will be allowed to remain in the United States while their children's asylum cases are decided.

The plan, which immigrant advocates say could affect more than 1,000 parents, now needs to be approved by Dana Sabraw, the federal judge who ordered the Trump administration to reunite separated families by late July. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


The Airport of the Future is Here. And It Doesn't Need Humans: Singapore's Changi Airport is blazing a trail when it comes to automation.  (Kyunghee Park, September 16, 2018, Bloomberg)

Imagine landing at a major airport and the only human official you meet on your way through the terminal is a customs officer.

Singapore's Changi International Airport, voted the world's best for the past six years by Skytrax, is pursuing that goal of extensive automation with such vigor that it built an entire terminal to help test the airport bots of the future.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


Pollsters issue grim warnings to White House, Republicans ahead of election (JULIE PACE, CATHERINE LUCEY and ZEKE MILLER, 9/16/18, AP)

In a post-Labor Day briefing at the White House, a top Republican pollster told senior staff that the determining factor in the election would not be the improving economy or the steady increase in job creation. It would be how voters feel about Trump. And the majority of the electorate, including a sizeable percentage of Republican-leaning voters, does not feel good about the president, according to a presentation from pollster Neil Newhouse that spanned dozens of pages.

Newhouse's briefing came amid a darkening mood among Republican officials as the November election nears. Party leaders were already worried that a surge in enthusiasm among Democrats and disdain for Trump by moderate Republicans would put the House out of reach. But some Republicans now fear their Senate majority is also in peril -- a scenario that was unthinkable a few months ago given the favorable Senate map for the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


The real effects of the financial crisis (Ben S. Bernanke, September 13, 2018,

Economists both failed to predict the global financial crisis and underestimated its consequences for the broader economy. Focusing on the second of these failures, this paper make two contributions. First, I review research since the crisis on the role of credit factors in the decisions of households, firms, and financial intermediaries and in macroeconomic modeling. This research provides broad support for the view that credit-market developments deserve greater attention from macroeconomists, not only for analyzing the economic effects of financial crises but in the study of ordinary business cycles as well. Second, I provide new evidence on the channels by which the recent financial crisis depressed economic activity in the United States. Although the deterioration of household balance sheets and the associated deleveraging likely contributed to the initial economic downturn and the slowness of the recovery, I find that the unusual severity of the Great Recession was due primarily to the panic in funding and securitization markets, which disrupted the supply of credit. This finding helps to justify the government's extraordinary efforts to stem the panic in order to avoid greater damage to the real economy.

Whatever else W might have done differently, it is to his eternal credit that he had the single most qualified man in the single most important position to prevent a repeat of Depression era mistakes.  It is to the UR's that, against personal interest and party dogma, he sided with W.  The question for a similar crisis in the future is whether we would not have been even better served by having the bank bailout take the form of directly paying off consumer loans, beginning with home and education borrowing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Horseback Wrestling. Bone Tossing. Dead Goat Polo. Let the Nomad Games Begin! (Neil MacFarquhar, Sept. 15, 2018, NY Times)

CHOLPON-ATA, Kyrgyzstan -- The American team that played a brutal version of polo at the World Nomad Games does not expect the sport to get picked up by the Olympics any time soon.

Why not?

"We use a dead goat," said Scott A. Zimmerman, a team co-captain.

The game of kok-boru, with its headless goat carcass, was the main attraction at the weeklong international sports competition held this month in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan.

Other highlights included bone tossing, hunting with eagles and 17 types of wrestling, including bare-chested horseback wrestling, where the weaker competitor often clings desperately to the animal's head as spectators roar in anticipation of him hitting the dirt.

The organizers hope to resurrect nomadic traditions, especially those of Central Asia, whose cultures were pushed toward extinction by decades of Soviet collectivization and then globalization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Jordan Peterson Takes on the Tower of Babel  (CHRISTOPHER KACZOR, 9/16/18, CERC)

Coming after Noah and the Flood, the story of the Tower of Babel begins, "Now the whole earth had one language and few words" (Genesis 11:1).  These first people said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (11:4).

In Peterson's view, they want to create a path to heaven and, ultimately, to "build a structure that's so large and encompassing that it can replace heaven itself."  Using their reason, they seek a utopia. [...]

Then "the Lord said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore, its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth" (Genesis 11:6-9).

Peterson notes that this passage seems to portray God as jealous and petty.  But if God is perfectly good, all-wise and all-loving, God cannot do evil, unwise and petty actions. 

On the one hand, God never claims to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnicompetent; on the other, He repeatedly behaves as if He is none of these things and states that He is not, as much as we wish that He were, for our own comfort. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe (OLIVIA BEAVERS, 09/14/18, The Hill)

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said this week that the GOP-controlled panel should release every interview transcript from its concluded Russia investigation.

"There is something that has not been released that I think would be beneficial for the public to see -- and that would be all of the transcripts from all of the [House Intelligence Committee] interviews," Gowdy told The Hill on Wednesday.

"There are no national security implications there," he added. "There are no sources and methods there."

Gowdy's remarks echo calls from House Intelligence Democrats, who have pressed for the release of witness interview transcripts from the committee's yearlong Russia investigation. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault (Emma Brown, September 16, 2018, Washington Post)

After so many years, Ford said she does not remember some key details of the incident. She said she believes it occurred in the summer of 1982, when she was 15, around the end of her sophomore year at the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the end of his junior year at Georgetown Prep.

At the time, Ford said, she knew Kavanaugh and Judge as "friendly acquaintances" in the private-school social circles of suburban Maryland. Her Holton-Arms friends mostly hung out with boys from the Landon School, she said, but for a period of several months socialized regularly with students from Georgetown Prep.

Ford said she does not remember how the gathering came together the night of the incident. She said she often spent time in the summer at the Columbia Country Club pool in Chevy Chase, where in those pre-cellphone days, teenagers learned about gatherings via word of mouth. She also doesn't recall who owned the house or how she got there.

Ford said she remembers that it was in Montgomery County, not far from the country club, and that no parents were home at the time. Ford named two other teenagers who she said were at the party. Those individuals did not respond to messages on Sunday morning.

She said she recalls a small family room where she and a handful of others drank beer together that night. She said that each person had one beer but that Kavanaugh and Judge had started drinking earlier and were heavily intoxicated.

In his senior-class yearbook entry at Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh made several references to drinking, claiming membership to the "Beach Week Ralph Club" and "Keg City Club." He and Judge are pictured together at the beach in a photo in the yearbook.

Judge is a filmmaker and author who has written for the Daily Caller, The Weekly Standard and The Washington Post. He chronicled his recovery from alcoholism in "Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk," which described his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school, renamed in the book "Loyola Prep." Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, but a passage about partying at the beach one summer makes glancing reference to a "Bart O'Kavanaugh," who "puked in someone's car the other night" and "passed out on his way back from a party."

Through the White House, Kavanaugh did not respond to a question about whether the name was a pseudonym for him.

Ford said she left the family room to use the bathroom, which was at the top of a narrow stairway. She doesn't remember whether Kavanaugh and Judge were behind her or already upstairs, but she remembers being pushed into a bedroom and then onto a bed. Rock-and-roll music was playing with the volume turned up high, she said.

She alleges that Kavanaugh -- who played football and basketball at Georgetown Prep -- held her down with the weight of his body and fumbled with her clothes, seemingly hindered by his intoxication. Judge stood across the room, she said, and both boys were laughing "maniacally." She said she yelled, hoping that someone downstairs would hear her over the music, and Kavanaugh clapped his hand over her mouth to silence her.

At one point, she said, Judge jumped on top of them, and she tried unsuccessfully to wriggle free. Then Judge jumped on them again, toppling them, and she broke away, she said.

She said she locked herself in the bathroom and listened until she heard the boys "going down the stairs, hitting the walls." She said that after five or ten minutes, she unlocked the door and made her way through the living room and outside. She isn't sure how she got home.

If, as all testimony about his subsequent life suggests, this was the sort of youthful drunken indiscretion that is all too common amongst students, then it does not define the Judge's character.  However, it does seem serious enough that it should provide the basis of a "no" vote. No one, after all, is entitled to a Court seat and there are plenty of equally well-qualified candidates to choose from without such an incident in their past.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Anti-Immigrant Party Favored in Quebec (Frederic Tomesco, 9/16/18, Bloomberg)

With less than three weeks to go before the Oct. 1 election, an upstart alliance that's pledging to reduce immigration is favored to oust the Liberal Party that's governed the French-speaking Canadian province for all but two of the past 15 years. [...]

In power since April 2014, the Liberals are playing up their track record of running budget surpluses and helping to lower the unemployment rate to four-decade lows amid continued economic expansion.

A quintessential choice between Anglospherics and Frenchness.

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


2-Year-Old Boy With Deadly Cancer Gets an Early Christmas From His Neighbors (Sandra E. Garcia, Sept. 15, 2018, NY Times)

Five weeks ago, Brody Allen's parents were told that their 2-year-old son's rare form of brain cancer meant he had two months to live.

The boy's family realized that he probably wouldn't be able to enjoy one more Christmas. So they decided to celebrate early, putting up a tree and decorations, and their Ohio neighborhood followed suit.

"In his mind it is just Christmas," said McKenzie Allen, 21, Brody's sister. "He woke up one day and the Christmas tree was out. He doesn't know it isn't really Christmas. He is just enjoying it." [...]

The Allens settled on having Christmas in September for Brody, but soon realized they needed more decorations. There aren't many for sale in September, so they started a Facebook page called Team Brody and asked neighbors for help.

"I was willing to buy the decorations from them, but so many were donated," Mr. Allen said.

Ryan Simpson, 34, who said he is known as "the Christmas guy" among friends, was tagged in the Facebook group.

"When I showed up, I really did not know what I was getting myself into," he said.

Mr. Simpson appeared at the Allens' door with a plastic tote filled with lights and decorations, and helped the family decorate inside and out.

"When I showed up that day, Brody was outside in a red wagon and his sister was pulling him around," Mr. Simpson said. "I handed him a little gingerbread house with gumdrops on it, and it kind of spoke to him."

Mr. Simpson went back to the house to add more decorations four days in a row. He also helped neighbors decorate their houses.

"My next-door neighbor, who only speaks Spanish, took down all her fall stuff and put up snowflakes and poinsettias, and did garland on her fence and lights," Ms. Elliott said.

"When Brody saw it, he couldn't believe it," Mr. Simpson said. "He has been very animated."

People have also sent Brody gifts and snacks. He has a feeding tube, but he likes licking the sugar off sour straws and sipping blue Gatorade.

"We got 25 Christmas cards yesterday," Ms. Allen said.

The community is now planning a Christmas parade for Brody.

"We needed to get involved because he lives in our neighborhood," said Amanda Beckman, 34, who reached out to the Facebook group. "We just wanted to do something to make this really special for them, because they are going through a hard time."

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


An Ancient Ballgame Makes A Comeback In Mexico (James Fredrick, 9/16/18, NPR)

Drums rumble between the stone walls lining the court. An ancient ritual is underway. The smell of incense wafts across the concrete, as wiry men and a woman wearing leather waist wraps and headbands volley a ball back and forth. They use only their hip bone to hit it.

Emmanuel Kalakot tilts his head back and blows into a conch shell horn. The sound echoes off the brick walls of the apartment complex next door. For an instant, this doesn't really feel like 2018.

"It's not so much about returning to a moment that once was," says Kalakot, 40. "But we want to take something that was great in its time and make it great again, in a new, contemporary way."

Kalakot is leading a small group of players in the return of a millennia-old tradition to Mexico City: the ballgame known as ulama.

"There was a kind of pan-Mesoamerican ballgame played with the hip and we can say that it was prevalent, probably played in the majority of places," in the period around 200 A.D. to 900 A.D., says Manuel Aguilar, an archaeologist from California State University, Los Angeles, and a leading scholar on ulama.

The players -- mostly with no more than a couple of years' experience -- make it look easy. They gracefully jump to hit a cantaloupe-sized solid rubber ball squarely with their hip, arcing it toward their opponents. A low ball forces players to drop to the ground, a move that makes the leather waist wraps particularly useful.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Dalai Lama admits he knew about Buddhist teachers' sexual abuse (Deutsche Welle, 9/16/18)

The Dalai Lama, during a four-day visit to the Netherlands, has confirmed he was informed about historic sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers against their followers in Europe.

"I already did know these things, [it's] nothing new," the Dalai Lama said in response to a question on Dutch public television NOS late on Saturday.

"Twenty-five years ago... someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations" at a conference for western Buddhist teachers in Dharamshala, a hill town in northern India, he added.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump: Each other's enabler (HIROSHI MINEGISHI, 9/16/18, Nikkei)

Trump recently received the letter from Kim seeking another face-to-face. Kim also sent a letter on Aug. 1, prompting Trump to tweet, "thank you for your nice letter - l look forward to seeing you soon!"

Kim has thus drawn affection from the leader of a superpower who is old enough to be Kim's father.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had planned to visit North Korea in late August, but Kim was noncommittal about meeting him. This suggests Kim only intends to negotiate with the author of "The Art of the Deal."

For Kim, giving up a nuclear program that North Korea has spent decades bringing to fruition, is the last resort. Kim seems to believe he can guarantee the safety of his regime by giving Trump hope that this is possible. So he is playing along with the facade Trump is so eagerly building that the two leaders "like each other!"

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


Most states are prepared for the next recession (Maylan Studart, 9/12/18, Yahoo Finance)

The collapse of Lehman Brothers a decade ago was a cataclysmic event that ushered in a financial crisis that would take over the country.

While some sectors, like housing, are still recovering, state governments have learned from the downturn and have built up their rainy day funds. So much so that they are well positioned to weather the next recession, which they know will occur. They just don't know when.  

"Rainy day fund balances, in the aggregate, grew steadily in the several years following the Great Recession, and have continued to increase as states have made building reserves a top budget priority," according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

In the past seven years, the median rainy day fund balance grew from 1.9% as a share of fund expenditures to a high of 5.8% in fiscal 2018, above the pre-recession peak of 4.9%, NASBO said, with 30 states reporting increases in fiscal 2018 (seven decreased).

These seven fat years are when a functional party would have balanced the budget.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM



FOUR VOLUNTEERS WITH a faith-based humanitarian group drove onto a remote wilderness refuge in southern Arizona last summer hoping to prevent an unnecessary loss of life. A distress call had come in, a woman reporting that two family members and a friend were without water in one of the deadliest sections of the U.S.-Mexico border. For hours, the volunteers' messages to the Border Patrol went unanswered. With summer in the Sonoran Desert being the deadliest time of year, they set off in a pickup truck, racing to the peak where the migrants were said to be.

Once on the refuge, the volunteers were tracked by federal agents, beginning a process that would lead to federal charges. Now, more than a year later, they each face a year prison, and Trump administration prosecutors are fighting to keep the communications of law enforcement officials celebrating their prosecution from becoming public.

The legal wrangling began this week, when the volunteers' attorneys filed a series of motions urging Arizona Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald to dismiss the charges against them, citing allegations of selective enforcement and violations of international law, due process, and religious freedom. Attached to the motions were several exhibits, including text messages between federal law enforcement officials. Justice Department attorneys quickly moved to have the motions sealed, but not before The Intercept downloaded them from Pacer, the public-facing repository for federal court records. 

The exhibits include text messages between a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee and a Border Patrol agent, in which the Fish and Wildlife employee declares "Love it" in response to the prosecution of the volunteers. Described in the text messages as "bean droppers," volunteers with the group No More Deaths and their organization are referred to by name in the communications between federal law enforcement officials, who describe, with apparent glee, the government's "action against them." [...]

In addition to the exhibits the government would like to have sealed, the motions filed this week provide the latest evidence that law enforcement actions taken against No More Deaths, an official ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tucson, are part of a campaign targeting the organization. In a sworn declaration, Robin Reineke, a cultural anthropologist and director of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, an internationally renowned organization that repatriates the remains of migrants who die in the desert, described a meeting last summer in which a senior Border Patrol agent angrily told her that because of the bad press No More Deaths stirred up for his employer, the agency's plan was to "shut them down."

In an interview with The Intercept on Wednesday, Reineke described the meeting as "disturbing," saying it spoke to a broader breakdown between nongovernmental organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis on the border and federal law enforcement, including a Border Patrol workforce emboldened by an administration set on pushing an already punishing immigration enforcement apparatus into overdrive.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM

SERPICO II (profanity alert):

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Angrily, painfully, Jeffrey Wigand emerged from the sealed world of Big Tobacco to confront the nation's third-largest cigarette company, Brown & Williamson. Hailed as a hero by anti-smoking forces and vilified by the tobacco industry, Wigand is at the center of an epic multi-billion-dollar struggle that reaches from Capitol Hill to the hallowed journalistic halls of CBS's 60 Minutes. (MARIE BRENNER, MAY 1996, Vanity Fair)

According to Bergman, "It took Jeff a long time to come out and decide that he wanted to tell his story. He used to say, 'Lowell, I want to do this, but I need support. I need my wife there. We can't do it yet, because Lucretia is not there.'" Wigand had continued to keep secrets from her: In May, the Wigands had come to New York as guests of 60 Minutes. It was not obvious to Bergman that Wigand had not told Lucretia that he intended to be interviewed. "He expected me to explain it to her," Bergman told me. All summer long Wigand debated about his public role, and Lucretia grew increasingly panicky. Meanwhile, he continued to advise Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering regarding Philip Morris's suit against ABC. He was even asked to testify for ABC if the case should ever go to court. Bergman read his name on a wire-service story. "I called him and went ballistic! I said, 'Do you understand that B&W will now go to court to keep you from testifying? Soon every news outlet in America will be calling you.'" Bergman had begun to corroborate Wigand's story from the taped interview he had made; he knew that the Merrell Williams B&W documents supported Wigand's assertions about addiction, disease, and the role of various individuals. "I wasn't doing a personality profile. I wanted to find out what he knew that was different."

In July, Bergman began to get concerned. "I could see right up front that Jeff was going to wind up testifying. Philip Morris knew about him, the Justice Department knew about him, and so did the F.D.A. I called up Ephraim [Margolin, a lawyer friend who was advising Wigand by this time] and said, 'Your client may wind up with a court order not to speak. Let's get the guy's story on-camera and lock it up!' Ephraim had my verbal understanding that we wouldn't run it until he was ready. Jeff was worried about homesteading his house in case he lost a breach-of-contract suit. He showed up in New York and said, 'Ephraim wants you to write him a note.' So I did." The note stated that CBS would not run the interview without Wigand's permission, and that they would reconsider the matter on September 3. It was a harmless exercise, Mike Wallace later told me he believed, intended to keep a source happy and calm.

Bergman told me, "I knew it was going ot take months to check out what he had to say. And I thought, F[***]! If he is going to testify in the ABC case, then it will be out there on Court TV in October or November. I had already yelled and screamed about him listing his name. I said, 'Great, you want to trust these people at ABC. What about this talk about ABC settling the lawsuit with Philip Morris?' I told him, 'The difference between ABC and CBS is that I will raise holy f[***]ing hell if anything happens at CBS."

On September 12, Mike Wallace was asked to attend a meeting with Ellen Kaden, the CBS general counsel, Bergman, then president of CBS News Eric Ober, 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt, and Phil Scheffler, Hewitt's second-in-command. "I think we have a problem," Kaden said, and used the phrase "tortious interference," which she said involved persuading someone to break a contract with another party. Because Wigand had a confidentiality agreement with B&W, she said, CBS could be "at a grave, grave risk." She was proposing something unprecedented in the history of CBS News--stopping an important history in midstream for fear of a lawsuit that hadn't been threatened. Someone at the meeting voiced concern about an aspect of the story that showed Andrew Tisch, the chairman of Lorillard and the son of CBS chairman Laurence Tisch, with Thomas Sandefur swearing before Congress that nicotine was not addictive. "How do you expect us to go on the air with a piece that might put the chairman's son in jail?" someone said. Hewitt, by disposition noisy and opinionated, was muted, as were Ober and Wallace. Hewitt later recalled that he had had no intention of "playing cards with a stacked deck." He advanced none of the First Amendment arguments considered routine, such as: How could you have a confidentiality agreement when there were thousands of pages of supporting documents on the Internet? And Hewitt made no offer to press the issue with his boss, Larry Tisch. Bergman, who was on his way to London to interview bat executives, was told to cancel the trip.

Don Hewitt's relationship with Larry Tisch soured after Tisch got control of CBS in 1986. "I am not proud of it anymore, but Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite, and I were the cheerleaders for Larry buying the network," he said. "The night Tisch bought CBS, we were all up at our friend Mollie Parnis's slapping him on the back." A week later, Hewitt went to see him. "I said, 'Larry, we have been pretty good friends, and now I need a favor.' I said, 'You have handed me all of this money. Tell me what to do with it. Lead me to a good financial advisor. Who knows better than you?' I got the brush-off. Later I heard he said, 'I not only pay the son of a bitch all that money--now he wants free business advice!'"

The relationship between Hewitt and Tisch, who are both 73, grew icy, according to Hewitt, when Tisch realized that he could have no editorial influence on 60 Minutes--an assertion that Tisch denies. In fact, the two men shared certain personality quirks: Hewitt was as voluble as Tisch and, like his new boss, had a desire for respectability. Hewitt's peppery letters and messages were famous in the city, as was Tisch's pose of modest conviviality. A few years after Tisch became C.E.O., 60 Minutes produced a searing report on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that Tisch didn't like. "He stopped talking to me at that point," Hewitt recalled. "I went to a reception that Warren Phillips [publisher of The Wall Street Journal] had at the River House, a room full of people like Punch Sulzberger and Kay Graham. I walked in and said to Larry, 'Hey, boss, how are you?' He said, 'Don't you "Hey, boss" me.' He turned his back and walked away! We next did a story on Temple Mount in which we say that the Jerusalem police got out of hand, and somebody tells me that when Larry was asked about it his answer was 'Don't ask me. Ask Horowitz and Wallach, the two self-hating Jews who changed their names.'... We were the most profitable broadcast in the history of television. The f[***]er got out of here with all that money only because we kept his company afloat." According to Tisch, "This is nonsense! Jesus! This poor fellow has a complex. So many things have been attributed to me that I never said. What would I care what Don Hewitt's last name was originally?"

In the midst of the furor over the Temple Mount piece, Hewitt said to Tisch, "Larry, you are, in effect, our publisher. It is up to you to defend us." Tisch answered, "I am not your publisher." "That episode with Temple Mount unsettled Larry," a close friend of his recalled. "He had no idea that as the new proprietor of CBS News he had to respect his news division and their editorial judgment."

After Tisch took over CBS, the news division was stripped of a good deal of its power and reputation. At a time when ABC was expanding its news operation, Tisch cut the CBS budget drastically. He sold off the lucrative CBS record company, refused to invest in cable, and was outbid on broadcast rights to the N.F.L. football games that were the lead-in to 60 Minutes. "You have to understand," a friend of Tisch's told me, "Larry likes money. Money is a game for him!"

The relationship between CBS and Tisch's tobacco company, Lorillard, became a vexing problem for the news division. According to someone who knows Tisch well, when he bought Lorillard, in 1968, he viewed it only as a potential investment. "Years ago, the Tisch family was not afraid of liability. If he had asked his technical people, 'Am I in any danger?' he would have gotten the typical answer back: 'You can't prove anything in a liability case since the surgeon general forced the companies to put a warning on the packs.'" Tisch could not have forecast then the sweeping change in tort litigation, the possibility of immense jury awards. There was no imagining in 1968 how medical costs would soar in a few years. "None of this was on the horizon," Tisch told me. "I couldn't tell you today whether or not I would have bought Lorillard 30 years ago.... There is no clear-cut proof about addiction. I am not a scientist. I never smoked. I take a drink, but am I an addict? Liability suits? This is all pure speculation. I hate it when people tell me what I have been thinking."

Lorillard became an immense cash bonanza for the Loews Corporation--the parent company controlled by Tisch and his brother, Robert--earning approximately $700 million a year. For several of Tisch's friends, a key to his personality can be found in the controversy that tore apart New York University Medical Center in 1989. Tisch was the chairman of the university's board of trustees, and it was believed that he would give a substantial gift. He announced that he and his brother would donate $30 million but with one proviso: the hospital would have to be renamed in their honor--a proposal which caused an outcry in the press. "Naming a hospital after tobacco men is just too ironic," Dr. William Cahan, a prominent surgeon at Sloan-Kettering, said in May 1989. "Around town, the University Hospital is becoming known as Lorillard General." But the hospital gave in to Tisch's demand. According to Tisch, "There was not a great a deal of negative feeling. I only received one or two letters about it. I thought the family was doing the right thing.

Lowell Bergman arrived at the Wigands' red brick house late in the afternoon on September 15. He was deeply concerned about the New York meeting and its ominous implications. His inner radar told him something was way off in the CBS decision, but he was a corporate employee. If he stormed out in a rage of protest, Wigand would be left unprotected. In the wake of ABC's recent settlement in the Philip Morris suit, Wigand felt doubly vulnerable and exposed, because his name was on the witness list. He said, "They're going to sue me, and I don't have any money." During dinner that night, Bergman received a phone call from Jonathan Sternberg, a CBS lawyer. "Leave that house right now," he told him.

At the end of September, Bergman spent a long weekend cutting a version of the B&W exposé. "I wanted to show Mike, Don, and Eric Ober exactly what it was CBS News wanted to kill." Bergman screened it for the three men that Monday. He recalled, "Hewitt was jumping up and down, yelling, 'Pulitzer Prize!'"

Soon after, Bergman ran into Phil Scheffler in the hall. The show's managing editor looked somber. "All he said to me was 'Stop!' in a loud, booming voice," referring to Bergman's reporting on Wigand.

In the research files of Nexis, the information-retrieval service, there are 220 newspaper and magazine stories that have mentioned "tortious interference" since CBS News made the decision not to allow the Wigand segment to go on the air. It is commonly believed that Tisch, who was in the midst of talks with Westinghouse concerning a merger with CBS, would not entertain the possibility of the threat of a tobacco-company lawsuit. Tisch had witnessed personally the consequences of tortious interference. In 1983 he had been brought onto the board of Getty Oil by Gordon Getty. Several months later he and Getty toasted a bid from Pennzoil to acquire Getty--a bid that would later be topped by Texaco. Pennzoil sued in a famous case in which Tisch testified, but Texaco was forced into temporary bankruptcy when Pennzoil won a record-breaking settlement. Still, Tisch denies that this experience had anything to do with the CBS decision. "What I went through had nothing to do with the B&W episode. I read about it in the paper, the same way you did," Tisch told me.

It was not widely known that a complex financial deal was going on at Lorillard about the time Bergman was trying to salvage the Wigand interview. At the end of 1994, the Federal Trade Commission had ruled that B&W had to sell off its discount, or value-brand, cigarettes--Montclair, Malibu, Crown's, Special 10's, Riviera, and Bull Durham--for anti-trust reasons. Lorillard was a logical buyer because, although it controlled close to 8 percent of the tobacco market with brands such as Kent, Newport, and True, it was decidedly weak in the area of discount cigarettes. The potential acquisition of Montclair and the other brands would round out the Lorillard product line and increase cigarette sales by more than five billion units. While the acquisition was being studied inside Lorillard, Westinghouse was negotiating for a merger with CBS, and speculation within 60 Minutes was focused on the effect a possible lawsuit would have on the merger.

By mid-October, the Liggett Group believed it was the high bidder for the B&W cigarettes, according to a source close to the case. Just before the deal was ready to close, the general counsel for Liggett suddenly could not get the B&W lawyers on the telephone. He was stunned when he discovered that B&W had sold the cigarette brands to Lorillard. George Lowy, an attorney who represented B&W in the divestiture, has said, "Lorillard's deal was financially superior." Liggett is considering bringing legal action against B&W. The F.T.C. filing on the sale is unusual; some nine pages have been blanked out. The price of purchase and number of bidders are deleted. The deal was announced in late November, three weeks after 60 Minutes killed its original story. But Tisch recently told me, "I don't know anything about it. I have nothing to do with Lorillard. I was spending my full time at CBS." Ironically, it is possible that the suit Liggett may bring would be for tortious interference.

In November, no one at 60 Minutes was aware of the shuffle that was going on behind the scenes with the B&W brands. "I knew all kinds of litigation was possible," Bergman told me. "I kept saying to people, 'You are making news decisions in a corporate atmosphere where there is no appetite for this kind of story. There is possible perjury on the part of the son of the owner trying to sell an asset at a premium price where the consequences of the story might affect the stock price. Think how history might record this!'"

By brushing against Big Tobacco, Tisch, Wigand, Bergman, Hewitt, and Wallace were all soon lost in a thicket of hidden dangers. Wigand was still oblivious to the gathering perplexities and the corporate forces arrayed against him. As far as Wigand was concerned, said Bergman, "I was the face of 60 Minutes. I was there holding his hand when his wife freaked out." As for Bergman, he had worked for a year and a half to bring in one of the most important stories of his career, and by doing so he had put his employer and his future in jeopardy. Hewitt and Wallace were millionaires many times over, yet their public acquiescence to CBS's reluctance to air their story threatened to tarnish their distinguished careers.

"In the end, I made the call to Wigand to tell him that management had made the decision to kill the show," Mike Wallace told me. "Lowell did not have the heart to do it." Bergman was distraught: "My work depends on my word. We had never indicated to Jeff that there would be any problem." The decision to kill the segment, Wallace said, marked the "the first time in 28 years that Don and I saw something differently." Hewitt, according to 60 Minutes sources, was attempting both to please the authorities and to act like a newsman, a position that became known as "the Hewitt straddle" in the office. However angry Wallace was, he told friends he was too old to quit on principle, and he did not understand why Hewitt was siding with management.

Hewitt called a meeting of the staff. "This is not a First Amendment issue," he said, but several people in the room strongly disagreed with him. "General counsel believes we have broken the law." Suddenly Mike Wallace burst in and screamed at Hewitt, "I understand you have just said we should not have pursued the story!"--which Hewitt had not in fact said. "Who told you that? If that is what you think, I am quitting!" Hewitt said and stormed out of the room.

In November, Hewitt decided to run a version of the B&W story without a Wigand interview. Wallace prepared a news piece for the Friday before the show was to run. It was Wallace's intention to broadcast management's decision, but when he saw the show, he realized his work had been cut by the CBS lawyers. In the hall he confronted Ellen Kaden. "Did you tell Larry Tisch about the Wigand interview? Is that why the piece was killed?" Kaden denied it. Wallace was relentless. "It doesn't make sense. You are his general counsel. Why would you not have told him?" Wallace later recalled that Kaden started to cry, a story she has denied. Kaden had sought advice from an outside counsel, First Amendment specialist Cameron DeVore, but she refused to show Wallace any of the memos he had written her. One former CBS executive surmised that no one at CBS management was willing to take responsibility for killing the Wigand interview, and Kaden was left to take the fall.

Hewitt told a New York Times reporter that the new version was "better, I think, than what we had before." When an Associated Press reporter called Bergman for comment, Bergman told him angrily, "The versions are apples and oranges." Wallace was enraged when he read a Times editorial accusing the program of betraying the legacy of Edward R. Murrow. "I don't know if things will ever go back to normal," one correspondent said. "The fact is," Wallace told me, "that Don and I had a difference of opinion about whether we should or should not push to get this thing on the air. It turned bloody and icy from time to time."

Except for Wallace, not one correspondent picked up the telephone to call Bergman. Wallace and Morley Safer were raging at each other. Safer even issued a statement to the press attacking Wallace and Bergman for making an agreement with Wigand. The feud at 60 Minutes offered a rare view inside the psychodynamics of TV news. "It became poisonous and contagious, with many people wanting to hang Lowell," CBS producer George Crile said. In a fit of pique, Don Hewitt told several staffers to distance themselves from Bergman. Soon a reaction developed within the office. The staff felt as if it were living in a Potemkin village. Their very integrity rested on their ability to tell a story accurately, despite confidentiality agreements. Ellen Kaden would later tell friends that she was furious that Wigand's identity had been leaked to the Daily News. She blamed 60 Minutes for it and for the attacks against her in the press. It was Kaden's belief that she was only doing her job, trying to prevent CBS from entering the nightmare of tobacco litigation that ABC had endured. She later recalled learning of the million pages of red paper that Philip Morris had delivered to ABC--the color red could not be photocopied--and noted with alarm that a Virginia judge had ruled that this was not an abusive tactic.

Finally got around to watching the typically great Michael Mann version of this story--The Insider.  Like all of the best stories, it is fundamentally a love story between two men, in this case, Jeffery Wigand and Lowell Bergman.  While it is not detailed in this story--which is cited as the basis of the film--Bergman ended up becoming Wigand, the insider who had to wrestle with ethical questions before revealing corporate malfeasance.  And while tobacco companies are low hanging fruit, the fact that the company that Bergman informed on is one of the most important institutions of our "free" press makes for compelling viewing.  The press is, after all, afforded nearly unique constitutional protections for what is ultimately a business enterprise (matched only by the gun industry) and the combination intertwines awfully uneasily on the evidence here. We have granted them special treatment on the basis of their serving the public good without necessarily considering the degree to which they are driven by their own private good. In the best of circumstances the two coincide.  In the worst, they are diametrically opposed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


How America Changed Its Approach to Political Islam: The view from Washington has shifted a lot over the decades. SHADI HAMID, PETER MANDAVILLE, WILLIAM MCCANTS, OCT 4, 2017, The Atlantic)

The event that set the tone for U.S. policy toward Sunni Islamist movements (of the Muslim Brotherhood ilk) was the Algerian parliamentary election of 1991. When it became clear that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win the two-thirds majority required to change the country's constitution, the military intervened to annul the results, plunging Algeria into civil war for the better part of a decade. In a spring 1992 speech, Assistant Secretary of State Edward Djerejian indicated that the Algerian army's intervention had been prudent because Islamists coming to power through the ballot box would have been a case of "one man, one vote, one time." In other words, Islamists would make instrumental use of the ballot box to capture the state, only to subsequently dismantle democracy.

Sunni Islamist movements, meanwhile, were evolving rapidly with the times. By the mid-1990s, there were clear signs that these groups could no longer be understood through the original vision of Islamist "founding fathers"--such as the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna or Pakistan's Abul Ala Mawdudi. By the mid-2000s, Islamist parties had become fixtures in the mainstream politics of Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, and Kuwait. In Turkey in 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose roots lay in Turkey's Islamist movement, won its first landslide victory.

During this same period, U.S. policy toward Islamists remained quite cautious. In 1995, Washington announced that it was ceasing all contact with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. After the September 11th attacks, some of the more influential voices shaping American views of political Islam were those--such as Israel and Egypt--that wished to advance an understanding of Islamism consistent with their domestic interests. Soon, most Islamist parties in the Arab world decided to boycott the United States in a gesture of protest at the American invasion of Iraq. In 2006, America's rejection of Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections seemed to confirm in the eyes of many the idea that the United States was simply unwilling to allow Islamists to govern, even when they won in free elections.

