November 30, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 PM


Lt. George H. W. Bush shot down in dive bomb attack (WWII Today, Sept 2, 1944)

On 2nd September 1944 Lieutenant George W. H. Bush, an Avenger pilot with VT-51 on the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), was ordered to lead an attack on a Japanese radio station on the island of ChiChi Jima. He continued with the dive bomb attack after his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and then managed to get his aircraft over the sea before baling out.

His two crew members, Radioman Second Class John Delaney, and substitute gunner Lieutenant Junior Grade William White were killed - one of them parachuted out but the parachute failed to open, the other went down with the plane.

Leo W. Nadeau flew as Bush's gunner on all but two of his attack missions:

I was replaced by Ltjg. White at the last minute. As intelligence officer, White wanted to go along to observe the island.

[Nadeau had flown with Bush for an attack on Japanese gun emplacements on ChiChi Jima the day before] The antiaircraft (AA) fire on that island was the worst we had seen, I don't think the AA fire in the Philippines was as bad as that.

No one ever knew which one bailed out with Mr. Bush, I would assume it was Delaney, because as the radioman, he would go out first to leave room for the gunner to climb down out of the turret and put his chute on.

There wasn't room in the turret for the gunner to wear a parachute. As a gunner, my parachute hung on the bulkhead of the plane near Delaney. We set up an escape procedure where he was supposed to hand me my chute and jump, and then I was to follow him. The procedure took a couple of seconds

I felt bad that Delaney and Mr. White had died, I just had the feeling that had I been there, Delaney and I might have both made it out alive ... that is, unless one of us got hit by AA.

Delaney and I had practiced our escape procedure constantly. He might have stayed to help White get out of the turret and delayed too long. it's one of those things that never leaves your mind. Why didn't I go that day?

In the water about seven miles off ChiChi Jima, Bush inflated his yellow lifeboat and crawled in - but his troubles were far from over. A Japanese boat was sent out to capture him - but this was beaten off when Lieutenant Doug West, one of his fellow pilots from VT-51, strafed it as it approached.

His position was reported by radio and the submarine USS Finback set off to search for him. He was eventually spotted through the periscope by Captain Robert R.Williams Jr a few hours later. Bush then saw the submarine surfacing:

I saw this thing coming out of the water and I said to myself, 'Jeez, I hope it's one of ours.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


"Between the Sea and the Jordan There Will Only Be Israeli Sovereignty" (AYMANN ISMAIL, NOV 30, 2018, Slate)

Hill, obviously, did not come close to calling for Jewish genocide. His critics, to the extent their arguments are sincere, arrived at this conclusion based on that single phrase, "from the river to the sea," convinced the phrasing was a dog whistle to violent factions that seek to destroy Israel. It's true that organizations like Hamas, which fires rockets at civilian targets, uses "from the river to the sea" to describe its desire for a free Palestine. But that is also true of Israel's ruling right-wing Likud party as well. In the Likud's founding charter from 1977, 10 years before the founding of Hamas, the very first paragraph says "between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty." In 1999, the charter was amended, but the first stanza remains, asserting "the Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel."

"From the river to the sea" has also been used by Jewish journalists to describe the area again and again. Jewish settlers who live beyond the green line in Israel Defense Forces-protected settlements live by this slogan as well. An Israeli minister used the phrase to dismiss the prospect of a two-state solution, saying, "There is no other option but the state of Israel, certainly between the Jordan [River] to the sea there will be one state." One needn't look far for more examples of the phrase being used by public officials and, neutrally, in headlines to describe the land. It may be loaded, but it is hardly a clear signal of anti-Semitism. Yet its inclusion appears to have been the main factor in prompting the manufactured "outrage" about Hill's speech. And still, seemingly on impulse, CNN caved.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Judge rules against Trump administration in sanctuary cities case (AARON KATERSKY, Nov 30, 2018, ABC News)

A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the Trump administration cannot withhold public safety grants to six states and the City of New York based on the fact that they're so-called sanctuary cities.

"Consistent with every other court that has considered these issues, the court concludes that defendants did not have lawful authority to impose these conditions," the decision said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Did a Real Estate Project Influence Trump's View of Russia Sanctions? (David E. Sanger, 
Nov. 29, 2018, NY Times)

 In late March 2016, steaming toward the Republican nomination and with his aides still secretly in talks for a real estate deal in Russia, Donald J. Trump made a lengthy case for giving President Vladimir V. Putin what he wanted most: relief from American-led sanctions for his annexation of Crimea.

"It didn't seem to me like anyone else cared, other than us," Mr. Trump said in an interview then with The New York Times, his first lengthy description of what his foreign policy would look like if he was elected. The United States, he said, was "the least affected by what happens with Ukraine because we're the farthest away." And countries that were closer -- Germany, for example -- did not seem to care much.

His argument took on a new relevance on Thursday, after his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the state of the negotiations over the real estate project's fate. If Mr. Cohen's latest version of events is proved true, Mr. Trump was publicly offering a conciliatory and possibly self-interested policy gesture to Moscow as he continued to seek a business deal that would require the Kremlin's blessing.

There is little doubt that Mr. Putin was listening. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a land grab by Mr. Putin of Ukrainian territory that had once been part of the Soviet Union and before that part of pre-revolutionary Russia. And it was a power grab for the Russian leader, one that led to sanctions from Washington and most of the European allies.

March 2016 was also when Mr. Trump brought into his campaign Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican lobbyist and strategist who had made millions of dollars advising and lobbying on behalf of the pro-Russia leader of Ukraine, Viktor F. Yanukovych. Mr. Manafort became the campaign's chairman several months later.

The annexation of Crimea hardened anti-Putin sentiment among most Republicans. But from the start of his campaign in mid-2015, several months before prosecutors say his company began considering a deal in Russia, Mr. Trump departed from the normal Republican hard line about Russia, attacking President Barack Obama's approach because it alienated a potential partner.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Why robots could replace teachers as soon as 2027 (Kristin Houser, 12/13/17, WEF)

Robots will replace teachers by 2027.

That's the bold claim that Anthony Seldon, a British education expert, made at the British Science Festival in September. [...]

In 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan for eliminating poverty through sustainable development. One goal listed on the agenda is to ensure everyone in the world has equal access to a quality education. Specific targets include completely free primary and secondary education, access to updated education facilities, and instruction from qualified teachers.

Some nations will have a tougher time meeting these goals than others. As of 2014, roughly nine percent of primary school-aged children (ages 5 to 11) weren't in school, according to the same UNESCO report. For lower secondary school-aged children (ages 12 to 14), that percentage jumps to 16 percent. More than 70 percent of out-of-school children live in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the latter region, a majority of the schools aren't equipped with electricity or potable water, and depending on the grade level, between 26 and 56 percent of teachers aren't properly trained.

To meet UNESCO's target of equal access to quality education, the world needs a lot more qualified teachers. The organization reports that we must add 20.1 millionprimary and secondary school teachers to the workforce, while also finding replacements for the 48.6 million expected to leave in the next 13 years due to retirement, the end of a temporary contract, or the desire to pursue a different profession with better pay or better working conditions.

That's...a lot of teachers. So it's easy to see the appeal of using a robotic teacher to fill these gaps. Sure, it takes a lot of time and money to automate an entire profession. But after the initial development costs, administrators wouldn't need to worry about paying digital teachers. This saved money could then be used to pay for the needed updates to education facilities or other costs associated with providing all youth with a free education.

Digital teachers wouldn't need days off and would never be late for work. Administrators could upload any changes to curricula across an entire fleet of AI instructors, and the systems would never make mistakes. If programmed correctly, they also wouldn't show any biases toward students based on gender, race, socio-economic status, personality preference, or other consideration.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Man accidentally shoots self in groin inside Buckeye Walmart (Nathan J. Fish, 11/28/18, Arizona Republic)

The man was in a Walmart store near Watson and Yuma roads around 6:30 p.m., when the semiautomatic handgun began to slip as he carried it unholstered in the waistband of his sweatpants, Buckeye police said.

The man told police that when he tried to reposition his loaded gun and keep it from falling, he shot himself in the groin area.

Officers arrived and found the man in the meat department with the gunshot wound, police said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Americans are hoarding even more money in their checking accounts--why that could be a problem (Quentin Fottrell, Oct 11, 2018, Market Watch)

New research suggests checking account customers are doing something that indicates they don't feel as secure as they would like about the economy. They're not feeling as safe as some economists would have expected and one red flag is the amount of money people are storing in their checking accounts. Here's why it matters -- and what it might say about you:

Moebs Services, an economic-research firm in Lake Bluff, Ill., analyzed over 12,000 depository call reports and compared them to the Federal Reserve monetary data for 2017. The Moebs Checking Study shows credit union checking account balances reaching an all-time historic high. Across banks, thrifts and credit unions, the average consumer checking balance has increased in 24 of the past 30 quarters.

Consumers maintained a historically high average checking account balance for year-end June 30, 2018 at $3,673 for all financial institutions, Moebs said Wednesday. Banking consumers reduced checking balances by 1.8% while members at credit unions increased those balances by 3%, and customers at savings and loans associations increased their checking account balances by 20.7%.

It takes tremendous effort to keep yourself from getting rich in the modern economy.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM



In the days leading up to Cohen's plea, Trump's legal team had grown increasingly annoyed with the special counsel's office for stonewalling. Giuliani vented to a friend that Mueller's office stopped communicating with him after he delivered Trump's answers. "They've gone dark," the friend who spoke with Giuliani said. "Rudy is extremely frustrated. He thinks Mueller is acting like some junior U.S. attorney who's got his panties in a wad and doesn't want to talk to you." Giuliani also complained that Mueller is delaying submitting his report to the Justice Department until the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives in January. (Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment.)

Cohen's plea also re-ignited fears that the president's son, Don Jr., will be next to be indicted. "Don's been telling people he's very worried after today," a source said. (Don Jr.'s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) Mueller now appears to be driving the West Wing agenda, with the principals in a reactive crouch; there's a sense of loss of control. "It's an untethered situation," a person close to the president said.

Of course it was a trap: it required Donald to answer truthfully.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


How Trump Fuels the Fascist Right (Bernard E. Harcourt, 11/30/18, NY Review of Books)

Everything about Trump's discourse--the words he uses, the things he is willing to say, when he says them, where, how, how many times--is deliberate and intended for consumption by the new right. When Trump repeatedly accuses a reporter of "racism" for questioning him about his embrace of the term "nationalist," he is deliberately drawing from the toxic well of white supremacist discourse and directly addressing that base. Trump's increasing use of the term "globalist" in interviews and press conferences--including to describe Jewish advisers such as Gary Cohn or Republican opponents like the Koch brothers--is a knowing use of an anti-Semitic slur, in the words of the Anti-Defamation League, "a code word for Jews." Trump's self-identification as a "nationalist," especially in contrast to "globalists" like George Soros, extends a hand to white nationalists across the country. His pointed use of the term "politically correct," especially in the context of the Muslim ban, speaks directly to followers of far-right figures such as William Lind, author of "What is 'Political Correctness'?"

Trump is methodically engaging in verbal assaults that throw fuel on his political program of closed borders, nativism, social exclusion, and punitive excess. Even his cultivated silences and failures to condemn right-wing violence, in the fatal aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, for instance, or regarding the pipe-bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc, communicate directly to extremists. We are watching, in real time, a new right discourse come to define the American presidency. The term "alt-right" is too innocuous when the new political formation we face is, in truth, neo-fascist, white-supremacist, ultranationalist, and counterrevolutionary. Too few Americans appear to recognize how extreme President Trump has become--in part because it is so disturbing to encounter the arguments of the American and European new right. But we must--and we must call Trump out for deploying them to gain power. 

Building on the ugly history of white supremacy in this country, and on European far-right movements of the late 1960s and 1970s, a new right has emerged in America. The central tenets of this American new right are that Christian heterosexual whites are endangered, that the traditional nuclear family is in peril, that "Western civilization" is in decline, and that whites need to reassert themselves. George Shaw, an editor at a leading new right publishing house and the editor of A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders (2018)--a collected volume intended to give voice to the self-identified "alt-right," including well-known figures such as the co-founder of Richard Spencer, the evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald, the founder of American Renaissance Jared Taylor, and a 2018 candidate for the Republican nomination for the US Senate seat in Florida, Augustus Invictus--opens his introduction on the race question: "If alt-right ideology can be distilled to one statement, it is that white people, like all other distinct human populations, have legitimate group interests."

That shared interest among "white people" is why there were no conflicts until we made contact with other races, right?

November 29, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 PM


The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow (Anthony Cormier & Jason Leopold, 11/29/18, BuzzFeed News)

President Donald Trump's company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


López Obrador is bigger threat to liberal democracy than Bolsonaro (JOHN PAUL RATHBONE, 11/29/18, Financial Times)  

On Saturday, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a maverick leftist, will become president of Mexico and launch what he has called the country's "fourth transformation". How this progressive nationalist matches up against Donald Trump, his equally nationalistic neighbour, is anybody's guess -- although the US president is said to refer to him fondly in private as "Juan Trump".

A month later, Jair Bolsonaro, a maverick conservative, will become president of Brazil and begin what he claims will be a radical reforging of society and the economy. With his crudely misogynistic and racist comments, divisive nationalism and praise of the dictatorship, the former army captain is often labelled a "Tropical Trump".

The two leaders are part of the epochal changes that are sweeping Latin America's two biggest economies. Although from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both are also throwbacks to an age of caudillos, or populist strong men, that the region had seemingly left behind. Who though is the bigger threat to liberal democracy? Almost certainly "peace and love" Mr López Obrador rather than "lock 'em up" Mr Bolsonaro.

That may sound provocative but it is only empirical. Mr López Obrador will enjoy almost unconstrained power when he takes office. His party has majorities in the Senate and the Chamber. He has vast popular support, dominates his cabinet, inherits a relatively healthy macroeconomy thereby freeing him from immediate market pressures, and faces a feeble judiciary.

Furthermore, he wants even more power. He plans to create federal "super delegates", answerable to the executive, to monitor all state programmes and their budgets. At the same time, public sector wage cuts have prompted an exodus of technocrats from the civil service, weakening Mexico's few independent institutions that could check his power.

Mr Bolsonaro faces the exact opposite. He is hemmed in. His party has a minority in both houses of Congress. He does not control state budgets. He faces an aggressive press, a fiercely independent judiciary, is subject to more market discipline given Brazil's weak economy, and has appointed heavyweight technocrats to his cabinet. Unlike Mr López Obrador, his instincts seem to be to decentralise power, including independence for the central bank.

Mr Bolsonaro has also shown flexibility on his more outrageous campaign pledges. He has changed his mind on withdrawing Brazil from the Paris accord on climate change, reconsidered moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and welcomed Venezuelan refugees.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Elizabeth Warren Goes After Free Trade Agreements in First Speech as 2020 Contender (TONYA RILEY, NOVEMBER 29, 2018, Mother Jones)

On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave a speech detailing her views on foreign policy, in an unofficial preview of what might come for her 2020 platform should she run for president. And she kicked it off with an attack on the free trade policies that have dominated Washington. "For decades, the leaders of both parties preached the gospel that free trade was a rising tide that would lift all boats," she said. "Great rhetoric--except that the trade deals they negotiated mainly lifted the yachts--and threw millions of working Americans overboard to drown." 

If the Democratic Party wants to keep ahold of the suburbanites who are voting against Donald, they need to nominate someone more conservative--like Hillary was--not someone even more Nationalist Socialist than he is.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


The Legal Perils That Michael Cohen's Guilty Plea Poses for Donald Trump (Jeffrey Toobin, 11/29/18, The New Yorker)

The question at the heart of the Russia investigation has always been one of motive. Why has Donald Trump, both as a candidate and as the President, been so solicitous of Russia and of its leader, Vladimir Putin? Why did Trump praise Putin so obsequiously during the campaign? Why did the Trump campaign steer the Republican Party platform in a more pro-Russia direction? Why does Trump still refuse to criticize Putin and Russian actions around the world?

The guilty plea that Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, entered on Thursday morning, at a federal-court hearing in Manhattan, goes a long way toward answering those questions. Once again, with Trump, it seems, the answers come down to money. In September of last year, in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Cohen said that he made efforts on Trump's behalf to negotiate the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow but that those efforts had ended in failure, in January of 2016, and were rarely discussed again. But, on Thursday, Cohen admitted that this had been a lie; he acknowledged that he had continued to negotiate on Trump's behalf well into 2016, until at least June, when Trump was already the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee. In other words, while Trump was running for President, his company was simultaneously (and secretly) negotiating with Russia to build a tower. Since Putin and his government effectively control all such developments in Russia, they held the fate of the project in their hands. As I wrote in the magazine in February, Trump had dreamed of building in Moscow for decades, and had travelled to the Russian capital as far back as the nineteen-eighties to try to make it happen. (Not incidentally, when I spoke to Cohen for the February story, he told me the same lies about the project that he had told the Senate.)

The timing of Cohen's guilty plea is significant. It seems that the prosecution team, led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, delayed Cohen's admission of guilt until after Trump and his legal team had submitted the President's written answers to Mueller's questions, which he did earlier this month.

You really have to admire the way Mr. Mueller played Donald, with this plea and kicking Manafort to the curb coming directly after the interrogatories were turned over.  Particularly deft was allowing Manafort to communicate disinformation to Rudy and company.  No wonder Alan Dershowitz is shrieking about a perjury trap--he knows Donald perjured himself in his answers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Mueller's Steady Stream of Russia Revelations Is Driving Trump Crazy (Frank Rich, 11/29/18, New York)

The whole point of the incessant lying by Donald Trump and Manafort -- and the apparent lying of Stone and Corsi as well -- is exactly that: to muddy as many waters as possible so any Mueller report will be drowned out by what Kellyanne Conway once labeled "alternative facts." Right now we only know bits and pieces of Mueller's findings. (Nor do we know whether he is close to issuing a report or not.) But the thing about stories built on actual facts, as Mueller's will be, is that they tend to be powerful and command attention because they add up. People like solid crime stories. And so even now, even amid all the current racket, at least one such story is emerging loud and clear: the bridge that connects the Trump campaign to the trove of Democratic emails stolen by the Russians and publicized by WikiLeaks to sabotage the Clinton campaign. Two of the biggest sources for this story are Stone and Corsi themselves. The more they try to portray their WikiLeaks ties as innocent -- Corsi even gave a blabby interview to the less-than-friendly outlet of MSNBC on Wednesday -- the more they poke holes in their own flimsy cover stories and incriminate the president. Not for nothing did Trump promote WikiLeaks' email cache at least 164 times in the last month of the 2016 campaign, in the calculation of the journalist Judd Legum. Everything adds up.