Looked at from a different vantage point, however, Washington's reluctance to engage with Islamists seems guided more by basic realpolitik. The U.S. ceased contact with the Brotherhood in Egypt based on a request from its partner, the Egyptian government. It rejected Hamas's victory at the polls out of concern for its close ally Israel--and because Hamas was a designated terrorist organization. Yet, at the same time, Islamist parties in various countries--including Yemen, Indonesia, Morocco, and Jordan--received various forms of support and training through democracy promotion programs funded by the likes of the United States Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy. There was no coherent, deliberate policy toward Islamist parties as such; it was a byproduct of other concerns.

In the pre-Arab Spring era, the Muslim Brotherhood and the many movements it inspired reached a consensus for how to pursue their aims: bide their time, do their best to build social influence within regime constraints, make small but significant inroads in parliament, wait for a democratic opening, and then, when it came, fill the political vacuum. There was no need to spend too much time pondering questions of governance, since the prospect of governing seemed so remote. The Arab uprisings challenged this model, then rendered it moot.

The partification of Islamist movements has been one of the most important features of Islamist evolution since the 1990s. For decades, Western analysts and policymakers alike had encouraged mainstream Islamists to embrace the democratic process, de-emphasize their religious origins, and form "normal" political parties. This was a natural fit for these groups, which, having been established by doctors, engineers, and teachers, weren't necessarily strong on theology but knew how to get out the vote, and get out the vote they did. This prioritizing of elections--some Islamists themselves came to see it as an "obsession"--offered an easy out from difficult and divisive debates around the nature and purpose of the nation-state, issues that became all the more relevant when Islamists in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Yemen all had opportunities to govern during and after the Arab Spring.

Having faced any number of setbacks, Islamist parties in each of the 12 countries we focus on in our new book have had to contend with basic questions of how change actually happens when elites and "deep states" oppose Islamists and when regional and international actors are suspicious of them, if not outright hostile. How Islamists deal with these challenges, naturally, has a lot to do with how the various revolutions, stalled revolutions, or non-revolutions evolved in each particular case. For example, were rulers toppled, therefore inviting a leadership vacuum that well-organized Islamist groups could then fill? Did state structures collapse after revolution, thereby provoking outbreaks of violent conflict or civil war? Where rulers were not toppled, how did Islamist parties balance nominal loyalty to existing regimes with popular demands for political change?

A common challenge faced by Brotherhood-inspired organizations is the tension that arises between their movements and their political parties, which are often described as "arms" or "wings" of the movement. The imperatives of seeking votes are often not the imperatives of a movement seeking social transformation. A preacher's extreme sermon might excite a small core but alienate the masses needed for electoral success. Meanwhile, a party leader's call for moderation to avoid alienating militaries or monarchies might depress the turnout of conservative supporters.

This dilemma was particularly acute after the Arab uprisings, when mainstream Islamists had to decide to what extent to contest elections. Some, like the Egyptian Brotherhood, maintained a blurry relationship between movement and party (with the latter ultimately dependent on the former), leading people to blame the movement for the party's misfortunes and vice versa. Tunisia's Ennahda is perhaps the most unique case, with party and movement being one and the same before transforming into a party and declaring a separation between "religious" and "political" activities. While such a move was generally welcomed by Western observers who saw this as the holy grail of moderation, it raised a new set of questions around what it meant to be an Islamist party that was no longer, in its own telling, "Islamist," but rather "Muslim Democratic."

Many Western observers may have wanted Ennahda to become Muslim Democratic, but did their own supporters? Islamist parties, after all, have been successful, in part, because they are not just parties; they represent broader-based movements, which provide organizational discipline, social service provision, funding for electoral campaigns, and broader reach into less politicized sectors of society.

The tension between party and movement is particularly evident among mainstream Islamist groups like the Brotherhood, which, over time, came to see elections as the primary mechanism for both social and political change, even when it came at the cost of traditional core concerns like preaching, religious education, and social service provision. Indeed, if there is one finding that emerges clearly from the failures of the Arab Spring, it is that Brotherhood organizations, particularly in the Arab world, view electoral victory as the definitive measure of success.

Sometimes the hardest thing to accept is that you've won.  The adoption of democratic norms by political Islam is one such case.  W and the UR both whiffed by not embracing and defending popular Islamic political parties when they succeeded at the polls in Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt.  It has needlessly delayed self-determination for another generation.

September 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


INTERVIEW with JAMES C. COBB: WHY HAS AMERICA BEEN SO RELUCTANT TO 'OWN' THE SOUTH?: A Preeminent Historian Explores How a Region Central to U.S. Identity Gets Written Out of the National Narrative (INTERVIEW by GREGORY RODRIGUEZ | SEPTEMBER 13, 2018, Zocalo Public Square)

Were there forces other than slavery that forged this sense of regional distinctiveness?

Identity is not something that we get to pick. We are not the sole arbiters of our own identity. Our identity is partially what we think we are, but it is also defined by others. What they see us as being. And as the nation developed in the first few decades, there were already differences in the South and the New England states. The South is a dispersed population, organized around the agricultural plantation. New England is organized more around the small towns, the villages. More concentration of the population and more demand for education and innovation spawned what I always call a foolish Yankee faith in education. That also spawns, then, the market for public communication, for newspapers and magazines and journals.

Whereas in the South everything is so spread out, and any printing material you get there would take so long to arrive, it would be way out of date. And public education was unknown. The planters who had the money, they educated their kids privately. There was no investment in public education.

So with all of that, basically the definition of the South as a region set apart from the rest of the country was actually written in New England. And at the same time, New Englanders and the New England media are pushing New England as the essence of what this new country is supposed to be about--the New England ideals of frugality and hard work and piety. And so, it's sort of a struggle as to who gets to represent the true American. And, the advantages clearly lie with New England in this respect.

When we finally decided we were not going to fight Great Britain anymore, we no longer had the kind of antithetical foe or antagonist that group identities are usually dependent on. You know, when you identify a group, it's not just "this is who we are," it's also "they are who we ain't." And so, whereas Britain had served in that role up through the War of 1812, the South then sort of supplanted Great Britain. Now you had these people out in outrageously hot weather living dissolute lives growing wealthy off the labors of bondsmen--so it was easy to write the South out of the central narrative of American history, but make it a vital component nonetheless in the formulation of a national identity.

Slavery itself, the institution, became one of the characteristics that set the South apart from the rest of country, which is really ironic because slavery was kind of the impetus for the development of New England.
What role does Thanksgiving play in the way the South was written out of America's national narrative?

Thanksgiving was basically a New England holiday. And by the time there was a push in the 1840s to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, abolitionism had become so associated with New England that many Southerners and Southern politicians, in particular, didn't cotton to the whole idea of basically an abolitionist holiday. So there was a strong resistance to celebrating Thanksgiving that carried over well through the Civil War era. And it's only after Reconstruction that the Southern states finally say, well, we realized we've finally got to get back in the fold and get with the program--to show that we are after all American--that the Southern states start to embrace Thanksgiving. [...]

What was the primary impulse for Southern states to secede?

For many generations, white Southerners have insisted that the Civil War was not about slavery, that it was about states' rights or it was about economic differences, or tariffs. But if you go back and just read the debates over secession in each Southern state-- which I have had the dubious pleasure of doing--it becomes very clear that the debate is taking place between two groups of slaveholders. And every state secession convention was dominated, not just by slaveholders, but by large slaveholders. And the question that they're trying to wrestle with is: "Can we best protect slavery by leaving the Union, and creating a new nation centered on protecting slavery, or can we still find better ways to protect slavery by staying in the Union?" That's the debate.

The cretins even opposed our high holy day.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


'He's not perfect': why do so many Brazilians support rightwinger Jair Bolsonaro?: Although many are revolted by his racist, sexist and homophobic comments, his Trump-like his simple solutions attract plenty of admirers (Dom Phillips, 14 Sep 2018, The Guardian)

Bolsonaro has not gone that far, but he has praised dictatorship-era torturers, proposed that police should been given immunity to kill criminals and called for chemical castration of rapists.

And such suggestions do resonate with voters desperate for an end to Brazil's soaring murder rate.

After an evening service at the Assembly of God Victory in Christ evangelical church in Rio's working-class Penha neighbourhood, many churchgoers expressed support for Bolsonaro's focus on law and order.

"Public security should be put first. It is an embarrassment," said Sandra Conçeião dos Santos, 44, an unemployed kitchen assistant.

Anderson Valentim, 41, a Rio police sergeant, said members of the city's dispirited and underfunded police force - as well as firefighters and the military - will overwhelmingly vote for Bolsonaro. "We have to have support to work," he said. "People want a change, an alternative in power."

Valentim was unconcerned by Bolsonaro's praise for the military dictatorship which ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, repeating a common argument that the regime saved the country from the threat posed armed leftists - although historians agree that Brazil's guerrilla groups never came close to taking power.

"At that time it was war," said Valentim. "The guerrillas committed excesses as well."

On Tuesday, Brazil's supreme court voted to drop charges of inciting racism against Bolsonaro, although a separate accusation of inciting rape has yet to come to court.

But unlike roughly half of the congress who face investigations for serious crimes, Bolsonaro has never been charged with corruption.

And despite 28 years as a deputy in Brazil's lower house, he presents himself as a political outsider, raging against the leftwing Workers' party for its involvement in a string of graft scandals - and vowing to drain Brasília's swamp.

Evangelical Christian women at the church approved of Bolsonaro's attacks on the so-called "gay kit" - a package of educational material tackling homophobia that the government of Dilma Rousseff tried to introduce in 2011.

"I won't say he is perfect, but he is most aligned with family values," said Renata Santana, 44, an educational psychologist.

Other supporters are attracted by his promise of simple solutions to Brazil's worst-ever recession.

"There are no jobs, and this is because of socialist policies that stopped business people taking projects forward," said Rose Limeira, 32, a private school teacher in São Paulo. "People can't afford to employ anyone because they pay so much to the government."

His manifesto promises to transform a $33bn deficit into a surplus by 2020 while cutting taxes, a pledge which has been rubbished by economists - not least because next year's budget has already been approved in congress.

Bolsonaro admits that he understands little about economics and says he will defer to the pro-market policies of his adviser Paulo Guedes, prompting some powerful businessmen to announce support.

Corruption and crime dominate dramatic Brazilian election campaign (CHANDRAHAS CHOUDHURY, September 11, 2018, Arab News)
A study released earlier this year shows that violence in Brazil costs the world's eighth-largest economy more than 4 percent of its gross domestic product. Last weekend, it nearly cost the country a presidential candidate. Jair Bolsonaro, the leading contender ahead of next month's election, was stabbed during a rally in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais and seriously injured. [...]

All this comes on the back of four years of political chaos, with Dilma Rousseff, Lula's successor, being impeached (also for corruption) and her unelected and unpopular successor Michel Temer then also becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal.

At least this sordid history of sleaze and graft provides a context for the rise of a politician as unreconstructed as Bolsonaro. He is a former army man whose meteoric rise has come despite -- or perhaps because of -- a history of derisive remarks about women, minorities and homosexuals. He presents himself as an outsider who will flush out corruption and crack down on crime, and he has a giant following on social media. 

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Scott Walker pledges to protect pre-existing conditions coverage as candidates clash over health care (SCOTT BAUER, 9/15/18,  Associated Press)

Gov. Scott Walker pledged Friday to ensure those with pre-existing conditions would be covered in Wisconsin if the Affordable Care Act were repealed -- a key provision of the law known as Obamacare that he has long opposed.

"If something were to change, Scott Walker would call a special session in a heartbeat and get it passed," Walker's campaign spokesman, Brian Reisinger, said Friday after Walker's Republican running mate and Democratic opponent traded jabs over the issue.

Earlier in the day state Superintendent Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, both cancer survivors, clashed over protections for people like them with pre-existing conditions.

Kleefisch is featured in a new television ad in which she says as long as she and Walker are in office, people with pre-existing conditions will be guaranteed health insurance.

That protection is extended under former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, which Walker has been working for years to repeal. He signed off on Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel joining a multistate lawsuit this year that seeks to undo the law and the pre-existing conditions protection.

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Report: Men penalized significantly more than women in tennis (Ryan Young, Sep 14, 2018, Yahoo)

The report, looking at fines data at Grand Slam events from 1998 to 2018, found that women were fined 535 times, while men were fined 1,517 times.

Women only outnumbered men in two categories over the past two decades -- racking up 152 fines for coaching, compared to just 87 for men, and 10 no press fines, compared to just six for men.

Here are some of the biggest fines, from the New York Times:

Racket Abuse -- Men 646, Women 99
Audible Obscenity -- Men 344, 140
Unsportsmanlike Conduct -- Men 287, Women 67
Verbal Abuse -- Men 62, Women 16
Ball Abuse -- Men 49, Women 35
Visible Obscenity -- Men 20, Women 11

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Trump Court Brief Suggests the President May Subpoena 21 Women Who Have Accused Him of Sexual Assault (Colin Kalmbacher, September 15th, 2018, Law & Crime)

President Donald Trump filed a court brief late Friday night in an effort to avoid invasive-and potentially politically costly-discovery demands in the ongoing lawsuit against the president brought by Summer Zervos. Specifically, Trump argues that certain discovery requests should be denied or he'll have to subpoena each of the 21 additional women who have accused him of various forms of sexual assault.

Zervos was a contestant on season five of the Apprentice; her lawsuit accuses Trump of defamation per se after he publicly denied sexually assaulting her in a hotel room years ago. Defamation is an unprotected form of false speech which is legally actionable at the state level.

At the heart of the matter is the allegation that Trump groped and forcibly kissed Zervos in 2007 when the former reality show contestant approached the show's host about job opportunities.

In her original complaint, filed three days before Trump's sparsely attended inauguration in Washington, D.C., Zervos detailed the alleged sexual assault.

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Shooters are twice as deadly when a semiautomatic rifle is in the mix, study finds (Karen Kaplan, SEP 11, 2018, LA Times)
Any time a shooter opens fire in a school, a church or anywhere else, the consequences can be deadly. But the danger is about double when a semiautomatic weapon is involved.

In the United States, shootings that involved a semiautomatic rifle resulted in nearly twice as many deaths compared with shootings carried out with only handguns, shotguns or non-semiautomatic rifles, according to a report published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. Nonfatal injuries were significantly higher as well.

The point of their existence is to kill people.

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM


In 2018, it makes way more sense to buy a $1,000 Apple iPhone than a $1,000 Apple laptop (Matt Weinberger, 9/15/18, Business Insider)

I agree it's not great that smartphones are getting so expensive. Honestly, though, at this moment in time, I feel a lot better about paying $1,000 for a high-end Apple iPhone than I do for the $1,000 Apple MacBook -- or, honestly, any other laptop. (But especially Apple's.)

As my former colleague Steve Kovach pointed out when the iPhone X was first announced, it almost always makes sense to buy the most powerful phone you can afford. Given how much time most of us spend with our smartphones, all day every day, you're way more likely to regret going for a cheaper option.

And, honestly, the iPhone X (and its forthcoming successor, the iPhone XS) make a good case for being worth the money. The camera is great, the battery life is very good, and it has a kickin' OLED display with more screen real estate than any of its predecessors.

A decade without discs: The original MacBook Air turns 10 today (Michael Steeber, Jan. 15th 2018, 9to5Mac)

The MacBook Air was the first Mac since the original iMac to ship without an internal CD/DVD drive. It was the first Mac to embrace a wireless future where ports and cables were discarded in favor of reduced weight and thickness. It paved the way for placing SSDs in all modern Macs instead of slow, mechanical hard disks. It brought the widespread adoption of multi-touch trackpads to Macs. And, as Apple was quick to note, it was the world's thinnest notebook.

With the MacBook Air came another step forward - a public focus on Apple's environmental efforts. An all-aluminum case, mercury-free display with arsenic-free glass, and BFR and PVC-free circuit boards were all touted as firsts. Apple has been very vocal in its materials progress ever since, proudly displaying environmental scorecards at new product launches.

On stage, Steve Jobs detailed how other manufacturers made significant compromises in their ultra-portable laptops. Full-size keyboards were sacrificed, displays were shrunk, and processors limited. The original MacBook Air, too, was a machine born under the weight of constraints. Its CPU and RAM options were not suitable for demanding tasks. Storage was limited to a slow 80GB spinning drive or a fast but small 64GB SSD. And the price? $1799 for the base model, and an incredible $3098 if you opted for the SSD.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Trade war: American autos look to be hit the most by both US and China tariffs (Evelyn Cheng, 14 Sept 2018, CNBC)

U.S. automakers in China are feeling the most pain as some American companies are getting hurt by new tariffs from both the White House and Beijing, according to a survey released this week from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and Beijing-based American Chamber of Commerce in China. [...]

The initial round of U.S. tariffs has affected 80.5 percent of survey respondents in the automotive industry, and 75 percent say the Chinese duties have hit them. That makes the industry the only one to appear in the ranks of the three or four most impacted by tariffs from both sides.

Overall, the survey found more than 60 percent of respondents are affected by the U.S. and Chinese tariffs, and significantly more expect negative impact from the proposed second round of duties.

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Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis's Fate in Doubt (Helene Cooper, Sept. 15, 2018, NY Times)

White House officials said Mr. Mattis had balked at a number of Mr. Trump's requests. That included initially slow-walking the president's order to ban transgender troops  from the military and refusing a White House demand to stop family members from accompanying troops deploying to South Korea. The Pentagon worried that doing so could have been seen by North Korea as a precursor to war.

Over the last four months alone, the president and the defense chief have found themselves at odds over NATO policy, whether to resume large-scale military exercises with South Korea and, privately, whether Mr. Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal has proved effective. [...]

The fate of Mr. Mattis is important because he is widely viewed -- by foreign allies and adversaries but also by the traditional national security establishment in the United States -- as the cabinet official standing between a mercurial president and global tumult.

"Secretary Mattis is probably one of the most qualified individuals to hold that job," Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. A Mattis departure from the Pentagon, Mr. Reed said, "would, first of all, create a disruption in an area where there has been competence and continuity."

But that very sentiment is part of a narrative the president has come to resent.

The one-two punch last week of the Bob Woodward book that quoted Mr. Mattis likening Mr. Trump's intellect to that of a "fifth or sixth grader," combined with The New York Times Op-Ed by  an unnamed senior administration official who criticized the president, has fueled Mr. Trump's belief that he wants only like-minded loyalists around him. (Mr. Mattis has denied comparing his boss to an elementary school student and said he did not write the Op-Ed.)

Mr. Trump, two aides said, wants Mr. Mattis to be more like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a political supporter of the president. During a televised June 21 cabinet meeting, held as migrant children were being separated from their parents at the southwestern border, Mr. Mattis and Mr. Pompeo were a study of contrasts: On the president's left, the defense secretary sat stone-faced; on his right, the secretary of state was chuckling at all of Mr. Trump's jokes.

Mr. Mattis sat stone-faced rather than chuckling as his boss's jokes during a June 21 cabinet meeting, held as migrant children were being separated from their parents at the southwestern border.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Getting Mr. Mattis to abandon the apolitical stand he has clung to his entire life will be next to impossible, his friends and aides said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


'There never is a strategy': Trump confronts twin Manafort and Kavanaugh crises (CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO, 09/14/2018, Politico)

The trifecta culminated a week of the president careening from one fiasco to another, before he had fully recovered from the publication of damning excerpts from Bob Woodward's new White House account "Fear" and an op-ed published anonymously by The New York Times claiming that senior staff are working to undermine him.

Trump drew criticism for double fist-pumping as he greeted supporters en route to a Sept. 11 memorial in Pennsylvania. He fumed at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Wednesday while defending his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, amid replays of him tossing paper towels at storm victims during a visit to the island last year. On Thursday, he questioned the Maria death count, effectively minimizing the pain and suffering of millions of Americans with ties to the island -- and undermining his own defense of his administration's response.

The president remained out of sight and off Twitter for most of Friday, focusing on hurricane warnings, as aides inside the White House retrenched, telling themselves and one another that the president was being unfairly targeted by his political opponents in every instance, according to conversations with half a dozen people close to the White House, including current and former officials.

"Two things motivate almost 100 percent of his behavior: self-preservation or self-aggrandizement," said Trump biographer Tim O'Brien. "There never is a strategy because he's not a strategic thinker."

Between Woodward, Anonymous and the flippers, the paranoia level just keeps ratcheting up and the paralysis is rendering him even more of a nullity.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


A private letter from Ronald Reagan to his dying father-in-law shows the president's faith (Karen Tumulty, September 14, 2018, Washington Post)

"Dear Loyal," Reagan began. "I hope you'll forgive me for this, but I've been wanting to write you ever since we talked on the phone. I'm aware of the strain you are under and believe with all my heart there is help for that. . . . "

The letter dated Aug. 7 is not part of the presidential records publicly available at the Reagan Library. I came across it earlier this year, in a cardboard box of Nancy Reagan's personal effects. The library gave me access to them as part of my research on a biography of the late first lady.

I quote the letter here with permission of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, which has also allowed The Washington Post to reproduce it.

The discovery of this intimate missive, four pages of White House stationery randomly tucked in a file, stopped me. You do not have to be a believer yourself -- or believe that Reagan's policies were perfectly aligned with Christian teachings -- to appreciate what this private letter said about him.

I could sense Reagan's earnest intensity, how carefully he had collected his thoughts. Not a word of his small, round script was crossed out. Had he written and revised several versions, sending the one that said just what he wanted it to? Near the end were three watery smudges. Spilled coffee? Someone's later tears?

His language did not have the speechwriter-polished sheen we associate with the president who came to be known as the Great Communicator. It was an intimate, humble profession of faith. He was "Ronnie," assuring his father-in-law: "We've been promised this is only a part of life and that a greater glory awaits us."

It was "a miracle," Reagan wrote, that "a young man of 30 yrs. without credentials as a scholar or priest" had "more impact on the world than all the teachers, scientists, emperors, generals and admirals who ever lived, all put together." [...]

The letter to his father-in-law -- the only man who would ever come close to Ronnie in Nancy's estimation -- revealed how marital fidelity intertwined with Reagan's religious beliefs. He saw it not only as a source of happiness in this life, but a reward in the next.

Loyal Davis and Nancy's mother, Edith, who themselves experienced early divorces, were in many ways a model for the Reagan marriage.

"Loyal, you and Edith have known a great love -- more than many have been permitted to know. That love will not end with the end of this life," Reagan wrote. " . . . all that is required is that you believe and tell God you put yourself in his hands."

Did the letter have any impact? Nancy Reagan, who was with Loyal Davis when he died, and who saved the letter he received from his son-in-law, would later claim that her father did turn to God at the end of his life.

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Manafort's surrender shows Mueller probe's overwhelming force: A surprise guilty plea from Trump's former campaign chairman shows that Mueller's high-powered probe has been nearly impossible to resist. (DARREN SAMUELSOHN 09/14/2018, Politico)

Paul Manafort vowed he'd never flip on Donald Trump. After Manafort's conviction in federal court last month in Virginia, the president declared he had "such respect for a brave man!" because his former campaign chairman hadn't folded.

About three weeks later, Manafort broke.

The longtime GOP operative, who pleaded guilty Friday in a Washington D.C. federal courtroom days before he was set to go on trial, is now the third close Trump associate to reverse course and throw himself at the mercy of government prosecutors.

The surprise twist provided further evidence of the overwhelming power of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, before which a growing roster of defendants are finding resistance to be futile.

While Mueller passed up the opportunity for a public trial that would bring to light more proof of wrongdoing, legal experts say Manafort's plea agreement contained important new details that continue what has been a public education campaign of sorts by the special counsel.

"The Mueller team is the A team, for real," said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the nonprofit R Street Institute and a former senior counsel to independent counsel Kenneth Starr. "And they are using a series of speaking indictments to, in effect, file their final report."

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Why Are So Many TV Comedies Pondering the Meaning of Life? (Jen Chaney, 9/10/18, Vulture)

"Where am I? Who are you? And what's going on?"

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) asks these questions in the first scene of the first episode of The Good Place because she wants genuine answers to them. She's just arrived in an unfamiliar, albeit pleasantly pristine, office waiting room where she's never been before, unaware that she's (a) dead, and (b) in a carefully constructed version of what appears to be heaven. She's understandably disoriented and needs some clarity about what's happening to her.

But the fact that Eleanor immediately inquires about about her state of being is also The Good Place's way of announcing what sort of show it's going to be. Specifically, it's going to be the kind of show that thrives on raising questions, especially fundamental ones about the meaning of life.

That's pretty heavy stuff for a broadcast network comedy. But comedies that tackle heavy, philosophical matters -- let's call them existential sitcoms -- have become more common in the past few years. These are funny shows, or at the very least dramedies, that explicitly and consistently explore ethics, spirituality, or what purpose human beings are meant to serve on Earth. Typically, they deal with those earthly issues while placing their characters in heightened, even fantastical situations. The Good Place, which will enter its third season this month, is the gold standard for this type of series. But it is not the only example.

...which is why it is so well-suited to the skeptical Anglosphere.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Dashiell Hammett's Strange Career (Anne Diebel, September 14, 2018, Paris Review)

During the auspicious beginning to Hammett's writing career, conditions at home were difficult: in late 1924 or early 1925, his tuberculosis flared up and he began living apart from his wife and daughter. That arrangement that would continue in various forms for many years. In the autumn of 1925, Jose became pregnant with their second daughter. When his editor refused to raise his rate, Hammett placed a classified ad ("and I can write," it concluded) and was hired as the advertising manager for Albert Samuels Jewellers, which quadrupled the family's income. Hammett embraced his new occupation (and a fetching red-haired colleague named Peggy O'Toole, the inspiration for Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon), but after just five months on the job, he collapsed at the office in a pool of blood: he had hepatitis on top of TB, and the Veterans' Bureau deemed him 100 percent disabled. Even so, Hammett was intent on building his reputation as an ad man, if also a bit defensive about it--in an essay called "Advertising is Literature" which he wrote for Western Advertising, he argued that "every man who works with words for effects is a literary worker."

After poor health made it impossible for Hammett to report to the jeweller's office, Joseph Shaw, the latest editor of Black Mask (he would drop "The" from the title), lured him back with an offer of a raise and the opportunity to write longer stories. An eight-year period of astonishing productivity began. Hammett dashed off a novella called The Big Knockover, which Shaw serialised, and started reviewing mysteries for the Saturday Review of Literature. The first chapters of "The Cleansing of Poisonville" appeared in Black Mask, and Hammett sent the full manuscript to East Coast publishing houses. Blanche Knopf replied that they were "keen," though they felt he should remove some of the violence and change the "hopeless" title. The book came out as Red Harvest in 1929, followed by The Dain Curse (1929), The Maltese Falcon (1930), The Glass Key (1931), and The Thin Man (1934), along with movie adaptations of Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man.

Hammett's aspirations were growing. As early as 1925, he had half-joked to Phil Cody at The Black Mask that straightening out some confusion over rights would "save my literary executors trouble." In 1928, he told Blanche that he was "one of the few--if there are any more--moderately literate people who take the detective story seriously," predicting that "some day somebody's going to make 'literature' out of it." He shared his plans for a stream-of-consciousness detective novel that would "carry the reader along with the detective, showing him everything as it is found." By 1930, Hammett had become high-handed. When he received an invoice from Knopf for excess corrections on The Glass Key, he replied that someone in their editorial department "simply edited the Jesus out of my MS" and they were "lucky I haven't billed you for the trouble I was put to unediting it." His arrogance was warranted: his influence on crime fiction was immediate, profound, and far-reaching. In 1935, Hammett was invited to a Los Angeles party honoring Gertrude Stein, who wanted to meet the master of the modern detective story. He wasn't a mere genre writer; he was a modernist innovator. The Maltese Falcon, which opens with a beautiful woman walking into a PI's office with a fat bankroll and a sketchy story, reads as the ur-text of modern American crime fiction. It is what Chandler would describe, in a tribute to his master, as a scene "that seemed never to have been written before."

Hammett would soon stop writing--or, as his daughter Jo more accurately put it, stop publishing. Newly rich, he partied hard and spent profligately. And he would just as soon be overshadowed by Chandler, who had more discernibly lofty concerns. Chandler doubted Hammett "had any deliberate artistic aims whatever; he was trying to make a living by writing something he had firsthand information about. This wasn't exactly the case, but it affirmed Hammett's image as no-nonsense ex-dick. Writing was the closest thing Hammett had to a calling, but no calling comes without professional demands and anxieties, and Hammett wasn't sufficiently interested in the rewards to keep up the travails. "I am long and lean and greyheaded, and very lazy," he wrote to The Black Mask in 1924, at 30. "I have no ambition at all in the usual sense of the word."

People ask two questions about Hammett: why did he start writing, and why did he stop? Ward answers the first question to the extent that it can be answered, and he wisely avoids the second, to which Hammett already provided an answer, however inadequate: "I stopped writing because I found I was repeating myself. It's the beginning of the end when you discover you have style." Hammett didn't publish anything in the 26 years between The Thin Man and his death, but he wasn't idle: he drank prodigiously; he edited his lover Lillian Hellman's plays; he joined the Communist Party; he taught a mystery writing class; he joined the army (again); he stopped drinking; he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, found guilty of contempt of court, and sent to prison; he maintained relationships with Jose and his daughters, and with Lillian, who became more of a friend than a lover; he had other lovers; he adored his grandchildren; he fished, and made his own fishing lures; he took up sketching and photography; he read. There is tragedy in his not-writing only in that he tried. He struggled for decades to finish a novel, Tulip, and never did.

The great irony of Hammett's life and career are that his great novel depends on the hero surrendering his lover to justice, while he protected his own from it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM



TRADITIONAL INTERNATIONAL AID programs typically offer some combination of clean water, livestock, textbooks, and nutritional supplements. A new study funded by and the US Agency for International Development asks whether the poor would benefit more if they were given cash and free to spend the money as they see fit.

A number of studies on unconditional cash transfers are underway, but the government agency's involvement demonstrates a willingness to question whether the status quo is cost effective, says Michael Faye, cofounder and director of the US-based nonprofit GiveDirectly, which distributed the mobile cash in 248 villages in Rwanda, where the study took place.

USAID's involvement had been kept quiet to avoid controversy over using taxpayer funds to give money to people in Africa, reports the New York Times. Daniel Handel, the USAID official who instigated the trial, got the idea after hearing about GiveDirectly on NPR while stationed in Rwanda. Handel is now a senior adviser on aid effectiveness at USAID, a job that was created for him.

Researchers had two goals: compare an established program to combat childhood malnutrition with giving people the equivalent value ($117) in cash, and compare the cash equivalent to a much larger sum, $532.1 After a year, results released Thursday found that found that neither the established program nor its cash equivalent were able to improve child health, but the large cash transfers significantly improved people's health and financial standing. money?

September 14, 2018

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America's Record Middle-Class Earnings Exposes the 'Imaginary Hobgoblin' of Income Inequality: Americans are, by and large, more prosperous than they've ever been without being noticeably less equal. (Mark J. Perry  , 9/14/18, FEE)

Median household income last year of $61,372 was an increase of 1.8% from 2016 and brought median income for US households to the highest level ever, above the previous record level last year of $60,309. The income gain last year was the fifth consecutive annual increase in real median household income starting in 2013, following five consecutive declines from 2008 to 2012 due to the effects of the Great Recession. The last period of four consecutive gains in annual median household income was during the late 1990s at the end of the longest economic expansion in US history (120 months from March 1991 to March 2001).

That $12,000 annual increase in real household income translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American.

Although it doesn't get as much attention as median income because it's influenced by outliers on the high-end, average household income also increased to a new record level last year of $86,220, which was an increase of 1.5% from 2016 and the seventh consecutive annual increase starting in 2011.

Also notable is the fact that the average size of US households has been falling steadily for the last 70 years (or more) and was 2.54 persons in 2017, up slightly from 2.53 persons in 2016, a record low. The 2.54 average members per household last year was down by 0.50 persons from the 2.94 average in 1975 and down by more than one full person since the 3.56 average persons per household in 1947 (not shown above).

Income adjusted for household size is calculated and presented below, but it should be obvious that a comparison of median household incomes over time is distorted because the average size of US households has been declining. It's almost important to note that the typical US household in 2017 had an annual income of $12,464 more (in 2017 dollars) than the typical household in 1975--that's more than $1,000 in additional income every month for the typical household today compared to 42 years ago.

And when you consider that the cost of most manufactured goods and many services including clothing, footwear, appliances, electronics, TVs, household furnishings, sporting goods, airline travel, telephone service, computers, and automobiles have become cheaper and more affordable over time (relative to increases in overall consumer prices and incomes), along with the increased availability of services that are now almost free (GPS, music, cameras, Craigslist listings, Wikipedia information, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), that $12,000 annual increase in real household income since 1975 translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American today compared to a generation ago. [...]

The top chart above shows the shares of total income earned by the top 20% and top 5% of US households from 1993 to 2017. In 1993, 48.9% of total income went to the top quintile of US households, and 24 years later in 2017, the share of income going to the top 20% of households has increased to only 51.5%. Likewise, in 1993 the share of total income going to the top 5% of US households was 21.0%, and that share had increased to only 22.3% last year. Interestingly, the 22.3% share of income earned by the top 5% of households last year was lower than the share that group earned in 2016 (22.6%) and 2001 (22.4%), and the same as in 2006, 2011, and 2012. Over the last two decades, the income shares of the top 20% and top 5% have been remarkably stable at about 49-51.5% and 21-22.6% respectively, and there has been no statistical evidence of significant "rising income inequality" according to these measures.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


NJ Teacher 'Greens' Her Class By Wearing Same Dress 100 Days In A Row (HANK BERRIEN, September 14, 2018, Daily Caller)

A New Jersey art teacher determined to impart an environmental lesson to her students has chosen to wear the same dress for 100 school days.

Levi's CEO explains why jeans should never go in the washing machine (Ashley Lutz Jul. 15, 2014, Business Insider)

Earlier this year, Levi's CEO Chip Bergh revealed that he hasn't washed his jeans in more than a year. [...]

In a post on LinkedIn called "The Dirty Jeans Manifesto," Bergh explains that he keeps his jeans out of the washing machine in order to save water.

"We learned that an average pair of jeans consumes roughly 3,500 liters of water -- and that is after only two years of use, washing the jeans once a week," Bergh writes. "Nearly half of the total water consumption, or 1,600 liters, is the consumer throwing the jeans in the washing machine. That's equivalent to 6,700 glasses of drinking water!"

He also says that not washing the jeans helps them last longer.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Trump Wants $200 Billion in China Tariffs Despite Talks, Sources Say (Jennifer Jacobs , Saleha Mohsin , and Jenny Leonard, September 14, 2018, Bloomberg)

But an announcement of the new round of tariffs has been delayed as the administration considers revisions based on concerns raised in public comments, the people said. Trump may be running low on products he can target without significant backlash from major U.S. companies and consumers, two of the people said.

The threat of fresh tariffs roiled financial markets. U.S. stocks erased gains, dropping to session lows, while the dollar strengthened versus the Chinese offshore yuan by the most in two weeks. Technology shares led declines, with Apple Inc. falling as much as 1.7 percent. The iPhone maker last week warned that new tariffs could increase the cost of its products.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Federal prosecutors weigh charges against Democratic powerbroker in Manafort-linked probe (Erica Orden and Evan Perez, 9/14/18, CNN)

Federal prosecutors in New York are weighing criminal charges against former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig as part of an investigation into whether he failed to register as a foreign agent in a probe that is linked to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to sources familiar with the matter.