It also adds up that Trump remains in the panic that has consumed him since he returned from his calamitous trip to rainy Paris nearly three weeks ago. He just keeps tweeting maniacally about his innocence and Mueller's "witch hunt" even as heads to the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, Mueller's tale of his collusion with Russia gains traction by the moment. A Washington Post scoop overnight detailing profuse late-night phone calls between Stone and Trump at crucial junctures in 2016 suggests that it was Trump himself, not merely "the Trump campaign," who had direct knowledge of Russia's conspiracy to tip the election in his favor. Today has brought Michael Cohen's surprise guilty plea in a Manhattan court, where he conceded he was lying to Congress when he claimed that Trump had stopped pursuing business deals in Russia in early 2016. Given that Trump has vehemently denied such dealings, Cohen's revelation is another big chapter of the story. Who knows what additional plot twists will arrive tomorrow when Mueller's prosecutors face off against Manafort's lawyers in a federal courtroom -- as ordered by a judge this week after Manafort broke his plea deal.

Mueller likely has many other stories to tell.

Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen's Plea (Ken White, 11/29/18, The Atlantic)

The first was that Cohen walked into a Manhattan federal courtroom unannounced. He did it by surprise. We live in a political environment characterized by constant leaks, each choreographed more carefully than a public announcement. The drama of learning what's going to happen at an event, rather than before the event, has mostly disappeared. But Cohen's plea, a momentous development in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, happened with no warning. That reflects admirable discipline in Mueller's office.

The second remarkable thing was that the plea happened at all. [...]

Normally, federal prosecutors don't waste time with this sort of rubble-bouncing. So why would Mueller spend the time and resources on it? Because it tells a story about Trump and his campaign. Because it lays a marker. [...]

The third remarkable thing about Cohen's plea was its substance. The president of the United States' personal lawyer admitted to lying to Congress about the president's business activities with a hostile foreign power, in order to support the president's story.

Michael Cohen's admission could put Don Jr., Trump Org staff in the crosshairs (MATTHEW MOSK, LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, JOHN SANTUCCI MARY BRUCE Nov 29, 2018, ABC News)

The admission by President Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen that he lied to Congress about the Trump Organization's plans to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow has brought new scrutiny upon the sworn testimony of other Trump associates - including his oldest son.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called on the committee's Republican leadership to accelerate the release of transcripts from interviews they conducted behind closed doors to the special counsel and the public so they could be analyzed for any misleading statements.

"We believe other witnesses were untruthful before our committee," Schiff told ABC News on Thursday. "We want to share those transcripts with Mr. Mueller."

The strange tales of Michael Cohen, Randy Credico and Roger Stone: Cohen has changed his plea while Stone and Credico sling mud at each other (Cockburn, November 29, 2018, Spectator USA)

That rumbling in the distance you hear is the avalanche of bad news about the Russia investigation heading towards Donald Trump. The first ton of dirt came from the President's former bagman and fixer, Michael Cohen, who admitted in court today that he'd lied to Congress in statements about Russia. The really devastating aspect of this for President Trump is that Cohen seems to be telling Mueller's team exactly what these lies were meant to conceal. In recent days, Cohen had been privately talking about moving from 'fixer to flipper'. He even sent a video on the subject to friends. In turning on his old boss, cleaning up his Congressional testimony would be a necessary step. [...]

There are two ways to look at Cohen's secret play for a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. One is to view this as a member of Trump's inner circle trying to make money for himself from his connection to the surprise front-runner in the Republican race. The other interpretation is that Cohen's approaches were authorized by Trump, back-channel negotiations with the Russian President with who-knows-what on the table - part of Russian efforts to buy Trump's loyalty, 'Individual 1' only too willing to make a deal. At the very least, it appears Trump was not telling the truth when he said at a news conference in January of 2017, just after taking office, that he had 'stayed away' from business deals in Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Scott to oppose Farr nomination to federal bench in NC, ending chances of confirmation (EMMA DUMAIN AND BRIAN MURPHY, NOVEMBER 29, 2018, The State)

"I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge," Scott said in his statement. "This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr's activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr's nomination."

The 1991 memo said that "Farr was the primary coordinator of the 1984 'ballot security' program conducted by the NCGOP and 1984 Helms for Senate Committee. He coordinated several 'ballot security' activities in 1984, including a postcard mailing to voters in predominantly black precincts which was designed to serve as a basis to challenge voters on election day."

Farr told attendees at a 1990 meeting that the need for "ballot security" measures, such as postcards, "was not as compelling as in 1984, since, unlike in 1984, the state had a Republican governor."

In 1990, the Helms campaign sent postcards to black voters who may have changed addresses warning of "voter eligibility and the penalties for election fraud." Farr said he did not know about the decision to send the postcards, and the memo does not state that he did.

Scott spent the past days studying this memo and speaking directly to the document's author. He spoke to the author Wednesday for at least part of a nearly 45-minute period as his colleagues voted on limiting debate on Farr's nomination. Scott agreed to the limit.

On Thursday, just half an hour before Farr's confirmation vote was set to take place on the Senate floor, Scott invited several colleagues to his office to discuss the memo and hear from the author, via conference call, once again.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told McClatchy as he headed to that meeting he was still inclined to vote for Farr but as a practice always discussed nominees with Scott, especially when race has been a factor.

"Was (Farr) a lawyer representing a client, telling them what they were legally allowed to do, or was he a political consultant determining strategy and targeting? I don't know the answer to that. It was a long time ago," Rubio explained. "But I think that's kind of what we're focused in on."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, another senator at the meeting, had earlier in the week said she would confirm Farr but was now "taking a look at this information which was not available previously." [...]

Farr was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007, but never received a vote. President Barack Obama nominated two African-American women for the court, but neither received a vote. Farr was nominated for the seat by President Donald Trump in 2017 and again in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Trump's Unacceptable Campaign Conduct and Two Other Takeaways from the Cohen Plea (DAVID FRENCH, November 29, 2018, National Review)

Time and again Trump noted that Putin had praised him. Time and again he called Putin a "leader" or a "strong leader." Time and again he promised that America would have a "great" relationship with Russia.

Trump made those comments at the exact time when his team was allegedly trying to secure a business deal that could have netted Trump millions of dollars. This is no small thing. Trump's words mattered. Putin's approval rating with Republicans doubled while Trump praised the man who could have granted him great personal profit. Yes, I'm (mainly) pleased with American policy towards Russia since Trump has been president, but Trump's actions represented an extraordinary conflict of interest. Americans were listening to Trump's praise of Putin without realizing his profit motive. That's intolerable.

Second, many of the early reports and assessments of Trump's Russia connections may well be materially wrong. [...]
In plain English, many early conclusions about the controversy may well have been based on self-serving, deceptive statements that are slowly being exposed. Many of Trump's defenders have concluded that he's done nothing wrong and that the special counsel's office is engaged in a "witch hunt" well before the facts are out and well before necessary credibility assessments have been made.

Third, to quote former prosecutor Ken White, "The conclusion that the President of the United States knew that his personal counsel was repeatedly lying to the Congress of the United States about the President's business is inescapable under these circumstances." This is a conclusion that's directly relevant to the obstruction of justice inquiry. It does not mean that the president obstructed, but it's important to remember that both the Clinton and Nixon articles of impeachment included charges related to the president's efforts to get witnesses to lie under oath. We should now ask, did the president have any role in feeding this false information to Congress?

And the Nixon articles included charges related to things like dangling pardons to influence the other perps.

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


Early humans hooked up with other species a whole bunch (Neel V. Patel, 11/29/18, Popular Science)

According to a new analysis of gene ancestry data published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution, populations of humans and Neanderthals mated and procreated multiple times over during the 30,000 years when the two species overlapped. Our snippets of Neanderthal DNA are not the result of one-off hookups.

"The history of human-Neanderthal interactions is complex," says Joshua Schraiber, a genomics researcher at Temple University and a co-author of the new study. "It wasn't just one time that humans and Neanderthals ran into each other and interbred. They overlapped for tens of thousands of years, and multiple interactions occurred."

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


The Man Presumed to Be the Unnamed 'Individual-2' in Michael Cohen's Guilty Plea (Matt Naham, November 29th, 2018, Law & Crime)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed down some news on Thursday in the form of another Michael Cohen guilty plea. Many of the details in the statement of offense from the special counsel's office surround an "Individual-1," who has been identified as President Donald Trump. The lies Cohen told the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had to do with Trump's business dealings, specifically a Trump Tower real estate proposal called the Moscow Project. [...]

Mueller said Cohen attempted to "minimize links between the Moscow Project and [Trump]" and "give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before 'the Iowa caucus and . . . the very first primary,' in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations."

The government mentioned the details (presumably involving Sater) in the context of Cohen's agreement to travel to Russia "in connection with the Moscow Project" and Cohen's taking "steps in contemplation of [Trump's] possible travel to Russia."

Cohen admitted he made a "materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation," saying he did so "to be consistent with Individual-1's political messaging and to be loyal to Individual-1."

Cohen previously stated that the Moscow Project negotiation was off as early as January 2016. That wasn't true.

"I knew at the time in that I asserted that all efforts had ceased in January 2016, when in fact they continued until June 2016," Cohen said. "In fact had more extensive communications."

Questions are now being raised as to whether Mueller asked Trump about communications he had with Cohen, Sater, and foreign nationals about real estate prospects during the presidential campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


US accuses Iran of violating arms export ban to Yemen and Afghanistan (ERIC CORTELLESSA, 11/29/18, Times of Israel)

The Trump administration unveiled on Thursday what it said was new evidence that Iran is developing missiles and other weaponry and illegally exporting them to Yemen and Afghanistan.

It's great of our ally to do this for us, but we should be arming the Houthi and Hazara directly. Until we lift sanctions, we can afford it easier.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


At 62 Miles In 4 Minutes, Porsche's Taycan Will Set The New Supercharging Standard (Liane Yvkoff, 11/29/18, Forbes)

Bloomberg reported that Porsche's Chief Executive Officer Oliver Blume gave an interview to the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealing that its upcoming Taycan electric vehicle will be able to achieve a driving range of about 250 miles with just a 20 minute charge using one of its planned 800-volt high-power charging stations. If they're pressed for time, drivers will be able to get 62 miles of driving range in just four minutes.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Mormons support GOP, but Trump approval lags (HANNAH FINGERHUT and BRADY McCOMBS, 11/29/18, AP)

About two-thirds of Mormon voters nationwide favored Republicans in the midterm elections, but President Donald Trump's approval rating among members of the faith lagged behind, according to a nationwide survey of midterm voters.

And as Republican Sen. Mitt Romney prepares to join the new Congress in January, most voters in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah -- 64 percent -- would like to see the senator confront the president, AP VoteCast found. About half of Romney's supporters -- including his Mormon supporters -- said they would like to see the former Massachusetts governor stand up to Trump, while about as many indicated the senator should support Trump if elected.

The new data reaffirms Trump's struggle to gain widespread acceptance among Mormons despite the faith's deep-rooted conservative leanings.

...should read "because of"

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


G20 and the painful price of Argentina's tumultuous past (Andres Schipani, 11/29/18, Financial Times)

Argentina is now again at the centre of a crisis in emerging markets. It can be blamed on the gradualism of President Mauricio Macri and the arrogance of his entourage, but also on the populist legacy of his predecessors, the husband and wife double act of Cristina Fernández and Néstor Kirchner. Looking further back, there was also Fernando de la Rúa, who fled office in late 2001 in a helicopter after two feeble years, the flamboyant Carlos Menem and his scandal-ridden governments and the flawed economics of Alfonsín in the 1980s that led to hyperinflation. And that is not to forget the ruthless military juntas, the chaos of the 1970s government of "Isabelita" Perón before them, and the demagogical corporatism of Juan Domingo Perón.

Despite its crises and neuroses, Argentina is a better country today

Peronism, with its cunning ideologies of both left and rightwing, is a consequence of our own unhinged schizophrenia. Perón is supposed to have said that all Argentines are peronistas. Writer Jorge Luis Borges differed with him, calling Perón's followers "neither good nor bad, but incorrigible". Later, Tato Bores, the political comedian who died in the 1990s, said that we Argentines must take a cacho, or chunk, of the blame for our troubled history, though most should go to our rulers and economic mandarins.

No wonder I have lost faith in policymakers. When markets react to Argentine news, I cringe. We may be a G20 economy, but with interest rates at more than 60 per cent, the adage that there are four kinds of economies -- developed, under-developed, Japan and Argentina -- still applies. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Separated by travel ban, Iranian families reunite at border library (Yeganeh Torbati, 11/29/18, Reuters)

DERBY LINE, VERMONT/STANSTEAD, QUEBEC (Reuters) - During the six-hour drive from New York City to a tiny town in northern Vermont, Iranian student Shirin Estahbanati cried at the thought of seeing her father for the first time in nearly three years. Since then, he had suffered a heart attack, and she hadn't dared leave America to comfort him.

But as she traveled north, she also couldn't stop worrying. What if she missed the turnoff and drove across the U.S.-Canadian border by mistake?

Estahbanati, like many Iranian students in the United States, has a single-entry visa and can't leave the country without risking that she won't be allowed back in. And her parents, as Iranian citizens, are blocked by U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban from visiting her in the United States.

She didn't want to miss her destination: the Haskell Free Library and Opera House.

Estahbanati and her family had agreed to meet around 9 a.m. at the library, which through a historic anomaly straddles the U.S.-Canada border - and today has been thrust into an unlikely role as the site of emotional reunions between people separated by the administration's immigration policies.

The 31-year-old parked her car and, excitement battling with anxiety, walked to the entrance of the Victorian building. But two hours later, her parents and sister still had not appeared from the Canadian side, and her calls to her sister's cell phone went unanswered.

Finally, she saw them. Because of construction near the library, their GPS device had sent them to the line for the U.S. port of entry. Her parents had no U.S. visas, and they had been detained by American border agents. After approximately two hours, they were released and allowed to join Estahbanati at the library. [...]

This year, as migrant families from Latin America were separated at the U.S. southern border, a more nuanced reality has been playing out on the northern frontier with Canada. Here, dozens of Iranian families have reunited at the Haskell library. Drawn by word-of-mouth and a smattering of social media posts, they have come to the geopolitical gray zone at the rural frontier library, located at once in Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Chinese Metals Win U.S. Tariff Waivers With Little Resistance (Jim Tankersley, Nov. 28, 2018, NY Times)

[H]is administration has granted nearly 3,000 requests that could exempt Chinese-made metal products from the tariffs, according to a congressional analysis shared with The New York Times.

Since March, when the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum went into effect, the Commerce Department has approved a higher share of exclusion requests that include imports from China than it has from American allies like Japan and Canada. [...]

The exclusions stem from the Commerce Department's process for determining whether companies can win tariff relief for imported metals. The requests are generally granted as long as no American producer formally objects and says it can provide the metals.

Both supporters and opponents of the tariffs have criticized the process as haphazard and ineffective. Aluminum trade groups -- including some that have criticized the tariffs -- say the fact that Mandel received approval to import more metal, including aluminum from China, than it can use highlights the program's flaws. Others have criticized the process for giving large domestic producers, like Nucor and Century Aluminum, outsize power to block exemptions by claiming they can provide the metals.

"Generally, it seems the department is not evaluating whether there is actually demand in the market for these large volumes and has granted the requests based simply on the absence of any objections," Heidi Brock, the president of the Aluminum Association, wrote in a letter to the Commerce Department this month. She cited Mandel and another set of exclusions, to Ta Chen International, for potentially one billion pounds of imports from China.

He cares about the hate, not the processes.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Democrats press the case for Trump-Russia 'collusion' (KYLE CHENEY 11/28/2018, Politico)

A dizzying flurry of headlines, leaks and legal action over the past several days have shined new light on contacts between Trump associates and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who in 2016 released Hillary Clinton campaign emails that U.S. officials say were stolen by Russian operatives. Democrats say they strengthen the case -- widely dismissed by Republicans -- that the Trump campaign was aware of or even helped to coordinate the email dumps.

"It's always smelled like collusion," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview. But after this week's developments, he said, "It doesn't smell less like collusion. It smells more."

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Pompeo-Mattis briefing on Yemen to Senate bombs (Laura Rozen, November 28, 2018, Al Monitor)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urged senators at a closed-door briefing today to stay the course on US support for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen. But the Donald Trump administration's refusal to send CIA Director Gina Haspel to brief senators on the intelligence community's assessment of the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, coupled with Pompeo's urging of business as usual with the Saudis in a poorly received Wall Street Journal op-ed overnight, appeared to backfire. Several senators emerged from the briefing saying they planned to vote for legislation that would curtail US involvement in the war.

They have no credibility left.

November 28, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi Pushed Seth Rich Lie After Privately Admitting Hackers Stole DNC Emails (Will Sommer, 11.28.18, Daily Beast)

In an email to Trump confidante Roger Stone in 2016, Corsi acknowledged that hackers were behind the email theft, according to newly released messages.

Despite that admission, both Corsi and Stone played key roles promoting the conspiracy theory about Rich. Stone became one of the first major figures in Trump's orbit to suggest Rich was murdered over the emails, tweeting on August 10, 2016 that Rich had "ties to DNC heist."

In 2017, after Rich's parents begged right-wing media personalities to stop pushing conspiracy theories about their son, Corsi put the blame for the email theft on Rich in a three-part InfoWars series.

In his InfoWars posts and a series of YouTube videos, Corsi portrayed Rich as a disaffected supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who stole the emails to get revenge against the DNC and paid for it with his life. Corsi wrote Rich had clearly been "implicated in breaches of email systems." The young staffer was, according to Corsi, the "likely perpetrator."

Corsi's theory helped fuel conspiracists on the right who claim, without evidence, that Rich was murdered on the orders of Hillary Clinton. But emails from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia show that Corsi knew all along that it really was hackers who gave the emails to WikiLeaks.

Papadopoulos's Russia Ties Continue to Intrigue: The former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign boasted of a Russia business deal even after the election, according to a new letter under review. (NATASHA BERTRAND and SCOTT STEDMAN, 11/28/18, The Atlantic)

Mifsud, who claimed to have high-level Kremlin contacts, told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Kremlin had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails--well before the Russian hacks on the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta were made public. Papadopoulos told the FBI that he learned of the Kremlin "dirt" before joining the Trump campaign, but that was a lie, according to prosecutors. He had already been a campaign adviser for well over a month by the time Mifsud told him about the stolen emails.

Mifsud was also apparently eager to connect Papadopoulos with his current wife, Simona Mangiante. Mangiante told The Atlantic last month that she first heard about Papadopoulos and his work for the Trump campaign after starting a job at the London Centre of International Law Practice, where Mifsud was the "Director for International Strategic Development," in September 2016. Mifsud and his associate Nagi Idris told Mangiante over lunch that Papadopoulos, who worked at the London Centre briefly in the spring of 2016, would be visiting London soon, and that if Mangiante met him, she should "make sure" she said she liked Trump--or not discuss politics at all. Mangiante insists, however, that Mifsud never directly introduced her to Papadopoulos, who she says she met on LinkedIn later that fall.

Mifsud may only be one part of the story of Papadopoulos's connections to Russian nationals in 2016. According to the letter sent to Schiff last week, Papadopoulos revealed in late 2016 that "Greek Orthodox leaders" and their Russian counterparts were "playing an important role" in Papadopoulos's collaboration with the Russians.

Papadopoulos's contact with Greek officials in 2016 have been of some interest to those investigating a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. In a September interview with CNN, Papadopoulos acknowledged for the first time that he told Greece's foreign minister about the Russian "dirt" on Clinton in May 2016 while visiting the country on a trip authorized by the Trump campaign. Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to visit Greece the very next day, and the foreign minister "explained to me that where you are sitting right now, tomorrow Putin will be sitting there," Papadopoulos told CNN, claiming that his disclosure about the "dirt" was "a nervous reaction" that he just "blurted out."

Throughout 2016, Papadopoulos made multiple trips to Greece and developed a working relationship with influential Greek officials while he was serving as a foreign policy advisor on the Trump campaign. In addition to the foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, Papadopoulos had meetings with the former President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Ieronymos II, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. Papadopoulos's closest association with the Greek government, however, appears to have been with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, an outspoken supporter of Moscow with whom Papadopoulos met several times in 2016 and early 2017, including at Trump's inauguration. In his congratulatory tweet celebrating Trump's election victory, Kammenos noted Papadopoulos's importance in maintaining U.S.-Greek relations. A NATO military intelligence official told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that the Greek Ministry of Defense "is considered compromised by Russian intelligence."

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


How Bing Crosby Changed the Course of Pop Music: a review of BING CROSBY: Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940-1946 By Gary Giddins (James Gavin, Nov. 28, 2018, NY Times Book Review)

[N]ewer generations had no way to know that Crosby had not only changed the course of American popular singing, he had helped create it. It was he who, more than any other vocalist, had freed that art from its turn-of-the-century stiffness and transformed it into conversation. Drawing on black influences, he made pop songs swing, while treating a new invention, the microphone, as if it were a friend's ear. Without him, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Dean Martin and countless other intimate singers could never have happened. A workhorse, he turned out a staggering number of recordings (including dozens of No. 1 hits) as well as films, radio shows and personal appearances. Whatever he did seemed off-the-cuff and effortless.

For all that, his reputation hasn't much endured. He lacked the qualities that have made Sinatra eternally seductive: coolness, sex appeal, danger, risk and a singing style that opened a window into his hard living and emotional extremes.

Crosby had a far different job. With calm reassurance, he shepherded America through the Depression and World War II, then became a symbol of postwar domestic stability. Crosby applied his soothing baritone to love songs, folk songs, Irish songs, Hawaiian songs, country songs -- he sang almost everything and revealed almost nothing. His 1953 memoir, "Call Me Lucky," upholds the blithe facade. He seemed trapped in it.

Then, in 1983, six years after Crosby's death, his oldest son, Gary, wrote his own book, "Going My Own Way" (with Ross Firestone). In it, he portrays the singer as a monstrous disciplinarian for whom beatings and belittlement were the answers to every filial problem. Gary had become an alcoholic; later in life, two of his brothers, Lindsay and Dennis, shot themselves in the head.

All this is a biographer's feast. But with a faded titan like Crosby, should one aim for a single, reader-friendly volume that might attract more than just die-hard fans? Or do the achievements demand a multivolume magnum opus, such as John Richardson is writing on Picasso and Robert Caro on Lyndon B. Johnson? And if a writer is enraptured enough to go that route, what to do when there's lots of personal unpleasantness to address?

Crosby's biographer Gary Giddins had choices to make. A formidable scholar of jazz and popular song, Giddins is certainly the man for the job. He spent 30 years as a Village Voice columnist. His journalism and his books about Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong have won him scores of awards.

In 2001 he released the 700-plus-page "Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams -- The Early Years, 1903-1940." Now comes the comparably sized "Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star -- The War Years, 1940-1946." It's easy to see why Volume 2 took him so long. As before, Giddins researched a mountain of material to the max, and he lays his findings out with impressive clarity. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


The Senate Just Took the Biggest Step Yet Toward Ending U.S. Support for the Yemen War (MILES KAMPF-LASSIN AND SARAH LAZARE, 11/28/18, IN These Times)

The Senate voted 63-37 in favor of holding a debate on Senate Joint Resolution 54-introduced by Sens.Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The measure invokes the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to force a vote to "remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen." This is the first time a chamber of Congress has advanced a bill War Powers Resolution, and it marks a considerable victory for opponents of the war, whose previous efforts to debate the resolution narrowly failed in the Senate in March after 10 Democrats came out in opposition.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi says Stone requested a 'cover story' for 2016 tweet (Catherine Garcia, November 27, 2018, The Week)

 On Aug. 21, Stone, one of President Trump's longtime advisers, tweeted: "Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel." John Podesta was Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, and his emails were released by WikiLeaks several weeks later.

Corsi, a witness in the Mueller investigation, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that Stone called him on Aug. 30, 2016, and asked him to come up with an "alternative explanation" for the tweet. Corsi began writing a memo for Stone describing the business dealings of John Podesta and his brother, Tony, and Corsi and Stone would later say this is what Stone's tweet was about, even though the memo was written after the fact. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor Just Came Out Swinging Against Policing for Profit (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 28, 2018. Slate)

Although Gorsuch led the charge, no justice seemed to think that the Constitution permits states to impose excessive fines. So Fisher raised a backup argument, alleging that the Eighth Amendment doesn't bar forfeitures of property, only money. The problem with this claim is that the court rejected it in 1993's Austin v. United States. So Fisher asked the court to overrule Austin, further flummoxing Gorsuch.

"Let's say this court's not inclined to revisit Austin," he told Thomas. "You're going to lose not just the incorporation question but the merits question too." Justice Stephen Breyer asked if Indiana could seize a Bugatti if it was going 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. "Yes, it's forfeitable," Fisher responded. Breyer mused: What about a "Mercedes, or a special Ferrari or even jalopy?" Fisher laughed at Breyer's fanciful hypotheticals. But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Gorsuch's new criminal justice ally, looked unamused.

"Justice Scalia said it very well," she told Fisher, quoting Scalia's opinion in Austin. "For the Eighth Amendment to limit cash fines while permitting limitless [property confiscation] would make little sense." Instead, it would revive England's notoriously lawless Star Chamber. Gorsuch nodded vigorously in agreement. "Are we trying to avoid a society that's like the Star Chamber?" Sotomayor asked. "If we look at these forfeitures that are occurring today ... many of them seem grossly disproportionate to the crimes being charged."

She's right. In Philadelphia, prosecutors seized one couple's house because their son was arrested with $40 worth of drugs. Officials there seized 1,000 other houses and 3,300 vehicles before a 2018 settlement that led to reparations for victims. In 2014, federal prosecutors used asset forfeiture to take more stuff than burglars. One Texas police department seized property from out-of-town drivers, then colluded with the district attorney to coerce these drivers into waiving their rights. Law enforcement frequently targets poor people and racial minorities, figuring they are unable to fight back.

Although he said nothing on Wednesday (as usual), Justice Clarence Thomas is one of the court's fiercest critics of civil asset forfeiture. In 2017, he wrote a solo opinion urging the court to rein in the practice. Citing its "egregious and well-chronicled abuses," Thomas asserted that the Constitution likely does not allow police to "seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use." And in 1998, he authored a 5-4 decision, joined only by the liberals, outlawing forfeitures that are "grossly disproportional to the gravity of [the] offense."

So while Gorsuch and Sotomayor led the fight on Wednesday, there's probably a cross-ideological coalition of justices prepared to invalidate excessive forfeitures.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


High hopes for Hakeem Jeffries (The Economist, Sep 27th 2018)

Mr Jeffries is not a member of the moderate New Democrats faction, but he often sounds as if he should be. He is a fan of charter schools and fiscal rectitude. Though he supports the principle of universal health-care coverage, he speaks of "the importance of market forces and getting things done in a responsible fashion". Quoting Ronald Reagan approvingly, he suggests this means promoting a flourishing private sector outside the "legitimate functions" of government. The eternal quest to strike the right balance between the two "is the American dream", he muses.

His pragmatism is as striking as his moderation. He praises Jared Kushner as a "tremendous partner" in his support for a bipartisan criminal-justice bill that Mr Jeffries co-sponsored. It was derided from the left as too weak, including by two Democratic senators with presidential ambitions, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. They probably also minded the fact that President Donald Trump praised the bill. Mr Jeffries gives them short shrift: Democrats should back useful legislation whoever is president, he says, and a stronger bill was impossible under Mr Trump. He also questions their political judgment. Allowing criminal justice to become a partisan issue has handed the Republicans an offensive weapon, he says. "If we can make this a non-partisan issue, that is to Democrats' advantage."

Yet despite his bold attachment to the real world, Mr Jeffries is not merely unchallenged by his party's Utopian wing. He is admired.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Stone's efforts to seek WikiLeaks documents detailed in draft Mueller document (Sara Murray and Katelyn Polantz, 11/28/18, CNN)

In the draft court papers, prosecutors outline how Corsi allegedly lied three times to the FBI and special counsel's office. He told them he rebuffed Stone when Stone asked him to reach out to WikiLeaks; he denied that Stone asked him to involve another person in the effort; and he denied he shared information about what WikiLeaks had.Comey says 

In the summer of 2016, Stone allegedly asked Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks "about materials it possessed relevant to the presidential campaign that had not already been released," according to the draft filing. "Get to [Assange]," Stone wrote on July 25, 2016, three days after Wikileaks dumped thousands of Democratic National Committee emails. According to the documents, Stone directed Corsi to get in touch with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, was blasting publicly the documents stolen in the Russian hack, and "get the pending [Wikileaks] emails."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Trump says he is willing to shut government unless wall is funded: Politico (Reuters, 11/28/18) 

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would "totally be willing" to shut down the federal government unless Congress authorized $5 billion to fund his long-promised border wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico, according to a Politico interview released on Wednesday.

The greatest gift you could give the Democratic House is control over the budget a year early and him shutting down the government just to show how much he hates minorities.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


A call for freedom in the Muslim world (Ajmal Masroor, 25 November 2018, Middle East Eye)

Change will only come when Muslims embrace the true concept of freedom - when they believe that they were born free, with basic, natural dispositions that encourage them to realise their inner potential and aspirations freely. 

Muslim societies will experience freedom when they accept that they are free from inheriting the sins of their predecessors, and are not responsible for anyone else's mistakes. They deserve to be free from subjugation, oppression, abuse or exploitation by any individual or state. 

Freedom can be achieved in Arab and Muslim countries when the masses accept that their natural human status offers them inherent dignity and honour. They are the subjects only of God, not of any man or woman on Earth. They are responsible to God alone. That is the foundation of real freedom of mind: when you set your mind free, you will be free. 

Most Muslim rulers cannot tolerate intellectual freedom of the masses, let alone political freedom. Change will be sustainable and freedom will proliferate in Muslim-majority countries when citizens are fully committed to their personal accountability to God. The realisation that God is cognisant of all human thought and action offers a brilliant template for personal freedom and responsibility. 

I lament the plight of Muslims who lack this basic feature of their faith. I am also troubled by the lack of real initiatives to end this misery. Freedom will not be attained by prayers alone; the Muslim masses must organise to gain freedom. 

While freedom can be defined as the absence of restraint, societies' consensus-based boundaries help to guard it. In other words, there would be no freedom without restraint. Yet, many Muslim rulers have taken this concept of restraint to a new level. 

They do not hesitate to cut down thousands of people to sustain the status quo. Their reasons for draconian rule are purely selfish. They wish to remain in power eternally and enjoy a nation's wealth illegally. How to return freedom to the Arab and Muslim world requires a rethink and robust action. 

Dictators--secular, Alawite or Salafi--can stall the Arab Spring, not prevent it. Globalization is simply a stronger force than Sunni Islam and Globalization is just Anglofication.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Welfare Chauvinism, Again (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, November 25, 2018, National Review)

For a half a second in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders, the grumptastical Vermont socialist, was out-Bannoning Steve Bannon if not quite out-Penning Marine Le Pen. Senator Sanders, speaking at Iowa union halls with signs out front banning foreign-made cars from the parking lot (an inconvenience to Sanders's Subaru-driving hordes), insisted with great passion that continuing high levels of immigration from poor countries was part of a conspiracy to undermine the economic and political position of the American working class. Sounding for all the world like an alt-right rabble-rouser, he denounced so-called open-borders policies (creating literally open borders is an idea that has approximately zero political constituency in the United States, but, never mind the facts) as a "Koch brothers proposal" that would end up "making people in this country even poorer."

Candidate Trump concurred, eagerly.

The MFA-and-veganism crowd was appalled. Vox called the senator's rhetoric "ugly and wrongheaded," and Latino progressives began to reconsider whether Senator Sanders was the sort of firebrand they really needed. It did not occur to any of them that the self-proclaimed socialist who left behind his native Brooklyn to represent the whitest state in the Union might harbor some atavist nationalist ideas. That is a very old internal division within socialism: The classical Marxists with their commitment to international revolution ran up against the rocks of national identity (and ethnic identity) as Joseph Stalin turned toward national socialism. The great majority of socialist revolutionaries of our era have been nationalists of one stripe or another: Stalin, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Kim il-Sung, Hugo Chávez, etc. Adolf Hitler called his creed national socialism, which, ironically, is a much better description of the beliefs of his mortal enemies.

Nationalism and socialism are mutual attractants, because each is an expression of illiberalism and collectivism. In our time, nationalism and socialism both are adopted mainly as critiques of the liberal internationalism of free trade, free markets, permissive immigration policies, and other institutions and ideologies affiliated with the easy movement of people and goods across national borders. The readers of The Economist and the readers of Monocle might be best thought of as the center-right and center-left wings of the same liberal and cosmopolitan tendency, while the Sanders movement and the Trump movement represent the left and right wings of what is sometimes called welfare chauvinism, a term that is not fraught with the same historical freight as national socialism.

The problem for the Left is that, as the racism of the Right drives the center-right towards the Democratic Party, Labor politics will be swamped by free marketeers and it will end up as the Reaganite open immigration party.

Of course, all it would take is a decent person--Jeb Bush, Nikki Haley, Ben Sasse, etc.--at the top of the GOP ticket in 2020, especially if running against a Bernie, for that tide to be reversed and the party of Reagan/Bush restored.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


NRA's fortunes fell as gun-control groups gained power (LORRAINE WOELLERT, 11/27/2018, Politico)

Revenue at the National Rifle Association fell by $54 million in 2017, a 15 percent decline that coincided with a record number of mass shootings in the U.S. and a rise in spending by gun-control groups.

The gun-rights group posted an even steeper drop in membership dues, which fell 22 percent, or $35 million, to a five-year low, according to documents the NRA filed with the Internal Revenue Service this month. [...]

"This is the first election cycle in history that gun-control groups outspent gun-rights groups," said Anna Massoglia, a researcher with the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit watchdog group. 

November 27, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


We Are All Isaiah Berliners Now (ROBERT ZARETSKY,  NOVEMBER 7, 2018, Foreign Policy)

[A]mong the many isms formed in the crucible of the French Revolution, nationalism proved to have greatest lasting power. From communism to totalitarianism, socialism to liberalism, it is the last great ism standing. For Berlin, the sources of this durability reside in our very nature. "The desire to belong to a community or to some kind of unit, which ... has been national in the last 400 years," Berlin once said, "is a basic human need or desire." This, for Berlin, was less an argument than an acknowledgment--it is, quite simply, how we are built. The need for community is the common grain running through the crooked timber that constitutes humankind.

As for his definition of nationalism, Berlin could prove as hard to pin down as the concept he was hunting. Even sympathetic critics observed that he could contradict himself not just from one article to the next but at times within the same article. Moreover, Berlin did not offer taxonomies as much as he offered tales. His writings on nationalism, with their usual cascades of clauses and subclauses, are discursive and often digressive. (No doubt, Berlin would have agreed with Herodotus's claim that his own many digressions are his history.) Finally, as a student of nationalism, he was more comfortable in the company of those who thought and wrote about it instead of those who channeled and acted upon it.

Nevertheless, Berlin presents a largely coherent account of nationalism, one that he builds out from four fundamental claims. First, nationalism claims that all human beings belong to particular groups whose way of life--language, customs, and culture--differ from one another. The critical corollary is that members of this group simply cannot be understood outside the group that has formed and informed them. Second, it portrays the group as a kind of biological organism, one whose development and ends are primordial. Should the group encounter certain values that are not its own, its own must prevail.

Consequently--and this is the third claim--nationalism declares that the beliefs and principles of this group are to be privileged precisely because they are the group's. There is no higher or greater standard. Finally and fatefully, it holds that a group has the right to force other groups to yield should they come into conflict with it. "Nothing that obstructs that which I recognize as my--that is, my nation's--supreme goal, can be allowed to have equal value with it," Berlin wrote.

It is that resort to biology that makes nationalism inherently racist and anti-American/Christian.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Senate's McConnell says he will 'probably' block bill to shield special counsel (Susan Cornwell, 11/27/18, Reuters)

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he would "probably" block a renewed effort to bring to a vote a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The special counsel is an employee of one branch of government, not the others.  The proper constitutional response to such an obvious obstruction of justice as firing Mr. Mueller is a presidential impeachment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Mercantilism: The theory that explains Trump's trade war (SCOTTY HENDRICKS, 27 November, 2018, Big Think)

The rhetoric he uses when he tries to rationalize the tariffs hits all of the mercantilist concerns on the head. Tariffs against the industries of American allies are framed as issues of national security, free trade agreements are viewed as bad deals, trade surpluses are emphasized as a sign of economic progress.