In addition, these sources said, prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York are considering taking action against powerhouse law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where Craig was a partner during the activity under examination. Prosecutors are considering a civil settlement with the firm or a deferred prosecution agreement with Skadden, these sources said. Democrats who actually do something illegal get investigated and charged...

Posted by orrinj at 3:33 PM


Has Putin's Popularity Bubble Burst? (NINA L. KHRUSHCHEVA, 9/14/18, Project Syndicate)

[T]he World Cup that began soon after took a toll. By bringing over 700,000 international visitors, the tournament changed Russians' perception of what matters - and of their leader. An ungracious host, Putin stood under an umbrella during the final post-match ceremony, while the presidents of Croatia and France got soaked by the pouring rain.

Meanwhile, the Russian people impressed the world with their happy hospitality. The bar owners, train conductors, and English-speaking volunteers welcomed visitors warmly. Russians realized that they didn't need to win at all costs; they could be great without the Kremlin's militaristic say-so.

Then the pension reform was announced, spurring a string of protests that drove Putin to pledge to soften the measure, while asking for Russians' understanding. Yet, as of September 3, 53% of the population said that they were ready to protest further. And on September 9, while local government elections took place, tens of thousands of Russians joined protests organized by the anti-corruption lawyer and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, defying the prohibition of "political agitation" on election days.

Navalny himself couldn't attend the event, after being arrested for a previous unsanctioned demonstration. But that didn't stop at least 2,500 protesters from showing up on Moscow's Pushkin Square, where they stood up to merciless police, waving signs emblazoned with slogans like "No Way" (a play on Putin's name: "put" means "way" in Russian) and "Putin, it's time to retire" (he is 65).

Protesters included many young people, who are angry not just about the pension reform, which will not affect them for a long time, but about the Putin regime's wider failings. Many believe that even if Putin has restored Russia's status as a "great power," that does not compensate for rampant corruption and a lack of opportunities at home. Young people view the regime as outdated, and Putin himself as an obstacle to the changes - such as increased investment in social programs - needed to raise living standards.

But it is not just young people who are souring on Putin. Russian businesspeople are frustrated by the effects of sanctions and angry about planned tax increases. Like young Russians, entrepreneurs are questioning whether Putin's assertive foreign policy of militant nationalism, which won him so much domestic support in the past, is worth the price, including the actual cost of Russia's military activities and the impact of Russia's increasing economic and political isolation from the West.

Putin surely knows that his position is shaky.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Manafort's Cooperation Deal Will Make a Trump Pardon Way More Unlikely (Alberto Luperon, September 14th, 2018, Law & Crime)

Even if there were clemency for Manafort, it may not keep him from talking. We also asked Bill Thomas, another attorney and former federal prosecutor, about the effect of a possible pardon, and he said it wouldn't do anything to stop Manafort from testifying. Quite the opposite.

"It seems to me that a pardon would have little effect on the investigation other than to reduce Manafort's willingness to cooperate," he told Law&Crime in an email. "A pardon may take the case out of the federal criminal arena as it relates to a conviction and punishment, it does not however relieve one of the obligation to be a witness if he were subpoenaed to the grand jury or at trial. He would still be obligated to give testimony. This is particularly true since under the scenario you posed -- a hypothetical pardon --- he would have no criminal liability (given that he has already been tried and convicted) and likely no ability to meaningfully assert the 5th Amendment."

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 PM


The Alarming Findings of a New Study on Transgender Teens and Suicide (Kelsey Harkness, 9/14/18, Daily Caller)

One in every two transgender adolescents who are born female but identify as male has attempted suicide in the past year, according to a new study.

The study, "Transgender Adolescent Suicide Behavior," was published in Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It raises serious questions about how families, schools, doctors, government, and the media should grapple with the increasing number of children and teens who self-identify as transgender.

In addition to the alarmingly high rate of suicide attempts among transgender boys, the study reported an attempted-suicide rate of over 40 percent for adolescents who identify as gender nonconforming (neither exclusively male or female) and nearly 30 percent for transgender girls (children and teens who were born male but identify as female).

Posted by orrinj at 3:09 PM


Thousands of scientists publish a paper every five days (John P. A. Ioannidis, Richard Klavans & Kevin W. Boyack, 9/14/18, Nature)

Authorship is the coin of scholarship -- and some researchers are minting a lot. We searched Scopus for authors who had published more than 72 papers (the equivalent of one paper every 5 days) in any one calendar year between 2000 and 2016, a figure that many would consider implausibly prolific1. We found more than 9,000 individuals, and made every effort to count only 'full papers' -- articles, conference papers, substantive comments and reviews -- not editorials, letters to the editor and the like. We hoped that this could be a useful exercise in understanding what scientific authorship means.

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


New York Elects Its Next Anti-Trump Warrior: Tish James is now set to become one of the most influential public officials in the country. (MATT FORD, September 13, 2018, New Republic)

By winning the Democratic primary to be New York's next attorney general, Tish James is now virtually guaranteed to become the state's top legal officer this November. That position will almost immediately make her into a national figure--and perhaps the most influential state official in the country who isn't a governor.

James, who currently serves as the public advocate of New York City, trounced three rivals to capture the Democratic nomination. The race saw strong challenges from her left flank by Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor known for her anti-corruption work, and Sean Patrick Mahoney, a sitting congressman. New York's status as a Democratic stronghold means that the party's primary is the de facto election to office, and her victory in November is all but certain.

It's no slight against other states to note that James will wield slightly more power than the typical attorney general. Other big blue states are home to strong attorneys general, too: California's Xavier Becerra, for example, is a leading figure in litigation against the Trump administration. (The state budget even set aside more money for him to fight the White House last year.) But it's hard to compete with New York. After all, it's easy to become a national figure when your jurisdiction includes the nation's preeminent urban metropolis and the nerve centers of American media.

...a powerful black woman.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


US journalist says he warned Israel's envoy that Keyes 'posed a risk to women' (RAPHAEL AHREN, 9/14/18, Times of Israel)

Israel's Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was reportedly warned by a prominent American journalist that David Keyes "posed a risk to women," after his appointment as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesperson for the international media in 2016.

Bret Stephens, then of the Wall Street Journal, said he contacted Dermer on November 2, 2016, after a conversation with an Israeli reporter, to tell him that "Mr. Keyes posed a risk to women in Israeli government offices," the New York Times reported. Keyes was announced as Netanyahu's pick for international spokesperson in March 2016. [...]

Stephens, who now works for the New York Times and previously edited The Jerusalem Post, also said that in 2013, Keyes was barred from the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal after employees said "he propositioned several women there."

Employees of the Journal, including some of the four who said he propositioned them, told the New York Times that Keyes's behavior led to his ban from the office "to insulate them from his advances."

Stephens said he rebuked Keyes for his behavior at the time, calling him a "disgrace to men" and "a disgrace as a Jew."

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM

CONFUSION TO THE ENEMY (profanity alert):


Yesterday, Bob Woodward's publisher Simon & Schuster announced that Woodward's new book, Fear, has sold more than 750,000 copies and is on its way to a ninth printing. A CNN poll released this week showed Trump's approval rating plummeting to 36 percent. With the midterm elections less than two months away, the West Wing is girding for Republicans to lose the House and even the Senate, sources said. Ivanka Trump is even worried about impeachment, a source close to her told me. "It's just horrible," a former White House official said.

As the parade of former allies and employees who've turned on him gets longer, Trump is increasingly embittered. According to sources, Trump has been furious at former economic adviser Gary Cohn and staff secretary Rob Porter for their apparent cooperation with Woodward's book. "Trump thinks he took Gary in and gave him a job when he was going nowhere at Goldman," a Trump adviser told me. According to the adviser, Trump let it be known to Cohn and Porter that he would attack them publicly if they didn't disavow the book. (On Tuesday, they both did.) "The president has had it," a former West Wing official said. "When books like this come out, he tends to shut down and calls up people he sees on TV saying good things about him."

But Trump's anger over Woodward's book is dwarfed by his continuing fixation on the anonymous New York Times op-ed. Sources told me Trump is "obsessed," "lathered," and "freaked out" that the leaker is still in his midst. His son Don Jr. has told people he's worried Trump isn't sleeping because of it, a source said. Meetings have been derailed by Trump's suspicion. "If you look at him the wrong way, he'll spend the next hour thinking you wrote it," a Republican close to the White House said. Much of what's fueling Trump's paranoia is that he has no clear way to identify the author.

On The Remnant this week, Jonah Goldberg both confessed confusion about what Anonymous hoped to achieve and predicted this achievement, which answered his own question.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Why Democrats Love Democratic Socialism (SAMUEL HAMMOND, September 13, 2018, National Review)

Whether politicians such as Nixon, AOC, or Salazar understand the first thing about the fellows they've chosen to travel with or are just trying to be au courant is not immediately clear. To hear Sanders talk, socialism apparently means becoming more like Denmark -- an embarrassing conflation of "democratic socialism" with "social democracy," presumably thanks to the large number of letters they have in common. It's a distinction with a difference. While democratic socialists seek to abolish capitalism through worker control of the economy, social democracies are countries that supplement capitalism with redistribution and the public provision of certain goods or services -- such as health insurance -- that markets often fail to provide effectively.

Denmark's prime minister made this point directly on a visit several years ago, not-so-subtly chiding Sanders in the process. "I know that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism," he told his audience at the Harvard Kennedy School. "Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."

And not just any market economy. Nordic social democracies routinely rank at the top of indexes designed to measure economic freedom, making them some of the freest markets in the world. Without the productive powers of unfettered capitalism, it's hard to imagine them affording their generous welfare states in the first place.

First Way means for Second Way ends.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Paul Manafort = Evidence of Collusion (Ryan Goodman, June 15, 2018, Just Security)

1. Manafort proposes to Putin-linked, Russian oligarch a plan to "greatly benefit Putin," and they get to work (2005-)

In 2005, Manafort sends a memo to Russian oligarch and Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, pitching him on a project. Manafort writes: "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success." The proposal is to help influence politics, business dealings and media coverage in the United States, Europe, and former Soviet-bloc countries. Deripaska hires Manafort on a $10 million annual contract. How aligned is Deripaska with the Kremlin? Deripaska once told the Financial Times, "I don't separate myself from the state. I have no other interests."

2. Manafort joins Trump Campaign and stays in frequent contact with a Kiev-based operative with active ties to Russian military intelligence (March 2016-)

Manafort joins the Trump Campaign and soon becomes campaign chairman. During the entire time on the campaign, Manafort is in frequent contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who has worked with Manafort for over ten years. The FBI assesses Kilimnik has active ties to Russian intelligence during this period, according to two court briefs filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (Kilimnik has since left Kiev and now reportedly lives in Moscow.)

According to Politico, "Manafort said he and Kilimnik discussed an array of subjects related to the presidential campaign, including the hacking of the DNC's emails, though Manafort stressed that at the time of the conversations, neither he nor other Trump campaign officials knew that Russia was involved in the hacking." What is now significant in light of that statement is that Manafort and other campaign officials were alerted to the Russian involvement before it was made public. (Also the first public report of the hacking attributed the operation to Russia from the outset.)

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Latin America's 'Pink Tide' Recedes (Hampton Stephens, Sept. 3, 2018, World Politics Review). 

It wasn't very long ago that Latin American voters, in country after country, began electing leftist presidents. The new crop of leaders that rose to power over the past few decades occupied a wide range of positions along the ideological spectrum, advocating leftist policies that varied mightily--from mild income redistribution projects to aggressive nationalization programs. But the trend toward leftist governments in Latin America was unmistakable. Some dubbed it the "pink tide." That tide is now receding with as much force as it came ashore. 

The movement's high-water mark came during the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan firebrand who tried to build, rally and finance a coalition of leftist leaders across the hemisphere. Roughly a decade after Chavez came to power in 1999, leftist politicians had scored impressive victories, capturing the presidency in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Now that long list is dwindling.

Despite maneuvers that have allowed several--though not all--of these leftist presidents to erode democratic norms, often by dismantling term limits and taking control of electoral boards, the number of leftist governments in Latin America is growing shorter. And just as significantly, some of the presidents who remain in office after moving to secure multiple terms are facing the wrath of a public fed up with the reversal of their country's democratic progress. 

September 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 PM


Daily Stormer case: Neo-Nazi Anglin's attorneys argue Trump ruling should fall in Anglin's favor (SEABORN LARSON, Sep 13, 2018, Missoulian)

The publisher of a neo-Nazi website who unleashed a storm of anti-Semitism against a Whitefish resident in late 2016 argued in court filings Wednesday that a federal court's recent ruling in favor of President Donald Trump should fall his way, too. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM



A group of militant lesbians forced their way to the front of a gay pride march in London on Sunday. The angry lesbians then laid down with some banners swathed over their bodies. They also demanded a coveted place at the front of the march, directly behind a huge rainbow flag.

The eight lesbians who staged the protest belong to a group called Get The L Out, reports Gay Star News, a London-based website.

They carried at least two large banners. A yellow one read "Transactivism erases lesbians." A white one read "Lesbian = female homosexual."

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


U.S. accuses Russia of covering up breaches of North Korea sanctions (Michelle Nichols, 9/13/18, Reuters) 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Russia on Thursday of seeking to cover up breaches of U.N. sanctions on North Korea by Russians after Moscow pushed for changes to be made to an independent report on sanctions violations.

Nailing Donald's two best buds for violations is way more effective than an anonymous op-ed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


What We Talk About When We Talk About Socialism: From Jim Carrey to the Chapo Trap House to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the "s" word means different things to different people. Here's how libertarians should engage. (Nick Gillespie, Sep. 12, 2018, reason)

Bernie Sanders has admitted that he doesn't want the government to run everything as much as he wants it to run or regulate more stuff. The details aren't all there, but even his Medicare-for-All pitch doesn't involve making all health-care professionals public employees. He's not really far from Warren, who denies being a socialist and is at pains to say that she really, really likes markets--as long as they are tightly regulated so, in her view, they perform more equitably. As she recently told The Atlantic,

What excites me about markets? I was telling you that gains-from-trade argument, but really what excites me about markets is competition. I want to make sure we've got a set of rules that lets everybody who's got a good, competitive idea get in the game....We need to make capitalism work for your family and we need to make democracy work for your family.

Writing in The New York Times, CUNY's Corey Robin demotes economics to secondary importance for today's socialists, arguing:

The socialist argument against capitalism isn't that it makes us poor. It's that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

Listen to today's socialists, and you'll hear less the language of poverty than of power.

Robin's emphasis is also evident in some of the contributors to Politico's symposium, such as the head of the Democratic Socialists of America, who writes that under socialism "we will have true freedom, not just survival--the choices available to us now that depend on the whims of the few." In significant ways, many recent calls for socialism echo the early issues of the anti-Soviet socialist magazine Dissent, which got started in 1954. Like National Review, which got going a year later from a right-wing perspective, the founders of Dissent were first and foremost promoting individualism in an age of perceived conformity. The differences between Big Government and Big Business were less important perhaps than maintaining one's unique identity in a world of mass commerce, mass culture, mass warfare. The editors even invoked the adjective libertarian in their statement of purpose:

We shall try to reassert the libertarian values of the socialist ideal, and at the same time, to discuss freely and honestly what in the socialist tradition remains alive and what needs to be discarded or modified....We share a belief in the dignity of the individual, we share a refusal to countenance one man's gain at the expense of his brother, and we share an intellectual conviction that man can substantially control his condition if he understands it and wills to.

There is some of that, however submerged, in today's calls for socialism. It's not a bad ideal, to want individuals to be able to flourish however they see fit. In fact, that corresponds almost perfectly with the ways most libertarians talk and think about social organization. What system is most likely to allow individuals to become whomever they want to become? In this sense, socialism and capitalism (to use incredibly oversimplified terms) are both part of the liberal Enlightenment project that begins with autonomous, equal individuals.

What remain vastly different, of course, are attitudes and understandings of economics and of power differentials. Contemporary socialists will insist that regulating more and more of economic life at all levels will improve outcomes, though from a libertarian perspective, all that does is create the sort of hassle factor that drives barbers, tattoo artists, and gig-economy contractors out of business.

History having Ended, no one really argues with the reality that capitalism is uniquely suited to the creation of wealth. There's not even much denial any more that the rising tide lifts all boats. It is well, if not universally, recognized that the near global adoption of free markets and free trade has radically reduced extreme poverty and raised the living standards of the "poor" in developed nations to levels that barely warrant the name.

Instead, what we now have are political discussions about how to redistribute that wealth once it has been created by capitalism.  These discussions are increasingly being driven by the way in which the technological/information revolution threatens to displace not just the labor of the least among but of most of us.  When you lack work it is because you are lazy; when I lack work it is a societal crisis.  What we are going to determine over the next few decades is how we choose to replace the job as the means of redistributing wealth.  This is, indeed, a political (or power) question, not so much an economic one. 

Mr. Gillespie notes, though doesn't pursue, a couple ideas that are implicated here and that unite even libertarians and socialists, if reluctantly: we desire a system where individuals are able to flourish, but the potential inequality that would be imposed by a purely capitalist economic system, in the absence of any political power to temper it, would be the sort of inequality that would make freedom an illusion and widespread human flourishing impossible. 

Traditionally, the Left has only really been concerned about the economic threat to freedom; the Right only about the political threat.  The great middle, on the other hand, has arrived at the realization that there is rather little difference between being "rich" in the gulag and being poor in the republic.  We want that system which is best optimized to preserve our political freedoms and relieve material want.  Thus the emergence of Third Way politics in the Anglosphere/Scandinavia, with the promise of using First Way means (capitalism) to deliver Second Way ends (social security) and the electoral success of leaders of both the left and the right who are effectively indistinguishable: Thatcher, Clinton, Blair, Clinton, Bush, Obama, etc.

Given that all that is left of Socialism at this late date is those vague social security ends; it is little wonder that the term fails to repel.  Socialism has long since stopped referring to government ownership of the means of production.  Today it means extending our most popular government programs--Social Security, Medicare, etc.--to more of the population.  Hard as Republicans try, you simply can't make that scary to voters.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


An Offensive Plan for the Balkans That the U.S. Should Get Behind (Charles A. Kupchan, Sept. 13, 2018, NY Times)

The Balkans remains in strategic limbo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years ago, but Serbia has yet to come to terms with its loss -- refusing to recognize Kosovo and stirring trouble between the country's ethnic Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority. Almost two decades after the NATO bombing campaign to drive Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, some 4,000 NATO troops remain there to keep the peace.

A breakthrough may now be in the making. It is a morally offensive one, but nonetheless the United States and the European Union should get behind it.

President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo are apparently working on a proposal to engage in a land swap that could bring the simmering conflict to an end. Northern Kosovo, which is populated mainly by ethnic Serbs and borders Serbia, would be transferred to Serbia. In return, a to-be-determined chunk of Serbia's Presevo Valley, which is heavily populated by ethnic Albanians and borders Kosovo, would become part of Kosovo.

Borders are useful fictions.
Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


How 'Hyphenated Americans' Won World War I (Geoffrey Wawro, Sept. 12, 2018, NY Times)

Thanks to a wave of immigration, the United States had changed significantly at the turn of the 20th century, going from a nation whose white population was 60 percent British and 35 percent German at the start of the Civil War into a turbulent "melting pot" in time for the Great War: 11 percent British, 20 percent German, 30 percent Italian and Hispanic and 34 percent Slavic.

During the offensive, the Germans tried to use the army's multiethnic background as propaganda. The doughboys, as the American troops were known, were "half-Americans," the Germans sneered.

Many Americans were as contemptuous of the "melting pot" as the Germans. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, for example, tried in 1896 to extend the class of "excluded immigrants" from "paupers, convicts and diseased persons" to include all "Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks and Asiatics" who arrived on our shores and failed a literacy test. Ideally, Lodge wanted citizenship confined to the "original race stocks of the 13 colonies." The others, he averred, were chiefly "slum dwellers, criminals and juvenile delinquents."

With one in three Americans in 1918 either born abroad or of foreign-born parents, resentment of immigrants became as American as apple pie. Terms like yid, mick, dago, greaser, bohunk, polack, and uke were tossed around as casually as baseballs well into the late 20th century. As great an American as Teddy Roosevelt popularized suspicion of "hyphenated Americans" so well that even his political opposite, Woodrow Wilson, took to saying that "any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of the Republic."

It took the press baron William Randolph Hearst to make the paradoxical argument that these hyphen-wielding "foreigners" belonged in the Army. Let them serve, Hearst thundered from his three dozen newspapers and magazines after Wilson's declaration of war. If we send "All-American" boys to the Western Front, these "foreign slackers on American soil" -- these "birds of passage" -- will take American jobs and toil in profitable safety while "real Americans" die in France. Others saw service as a tool of assimilation: "The military tent," Roosevelt said, "will rank next to the public school among the great agents of democratization."

And so nearly a quarter of draftees in 1918 were foreigners, often recent arrivals. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


Two Republican Congressmen Spotted With A Holocaust Denier -- Again (Aiden Pink, 9/13/18, The Forward)

Two Republican members of Congress who have previously been condemned for associating with a Holocaust denier were present with him again at one of their fundraisers in July, Mother Jones magazine reported Thursday.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California attended a fundraiser on a yacht in his home district for GOP colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on July 20. Also there was "alt-right" activist and internet troll Charles C. Johnson, who wrote on Reddit last year that he did not believe that the Auschwitz gas chambers were real or that six million Jews died. Johnson says he is not a Holocaust denier and that his statement was made as part of a free speech exercise. But he also helped raise funds for the legal defense of neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin. He has also been permanently banned from Twitter for violating its rules against harassment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


How Funny Does Comedy Need to Be? (Jesse David Fox, 9/04/18, Vox)

Why so serious? to quote a famous clown, is a question being asked about comedy more and more frequently by its consumers and by comedians themselves. To the point where some are questioning if it can even be called "comedy." "Nanette is more a TED Talk than a stand-up special" was a common refrain this summer. "Is Drew Michael even a stand-up special?" was a question I was asked about the audience-free HBO hour. To take it to scripted TV, I'm frequently reminded of a joke from Difficult People: "When did comedies become 30-minute dramas?" Comedians and comedy writers are increasingly pushing the bounds of what it means for something to be a comedy in the most basic sense, rewiring the relationship between comedies and jokes. So what is comedy without jokes? It's post-comedy.

Sure, it sounds pretentious; it's a pretentious shift, especially for a form that has always seemed allergic to pretension. But it seems the best way to describe comedy is that it's looking more like the frowning mask than the smiling one. I was confused to see some writers refer to Nanette, Hannah Gadsby's much discussed stand-up special that deconstructed how stand-up works and passionately made a case for the shortcomings of comedy as a medium for expressing pain, as "anti-comedy." Though it takes an antagonistic view of comedy, anti-comedy is already a thing (simply: it's a joke that's funny because it's not unfunny), and it is not what Hannah Gadsby did. My colleague Matt Zoller Seitz's term for serious comedies -- the "comedy in theory" -- is closer, but it's become increasingly clear that they are comedies in practice, formally redefining what comedy is itself.

Like post-rock, post-comedy uses the elements of comedy (be it stand-up, sitcom, or film) but without the goal of creating the traditional comedic result -- laughter -- instead focusing on tone, emotional impact, storytelling, and formal experimentation. The goal of being "funny" is optional for some or for the entirety of the piece. This is not the same as comedians making dramas or becoming serious actors, like we've seen in past generations. These pieces are comedies structurally.

Political correctness ultimately deprives the left of the option to be funny.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Was Jared Kushner behind the anonymous New York Times op-ed? Ann Coulter thinks so (William Cummings, 9/13/18, USA TODAY)

 Controversial right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter thinks she knows who was behind the anonymous op-ed from a purported senior White House official that landed in The New York Times last week: Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's trusted son-in-law. 

Why would Ivanka Trump's husband and the father of presidential grandkids do such a thing? 

"Because he and Ivanka are going to have to go back to the Upper East Side and go to the Hamptons," Coulter told the Daily Beast in an interview published Thursday. "They're probably worried that Trump will be removed within the next few years."

She noted the timing of the op-ed, which ran after the couple went to the funeral for Sen. John McCain. It also was "right after Labor Day, so they were probably feeling wistful for the Hamptons. And the only way they can get back in is if they can say, 'Don't worry, we're the ones who stopped the wall.' "

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


What Trump hath wrought: Thanks to Trump, the Republicans are facing a grim electoral landscape (Rick Wilson, 12 September 2018, Spectator USA)

Everywhere American Republicans turn, they see progressives and liberals more energised than in any election cycle in recent memory and for one reason: Trump. Like so much of what Trump does, the effect he promised to have on American politics is the opposite of what he has delivered. His followers expected that a wave of robust nationalist populism would sweep like-minded Trumpstyle candidates into office on the crest of waves of popular legislation, executive action and a new, permanent political realignment. They believed that Washington's infamous swamp would be drained, and that a new era had arrived.

Instead, despite an apparently thriving economy, the country is moving left, ideologically, electorally, emotionally. Washington's corruption and dysfunction are more obvious than at any time since the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921. The Republican cry that Democrats are socialists is increasingly met largely with a shrug from the broader public.

Bereft of successes outside of a tax bill that benefits multi-billion dollar American corporations, a handful of judicial appointments and a few executive orders, Republicans are reeling. The Grand Old Party is now a mere extension of Donald Trump, a personal political fiefdom with no ideological lodestar other than obsequious fealty to the President. Republicans bear the political (and moral) burdens of every one of Trump's detriments, mistakes, errors and daily displays of instability.

When your party fails to resist Donald's objectively racist policies you don't get to complain that voters perceive the Party as racist too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


How About Medicare Advantage for All? (Froma Harrop, September 13, 2018, Creators)

The ACA was a triumph in that it cut the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million. And it hardened the idea that no American, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions, should suffer or die for lack of health coverage.

Does the ACA have flaws? It does. But it serves as an important rung in the ladder toward less chaotic and universal health coverage.

"Medicare for all" is a fairly vague term that could mean many things. Some see it leading to a Canadian-style single-payer system. Canada's model has its virtues -- simplicity being the chief one -- but it doesn't rank so high in international comparisons as others combining government and private coverage.

How about Medicare Advantage for all? Medicare Advantage refers to the managed-care plans run by private insurers. Medicare pays them a monthly fee per enrollee to cover hospital care, visits to the doctor and other services guaranteed under the original Medicare. Many offer extras, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Sometimes they offer drug coverage and even gym memberships.

About a third of Medicare beneficiaries now choose them over the traditional fee-for-service program. Studies show that the enrollees are generally happy with their plans and the care is high-quality.

...we're just determining the form it will take.  The GOP is still fighting a war it already lost.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Alan Dershowitz's Deep Ties To Trump's Biggest Donors (Eli Clifton, 9/12/18, Lobelog.

Over the course of the Trump administration, former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz has emerged as one of the president's most vocal defenders on cable news networks, op-ed pages, and in his bluntly titled book, The Case Against Impeaching Trump. Much of what purportedly makes Dershowitz compelling as a Trump defender is his past history as a supporter of Hillary Clinton (he contributed $5,400 to her presidential campaign in 2016 and $2,700 to her joint fundraising committee in 2015).

But Dershowitz's ties to Trump's inner orbit were already in place at the time of his contributions to Hillary Clinton. These ties include conducting paid legal work for Trump's biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson (who alongside his wife spent $35 million to help elect Trump) and sitting on the board of the Gatestone Institute, an anti-Muslim and anti-refugee think tank then chaired by Trump's now-National Security Adviser John Bolton and partially funded by Trump megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


A Series Of Suspicious Money Transfers Followed The Trump Tower Meeting: Investigators are focused on two bursts of banking activity -- one shortly after the June 2016 meeting, the other immediately after the presidential election. (Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold, September 12, 2018, Buzzfeed News)

[S]ecret documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal a previously undisclosed aspect of the meeting: a complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants who moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in New Jersey.

The documents show Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at the center of this vast network and how he used accounts overseas to filter money to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting. The records also offer new insight into the murky financial world inhabited by many of Trump's associates, who use shell companies and secret bank accounts to quickly and quietly move money across the globe.

Now, four federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News, investigators are focused on two bursts of transactions that bank examiners deemed suspicious: one a short time after the meeting and another immediately after the November 2016 presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Report finds N.H. has one of the lowest obesity rates in the U.S. (AMANDA, 9/13/18, UV Index)

The Concord Monitor reported that the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation jointly issued the 15th annual "State of Obesity" report, which looks at the health problems plaguing overweight Americans.

In particular, it noted that from 2012 to 2017, "31 states had statistically significant increases in their obesity rate and no state had a statistically significant decrease in its obesity rate."

New Hampshire came out just ahead of neighboring Vermont, ranking 38th and 40th, respectively.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM



"We show for the first time the full 3D field operating window in a tokamak to suppress ELMs without stirring up core instabilities or excessively degrading confinement," Park said. "For a long time we thought it would be too computationally difficult to identify all beneficial symmetry-breaking fields, but our work now demonstrates a simple procedure to identify the set of all such configurations."

This breakthrough means scientists will be able to better predict the distortions for a far larger tokamak--the ITER, the world's largest fusion experiment that will take place inside the most complex machine ever built. Being able to control the plasma inside the ITER Tokamak will be essential if fusion energy is to be produced from it. At the moment, scientists believe the ITER Tokamak will start producing plasma in December 2025.

In an interview with Newsweek last year, John Wright, from MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, said we can expect to see fusion becoming a reality in the coming decades: "With luck, and societal will, we will see the first electricity generating fusion power plants before another 30 years pass. As the plasma physicist [Lev] Artsimovich said: 'Fusion will be ready when society needs it.'"

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Democratic turnout crushes 1992 midterm primary record (John DiStaso , 9/12/18, WMUR)

While the official turnout figures won't be issued by the secretary of state's office for several days, a look at the unofficial numbers from The Associated Press showed that about 120,000 ballots were cast in the only statewide primary, the Democratic governor's race.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted about 90,000 ballots would be cast, and while the veteran election official usually has his finger on the level of interest of Granite State voters, he underestimated the Democratic interest this time. The previous record for Democratic midterm state primary turnout was 69,965 in 2002. [...]

Young voters turned out in big numbers, prompted in part by a strong get-out-the-vote effort on college campuses by billionaire activist Tom Steyer's NextGen America.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Republican Rep. Steve King Retweets A Known White Supremacist On Twitter... Again (Christopher Mathias, 9/13/18, Huffington Post)

For the second time in three months, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has promoted the views of a prominent white nationalist on Twitter. 

In a tweet posted early Wednesday afternoon, King quote-tweeted Lana Lokteff, a host for the white nationalist media outfit Red Ice, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


We're Living in What May Be the Most Boring Bull Market Ever: In an age of index funds and private companies, even a boom can feel blah. (Chris Nagi, September 13, 2018, Businessweek)

Cheered by what's become by some measures the longest bull market on record, U.S. investors have plowed money into U.S. stock exchange-traded funds at a rate of almost $12 billion a month since the start of 2017, five times as much as seven years ago. There are signs of stress--like the recent sell-off in Asia--but so far they appear in U.S. investors' peripheral vision. Anyone buying stock in an American company right now must be comfortable paying two or three times annual sales per share, a level of shareholder generosity that hasn't been seen since the dying throes of the dot-com bubble. [...]

[T]his isn't like the boom of the late 1990s. Rarely do companies have initial public offerings where their stocks double on the first day of trading. The tip-dispensing cabbies of the bubble era are driving Ubers now, and any money they have to invest is going into ETFs, not individual stocks.

That's what it's like now: a market with fewer human voices, where the hum of computers is the background music to math projects with names like smart beta and risk parity. It's a land ruled by giants. Three, to be exact--Vanguard, State Street, and BlackRock, which manage 80 percent of the $2.8 trillion invested in U.S. stock ETFs. IPOs, once the life of the market party, have turned into inconveniences in a world dominated by passive funds, occasions for reordering delicately balanced indexes.

The entire boom feels the same for people, because it has been steady and sustained--since TARP saved it--rather than spectacular.  

September 12, 2018

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Poll: Midwest Abandons Trump, Fueling Democratic Advantage For Control Of Congress (Domenico Montanaro, 9/12/18, NPR)

The gap has widened to 12 percentage points, up from 7 in July -- and largely because of voters in the Midwest. They have swung 13 points in Democrats' direction since July. That Midwestern shift is consistent with what Marist has found in statewide polls conducted for NBC in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota that showed Trump's support there starting to erode.

"Every way we are looking at the data, the same general pattern is emerging," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. "The Midwest is an area that is getting restless about what they hoped was going to occur and what they feel is not occurring."

Trump has waged trade wars with several countries, aiming to renegotiate deals and has instituted tariffs on imports that have been met with retaliatory tariffs on exports. Many of those have taken a toll on Midwestern farmers, for example. And some automakers have come out against Trump's moves on car imports, hitting Trump with some tough headlines.

And that appears to be sticking to the GOP now.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Trump and his flunkies: Why aren't staffers standing up to him? (BARBARA RES, SEP 12, 2018, NY Daily News)
On this particular day, the architect had come to Donald Trump's office to show him what the interior of the residential elevator cabs would look like.

Trump looked at the panels where the buttons you push to reach a floor were located. He noticed that next to each number were some little dots.

"What's this?" Trump asked.

"Braille," the architect replied.

Trump told the architect to take it off, get rid of it.

"We can't," the architect said, "It's the law."

"Get rid of the (expletive) braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it," Trump yelled back, calling him weak.

The more the architect protested, the angrier Trump got. Donald liked to pick on this guy. As a general rule, Trump thought architects and engineers were weak as compared to construction people. And he loved to torment weak people.

But did he think the architect would remove the Braille from the panels? Never.

I had seen him do this kind of thing before and would again. He would say whatever came into his head. Ordering an underling to do something that was impossible gave Trump the opportunity to castigate a subordinate and also blame him for anything that "went wrong" in connection with the unperformed order later. A Trump-style win-win.

Trump did this with outrageous or just plain stupid ideas, both legal and illegal. Sometimes those lines were blurred.

When he asked me to do something that could not be done, I often fought back, but always at a cost. Sometimes, I just did what he asked, planning for the necessary fix or damage control later.

But many times, I played along with him and then didn't carry out his order.

So when I saw the snippets of Bob Woodward's book and the anonymous Op-Ed piece, I wasn't surprised. To an extent, Trump has always relied on people not to follow his most ridiculous orders.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


Eric Trump Says Woodward Wrote Book To 'Make 3 Extra Shekels' (Aiden Pink, 9/12/19, The Forward)

"You can write some sensational, nonsense book, CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president," Trump said. "It'll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels, at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country, that's doing a phenomenal job by every quantifiable metric. Is that really where we are?"

Someone should have scotched that interview.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Should Congress Enact Universal Savings Accounts? (Daniel Di Martino, SEPTEMBER 11, 2018, E21)

Republicans in Congress are aiming to revamp savings with the introduction of Universal Savings Accounts (USAs) for all Americans as part of the Family Savings Act of 2018. The bill would expand existing tax-free savings accounts such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and 529 College Savings Plans, and it would create USAs as a new type of account for all purposes with a $2,500 annual contribution limit. The chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee expects to have the bill ready for a floor vote this month. [...]