Even his love of tariffs as a tool harkens back to old-timey economic theories, even economists who call themselves neo-mercantilists don't advise the use of tariffs.

However, he isn't exactly doing it right. Mercantilists like Colbert tried to get raw materials as cheaply as possible while placing tariffs on finished products to encourage domestic production. Currently, the United States is putting tariffs on things like steel that are used to make other products. This, while potentially having economic or political payoffs, is nonsensical from a mercantilist perspective. They would place the tariffs on cars and washing machines, not steel.

What does this mean for the future?

There is a reason that Mercantilism went out with the 18th century.

At the scale of the entire economy, tariffs tend to increase prices and lower employment. They can, however, preserve jobs and profits in the protected industries as intended. The Trade Partnership, a trade and economic consulting firm, estimated that the steel and aluminum tariffs will cost 100,000 jobs while only 30,000 are gained.

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan called the tariffs "insane" and compared them to excise taxes, which are taxes on production. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM

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No, seriously.

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Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Stop Complaining About Your Rent and Move to Tulsa, Suggests Tulsa (SARAH HOLDER,  NOV 16, 201, City Lab)

"I'm a California, New York guy," Michael Basch tells me. "I figured I'd be really bored here."

"Here" is Tulsa, the second-largest city in Oklahoma, known for its new $465 million public park, the Gathering Place, and its annual Chili Bowl. Since moving there earlier this year, Basch says that he hasn't been bored at all. The city may be 1,640 miles and a world away from his old home in Manhattan, but it has its own charms: Tulsa is "super hip," "super unique," and "exclusively un-exclusive," he says. He calls it "the Paris of the Heartland." (Apparently, nobody else does, yet.)

Another big plus is that Tulsa is much, much cheaper to live in than New York City. The median home price here is about $120,000, not nearly $700,000. And, for about 25 lucky telecommuters looking for a change of scenery, it's about to get even more affordable.

Starting this week, remote workers from all over the country can apply to move to Tulsa in exchange for $10,000 in cash, a housing stipend for a fully-furnished apartment in a building downtown, and a desk at a local co-working space. The program, called Tulsa Remote, is being fully funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a Tulsa-based philanthropy (where Basch now consults), and was planned with the city's cooperation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Democrats smash Watergate record for House popular vote in midterms (Jane C. Timm, 11/26/18, NBC News)

Democrats won the House with the largest margin of victory in a midterms election for either party, according to NBC News election data.

Kavanaugh was the final nail in Donald's Proud Boy coffin.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Baroness Trumpington's 11 ballsiest and best quotes (Rosa Silverman, 27 NOVEMBER 2018, The Telegraph)

3. On self defence

"If you are ever attacked in the street do not shout 'help!', shout 'Fire!' People adore fires and always come rushing. Nobody will come if you shout 'help'." [...]

5. On her memoir, Coming Up Trumps

 "I don't understand all this excitement. I didn't write the damn book, and I haven't read it either."

6. On daring to contradict Thatcher

"I thought: if I'm not true to myself, I might as well not exist. Therefore, I'll say what I think and if that's wrong, she can sack me. We fought each other verbally and I would stick to my guns and she would provoke me on purpose, and that was useful to her. It meant she was ready for other opponents."

7. And why their relationship worked

 "In a funny way, she used me because I was never going to agree with her if I didn't agree with her and so arguing gave her somebody else's point of view."

8. On suggesting sheep detonate Falklands minefields

"My point was that you can put a sheep out of its misery and eat it. You can't do that to a man."

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Trump's Christian Apologists Are Unchristian (WILLIAM SALETAN, NOV 25, 2018, Slate)

Many Americans reject Trump because of his meanness, his misogyny, his ethnic demagoguery, and his squalid and abusive personal behavior. But most WEPs don't. In a September poll for the Public Religion Research Institute, two-thirds of white Catholics and white mainline Protestants agreed that Trump had "damaged the dignity of the presidency." Most WEPs said he hadn't. In an ABC News/Washington Post survey taken in August, most whites agreed that Trump was guilty of a crime if it was true that he had directed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to "influence the 2016 election by arranging to pay off two women who said they had affairs with Trump." Trump's core constituency, white men without a college degree, also agreed. But most WEPs didn't.

To accommodate Trump, white evangelicals have retreated from moral judgment of him. In 2011, a PRRI survey asked whether "an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life." At that point, two years into Barack Obama's presidency, only 30 percent of WEPs said yes. But in October 2016, after the release of Trump's infamous Access Hollywood tape, 72 percent of WEPs said yes. The reversal among WEPs was twice as big as similar shifts among Catholics and white mainline Protestants. In a May poll commissioned by the Billy Graham Center, nearly half of black evangelicals said personal character had influenced their voting decisions in the 2016 presidential election. Fewer than 30 percent of white evangelicals said the same.

Many WEPs haven't just surrendered moral judgment. They've abdicated social responsibility. Compared with other whites, they're more resistant to federal spending on poor people. The charitable explanation for this gap is that white evangelicals are skeptical about federal spending, not about helping the poor. But even when survey questions focus on help, not on spending, they're unmoved. The BGC poll asked respondents to choose, from a list of 12 issues and traits, which was most important in determining how they voted in 2016. Among black and Hispanic evangelicals, a candidate's "ability to help those in need" was the second or third most commonly named factor. Among white evangelicals, it ranked almost dead last.

WEPs are also reluctant to acknowledge racism. The September PRRI poll asked whether recent police shootings of black men were "isolated incidents" or "part of a broader pattern of how police treat African Americans." Seventy-one percent of WEPs said such killings were isolated incidents, compared with 63 percent of white Catholics and 59 percent of white mainline Protestants. In the BGC survey, 59 percent of non-evangelical whites agreed with the statement, "I am disturbed by comments President Trump has made about minorities." But a plurality of white evangelicals disagreed with it.

Trump's connection with WEPs on racial issues goes deeper than indifference. It's based on shared identity. In the words of Christian essayist Michael Gerson, evangelicals have degenerated into an "anxious minority," defining themselves as "an interest group in need of protection and preferences." Stetzer, based on his analysis of survey data, finds that race and ethnicity, not faith, are driving much of this process. Many white evangelicals see their religion not as a universal calling but as a heritage that sets them apart. They fear people of other creeds, colors, and languages.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy (Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, 27 Nov 2018, The Guardian)

Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump's campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 - during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump's push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


The White-Supremacy Surge (DAVID FRENCH, November 15, 2018, National Review)

[T]here does appear to be a measurable increase in hate crimes in the United States, with African Americans by far the most targeted group. Hate crimes have been on the rise for three consecutive years (with a 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes in 2017), and there has been a four-year increase in America's ten largest cities.

Included in that number are extraordinarily vicious crimes. The nation still remembers the Charleston church massacre and the deadly alt-right terror attack in Charlottesville, but other terrible crimes, dating to just last year, are largely forgotten. In New York a white supremacist wielding a sword killed a black man. In Kansas, a white man allegedly shouted ethnic slurs before shooting two Indian engineers in a bar, killing one. In Maryland, a member of an "alt-Reich" Facebook group stabbed a young black Army officer to death without provocation. And the killings just keep happening. Two days before the Pittsburgh synagogue mass murder, a Kentucky white supremacist tried to force his way into a black church and then traveled to a Kroger grocery store where he murdered two black victims before he was confronted by an armed citizen.

The killings, however, aren't the entire story. Not by a long shot. The online alt-right onslaughts of 2016 are by this point well documented. Jewish journalists who criticized Trump (including our own Jonah Goldberg and Ben Shapiro) were targeted for relentless anti-Semitic attacks. I suffered a wave of racist hate for having adopted my youngest daughter from Ethiopia.

But along with the anonymous trolls came a new generation of very public spokesmen -- unabashed racists and white nationalists such as Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer and Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute. A constellation of (mostly) young Internet personalities delighted not just in skewering the Left but in shocking the conservative establishment, and they attracted a strange degree of respect. In March 2016, more-mainstream publications, including Breitbart and the Federalist, published long pieces that whitewashed, rationalized, and excused even virulent white nationalism and white supremacy.

In their now infamous "An Es­tablishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt-Right," Breitbart's Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari cast the gang of outright racists and vicious trolls as "young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies." Steve Bannon, Breitbart's former executive chairman, proudly stated that Breitbart was "the platform for the alt-right." In the Federalist, Mytheos Holt wrote a piece, "The Intellectual Case for Trump," that featured a long aside about his relationship with a young white-supremacist woman. It included this paragraph:

The other reason I say the pain experienced by Sylvia's community is unfair is because when you strip away the swastikas, imitation Hugo Boss uniforms, and Klan hoods, there are things that even rabid, clannish white nationalist society does better than our own. Ironically, given their loathing of other cultures, the biggest one is bilingual education.

It turns out they learn German and English. How admirable!

Alt-right figures and outright racists keep turning up in Republican politics. For a time, multiple Republican figures, including Bannon and Virginia GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart, embraced anti-Semite Paul Nehlen. Stewart himself appeared during his primary campaign with Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville.

Then there's Iowa Republican congressman Steve King. He recently endorsed Canadian alt-right activist Faith Goldy in the Toronto mayor's race, dined in Austria with members of that country's far-right Freedom Party, and has endorsed the "great replacement" conspiracy theory that's popular with white supremacists. The theory rests on the belief that there is an intentional global effort to repopulate the predominantly white nations of the West with masses of immigrants. It's the origin, for example, of the "Jews will not replace us" chant during Charlottesville rally. King just won election to his ninth term in Congress.

What is happening? Some on the left have a straightforward explanation. Under Donald Trump, they say, the subtext is becoming text. In other words, the "dog whistle" racism that's the foundation of GOP appeal to much of white America is now out in the open. And as the appeals to white identity become more acceptable, people will feel more comfortable coming out of their racist closet.

Under this formulation, the alleged "economic anxiety" that drove the Trump voter to the polls was but a pretext. White voters were rallying against the Obama coalition, and white-identity politics gave Trump the White House.

There is no doubt that alt-right figures rallied around Trump, and there's no doubt that some still cling to their MAGA hats. Trump's words have emboldened white supremacists, but he is not making them racist.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


10% Of New Vehicles Purchased in California Are EVs (Loren McDonald, 11/12/18, Clean Technica)

Trends in the US often start in California, expand to other Western states and/or Northeastern states, and then fill in eventually in the Midwest and South. This same pattern is also occurring with sales of EVs in the US and is creating in essence green versus brown states, similar to our political division of blue versus red states.

In August, 1 out of 10 (9.90%) new vehicles purchased in the state of California were EVs (PHEVs + BEVs), according to the latest numbers from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Advanced Technology Vehicle Sales Dashboard (information provided by IHS Market). West Virginia came in last at 0.17%, meaning Californians purchased EVs in August at a rate 58.2 times greater than the state that has become heavily associated with the coal industry in recent years.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Trump's incoherence is too much -- and it's getting worse (Jennifer Rubin, November 26, 2018, Washington Post)

The result is likely to be a bipartisan effort to cancel Saudi arms sales and to sanction all those involved. Moreover, with a Democratic House majority, the Democrat-led intelligence and foreign affairs committees can investigate not only the murder and coverup but also Trump's own potential financial conflicts with the Saudis, whom he bragged in the past have purchased tens of millions in real estate properties from him. In the meantime, Trump appears to all but his most deluded cultists to be in the Saudis' pockets, remarkably gullible and/or a liar. On this he remains politically isolated against a united front of our international allies, Democrats, Republicans and our intelligence agencies. (As an aside, one wonders how CIA Director Gina Haspel can remain in an administration in which the president lies about her agency's findings and sides with a foreign power.)

The same lack of coherence and political support appears on the domestic policy front. The Post reports:

President Trump is demanding top advisers craft a plan to reduce the country's ballooning budget deficits, but the president has flummoxed his own aides by repeatedly seeking new spending while ruling out measures needed to address the country's unbalanced budget.

Trump's deficit-reduction directive came last month, after the White House reported a large increase in the deficit for the previous 12 months. The announcement unnerved Republicans and investors, helping fuel a big sell-off in the stock market. Two days after the deficit report, Trump floated a surprise demand to his Cabinet secretaries, asking them to identify steep cuts in their agencies.

As striking as Trump's utter inability to grapple with basic problems, his staff's unwillingness to maintain any semblance of unity and loyalty suggests they no long think it's in their personal interest to be associated with a president who makes mincemeat of one policy issue after another.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Democrat TJ Cox grabs lead over Republican David Valadao in nation's last remaining undecided House race (MARK Z. BARABAK  and MAYA SWEEDLER, NOV 26, 2018, LA Times)

Democrat TJ Cox slipped past Republican incumbent David Valadao on Monday to take the lead in the country's sole remaining undecided congressional race, positioning Democrats to pick up their seventh House seat in California and 40th nationwide.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Qatar Airways to increase flights to Iran despite US sanctions (Mina Aldroubi, November 27, 2018, The National)

Qatar Airlines has announced an increased flight schedule to Iran, following Washington's reimposition of economic sanctions on Tehran's flight industry.

The state-owned Gulf airline said on Monday evening it will add two weekly flights to its existing Doha-Tehran route and an additional three weekly flights on its Shiraz service in January.

It is also expected to launch two weekly flights to Isfahan from February.

"These latest launches are further evidence of Qatar Airways' commitment to Iran, as well as the expansion of our network in this thriving market," Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


GM layoffs are another victory for capital over labor (Christopher Ingraham, November 26, 2018, Washington Post)

General Motors on Monday announced that it is eliminating 15 percent of its salaried workforce and halting production at five of its North American auto plants in an effort to save $6 billion by 2020. Investors reacted to the elimination of 14,000 jobs by driving the company's share price up by nearly 8 percent immediately following the announcement.

That combination of unemployed workers and happy investors underscores a key point about the modern American economy: What's good for corporate profits isn't necessarily good for workers. In fact, and perhaps now more than ever, the interests of a company's workers and shareholders are directly at odds.

On the other hand, the elimination of labor and creation of capital is great for workers.

November 26, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 PM

SEDUCTIVE? (degeneracy alert):

Bernardo Bertolucci was more pervert than genius: His films were boring, too (Dominic Green, November 26, 2018, Spectator USA)

There are three bums in Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), but only one of them is seen on screen. The bum you see belongs to a young actress, Maria Schneider. In the film, Schneider and Marlon Brando, who is having a midlife crisis, meet for anonymous sex in an apartment in Paris. The soundtrack, various jazz tangos by Brazilian saxophonist Gato Barbieri, is the best part of the film. But the most famous part, indeed the only reason anyone ever saw Last Tango in Paris, is the scene in which Brando sodomizes Schneider, using butter as a lubricant.

Schneider was 19 years old at the time, and almost unknown. Brando was 48. He was running to fat, so refused to disrobe. In 2013, Bertolucci admitted that he and Brando had planned and executed the butter scene as a sexual assault on film.

'The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting," Bertolucci said at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris. He wanted, he said, to film Schneider's 'reaction as a girl, not as an actress' -- a 'reaction of frustration and rage'.

Her reaction, that is, to be sexually assaulted on film. Today, Peter Pulver, film editor of the Guardian, praises Bertolucci for his 'heady mixture of radical politics and eroticism' and lists Last Tango in Paris among his 'visually seductive masterworks'. Unfortunately, Maria Schneider is not available for comment. She died in 2011, after travails with depression, drug addiction, mental illness and suicide attempts, and after a second career advocating for women's rights in the film business.

Schneider was adamant that becoming famous in Last Tango's 'butter' scene ruined her life: 'For Tango, I was not prepared. People have identified with a character that was not me,' she said in 2001. 'I started using drugs when I became famous. I did not like the celebrity, and especially the image full of innuendo, naughty, that people had of me after Last Tango.'

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM



More Americans than ever dislike the job President Donald Trump is doing in the White House, a new poll indicated on Monday. 

The latest survey from Gallup showed that Trump's disapproval rating had shot up to 60 percent. 

It's probably a coincidence that he's responding to his Gotterdammerung by gassing minorities...

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


'Race is always the key': Trump dives into cultural firestorm in Mississippi Senate contest (Philip Rucker November 26, 2018, Washington Post)\

President Trump on Monday inserted himself into a searing racial debate here in the cradle of the Confederacy, barnstorming Mississippi on the eve of a Senate runoff election riven by divergent attitudes here about the legacy of segregation and lynching.

With his forceful and unambiguous endorsement of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith -- whose embrace of Confederate traditions and comments about a "public hanging" have revived painful memories of Mississippi's dark history -- the president again dived into a cultural firestorm.

By yoking himself with Hyde-Smith, Trump is backing a politician who said she would sit with a supporter in the front row of a public hanging, donned a Confederate uniform to promote tourism at Jefferson Davis's homestead, and graduated from one all-white segregation academy while sending her daughter to another.

"Race is always the key in which life in Mississippi is played," said Stuart Stevens, a Republican strategist and Mississippi native who wrote a book about growing up here. "It's just always present and it is the greatest determinant, still, in Mississippi of one's path through life."

...he was all in on the pedo next door too.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Only black Republican U.S. congresswoman blasts Trump after defeat (Sharon Bernstein, 11/26/18, Reuters)

"The president's behavior toward me made me wonder, what did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican?" Love told supporters in Utah on Monday. "This gave me a vision of his world as it is. No real relationships, just convenient transactions." [...]

On Monday, Love, a Mormon whose parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti in the 1970s, accused the Republican Party of keeping minority voters at a distance and driving people who might otherwise support conservative policies into the arms of the Democrats.

"Because Republicans never take minority communities into their homes, as citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats," she said, noting that Democrats have just elected new black and female representatives to Congress.

Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as 's[***]hole' countries (Ali Vitali, Kasie Hunt and Frank Thorp V, 1/11/18, NBC News)

"Why do we need more Haitians, take them out," he said, according to sources. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


How the falling cost of solar panels can teach us to make new tech affordable (MEGAN GEUSS, 11/26/2018, Ars Technica)

Solar panels are cheap and getting cheaper. A recent study found that the cost per kilowatt-hour of solar has fallen below coal and gas. Even a recent US tariff on Chinese solar cells and modules (the components that make up solar panels) hasn't been enough to make a dent in the solar industry.

Now, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have built a model to quantify which factors contributed the most to cost-per-watt changes for solar panels since the 1980s.

The results were that better module efficiency was the No.1 cause of declines in solar panel cost per watt between 1980 and 2012, with money from government and private research and development contributing to the bulk of those efficiencies. By 2001, however, economies of scale started playing more of a role in solar panel cost declines. [...]