Currently, Americans can take advantage of numerous tax-exempt savings accounts such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, 529 college savings plans, and Health Savings Accounts. Each of these accounts has complicated rules governing how much individuals can contribute, and when and for which purposes they can withdraw their savings. For instance, while traditional IRAs have no income limits but require savers to withdraw their funds periodically starting at 70 ½ years old, Roth IRAs do have income limits but do not require withdrawals.

These restrictions create a barrier to saving. A survey by the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, a large financial service provider, found that the main reasons Millennials do not contribute to an IRA, beyond not having enough money to save, are that they do not know enough about them and that they are too complex. Moreover, a recent survey found that less than 30 percent of Americans know what a 529-college savings plan is, while less than 1 in 5 knows the basic restrictions associated with Health Savings Accounts.

Excessive complexity not only reduces savings particularly among young adults, as survey data confirm, but it also results in inefficiencies. Given that there are 15 types of tax advantaged retirement plans, and many other types of tax-advantaged accounts, savers change the timing of their consumption, and the amount and allocation of their savings to minimize their tax bill. Studies have shown that the complex taxation of savings not only reduces economic growth, but it also increases tax evasion and hinders tax enforcement.

Excessive complexity not only reduces savings, it also results in inefficiencies.

By contrast, USA account holders would not be hamstrung by complex rules. Universal Savings Accounts would simplify the system since they would allow individuals to withdraw their savings at any point in time and for any reason. Simplicity may increase savings among young adults, helping them benefit from the glories of compound interest early in their lives.

Now remove the contribution limit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Establishment Candidates Prevail In New Hampshire Primaries (NPR, September 11, 2018)

Democrats backed by the state's political establishment rolled to victory in New Hampshire's primary Tuesday night, besting more progressive, outsider challengers in both the House and governor's races.

The most closely-watched and crowded race came in the state's open 1st congressional district, where New Hampshire Executive Councilor Chris Pappas topped the 11-way field.

The two Republican nominees are black and Mexican-American.  The two Democrats are a woman and a gay.

September 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:57 PM


Sanborn tells supporters they'll come up short for 1st CD GOP nomination vs. Edwards (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON and KIMBERLEY HAAS, 9/11/18, Union Leader)

Edwards, who was hoping to make history by becoming the first African-American to win the GOP nomination for Congress in the district also remained optimistic.

"There's a lot of people coming to the polls. A lot of people are very concerned about having a candidate that's able to win the general election," Edwards said Tuesday afternoon. 

Edwards said most of the people who talked with him expressed their concern about both the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and the treatment of military veterans.

This race has come down to two rivals -- one with the reputation as a maverick conservative legislator and the other an outspoken former state department head who often clashed with his superiors.

Sanborn, R-Bedford, had more elective experience and parlayed his Concord sports bar business into a massive financial advantage in this race after loaning his own campaign more than $500,000.

Edwards of Dover made a name for himself as head of law enforcement for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. Chris Sununu's popularity enough to overcome the Donald drag.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 PM


27-year-old refugee defeats life-long Concord resident in Democratic primary for state rep  (CAITLIN ANDREWS, September 11, 2018, Concord Monitor)

At first, Safiya Wazir couldn't believe what she was hearing.

A second later, it sunk in - after a long day on her feet, Wazir, a pregnant 27-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, defeated lifelong Heights resident and four-term District 17 state Rep. incumbent Dick Patten, overcoming an opponent who tried to say her lack of experience and status as a refugee would hurt her campaign. 

Instead, Wazir said those very things - as well as her drive to connect with voters through doorknocking, thank-you notes and election reminders - buoyed her campaign.

"They were very excited there was someone new running for the State House," she said of her supporters. "It gives me so much energy to be backed from the people themselves. It's driven me to be positive."

Wazir will face off against Republican Dennis Soucy, who's lived in Concord longer than Wazir has been alive.

If she wins in November, Wazir stands to make New Hampshire history as the first refugee to ever serve public office in the state, according to Secretary of State Bill Gardner. Wazir's family left Afghanistan as the Taliban continued to gain power and landed in Concord in 2007.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 PM


The Limits of Obama's Legacy (JAMELLE BOUIE, SEPT 11, 2018, Slate)

[O]bama does believe that these restrictions aren't onerous enough to stop those who truly want to participate. "The notion that somehow voter suppression is keeping you from voting, as systemic as Republicans have tried to make voting more difficult for minorities, for Democrats, for young people, the truth of the matter is, if you actually want to vote, then you can vote," he said in that 2016 interview. He echoed that sentiment in his Illinois address, when he told students that "the biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism." [...]

A more forgiving attitude toward those who don't vote--and a greater recognition of obstacles to the ballot--may not fit with Obama's vision of civic engagement and responsibility. But it does speak to feelings of disenchantment and disengagement that proved ruinous for Democrats in the last two national elections. Democratic apathy in 2014 contributed to Republican Senate gains; Democratic apathy (and voter suppression) in 2016 helped Donald Trump become president, giving Republicans an opportunity to undermine Obama's legislative and regulatory accomplishments. Talking about voter suppression may not energize voters, but downplaying it rings false. Greater engagement with the problem--even using it to center a voting-rights agenda--may have proved more effective this cycle than essentially trying to shame Americans into voting.

You can understand Barack Obama's return to electoral politics as a commentary on the stakes of the moment; control of Congress will have profound implications for democratic accountability and the direction of American governance, to say nothing of President Trump's personal fortunes. Looking beyond the question of the current White House occupant, Obama's return is also an opportunity to think through and even complicate his political legacy and the ways in which he expanded the realm of the possible for candidates of color, and black Democrats in particular.

He did this, in part, by merging a rhetoric of unity with one of responsibility and respectability. He motivated and he moralized. But protest movements like Black Lives Matter and a heightened sense of the limits of moralizing have made "respectability" unfashionable. His political successors have rejected it entirely, absorbing the basic insight of Obama's career--that black candidates can win decisively in white electorates--and pushing beyond the boundaries set by the former president.

That evolution is what's striking about the present moment and why Democrats across the country are watching Georgia and Florida with a close eye. These are black Democrats running unambiguously progressive campaigns in traditionally conservative states, where black politicians have failed to make serious inroads.

His legacy is moderate Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Trump: My Handling of the Hurricane in Puerto Rico Was an 'Unsung Success' (Eric Levitz, 9/11/18, New York)

Weeks later -- after his administration's inaction contributed to a humanitarian crisis that condemned millions of U.S. citizens to a preindustrial existence, and cost thousands of them their lives -- Trump paid Puerto Rico a visit. And in between feuding with the island's elected leadership, Trump told Puerto Ricans that they should be very proud of the government's response -- because it had spared them from suffering a "real catastrophe like Katrina." [...]

On Tuesday, the president spoke with reporters about the White House's preparations for Hurricane Florence. During that conversation, Trump said that his administration's response to Hurricane Maria was "the best job we did," and that the federal government's relief effort was an "incredible, unsung success."

It's Donald and a predominantly Latino island: his complete success would be if they'd all died.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


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Texas Troubles Bedevil Republicans' Senate Strategy (Derek Wallbank, September 11, 2018, Bloomberg)

New Hampshire voters head to the polls in the penultimate congressional primaries. Here's a look at what we're watching:

NH-01: Democrats and Republicans choose their candidates today for the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

Shea-Porter endorsed former chief of staff Naomi Andrews; Among other Democrats seeking the seat, Maura Sullivan, a Marine Corps veteran and former Veterans Affairs Dept official, and Chris Pappas, an elected member of the state's 
Executive Council, have dominated fundraising and endorsements

Bernie Sanders' son, Levi Sanders, is also among Democratic candidates in the race;  Washington Post reports the elder Sanders hasn't endorsed his son

The five active Republican candidates include state Sen. Andy Sanborn and Eddie Edwards, a Navy veteran and former police chief

NH-02: Republicans pick a challenger to Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster from a field of seven.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Independent poll asks Americans whether Trump is 'mentally stable' (Steve Benen, 9/11/18, MSNBC)

[T]his was the result from the Quinnipiac report that jumped out at me:

Do you think that President Trump is mentally stable, or not?

Yes, he's stable: 48%
No, he's not: 42%

The fact that a plurality of Americans said yes may seem like fairly good news for the president, but that's a rather generous way of looking at the results. For one thing, Trump couldn't quite crack the 50% mark on this question, which is hardly reassuring.

For another, we've reached the point in American history at which a major independent pollster feels justified asking the public about a sitting president's mental stability.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


The Falling Man (Tom Junod, September 2003, Esquire)

Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.

Original photo from Esquire replaced with Wikimedia image (9/12/2013)

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did--who jumped--appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else--something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears. [...]

THEY BEGAN JUMPING NOT LONG after the first plane hit the North Tower, not long after the fire started. They kept jumping until the tower fell. They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died. They jumped continually, from all four sides of the building, and from all floors above and around the building's fatal wound. They jumped from the offices of Marsh & McLennan, the insurance company; from the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading company; from Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors--the top. For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another, consecutively rather than en masse, as if each individual required the sight of another individual jumping before mustering the courage to jump himself or herself. One photograph, taken at a distance, shows people jumping in perfect sequence, like parachutists, forming an arc composed of three plummeting people, evenly spaced. Indeed, there were reports that some tried parachuting, before the force generated by their fall ripped the drapes, the tablecloths, the desperately gathered fabric, from their hands. They were all, obviously, very much alive on their way down, and their way down lasted an approximate count of ten seconds. They were all, obviously, not just killed when they landed but destroyed, in body though not, one prays, in soul. One hit a fireman on the ground and killed him; the fireman's body was anointed by Father Mychal Judge, whose own death, shortly thereafter, was embraced as an example of martyrdom after the photograph--the redemptive tableau--of firefighters carrying his body from the rubble made its way around the world.

From the beginning, the spectacle of doomed people jumping from the upper floors of the World Trade Center resisted redemption. They were called "jumpers" or "the jumpers," as though they represented a new lemminglike class. The trial that hundreds endured in the building and then in the air became its own kind of trial for the thousands watching them from the ground. No one ever got used to it; no one who saw it wished to see it again, although, of course, many saw it again. Each jumper, no matter how many there were, brought fresh horror, elicited shock, tested the spirit, struck a lasting blow. Those tumbling through the air remained, by all accounts, eerily silent; those on the ground screamed. It was the sight of the jumpers that prompted Rudy Giuliani to say to his police commissioner, "We're in uncharted waters now." It was the sight of the jumpers that prompted a woman to wail, "God! Save their souls! They're jumping! Oh, please God! Save their souls!" And it was, at last, the sight of the jumpers that provided the corrective to those who insisted on saying that what they were witnessing was "like a movie," for this was an ending as unimaginable as it was unbearable: Americans responding to the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world with acts of heroism, with acts of sacrifice, with acts of generosity, with acts of martyrdom, and, by terrible necessity, with one prolonged act of--if these words can be applied to mass murder--mass suicide.

IN MOST AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS, the photograph that Richard Drew took of the Falling Man ran once and never again. Papers all over the country, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to the Memphis Commercial Appeal to The Denver Post, were forced to defend themselves against charges that they exploited a man's death, stripped him of his dignity, invaded his privacy, turned tragedy into leering pornography.

Four years on it remains the case, as we've said on past anniversaries, that the same fundamental decency that won't allow us to use the horrible images of 9-11 dulls the anger we should still feel afresh and inhibits our determination to pursue Islamicism with the fury we ought. However, it is likewise true that it is because of the kind of society we are that we are Reforming the Middle East far faster and more thoroughly than most dreamed possible those four years ago.

It is the great irony of 9-11 that what rose from the ashes that our fellow citizens fell into was not just a better, more serious, America but a better, more liberal, represenative, and hopeful Islamic world as well. One would not wish ever to seem to be referring to the attacks as "worthwhile," but the ascent of liberty that has followed them at least means that none died in vain that day. Correction: 19 actually did die in vain, their evil actions producing exactly the opposite effect they'd planned on. Those 72 raisins must taste damned bitter.

N.B.: One of the books I keep handy, for the express purpose of recapturing the righteous anger that 9-11 should always provoke, is Face of the Tiger, the collection of Mark Steyn's columns from its aftermath. Mr. Steyn is always worth reading but was never better than in the wake of 9-11.


[originally posted: 9/11/05]

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Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


Volkswagen will use 3D printers to mass produce parts (Ivana Kottasová, September 11, 2018, CNN)

The world's largest carmaker unveiled plans Tuesday to start using HP metal printing technology to manufacture select parts including gear knobs and custom tailgate lettering.

Volkswagen said that it wants to mass produce structural parts using the technology within two to three years.

Posted by orrinj at 11:42 AM


Brett Kavanaugh Exposed As Ken Starr's Designated Leaker (Dan E. Moldea, September 11, 2018, National Memo)

During the lengthy investigation that led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998, the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC), led by Kenneth Starr, leaked non-public information -- including grand jury information whose release was allegedly illegal--to a stable of selected journalists, some of whom were identified by the OIC as "confidential informants."

One of the OIC officials tasked to provide this non-public information -- designed, in part, to smear Bill and Hillary Clinton -- was Brett Kavanaugh, an accomplished Republican political operative whom Donald Trump has nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Until we open source all government communications, leakers are how the public gets the information it is entitled to.

Trump expected to declassify Carter Page and Bruce Ohr documents (Jonathan Swan, Lauren Meier, Sep 9, 2018, Axios)

President Trump is expected to declassify, as early as this week, documents covering the U.S. government's surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the investigative activities of senior Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr, according to allies of the president.

Declassify everything.

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Fmr. Trump Adviser Claims To Know Secret Author Behind Anti-Trump NYT Op-Ed (JACOB AIREY, September 11, 2018, Daily wire)

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo spoke to CNN on Sunday where he told host Fredericka Whitfield that he knows the identity of the person who wrote an anonymous Anti-Trump New York Times op-ed by someone claiming to be a senior staff member at the White House.

"I'm fairly certain I know who it is," he said. "I've been going through this parlor game like everybody else has, and I am also completely 100% certain that the person who wrote this is on the list of people who said they didn't write it."

Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM


The Elasticity of Science (Kyle Myers, 8/22/18, Harvard University)

This paper estimates the degree to which scientists are willing to change the direction of their work in exchange for resources. Novel data from the National Institutes of Health is used to estimate an entry model that accounts for strategic interactions. Inducing a scientist to change their direction by 1 standard deviation, a qualitatively small difference, requires a four-fold increase in funds, an extra $1 million per year.

Posted by orrinj at 11:31 AM



Considering the magnitude of the defeat, it was surprising Cossack nobleman Pylyp Orlyk had the energy to even put pen to paper -- let alone conceive of a visionary political idea that would shape Ukrainian thinking for centuries to come. The army of Swedish King Charles XII, along with its local Zaporozhian Cossack allies, had just been routed by Peter I of Russia across what's now central Ukraine, diminishing Sweden's standing as one of the continent's dominant powers and cementing Russia's grip over Eastern Europe.

Thousands died in the June 1709 campaign, and Charles fled southwest to Ottoman-controlled territory, now part of Moldova. With him came Cossack leader Ivan Mazepa, as well as Orlyk, Mazepa's trusted and well-educated counselor. Defeated, Orlyk was not discouraged: Fluent in several languages and conversant in political theory, he threw himself into a political project envisaging a form of democratic rule over the territory the Cossacks had just abandoned -- but had increasingly come to consider their own.

Not only was the resulting document a landmark in Ukrainian political thought, but some believe the Orlyk Constitution, as it's known, was one of the world's first such treatises, empowering the citizenry and introducing the separation of powers long before the American or French constitutions were enacted. Yet because history is written by the winners, it was lost to history, says Frank Sysyn, director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies in Toronto. "The Orlyk Constitution and Orlyk's activity," he says, "becomes to a great degree symbolic in the way that lost causes can be symbolic."

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The 1988 meeting that shaped the world we live in (Peter Bergen, 9/11/18, CNN)

Al-Qaeda has not successfully directed a deadly attack inside the United States since that day 17 years ago. Nor has any other jihadist foreign terrorist organization.

That represents a major success for the United States' counterterrorism effort since 9/11. Few analysts in the months and years after the attacks would have predicted that the United States would be so successful in avoiding attacks.
Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and the military, as well as the public's greater awareness, the threat to the homeland today is far more limited than it was on 9/11. This has certainly come at a price -- trillions in spending, unprecedented security measures at airports and public venues, and roiling public debate over immigration and law enforcement.

Yet, the United States still faces a new and different jihadist threat: individuals motivated by jihadist ideology, but with no operational direction from a foreign terrorist organization. Such individuals have carried out 13 lethal attacks and killed 104 people in the United States since the 9/11 attacks, according to research by New America.

The rise of al-Qaeda's breakaway faction, ISIS, took this threat to a new level. Three-quarters of the people killed by jihadist extremists in the United States since 9/11 have been killed since 2014, the year ISIS declared its caliphate. Eight of the 13 lethal attacks in the US since 9/11 occurred in that time period, and seven were motivated in part by ISIS' propaganda. In 2015, an unprecedented 80 Americans were accused of jihadist-terrorism-related crimes, almost all inspired in some way by ISIS, according to New America's research.

Yet even at its height of power in Iraq and Syria, ISIS did not direct a lethal attack inside the United States.
With the territorial collapse of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the threat to the United States has waned further. The number of jihadist terrorism cases involving Americans has declined every year since its peak of the 80 cases in 2015. As of the end of August, only eight Americans had been charged with jihadist-terrorism-related crimes in 2018.

Despite much fear over the threat posed by "foreign fighters" -- those Westerners who joined ISIS and other militant groups abroad -- few Americans succeeded in joining ISIS. Fewer still returned. There is only one known case of an American who fought in Syria or Iraq plotting violence after returning to the United States, and no returnee has actually conducted an attack.
...was how easily it was won.  And while our leaders and national security/law enforcement members deserve some significant credit, the ease of the victory was mainly a function of the weakness of the opponent.  Where Left/Right wished to see the Salafi as offering a rival to the End of History, you can not have a clash of civilizations where there is only one.  Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. offered no coherent alternative to democracy, capitalism, protestantism, so had no way of appealing to a mass audience.  Indeed, rather than make the Arab world more totalitarian, their attacks have made it more democratic.  Indeed, our losses in the WoT have come at our own hands, when we failed to embrace elected Islamist political parties vindicating democratic self-determination: Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt.  Our Realism in these instances has backfired sufficiently that we may, hopefully, have learned our lesson.  

My personal worry at the time of 9-11 was that we might retreat from the field before we had finished toppling the worst regimes, particularly Assad's.  As we saw in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Raqqa, it is extremely simple to destroy an evil regime provided that it is actually functioning as a state.  This is why ISIS and the Taliban are not, and never were, genuine threats.  To precisely the extent that they win--centralize their power--they make themselves easy targets for our military might.   We can decapitate them at virtually no cost to ourselves.  Now that we have used Assad (and Putin and Iran) to fight ISIS for us, it is time to do the same to him.  Just make an offer he can't refuse: elections or Hellfire.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM



[W]e decided to team up with 0ptimus, a data and technology firm based in Washington. Founded in 2013, 0ptimus is a Republican firm -- they once worked on Marco Rubio's presidential campaign -- that aimed to develop an unbiased, nonpartisan prediction model so it could show its clients in the worlds of both politics and finance where the winds were blowing.

Our exclusive first forecast shows blue-friendly skies ahead. The Democrats are almost certain to take over the U.S. House this fall, but that doesn't mean they will have a huge margin to work with in 2019. And the gathering blue wave looks like it will produce a status quo Senate, with Republicans holding onto control by a slim margin.

We find Democrats with an 89.9 percent chance of taking control of the House for the first time since 2010, with the most likely number of Democratic seats at 227, compared with 208 for Republicans.

In the Senate, Republicans have an 82.1 percent chance of capturing at least 50 seats -- which is what they'll need to control the upper chamber, with Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tiebreaker -- and we project them to have 51 seats.


"At this stage of the game, losing the House is the most likely proposition. It's just a matter of how bad it gets," said a disconsolate Republican strategist with clients on the ballot, describing the final, desperate scramble to rescue the G.O.P.'s 23-seat majority from an impeachment-happy opposition. In Washington, a familiar sort of fatalism has taken hold. Just weeks until early voting kicks off, a spate of fresh public-opinion polls show Democrats on the precipice of a resounding victory. Time is short; resources are dwindling, and the singular figure with the power to make or break the party--Donald Trump--seems pathologically incapable of standing down and letting a booming job market do the talking. "You have people imploring the president not to put them in a position that will harm them--and therefore harm him," a veteran G.O.P. operative said of Republican congressional leaders.

The pendulum of political power, which historically swings against the White House during the midterms, could be especially savage this year, given the sharp dissatisfaction with Trump in America's usually Republican-leaning suburbs. Washington's high-powered consulting class is betting on it. The lobby shops and advocacy organizations that play both sides and thrive on proximity to power are preparing for a changing of the gavel and moving to forge connections with Democratic committee chairmen in the House beginning in January of 2019, when the 116th Congress is seated. "Downtown, there is a sense that the House is already lost for Republicans," a G.O.P. lobbyist and former senior House aide told me. "There is a hiring spree for plugged-in House Democrats who want to lobby. So, downtown is already planning on the Democratic takeover; the bets are on how big the flip will be."

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM



Taxpayers footed bills totaling $300,675 for golf cart rentals alone, so the Secret Service could follow Trump on the links ... this according to federal documents obtained by TMZ.

Many of the expenses emanate from Trump's Mar-a-Lago excursions. And, get this ... since taking office Trump has reportedly spent 153 days at golf properties, which explains why the golf cart rental is sky high.

Since Trump took office, the total expense of his golf outings cost taxpayers an estimated $77 MILLION. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Boring Is the New Black: It's enough excitement already. (Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, Sept. 11, 2018, NY Times)

Bret: The threat to turn the Justice Department loose on our editorial pages because of the Op-Ed article we published by an anonymous senior administration official is the sort of thuggish tactic Tricky Dick might have fantasized about. (Say what you will about the Pentagon Papers, they were actual secrets being revealed there, not the common knowledge of every sane person in Washington.)

Again, it's depressing that the Republican reaction has been to denounce The Times or accuse the author of treason or cowardice, rather than acknowledge the simple truth of the situation. But anyway ... who do you think it is?

Gail: I'm so glad I don't know because I am terrible with secrets. I do love all the speculation about Mike Pence and "lodestar," though. Do you think the president's going to take Pence up on that lie detector offer? Or tell Jeff Sessions to tap his phones?

By the way, about Jeff Sessions. A lot of people feel that even though he was a weasel throughout his career, they're glad he's attorney general right now. I know you're definitely not a fan, so what's your take?

Bret: I think Sessions should lie in the flea-ridden bed he's made with the president. He was the first senator to endorse Trump and now he's getting exactly what he deserves. What's worse, he's chosen to accept public abuse and humiliation from Trump so that he can make good on his real ambition, which is to abuse and humiliate immigrants in a manner that's a national disgrace.  [...]

Gail: [...] And then finally in 2020, we elect a new president who is hopefully both a Democrat and kind of boring. What say you?

Bret: I say boring is the new black. I envision someone like Tim Kaine without the charisma; Gerald Ford without the malice; George H.W. Bush without the vicious hatred of broccoli. Basically, anyone smart and responsible and good at making you forget he's even there. Or rather, she. It's past time.

Gail: Amen.

In order to give ourselves better odds of electing boring--or merely competent--presidents we need to de-democratize the primaries and return more influence to the party.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


CNN Poll: Trump approval down 6 points in a month, hits low among independents (Jennifer Agiesta, 9/10/18, CNN)

The President's favorability rating -- a measure of whether people like him, rather than approve of his job performance -- has also taken a hit in this poll, with 61% saying they have unfavorable views of Trump, up from 55% in June. That unfavorable number is the worst since he won the presidency, and it matches the worst level seen during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump has also lost ground on several personal attributes, most notably perceptions of his honesty: Just 32% say they see the President as honest and trustworthy, the worst read in CNN polling. About a third, 32%, say he's someone they are proud to have as President, down 6 points since March and the lowest since Trump took office. Only 36% say he "cares about people like you," another new low. Just 30% say he'll unite the country and not divide it, matching his previous low on that measure from November 2017. Four in 10 say the President can bring the kind of change the country needs, down 5 points from March and matching a November 2017 low. And 60% say the President does not respect the rule of law, not significantly changed since March.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


More English must be taught in French primary schools, government says (The Local, 11 September 2018)

The French government wants to introduce more English lessons in primary schools to boost foreign-language teaching across France and improve the nation's poor language skills.

On Wednesday, France's ministry of education will publish a series of recommendations to achieve this, which will include teaching primary schools pupils subjects like science, history and maths in English and broadcasting cartoons in English and other foreign languages on public television.

The report was co-written by a British journalist.

"The aim is to boost the level of pupils in English, and also in a second foreign language. Being able to express oneself correctly is also crucial," the government said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Walking Might Be the Best Exercise There Is (Brad Stulberg, Sep 10, 2018, Outside)

It's easy to get excited about the latest and greatest trends, from high-intensity interval training to ultramarathons to triathlons to powerlifting. But at the end of the day, regular brisk walking gets you most, if not all of the way there--"there" meaning a long and healthy life. This is the main conclusion from the June volume of the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), a special edition dedicated exclusively to walking.

"Whether it is a stroll on a sunny day, walking to and from work, or walking down to the local shops, the act of putting one foot in front of the other in a rhythmic manner is as much human nature as breathing, thinking and loving," write researchers Emmanuel Stamatakis, Mark Hamer, and Marie Murphy in an editorial in the journal.

The main study in the BJSM special edition surveyed more than 50,000 walkers in the United Kingdom--a variety of ages, both men and women--and found that regularly walking at an average, brisk, or fast pace was associated with a 20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 24 percent reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. All the data was self-reported. Participants were asked how frequently they walked and whether they would describe their usual pace as "slow," "average," "fairly brisk," or "fast." Though self-reported data like this is often viewed as a weakness, in this case it may actually be a strength. This is because "slow" versus "brisk" for a 30-year-old is different than "slow" versus "brisk" for a 70-year-old. In other words, what the researchers were really measuring was rate of perceived exertion, or how hard people felt they were walking. This method is proven to be an effective way to gauge effort and intensity during exercise. "A very simple way to grasp what a 'brisk' pace is in terms of exertion is to imagine it as a pace that gets you out of breath when it is sustained for more than a few minutes," says Stamatakis, lead author on the study and professor of physical activity, lifestyle, and population health at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Another study, published earlier this year in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, examined nearly 140,000 men and women in the United States and came to the same conclusion. Engaging in at least 150 minutes per week of brisk walking was linked to a 20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.

September 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Omarosa Is Back With More Tapes and a Guess About the Mystery Op-Ed Writer (MATTHEW ZEITLIN, SEPT 10, 2018, Slate)

[S]he speculated on who the latest senior administration official to bash the president was: She said she believed the New York Times op-ed writer was a senior official in Vice President Mike Pence's office. (The vice president has denied the op-ed came from him or anyone on his staff.) While she didn't say the name, she referred to his chief of staff, who is Nick Ayers.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Omarosa claims White House staffers had hashtag to discuss 25th Amendment (Axios, 9/10/18)

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman claimed on MSNBC Sunday that she and other members of the Trump administration texted each other the hashtag "#tfa," referring to the 25th Amendment, "more than 100 times" during her tenure to discuss President Trump's "unhinged" actions.

We know they never discussed the rest of the Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


GOP candidate for Fla. governor spoke at racially charged events (Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown, September 9, 2018, Washington Post)

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country's "only serious race war" is against whites.

DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization. At the group's annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering: How Bruce Ohr, President Trump's latest Twitter target, fits a suspicious pattern of behavior on Russia. (David Leonhardt, 9/10/18, NY Times)

It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering.

It's true of Andrew McCabe (the former deputy F.B.I. director whose firing Trump successfully lobbied for), Andrew Weissmann (the only official working for Robert Mueller whom Trump singles out publicly) and others.  [...]

Consider: The financially rickety Trump Organization, shunned by most mainstream banks, long relied on less scrupulous Russian investors. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Donald Trump Jr. said a decade ago. "We have all the funding we need out of Russia," Eric Trump reportedly said in 2013. And what was the rare major bank to work with Trump? Deutsche Bank, which has a history of illegal Russian money laundering.

Trump also had a habit of selling real estate to Russians in all-cash deals. Money launderers like such deals, because they can turn illegally earned cash into a legitimate asset, usually at an inflated price that rewards the seller for the risk. One especially dubious deal was Trump's $95 million sale of a Palm Beach house to a Russian magnate in 2008 -- during the housing bust, only four years after Trump had bought the house for $41 million.

Then there is Trump's paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller's investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank's records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


After Trump Tweets that the Ford Focus Can 'BE BUILT IN THE U.S.A.,' Ford Explains Why That Would Make No Sense (DAVID MEYER, 9/10/18, Fortune)

Ford's North America product communications manager, Mike Levine, spelled it out for the president in a tweet noting "it would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S. given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units and its competitive segment."

Ford didn't move production of the Focus to China by accident; it did so because the U.S. market has shifted away from smaller vehicles toward SUVs, which has made production of the Focus in the U.S.--a relatively expensive location--an illogical choice.

The automaker decided a couple years back to shift production of the Focus to Mexico, then last year it opted for China instead. Earlier this year Ford cancelled all its smaller cars with the exception of the Mustang and the Focus Active.

Then, after Trump started threatening his new tariffs against China, Ford decided in August that it wouldn't sell the Focus Active in the U.S. after all. The profit margins were simply too small to be worth it.

The auto-sector market economist Jon Gabrielsen told the Detroit Free Press that Trump's tweet was "further evidence that neither the president nor his trade representatives have any clue of the complexities of global supply chains."

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Inside the GOP's rescue mission for Ted Cruz: The national party wasn't expecting to have to defend a well-known senator in a conservative bastion. (ALEX ISENSTADT, 09/09/2018, Politico)

The push reflects a broader anxiety within the party about the electoral environment this fall. It also has practical implications for the GOP: The resources devoted to Cruz include money that could otherwise be used to oust vulnerable incumbent Democrats in red states like North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri.

With O'Rourke outraising Cruz more than 2 to 1 during the past quarter, right-leaning organizations have begun routing resources to the state. The anti-tax Club for Growth, which spent millions on Cruz during his 2012 Senate bid, has started a seven-figure advertising blitz aimed at tearing down the Democratic congressman. The organization has begun polling the race, and David McIntosh, the organization's president, recently traveled to Texas to meet with donors who could help fund the barrage. More than $1 million has been raised so far, people close to the group say.

A handful of other well-funded groups are considering joining the effort, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, the newly formed Senate Reform Fund, and Ending Spending, which in the past has been bankrolled by major GOP financiers including New York City investor Paul Singer. Some of the groups have been in touch with one another as they weigh their next moves and try to determine how much their help is needed.

"I think there will be a lot of money," said Doug Deason, a Dallas investor and prominent GOP giver who met with McIntosh.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


The Gentrification Trade-Off in Buffalo: The risk is losing what made the city so strangely beautiful, even during the bad years. (DAN DECARLO, May 8, 2018, American Conservative)

In many ways Billy Brown's Buffalo is now passing away as gentrification slowly but surely changes the face of much of the city's character. The formerly bohemian Elmwood Village neighborhood, for instance, once the haunt of packs of feral hipsters (of the non-trust-fund variety), starving artists, and less-than-great musicians, has gone upscale. Gone are the old dive bars, tackily decorated pizza shops, and bowling alleys, replaced by upscale wine bars full of young professionals enjoying tasteful banter with their girlfriends, restaurants that specialize in artisanal guacamole, and doggie daycares to care for the "furbabies" of the area's childless yuppies. Gone, too, are the cheap rents and cheap beer. The once bohemian has become boutique.

Much of the rest of Buffalo's downtown is experiencing a similar phenomenon. New condo projects have gone up, made possible, of course, by generous tax breaks. The formerly decrepit waterfront has been completely renovated. Once-abandoned Main Street has miraculously started to come back to life. Hell, even the Bills finally seem to be doing better, having made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

Things have certainly changed since the 90s, but, contra the boosters who have fetishized the new progress for its own sake, not all of it has been good. Something has been lost.

"Buffalo 66" was famously an autobiographical project for Gallo, a sort of belated half-love letter to a town and family he fled from when he was only 16. The house used in the film was Gallo's childhood home, and the abusive, pathological, and detached parents he kidnaps a stranger to try and impress are obvious stand-ins for his own. The film was as much Gallo's own attempt to reckon with the city he left behind, with all its simultaneous dysfunction and subtle charm, as it was a work of art.

It's a reckoning those cheering on the city's continued "progress" might do well to have themselves, lest they succeed in gentrifying out of existence the very things, like the mystical lanes of Recckio's bowling alley, that made Billy Brown's Buffalo so strangely beautiful in the first place.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Intrahousehold Consumption Allocation and Demand for Agency: A Triple Experimental Investigation (Uzma Afzal, Giovanna D'Adda, Marcel Fafchamps, Farah Said, NBER Working Paper No. 24977, Issued in August 2018)

We conduct two lab experiments and one field experiment to investigate demand for consumption agency in married couples. The evidence we uncover is consistent across all three experiments. Subjects are often no better at guessing their spouse's preferences than those of a stranger, and many subjects disregard what they believe or know about others' preferences when assigning them a consumption bundle.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


John Law: the Scottish gambler who rescued France from bankruptcy: The 18th-century financial genius pioneered ideas about banking and monetary policy that are important to this day: a review of John Law: A Scottish Adventurer of the 18th Century by James Buchan (Jesse Norman, 8 September 2018, The Spectator)

John Law was by any standards a quite remarkable man. At the apogee of his power in 1720, he was the richest private citizen in Europe and controller-general of finance in France, responsible not merely for the country's income and expenditure but for its commerce, navigation, agriculture and industry.

He created and presided over one of the earliest and greatest of all stock market boom-and-busts, that of the 'Mississippi Company', and inspired another, the South Sea Bubble. And he pioneered ideas about banking, monetary policy and financial markets that were revolutionary in his own time, and retain their importance three centuries later.

Yet Law was not French, not a noble, not an intellectual. On the contrary: he was a Scot, the largely self-educated son of an Edinburgh goldsmith, and a brilliant gambler. Oh yes, and a convicted murderer, who had escaped from jail days before his execution, fled Britain and gone on the run across Europe with his common-
law wife.

The story is no less remarkable than the man himself. But both have almost been lost to view. The evidence is scant and scattered, Law himself something of an enigma, his era caught in a turn-of-the-18th-century limbo between the more familiar territories of the so-called 'Age of Revolutions', Glorious, American and French. And he is no one's hero. [...]

Buchan tells the story and portrays the man with enormous sweep and brio. He has clearly done a vast amount of research among the primary sources, yet somehow manages to combine the historian's sense of the wider picture with the epigrammatic wit of the novelist, and the antiquarian's delight in curios.

Of the now forgotten Banbury Peerage case, for example, which first came to the House of Lords in 1661, was renewed in 1883 and may not quite be settled even today, he drily remarks that it was 'a lawsuit beside which Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce... is an instance of judicial panic'.

September 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats gain strength, winning almost 20pc of vote (AFP, 9/09/18)

The Alliance opposition bloc, composed of the Moderates, the Christian Democrats, the Centre party and the Liberals, looked set to win 40.1 per cent.

The nationalist Sweden Democrats were on track to get 17.8 per cent, up from 12.9 per cent in the previous vote. The results are partial and may differ slightly from the final outcome.

That looks to be the ceiling for this racism-based politics, with Donald's numbers very similar.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


George Papadopoulos Says He Lied to Protect Trump After Being 'Pinned' Between POTUS and DOJ (Alberto Luperon, September 9th, 2018, Law & Crime)

"At the time of my interview with the FBI, I think three or four days before that, I was at the inauguration attending parties with senior level transition officials," he said on Sunday's episode of ABC's This Week. "I understood that there was an incipient investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and I found myself as somebody who worked incredibly hard over the past year in the campaign to actually have candidate Trump be elected. And I found myself pinned between the Department of Justice and the sitting president, and having probing questions that I thought might incriminate the sitting president."

"You were trying to protect the president?" asked host George Stephanopoulos.

"Of course," said Papadopoulos.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:56 AM


It is Serena Williams who owes an apology to umpire Carlos Ramos (Richard Ings, 9 September 2018, Sydney Morning Herald)

Even four decades of distinguished professional umpiring experience would not have prepared Ramos fully for what was about to happen. I should know, as the memories and scars of my own welcome-to-the-job match are fresh even more than 30 years later.

It happened at the 1987 US Open. I was the chair umpire for the fourth-round stadium court match between John McEnroe and Slobodan Zivojinovic where I issued a warning, point penalty and a game penalty against McEnroe.

The game penalty, for a string of obscenities directed and me, came at 4-5, costing McEnroe the set and making the match one set all.

Posted by orrinj at 11:44 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE (profanity alert):


"He's punch-drunk," one outside adviser said. "He's been hit so hard this week he doesn't know what to do." Another outside adviser to the White House added, "He's not happy he has saboteurs of unelected people trying to pull off a coup d'etat."

With Trump so far unable to execute a strategy to stanch the drip-drip-drip of damaging disclosures, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have taken the lead in getting control of the crisis. (The Washington Post reported that Trump said the only people he could trust were his family.) Earlier this week, they told Trump they were deeply troubled by the accounts in Woodward's book and blamed Chief of Staff John Kelly for many of the leaks, an outside adviser close to them told me. "'He's destroying your presidency,'" Ivanka told her father, the outside adviser, who was briefed on the conversation, said. Their hunt for the author of the Times op-ed may bring them into the final chapter of their long-running feud with Kelly.

According to three sources, Jared and Ivanka floated a theory on Wednesday that Kelly could be behind the Times op-ed. Under this scenario, the sources said, the op-ed was written by Zachary Fuentes, the deputy chief of staff, at the direction of Kelly. Jared and Ivanka have told people they suspect this because Kelly is the only one with an ego so large as to have convinced himself that he's saving the country from Trump, which was one of the op-ed's principal arguments. On Wednesday night, Ivanka and Jared laid out for Trump the theory that Fuentes might be the author, an outside adviser with knowledge of the conversation told me.

It's vital to keep ginning up new suspects to maximize the paralysis.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


How We Got the Iran Deal: And Why We'll Miss It (Wendy Sherman, September 2018, Foreign Affairs)

In the international negotiations that resulted in the 2015 agreement to limit Iran's nuclear activities, I led the team of American diplomats representing the United States. During the talks, my Iranian counterparts would occasionally ask how they could be assured that any deal we struck would be durable. Most Republicans opposed it, and looking at the forthcoming 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Iranians wondered what would happen if the GOP took the White House. I would answer by asking them a similar question: "What if hard-liners opposed to the deal regained power in Iran?" It usually ended the discussion, as I thought it should: after all, I always expected that the greatest challenge to the deal's success would be violations by Iran, not the political machinations of the president of the United States.

Of course, I was wrong. In May of this year, U.S. President Donald Trump decided to pull the United States out of the agreement and reimpose the U.S. sanctions on Iran that the deal had lifted, a move that will go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in U.S. history. The Iran deal was not perfect; no deal ever is. Nonetheless, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is formally known, offered the best possible assurance that Iran would never obtain a nuclear weapon.

I don't know if the Iran deal can survive the reinstatement of sanctions, which the United States set aside in exchange for the Iranians' pledge to vastly reduce their uranium enrichment, produce no weapons-grade plutonium, and allow international inspectors to rigorously verify their compliance. The JCPOA's restrictions close every possible path for Iran to obtain fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Although some of the restrictions that the deal places on Iran end after 10, 15, 20, or 25 years, its prohibition on Iran's obtaining a nuclear weapon never ends. So far, the Iranians have stuck to the terms of the deal.

Trump's decision has shaken the world's faith in the United States' commitment to multilateral diplomacy. No matter how much Trump derides the deal, the JCPOA stands as a model for combining the threat of sanctions and continued isolation with the hard work of negotiating, even between countries whose relationships are shaped by conflict and distrust. Before Trump undercut it, the JCPOA was advancing U.S. interests and making the world safer. Far from being "the worst deal ever," as Trump likes to say, it represents a model that his administration should emulate as it negotiates with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal. In that situation, Trump has relied mostly on threats, bluster, and rosy pronouncements. But as he and his team are learning, direct talks with adversaries are difficult. They require courage, persistence, and a realistic sense of one's own power.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


President Lyndon Johnson: The War Within (RICHARD N. GOODWIN, 8/21/88, The New York Times)

Late that spring, alarmed at what I perceived to be the President's increasingly irrational behavior, I began to study medical textbooks. I learned that the paranoid personality may pass relatively undisturbed through a long and productive lifetime, manifesting itself only in subtle traits of behavior: a somewhat excessive secrecy and suspicion, a need for control over the external world. Because particular displays of these traits nearly all have some basis in reality - there are real adversaries, real reasons for an ambitious man to seek control over people and events - they are ordinarily perceived more as personal eccentricity than as a failure of reason or a distortion of reality. To the gifted few they may even be a source of strength, increasing their ability to achieve mastery over that always treacherous world they inhabit.

Yet if control is threatened, mastery undermined, enemies increasing in number and moving beyond reach, the mental apparatus so carefully constructed to transform potential weakness into external strength can begin to falter. The latent paranoia, liberated by the erosive pressures of misfortune and sensed helplessness, can take occasional control of the conscious mind, thereby transforming the most highly developed faculties into instruments of willed belief, even delusion.

Something like this began to happen to Lyndon Johnson during 1965, when he found himself - for almost the first time - surrounded by men and events he could not control: Vietnam and the Kennedys, and, later, the press, Congress, and even the public, whose approval was essential to his own esteem. As his defenses weakened, long-suppressed instincts broke through to assault the carefully developed skills and judgment of a lifetime.

It was during this period, in the spring of 1965, that I first noticed Johnson's public mask begin to stiffen. In his public appearances, the face seemed frozen, the once-gesturing arms held tightly to the side or fixed to a podium. Protective devices proliferated - Teleprompters, a special Presidential rostrum that traveled with him, even the careful excision of colorful or original language -all, I now believe, designed at least in part to guard him from spontaneously voicing inner convictions that he knew, in that part of his mind still firmly in touch with reality, would, if voiced, discredit him. ''You know, Dick,'' Johnson once told me. ''I never really dare let myself go because I don't know where I'll stop.''

In mid-June, Moyers entered the Oval Office to find Johnson holding a wire-service report torn from the teletype machine that stood close to the desk. The President said: ''Did you see this? Bundy'' - McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser - ''is going on television -on national television - with five professors. I never gave him permission. That's an act of disloyalty. He didn't tell me because he knew I didn't want him to do it. Bill, I want you to go to Bundy and tell him the President would be pleased, mighty pleased, to accept his resignation.'' Johnson paused. ''On second thought, maybe I should talk to him myself. . . . No, you go do it.'' Then, as if responding to some sensed hesitation on Moyers's part: ''That's the trouble with all you fellows. You're in bed with the Kennedys.''

Moyers wisely ignored the President's order, and left the White House to go home. ''At midnight,'' I noted in my diary, ''Moyers called me to talk about Johnson. He said he was extremely worried, that as he listened to Johnson he felt weird, almost felt as if he wasn't really talking to a human being at all.''

The next morning when Moyers entered the Oval Office, Johnson looked up at him. ''Did you speak to Bundy?'' ''No, I didn't, Mr. President,'' Bill replied. Johnson grunted, and returned to the memorandum he had begun reading. Bundy was to last another year.

A week later, Moyers and I were talking with Johnson in the Oval Office when, provoked by nothing more than my comment that his education bill had virtually complete support from liberal organizations, Johnson proclaimed: ''I am not going to have anything more to do with the liberals. They won't have anything to do with me. They all just follow the Communist line - liberals, intellectuals, Communists. They're all the same. I detest the United Nations. They've tried to make a fool out of me. They oppose me.

''And I won't make any overtures to the Russians. They'll have to come to me. In Paris, Gagarin'' - Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut - ''refused to shake hands with the astronauts. I sent those astronauts myself, and what he did was a personal insult to me.'' (In fact, Gagarin did shake hands, but later declined to meet with American officials, which Johnson persisted in inflating into a personal affront.) ''I can't trust anybody anymore. I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to get rid of everybody who doesn't agree with my policies. I'll take a tough line - put Abe Fortas or Clark Clifford in the Bundy job. I'm not going in the liberal direction. There's no future with them. They're just out to get me, always have been.''

I accompanied Moyers back to his office. ''We were both shaken, alarmed,'' I noted in my diary, ''not so much at the content of Johnson's statements - surely he didn't mean to halt all discussions with the Soviet Union or pull out of the United Nations - but at the disjointed, erratic flow of thought, unrelated events strung together, yet seemingly linked by some incomprehensible web of connections within Johnson's mind. He won't act on his words, but he believes they're true.''

On June 28, I recorded in my diary that Johnson had ''asked me and Bill if we thought Tom Wicker [ of The New York Times ] was out to destroy him, if Wicker was caught up in some sort of conspiracy against him. We said no, that he writes some favorable and some unfavorable stories, but we couldn't convince him. . . .''

GRADUALLY, AS Johnson moved closer and closer to the crucial decision of July 28 -when he would raise the number of American troops in Vietnam by more than 100,000 - circumstances began to overwhelm him, elude his grasp. The decision to transform the war, which he knew was potentially fatal to his public ambitions, could no longer be evaded or postponed. Increasing opposition from the press and critics on the Hill could no longer be controlled by his hitherto almost irresistible power of persuasion. The somewhat frightening, always puzzling outbursts became more frequent.

No longer satisfied with impugning the motives of his critics (''That Fulbright,'' he told me after Senator J. William Fulbright had joined the ranks of dissent, ''he never was satisfied with any President that wouldn't make him Secretary of State''), or attributing his difficulties to ''those Kennedys'' or ''those Harvards,'' Johnson began to hint privately that he was the target of a gigantic Communist conspiracy in which his domestic adversaries were only players - not conscious participants, perhaps, but unwitting dupes.

Sitting in the Oval Office on July 5, Johnson interrupted our conversation on domestic matters: ''You know, Dick, the Communists are taking over the country. Look here,'' and he lifted a manila folder from his desk. ''It's Teddy White's F.B.I. file. He's a Communist sympathizer.''

A few days before, I had been sitting in Bill Moyers's office, when Bill walked in, visibly shaken, his face pale. ''I just came from a conversation with the President,'' he said. ''He told me he was going to fire everybody who didn't agree with him, that Hubert [ Humphrey ] could not be trusted and we weren't to tell him anything; then he began to explain that the Communist way of thinking had infected everyone around him, that his enemies were deceiving the people and, if they succeeded, there was no way he could stop World War III.''

''Suppose he really does go crazy,'' I said. And then, answering my own question: ''I tell you what would happen if we went public with our doubts. They could assemble a panel of psychiatrists to examine the President, and he would tell them how sad it made him that two boys he loved so much could have thought such a thing, and then explain his behavior so calmly and reasonably that when he was finished, we would be the ones committed.''

Shortly thereafter, I talked with a psychiatrist who was also a close personal friend. After he agreed to treat our conversation as privileged, I described the President's behavior in detail as I had observed it. At the time, I did not even inform Moyers of this step; nor did he tell me, until years later, that he had independently followed the same course, speaking with two different psychiatrists.

All three doctors offered essentially the same opinion: that Johnson's behavior - if the layman's descriptions we provided were accurate -seemed to correspond to a textbook case of paranoid disintegration, the eruption of long-suppressed irrationalities. The disintegration could continue, remain constant, or recede, depending on the strength of Johnson's resistance, and, more significantly, on the direction of those external events - the war, the crumbling public support -the pressures from which were dissolving Johnson's confidence in his ability to control events. [...]

DURING THAT SUM-mer, Bill Moyers and I - often accompanied by one of Bill's assistants -met every few days to discuss the President's increasingly vehement and less rational outbursts. We agreed that Johnson was changing, that some invasive force was distorting his perceptions, infecting the entire process of Presidential decision. Although we were reluctant to acknowledge it, the signs of aberration were too obvious to be ignored or rationalized as typical Johnsonian exaggerations. [...]

On July 5, I made a diary note: ''It has been a wild and unbelievable week - dinner with Bill and his assistant and another long discussion of Johnson in which we agreed on his paranoid condition. I asked Bill if he thought I should talk to anyone before I left, perhaps to Bob McNamara,'' - the Secretary of Defense - ''whose position might let him keep things from getting out of hand. Bill seemed to think that it might be a good idea . . . But I don't know if we can trust McNamara. He is intelligent and skilled, could understand our fears, but is also very ambitious. . . .''

If the world was beginning to slip from his control, Johnson would construct a tiny inner world that he could control, barricade himself not only from disagreement, but from the need to acknowledge the very existence of disagreement except among the uninformed and the hostile.

In those days, Johnson's conversations with his Cabinet would often begin with: ''What are you doing here? Why aren't you out there fighting against my enemies? Don't you realize that if they destroy me, they'll destroy you as well?'' The meetings themselves, no longer a forum for debate, were largely confined to reports by each secretary on the affairs of his department. Questions about Vietnam were discouraged, and, if asked, went unanswered.

Nor could the National Security Council be trusted. ''Those National Security meetings were like a sieve,'' Johnson remarked. ''There's that Arthur Goldberg'' (then representative to the United Nations) ''with a direct pipeline to The New York Times. . . . And those fellows from Defense were the worst of all. . . . Every time I saw some Department of Defense official's picture in the paper with a nice story about him, I'd know it was the paper's bribe for the leaked story.''

Those who attended security council meetings were sometimes told they should not use the occasion to voice doubt or disagreement. The President didn't want to hear it. ''I know how you feel, Arthur,'' the faithful Robert S. McNamara told Ambassador Goldberg before one meeting, ''but it would be better if you didn't say anything. The President has already made up his mind, and you would only embarrass him.''

Gradually, all meaningful discussion and decision were confined to the small, carefully chosen inner circle: Secretary of State Dean Rusk; Robert McNamara; the Director of Central Intelligence, William F. Raborn Jr.; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, and, occasionally, others who could be trusted to maintain complete secrecy.

Meanwhile, dissent from the outside - press or Congress or public - was discounted, rejected as the malignant tissue of ignorance, political ambition, disloyalty, or even a multiplying conspiracy. The only effective restraints were Johnson's judgment of the limits of public and Congressional tolerance, and his fears that certain uses of American military force might precipitate Soviet and Chinese intervention.

Later, after he had left the White House, Johnson spoke of ''secret treaties,'' formal documents committing the Soviet Union and China to go to the aid of North Vietnam should the United States transgress defined limits. ''I never knew when I sat there approving targets one, two, three, whether one of those three might just be the one to set off the provisions of those secret treaties. I kept asking myself, what if one of those targets you picked today triggers off Russia or China?'' There was, of course, no evidence that any such treaties existed. But Johnson needed them to justify his acts, and so he believed in their reality.

The incursions of paranoia - a kind of guerrilla warfare of the mind - are subtle, carefully establishing their chimerical, delusive outposts on still-firm remnants of reality. There was aggression in Southeast Asia, and opposition at home. These things were true. But the transformation of disagreement into disloyalty, political opponents into personal enemies, spreading dissent into a gigantic conspiracy, the rebels of Vietnam into the advance guard of world conquest, were the work of mental processes that bent and twisted the clay of reality into menacing fantastical shapes. [...]

Yet now this man of such intensely personal gifts was set at the head of a gargantuan bureaucracy, managed by people he could not know or observe; compelled to reach for his constituency while sitting in an empty office staring at the curved, blank lens of a television camera.

Often he would awaken in the middle of the night and -clad in pajamas, feet encased in thickly padded slippers -go down to the Situation Room of the White House, where he would sit for hours receiving the latest reports of bombing raids and missing planes, captured villages and fresh casualties, as if, somehow, in this way he could establish contact with the struggles, the secret desires, of living flesh.

But it could not be done. A master of men, the invulnerable genius of the small town had become the servant of technology. His perceptions confused, judgment distorted, no less shackled because he believed in the power of that technology, the mathematical accuracy of transistor computation, he even liked the machines with their illusion of control, but liked them as a small boy likes a mechanical toy - never fully trusting, but with no other choice. His increasingly angry, increasingly baffling frustrations were a manifestation of America's own transformation.

During the next few years, as I campaigned with Eugene McCarthy and then Robert Kennedy, I never disclosed -even to my closest friends and colleagues - the wild surmise that had preoccupied my final days in the White House.

Later, I was to question my failure to disclose what I knew of Johnson's mental condition: was I, through misplaced loyalty or personal cowardice, betraying my obligation to the country? Yet such disclosures would undoubtedly not have been believed. After all, what credentials did I have? I could not have proved my judgment then. Indeed, I cannot prove it now, although the subsequent escalation of an unwinnable war in Vietnam - an escalation fueled by self-deception throughout - added testimony far more persuasive than my own observations.

Still, to this day, I have never overcome the suspicion that my secrecy may have been a very large mistake of judgment or of timidity.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


No, Big Tech Isn't Silencing Conservatism  (Francesca Tripodi, 9/06/18, Medium)

People routinely put their faith in Google to find out about central political issues and decide who to vote for. Often, they search on political topics to validate or question news from other sources. They believe Google is giving them unbiased and accurate results, weighing facts instead of rank-ordering results that match the entered keywords. But they're wrong: Google doesn't weigh political bias; it weighs factors such as what words appear in the article or headline, how many people link to it, and what words people used in their search.

Whether the reader comes back and clicks on other links from the same search results also affects results. If more people click on the third link than the first or second, Google's algorithm will shift accordingly. Google's results are thus a kind of instant poll of public opinion about which news the public believes is most worthy of attention. That is not to say that this instant poll isn't problematic; it's simply indicative of the broader social structures that shape what we think we know about the world.

Phrasing matters. Take, for example, two very similar searches surrounding an advertisement paid for by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers. The ad that repeatedly aired on television and Facebook argued that the Democratic candidate for governor (Ralph Northam) was incompetent because he had "approved the spending of $1.4 million in taxpayer money to a fake Chinese company with a false address and a phony website."

My research demonstrates that Google can actually drive the public toward a silo of conservative thought.
If you Googled "Northam fake Chinese company" on January 25, 2018, you were provided articles from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Washington Post that summarized the claims in the ad. But those more interested in fiscal responsibility might have focused on the monetary figure repeatedly used in the Republican candidate's ads and rallies.

By simply adding "$1.4 million" to the search on the same day, Google returned dramatically different, conservative-leaning content. The top result was an opinion piece by the Republican Governors Association; the second link was an op-ed by a conservative politician. A few hits down was a direct link to the organization that paid for the ad, and following that was a link to Fairfax Underground -- a forum that frequently claims the Democratic Party is trying to "break the back of white, middle-class America" by "importing millions of brown people to dilute white votes and remove Christianity from the public square."

If anything, this search leans conservative and verges on racist misinformation, burying liberal perspectives.

It's hardly surprising that we old white men are tech illiterate.
Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


The Original Originalist: Thirty years after Robert Bork was denied a seat on the Supreme Court, his formidable legacy lives on. (Mark Pulliam, Summer 2018, City Journal)

As a stoical Robert Bork sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the morning of September 15, 1987, surrounded by reporters, klieg lights, and television cameras, the 60-year-old jurist could look back on an accomplished career. For five and a half years, he had served on the D.C. Circuit, considered the nation's most prestigious court other than the U.S. Supreme Court. Bork had also been a marine, a successful antitrust litigator, a law professor, solicitor general, and acting attorney general of the United States. But as he faced committee chairman Joe Biden and his hostile Democratic colleagues, including Ted Kennedy, Howard Metzenbaum, Robert Byrd, Patrick Leahy, and Paul Simon, the cerebral Bork was ill-suited--and disinclined--to duplicate the dramatic performance given in the same hearing room a few months earlier, when the telegenic Lt. Col. Oliver North parried with a joint congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair. Against the urging of his handlers, and with his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan hanging in the balance, Bork made no attempt to emulate North, believing that such rhetorical flair was undignified for a judge.

Instead, during an unprecedented five days of grilling, Bork chose to answer the committee's questions "matter-of-factly" and to explain his view of judging "fully." The media coverage, featuring the judge's lengthy, dispassionate responses, failed to rally the American public in his favor, unlike North's gripping testimony. Ultimately, despite Bork's stellar credentials, the Senate voted him down, largely on party grounds--an outcome that coined the now-ubiquitous term "borking."

Bork's defeat was a watershed event in judicial politics, and reverberates still--it prevented a conservative realignment of the Court (due to the appointment of moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy in place of Bork) and forever transformed the judicial-confirmation process into an ideological gauntlet. No High Court nominee would ever again be as forthright, or be denied confirmation for such transparently ideological reasons. Ironically, the Senate's rejection of Bork--due to his steadfast advocacy of judicial restraint and sticking to the constitutional text--did not prevent the ascendancy of his brand of "originalist" constitutional theory and, in fact, may have bolstered it, by giving him a bully pulpit that he would use effectively for the rest of his life. [...]

Prior to originalism's triumph in the 1990s, these liberal constitutional theories held sway, and throughout the 1970s, Bork was their main antagonist. In a 1979 article in the Washington University Law Quarterly, Bork mocked the liberal position as seeking "to create rights by arguments from moral philosophy rather than from constitutional text, history, and structure. The end result would be to convert our government from one by representative assembly to one by judiciary." Some of the doctrinal innovations advocated by the Left--such as welfare rights, comparable worth, busing, and abolition of capital punishment--thankfully faded into oblivion along with other 1970s fads, including bell-bottoms, leisure suits, and sideburns. But many others remained, and continue to this day, as part of the Left's long march through legal academia.

Rejecting the idea of judges legislating from the bench, Bork believed that judges should instead play a limited role: to enforce the Constitution as written. This approach--often expressed as "judges should interpret the law, not make it"--has, over time, been referred to variously as strict construction, original intent, interpretivism, judicial restraint, textualism, and originalism. The labels, and even the fine points of application, are less important than the general orientation.

In Bork's view, the Constitution derives its moral authority, as law, from the fact that the states ratified it. Accordingly, its text should be interpreted as it was understood at the time of its adoption. Judges have no warrant to expand upon the constitutional text--or to invent new rights--just because they favor the result in a particular case. Judicial power, unless constrained by the Constitution's original meaning, will become excessive, usurping power properly reserved to the elected branches, or the people. When judges exceed their proper role, by recognizing "liberties" not credibly drawn from the constitutional text or history, they diminish citizens' most important freedom: the right to govern themselves in a representative democracy.

Bork's position, consistent with Alexander Hamilton's conception of the judicial role in Federalist 78, seems as though it shouldn't be controversial, but it directly challenged the dominance of the legal professoriat and the liberal interest groups that benefited from judicial activism. As Bork framed the issue: "Either the Constitution and statutes are law, which means that their principles are known and control judges, or they are malleable texts that judges may rewrite to see that particular groups or political causes win." While Bork was not the only conservative in legal academia, he was certainly the most influential--and articulate--advocate for originalism. From its inception in 1982, Bork was also conspicuously associated with the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, both as a speaker and as cochairman of its board of visitors.

September 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 PM


At U.S. Open, power of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka is overshadowed by an umpire's power play (Sally Jenkins, September 8, 2018, washington Post)

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos managed to rob not one but two players in the women's U.S. Open final. Nobody has ever seen anything like it: An umpire so wrecked a big occasion that both players, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams alike, wound up distraught with tears streaming down their faces during the trophy presentation and an incensed crowd screamed boos at the court. Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn't take a woman speaking sharply to him.

Williams abused her racket, but Ramos did something far uglier: He abused his authority. Champions get heated -- it's their nature to burn. All good umpires in every sport understand that the heart of their job is to help temper the moment, to turn the dial down, not up, and to be quiet stewards of the event rather than to let their own temper play a role in determining the outcome. Instead, Ramos made himself the chief player in the women's final. He marred Osaka's first Grand Slam title and one of Williams's last bids for all-time greatness. Over what? A tone of voice. Male players have sworn and cursed at the top of their lungs, hurled and blasted their equipment into shards, and never been penalized as Williams was in the second set of the U.S. Open final.

25 Years Later, McEnroe Reflects on an Ejection (He Can Be Serious) ( Christopher Clarey, Jan. 23, 2015, NY Times)

Loopholes and the potential for conflict still exist: See Serena Williams's threatening a lineswoman at the 2009 United States Open after being called for a foot fault, one facet of the rules that is still not covered by electronic surveillance. And temperamental players still exist: the Australian Nick Kyrgios was fined for racket abuse and an audible obscenity during his first-round victory at this Australian Open.

But there is no man or woman who challenges authority on a match-in, match-out basis as McEnroe did.

By 1990, he was already on his way down: five years removed from his last Grand Slam singles final at the 1985 United States Open. Yet there had been recent cause for optimism: a victory at the WCT Finals and a semifinal run at Wimbledon in 1989. He even arrived in Australia early, taking part in the Hopman Cup, the team event in Perth, which began the day after Christmas in 1989 and ended on Jan. 1. Because the Hopman Cup began in 1989, the old rules on disqualification still applied instead of the new rules that had been approved for the 1990 season.

Under the old rules, disqualification was a four-step process: warning, point penalty, game penalty, default. Under the new rules, it was to be a three-step process: warning, point penalty, default.

Difficult as it is to believe, McEnroe said he had been unaware of the imminent change, and in Perth he flirted with disqualification, in a quarterfinal match against Paolo Canè of Italy.

"The whole incident in Melbourne really began at the Hopman Cup," said Peter Bellinger, the tournament referee at the Australian Open from 1983 to 2005. "Some of the officiating at the Hopman Cup wasn't as good as it could have been, and at one point John refused to play on and was taken through the three steps of the code, which was a game penalty."

In Melbourne, McEnroe cruised through his opening three rounds without losing a set. Richard Ings, a chair umpire at the time, worked one of his early rounds and said he considered reminding McEnroe of the code change, but ultimately did not.

"The rule changes were always posted in the locker room," Bellinger said. "But he obviously didn't read them."

Then on the first Sunday -- Jan. 21, 1990 -- McEnroe took to the court against Pernfors, a speedy Swede and former member of the top 10.

Armstrong was in the chair and he gave McEnroe his initial warning early in the third set when McEnroe glared at a lineswoman after a questionable call and bounced the ball upward on his racket strings in front of her.

Armstrong later gave McEnroe a point penalty for racket abuse after he threw and cracked his racket in the sixth game of the fourth set, when he was up two sets to one.

"He had an edge in that set, but I still felt like I was going to win the match and even that set," McEnroe said. "I missed a shot I should have made, and I sort of threw the racket on the ground and caught it. I wasn't trying to break it, but I didn't throw it at like a linesman or a ball boy. And then I caught it. Players do it all the time, but you heard a crack and I guess technically in those days the umpire could be discretionary on the warning. And then all of the sudden it was a point penalty, and my recollection is that was when I went up and said, 'Hey it's 120 degrees out here. Maybe you could cut me some slack.'"

McEnroe argued his case and called for the Grand Slam chief of supervisors, Ken Farrar, who soon arrived on court with Bellinger.

After failing to change any minds, McEnroe turned away from the chair in the direction of the baseline, muttering an expletive in a comment that has no place in a family newspaper.

"I don't know how well people even heard it, because it was sort of under my breath anyway, but he heard it," McEnroe said of Farrar. "And maybe the umpire heard it, and then that was all she wrote."

McEnroe braced himself for the game penalty, but instead it was a match penalty. Today, McEnroe views his default as the price he had to pay after years of favorable treatment.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 PM

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM


Miss America contestant calls Trump the 'biggest issue facing our country today' (The Age, 9 September 2018)

When asked on Friday, the final night of the preliminary competition, what she believed was the most serious issue facing the nation, Madeline Collins, Miss West Virginia, name-checked the leader of the free world.

"Donald Trump is the biggest issue facing our country today," Collins responded. As captured on video by a Press of Atlantic City reporter, Collins continued: "Unfortunately, he has caused a lot of divide in our country, and until we can trust in him and the choices that he makes for our country, we cannot become united."

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The only solid bet is on Trump's panic (but the op-ed was probably Jared) (David Von Drehle, September 7, 2018, Washington Post)

Bookies set the odds at 12-to-1 that Jared Kushner wrote the "Resistance Inside" bombshell, and if I were a gambling man, I might take a piece of that action. After all, rarely a month has passed during the reign of The Donald without a story leaking about his son-in-law and daughter laboring to curb the excesses of President Daddy. Key themes of the unamed "senior official" in the New York Times -- that President Trump is bonkers, and thank heavens for the good guys inside the administration -- fit neatly into the same narrative.

The Jared Theory also answers a question so many have asked since the op-ed was published on Wednesday: Why doesn't this self-styled patriot resign? There's no leaving for Jared Kushner. [...]

No one, not even the Impresario of the Oval Office himself, could reasonably blame Mr. and Mrs. Kushner if they've begun planning their exit strategy. So many administration figures are eying the doors that, as one of them puts it, the days after the midterm elections will be a great time to sublet a house in D.C. Life is getting mighty uncomfortable as the president discovers -- contradicting his core belief of the past 40 years -- that there is such a thing as bad publicity, after all.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM



In a 2012 YouTube video of an attempted robbery in California, a strange scene unfolds.

Two robbers enter the Circle T Market in Riverbank. One carries a large assault rifle, an AK-47. Upon seeing them, the clerk behind the counter puts his hands up. Yet the elderly store owner finds the weapon absurdly big and casually walks up to the robbers, laughing. His shoulders are relaxed and he points the palms of his hands up as if asking them whether they are serious. Both perpetrators are startled upon seeing the elderly man laughing at them. One runs away, while the one with the AK-47 freezes, is tackled, and is later arrested by police. They had robbed numerous stores before.

Analyzing videos captured on CCTV, mobile phones, or body cameras and uploaded to YouTube now provides first-hand insight into a variety of similar situations. And there are a lot of videos to watch. In 2013, 31 percent of internet users online posted a video to a website. And on YouTube alone, more than 300 hours of video footage are uploaded every minute. Many of these videos capture our behavior at weddings and concerts, protests and revolutions, and tsunamis and earthquakes. Taboos become obsolete as more types of events are uploaded, from birth to live-streamed murder.

While some of these developments are contentious, their scientific potential to understand how social life happens can't be ignored. This ever-expanding cache of recordings may have drastic implications for our understanding of human behavior.

The first episode of Slate's History of the Future podcast offers an interesting consideration of whether we should be paid for the data we are providing.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Top Trump Adviser Says Ted Cruz Could Lose Texas Senate Race (Alexander Burns and Kenneth P. Vogel, Sept. 8, 2018, NY Times)

A pair of top Republicans acknowledged in a private meeting on Saturday that the party was battling serious vulnerabilities in the midterm elections, including what one described as widespread "hate" for President Trump, and raised the prospect that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas could lose his bid for re-election because he is not seen as "likable" enough.

Ted Cruz is just Donald without the personal corruption.
Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


The Obvious Suspect (WILLIAM SALETAN, SEPT 07, 2018, sLATE)

Who wrote the anonymous op-ed against President Trump in Wednesday's New York Times? All we know for certain is what the Times disclosed: that it's a "senior official in the Trump administration." But the most likely author, based on the op-ed's content and style, is the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman is an obvious suspect for several reasons. The article's themes are classic Huntsman: effusive about conservative policies, blunt about low character. In 2016, he made the same points for and against Trump. The topic that gets the most space and detail in the piece is Huntsman's current area, Russia. (As Slate's Fred Kaplan points out, Trump has been circumventing and undermining Huntsman.) The prose, as in Huntsman's speeches and interviews, is flamboyantly erudite. The tone, like Huntsman's, is pious. And the article's stated motive--"Americans should know that there are adults in the room"--matches a letter that Huntsman wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune in July. In the letter, Huntsman, responding to a columnist who thought the ambassador should resign rather than keep working for Trump, explained that public servants such as himself were dutifully attending to the nation's business.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Ryan, McConnell try to coax Trump away from shutdown -- using props and flattery (Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey, September 7, 2018, Washington Post)

The top two Republicans in Congress arrived at the White House this week armed with props aimed at flattering and cajoling President Trump out of shutting down the government at the end of this month.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) showed the president glossy photos of a wall under construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) brought an article from the Washington Examiner that described Trump as brilliantly handling the current budget process, and portrayed the GOP as unified and breaking through years of dysfunction. [...]

The visual aids were a subtle but deft attempt to win over a president known to prefer visual imagery over wonky typed handouts, and eager to absorb flattery at a time when the White House is enveloped in chaos.

Nativism got the leader it deserves.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Modest Premium Hikes as 'Obamacare' Stabilizes (Meghan Hoyer And Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/07/18, Associated Press)

Millions of people covered under the Affordable Care Act will see only modest premium increases next year, and some will get price cuts. That's the conclusion from an exclusive analysis of the besieged but resilient program, which still sparks deep divisions heading into this year's midterm elections.

The Associated Press and the consulting firm Avalere Health crunched available state data and found that "Obamacare's" health insurance marketplaces seem to be stabilizing after two years of sharp premium hikes. And the exodus of insurers from the program has halted, even reversed somewhat, with more consumer choices for 2019.

Don't you hate when reality refuses to conform to ideology.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


None of You Idiots Is Spartacus (JONAH GOLDBERG, September 7, 2018, National Review)

For those of you who don't know, Cory Booker heroically® (according to his P.R. operation) defied Senate rules and risked expulsion from that chamber in order to release confidential documents that the American people desperately needed to see. The people needed to understand what the dangerous bigot whom Trump nominated to the Court had written in an email about racial profiling while working in the Bush White House after 9/11.

There were only a couple of problems: The email in question was already cleared for public release (and Booker knew it), and the substance of the email revealed that the Monster Kavanaugh opposed racial profiling. It was as if Cory Booker -- once a famous, if choreographed, good Samaritan -- saw a mugging, leapt out of his car, tire-iron in hand, to save the day only to stop 20 feet from the assailant in front of some TV cameras, and proceed to smash the makeshift weapon into his own crotch. "I am Spartacus! Ow! I am Spartacus -- Ooof!"