Across the board, cost declines have been dramatic. Recently, the Department of Energy announced that it had reached a six-cents-per-kilowatt-hour cost goal for utility-grade solar, and the department is now exploring paths to five-cents-per-kilowatt-hour costs for residential solar. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Carlsen's Bizarre Decision Has Sent The World Chess Championship To Overtime (Oliver Roeder, 11/26/18, 538)

For hours, the play in Monday's Game 12 of the World Chess Championship was filthy. Then it was weird. Things did not look drawish! But because of a remarkable decision by the world's top grandmaster, they ended in a draw anyway.

Over more than two weeks, more than 600 moves, 48 hours of play, one scandalous video and one black eye, the world's top two grandmasters have now fought to a dozen straight draws. The World Chess Championship match between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and the U.S.'s Fabiano Caruana remains deadlocked at the end of regulation, and the title will be now be decided by speedy tie-breaking games including, perhaps, a sudden-death format known as Armageddon.

But before the tiebreakers came a wild, oscillating Game 12. Carlsen, with the black pieces, and Caruana, with the white, began with the Sveshnikov Sicilian, just as they had in Game 8 and Game 10. Carlsen was the first to deviate from the earlier contests, perhaps a stratagem to take Caruana out of his seemingly excellent preparation for the championship, and to angle for a decisive result at last. By the 12th move, the two were in uncharted territory, looking at a board that that no two people had created before at this level of chess.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Lewinsky interview renews questions of Clinton crimes (JONATHAN TURLEY, 11/26/18, THe Hill)

The disclosures by Lewinsky reinforce what was previously alleged against Clinton while highlighting that he could have been charged with a number of other crimes. The impeachment centered on the question of whether a president could be impeached for perjury. I appeared in Congress with other experts to debate that question and maintained that lying under oath clearly was an impeachable offense. I disagreed with the other professors at the hearing that there is some subject matter exception for lying about sexual relationships. Federal prosecutors regularly charge people for making false statements without any subject matter limits. The last person you want to give such a license to lie is the president, who heads the executive branch that enforces such laws against all citizens.

While the evidence of perjury was overwhelming, and a federal court affirmed that Clinton committed perjury, Democratic House members voted as a bloc and refused to impeach or convict him. Indeed, many of the lawmakers calling for the investigation and impeachment of Trump previously fought to shield Clinton from such accountability. Back then, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposed not only the impeachment but even the investigation of Clinton, insisting that American women viewed his affair with a White House intern to be a private matter and opposed the "uncontrolled power" of independent counsel Ken Starr. Maxine Waters insisted that Clinton was only "guilty of certain indiscretions in his private life." Jerrold Nadler, the incoming House Judiciary Committee chairman, at the time declared that "perjury regarding sex is not a great and dangerous offense against the nation."

Putting aside that perjury is a crime for which other citizens go to jail, the culpability of Clinton was far broader than just his denial. Clinton, much like Trump, was accused of actively trying to influence witnesses and testimony. He arranged for Lewinsky to meet with attorney Vernon Jordan, who was one of his closest friends and political allies. Jordan then arranged for Lewinsky to be represented by his chosen counsel Frank Carter, who drafted a false affidavit denying any affair. That affidavit was notably delayed in being filed as the scandal grew. Lewinsky, who had virtually no work history or relevant background, was offered a job with Revlon, where Jordan was a powerful member of the board of directors.

Lewinsky said, "Frank Carter explained to me if I signed an affidavit denying having had an intimate relationship with the president it might mean I would not have to be deposed in the Paula Jones case." If Carter knew that the affidavit was false, he committed a deeply unethical act. Lewinsky does not say if Carter knew that she had a sexual relationship with Clinton, but she is clear about one other fact. She stated that Clinton encouraged her to lie to investigators. That would be a federal crime and could be viewed as subornation of perjury and witness tampering.

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 PM


G.M. to Idle Plants and Cut Thousands of Jobs as Sales Slow (Neal E. Boudette and Ian Austen. Nov. 26, 2018, NY Times)

General Motors said Monday that it planned to idle five factories in North America and cut more than 14,000 blue-collar and salaried jobs in a bid to trim costs.

The action follows similar job-cutting moves by Ford Motor in the face of slowing sales and a shift in consumer tastes, driven in part by low gasoline prices.

The five G.M. plants will halt production next year, resulting in the layoff of 3,300 production workers in the United States and about 3,000 in Canada. The company also aims to trim its salaried staff by 8,000.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 AM


In the United States, right-wing violence is on the rise (Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy and Andrew Ba Tran November 25, 2018, Washington Post)

Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama's presidency -- and has surged since President Trump took office.

This year has been especially deadly.Just last month, 13 people died in two incidents: A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an "invasion" has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.

This month brought two more bodies: A military veteran who had railed online against women and blacks opened fire in a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing two women and wounding five. All told, researchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.

While Trump has blasted Democrats as "an angry left-wing mob" and the "party of crime," researchers have identified just one fatal attack in 2018 that may have been motivated by left-wing ideologies.

November 25, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


Congressmen who've seen classified intel dispute Trump on Khashoggi killing (Haley Britzky, 11/25/18, Axios)

Lawmakers Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) all disagree with President Trump's assertion that the CIA has not concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


My New Vagina Won't Make Me Happy (Andrea Long Chu, Nov. 24, 2018, NY Times)

Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. The procedure will last around six hours, and I will be in recovery for at least three months. Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don't expect it to. That shouldn't disqualify me from getting it. [...]

Many conservatives call this crazy. A popular right-wing narrative holds that gender dysphoria is a clinical delusion; hence, feeding that delusion with hormones and surgeries constitutes a violation of medical ethics. Just ask the Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson, whose book "When Harry Became Sally" draws heavily on the work of Dr. Paul McHugh, the psychiatrist who shut down the gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins in 1979 on the grounds that trans-affirmative care meant "cooperating with a mental illness." Mr. Anderson writes, "We must avoid adding to the pain experienced by people with gender dysphoria, while we present them with alternatives to transitioning."

In this view, it is not only fair to refuse trans people the care they seek; it is also kind. A therapist with a suicidal client does not draw the bath and supply the razor. Take it from my father, a pediatrician, who once remarked to me that he would no sooner prescribe puberty blockers to a gender dysphoric child than he would give a distemper shot to someone who believed she was a dog. [...]

Buried under all of this, like a sober tuber, lies an assumption so sensible you'll think me silly for digging it up. It's this: People transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong.

I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones. One reason is that, absent the levies of the closet, years of repressed longing for the girlhood I never had have flooded my consciousness. I am a marshland of regret. Another reason is that I take estrogen -- effectively, delayed-release sadness, a little aquamarine pill that more or less guarantees a good weep within six to eight hours.

Like many of my trans friends, I've watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition. I now feel very strongly about the length of my index fingers -- enough that I will sometimes shyly unthread my hand from my girlfriend's as we walk down the street. When she tells me I'm beautiful, I resent it. I've been outside. I know what beautiful looks like. Don't patronize me.

I was not suicidal before hormones. Now I often am.

Which is, obviously, precisely why it is immoral to do the surgery.  You're making ill people sicker.

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


Former Trump aide George Papadopoulos goes to prison Monday (Bonnie Kristian, 11/25/18, The Week)

Papadopoulos "has failed to demonstrate that the D.C. Circuit is likely to conclude that the appointment of the special counsel was unlawful," Moss wrote, "and, indeed, he has failed even to show that the appeal raises a 'close question' that 'very well could be decided' against the special counsel."

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


'Never Trump' Republicans went Democrat in 2018. Are they gone for good? (Benjy Sarlin, 11/25/18, NBC News)

[Kristin] Olsen, 44, told NBC News that Republicans had already struggled to adapt to a changing state, but the "division, hostility, vindictiveness, and lies" coming from President Donald Trump's White House was a knockout punch.

"It was the straw that broke the camel's back for many, many, many Republican voters," she said.

In the Central Valley, where Olsen is a county official, a surge in Latino turnout overwhelmed four-term Congressman Jeff Denham. But the most jarring losses came in suburban Orange County, an iconic GOP enclave where Richard Nixon was born and buried and where anti-tax activists helped lead the Reagan Revolution. Democrats won all four GOP-held seats.

Figures like Olsen, who identified as Republican but opposed Trump in 2016, were often mocked as irrelevant after his victory. Polls showed Republican voters united behind his presidency, despite nagging opposition from retiring GOP politicians and a handful of conservative pundits.

But the midterm wave, where Democrats won close to 40 seats and romped in the suburbs, seems to have included a lot of voters who look like Olsen.

"It was the revenge of the Never Trumpers in the House," said David Wasserman, an elections analyst for Cook Political Report and an NBC News contributor and senior analyst with the NBC Election Unit.

One analysis by Democratic firm Catalist showed a 24 point swing among white college-educated woman toward Democrats from 2014 to 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


The Triumph of Hindu Majoritarianism: A Requiem for an Old Idea of India (Kanchan Chandra, 11/23/18, Foreign Affairs)

The idea that some form of Hinduism should be recognized in some way by the Indian state resonates among both the cosmopolitans and the dispossessed. What is at issue is how it should be recognized. The BJP is the main political party addressing this concern. Prominent leaders in the party and its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have offered four proposals, all of which raise the crucial questions not just of what place non-Hindus should have in India's political system, but also of who counts as a Hindu, and what counts as legitimate Hinduism. The label "Hindu" encompasses a great range of communities, beliefs, practices, and languages. If Hinduism is to be recognized by the state, whose Hinduism should it be?

The first argument on offer holds that the Indian state should recognize Hinduism as at least symbolically pre-eminent, while guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens, including those from religious minorities. This first-among-equals view calls for India to recognize Hindus in a way that is roughly comparable to the way in which the United States recognizes Christians, for example: by privileging Christmas as a national and official holiday while not privileging the rights of Christians as a religious group. 

This soft pro-Hindu view, often found among those who have joined the BJP directly (that is, not by way of the RSS or its affiliated organizations), challenges the Nehruvian idea of a state equidistant from all religions. That idea is currently enshrined in law: the Indian state does not privilege Hindu religious holidays. Government offices close for the holidays of all major religious groups.

If the first-among-equals view were to become law, it would not necessarily entail inequality in legal or material rights and entitlements, but it would leave non-Hindus lesser owners of their country in a symbolic sense. In addition, it would place those Hindus who do not follow whichever branch of the religion the state ended up recognizing in the same position. If the state is going to mark Hindu holidays, for instance, it would have to decide whether to privilege Diwali (the biggest festival of the year for many north Indian Hindus), Durga Puja (the major festival of Hindus in West Bengal), Ganesh Chaturthi (for those in the west of India), or Onam (the major Hindu festival in Kerala). The pluralist idea of India avoided this problem entirely.

The second argument--call it majoritarianism--goes further. India, it holds, should adopt laws that privilege its Hindu majority while giving non-Hindus diminished legal status. This is the standard position the BJP and many of its leaders have articulated over the last two decades. If majoritarianism were to prevail, India's non-Hindu minorities would become second-class citizens. Many Hindus might become second-class citizens, as well. 

To see this, consider the BJP's position that the Indian state should ban the slaughter of cows because the cow is sacred to Hindus. This idea has assumed a new urgency following a recent spate of lynchings of those, often Muslims, accused of killing cows. Some senior BJP leaders have openly backed the killings. But as with most beliefs associated with Hinduism, some Hindus hold cows sacred and others don't. There are many perfectly traditional beef-eating Hindus, especially in southern and northeastern India. It should be no surprise that many of those lynched for cow slaughter have been Hindus. A rough count conducted by the Hindustan Times of 50 cases of "cow-terrorism attacks" since 2010 in which the identity of victims was discernible found that in at least one out of every four cases, the victim was Hindu, including Dalits (mostly Hindu groups who were once treated as untouchable). There are also many non-traditional atheist Hindus who do not hold the cow sacred. A ban on cow slaughter would discriminate against these Hindus and non-Hindus alike. 

According to the third argument, Hindus constitute not only a religious majority but also a nation in themselves. This nationalist view has long been the position of the RSS and of RSS traditionalists within the BJP. It is also the position reflected in the Citizenship Amendment bill, a proposed law introduced by the BJP in 2016 and now under consideration by parliament, which seeks to covertly privilege Hinduism through amendments to India's citizenship laws. This position would demand the assimilation of India's non-Hindu minorities and has already been by used by the RSS and its affiliates to justify forcing Muslims to convert to Hinduism, a process euphemistically termed "ghar wapsi" or "homecoming." It would require the assimilation of many Hindus, too, into whatever interpretation of Hinduism the state espouses.  

The fourth argument is the most extreme. Its proponents believe that not only should Hinduism form the basis of the nation but India should be a theocratic state with a religious leadership. The BJP and the RSS are not sympathetic to this view. But in 1964, as part of an effort to mobilize the Hindu majority, the RSS created the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or "World Hindu Council," whose professed goal is to unite the Hindu clergy on a single ecclesiastical platform. Although this is not part of the official platform, many in the VHP espouse a theocratic idea of the Hindu nation and have now developed an independent popular base. Last year, Modi appointed the religious leader and VHP member Mahant Avaidyanath to be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. The selection demonstrated the degree of pressure that this theocratic tendency and its constituency exert on the RSS and BJP.

Why Theocracy Is Terrible (Russell Moore, January 8, 2018)

Theocracies are awful and abusive, not only because they oppress human beings but because they also blaspheme God.

To see why, a Christian does not need simply to look at the historical and sociological data on how these theocracies harm their own people; we can also see clearly why this is the case by looking at our own gospel. The central claim of the gospel is that, as the Apostle Paul put it, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time" (1 Tim. 2:6). God rules and reigns through his Word, and his Word tells us that now is the time of God's patience, when all people everywhere are called to repent of sin and find mercy in Christ (2 Pet. 3:9-10).

Does God intend to rule the entire universe, with his will done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10)? Yes, but this kingdom is found in Jesus Christ, not apart from him. Jesus is the one anointed to rule over the cosmos, and anyone else who claims this is a pretender to the throne. Jesus himself has told us that in this time between his kingdom's inauguration and his kingdom's fulfillment, he is gathering a church of redeemed people, making a clear distinction between the church and the world (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

Our call to the world at this point, Jesus tells us, is not to uproot the "weeds" in the garden (Matt. 13:29). We also are not to grab the sort of power that would cause people to pretend as though they were part of God's kingdom--a kingdom that comes through the transforming power of the Word upon the heart--when they are merely cowering before earthly power. Our power comes by the open proclamation of the truth, not by the clattering of the sword (2 Cor. 4:2-3).

Jesus told us to beware those who claim messianic authority between his first and second comings. He will come to us the next time not through some person or committee claiming authority from God, but with obvious, indisputable, and unrivaled glory in the eastern skies. What is hidden now, seen only by faith, will be revealed then, perceived by sight.

Those who claim earthly rule now by divine appointment are, according to Jesus and his apostles, frauds. That's true whether they are seeking a murderous rule over a nation, or whether in a more benign setting they are trying to use God's Word to snuggle up to the local powers-that-be by promising a "Thus saith the Lord" in exchange for a place at the table. This is a claim to speak where God has not spoken. God has made clear, repeatedly, what he thinks of such (Ezek. 34:7-10).

It's the great advantage of Messianism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


Iran, Saudi Arabia and a history of American aggression (Seyed Hossein Mousavian,  22 November 2018, Middle East Eye)

In the Iran-US wrangling over the past three decades, Tehran has repeatedly delivered on its promises, while the US has fallen short. In the late 1980s, President George HW Bush asked Iran to help with the release of Western hostages in Lebanon, vowing "goodwill for goodwill". Iran facilitated the release; in return, the US increased pressure on Iran.  

In 2001, when the US asked for Iran's support in its "war on terror" in Afghanistan, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps gave crucial intelligence to the US military. Tehran also played a constructive role in Afghanistan by throwing its full support behind the US-backed president, Hamid Karzai - but President George W Bush responded by putting it on the "axis of evil". 

According to Ryan Crocker, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, Iranian diplomats were "pragmatic and focused" when it came to assisting in Afghanistan, at one point even producing "an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban's order of battle just before American military action began".

In each of these important episodes, Iran respected the rules of the game, while the US reneged on its promises

That all ended after the infamous "axis of evil" speech, as the Iranian leadership "concluded that in spite of their cooperation with the American war effort, the United States remained implacably hostile to the Islamic Republic".

Iran also delivered on its promises in the 2015 nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy agency repeatedly confirmed that Iran was upholding its end of the bargain - but not only did the US withdraw from the deal, it has also since engaged in a maximum pressure policy, aiming to force Iran to capitulate to its demands.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith pushed resolution praising Confederate soldier's effort to 'defend his homeland' (Eric Bradner and Andrew Kaczynski, November 24, 2018, CNN)

As a state senator in 2007, Hyde-Smith cosponsored a resolution that honored then-92-year-old Effie Lucille Nicholson Pharr, calling her "the last known living 'Real Daughter' of the Confederacy living in Mississippi." Pharr's father had been a Confederate soldier in Robert E. Lee's army in the Civil War.

The resolution refers to the Civil War as "The War Between the States." It says her father "fought to defend his homeland and contributed to the rebuilding of the country." It says that with "great pride," Mississippi lawmakers "join the Sons of Confederate Veterans" to honor Pharr.

The measure "rests on an odd combination of perpetuating both the Confederate legacy and the idea that this was not really in conflict with being a good citizen of the nation," said Nina Silber, the president of the Society of Civil War Historians and a Boston University history professor.

"I also think it's curious that this resolution -- which ostensibly is about honoring the 'daughter' -- really seems to be an excuse to glorify the Confederate cause," Silber said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


God's Gamble: Gethsemane, Free Will, & the Fate of Man: a review of God's Gamble: The Gravitational Power of  Crucified Love, by Gil Bailie  (Dwight Longenecker, 11/25/18, Imaginative Conservative)

God's Gamble is a strong sequel to Mr. Bailie's 1995 volume, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. Of the numerous theological works based on Girard's thought, Mr. Bailie's is the most creative, wide-ranging, and profound. In God's Gamble, he begins by pondering the emergence of homo sapiens wondering if the moral choices recounted in the Garden of Eden story also indicate the evolutionary step from humanoid to human.

This anthropological exploration raises fascinating questions about free will, the knowledge of good and evil, the fall, original sin, and the subsequent bondage to desire, envy, murder, and Girard's perception of ritual sacrifice. Is this very dynamic the crux of the matter? Is humanity's happy fault the crisis that distinguishes us from the apes? Is the knowledge of good and evil both the glory of man and his downfall?

Mr. Bailie then traces the steps from the primeval parents, to the first murder, the compulsion to blame and the emergence of ritual sacrifice in primitive religion. From there he shows how the faith and trials of Father Abraham unlock new understandings of God. He traces the strange history of the Hebrews and the development of religious knowledge, culminating in the breakthrough of the Virgin's affirmation, the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of Christ the Lord.

Mr. Bailie's captivating title comes from his speculation that the heart of the passion narrative is not only the crucifixion, but Christ's herculean mystical struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. Was Christ's abandonment there and on the cross simply his perception of a battle that did not really exist or was there a genuine break--even for a moment--in the union of dynamic love at the heart of the Trinity?

In other words, did God gamble everything in the Garden of Gethsemane, the second Adam facing a real, existential, and eternal choice of going through with the Father's will or backing away from it? If Jesus had refused the cup of suffering would the unity of the Trinity itself have been broken? God's gamble is also therefore in the creation of creatures with free will.... Would the Almighty risk everything to save some knowing that we would also lose some?

Mr. Bailie's book is an important contribution to the ongoing work of plumbing the depths of the providence and the paschal mystery. In every age it is the work of theologians and mystics to make clear the meaning of the saving mystery of the God-Man's self sacrifice. Giving a comprehensive overview from the Eden's garden to Gethsemane's, God's Gamble attempts that effort to re-tell the old, old story of man's fall and God's plan to lift him back again to a restored glory.

The important thing here is that there are really only two choices: either God does have free will and when He despairs on the Cross it represents exactly the sort of break that makes us Man, which then reconciled Him to us; or it was playacting and He had to mouth certain formulae in order to fulfill prophecy.  One story is compelling, the other trivial.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Time to get off our knees and tell the truth about the repulsive torturers of the Emirates (MICHAEL BURLEIGH, 11/24/18, THE DAILY MAIL)

The dark impact of the UAE goes well beyond its own parched borders. The Emiratis have become a leading force for Middle East instability, starting with the influence they hold over Mohammed bin Salman (known as MbS) the notorious Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He is widely blamed for ordering the grotesque murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Fearing liberals and Islamists in equal measure, MbS and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the 57-year-old Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, have embarked on reckless foreign adventures.

In Yemen, the UAE has enthusiastically joined the Saudis in the grinding, bloody war against Iranian-backed Houthi militias, which had ousted the regime that the Saudis support. More than 10,000 people have died while millions are at risk of famine.

Unlike the Saudis - who are conducting an air war, advised by the RAF - the UAE has boots on the ground in Yemen's killing fields, with around 1,000 special forces troops. Their methods are not pretty. It has been authoritatively reported that they run torture centres where inmates are attacked by dogs or sexually assaulted with metal poles.

The UAE has paid mercenaries to travel to Yemen and stoke the conflict. At first, these were former paramilitaries from Colombia and El Salvador, but latterly a private company run by an American-Israeli called Abraham Golan - the 'go-to guy for crazy s***' in the words of the CIA - has supplied former American special forces troops for £1.16 million a month.

Together, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have tried to blockade Qatar, a commercial rival to the UAE, and in so doing have ruptured regional alliances with countries including Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. The Emiratis have also meddled in Syria and Libya.

Their malign influence is felt around the globe, in fact. Wahhabis - followers of the very hardline version of Islam accused of inspiring IS - have significant influence in the UAE, and it is in the fleshpots of Dubai and Abu Dhabi that militant financiers, arms dealers and terrorists mingle - along with plane-loads of Russian and Colombian prostitutes which, unlike mild-mannered academics, are generally welcomed in Emirati clubs, restaurants and bars.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Worker Shortage Is Suppressing Vermont Job Growth, Economists Say (Anne Wallace Allen, 11/24/18, VtDigger)

Vermont's population is the either oldest or second-oldest in the country, depending on the source of information, meaning many people are retiring right now; and Vermont has one of the lowest birthrates in the country, meaning there are fewer young workers to replace them.

Vermont's population decline is well-known, and the Vermont Department of Economic Development has taken steps to address this with programs that encourage people to move to Vermont.

Woolf said migration into Vermont also is suppressed by high taxes and a housing shortage that drives up prices. The state could be doing more to address that, he said. With labor and materials costs similar to those in other states, "something else is driving housing prices, and that's land development and permitting."

State officials also blame the worker shortage.

"The tight labor market in Vermont is what you are really seeing in this data," said Lindsay Kurrle, commissioner of the state Department of Labor. Most states are seeing worker shortages, but the problem is particularly severe in Vermont because of its small population and its unemployment rate, which has been at or below 3 percent for nine months. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.

"We have less than 10,000 people who are actively trying to find a job, so you don't have the resources to fill vacant jobs," Kurrle said. She said her department is trying to recruit people who traditionally run into barriers to employment, including job-seekers with disabilities, people who were incarcerated and people who live in very rural areas.

"It's really hard to move the needle because you're really working on the hardest to employ," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


N.Y., Atlanta Near Showdown (Paul Newberry, 11/24/18, The Associated Press)

These two powerhouses will meet in a two-leg Eastern Conference final, which begins Sunday night before another expected crowd of more than 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The second game will be Thursday night in Harrison, N.J.

"The approach is what it's been all along," said Red Bulls coach Chris Armas, who took over the job at midseason when Jesse Marsch left for a job in Europe . "The last 10 games of the season felt like playoff games. We felt like we couldn't slip up. That's what it feels like now."

The Red Bulls were a charter member of MLS when the league was founded in 1996 (known originally as the MetroStars), and they've been one of MLS' most successful clubs.

But they've never won an MLS Cup, coming closest to a title in 2008 when they lost to Columbus Crew in the final. Despite winning the Supporters' Shield for the third time in six years with 71 points, this team knows that anything less than a championship will be viewed as a failure.

"Yeah, it's been an amazing season," Armas said. "But we're 23 years going, and there's a cup out there we want really bad."

In just two seasons, United has quickly emerged as a league's marquee franchise, featuring two of the league's most dazzling players (Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez and Miquel Almiron, both MVP finalists) and boasting some of the best fan support of any club in the world. Atlanta broke its own attendance record this season, averaging more than 53,000 per game at its dazzling, retractable-roof home.

But even with all that success, there's something missing.

A trophy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Hungary: Thousands rally for George Soros-founded Central European University (Deutsche-Welle, 11/24/18)

Thousands of people have protested in Budapest in support of a university founded by US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros that plans to leave the country amid strong pressure from Hungary's right-wing government. [...]

The 2017 law that launched the legal dispute was one reason cited by the European Parliament for its decision to launch unprecedented legal action against Hungary in September.

Attracting students from over 100 countries and offering US-accredited masters programs, CEU, founded in 1991, has long been seen by the nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a hostile bastion of liberalism.

Orban's government has clamped down on academic freedom more broadly in recent years, banning universities from teaching gender studies in October. 

Orban has also targeted Soros personally, accusing the Hungarian-born philanthropist of destroying European civilization by promoting illegal immigration into the country.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM



According to tradition, Japanese schoolchildren preparing for entrance exams are encouraged to live by the exhausting credo of yontougoraku -- "sleep four hours, pass; sleep five hours, fail."

In other words, at an early stage in people's lives, Japanese society transmits the message that sleep has intrinsically less worth than wakefulness and is a commodity that can -- and should -- be traded for something more valuable.

"Sleep debt" has become a national focus, but it remains unclear whether managers see this as anything more sinister than just the cost of business.

However, a small company in Tokyo called Crazy, an upmarket wedding-planning boutique, has taken an unexpectedly bold stand and decided to reward sleep. It will pay its staff a bonus if they prove they sleep longer each night. If they are able to keep up a steady pace of extended slumber and manage to get at least six hours on all weekday nights, workers can accumulate the equivalent of 64,000 yen ($562) a year.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Former IDF head spooks Israel's entire political spectrum (Mazal Mualem, November 21, 2018, Al Monitor)

So far, Netanyahu himself has been behind this policy of ignoring Gantz. But all that finally came to an end this week when a Channel 10 poll showed Gantz winning about 15 seats. Another poll, this one by Hadashot, made matters worse, asking, "Who would you like to see as defense minister?" It gave Gantz a significant edge over Netanyahu (28% to just 7%) on the very day that the prime minister officially took over as defense minister, following Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Liberman's resignation.

Gantz has not yet officially announced that he will launch a new party. He has remained silent about his plans, leaving the feeling that all options are open to him, including the possibility of joining one of the existing center-left parties. On the other hand, the more flattering the polls are to him, the greater his appetite will become. In other words, the chances of him joining an existing party before the next election are dwindling.

Netanyahu knows how to read between the lines. He has a deep understanding of trends in the polls, regardless of whether the results are made public or if they are gleaned from privately ordered surveys. He certainly knows that his image as Mr. Security suffered a devastating blow as a result of recent events in Gaza. The trouble came to a climax last week, when Netanyahu came under a barrage of criticism from the leaders of the other right-wing parties. Liberman resigned and while Education Minister Naftali Bennett (HaBayit HaYehudi) may have remained in the government, he thinks that Netanyahu failed.

As a former IDF chief of staff, Gantz is no less a security expert than Netanyahu. On the other hand, he is not tainted by corruption and is regarded by the public as a suitable candidate. Even when Netanyahu was at his lowest point in the polls, there was no one who could challenge his high levels of public support or question his suitability as prime minister or "Mr. Security." Gantz can.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Neo-Nazis Idolize Fox News' Tucker Carlson (MediaMatters, 11/25/18)

White supremacist podcasts praise the Fox host for elevating white supremacist discourse into mainstream conservative media, talking about demographic change in America, and for his position on the Syrian civil war. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke described Carlson as his "favorite commentator" and praised him for "naming the Jews" on his nightly show. White supremacist Mike "Enoch" Peinovich bragged that the "alt-right" is "putting things into the zeitgeist" that Carlson has "picked up." Daily Stormer writer Eric Striker lauded Carlson for offering "real analysis [and] real solutions" for white nationalists and that "he single handed has risen right-wing discourse by mountains." Duke associate Patrick Slattery said "on a lot of things, [Carlson]'s our only voice to a large extent."

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM

FINAL DISAPPEARANCE (profanity alert):

Secrets of the Magus: Ricky Jay does closeup magic that flouts reality. But, rather than headline in Las Vegas, Jay prefers to live in the mysterious world of ancient mountebanks, eccentric entertainers, and sleight-of-hand artists, whose secrets he preserves with a scholarly passion, and who are his true peers in the realm of illusion. (Mark Singer, 4/05/93, The New Yorker)

The playwright David Mamet and the theatre director Gregory Mosher affirm that some years ago, late one night in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, this happened:

Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher's named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.

"Three of clubs," Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.

He turned over the three of clubs.

Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, "Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card."

After an interval of silence, Jay said, "That's interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time."

Mosher persisted: "Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card."

Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, "This is a distinct change of procedure." A longer pause. "All right--what was the card?"

"Two of spades."

Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.

The deuce of spades.

A small riot ensued.

Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year's Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron's request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several dazzling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, "Come on, Ricky. Why don't you do something truly amazing?"

Baron recalls that at that moment "the look in Ricky's eyes was, like, 'Mort--you have just [****]ed with the wrong person.' "

Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, "The three of hearts." After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they travelled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.

"O.K., Mort, what was your card again?"

"The three of hearts."

"Look inside the bottle."

Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.

One morning last December, a few days before Christmas, Jay came to see me in my office. He wore a dark-gray suit and a black shirt that was open at the collar, and the colors seemed to match his mood. The most uplifting magic, Jay believes, has a spontaneous, improvisational vigor. Nevertheless, because he happened to be in New York we had made a date to get together, and I, invoking a journalistic imperative, had specifically requested that he come by my office and do some magic while I took notes. He hemmed and hawed and then, reluctantly, consented. Though I had no idea what was in store, I anticipated being completely fooled.

At that point, I had known Jay for two years, during which we had discussed his theories of magic, his relationships with and opinions of other practitioners of the art, his rigid opposition to public revelations of the techniques of magic, and his relentless passion for collecting rare books and manuscripts, art, and other artifacts connected to the history of magic, gambling, unusual entertainments, and frauds and confidence games. He has a skeptically friendly, mildly ironic conversational manner and a droll, filigreed prose style. Jay's collection functions as a working research library. He is the author of dozens of scholarly articles and also of two diverting and richly informative books, "Cards as Weapons" (1977) and "Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women" (1986). For the past several years, he has devoted his energies mainly to scholarship and to acting in and consulting on motion pictures. Though he loves to perform, he is extremely selective about venues and audiences. I've attended lectures and demonstrations by him before gatherings of East Coast undergraduates, West Coast students of the history of magic, and Midwestern bunco-squad detectives. Studying videotapes of him and observing at first hand some of his serendipitous microbursts of legerdemain have taught me how inappropriate it is to say that "Ricky Jay does card tricks"--a characterization as inadequate as "Sonny Rollins plays tenor saxophone" or "Darci Kistler dances." None of my scrutinizing has yielded a shred of insight into how he does what he does. Every routine appears seamless, unparsable, simply magical.

November 24, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


New book by Trump advisers alleges that the president has 'embedded enemies' (Philip Rucker November 24, 2018, Washington Post)

Two of the president's longest-serving advisers allege in a new book that scores of officials inside the White House, Congress, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are "embedded enemies of President Trump" working to stymie his agenda and delegitimize his presidency. [...]

The authors describe a cohort of White House aides -- including former press secretary Sean Spicer and former deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin -- as "the November Ninth Club," arguing that they are establishment Republicans who did not fully support Trump until the day after he was elected, when they began angling for powerful government jobs.

Lewandowski and Bossie also savage former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn as a "limousine liberal" and "the poster boy for the disloyal staff conspiring against President Trump." And they accuse former staff secretary Rob Porter of working to thwart Trump's agenda and style to make him more traditionally "presidential."

The narrative reads in part like Trump's Twitter grievances in book form. Lewandowski and Bossie write at length about the same FBI and Justice Department officials whose names pepper so many presidential tweets -- Comey, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok and Sally Yates. And they go after the same intelligence officials that Trump often targets -- James R. Clapper Jr. and John Brennan -- and accuse them of wanting to "nullify the election and bring down the president" by detailing Russia's interference.

The authors also go after many of Trump's Democratic foes. They refer to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as "crazy"; call Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) "many people's favorite liberal wacko"; and label Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) an "enemy of President Trump." They also spell out former president Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, echoing a common Republican tactic meant to falsely suggest that the 44th president is a Muslim.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


'America's straightest arrow': Robert Mueller silent as urgency mounts (David Taylor, 24 Nov 2018, The Guardian)

Robert Swan Mueller III wears a $35 Casio watch with the face on the inside of his left wrist, in the style of an infantryman trying to avoid giving away his position with a glint of sunshine off the glass.

Covert and careful, Mueller is still moving with stealth in Washington DC, 50 years after he was shot and wounded in Vietnam as a first lieutenant in the US Marines.

For 18 months now, the former long-serving director of the FBI has been the calm centre of a gathering storm which may be about to break over Donald Trump's White House. [...]

In attempting to discredit Mueller, Trump has implied that the lifelong Republican is a partisan stooge of Barack Obama. In fact, since the 1980s, Mueller has been appointed to public positions - as prosecutor and investigator - by five consecutive presidents, one of them called Reagan and two of them called Bush.

He was inherited by Obama as director of the FBI, and was so widely admired that when his term limit of 10 years in the job approached, the Senate voted 100-0 to change the law so that he could stay on for two more years.

Garrett Graff, author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror, interviewed Mueller for about 12 hours for the 2011 book. He said: "He is probably America's straightest arrow, very by-the-book, very professional."

The word integrity seems to be almost sewn into the fabric of his pin-striped suits. "It's why [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein brought him into this role of special counsel," Graff said, "because he is probably the one person in Washington that you could never accuse of having a partisan agenda - he's always seen things with a very strong moral compass, instilled in him by his father, and really sees the world with a pretty black and white, right or wrong vision."

The salient point is that if he says there is no evidence that Donald knew of the co-ordination between his campaign and the Russians it will be believable. But if he does find evidence then Donald should be removed from office.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


3D-printed vegan steak and fries? Israeli startup says it has replicated meat (Times of Israel, 11/24/18)

An Israeli startup hopes to disrupt the vegan food market by developing 3D printing technology that will be able to produce meat substitutes using plant-based formulations, saying the final product very closely resembles the experience of consuming natural meat. Its founder says it has "replicated... the complex matrix that is meat."

Jet Eat, which was established in early 2018 by Eshchar Ben Shitrit, aims for its products to hit the markets by 2020.

Ben Shitrit, according to the Israeli tech blog NoCamels, was an avid meat consumer before he set his mind on a substitute using natural, healthy ingredients, without compromising on flavor or consistency.

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"Meat is characterized by four components: the muscle, the fat within it, myoglobin and a connective tissue" Shitrit explained. "We replicated, with our 3D printer and precise formulations, the complex matrix that is meat."

The potential savings in health care costs and environmental degradation are incalculable. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Trump Claims He Already Shut Down The Border In Puzzling Exchange With Reporters (Mary Papenfuss, 11/24/18, HuffPost)

"Actually two days ago we closed the border," Trump said at Mar-a-Lago during a meeting with journalists. "We actually just closed it. We said nobody's coming in because it was out of control." (See the video above at 16:10)

Then he walked back what he had just insisted, saying he would shut the border in the future if it's necessary, "if we find that it gets to a level where we are going to lose control."

But minutes later he returned to his insistence that he had already closed the border.

"I've already shut it down, I've already shut it down -- for short periods," he said in response to a question to clarify the shutdown.

"I've already shut down parts of the border because it was out of control with the rioting on the other side in Mexico. And I just said, 'Shut it down.' You see it. I mean, it took place two days ago." (19:00)

When someone asked if he had to sign an order to shut it down, Trump responded: "Yeah, they call me up, and I sign an order."