Like so much of life today, it all gets dumber. Booker is like the dweeby model student (treasurer of the chess club, three-years running!) who was "radicalized" by the edgy kids at theater camp and became determined to be a rebel for his senior year. The only problem: Booker seemed to have picked up his idea of being a bad boy by watching Saved by the Bell and various after-school specials. "Greetings fellow cool people: Check out my pleather biker jacket!"

On TV, Booker insists that he did in fact break the rules ("I am breaking the rules.") but in committee, when it seemed like the Republicans believed him, he couldn't stand his ground -- even though he wanted to -- and insisted that there was no rule that he had moments earlier boasted of violating. It was as if he were dragged before the principal and asked if he really had toilet-papered the math teacher's house (as he had told people in study hall) only to confess that he was simply taking credit for it. Now, he's back on TV reverting to his original story with a "How dare you ask if my awesome earring is a clip on?" tone.

Perhaps the most telling sign that Booker cannot commit to his bad-boy routine is the actual quote so many people are inaccurately summarizing. Booker didn't say, "I am Spartacus!" He didn't even say, "This is my 'I am Spartacus moment.'" He said: "This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an 'I am Spartacus' moment."

...all 12 of the suspects in the sleeper cell should proclaim, "I wrote the editorial."

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


GDP as a measure of economic well-being (Karen Dynan and Louise Sheiner, August 24, 2018, Brookings)

In a new working paper, Karen Dynan of Harvard University and the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Hutchins Center's Louise Sheiner conclude that changes in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) do a reasonable job in capturing changes in a nation's economic well-being with one important exception. They argue that the exclusion of non-market activities that increase economic well-being merits more attention, particularly given the growing importance of such activities.

They cite several areas where measurement falls short of the conceptual ideal. First, the national accounts may mismeasure nominal GDP arising from the digital economy and the operation of multinational corporations. Second, deflators used to separate GDP into nominal GDP and real GDP may produce a biased measure of inflation. For goods and services that do not change in quality over time, current deflator methods work reasonably well. For new goods and services, or goods and services that are changing in quality, current methods may not capture consumer surplus well.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


An Old Anti-Irish Law Is at the Heart of Trump's Plan to Reshape Legal Immigration: The administration is preparing a rule to crack down on immigrants who receive public benefits. (NOAH LANARD, SEP. 6, 2018, Mother Jones)

Boston's 1845 census grouped the home countries of the city's indigent into three buckets: the United States, Ireland, and everywhere else. Massachusetts Protestants attacked Irish immigrants for draining public resources. The state's solution was to deport people it considered likely to become "public charges." That same strategy is now at the center of the Trump administration's attempt to reshape legal immigration in the United States. [...]

Blocking the poor from entering the country is nearly as old as US immigration law itself. In his 2017 book, Expelling the Poor, Hidetaka Hirota, an assistant professor at Waseda University in Tokyo who previously taught US immigration history at the City College of New York, explains how Massachusetts and New York created the foundation for US immigration restrictions by turning away and deporting Irish migrants fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s. When the United States adopted its first comprehensive immigration law in 1882, both states made sure there was a public charge provision that allowed immigration officials to exclude impoverished Irish migrants. The current version of that provision states that immigrants who are "likely at any time to become a public charge" will not be admitted into the United States or allowed to adjust their immigration statuses. Now, the Trump administration hopes to use this provision to target migrants who are disproportionately people of color.

It's not as if the Irish were assimilable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Yoram Hazony and the New Nationalism (Samuel Goldman, Summer 2018, Modern Age)

Nationalism is experiencing something of a revival. Unfashionable and even taboo for about a quarter century after the end of the Cold War, legal defenses of national sovereignty, expressions of national loyalty, and even assertions of particularistic national identities have become an inescapable feature of political discussion in the United States and Europe. Although most evident on the right, nationalist sentiments have also found a place on the left. The so-called Lexit--Left Brexit--faction supporting Britain's escape from the European Union is just one example.

Yoram Hazony is perhaps the leading theorist of this new nationalism. President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and long a mainstay of the Jewish intellectual right, Hazony has found a broader audience in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, American Affairs, and other influential publications. In occasional writings and an important forthcoming book, Hazony contends that developments including the election of Donald Trump, controversial governments in Hungary and Poland, and Brexit suggest the possibility of a return to sanity after the experiments with transnational governance that became increasingly prominent after the fall of communism. He is not wrong but underestimates the challenges that a revival of nationalism in the twenty-first century must overcome.

Despite its growing salience, nationalism remains forbiddingly difficult to define. Standard reference works suggest a web of meanings involving loyalty to one's people and the place in which they live, desire for their independence and prosperity, and efforts to secure those goals by political, economic, or cultural means. Nationalism, in this sense, is not so different from patriotism, except in its linguistic root. Where "nationalism" evokes the familial circumstances of birth--in Latin, natio--"patriotism" emphasizes its location--the patria or fatherland.

Yet the matter is not so simple. Precisely because they are political, these concepts have polemical as well as descriptive connotations. Patriotism is usually understood as a worthy sentiment, informed by knowledge and compatible with high moral principle. Nationalism, by contrast, tends to be associated with ignorance, conflict, and violence. Hazony rejects this conventional distinction. Nationalism, he insists, is a positive virtue, not a vice--or even a necessary evil. At the risk of pedantry, it is worth observing that the Latin term virtus alludes to what is fitting for a vir, or man. In this vein, Hazony writes movingly of learning nationalism at his own father's knee. The virtue in question is a kind of piety, comparable to the reverence that Aeneas, the personification of all that was best in Rome, shows for his father, Anchises.

But nationalism is not a personal virtue only. On Hazony's account, an appreciation for nationalism is also a distinctive virtue of the conservative intellectual tradition. In addition to defending nationalism against its cultured despisers, Hazony aims to rescue conservatism from the universalizing ideology that he associates with another of those famously problematic concepts, liberalism.

One reason for the eclipse of nationalism in recent decades--at least among the political, economic, and cultural elites of North America and western Europe--is that it has found few competent theorists. This weakness is not only the result of changing intellectual fashions but also arises in part from the concept itself. Because nationalism is grounded in loyalty to one's own people and place, its advocates tend to eschew general arguments. In other words, they make particularistic claims about the meaning and prospects of this or that specific nation.

Hazony tries to overcome this tendency by presenting a defense of nationalism as such. He defines nationalism as "a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions, and pursuing their own interests without interference." Hazony contrasts this vision of world order both with empire, which aims to impose a single regime on as much of the globe as possible, and with anarchy, which he describes as an absence of centralized, reliable coercion. The nation, on these terms, is a kind of midpoint between the political form that makes no distinctions among peoples or places and the unreliable security provided by extended families.

This conception of the nation is important because it is the basis for Hazony's rejection of claims that nationalism is tantamount to racism. He insists that because nations inevitably comprise many clans and "tribes," they are not based on common descent. However, the nation is unified around cultural characteristics that include a distinctive language, religion, and a shared history of struggle. Outsiders can join a nation when they adopt these characteristics. At the same time, the nation is entitled to decide when and whether it wishes to accept more foster children.

Expressed mostly in generalizations rather than in historical detail, Hazony presents his case for the nation in The Virtue of Nationalism as an essay in "foundational political philosophy." This procedure would seem to contradict his insistence that nationalism appeals to an empirical understanding of human nature, rather than philosophical abstractions. Yet his argument does not emerge from the view from nowhere that he blames for the current disdain for nationalism. Instead, it is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, which Hazony numbers among "the first great works of the Western political tradition."

Many readers will find this claim surprising. Not only the growing ranks of the religiously illiterate, but also many serious Christians and Jews balk at the idea that the Old Testament offers political lessons that can be applied today. Even conservative evangelicals, who insist that the Bible is authoritative in matters of personal morality, mostly hesitate to draw direct conclusions about the conduct of governments from biblical texts.

But Hazony is not engaging in the kind of "theonomy" associated with the Christian Reconstructionist movement. In his 2012 study The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, he argued that the Bible is not merely a record of irrational revelation that demands implicit obedience; it also offers compelling arguments about the proper order of human society. In his new work, Hazony concentrates on what he considers the biblical argument for a world composed of independent nation-states. Even as it criticizes attempts to unify the human race, beginning with the Tower of Babel, the Bible promotes the unification of the Hebrew tribes into a single people living under a common legal authority within defined borders. For Hazony, the travails of the biblical Israel represent the paradigmatic case for nationalism in a period defined by the oscillation between empire and anarchy. [...]

Above all, however, The Virtue of Nationalism is a polemic against what Hazony calls "liberalism." By this he means "a rationalist political theory based on the assumption that human beings are free and equal by nature, and that obligation to the state and other institutions arises through the consent of individuals." On this theory, neither nations nor families have any inherent authority. Thus, they can be formed, abandoned, or modified as individuals pursue their interests--usually construed in terms of physical security and material prosperity.

In practice, of course, this argument could lead to the formation of nations as the most convenient vehicle for the pursuit of material interests. In principle, however, it suggests that truly rational human beings would establish the largest and most inclusive possible state. From its theoretical starting point in an anarchic state of nature, Hazony suggests, liberalism derives a virtually irresistible tendency toward empire.

The always interesting Mr. Hazony is essentially just defending Zionism (nationalism) against American Jews (neocons) and the End of History. What critics on the Right and Left mean by empire is the universal extension of the Anglospheric system (democracy, capitalism and protestantism) and values that we have witnessed over the past several centuries.  Mr. Hazony perceives, as the neocons do not, that their Anglo-American liberalism as far as other nations is concerned must ultimately be applied in Israel with potentially existential results. Thus the reliance on the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) where Israel is defined as a nation (race) as opposed to the definition of sovereignty that obtains in the Anglo-American (Protestant) world, which broadens the nation to all the people being governed and requires their consent to that governance and a system of republican liberty.

Of course, the tell here is the willful misreading of the Tower of Babel as a criticism of universalism, a position unsustainable by reference to the actual text:

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

God here, as in the Garden, acts in self-interest.



Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Bernie Sanders Is Wrong About Workers on Welfare (Michael R. Strain, September 5, 2018, Bloomberg)

Whether motivated by concerns about inequality, as the Vermont senator is, or by the increasingly common view on the political right that when it comes to certain corporations, big is bad, both Sanders and Carlson betray a fundamental misunderstanding of economics and of the proper ordering of society.

Forces in a market economy will push the wage earned by workers toward the amount of revenue they generate for their employer. It is simply unrealistic to expect a company to pay, say, $15 per hour to a worker who is only generating $9 per hour of revenue for the business. Under such an arrangement, the company is losing $6 every hour the worker is on the job. That situation is untenable.

My argument may sound off given the amount of attention currently paid in some circles to issues like "market concentration," "monopsony power" and the like. To be clear, I do not deny that these factors play a role in determining wages. But particularly in the low-wage labor market, a worker's productivity plays a very important role in determining his wage. And large gaps between wages and productivity are ultimately unsustainable for many workers.

So in some sense, Sanders and Carlson have it exactly backward: Walmart, Amazon and McDonald's are not being subsidized by taxpayers because some of their employees receive assistance from safety-net programs. Instead, employers of lower-wage workers are surely reducing safety-net rolls. In the absence of these jobs, more people, not fewer, would likely be receiving government assistance.

The logic underlying the claim by Sanders and Carlson also leads to a place that the senator at least probably doesn't want to go. Sanders argues that if Amazon has employees on Medicaid, then taxpayers are subsidizing Amazon. At the same time, the senator supports single-payer national health care ("Medicare for All"). Should we view any national health-care program as a multitrillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy to business?

Of course not. And we shouldn't view food stamps as a subsidy to business, either. Doing so reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how U.S. society has chosen, through politics, to assign different roles to different actors.

No one who works full time and heads a household should live in poverty. Making sure this doesn't happen is a social goal, and resources from all of society should be marshaled to achieve it. The responsibility for achieving this goal should not fall exclusively on the employers and customers of low-wage workers, as Sanders and Carlson implicitly argue.

Of course, McDonald's and Amazon have a role. But so do hedge-fund managers and upscale retailers and publishing houses and economists -- that is, those who don't employ low-wage workers.

I am pointing to a system of work-based income redistribution, a key component of the U.S. social-safety net. Wages are determined in markets, and taxpayer-funded government programs are used to further the goal that working households do not fall below a baseline level of material well-being.

As Mr. Strain's own argument shows, no one is really ready to face a system of income redistribution after work has been displaced nor where the cost of creating wealth approaches $0.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Manafort Weighing Plea Deal to Avoid New Criminal Trial, Source Says (David Voreacos  and Neil Weinberg, September 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

While the second trial would highlight many of the same financial transactions as the first, prosecutors will also seek to prove that Manafort violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act when he conducted a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign in the U.S. at the direction of Yanukovych. Manafort hired prominent U.S. firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs LLC to help him, as well as several prominent former European politicians.

At a pretrial hearing on Sept. 5, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing foreshadowed a trial defense on the lobbying charge, saying the Justice Department's oversight of the FARA regulations was vague and rarely enforced. Prosecutors, he said, can't prove that Manafort had any intent to violate the law, which is a requirement for conviction for that charge.

Former federal prosecutor Patrick Cotter said defendants often have a hard time grasping that they're running out of legal options.

"Guys who've gotten away with a lot of stuff before they get to prison" often show a lot of bravado, he said. "On the day of conviction they still believe there will be one more inning. It takes awhile before they realize there are no more innings."

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Israel: Palestinian Ahed Tamimi 'banned from travelling abroad' (Al Jazeera, 9/08/18)

Israel has banned Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi and her family from travelling abroad, her father said, citing Palestinian authorities.

Basim Tamimi told Anadolu Agency on Friday that he and his family had planned to travel to Europe via Jordan, to participate in events and discussions on the Palestinian resistance movement and the experience of being detained in Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Trump Used His Charity as His Checkbook, New York State Says (Shahien Nasiripour , Chris Dolmetsch , and Christie Smythe, June 14, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's personal charity repeatedly and willfully broke state and federal laws by engaging in a decade-long pattern of self-dealing that culminated in illegal coordination with his political campaign, New York alleged in a scathing lawsuit.

The president is accused of rampant misconduct by using the charity as one of his personal checkbooks, directing funds meant for needy causes to settle business and personal debts, boost his political aspirations and benefit his namesake company, the Trump Organization. He also filed false statements to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the suit.

Barbara Underwood, the state's attorney general, is seeking to dissolve the charity and personally penalize Trump and three of his children. She said she also sent referral letters to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission for further investigations of possible violations of federal law.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Nike Knows Its Customers -- And They Aren't Trump Voters (Cynthia Tucker, September 8, 2018, National Memo)

Unlike Kaepernick, Nike didn't do this because the company's officers are especially brave or "woke." While its stock was down a bit right after the announcement of Kaepernick's role, most financial analysts expect that the sports apparel company's bottom line will benefit from its association with him.

Its customer base skews toward consumers of color, who are likely to support the athlete's socially conscious gestures.

According to TMZ Sports, "African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians are more strongly represented in Nike's consumer base than they are in the U.S. population." Equally important, its sales depend on younger adults, not baby boomers with bad knees. TMZ says: "18- to 34-year-olds comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent a whopping 43 percent of Nike buyers." In other words, the company doesn't see its future in the purchasing power of older whites.

Nike's run too narrow for fat old men and they aren't subject to store discounts.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Trump says he wants to avoid 'perjury trap' in questioning by special counsel Robert Mueller, but doesn't rule out sit-down in Russia probe  (Dan Mangan, 9/08/18,

President Donald Trump said Friday, "I don't want to be set up with a perjury trap" by special counsel Robert Mueller, the prosecutor who is investigating possible obstruction of justice by the president.

But Trump also said he is willing to sit down for an interview with Mueller -- who also is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election -- "under certain circumstances."

Trump's comments aboard Air Force One came a day after his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave conflicting comments about whether Trump would answer certain questions from Mueller. Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt." [...]

Giuliani told The Associated Press on Thursday that Trump would refuse to answer questions about obstruction of justice, either in person or in writing.

...puts paid to the notion he's just worried about misspeaking.  Of course, there isn't any debate that he's been obstructing justice in cases resulting in confessions and convictions..

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Adding clean energy to the Sahara could make it rain (and not just figuratively) (Mary Beth Griggs, 9/07/18, Popular Science)

In a paper published this week in Science researchers found that by building out huge wind and solar farms across the desert, they could not only provide a stunning amount of power to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, but they could simultaneously change the climate--increasing heat, but also increasing precipitation and vegetation in areas that could sorely use the added greenery. They estimate that such a venture could double the rainfall in the region, and increase vegetation cover by about 20 percent.

How much green are we talking? The Sahara covers 3.55 million square miles (9.2 million square kilometers). In the study, the researchers ran computer models that placed wind turbines across the desert close to a mile apart, and covered 20 percent of the desert with solar panels in different configurations (sometimes the panels were spread across the desert in a checkerboard pattern, and in other cases were concentrated in quadrants). Smaller coverage produced smaller climate impacts--in this case, less precipitation--but much of it depended on the location of the turbines and panels as well. For example, installing panels in the northwest corner had a larger impact than the other three desert options.

September 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Papadopoulos sentenced to 14 days in prison (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 09/07/2018, Politico)

Friday's hearing took a dramatic and unexpected turn when Papadopoulos' attorney, Thomas Breen, lit into Trump, arguing that the president himself was more culpable than his client.

Trump, Breen said, "hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could," by calling the FBI's Russia inquiry a "witch hunt" and casting doubt on credible allegations of wrongdoing by his associates.

"The president of the United States, the commander in chief, told the world that this was fake news," Breen said, contrasting this with Mueller's "professional" and "well-prepared" team. [...]

Breen's confrontational approach toward Trump in the courtroom on Friday was sharply at odds with public efforts in recent weeks by Papadopoulos' wife to argue that Papadopoulos was the victim of a set-up involving U.S. intelligence and the FBI. Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, who was in court with her husband on Friday, has accused the FBI of using confidential informants to bait her husband into incriminating the Trump campaign.

Mangiante Papadopoulos also did TV interviews seeking a pardon for her husband, and publicly appealed for new lawyers to try to withdraw her husband's guilty plea.

But George Papadopoulos' lawyers made no effort Friday to point fingers at Mueller's office or the FBI. In fact, they flatly rejected any suggestion of impropriety by the prosecution.

"Our firm would in a second stand up if we saw prosecutorial or governmental misconduct. We have seen no such thing," Breen said in response to a question from POLITICO at a brief news conference after the sentencing. "We have seen no entrapment. We have seen no set-up by U.S. intelligence people. ... Everything we saw, they've been on the square." [...]

During the court hearing Friday, Breen was tough on his own client, but also sought to stress his youth and inexperience. He called Papadopoulos "naive" and "a fool."

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


In Defense of NYT's Anonymous: Government "Stewardship" as a Guard Against Threats to Democratic Order (Daniel J. Rosenthal, September 7, 2018, Just Security)

[t]here is a giant exception to the general rule of rote compliance by the federal bureaucracy to the policy choices of the political leadership. That exception grows out of these agents' responsibility as stewards of their offices. The concept of stewardship by civil servants has traditionally referred to an officeholder's responsibility to take action that advances the public rather than personal interests.

But good stewards not only faithfully do what they are told, they also protect the institutions themselves. They are bestowed with a power and duty to "take care" of something; in other words, to prevent it from breaking down or failing entirely. Under that conception of stewardship, in the most extreme cases, these individuals can and must also refuse to advance attempts to sabotage the very ability of our system to function. Civil servants should think of their responsibility of stewardship as akin to guardians of our system.  They should give the political leadership the space to make policy choices - even drastic ones with which many in the bureaucracy may fundamentally disagree. That's the natural and proper outcome of elections.  But these guardians of our system should remain vigilant against efforts to change the very foundations of our democracy - changes, particularly when made outside of public view, that undermine the ability of the democratic process to function. In the face of such moments, it is their task to hold their ground, throw roadblocks, or take any other lawful action to interfere with the implementation of such anti-democratic changes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


DNC Lawyers Raise Prospect That Papadopoulos's U.K. Contact May Be Dead (Joe Schneider, September 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

The Democratic National Committee, which is suing Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks for interfering in the 2016 election, said in a court filing Friday that it believes all the defendants in the case have been served with the complaint, "with the exception of Mifsud (who is missing and may be deceased)." 

THE CASE FOR OBSTRUCTION (James Risen, May 31 2018, The Intercept)

ONE OF THE most important things to understand about Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia case, is that he helped nail New York mob boss John Gotti, the gangster known as the "Teflon Don."

One of the most important things to understand about Donald Trump, the con man and hustler who happens to be president, is that he comes from the mob-tinged New York real estate industry and knows exactly what happened to Gotti and other mob bosses felled by racketeering prosecutions waged by the likes of Mueller.

Trump knows that Mueller is now conducting the same kind of racketeering investigation in the Trump-Russia case, and it frightens him.

Mueller is approaching his Trump-Russia investigation in the same way he and his fellow Justice Department prosecutors went after Gotti and other mobsters. He is rolling up Trump loyalists. He is slowly but surely climbing the ladder from low-level operatives to more prominent figures, and holding the threat of prison over their heads to get them to flip and talk about people higher up the ladder. Eventually, Mueller's racketeering case will make its way to Trump. [...]

The answer, unequivocally, is yes.

There are many open questions about other aspects of the Trump-Russia narrative, but not about this. Trump has been trying to block the investigation from the very start. The only real questions about this aspect of the case are whether Trump's efforts to impede the inquiry will meet the legal definition of obstruction of justice, whether he will be criminally charged with obstruction of justice, and whether he will face impeachment in Congress.

And one more: Will Trump fire Mueller if he thinks he is getting too close to making the case for obstruction?

Trump's efforts to derail the investigation have been very public and are becoming increasingly unbalanced.

Trump's current focus on what he calls "Spygate" is straight from the playbook he has been using since the investigation began. He is trying to distract the public from the substance of the investigation by publicly spouting conspiracy theories and other wild claims.

During the 2016 campaign, the FBI asked Stefan Halper, an American who was an emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge, to act as an informant in its fledgling investigation of Russian election interference and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Halper, a former Republican operative, was asked by the FBI to talk to Trump foreign policy advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, both of whom the bureau believed were in contact with the Russian government.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Trump: Justice Department should investigate anonymous op-ed author (Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, September 7, 2018, NY Times)

President Trump called Friday for the Justice Department to investigate the anonymous author of an op-ed depicting a "resistance" inside the government and said he is considering taking legal action against the New York Times for publishing it.

It doesn't get any better than the reality that the DOJ sleeper cell will Resist this order, demonstrating the accuracy of Anonymous..

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Study questions Iran-al Qaeda ties, despite U.S. allegations (Warren Strobel, 9/07/18, Reuters) 

The bin Laden files, including a 19-page document not released until last November, show that Iran was uncomfortable with the militants' presence on its soil, said Nelly Lahoud, the study's author and an expert on al Qaeda.

At first, Lahoud said, Iran tried to move as many as possible to third countries.

Later, it detained al Qaeda members, including members of bin Laden's family, after they violated the terms of their stay, which included a ban on phone communications, the study says.

The militant group also viewed Tehran with deep mistrust, the study shows.

Iran's policies tightened even further after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and detained al Qaeda members were forbidden from leaving the country, it says.

"Iranian authorities decided to keep our brothers as a bargaining chip," the unnamed al Qaeda operative wrote in the document, which was dated January 2007.

Lahoud, who has studied the bin Laden documents since the first batch was released in 2012, said she looked for evidence that al Qaeda and Iran had operational ties in plotting terror attacks.

"This I did not find," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


It Wasn't Me: Pence, Pompeo and a Parade of Administration Officials Deny Writing Op-Ed (Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan, Sept. 6, 2018, NY Times)

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, an ally of Mr. Trump's, recommended that the president force members of his administration to take polygraph examinations, and there was at least briefly some discussion of that among advisers to the president. Another option mentioned by people close to Mr. Trump was asking senior officials to sign sworn affidavits that could be used in court if necessary. One outside adviser said the White House had a list of about 12 suspects. [...]

Several West Wing officials looked skeptically at Mr. Pence's staff and the vice president's denial did not persuade them.

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


Trump calls for U.S. probe of NY Times after critical anonymous column  (Reuters, 9/07/18) 

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the New York Times after the news outlet published a column this week by an anonymous administration official questioning his fitness for office.

..why Anonymous and the Resistance can be said to be defending the Constitution.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 8:00 AM


Happy 88th birthday to Sonny Rollins, the WGLJM

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


An Open Letter to the NYT's Anonymous Senior Trump Administration Official (DAVID FRENCH, September 6, 2018, National Review)

Let's put this as bluntly as possible: If you're actively defying the president to pursue your own preferred policies, you're subverting an American presidential election. If you're withholding from the American people actual hard evidence of presidential unfitness, then you're placing your own career before your country. If you're lying or badly exaggerating the facts for the thrill of constant media contact or the approval of your peers, then you're just despicable.

That is blunt, but it's not entirely clear that it is correct.  Given that the resistance members simultaneously swore an oath to defend the Constitution and serve an Executive who is subverting it, resignation or acquiescence is not the obvious course.  Indeed, either may well violate their oath.  Note that no one swears to defend election results.

September 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 PM

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM


White House officials flagged Trump's behavior to psychiatrist last year (DENIS SLATTERY, 9/06/18,  NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Dr. Bandy Lee, who edited the best-selling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President," told the Daily News Thursday the staffers contacted her because the President was "scaring" them.

Lee's revelation comes as Trump fumes in response to an anonymous op-ed about administration insiders White House tell-all by journalist Bob Woodward that claims there are grave concerns among the highest ranks of the Trump administration about the President's judgment.

Lee briefed a dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate last December about Trump's fitness to be President. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill weren't the only ones alarmed by the President's erratic behavior, his troubling tweets or his temper.

A pair of West Wing representatives contacted her two separate times on the same day because they believed the President was "unraveling."

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


In search of Trump's Deep Throat (Mark Silk, 9/06/18, RNS)

Did I mention that he and John McCain were buddies, and that, unlike his boss, he issued a statement praising McCain after he died?

What we know about the provenance of the op-ed comes from James Dao, the Times op-ed editor, in an interview on The Daily, the Times podcast, Thursday.

"It began with an intermediary, who I trust, and know well," said Dao. "And they told me that there was this individual in the Trump Administration who was very interested in writing an op-ed."

My surmise is that the intermediary was Michael Gerson, the former top speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is now a columnist for the Washington Post. Previously, Gerson had served as a speechwriter for Coats. Both are graduates of Wheaton College, the Illinois college that likes to style itself the "evangelical Harvard."

Gerson has made himself into Trump's most prominent evangelical critic. Column after column has assailed the President's moral character and the concomitant moral culpability of the those who support him, not least his fellow evangelicals.

It hardly strains credulity to think that Gerson has stayed in close touch with Coats. Indeed, just as he once worked with Coats on his speeches, so he would likely have helped him with the op-ed.

It will be poetic if it turns out Maverick's funeral was the motivation.

Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Republican congressman had lengthy dinner with extremist anti-Muslim politician during London trip (Andrew Kaczynski and Christopher Massie, 9/06/18, CNN)

DeWinter, who is known for his anti-Muslim views, is a prominent member of the far-right Flemish party Vlaams Belang -- a successor party to Vlaams Blok, which disbanded after being sanctioned as "racist" by Belgium's high court in 2004.

DeWinter has said Islam doesn't belong in Europe, using the hashtag"#BanIslam." He caused an uproar in June of 2015 over a racist tweet about a festival in Antwerp and spoke at the white nationalist American Renaissance conference in 2016. Even the anti-Muslim American activist Robert Spencer has noted, "Filip DeWinter has said some things I deplore."

Gosar, a dentist by trade who has served in the House since 2011, is currently seeking his fifth term. CNN currently rates his race as solid Republican. A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and an immigration hardliner, Gosar called on Capitol Police earlier this year to arrest undocumented immigrants at President Donald Trump's State of the Union address. In 2017, he claimed that the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a left-wing plot.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Jury Fines Man $1 For Punching Charlottesville Rally Organizer (BILL CHAPPELL, 9/06/18, NPR)

For the crime of striking "Unite the Right" organizer Jason Kessler, a Charlottesville, Va., jury says Jeffrey Winder must pay a fine of $1 - falling far short of the maximum penalty in the case. 

The citizenry ought to determine what violence we wish to encourage as a society, just as the authorities ought to enforce the laws.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Government Photographer Edited Inauguration Pics to Make Crowd Look Bigger: Documents (Daily Beast, 9/06/18)

A U.S. government photographer edited the official pictures of Donald Trump's January 2017 inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger, following a personal intervention from the president, according to newly released Interior Department documents.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Exclusive: Trump's nightmare: "The snakes are everywhere" (Jonathan Swan, Mike Allen, 9/06/18, Axios)

The big picture: He should be paranoid. In the hours after the New York Times published the anonymous Op-Ed from "a senior official in the Trump administration" trashing the president ("I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration"), two senior administration officials reached out to Axios to say the author stole the words right out of their mouths.

"I find the reaction to the NYT op-ed fascinating -- that people seem so shocked that there is a resistance from the inside," one senior official said. "A lot of us [were] wishing we'd been the writer, I suspect ... I hope he [Trump] knows -- maybe he does? -- that there are dozens and dozens of us." [...]

For some time last year, Trump even carried with him a handwritten list of people suspected to be leakers undermining his agenda.

"He would basically be like, 'We've gotta get rid of them. The snakes are everywhere but we're getting rid of them,'" said a source close to Trump. our forlorn hope that the folks enacting and enabling his racist agenda are secretly fighting it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Does 'lodestar' guide us to anti-Trump op-ed author? (BBC, 9/06/18)

Journalist Dan Bloom searched for utterances of "lodestar" by other senior Trump officials, such as White House chief-of-staff John Kelly and Defence Secretary James Mattis, but found nothing.

Mr Pence by contrast had regularly been guided by lodestars, Mr Bloom found. They include "the first words of the UN charter 'to maintain international peace'" during a speech at the UN, an "unwavering belief in fundamental equality and dignity" at an awards dinner, "vigilance and resolve" alongside Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, a "balanced budget" in a 2011 address, and "established principles for sound analysis" in a 2001 comment.

Bookies place odds on identity of anonymous author of NY Times op-ed (David K. Li, 9/06/18,  New York Post)

Pence was listed at 2-to-3 odds on the site MyBookie as the fifth column official who claims to be working behind the scenes to stop some of Trump's policies that they find wrongheaded.

The biggest favorite, at 1-3 odds, is "the field," someone not listed among the 18 administration officials listed by the Costa Rica-based operation.

At 2-to-3 odds, a winning bettor investing $1 would profit 66 cents. At 1-to-3, a gambler wagering $1 would net 33 cents with a win.

"What tipped us off was 'lodestar,' " MyBookie head oddsmaker David Strauss said of Pence. "When you search members of the administration (who have used that word) only one name comes up - and that name is Mike Pence. He's used in multiple speeches this year."

The other 17 named potential moles, listed by MyBookie, are: Education Secretary Betsy Devos (2-to-1), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (4-to-1), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (4-to-1), chief of staff John F. Kelly (4-to-1), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (5-to-1), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (5-to-1), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (6-to-1), Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (6-to-1), Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (7-to-1) Labor Secretary Alex Acosta (7-to-1), HHS Secretary Alex Azar (8-to-1), HUD Secretary Ben Carson (8-to-1), VA Secretary Robert Wilkie (8-to-1), Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (10-to-1), Ivanka Trump (12-to-1) and Jared Kushner (12-to-1).

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Trump Calls for Change  To Libel Laws Over Book (John Wagner, 9/05/18, The Washington Post)

President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that Congress should change libel laws so that he would be better positioned to seek "retribution" against Bob Woodward, the author of the explosive new book that portrays a presidency careening toward a "nervous breakdown."

At the core of every policy and problem that gets him in trouble is the simple reality of Left/Right: they hate the America the rest of us love.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


The brutal apartheid of the French banlieues (Peter Franklin, 9/06/19, UnHerd)

In the post-war period, it got worse - not the smell, but the geographical inequality. As in many other countries, the effort to build new housing was led by the state. But unlike, say, London where, social housing is spread throughout the capital, the Parisian approach was build on the outskirts.

In part this was because of where the available land was - Paris having been spared the bomb damage suffered by London. However, the scope for large scale development also gave the French planners a chance to implement the theories of modernist architects such as Le Corbusier.

In the 1920s, the Godfather of Brutalism drew up a plan to flatten a stretch of downtown Paris and replace it with a grid featuring 18 identical concrete towers. Thankfully, that never happened. After the war, however, modernism was unleashed on those powerless to resist. And thus we come to the third meaning of banlieue - a specific reference to the vast 'concretopias' constructed around the edges of Paris and other cities in the 50s, 60s and 70s .

At the heart of each of these banlieues, is the cité - an inward facing cluster of dehumanising, brutalist tower blocks. Following modernist dogma, the new neighbourhoods were heavily zoned: the residential, commercial and other functions of the community built as separate centres, instead of evolving together organically as they do in a traditional mixed-use neighbourhood. In theory - and modernism is all about the theory - the different centres were to be linked together by bus. In practice, the links were inadequate, as were those from the banlieues into central Paris.

The first inhabitants left as soon as they could and they were replaced by people with no other option. From the 1960s onwards, that has increasingly meant immigrants, especially those from France's former colonies in North Africa. Thus to the geographical, social, economic and architectural segregation of greater Paris - ethnic and religious divisions were added too.

It's hard to think of a worse physical context for the successful integration of millions of incomers. The banlieues may as well have been designed as ghettoes.

Cities were a mistake.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


The Silly Debate About Socialism (Froma Harrop, September 6, 2018,  Creators)

What's with all this socialism business? A handful of lefty candidates are calling themselves socialists without a single radical socialistic item on their promise lists. They seem to have little idea of what socialism is. And most of the conservatives talking back to them don't seem to know, either.

Socialism in America in 2018 is too conservative for Richard Nixon.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Judge orders independent candidate off the ballot in Va. congressional race, citing 'out and out fraud' (Gregory S. Schneider, September 5, 2018, Washington Post)

A Richmond Circuit Court judge on Wednesday ordered independent candidate Shaun Brown removed from the ballot in Virginia's 2nd District congressional race, finding that her qualifying petition was tainted by "forgery" and "out and out fraud."

Many of those signatures were gathered by staffers working for the incumbent Republican, Scott Taylor, who is seeking a second term. Five current or former staffers for the congressman declined to answer questions in court, invoking their Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. A separate criminal probe into the matter is ongoing; a state police investigator attended the civil hearing.

...all the fraud is on the right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Roy Moore Sues Sacha Baron Cohen for $95 Million (Gene Maddaus, 9/06/18, Variety)

Moore alleges that he was lured to Washington, D.C., on the pretense of accepting an award for his support for Israel. Instead, he found himself being interviewed by "Col. Erran Morad," a Cohen character. During the taping, Cohen waved a "pedophile detector" at Moore, which beeped, at which point Moore ended the interview.