Asked if the media could get a copy, Trump responded: "You don't need it. Don't worry. It's not that big a deal. Maybe to some people it is."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 PM


Report: Bill Shine to Get Paid by Fox News and White House Simultaneously (Daily Beast, 11/24/18)

White House communications chief Bill Shine received an $8.4 million severance package upon leaving Fox News in May 2017 and will continue to be paid by the network for two more years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM

80-20 NATION:

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


Lose Fat and Tighten Your Abs, Just By Lying There: In the future, machines like the EMSculpt may do your exercise for you. And frankly, they'll be better at it. (Chris Rovzar, November 22, 2018, Bloomberg)

"Some people call it 'roids without the rage," explains Dr. Ryan Neinstein, a board certified plastic surgeon on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He's describing a new technology that zaps his patients' ­abdominal and gluteal ­muscles to the tune of thousands of crunches and squats in one session. "We like to say it's 'athletic meets aesthetic.' "

The FDA-approved EMSculpt machine sends high-­intensity, focused electromagnetic waves into the body, provoking intense muscle contractions in select areas. It can be uncomfortable, but it's not painful--and there's little ­soreness afterward. Unlike the similar e-stim "As Seen on TV" staples of late-night ­infomercials, according to Neinstein, after four ­visits in two weeks, his clients see results. A clinical study of 22 users showed that patients experienced an average 20 percent reduction in body fat in that time, and a 15 percent increase in muscle in their stomachs and butts.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


The Truth About George Soros: Understanding the Jewish billionaire--who is neither the villain of right-wing caricature, nor the angel of left-wing hagiography (James Kirchick, November 18, 2018, Tablet)

Back in the days when I worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, covering the politics and societies of a vast expanse of territory stretching from Belarus to Kyrgyzstan, hardly a day went by without my encountering the good works of George Soros. It was in Prague, my home base, where the Hungarian-born financier began as a backer of worthy causes by presciently supporting Charter 77, the pro-democracy movement led by the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel. My boyfriend at the time hailed from neighboring Slovakia, a country whose authoritarian leader, Vladimir Meciar, had been brought down in 1998, partly through the dedicated work of groups funded by Soros' Open Society Foundations (OSF). Another ex took his graduate degree from Central European University, the Budapest-based institution founded by Soros and which is currently under threat of being expelled from the country by right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

By the time I finished my European tour of duty, it had become axiomatic that, were I to encounter a democracy activist in Baku, a lesbian-rights campaigner in Bishkek, or a press freedom advocate in Belgrade, more likely than not they would have been beneficiaries of a Soros grant, scholarship, or in his employ. To take but one example of his generosity and foresight usually overlooked both by his detractors and fans, he is by far the largest private benefactor to the cause of the Roma--those long-persecuted, socially excluded, forgotten people of Europe.

Soros was remarkably clairvoyant about the vast amounts of money, expertise, and political commitment that would be necessary to repair the damage Communism had wrought on Central and Eastern Europe. At a 1989 conference in Potsdam, just months before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Soros proposed a Marshall Plan for the region. He was, he later recalled, "literally laughed at." So Soros did what he has since repeatedly done upon encountering a problem that no one seemed intent on fixing: He shelled out his own money.

Over the course of the subsequent three decades, Soros spent billions of dollars funding organizations and initiatives devoted to promoting liberal democracy, independent media, good government, transparency, and pluralism across the former Soviet space. It was all work that the United States and its allies in Western Europe should have been funding, but, as a consequence of the post-Cold War hangover, shortsightedly scrimped. A Holocaust survivor, Soros personally experienced the fragile nature of democracy, and rightly worried that the region could revert back to its dark traditions unless the West consolidated democracy, human rights, the rule of law and market economies. Almost 30 years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, his fears look evermore prescient.

"The system of robber capitalism that has taken hold in Russia is so iniquitous that people may well turn to a charismatic leader promising national revival at the cost of civil liberties," Soros wrote in 1997, three years before a former KGB colonel named Vladimir Putin would be plucked from relative obscurity to become president of that benighted land. "As things stand, it does not take very much imagination to realize that the global open society that prevails at present is likely to prove a temporary phenomenon."

Obviously, America could greatly use the steadfast defender of political inquiry and free thought that George Soros was, and continues to be, in Eastern Europe. But here in America, Soros chose another route, to support a team rather than a mission. And on that team are some of the forces of illiberalism that threaten to rip apart the open society here in the same way that those on the other end of the political spectrum are ripping it apart in Europe.  [...]

The American conservative critique of George Soros carries a different valence than the European right-wing nationalist one, and for two reasons. The first is rooted in simple geography. When the government of Hungary, a country from where over 600,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz with the connivance of a local gendarmerie whose efficiency impressed even the SS, launches an all-of-government crusade against a prominent Jewish figure, and does so in the midst of an already extensive campaign of Holocaust revisionism encompassing the creation of new historical institutes, museums, history textbooks, and a memorial in Budapest's most prominent public square dedicated to whitewashing the country's past crimes, it is unquestionably anti-Semitic.

Why? Because it is clearly part of a large, concerted, overtly anti-Semitic campaign of historical revisionism, which aims to demonize Jews while at the same time whitewashing atrocities committed against them, on behalf of people who claim a direct historical descent from the perpetrators of those atrocities.

When, on the other hand, American conservatives, who claim no such blood-and-soil fascist pedigree, and operate in a completely different socio-cultural-political environment, assert that George Soros generously funds a variety of partisan Democratic and left-wing organizations--a well-documented fact, despite the protestations of The Washington Post's "Fact Checker"--well, it certainly has the potential for being anti-Semitic, if those conservatives deploy traditionally anti-Semitic tropes. But the mere mention of George Soros' name in connection with the many political outfits he funds is not intrinsically anti-Semitic. Many American conservatives oppose Soros not because he's Jewish. They oppose him because he's liberal.

Jonah Goldberg's discussion with Mr. Kirchick was excellent, Remnant Podcast: Episode 72: A Riot of Nuance (November 20, 2018).  The obvious point is that you have to be able to recognize when the critic is exploiting implicit tropes.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


The Camp fire burned homes but left trees standing. The science behind the fire's path (THOMAS CURWEN  and JOSEPH SERNA, NOV 20, 2018, LA Times)

[T]he popular perception is that wildfires burn through these communities like a wall of flames. In fact, small, burning embers -- firebrands -- blown in advance of the fire are the primary cause of structural fires.

"When we look at the big flames but not the firebrands, we miss the principal igniter and pay attention to the show," Cohen said.

Billions of these embers fly into neighborhoods, landing onto flammable roofs, into vegetation around the structure and rain gutters choked with leaves and needles.

Big flame fronts, on the other hand, are less effective in igniting structures because they burn fast -- often consuming their fuels in about a minute or less in one location -- and move along often so quickly as to not consume the structures themselves.

Yet in the face of increasingly severe and deadly wildfires throughout the country, Cohen maintains that it is possible to decrease the vulnerability of urban development in the face of these events.

"Uncontrolled extreme wildfires are inevitable," he said, "but does that mean these disasters are inevitable? No. We have great opportunities as homeowners to prevent our houses from igniting during wildfires."

Pangburn's assessment -- that the Camp fire in Paradise was an urban conflagration, structure to structure -- opens the door for fire behaviorists to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the state's codes for protecting property in fire-prone, rural environments.

The mandate in California, as stated in Public Resources Code Section 4291, is clear: A 100-foot perimeter of "defensible space" must be maintained in "land that is covered with flammable material."

While the 100-foot requirement is appropriate, it is important to begin thinking closer to the structure itself and work out in concentric circles, Cohen said.

"We have to take care of everything from five feet out," he said, "so that when it burns, it doesn't produce enough radiation to ignite the structure or produce enough flames to contact the structure."

The goal is to distinguish between structure fires and wildland fires and to understand that communities can be separated from wildland fire.

We don't have to live in ammo bunkers, Cohen said, and we don't have to entirely eliminate fire from within the perimeter, just ensure that fires that occur within 100 feet don't burn long enough or intensely enough to ignite other objects.

A defensible perimeter also provides residents with more safety options as fire approaches.

Cohen refers to the story of the medical staff and patients from the hospital in Paradise who took refuge in a home. Climbing on the roof with hoses and clearing pine needles from the rain gutters, they were able to survive.

"A house that doesn't burn is the best place to be during a wildfire," he said.

However, the 100-foot requirement in California stops at the property line, which creates a situation where homes can be built beside one another within that perimeter.

If multiple homes share this perimeter, then each home is a potential ignition source, and homeowners cannot create a defensible space beyond their property line if that means trespassing on someone else's property.

"All it takes is one house to catch on fire, and the heat and embers put the other houses in jeopardy," Pangburn said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Jamal Khashoggi's Murder Reveals the Rot at the Center of U.S.-Gulf Ties (Judah Grunstein, Oct. 17, 2018, WPR)

The immediate fallout from Khashoggi's murder has tainted the two principal architects and managers of current U.S.-Saudi ties, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. The incident and its immediate aftermath revealed the extent to which the bilateral relationship has been personalized in the hands of the impetuous and reckless young royal and the inexperienced and unqualified White House adviser. There is no way of knowing what side arrangements the two have struck as part of their broader bargain over regional policy, as their conversations have often taken place outside of formal channels with no official documentation or follow-up. But Kushner's urgent need for capital to save his family's real estate business combined with Saudi Arabia's culture of corruption makes such private channels a red flag for potential conflict of interest. In any case, Kushner has clearly been tainted by his close association with the now-toxic MBS. 

The same is true for the Washington think tank ecosystem, which is awash in Saudi and other Gulf money. This problem is neither new nor unreported, but the Khashoggi affair has once again shined the spotlight on it. In all fairness, there is no proof that the Gulf Arab states' patronage of Washington think tanks changes or determines their experts' opinions. In most cases, it serves more to amplify sympathetic voices than to outright buy them. Nor are the Gulf states the only U.S. partners that seek to shape policy debates in Washington, whether through think tanks or professional lobbyists. In normal times, the influence bought by Gulf money smacks of simple corruption, and U.S. support for the Gulf regimes can be justified by the realpolitik necessities of navigating the region. But the shocking nature of Khashoggi's murder highlights the Gulf states' political illiberalism and the disconnect between U.S. values and policy in ways that are more difficult to defend and sustain.

The rot extends to America's private sector, as illustrated by the mad scramble among U.S. corporations to distance themselves from the upcoming Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, the so-called Davos in the Desert conference. The most visible aspects of the problem are in the energy, financial and weapons industries. President Donald Trump pointedly refused to cancel any of the pending Saudi arms purchases--whose actual value is far below the $110 billion he has trumpeted--as part of any punitive measures for Riyadh's involvement in Khashoggi's death. But MBS' most recent tour to the U.S. earlier this year included a high-profile stop in Silicon Valley, the destination for billions of dollars in Saudi investment across a range of tech start-ups. And it's particularly troubling that so many media companies were among the sponsors of the Riyadh conference, even if they have withdrawn from the event under the circumstances.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Hyde-Smith Attended All-White 'Seg Academy' to Avoid Integration (Ashton Pittman, November 23, 2018, Jackson Free Press)

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith attended and graduated from a segregation academy that w[as] set up so that white parents could avoid having to send their children to schools with black students, a yearbook reveals.

A group photo in the 1975 edition of The Rebel--the Lawrence County Academy Yearbook--illustrates the point. High-school cheerleaders smile at the camera as they lie on the ground in front of their pom-poms, fists supporting their heads. In the center, the mascot, dressed in what appears to be an outfit designed to mimic that of a Confederate general, offers a salute as she holds up a large Confederate flag.

Third from the right on the ground is a sophomore girl with short hair, identified in the caption as Cindy Hyde.

The photo, and the recently appointed Republican senator's attendance at one of the many private schools that was set up to bypass integration, adds historic context to comments she made in recent weeks about a "public hanging" that drew condemnations from across the political spectrum.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


How the Khashoggi killing ruinously defined Trump (Jackson Diehl, November 23, 2018, Washington Post)

The Khashoggi affair similarly confirms several fundamental truths about Trump. The first and most obvious is that his narrow, idiosyncratic and sometimes personal interests take precedence over the defense of traditional American values and even the expectation of honest treatment by an ally. Not just Mohammed's fellow Arab rulers but despots everywhere will study this case and conclude: If you heap flattery on Trump, court him with exotic entertainment, patronize his family businesses and promise to buy American, you can get away with outrages that would once have ensured censure and sanction from Washington.

The United States has always tolerated human rights abuses by friendly dictators, but there were limits -- as Chile's Augusto Pinochet, the shah of Iran and, more recently, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak discovered. By refusing to impose sanctions on the Saudi crown prince even after the CIA concluded he was responsible for the Khashoggi murder, Trump has set a new standard. No atrocity is too much -- not even sawing up a critical journalist and then baldly lying about it to the president and secretary of state.

The resulting open season on dissidents, journalists and human rights activists by regimes that used to worry about U.S. reaction will be compounded by a second Trump message: Abductions and murders in other countries are now okay. Western governments have been trying to resist a dangerous trend of international kidnappings and assassinations by Russia and China. Vladi­mir Putin incurred new sanctions when he tried to poison a KGB defector in Britain. Yet Trump showed no particular interest in the fact that Khashoggi was attacked not just on the territory of another nation but inside a diplomatic facility, a double offense to international norms nearly unprecedented in its audacity. That Turkey is a NATO member that the United States is bound to defend also didn't matter.'s not about his personal interests: it's about ideology.  He and his movement hate Muslims and support oppressing them. It's why they hate Iran and love the Sa'uds.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


'Not welcome': Tunisians decry Saudi crown prince's planned visit (Al Jazeera, 11/24/18)

[Saida Qarash, a spokesperson of the Tunisian government,]  said Tunisia condemns Khashoggi's murder, and stressed that her country's position calls for revealing the truth.

According to Tunisian activist and former leader of the al-Irada party Tarek Kahlawi, hundreds of people are expected to gather in front of the presidential palace in Carthage, in conjunction with the crown prince's arrival.

"It is a shame that Tunisia, which has witnessed a democratic transition and a revolution against tyranny and dictatorship, will receive a criminal whose hands were stained with the blood of Saudis and Yemenis," he told Al Jazeera.

Kahlawi explained that the protest tent is a "citizenship initiative" that was called upon by all political parties to protest against the visit of the crown prince.

Hamma Hammami, the spokesperson of the main opposition Popular Front party, also condemned the upcoming visit of MBS and considered it a "provocation to the Tunisian people and its revolution and principles".

"We will not welcome the devastator of Yemen and its people, the one who is suspected of being behind the gruesome killing of Khashoggi, and the leader of normalising with the Zionist entity at the expense of the Palestinian people," Hammami told a local Tunisian radio station.

For his part, Emad Al-Daimi, the leader of the People's Movement party, warned Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in a Facebook post of the consequences of "committing a mistake by allowing bin Salman to desecrate the soil of Tunisia."

A team of Tunisian lawyers said they would file a lawsuit, commissioned by bloggers and journalists who are demanding a ban on the visit.

In an open letter addressed to Essebsi, the Tunisian press syndicate said the aim of MBS' visit to Tunisia was to "whitewash his bloody record because of his involvement in human rights violations".

Donald, Israel and the Sa'uds oppose everything Tunisia stands for.

Bahrain holds elections with ban on opposition groups (Al Jazeera, 11/24/18)

Bahrain's Sunni-Muslim ruling Al Khalifa family has kept a lid on dissent since the Shia opposition staged a failed uprising in 2011. Saudi Arabia sent in troops to help crush the unrest in a mark of concern that any power-sharing concession by Bahrain could inspire Saudi Arabia's own Shia minority.

Riyadh regards the neighbouring island nation, which does not possess vast oil wealth like other Gulf states, as a critical ally in its proxy wars with Iran in the Middle East.

Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has closed the main opposition groups, barred their members from running in elections and prosecuted scores of people, many described by human rights groups as activists, in mass trials.

"Clearly, legislatures from the world's leading democratic states believe that the upcoming election in Bahrain lacks legitimacy. You simply cannot crush, torture and imprison your entire opposition, call for a pseudo-election, and then demand the respect of the international community," said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Feminists' Undue Process: Ideologues react hysterically to the Trump administration's suggested reforms to campus-rape tribunals. (Heather Mac Donald, November 23, 2018, City Journal)

Opposition to the Kavanaugh nomination was based on the principle that self-professed "survivors" must be believed and that accused males must be condemned, regardless of the paucity of evidence against them. That principle, already ubiquitous on college campuses, got an assist from the federal government in 2011, when the Obama administration released a so-called guidance (an informal federal directive of murky legal status) on college rape proceedings. The guidance strongly discouraged cross-examination of the accuser and required schools to use the lowest possible standard of proof for finding a defendant guilty of sexual assault. It promulgated a broad definition of actionable sexual harassment--"unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature"--that ignored relevant Supreme Court precedent and that would extend to an unwanted request for a date. Since 2011, due-process deficiencies in campus-rape proceedings have become ever more widespread. Colleges routinely deny defendants the opportunity to review all the evidence, fail to provide an impartial decision-maker, and ignore the presumption of innocence. The accused is regularly forbidden the assistance of counsel. In 2014, a Title IX officer at Washington and Lee University issued a lugubrious warning to a male student--"a lawyer can't help you here"--before expelling him for sexual assault.

The proposed Education Department regulation tries to end these abuses. Ironically, in an administration regularly charged with ignoring the law, the DOE has carefully followed the legal framework for promulgating new federal rules. The 2011 Obama guidance was issued as a fait accompli; Donald Trump's DOE, by contrast, is giving the public the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule before it becomes final.

And the feminist establishment is responding as it does to any challenge to its ideological hegemony: with an attack of the vapors. The manager of Know Your IX, an advocacy group, first heard about the new regulation in a grocery store and sank to the ground in shock, she said. How her fellow shoppers viewed this Victorian swoon is unknown, but it recalls the flight of MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins when Harvard's then-president Larry Summers was discussing the unequal sex distribution of high-end math skills. Hopkins would have thrown up had she stayed in the room, she later explained. NARAL, the abortion-rights group, tweeted that the new campus-rape tribunal rule was "absolutely sickening."

It is the extension of due-process rights to males accused of sexual assault that sickens the activists. In their view of justice, due process is zero-sum: if a male receives procedural rights, the female accuser must by definition lose hers. "These changes are designed to flip Title IX on its head and give rights to accused students when Title IX was supposed to be protecting those experiencing sexual discrimination," a senior staff attorney with SurvJustice told the Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Ideologues already know the only verdict they'll accept.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Japanese restaurants embrace robots as labor crunch bites (WATARU SUZUKI and JADA NAGUMO, 11/24/18, Nikkei)

At lunchtime, the Sushiro restaurant near Tokyo's Ogikubo train station is packed with families, couples and business people, but one thing is missing: staff.

Instead of receptionists, diners use a touch panel to find a table. At their seats, they navigate a tablet to order from a menu spanning some 130 items including sushi, ramen noodles, fried chicken and hot coffee. The dishes are delivered directly to the table via a conveyor belt. A self-serving register awaits them on their way out.