"This false and fraudulent portrayal and mocking of Judge Moore as a sex offender, on national and international television, which was widely broadcast in this district on national television and worldwide, has severely harmed Judge Moore's reputation and caused him, Mrs. Moore, and his entire family severe emotional distress, as well as caused and will cause Plaintiffs financial damage," the lawsuit states.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


New poll says Russians' social panic hasn't spiked so sharply since eve of 1998 financial collapse (Meduza, 6 september 2018)

A new national survey by the independent Levada Center indicates that social tensions across the country are rising at levels not seen since the eve of Russia's 1998 financial collapse. Seventy-two percent of Russians say they worry about rising prices, 52 percent cited growing impoverishment, and 48 percent say one of the nation's biggest problems is unemployment.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


How Buddy Teevens '79 Transformed Football Forever: A few years ago, Coach Teevens looked like a goner. Then he reorganized his staff and started a radical experiment: no tackling in practice. (BRAD PARKS '96 | SEP - OCT 2018, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine)

No one expected a quick fix. Still, as the years went by and the 2-8 seasons piled up, Teevens was in trouble. "I never doubted that what we were doing would work," says Teevens. "It was just whether I would be around to see it through." Coming out of that 0-10 season in 2008, Dartmouth did what institutions often do when they need to fire someone they don't really want to fire.

The College hired a consultant.

His name was Rick Taylor. An assistant coach at Dartmouth in the 1970s, he'd had a long career as a football coach and athletic director, finally retiring from Northwestern.

Taylor's report noted improvements to facilities and in admissions. But Dartmouth's nonconference schedule was too difficult. The team needed more money for recruiting. And Teevens, who also served as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, needed to relinquish those duties and concentrate on being head coach.

In other words, the College didn't need to fire Buddy. It needed to help him. The team lured two longtime Ivy League assistants to Hanover by offering them better salaries: Don Dobes came from Princeton to be defensive coordinator, and Keith Clark came from Yale to coach the offensive line. Teevens, who admits he can be "a micromanager," says being forced to step back from a more hands-on role was "frustrating at times, professionally." But it also freed him to focus on his strengths: recruiting and fundraising. "I was very, very fortunate to be allowed to continue," he says. "If it wasn't my alma mater, and if people didn't look deeply in terms of what we were doing, I would have been unemployed."

Teevens' position remained tenuous entering the spring of 2010. Having digits at the end of his name would not help him much longer if he didn't start winning. This was probably not the moment to embark on a radical experiment to dramatically change the entire sport of football.

Yet it was around this time that CTE was bursting into the national conversation. Football entered the bizarre paradox where it finds itself today: It's the most popular sport in America, by a wide margin, and it's also in deep crisis. As injuries mount, nervous parents are steering their kids away, causing participation levels to plummet.

The Mike Webster story hit a nerve with Teevens. So did conversations with fellow coaches--including his former boss at Florida, Steve Spurrier, and his mentor at Stanford, Bill Walsh. His players were going on to careers in medicine, finance, and engineering, where they would need their brains. Researchers were finding that repeated subconcussive hits, such as those that doomed Webster, were leading to later-life CTE.

And the majority of those hits (60 percent, according to studies) didn't take place during games. They happened in practice, during barbaric-but-common drills such as "Oklahoma," in which a defensive player lines up 10 yards from an offensive one, then attempts to knock the snot out of him--a time-honored method of teaching tackling.

But what if they could find a new, less-violent way? One that took player-on-player contact out of the equation?

"It was a cumulative thing. And the sum of it all was, why are we doing this?" says Teevens. "And so I just decided we're not going to tackle in practice anymore."

The reaction was something less than universal recognition of his genius. Teevens says fellow head coaches called him an idiot and told him he was going to get fired. Even his own assistant coaches asked him what the punchline was.

Then they got to work. No college program had ever eliminated tackling from practices. Dartmouth's coaches started breaking down film, studying tackling like never before. They learned that the historical archetype of a so-called "perfect form" tackle--which begins when the defensive player drives the crown of his helmet into the opposing player's chest--almost never happens in a game. Most tackles were, in fact, distinctly imperfect.

Back out on the field, they used dummies and crash pads to replicate what they'd seen players do on film. No human athletes. "It was a learning process," says Teevens. "There was no template to steal from. It was just coming up with stuff as we went along."

Then a funny thing happened to the team that no longer tackled in practice. Players started tackling much better in games. In 2010, missed tackles dropped by half, according to Teevens. The players were also healthier, fresher, and missed far fewer games due to injuries. Dartmouth finished 6-4 that year, its first winning season since 1997.

The coaches kept tinkering. Before long, Teevens used what he now called "the Dartmouth Way" of teaching tackling to win something else: recruiting battles. Take, for example, linebacker Jack Traynor '19. The leading tackler in Illinois high school history, he was wooed by Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale. Late in the process, he got a visit from Teevens, who sat down with Jack and his parents, Carl and Darcy.

"Jack has been a fan of contact since he was in the second grade. When Jack heard about the no-tackle thing, there was disbelief," says Carl. "For Darcy? Holy smokes. She was sold. When Coach Teevens left our home, Darcy just looked at me and said, 'Jack needs to go to school there.' "

September 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:29 PM

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 PM


'The sleeper cells have awoken': Trump and aides shaken by 'resistance' op-ed (Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, September 5, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump reacted to the column with "volcanic" anger and was "absolutely livid" over what he considered a treasonous act of disloyalty, and told confidants he suspects the official works on national security issues or in the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with his private discussions. [...]

The column, which published midafternoon Wednesday, sent tremors through the West Wing and launched a frantic guessing game. Startled aides canceled meetings and huddled behind closed doors to strategize a response. Aides were analyzing language patterns to try to discern author's identity, or at a minimum the part of the administration where the author works.

"The problem for the president is it could be so many people," said one administration official, who like many others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. "You can't rule it down to one person. Everyone is trying, but it's impossible."

The phrase, "The sleeper cells have awoken," circulated on text messages among aides and outside allies.

"It's like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house," said one former White House official in close contact with former co-workers.

It's not from Justice or the case it makes would presumably be Constitutional instead of economic.  Kevin Hassett seems the best guess so far, though Mike Pence does have the best ties to the think tanks that use such language of freedom.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Female Reformist MP raises eyebrows with fiery speech in Iranian parliament (Al-Monitor, September 5, 201)

Parvaneh Salahshouri is a Reformist parliament member and a member of the Iranian parliament's Hope faction, which has been a staunch supporter of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and his policies. But Iran's fresh challenges, both economically and politically on a daily basis, are making critical voices louder from every side these days.

The outspoken female parliament member made a fiery speech during a Sept. 4 speech on the parliament floor, lashing out at state failures and calling for referendums on key issues. Salahshouri criticized Rouhani for not offering convincing answers to questions during a meeting with parliamentarians on the country's economic situation last week.

She elucidated a long list of woes the country is facing, ranging from inflation, poverty and unemployment, to corruption within the judiciary and the poor performance of the state broadcaster. She even had a thing or two to say about the powerful conservative clerical community. "I wanted to seek their help. But I found that instead of being worried about poverty and corruption, what matters to them most is [trivial issues such as] young girls' cycling and the hair sticking out of their scarves."

Salahshouri noted that she is not addressing her questions to state institutions, which -- according to her -- have disappointed the nation. She stressed that under the current circumstances the only way out of the multiple crises is the supreme leader's direct intervention and help. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Woodward's Account of Trump's Mock Interview with Prosecutors Isn't Pretty (NATASHA BERTRAND, 9/05/18, The Atlantic)

The first question Dowd threw at Trump was about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's conversations with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was forced to resign in February 2017 when reports surfaced that he had discussed the issue of sanctions with Kislyak, despite repeated denials--including to Vice President Mike Pence--that the topic had ever come up. Not only were the sanctions discussed in every phone call, Woodward writes, but transcripts obtained by the White House in February, as they were weighing whether or not to fire Flynn, showed that it was Flynn, and not Kislyak, who first brought up the sanctions that President Obama had issued in December in response to Russia's election interference. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House Counsel Don McGahn in January that Flynn had misled Pence and the FBI about the calls. Still, the White House waited 17 days to fire Flynn, and the day after he was ousted, Trump met with then-FBI Director James Comey and asked if he would consider letting Flynn "go." That 17-day gap and Trump's subsequent request to Comey have come under scrutiny by Mueller.

"When did you first learn that there was a problem with General Flynn?" Dowd asked Trump in their mock interview, Woodward writes. "I'm not sure," Trump replied. "I think when McGahn had talked to Sally Yates. But John, I'm not sure." Dowd, playing the role of a prosecutor, retorted: "What'd you do about it?" "I think Don took ahold of it," Trump said. "Did you call Flynn in?" Dowd asked. "No," Trump said.  "Did you talk to Flynn at all?" Dowd pressed. "I don't know," Trump replied. "Well, Mr. President, did you ever ask him if he talked about sanctions with Kislyak?" "No," Trump said. Dowd, Woodward writes, was unrelenting: "Are you sure about that, Mr. President? We have some evidence that there may have been such a conversation. Are you sure about that?"

At that point, Trump  went off on a tangent that was difficult to follow, according to Woodward, eventually reiterating that he "felt very bad" for Flynn, whom he "admired," but that McGahn and the then-chief-of-staff Reince Priebus had recommended that Flynn be fired.

Dowd then posed a question that is considered central to  whether Trump was trying to obstruct justice when he fired Flynn and then asked Comey to consider letting him go: Did McGahn and Priebus "ever tell you about an FBI interview?" "I don't know," Trump replied. "I can't remember." This back-and-forth is notable in light of Trump's tweet in December, one month before this mock interview with Dowd, in which he appeared to admit that he'd known Flynn had lied to the FBI. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," Trump wrote. "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" (In an ironic twist, Dowd later took responsibility for writing that tweet.)

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Bernie Sanders introduces "Stop BEZOS Act" (Erica Pandey, 9/05/18, Axios)

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill dubbed the "Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act" or "Stop BEZOS Act" in the Senate Wednesday.

...nevermind fealty to it, from Bernie, but that's a Bill of Attainder on its face.

Meanwhile, if we take his claim to be a "socialist" at face value, oughtn't employers be able to recoup the money they spend on obvious government obligations like health insurance? 

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration: I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. (Anonymous, Sept. 5, 2018, NY Times)

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.  [...]

To be clear, ours is not the popular "resistance" of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the "enemy of the people," President Trump's impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Not sure you can really call Melania a "senior official"....

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


U.S. trade deficit surges to five-month high as exports fall (Lucia Mutikani, 9/05/18, Reuters) 

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit increased 9.5 percent to $50.1 billion as exports of soybeans and civilian aircraft dropped and imports hit a record high. The trade gap has now widened for two straight months. [...]

The administration says eliminating the trade deficit will put the economy on a sustainable path of faster growth. But economists say some of the government's policies such as a $1.5 trillion tax cut package early this year will worsen the trade deficit. The fiscal stimulus has boosted consumer and business spending, drawing in more imports.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Why Liberalism's Critics Fail (Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Summer 2018, Modern Age)

The main body of thought overlooked by anti-liberalism of all sorts, then, from Deneen's gentle communitarianism to fascism and communism, is economics after the 1860s and an economic history after the 1940s that uses economics. Deneen, like most of our deep social thinkers, has not opened a book of economics since Marx or of economic history since Polanyi. Like most intellectuals, therefore, he does not understand how a market economy works and what its actual history has been. The facts and logic adduced from the elderly or tertiary books on which he relies are regularly nonfacts, nonlogic, fake news.

Deneen believes, on the contrary, that the poor have become immiserated. But, like Marx, he is mistaken. "Inequality" is the fashionable cry, which of course Deneen echoes. But according to careful statistical studies, world inequality among individuals has declined radically in the past thirty years. And even in rich countries, the inequality we hear so much about has been grossly mismeasured. For example, measures of inequality of wealth, such as Thomas Piketty's, ignore the largest source of modern wealth: human capital. For another example, the alleged decline of the middle class in the U.S. turns out to be mostly a rise into the upper middle class, not a fall into social classes C, D, and E. For still another--the examples are legion--the quality of goods has risen sharply, making "stagnant" money earnings more valuable. Think, to take a plebian example, of modern auto tires or, of course, the amazing power of the modern smartphone, owned now even by the plebes.

During all the millennia before 1800, income per person in today's prices for the average human bumped along at about $2 or $3 a day. It was tough, at the present level of Mali and Afghanistan or of the hard-socialist regimes. Furthermore, hierarchy prevailed. Born a milkmaid, you died a milkmaid. Doubly tough. Your smart option therefore was to look inside, following Stoic and Christian and Buddhist teaching, to take up your cross, or prayer wheel, and quit whining. You'll get pie in the sky when you die, and anyway you might acquire along the way true enlightenment.

By now, however, income per person in the same prices is about $33 a day worldwide, the condition of Brazil. And the liberalism invented in the eighteenth century has partly eroded hierarchy, the condition of Australia. This amazing fact is unknown by most intellectuals damning capitalism and is unappreciated by them even when by some chance they catch wind of it.

One is led to wonder if the two events are connected, the Great Enrichment and the inclusive liberalism Deneen dislikes. They are. In a country like Japan or Sweden or the U.S. that has embraced liberalism most warmly, incomes per person as a whole-population average have risen from the old and ancient $2 or $3 a day to anything from $90 to $120, and much more if the person is highly skilled--sufficient, say, for a condo on Printer's Row in Chicago and a trip to watch birds in Antarctica. The increase is 3,000 percent in the median or average. And the poorest have gained the most. The very rich get another diamond bracelet. Splendid. But the poor get food, housing, antibiotics, and education denied to most people during all of history but the liberal era. By now, descendants by the billions of illiterate slaves and milkmaids have acquired the instruments for full human flourishing. They may not all take it. But that merely suggests that we join Deneen in preaching to them to leave off reality TV and Fritos and get to work on their Greek and Beethoven piano sonatas.

Yet the fact that liberalism resulted in billions of people having full lives does not move Deneen, or other right conservatives and left environmentalists, who fiercely attack a "consumerism" that has in truth characterized human life always. Deneen will have none of it. He wants us to go back to Brook Farm.

This (belated) realization came home while listening to a recent Liberty Law Talk podcast, How Prosperity Is Improving the World of Work: A Conversation with John Tamny, when they were discussing the prospect of technology/information creating inequality and Tyler Cowen's notion that Average is Over: all these scenarios depend on mass consumption of the product of the "above average." Yes, Jeff Bezos is absurdly wealthy, but only because the rest of us purchase so much through him.  If we were actually falling behind he'd be the only customer on Amazon. Mr. Tamny gets at this reality when talking about globalization, where Left and Right complain that America has impoverished itself by exporting jobs overseas, but, as he notes, our massive imports demonstrate how wealthy we are.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Over fifth of meat tested in UK showed unspecified animal DNA (AFP News, 9/05/18)

The products came from 487 businesses, including restaurants and supermarkets.

And not a single consumer noticed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


What was Louis Farrakhan doing at Aretha Franklin's funeral? (Richard Cohen, September 4, 2018, Washington Post)

I am well aware of Farrakhan's service to the black community and that he and Franklin had a personal relationship. I am well aware, too, that others -- including several organizers of last year's Women's March -- also have supported Farrakhan at times, as if the good he has done eradicates his bigotry. (In an odd way, Farrakhan is a victim of the racism he both espouses and fights. He has to know that few people view him positively -- some because he's a bigot, but some, alas, because he's black.)

But those who defend Farrakhan and the people who shared the stage with him at Franklin's funeral act as if victims cannot be oppressors. This is simply not the case.'d think people would spurn him for the assassination of Brother Malcolm.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Trump suggests protesting should be illegal (Felicia Sonmez, September 4, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the "enemy of the people" and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

"I don't know why they don't take care of a situation like that," Trump said. "I think it's embarrassing for the country to allow protesters."

For good measure, he also threatened NBC's broadcast license.  That noose is getting tight.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Trump 'wanted Bashar al-Assad killed' after chemical attack (Al Jazeera, 9/05/18)

US President Donald Trump wanted to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed after the Syrian government reportedly carried out a chemical attack in April 2017, a new book by renowned journalist Bob Woodward alleges.

The attack, which was widely blamed on forces loyal to the Syrian government, was carried out on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing more than 80 people.

According to the book Fear: Trump in the White House, by Woodward, Trump wanted the US military to go into Syria and assassinate al-Assad.

"Let's f*****g kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the f*****g lot of them," Trump said according to Woodward's book. 

Do Kim too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Trump, White House attack new book from Bob Woodward (Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, September 4 , 2018, Washington Post)

West Wing aides and operatives in close contact with the White House said the administration did not have a war room readied to fight back against Woodward's harrowing depiction of the Trump presidency or a well-honed response strategy.

The usual pushback to unflattering books, one White House official said, is to discredit the author -- a tactic the White House deployed with mixed success following the publication of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" and Manigault Newman's "Unhinged." But that playbook is unlikely to work with Woodward, a veteran chronicler of presidencies and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the official added. 

Conway, for instance, told others in the White House before Tuesday that Woodward was credible and that his book could be damaging.

A number of current and former White House aides said the book's depiction rang true, even if they were not sure of every detail. "I'm not sure why everyone is acting so shocked," one former senior administration official said. 

Several officials who spoke to Woodward said he showed up to interviews with documents and memos, as well as vivid accounts of scenes inside the White House.

One of the main objectives of Slate's Slow Burn podcast is try to recapture what it was like to live through Watergate and Whitewater, for participants and observers.  It charts the revelations and odd cameos and political obfuscations and all the rest, but at the end of the day the two stories really just boil down to the same simple fact: Richard Nixon tried to obstruct the Watergate investigation and Clinton the Paula Jones trial.  Likewise, all that matters about Donald is that he tried to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation.  Whether he's eventually removed from office or not just depends on control of Congress and Republican integrity.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


A Daily Caller Editor Wrote For an 'Alt-Right' Website Using a Pseudonym (ROSIE GRAY, 9/05/18, The Atlantic)

Former Daily Caller writer and editor Scott Greer has severed all ties with the conservative website after acknowledging that he had written under a pseudonym for the white supremacist Radix Journal.

Greer, who stepped down as an editor at The Daily Caller in June to write a book, said he would drop his contributor status last week after The Atlantic confronted him with leaked chat logs that showed he spent some of his time at the website also writing as "Michael McGregor" for Radix, the online publication founded by "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer who wants to turn America into  a white ethno-state. [...]

Greer expressed racist anti-black views and anti-Semitism in the Radix articles he wrote under the Michael McGregor byline, as well as disparaging other groups including feminists, immigrants, Christian Zionists, and the pro-life movement. In an interview with the website Social Matter in 2014, the same year Greer started working at The Daily Caller, "Michael McGregor" was identified as the managing editor of Radix.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Prime suspect in anti-Arab beach attack released to house arrest (Times of Israel, 9/05/18)

The Haifa Magistrate's Court on Wednesday released to house arrest the central suspect in a violent hate crime targeting a group of Arab Israelis in the northern city of Haifa last month. [...]

"They came over with knives, with metal bars. They just started beating us for no reason," one of the victims, whose name was withheld, told Hadashot on Saturday. "They planned to kill us, all three of us."

"This was a nationalistic attack," he added.

"Not all people are bad like these guys were. The people who helped us were these two Jews who got the group to get away," he said. "Not all the people are the same, and we are also part of the nation of Israel."

Israel's top court clears way for razing of Bedouin village in West Bank (Jeffrey Heller, 9/05/18, Reuters) 

Israel's top court cleared the way on Wednesday for the demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM



Glossy brochures with photos of young adults traipsing around leafy quads might dominate the popular imagination of what higher education looks like. But steadily and dramatically, we're seeing movement away from a life of lecture halls and dorms.

The decline from 18.3 million to 17.1 million (6.4 percent) is spelled out in a new study from the Babson Survey Research Group on online and distance learning. The study found a decline in higher ed enrollment overall, coupled with growth in students enrolled only in distance courses -- now at 3 million, or about 15 percent of the overall higher ed population. The drop on campus has been slow and steady in recent years, but it's become impossible to dismiss as a blip. "It's something that is death by a thousand cuts as opposed to a stab in the heart," says Jeff Seaman, co-director of Babson Survey Research Group, an education-focused firm affiliated with Babson College.

The decline has been uneven. For-profit colleges saw a whopping 44.1 percent drop in on-campus learners, as the industry suffered from bad press and fresh government crackdowns. Public and private nonprofit schools saw smaller, but still real, declines in campus students. [...]

Meanwhile, online learning is on the rise because of its lower cost, improving reputation and convenience for students with jobs and families.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Furious Trump trapped by hundreds of Woodward tapes (Jonathan Swan, Mike Allen, 9/05/18, Axios)

"Trump was editing an upcoming speech with [then-staff secretary Rob] Porter. Scribbling his thoughts in neat, clean penmanship, the president wrote, 'TRADE IS BAD.'" is that any form of contact with other "races" is BAD.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Greener growth could add $26 trillion to world economy by 2030: study (Alister Doyle, Nina Chestney, 9/05/18, Reuters)

[T]he Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which includes former heads of government, business leaders and economists, said there was "unprecedented momentum" toward greener growth that would boost jobs and countries' economies.

Bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in net cumulative benefits from now until 2030 compared with business as usual, it said.

"There's still a perception that moving toward a low-carbon path would be costly," lead author Helen Mountford told Reuters. "What we are trying to do with this report is once and for all put the nails in the coffin on that idea."

The commission's study adds detailed projections since it first issued a report in 2014 to highlight economic opportunities from a shift away from fossil fuels.

Smarter investments in cleaner energy, cities, food and land use, water and industry could generate 65 million new jobs in 2030, equivalent to the workforces of Egypt and Britain combined, the study said.

A shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energies such as wind and solar power would avoid 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution in 2030, it added.

The report recommended high prices on carbon dioxide emissions of $40-$80 per tonne by 2020 in major economies.

September 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM

HIS LIPS WERE MOVING (profanity alert):

Bob Woodward: Trump's aides stole his papers 'to protect the country' (Jeremy Herb, Jamie Gangel and Dan Merica, 9/04/18, CNN)

In one revelatory anecdote, Woodward describes a scene in the White House residence. Trump's lawyer, convinced the President would perjure himself, put Trump through a test -- a practice interview for the one he might have with Mueller. Trump failed, according to Dowd, but the President still insisted he should testify.

Woodward writes that Dowd saw the "full nightmare" of a potential Mueller interview, and felt Trump acted like an "aggrieved Shakespearean king."

But Trump seemed surprised at Dowd's reaction, Woodward writes. "You think I was struggling?" Trump asked.

Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump's current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller's office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn't possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.

"He just made something up. That's his nature," Dowd said to Mueller.

The passage is an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes of Mueller's secretive operation -- for the first time, Mueller's conversations with Trump's lawyers are captured.

"I need the president's testimony," Mueller said. "What was his intent on Comey? ... I want to see if there was corrupt intent."

Despite Dowd's efforts, Trump continued to insist he could testify. "I think the President of the United States cannot be seen taking the fifth," Trump said.

Dowd's argument was stark: "There's no way you can get through these. ... Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jump suit."

What he couldn't say to Trump, according to Woodward, was what Dowd believed to be true: "You're a [***]ing liar."

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Israeli-Arab singer's conversion to Judaism rejected by Rabbinate (Times of Israel, 9/04/18)

Popular Israeli-Arab singer Nasreen Qadri has been told that her conversion to Judaism will not be recognized by the Chief Rabbinate or the Interior Ministry because it was carried out by a rabbi independent of the authorities. [...]

The Orthodox-controlled Chief Rabbinate has the monopoly on state-recognized conversions to Judaism, a subject that deeply divides Jews from the Conservative and Reform movements.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM

PITY THE POOR TRUMPBOTS (profanity alert):

Bob Woodward's new book reveals a 'nervous breakdown' of Trump's presidency (Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, September 4, 2018, The Washington Post)

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was "unhinged," Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: "He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in Crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had." [...]

A near-constant subject of withering presidential attacks was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump told Porter that Sessions was a "traitor" for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, Woodward writes. Mocking Sessions's accent, Trump added, "This guy is mentally retarded. He's this dumb Southerner. ... He couldn't even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama."

At a dinner with Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others, Trump lashed out at a vocal critic, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He falsely suggested that the former Navy pilot had been a coward for taking early release from a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam because of his father's military rank and leaving others behind.

Mattis swiftly corrected his boss: "No, Mr. President, I think you've got it reversed." [...]

Cohn came to regard the president as "a professional liar" and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump's handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Cohn, who is Jewish, was especially shaken when one of his daughters found a swastika on her college dorm room.

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that "both sides" were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides, "That was the biggest [****]ing mistake I've made" and the "worst speech I've ever given," according to Woodward's account.

When Cohn met with Trump to deliver his resignation letter after Charlottesville, the president told him, "This is treason," and persuaded his economic adviser to stay on. Kelly then confided to Cohn that he shared Cohn's horror at Trump's handling of the tragedy -- and shared Cohn's fury with Trump.

"I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his [***] six different times," Kelly told Cohn, according to Woodward. Kelly himself has threatened to quit several times, but has not done so.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Democrats could see better days according to poll, leaving Trump and Republicans on defense (RICK KLEIN & MARYALICE PARKS, Sep 4, 2018, ABC News)

A 14-point gap in the generic ballot - a 52-38 edge for Democrats over Republicans in House races - highlights the ABC News/Washington Post poll out Tuesday morning. Sixty percent of registered voters say they'd prefer that Congress be controlled by Democrats, to act as a check on the president and his 36 percent approval rating.

The numbers reflect weakness in the GOP brand, as redefined by Trump, [rather] than any particular strength for Democrats. 

A party that lets itself be defined by Donald does not deserve power in a republic.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Democrats, Eyeing a Majority, Prepare an Investigative Onslaught (Nicholas Fandos, Sept. 3, 2018, NY Times)

"If this is a referendum on Trump, the way I would want to frame it is not 'remove or retain' but 'contain or enable,'" said Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, who has already introduced an article of impeachment against the president. "There are more votes for 'contain' than there are for 'remove.'"

But with Mr. Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, implicating the president directly in the payoffs to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal, the conviction of Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman in federal court and a rash of indictments and other alleged wrongdoings swirling around House Republicans themselves, the Democrats are increasingly selling themselves as a much-needed antidote to a "culture of corruption" in the capital.

Democrats believe the Republicans abused the power of the majority to hobble the Obama administration, deeply damage Hillary Clinton and protect Mr. Trump. That frustration, coupled with what most lawmakers expect to be a wave of Democratic anti-Trump outrage fueling midterm victories, could overwhelm the instincts of more moderate members of the party to chart a different, more bipartisan course than Republicans have.

Democrats on the Oversight Committee, typically the House's most muscular investigative body, have more than 50 subpoena requests that have been denied by committee Republicans since Mr. Trump took office, from the administration of security clearances at the White House to chartered jet travel by cabinet officials to Justice Department documents related to its decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court.

"It's not like we have to go dig them up. They are right there sitting on the desk," Mr. Cummings said.

In the Intelligence Committee, home to the House's only investigation of Russian election interference, Democrats have shown interest in reopening what they viewed as an anemic inquiry that was prematurely closed by Republicans. They have outlined an ambitious list of witnesses worthy of potential subpoena, and Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee's top Democrat, says that unsubstantiated suggestions that Russia could have laundered money through the Trump administration are of "great concern."

Party leaders could also choose to impanel a special committee to focus on the Russia matter, freeing the Intelligence Committee to more traditional oversight of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.

But many of the most sensitive investigations directly touching Mr. Trump are likely to fall to the Judiciary Committee, one of Congress's most partisan bodies, where impeachment proceedings must begin. Led by Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, committee Democrats have repeatedly pressed for an investigation of whether Mr. Trump's business profits violate anticorruption clauses of the Constitution. They titled a 56-page report on requests mothballed by Republicans "A Record of Abuse, Corruption, and Inaction."

Perhaps more consequentially, Mr. Nadler and his colleagues have pushed for the committee's own Russia investigation, as well as inquiries into the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director last year and Mr. Trump's attacks on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. While not formal impeachment inquiries, studying those topics would allow the committee to begin to quietly set a foundation for a potential report from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, or the presentation of new facts by prosecutors in the Cohen case.

"We have to see more," Mr. Nadler said of impeachment. "We need more evidence. We need to see what Mueller comes up with. We may get there."

Led by Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, House Judiciary Committee Democrats have repeatedly pressed for an investigation of whether Mr. Trump's business profits violate anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times
In the wake of Mr. Cohen's guilty plea last month, Mr. Nadler requested an emergency meeting of the committee to demand insight from the Justice Department into its continuing investigation of potential campaign finance violations, as well as a public hearing on presidential pardons. The committee's Republican chairman, Representative Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, did not reply.

Less marquee committees -- including the Financial Services, Veterans Affairs, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees -- would probably carry out their own policy-oriented probes, digging out private communications behind divisive administration decisions and personnel, or even take a run at obtaining Mr. Trump's long-sought tax returns.

A president essentially has two years to enact his agenda.  No one was interested in passing Donald's.

September 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


This is what smart conservatives want to do to fight poverty Dylan Matthews, Aug 25, 2015, Vox)

Oren Cass ran domestic policy for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign -- and has a serious, developed proposal to help the working poor.

Cass, now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, on Tuesday published a plan to replace the Earned Income Tax Credit -- the big tax break the federal government uses to support the working poor -- with a wage subsidy. That would, according to him, help childless workers who are currently left out of the safety net, discourage work less than traditional social programs, and provide low-income families with more regular financial support. It's the best response conservatives have produced yet to Fight for $15 and other left-wing movements to boost pay for working people. [...]

Cass's big idea is to replace the Earned Income Tax Credit -- the big tax break the federal government uses to support the working poor -- with a wage subsidy. The difference between the two ideas is subtle, but important. The EITC is paid in a lump sum as part of tax refunds every spring; it's calculated as a function of a household's total earnings throughout the previous year, and is primarily geared toward families with children, offering little to childless workers. Wage subsidies would be paid to individual workers, not to households, and through their regular paychecks as opposed to one big check every year; and, because the subsidy is administered on the individual level, it'd offer just as much to childless workers as to workers with families.

Here's how it would work. The government would set a target hourly wage; this could either be the same everywhere, or vary locally based on state and local labor market conditions. One option Cass floats would be to set the target wage at 60 percent of the median wage in an area. So if the average worker in a region is making $20 an hour ($40,000 a year if working full-time), then the target wage would be $12. The government would then commit to paying half the difference between an employee's market wage and the target wage. For example, imagine the target wage is $12, and an employer is paying a worker $8 an hour -- $2 is half the difference, so the government would add $2 an hour to the employee's paycheck. Once an employee is making the target wage, government support ceases, which keeps costs under control. [...]

"The real distinction between the EITC and the wage subsidy is that the EITC phases out as your income increases, and the wage subsidy phases out as your wage rate increases," Cass tells me. 

...if it just means they pay it instead of the feds?

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


What Are Evangelicals Afraid of Losing?: President Trump's appeal to fear ignores that Christians seek first the Kingdom, not political favors. (MICHAEL HORTON| AUGUST 31, 2018, Christianity Today)

[T]he church does not preach the gospel at the pleasure of any administration or decline to preach it at another administration's displeasure. We preach at Christ's pleasure. And we don't make his policies but communicate them. It's not when we're fed to lions that we lose everything; it's when we preach another gospel. "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Matt. 16:26).

And yet, swinging from triumphalism to seething despair, many pastors are conveying to the wider, watching public a faith in political power that stands in sharp opposition to everything we say we believe in. To many of our neighbors, the court chaplains appear more like jesters.

Something tremendous is at stake here: whether evangelical Christians place their faith more in Caesar and his kingdom than in Christ and his reign. On that one, we do have everything to lose--this November and every other election cycle. When we seek special political favors for the church, we communicate to the masses that Christ's kingdom is just another demographic in the US electorate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Hank Mobley, the greatest sax player you never heard: The forgotten genius of Blue Note was a prince among players, but he died a pauper (Andrew L. Shea, September 3, 2018, The Spectator)

Hank Mobley was born in Depression-era rural Georgia but raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1946, aged 16, he picked up a saxophone and taught himself theory and harmony from books that his grandmother bought for him. By 19 he was playing in local R&B bands, and he soon began working with jazz greats such as Gordon and Lester Young, who visited nearby Newark for gigs. Through playing in Newark, he met the pioneering bebop drummer Max Roach, with whom he played intermittently for two years, and Dizzy Gillespie, who also hired Mobley to play in his band.

In 1954, Mobley joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, a new five-piece that included Blakey on drums, Horace Silver on piano, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, and Doug Watkins on bass. The group, led nominally in its early years by Silver and Blakey, is widely held to have founded the new genre, 'hard bop', a response to both the cushy pleasantness of West Coast jazz and the introverted intellectualism of New York bebop. The name 'Messengers', with its evangelical overtones, hints at the inflections of gospel and blues that would give hard bop its audience-friendly flavour. No more beatnik berets and professorial pipes -- with hard bop, swing was most definitely the thing.

Mobley embodied the budding hard bop scene. Leaving the Messengers in 1956, he embarked on a remarkably prolific recording and composing career, and became a solid fixture of Blue Note's sessions. Even in his earliest recordings, Mobley seems to have already come upon a sound that was all his own -- bluesy but not clichéd, soulful but smart, and with little of the caustic bark with which Rollins and Coltrane muscled out their improvisations. In the liner notes of the 1961 album Workout, critic Leonard Feather named Hank Mobley 'the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone'. The praise might seem backhanded, but Feather intended the 'middleweight' designation to describe the tonal balance of Mobley's sound -- not too brazen, not too 'cool' -- than the quality of Mobley's imagination. As Mobley himself described it, 'My sound is not a big sound, not a small sound, just a round sound.' [...]

In 1961, Miles Davis, struggling to find a replacement for John Coltrane, hired Mobley for his quintet. The career break was Mobley's shot at immortality, but Miles was dissatisfied with the addition: 'playing with Hank just wasn't fun for me; he didn't stimulate my imagination'. This bullet to the heart, and from the 'Prince of Darkness' himself, has popularised a negative perception of Mobley's aesthetic as conservative, cautious, boring, and completely incompatible with the progressive aesthetic movements of the 1960s.

To be sure, unlike Trane and Miles, Hank was uninterested in forging the sorts of conceptual paths that the Sixties required of the artist interested in remaining 'relevant'. While Coltrane pursued his meditative metaphysics and Miles went fusion-electric, Mobley largely stuck to his hard bop guns. Now, however, Mobley's 'stubbornness' sounds like a virtue, and central to the sustained quality of his recordings. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Trump Criticized Jeff Sessions For Going After Two "Popular" Republican Congressmen Accused Of Corruption (Tasneem Nashrulla, 9/03/18, BuzzFeed News)

President Trump criticized his attorney general Jeff Sessions for indicting two Republican congressmen -- who were early supporters of Trump -- at the cost of the GOP potentially losing "two easy wins" in the upcoming mid-term elections.

Referring to the two recent federal indictments of Republican congressmen, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Chris Collins, Trump tweeted, "Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff...."

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Orrin Judd has brought the Brothers Judd picks pool back for the 2018 football season and wants to make sure you're a part of the action. You can get back into the competition now!

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


The Toll of Putin's Wars (ANDERS ÅSLUND, 9/03/18, Project Syndicate)

From 2008 to 2016, Russia increased its military expenditures from 3.3% of GDP - which roughly corresponds to the current US level - to 5.3%, according to the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

According to the Russian government's own fiscal statistics - which remain surprisingly open - its civilian expenditures in occupied Crimea come to around $2 billion per year. And while there are no public data on its presence in Eastern Ukraine, it is safe to assume that the costs there are roughly the same, in which case Russia is spending $4 billion per year - 0.3% of GDP - on these two operations alone.

Yet, beyond military expenditures, Russia is also incurring the costs of lost trade and investment, as well as escalating sanctions, which are more than enough to condemn the country to stagnation for as long as its wars last. In July 2014, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia's finance, oil and gas, and defense technologies sectors, in response to its military aggression in Ukraine's Donbas region. So far, these measures have been effective. In global finance, the dollar is king. And because every dollar passes through US banks, dollar transactions are ultimately subject to the US Department of the Treasury's jurisdiction. Through financial sanctions, the US can thus starve Russia of foreign investment.

In August 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated that Western sanctions would immediately reduce Russia's real (inflation-adjusted) GDP by 1-1.5%. In the medium term, however, the IMF concluded that sanctions "could lead to a cumulative output loss...of up to 9% of GDP, as lower capital accumulation and technological transfers weaken already declining productivity growth."

Luring them into Syria was the real masterstroke.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Sweden's Economy Is Getting a Lift From Migrants (Hussam Al-Homsi, 8/21/18, Bloomberg)

Lost amid the political rhetoric is the story of the bounce that people such as Al-Homsi have delivered to the $540 billion economy. Sweden's rapid intake of huge numbers of refugees and migrants, about 600,000 in total over the past five years, has produced some of the highest growth rates in Europe and will also help it address the challenges of an otherwise aging population.

"These refugees and immigrants came at precisely the right time," says Lars Christensen, an economist and founder of Markets & Money Advisory, a consulting firm. "I'm worried about the lack of incentives [to work] in the Swedish welfare state, but I'm not worried about the 250,000 refugees that have arrived."

Gross domestic product increased more than 3 percent in the first two quarters of the year, which is considerably faster than the euro zone's roughly 2 percent growth. In recent years, Sweden has granted thousands of work permits to information technology developers, berry pickers, and cooks. Foreign-born workers accounted for all the job growth in the industrial sector last year and for 90 percent of the new jobs in the welfare sector, in particular health care and elderly care.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson on Aug. 16 said the new arrivals are now getting jobs twice as fast as immigrants who arrived late in the last decade. Immigrants in Sweden have a labor force participation rate of about 82 percent, some 4 percentage points higher than the EU average.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Tariffs start to take a toll on Long Island businesses: With trade tensions resulting in rising costs, layoffs may be next, and uncertainty may keep a lid on plans for growth. (James T. Madore,  August 30, 2018, Newsday)

A swath of Long Island's economy, both businesses and consumers, are feeling the effects of heightened trade tensions between the United States and other countries.

"A lot of companies are putting on hold their plans to do business overseas or scrapping them altogether," said Savio S. Chan, an international trade consultant with an office in Great Neck. "There is great uncertainty about how to respond to the tariffs."

Since January, President Donald Trump increased tariffs about a half-dozen times, most notably on steel and aluminum from overseas in March and on two groups of Chinese products -- together valued at $50 billion -- on July 6 and Aug. 23. The metals tariffs were met with retaliatory taxes by Europe, Canada, Turkey and others. China responded to the tariffs on its goods by boosting taxes on $50 billion of U.S. products.

At Sea Eagle Boats Inc. owners Cecil and John Hoge said their cost of producing inflatable plastic kayaks, fishing boats and motorboats in China will jump by more than $1 million per year under a U.S. tariff set to go into effect in a couple of weeks. The company's annual sales total about $10 million.

"The tariff will be devastating," John Hoge said during a tour of his office and warehouse south of Port Jefferson harbor, where he tests new boat designs. "We'll have to raise our prices by 25 percent because there is no alternative source of supply. Nobody makes these boats in America."

He said 50-year-old Sea Eagle has always had its inflatable boats built overseas, first in Europe and now in Asia. It sells about 18,000 per year via the internet, mail-order catalogs and telephone. The boats are priced between $300 and $3,850.

Tariff-fueled price hikes "will mean fewer sales and less work," Hoge said, referring to the company's 18 employees. "We will be forced to lay people off because of this government-created disaster."

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Life After NAFTA (Veronique de Rugy, August 30, 2018 , Creators)

NAFTA had a positive impact on the U.S. economy. Writing about the risk of withdrawing from the 1994 agreement in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago, Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, wrote, "In a new report canvassing dozens of academic and policy studies, I find that the U.S. gross domestic product is now 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent larger than it would be without Nafta, a yearly boost of about $50 billion."

And while NATFA did boost Canadian and Mexican imports into our country, it also boosted U.S exports and increased foreign investments on our shores.

You see, when U.S. consumers buy imports from other countries, they send dollars abroad. However, these dollars always come back to us because foreign holders use them to purchase U.S. exports or invest here (for example, Toyota builds a factory in Ohio, or Canadians buy U.S. government bonds). In other words, more imports result in more exports, faster economic growth and lower interest rates paid on our gigantic government debt. This reality explains why the Business Roundtable predicts that a withdrawal from NAFTA would, in the initial post-exit years, shrink the U.S. economy by $120 billion and reduce American exports by more than 2 percent.

American consumers enjoy many benefits from NAFTA-induced imports from Canada and Mexico. From low-priced clothing to lower-priced avocados, "American consumers have saved $10.5 billion a year from lower tariffs under Nafta," Slaughter writes, "with most of the benefits going to households with annual incomes below $70,000."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Ethnicity not a factor in Elizabeth Warren's rise in law (Annie Linskey, September 01, 2018, Boston Globe)

The 60-plus Harvard Law School professors who filed into an auditorium-style room on the first floor of Pound Hall on that February 1993 afternoon had a significant question to answer: Should they offer a job to Elizabeth Warren?

The atmosphere was a little fraught. Outside the hall, students held a silent vigil to demand the law school add more minorities and women to a faculty dominated by white men.

The discussion among Harvard professors inside that room is supposed to remain a secret, but it's still being dissected a quarter of a century later because the resulting vote set Warren on her way to becoming a national figure and a favored target for conservative critics, among them, notably and caustically, President Trump.

Was Warren on the agenda because, as her critics say, she had decided to self-identify as a Native American woman and Harvard saw a chance to diversify the law faculty? Did she have an unearned edge in a hugely competitive process? Or did she get there based on her own skill, hard work, and sacrifice?

The question, which has hung over Warren's public life, has an answer.

In the most exhaustive review undertaken of Elizabeth Warren's professional history, the Globe found clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools. At every step of her remarkable rise in the legal profession, the people responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman.

The Globe examined hundreds of documents, many of them never before available, and reached out to all 52 of the law professors who are still living and were eligible to be in that Pound Hall room at Harvard Law School. Some are Warren's allies. Others are not. Thirty-one agreed to talk to the Globe -- including the law professor who was, at the time, in charge of recruiting minority faculty. Most said they were unaware of her claims to Native American heritage and all but one of the 31 said those claims were not discussed as part of her hire. One professor told the Globe he is unsure whether her heritage came up, but is certain that, if it did, it had no bearing on his vote on Warren's appointment.

It's Donald's defense.  Yes, we tried but it didn't work! 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Companies Say Trump Is Hurting Business by Limiting Legal Immigration (Nelson D. Schwartz and Steve Lohr, Sept. 2, 2018, NY Times)

The Trump administration is using the country's vast and nearly opaque immigration bureaucracy to constrict the flow of foreign workers into the United States by throwing up new roadblocks to limit legal arrivals.

The government is denying more work visas, asking applicants to provide additional information and delaying approvals more frequently than just a year earlier. Hospitals, hotels, technology companies and other businesses say they are now struggling to fill jobs with the foreign workers they need.

With foreign hires missing, the employees who remain are being forced to pick up the slack. Seasonal industries like hotels and landscaping are having to turn down customers or provide fewer services. Corporate executives worry about the long-term impact of losing talented engineers and programmers to countries like Canada that are laying out the welcome mat for skilled foreigners. [...]

In practice, businesses say the increased red tape has made it harder to secure employment-based visas. That has added to the difficulty of finding qualified workers with the unemployment rate falling to 3.9 percent.

A recent analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan research group, found that the denial rate for H-1B visa petitions for skilled foreign workers had increased 41 percent in the last three months of the 2017 fiscal year, compared with the third quarter. Government requests for additional information for applications doubled in the fourth quarter, a few months after Mr. Trump issued his order.

Experts say a sustained reduction in immigration could dampen growth over time as more baby boomers retire, leaving big gaps in the job market.

That goes for high-skilled immigrants and low-skilled workers, said Francine D. Blau, an economist at Cornell. The latter will be vital in fields like elder care and child care, as well as construction and cleaning.

"A lot of our labor-force growth comes from immigrants and their children," Ms. Blau said. "Without them, we'd suffer the problems associated with countries with an aging population, like Japan."

The Business Roundtable, a group of corporate leaders, recently challenged the Trump administration over changes that it says threaten the livelihoods of thousands of skilled foreign workers, and economic growth and competitiveness.

It is clarifying though to see folks on the right ditch their opposition to taxes, bureaucracy and regulations in favor of racism.

September 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Event Trying To Show Labour Party Isn't Anti-Semitic Will Be Held On Yom Kippur (Aiden Pink, 9/02/18, The Forward)

A group hoping to defend British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn from mounting public claims that he is an anti-Semite is hosting an event to defend him on September 18 -- which happens to be Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

The event, called "Corbyn, Antisemitism and Justice for Palestine," will take place in Bristol. Two of the five listed speakers are Jewish.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Wife of Former N.R.A. President Tapped Accused Russian Agent in Pursuit of Jet Fuel Payday (Matthew Rosenberg, Michael LaForgia and Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 2, 2018, NY Times)

Ms. Butina's efforts to deal in Russian jet fuel, detailed in hundreds of pages of previously unreported emails, were notable not just for their whiff of foreign intrigue but for who they involved: David Keene, a former president of the National Rifle Association and a prominent leader of the conservative movement, who has advised Republican candidates from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney. They also involved Mr. Keene's wife, Donna, a well-connected Washington lobbyist, and Ms. Butina's boyfriend, Paul Erickson, who ran Patrick J. Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign and who moved in rarefied conservative circles despite allegations of fraud in three states.

Their attempt to secure the fuel deal illustrates a reality that investigators have had to navigate in bringing a federal case against Ms. Butina. During her time in the United States, she surrounded herself not only with high-profile American conservatives but also with dubious characters who seemed bent on making a fast buck -- and it was not always easy to tell one from the other.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


A Palestinian Memoir to Counter Trump's Troubles in the Middle East (Robin Wright, September 1, 2018, The New Yorker)

Bashir's epiphany came in an unexpected--and violent--way. In 2004, a week after he turned fifteen, Bashir returned from school to find three U.N. officials visiting his father. The Israelis, ensconced in a nearby tower, soon ordered the U.N. team to leave. As Bashir and his father walked the officials to their car, a single gunshot from an M-16 automatic rifle rang out. "I felt something knock me to the ground, like I was crumbling," Bashir recounts. "I tried to get up but my legs would not move." He was in searing pain--and paralyzed from the waist down. The bullet went so deep into his back that the doctors could see through to his spine. Bashir's father urged Palestinians not to retaliate. "There is no time for anger," Khalil said. Yousef was furious with his father, whom he blamed as much as the Israelis.

The boy's life took an unexpected turn when, through his father's connections, he was transferred to a medical facility in Israel. "All I knew about Israelis was that they had guns and had the power to tell me and my family when to use the bathroom and when to go to school, and that one of them had almost ended my life a few weeks earlier. Apparently, just because he could," Bashir writes. When a group of Israeli military officers visited him at Tel HaShomer Hospital, in Tel Aviv, Khalil accepted their apology for his son's condition. Yousef--in "merciless" pain from three bullet fragments still lodged in his spine--did not.

The cycle of surgeries and therapy went on for months. "Sometimes I would hold my legs and talk to them," he writes. "I thought that if I did they might listen and get stronger. Sometimes my tears fell without my permission." Israeli patients and their families offered encouragement. Jewish student volunteers came to play games. Hasidic groups even serenaded him with Passover songs. Time, in Yousef's case, did heal. "In the midst of the pain," he writes, "I became aware that a miracle was unfolding within me, not only in my body but also in my soul." He particularly admired his nurse, Seema, an Iraqi Jew. He began to wonder "why everyone did not feel the love I was now feeling. I understood what my father meant when he said of the soldiers, 'They are just children, forgive them.' " [...]

Bashir, who now spends his time lobbying for the Palestinians, speaking to Jewish groups, including aipac, and telling his story to anyone who will listen, hasn't given up hope on peace, though he can occasionally sound forlorn. "I think I have finally understood Rumi when he wrote that there is no love greater than a love without a lover," he writes, referring to the thirteenth-century Persian poet. "My commitment to peace has been such a love affair without a lover." The book ends with its own peace offering: a letter to the anonymous shooter who disabled him. "Without your bullet, I might never have understood forgiveness," Bashir writes. "You were created by the same God who created me. You have the same humanity as I have. You are part of the same family as I am. I forgive you, my cousin."

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie (Southern Kitchen)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large zucchini squash, thinly sliced
1/2 large Vidalia onion, chopped
2 ears sweet corn
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces cream cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion. Cut the corn off of the cobs and add it to the pan, cooking until the vegetables soften (do not allow them to get mushy), 5 to 8 minutes. Remove  from the heat and stir in the basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheddar, eggs and cream cheese.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Arrange the top slices of zucchini so that they lay flat and the dish looks nice. Bake until bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve in wedges.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


The Mystery of Urban Psychosis (VAUGHAN BELL, JUL 15, 2016, The Atlantic)

The link between psychosis and city living was first noticed by American psychiatrists in the early 1900s who found that asylum patients were more likely to come from built-up areas. This association was sporadically rediscovered throughout the following century until researchers verified the association from the 1990s onwards with systematic and statistically controlled studies that tested people in the community as well as in clinics.

One particularly extensive study using health records for almost the entire population of Denmark found that the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia increased in a small but proportional way as people spent more time spent living in urban environments. Many studies have since replicated this finding, with neighborhood levels of social deprivation seeming to amplify the association and levels of social integration seeming to reduce it.

To many, this provides evidence that cities are universally bad for our mental health--something that chimes with a strong cultural belief that associates the natural world with tranquillity. It might seem like common sense that living in a run-down, inner-city neighborhood would wear away at your psychological wellbeing. But here is where the cultural cliché breaks down, because the effect is surprisingly selective.

The data shows that urban environments reliably increase the chances of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or having related experiences like paranoia and hallucinations. This is not the case for other mental health problems primarily caused, for example, by depression or mood instability. If it was a general effect on wellbeing, you would expect the chance of being diagnosed with any mental health problem to increase at an equal rate, but this isn't the case.

There are good reasons to think that city living might be the cause of some of these problems. The two big psychological negatives of city living, social isolation and social threat, are already well studied in mental health. They are risk factors for a range of psychological difficulties but have been particularly associated with misperceptions and paranoia. And for people who are already experiencing paranoid delusions, there is good evidence that urban environments amplify anxieties, increase the intensity of hallucinations, and weaken self-confidence.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


I'm pro-Boris, loathe jihadis and love Islam. Here's why (Qanta Ahmed, 1 September 2018, Spectator)

To the Saudis, I knew so little about my religion I was assumed to be a convert. Thanks to Saudi law (which mandates covering of the hair -- something my parents never enforced), I might have looked more Muslim -- but I certainly didn't feel it. Take the Hajj, for example -- the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to undertake once in their lifetime, if their health and their means allow. Although many of my colleagues had jumped at the opportunity to do it, it wasn't something I had considered.

All of that changed following a nerve-wracking life-and-death intervention on one of our most fragile patients. I was with a religious colleague (not one I knew particularly well), having a soothing cup of tea. When I confessed I had never made Hajj, he begged me to do so -- after all, many Muslims wait for decades for the chance to be part of it. I decided to take his advice.

No matter who you are, there is something staggering about seeing the Hajj up close: an endless mass of pilgrims representing every age, ethnicity, nationality and language. So many different kinds of people yet -- in that moment -- they are all the same and equal before God. The pilgrimage centres on the Great Mosque of Mecca, its immaculate marble walkways leading to the Kaaba -- the most sacred site in Islam. Cloaked in black cloth woven with Quranic verse, the Kaaba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, some believe, to a blueprint by the angel Gabriel. I saw worshippers crying as they finally saw it.

While the sheer beauty of the Kaaba is overwhelming, I can honestly say that, as I looked upon it, I felt something beyond the earthly: as if a tenderness was being pulled from deep within my soul as I returned to my creator.

While moments like these can reignite your belief, ultimately acquiring faith is a process, and one which involves a degree of learning. After the Hajj, I began to study the Quran, as well as diving into the various schools of Islamic philosophy. With all the geopolitical sabre-rattling between Sunni and Shia, this is another thing which often gets distorted: in fact, true Islam is tolerant and respectful of other traditions -- I am not a Sufi, for example, yet I am fascinated by their commentaries.

There are, I should say, some quite big differences between Christianity and Islam. Take prayer, for example: while most Christian traditions are not prescriptive about how their followers pray (or indeed how often), Islam has set times and practices which all Muslims are supposed to follow. Oh, and we're supposed to do it five times a day. It's actually not too bad (even my cat likes to join me in the early morning prayer).

The point of praying, we are taught, is to remind us we are here to worship God and serve our fellow humans. Islam teaches us that we have a responsibility to help those in need, to console the grieving and sick and to care for the orphaned and vulnerable (values which -- while shared with many other faiths -- don't always make headlines).

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


A Construction Boom to Lure Visitors to Morocco's 'Red City': As more wealthy tourists flock to Morocco, Marrakesh is reinventing itself with luxury hotels and resorts to attract its share. (Aili McConnon, Aug. 28, 2018, NY Times)

More than 11 million people visited Morocco in 2017, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism. The number of American visitors has increased at an even quicker pace. Last year, more than 254,000 Americans visited the North African country, a rise of 29 percent over 2016 and 81 percent over 2012.

More flights, an easing of visa regulations and a concerted effort by the Kingdom of Morocco to modernize infrastructure and improve safety have all played a part. As more visitors come to Morocco, Marrakesh is reinventing itself to lure its share of tourists, who stay an average of three nights.

"One of the main challenges of the tourism sector in Marrakesh is increasing the length of stay," said Alexis Reynaud, an editorial manager at the Oxford Business Group, a research and consulting firm. "New high-end resorts and hotels are starting to offer much more than just luxury lodging to encourage people to stay longer."

Leading the pack among these new ventures is M Avenue, a $100 million multiuse project known as Garden Avenue because it will include nearly 108,000 square feet of gardens and landscaped areas alongside about 183,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries. Lodging will include a 168-room hotel from the Portuguese hotelier Pestana and 88 private residences from the Four Seasons.

"We are trying to create a new city center," said Nabil Slitine, the chief executive of M Avenue Development, who in 2011 helped open the Four Seasons Resort, one of the first international hotels in the city.

Paul White, president of residential for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said he wanted to increase the company's footprint in Marrakesh. M Avenue, which is near the airport and the Palais de Congrès conference center, offers "access to the sights of the city, including the medina and Menara gardens, while also acting as a convenient takeoff point to venture into the surrounding region, including the Atlas Mountains," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


The Prosecutors Who Have Declared War on the President (Noah Feldman, August 26, 2018, Bloomberg)

In the span of one week, we learned that the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York had both secured a guilty plea from Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen and offered an immunity deal to the company's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. President Donald Trump should be worried. Once the Southern District gets its jaws onto a string of crimes, it doesn't let go.

Weisselberg, as part of his deal, will likely be required to provide information on all criminal activity he knows about. That spells potential disaster for Trump personally, and major problems for his presidency. That's apart from any potential state-level criminal investigation by the New York district attorney's office.

Trump is now facing a two-front war against the Justice Department. The team led by special counsel Robert Mueller is supposed to focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But the Southern District can investigate any aspect of Trump's behavior that took place in its jurisdiction, at any time.

And unlike Mueller, who could in principle be fired, the Southern District isn't one man; it's a whole office of career lawyers. It can't be fired. Even if Robert Khuzami, the acting U.S. attorney in this case, were removed, no new U.S. attorney could realistically call off the prosecutors.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Kansas high court rules grand jury must be convened to investigate Kris Kobach (Associated Press, 9/01/18)
A grand jury must be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled.

...find Nativist perps.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


From Mollie Tibbetts' father: Don't distort her death to advance racist views (Rob Tibbetts, Sept. 1, 2018, Des Moines Register)

Throughout this ordeal I've asked myself, "What would Mollie do?" As I write this, I am watching Sen. John McCain lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and know that evil will succeed only if good people do nothing. Both Mollie and Senator McCain were good people. I know that both would stand up now and do something.

The person who is accused of taking Mollie's life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.   

To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you've been beset by the circumstances of Mollie's death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.

My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons -- Mollie's cherished nephews and my grandchildren -- are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.

Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag. It incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful.

President Reagan today at the United States Air Base at Bitburg (Ronald Reagan, 5/06/85)

Twenty-two years ago, President John F. Kennedy went to the Berlin wall and proclaimed that he, too, was a Berliner. Today, freedom-loving people around the world must say: I am a Berliner, I am a Jew in a world still threatened by anti-Semitism, I am an Afghan, and I am a prisoner of the Gulag, I am a refugee in a crowded boat foundering off the coast of Vietnam, I am a Laotian, a Cambodian, a Cuban and a Miskito Indian in Nicaragua. 

September 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


Eulogy for John McCain (George W. Bush, 9/01/18, Washington National Cathedral)

Cindy and the McCain family, I am honored to be with you, to offer my sympathies, and to celebrate a great life. The nation joins your extraordinary family in grief and gratitude for John McCain.

Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended; some voices are so vibrant and distinctive, it is hard to think of them stilled. A man who seldom rested is laid to rest and his absence is tangible, like the silence after a mighty roar.

The thing about John's life was the amazing sweep of it--from a tiny prison cell in Vietnam to the floor of the United States Senate; from troublemaking plebe to presidential candidate. Wherever John passed throughout the world, people immediately knew there was a leader in their midst. In one epic life was written the courage and greatness of our country.

For John and me, there was a personal journey--a hard-fought political history. Back in the day, he could frustrate me and I know he'd say the same thing about me, but he also made me better. In recent years, we sometimes talked of that intense period like football players remembering a big game. In the process, rivalry melted away. In the end, I got to enjoy one of life's great gifts: the friendship of John McCain and I'll miss it.

Moments before my last debate ever with Senator John Kerry in Phoenix, I was trying to gather some thoughts in the holding room. I felt a presence, opened my eyes, and six inches from my face was McCain who yelled, "Relax, relax!"

John was, above all, a man with a code. He lived by a set of public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country. He was courageous, with a courage that frightened his captors, and inspired his countrymen. He was honest, no matter whom it offended. Presidents were not spared. He was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings. He loved freedom with a passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators.

Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy, to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places. One friend from his Naval Academy days recalled how John, while a lowly plebe, reacted to seeing an upperclassman verbally abuse a steward. Against all tradition, he told the jerk to pick on someone his own size. It was a familiar refrain during his six decades of service.

Where does such strength and conviction come from? Perhaps from a family where honor was in the atmosphere. Or from the firsthand experience of cruelty, which left physical reminders that lasted his whole life. Or from some deep well of moral principle. Whatever the cause, it was this combination of courage and decency that defined John's calling, and so closely paralleled the calling of his country. It's this combination of courage and decency that makes the American military something new in history, an unrivaled power for good. It's this combination of courage and decency that set America on a journey into the world to liberate death camps, to stand guard against extremism, and to work for the true peace that comes only with freedom.

John felt these commitments in his bones. It is a tribute to his moral compass that dissidents and prisoners in so many places--from Russia to North Korea to China--knew that he was on their side. And I think their respect meant more to him than any medals and honors life could bring.

The passion for fairness and justice extended to our own military when a private was poorly equipped or a seaman was overworked in terrible conditions. John enjoyed nothing more than dressing down an admiral or a general. He remained a troublesome plebe to the end.

Those in political power were not exempt. At various points throughout his long career, John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist: We are better than this. America is better than this.

John is the first to tell you he was not a perfect man but he dedicated his life to national ideals that are as perfect as men and women have yet conceived. He was motivated by a vision of America carried ever forward, ever upward, on the strength of its principles. He saw our country not only as a physical place or power, but as the carrier of enduring human aspirations. As an advocate for the oppressed, as a defender of the peace, as a promise, unwavering, undimmed, unequal.

The strength of democracy is renewed by reaffirming the principles on which it was founded. And America has somehow always found leaders who were up to that task, particularly at times of greatest need. John was born to meet that kind of challenge, to defend and demonstrate the defining ideals of our nation.

If we're ever tempted to forget who we are, grow weary of our cause, John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: We are better than this. America is better than this.

John was a restless soul. He really didn't glory in success or wallow in failure because he was always onto the next thing. Friends said, "He can't stand to stay in the same experience." One of his books ended with the words: "And I moved on."

John has moved on. He would probably not want us to dwell on it, but we are better for his presence among us. The world is smaller for his departure. And we will remember him as he was: unwavering, undimmed, unequal.

Eulogy (Barrack Obama, 9/01/18, Washington National Cathedral)

To John's beloved family -- Mrs. McCain; to Cindy and the McCain children, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Secretary Clinton; Vice President and Mrs. Biden; Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, Vice President Gore, and, as John would say, my friends:

We come to celebrate an extraordinary man - a warrior, a statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America.

President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents. Just as he made the Senate better. Just as he made this country better. So for someone like John to ask you, while he's still alive, to stand and speak of him when he's gone, is a precious and singular honor.

Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year, I'll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. But after our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John's essential qualities.

To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a senator should be, and he didn't want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either.

It also showed John's disdain for self-pity. He had been to hell and back, and he had somehow never lost his energy, or his optimism, or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him, and he would maintain that buoyant spirit to the very end, too stubborn to sit still, opinionated as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and most of all, to his family.

It showed his irreverence - his sense of humor, little bit of a mischievous streak. After all, what better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience?

And most of all, it showed a largeness of spirit, an ability to see past differences in search of common ground. And in fact, on the surface, John and I could not have been more different. We're of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father; John was the scion of one of America's most distinguished military families. I have a reputation for keeping cool; John -- not so much. We were standard bearers of different American political traditions, and throughout my presidency, John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up - which, by his calculation, was about once a day.

But for all our differences, for all the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand, the longstanding admiration that I had for him.

By his own account, John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that's understandable - what faster way to distinguish yourself when you're the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny?

Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. And for John, that meant answering the highest of callings - serving his country in a time of war.

Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment, and the depths of his courage, there in the cells of Hanoi, when day after day, year after year, that youthful iron was tempered into steel. It brings to mind something that Hemingway wrote in the book that Meghan referred to, his favorite book:

"Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."

In captivity, John learned, in ways that few of us ever will, the meaning of those words - how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test - again and again and again. And that's why, when John spoke of virtues like service, and duty, it didn't ring hollow. They weren't just words to him. It was a truth that he had lived, and for which he was prepared to die. It forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country, what might we risk everything for.

Much has been said this week about what a maverick John was. Now, in fact, John was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics. That some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.

John cared about the institutions of self-government - our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, rule of law and separation of powers, even the arcane rules and procedures of the Senate. He knew that, in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together and give shape and order to our common life, even when we disagree, especially when we disagree.

John believed in honest argument and hearing other views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That's why he was willing to buck his own party at times, occasionally work across the aisle on campaign finance reform and immigration reform. That's why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate. And the fact that it earned him some good coverage didn't hurt, either.

John understood, as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood, that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline; not on what we look like, what our last names are. It's not based on where our parents or grandparents came from, or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed: That all of us are created equal. Endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

It's been mentioned today, and we've seen footage this week of John pushing back against supporters who challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful, but I wasn't surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, it was John's instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race, or religion, or gender. And I'm certain that in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign, he saw himself as defending America's character, not just mine, for he considered it the imperative of every citizen who loves this country to treat all people fairly.

And finally, while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America's role as the one indispensable nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility. That burden is borne most heavily by our men and women in uniform - service members like Doug, Jimmy, and Jack, who followed in their father's footsteps - as well as the families who serve alongside our troops. But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others, with our adherence to a set of universal values - like rule of law and human rights, and an insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being.

Of course, John was the first to tell us that he was not perfect. Like all of us who go into public service, he did have an ego. Like all of us, there were no doubt some votes he cast, some compromises he struck, some decisions he made that he wished he could have back. It's no secret, it's been mentioned that he had a temper, and when it flared up, it was a force of nature, a wonder to behold - his jaw grinding, his face reddening, his eyes boring a hole right through you. Not that I ever experienced it firsthand, mind you.

But to know John was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws and his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself. And that self-awareness made him all the more compelling.

We didn't advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency, John would come over to the White House, and we'd just sit and talk in the Oval Office, just the two of us - we'd talk about policy and we'd talk about family and we'd talk about the state of our politics. And our disagreements didn't go away during these private conversations. Those were real, and they were often deep. But we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights. And we laughed with each other, and we learned from each other. We never doubted the other man's sincerity or the other man's patriotism, or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

For all of our differences, we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched, and fought, and sacrificed, and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals here at home, and to do our best to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible - and citizenship as an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.

More than once during his career, John drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt. And I'm sure it's been noted that Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" oration seems tailored to John. Most of you know it: Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short, but always relish a good fight - a contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Isn't that the spirit we celebrate this week?

That striving to be better, to do better, to be worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed.

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear.

John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

"Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today."

What better way to honor John McCain's life of service than, as best we can, follow his example?

To prove that the willingness to get in the arena and fight for this country is not reserved for the few, it is open to all of us, that in fact it's demanded of all of us, as citizens of this great republic?

That's perhaps how we honor him best - by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party, or ambition, or money, or fame or power. That there are some things that are worth risking everything for. Principles that are eternal. Truths that are abiding.

At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt.

May God bless John McCain, and may God bless this country he served so well.

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 AM


Papadopoulos: Trump 'nodded' at suggestion of Putin meeting (Eric Tucker, 9/01/18, Associated Press)

The defense lawyers say Papadopoulos was hired by the campaign in March 2016 despite having no experience with Russian or U.S. diplomacy. That month, he traveled to Italy and connected with a London-based professor who introduced him to a woman described as a Putin relative. That professor, Joseph Mifsud, would later tell him that individuals in Moscow possessed "dirt" on Clinton.

"Eager to show his value to the campaign," defense lawyers say, Papadopoulos suggested during a meeting with Trump and his foreign policy advisers that same month he could leverage his newfound Russian connections to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.

"While some in the room rebuffed George's offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it," defense lawyers wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Former Manafort associate reveals illegal foreign payment to Trump's inauguration: Patten also pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent. (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH MEYER 08/31/2018, Politico)

W. Samuel Patten, an associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, admitted on Friday that he paid $50,000 for tickets to President Donald Trump's inauguration for a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch he was representing and another Russian individual.

The disclosure, included as part of a plea agreement Patten entered into with prosecutors, appears to be the first official confirmation that money from pro-Russian interests was funneled to the Trump inaugural committee in order to help foreigners gain access to events connected to Trump's January 2017 swearing-in ceremony.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


The Men Who Have Taken Wiffle Ball to a Crazy, Competitive Place: In a New York town, grown men throw a child's toy at ninety miles per hour. (Ben McGrathAugust 31, 2018, The New Yorker)

Brett Bevelacqua, who calls himself "the most hated man in Wiffle ball," is forty-nine and sells residential real estate in Westchester and Rockland Counties, in New York. When he was thirty-seven, and heavily into motorcycle stunts, he had an accident while attempting an endo, or a nose wheelie, and shaved some skin off his shoulder blades and ass. Feeling like a professional athlete who had aged out of his prime, he began selling off his bikes and assorted gear; at the back of his newly spacious garage he saw a yellow bat and a plastic ball, and got the idea to organize a game, in his yard, that better reflected the competitive level he figured he was settling into. Four friends showed up. "By the end of the day, there was so much trash talking, we agreed to do it again the next weekend," he recalls. By the next spring he had begun work on a documentary about the sport, called "Yard Work," and had made himself the commissioner of the Palisades Wiffle Ball League, which he now describes, on its Web site, as "the most recognized Wiffle league on the planet."

Bevelacqua estimates that there are ten to twenty thousand "active" Wiffle-ball players, meaning people who compete, and keep stats, in semi-structured environments, not just at back-yard barbecues. Of those, he said recently, "about a thousand, or maybe five hundred" are of a calibre to play--on the grass abutting an elementary school in Blauvelt, New York, where the P.W.B.L. convenes on fourteen Sundays between late April and the end of September. "The rest look like me," Bevelacqua, who is sturdily built, with a certain middle-aged heft, said. "Except they're twenty-five, and fat kids." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


County GOP secretary called black NFL players 'baboons' in Facebook post (J.D. Prose, Aug 30, 2018, Beaver County Times)
The Republican Committee of Beaver County's secretary made racist Facebook posts last year about black NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, repeatedly referring to them as "baboons."

...explaining that this is a traditional comic trope unrelated to race....

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Iraqis want their Jewish neighbors back (Meron Rapoport, 8/30/18, +972))

"Iraq's Jews: 70 years after their expulsion, they seek to return to Iraq and become citizens again. Are you in favor or against their return, and granting them citizenship?

This was the question posed last Friday by Al-Khuwwa al-Nathifa ("The Clean Brotherhood"), one of the most popular Facebook pages in Iraq, which has more than 1.7 million followers. More than 62,000 people participated in the poll, which received over 5,000 likes and 2,800 comments. The bottom line is, a significant majority favors the return of Jewish Iraqis: around 77 percent voted for, 23 percent were against, and the voting ends on Thursday, which makes the overall results unlikely to change. [...]

Many respondents recalled the place Jews occupy in Iraqi history. "Iraq's Jews helped develop Iraqi history in several fields: political, economic, cultural, religious and social," wrote Samir al-Sirafi. "We hope that they will be granted the rights that were taken away from them, because they are sons of this land, and are partners to its well-being," he added. Another wrote, "the Jews are the original inhabitants." Jews had lived for centuries as a minority in Iraq, until the late 20th century, when hundreds of thousands of Iraqis either fled or were forcibly displaced from the country.

Others explicitly link the return of the Jews to the treatment of other minorities: Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, and others. "We are all humans, the Jews and the Christians are our brothers," wrote Mustafa al-Mihdawi. "There is no difference, and this is their country. We must cooperate, following Prophet Muhammad's moral tradition in collaborating with all the monotheistic religions with pure intentions. Jews and Christians, I love you."

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