Staff can be found inside the kitchen, where they tirelessly churn out as many as 1,500 dishes per hour. But instead of skilled sushi chefs, many are young foreign part-time workers who have never eaten sushi in their home countries. Their lack of experience is complemented by a dazzling array of machines that mold rice, boil noodles and tell humans what to make next. Using big data, Sushiro's system predicts how many customers will come in the next 15 minutes and what they will order.

For decades, conveyor belt sushi chains have embraced robots to deal with high fish prices. Now, as rising part-time wages and sluggish consumer demand cut deep into margins of restaurants operators, they are emerging as a role model for Japan's $213 billion restaurant industry. Chains serving tempura, beef bowls and other Japanese cuisines are racing to replace humans with machines.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


NFL teams are getting smarter, and better, on fourth downs (Michael David Smith, November 24, 2018, PFT)

In 2017, NFL games averaged 1.89 fourth-down attempts per game, and offenses picked up the first down on 46.4 percent of fourth-down attempts. So far this year, NFL games are averaging 2.0 fourth-down attempts per game, and offenses are successful on 62.5 percent of fourth-down attempts.

In other words, NFL teams are getting a little more aggressive about going for it -- and a lot better at picking up the first down when they do go for it. That indicates that offenses are spending more time installing fourth-down plays, and getting smarter about calling them at the right time.

The frequency with which they still throw on 3rd and 1 suggests they aren't getting that smart: run it twice.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 AM


The Call of Covenantal Pluralism: Defeating Religious Nationalism with Faithful Patriotism (Chris Seiple, 11/13/18, FPRI)

This article based on the 22nd Annual Templeton Lecture on Religion & World Affairs, given by Dr. Chris Seiple on 30 October 2018 at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute was kind enough to put me up at the Union League. It was founded in 1862 as a "patriotic society" to support the Union and the policies of President Abraham Lincoln, and then work with freed slaves in the South after the war.

Why did Lincoln need such support? Because he was fighting a religious nationalism not unlike the examples above. As Yale historian Harry S. Stoudt writes in his 2006 book, Upon the Altar of the Nation:

Clerical voices--which mattered greatly as moral arbiters and upholders of a virtuous social order--so meshed evangelical Christianity with Southern republicanism that one seemingly could not exist without the other. . . . Christianity offered the only terms out of which a national [Southern] identity could be constructed and a violent war pursued . . . God, who had ordained or at least permitted slavery, would never bless the Christ-denying, humanistic North (pp. 10, 43, 97).

In reacting to the Equal Justice Initiative 2015 report on the thousands of lynchings between 1877 and 1950, a writer for The American Conservative, Rod Dreher, himself from Louisiana, concluded the following in his blog, "When ISIS Ran the American South:"

No, the American South (and other parts of America where racial terrorists ran rampant) was never run by fanatical theocrats who used grotesque public murders as a tool of terror [like ISIS]. But if you were a black in the years 1877-1950, this was a distinction without much meaningful difference.

As the October 2018 tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue reminds us, this white nationalist cancer is not only still here, it is metastasizing. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that over the last decade, 71% of domestic extremist-related killings in the United States were linked to right-wing extremists. The ADL also reported a 57% increase in anti-Semitism in 2017. [...]

President Lincoln, of course, set the example we need, when considering such things. As you might know, when asked amidst the Civil War whose side was God on, he famously responded:

Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My great concern is to be on God's side. For God is always right!

There was a deep humility in Lincoln's theology. He absolutely believed in an Absolute, but recognized that he could not know, let alone speak for the Absolute, absolutely.

How do we reclaim such a posture, in both our policies and our practices?

In April 2012, the late Jack Templeton, patron of this lecture series, challenged me to codify my experiences at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) into a theory of change. He wanted to know how and why IGE's approach effected positive and sustainable change. He wanted to know why IGE was worth funding.

Before I could produce a theory of change (which would eventually take form through this article), I had to wrestle with the words that I had begun to use to describe the complicated places that IGE had been engaging around the world. My experience overseas had one common factor: the relationship between the ethno-religious majority and the ethno-religious minorities. Almost all situations had some element of the tension between the two, of the former's desire to exercise power without including the latter.

Five sets of terms emerged from my early years at IGE. In using these terms to illustrate a positive vs. negative vision, I do not mean to suggest that some words are bad. I simply use them to elicit better thinking about the approach (and values) that is the best of America.

Respect vs. Tolerance. Respect values the essence of the other's identity, without sacrificing the substance of one's own. In other words, "respecting" those beliefs does not necessarily lend moral equivalence. Respect simply means that everyone should respect the inherent dignity of every human, to include the innate liberty of conscience common to all. Respect therefore encourages the right to exercise that liberty of conscience, even if the conclusions drawn are different from one's own.

Tolerance is not enough. It allows merely for the presence of the other. No one wants to be tolerated.

Faith vs. religion. Faith is the mystery, majesty, and mercy of something greater than oneself, resulting in a constant humility of theology. It involves absolutely believing in an Absolute, but knowing it impossible to speak for the Absolute, absolutely. There are core values, to be sure, but there is also respect for the market place of ideas and beliefs, and that much can be learned from them.

Religion, on the other hand, absolutely speaks for the Absolute. There is nothing new under the sun, for the lines are clear, as the mind of God is known. There is no market place because religion holds a monopoly on truth. There is no need to listen or learn.

Multi-faith vs. interfaith. Multi-faith acknowledges and names--at the appropriate time--the irreconcilable theological differences between and among the faith traditions. These differences are not named to divide, but to understand and demonstrate respect for the essence of someone else's identity. In other words, it is impossible to know someone without knowing their core beliefs.

Interfaith, however, tends to suggest a blending of theologies. Too often, interfaith dialogues water-down the differences, reducing rich traditions to such banal commonalities that there seemingly were no differences to begin with. Discovering common values only possesses meaning when the richness of the different points of moral departure are also understood. Put differently, if there is no understanding of difference, then there can be no respect. Incidentally, when real mutual respect takes root, practical collaboration tends to happen faster.

Patriotism vs. nationalism. Patriotism is pride in one's country--a legally defined state with international boundaries, that includes many nations and faiths. Patriotism is defined by what it is for, including everyone as equal citizens under the transparent rule of law, with the opportunity for each to practice and bring their beliefs to bear in the public square.

Nationalism tends to be a xenophobic pride of the ethno-religious majority, defining against ethnic/religious minorities. It seeks a nation-state: a state with one homogenous people group. [...]

Put differently, the above five comparisons are wrestling with the fundamental question of civilization: how do we live with our deepest differences (without killing each other)? Another way to frame these five concepts is to ask this question: how do we move beyond tolerance and diversity, beyond tolerating someone's presence beside you, as we live side-by-side?

Seemingly, there is only one answer: mutual engagement based on mutual respect for the other's liberty of conscience. To borrow from Star Trek, liberty of conscience seems to be the Prime Directive of civilization. As Sir John Templeton wrote in Wisdom from World Religions: "Conscience is as essential as the air we breathe . . . present wherever we look and whenever we look" (p. 174).

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, would agree. In The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience (1671), he wrote: "Imposition, restraint, and persecution for matters relating to conscience directly invade the divine prerogative, and divest the Almighty of a due, proper to none besides himself." Or, less eloquently, but perhaps more memorably, Roger Williams said: "Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God."

The above discussion speaks to a more comprehensive concept. Call it: Covenantal Pluralism. Covenantal Pluralism entails the obligation, the responsibility, and intentional pledge to engage, respect, and protect the other's liberty of conscience, without necessarily lending moral equivalency to the other's resulting beliefs and behavior.

Covenantal Pluralism requires a faithful patriotism that seeks an entrepreneurial competition--i.e., a cooperative competition that is loving, spirited, and constructive--that stands against the monopoly of religious nationalism. This Covenantal Pluralism, therefore, is not only the right thing to do, it is in everyone's self-interest.

While generally excellent, he gets assimilation somewhat wrong, as liberty is precisely the mechanism whereby freedom is universally limited within a democratic society. You are allowed your freedom of "conscience" within the strictures that bind us all. Thus, you are certainly free not to consume certain foods or eat at certain times, but are not free to burn widows or genitally mutilate young girls just because your conscience is untroubled by such.

November 23, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 PM


More than 30,000 Indian-American Sikhs have entered the trucking industry in 2 years (JIM AXELROD, 11/18/18,  CBS NEWS)

More than 30,000 Sikhs have entered the trucking industry in the last two years.   

"For Sikhs, they want to keep their articles of faith, turban, unshaven hair, beard, moustache -- it's a safety hazard for a lot of jobs that require it. So in trucking they can keep everything, and still make a decent living," Pandher said. 

Pandher bought a used tractor-trailer 13 years ago. Now he owns nine rigs, plus a truck stop in Laramie.

With so many Sikh truck drivers, he even added a Sikh temple to his truck stop. And his kitchen offers Indian specials that attract new fans as well.

But it's more than a friendly truck stop that's drawing Sikhs to a career behind the wheel. Recruiting videos that look like something straight from Bollywood promise a glamorous future: fancy truck, nice car, a wife making food for the road. Pandher said it's "pretty much" made from reality. 
"I mean the presentation can be a little eye-catchy, but you know that's the reality," Pandher said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Many Who Buy ACA Health Plans For 2019 Find Lower Prices And More Choice (Jordan Rau, November 23, 2018,  Morning Edition)

In recent years, some cities, including Memphis and Phoenix, withered into health insurance wastelands, as insurers fled and premiums skyrocketed in the insurance marketplaces that were set up under the Affordable Care Act.

But today, as in many parts of the U.S., these two cities are experiencing something unprecedented: Insurance premiums are sinking and choices are sprouting.

In the newly competitive market in Memphis, for example, the cheapest midlevel "silver" plan for 2019 health coverage will cost $498 a month for a 40-year-old -- a 17 percent decrease compared to last year.

And four insurers are now selling ACA policies in Phoenix. That's the same market that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump highlighted in 2016 because all but one insurer had left the region -- he called it proof of "the madness of Obamacare."

Janice Johnson, a 63-year-old retiree in Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, said her monthly premium for a high-deductible bronze plan will be $207 for 2019, instead of $270, because she is switching carriers.

"When you're on a fixed income, that makes a difference," said Johnson, who receives a government subsidy to help cover her premium. "I'll know more in a year from now if I'm going to stick with this company. But I'm going to give them a chance, and I'm pretty excited by that."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


Trump Fans Sink Savings Into 'Iraqi Dinar' Scam (Will Sommer, 11.20.18, Daily Beast)

Trump supporter Hayes Kotseos runs a North Carolina pool-maintenance company, but she's got a side bet that she thinks might make her fabulously wealthy: the Iraqi dinar.

The currency is nearly worthless outside of Iraq, but Kotseos bought millions of dinars in April, after watching a video of President Trump at a 2017 press conference. In the clip, Trump says, with characteristic vagueness, that all currencies will soon "be on a level playing field."

In reality, Trump was talking about trade imbalances with China. But like other Trump supporters who have fallen into the dinar investment scam, which has existed since at least 2012, Kotseos interpreted Trump's rambling statement as proof that the Iraqi dinar would soon be worth as much or even more than the dollar, making anyone who had been smart enough to buy in early a millionaire.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


London group with alleged ties to Hamas cooks chicken soup with local Jews (CNAAN LIPHSHIZ, 11/23/18, JTA)

Dozens of British Jews cooked chicken soup for homeless people with volunteers from a Muslim group that is banned in Israel over alleged ties to Hamas.

At least 1,000 bowls of soup, which used a traditional Jewish recipe and halal meat, were prepared at the East London Mosque on Sunday, the East London Advertiser reported. The drive was part of Mitzvah Day, a Jewish communal initiative that encourages social action and that started in the United Kingdom 13 years ago.

According to the BBC, the London-based Muslim Aid group helped organize the event, where its volunteers wore its logo on green shirts. In 2008, Ehud Barak, who was then Israel's defense minister, outlawed the group in Israel, citing unspecified ties to Hamas.

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


Bad News for Trump? Judge in Russia Case Says Collusion Could Be Enough for Criminal Charge (Ronn Blitzer, November 23rd, 2018, lAW & cRrIME)

"This court ruling should drive another nail in the coffin of the argument that collusion is not a crime. It clearly can be, and the crime is conspiracy - even if no other independent criminal violations are identified," wrote Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and lecturer at George Washington Law School.  "Mueller's use of that theory in his Russian social media indictment is a textbook example of a 371 conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and that theory has now been validated by the trial judge's ruling."

As U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich explained in his opinion last week, there are two ways to violate 18 U.S.C. 371. One can either "conspire ... to commit any offense against the United States," which is conspiracy in the traditional sense, or one can conspire "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose[.]"

For either method of conspiracy, one must have an agreement with another party to carry out the conspiracy, an then at least one party must "do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy."

Pity the poor Trumpbots and their argument that, "Sure, it was collusion, but that's not a crime..."

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Trump loses bid to dismiss New York lawsuit over his charity  (Reuters. 11/23/18) 

A New York state judge has rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's request to dismiss a lawsuit in which New York's attorney general accused him of misusing his personal charity to benefit his 2016 presidential campaign and his businesses.

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


Stone associate Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel (Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Manuel Roig-Franzia November 23, 2018, Washington Post)

Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to Corsi and another person with knowledge of the talks.

The talks with Corsi -- an associate of President Trump and GOP operative Roger Stone -- could bring Mueller's team closer to determining whether Trump or his advisers were linked to WikiLeaks' release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of his long-running inquiry.

Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the campaign to Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone's activities in an effort to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.

Stone has said that Corsi also has a relationship with Trump, built on their shared interest in the falsehood that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

What better relationship basis could there be than shared racist lunacy?

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


DRIVERLESS BUSES AND TAXIS TO BE LAUNCHED IN BRITAIN BY 2021 (Simon Calder, 11/23/18, The Independent)

Scottish passengers could be the first in the world to experience autonomous buses.

The government has said that self-driving buses will be shuttling across the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland by 2021, carrying half a million passengers a year. 

The Department for Business is pumping £4.35m into a £6m project that will see five single-decker buses, each carrying 42 passengers, running on a 14-mile journey. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Siri thinks Donald Trump is a penis (Tom Warren, Nov 22, 2018, The Verge)
I'm not even American, but I just spat out a turkey dinner. Apple's Siri digital assistant thinks that President Donald Trump is a penis. If you use an iPhone to ask Siri how old Donald Trump is, you'll be greeted with a picture of a penis instead of a photo of the President. 

Who taught Melania to code?

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


The story of Viet Nam's economic miracle (Peter Vanham, 9/11/18, World Economic Forum)

So how did this growth miracle happen? According to analysts from the World Bank and the think tank Brookings, Viet Nam's economic rise can be explained by three main factors: "First, it has embraced trade liberalization with gusto. Second, it has complemented external liberalization with domestic reforms through deregulation and lowering the cost of doing business. Finally, Viet Nam has invested heavily in human and physical capital, predominantly through public investments."

Regarding the first factor, the analysts point to the various free trade agreements Viet Nam has signed in the last 20 years. In 1995, Viet Nam joined the ASEAN free trade area. In 2000, it signed a free trade agreement with the US, and in 2007 it joined the World Trade Organisation. Since then, further ASEAN agreements followed with China, India, Japan and Korea, and just this year, the amended Trans-Pacific Partnership went into effect - albeit without the US.

The cumulative effect of all these agreements was to gradually lower the tariffs imposed on both imports and exports to and from Viet Nam...

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Fiery West Wing meeting led to more power for military at U.S.-Mexico border (ELIANA JOHNSON, 11/22/2018, Politico)

Several White House aides and external advisers who have supported the president's hawkish immigration agenda attended the Monday meeting, which devolved into a melee pitting two of Trump's embattled aides, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, against other attendees, according to three people briefed on the exchange.

Kelly and Nielsen initially argued against signing the declaration, which granted the military broad authority at the border, telling the president that the move was beyond his constitutional powers. They were vocally opposed by, among others, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller; Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council; and Brandon Judd, president of the border patrol union. Also present was Vice President Mike Pence, who did not take a stand on the issue, according to one of the people briefed on the debate.

Kelly and Nielsen eventually came around to the president's position, and the bitter dispute ended Tuesday evening when Kelly, on Trump's orders, signed a Cabinet declaration granting the military the disputed authority. The move ran afoul of the guidance offered by the White House counsel, Emmet Flood, who cautioned that it was likely to run into constitutional roadblocks, according to a second source familiar with the conversations.

Nothing like going out the door violating your oath...

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Nigel Farage says Ukip's appointment of Tommy Robinson is 'dragging us in a shameful direction' (Peter Stubley, 11/23/18, Independent)

"I'm appalled," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday. "Gerard Batten has this sort of fixation with Tommy Robinson and discussing Islam and dragging Ukip into the direction of effectively being a street activist party."

Mr Farage claimed it had "blown a hole" in what he said were his efforts to make Ukip "a non-racist, non sectarian party." [...]

"If I have one real achievement in politics I did pretty much single-handedly kill off the BNP (British National Party)."

But he then added: "This is not about me, this is about Ukip being a sane electoral vehicle.

"They want to put Tommy Robinson up there as a big player in the Brexit debate too - that will damage the leave cause in this country.

"From every single aspect it is time we got rid of Gerard Batten and reclaimed the party."

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


CIA holds 'smoking gun phone call' of Saudi Crown Prince on Khashoggi murder: Columnist
 (Hurriyet Daily News, 11/22/18)

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is in possession of a phone call recording of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in which he is heard giving an instruction to "silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible," Hürriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote on Nov. 22.

According to Selvi, CIA Director Gina Haspel "signalled" during her trip to Ankara last month the existence of the wiretapped phone call between Crown Prince Mohammed and his brother Khaled bin Salman, who is Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

November 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


For Decades, Southern States Considered Thanksgiving an Act of Northern Aggression (ARIEL KNOEBEL, NOVEMBER 22, 2018, Atlas Obscura)

Each time I serve pumpkin pie, I get to share a little known slice of American history. Although meant to unify people, the 19th-century campaign to make Thanksgiving a permanent holiday was seen by prominent Southerners as a culture war. They considered it a Northern holiday intended to force New England values on the rest of the country. To them, pumpkin pie, a Yankee food, was a deviously sweet symbol of anti-slavery sentiment. [...]

A few years later, according to historian Melanie Kirkpatrick, Governor Wise of Virginia answered letters from Hale by telling her he wanted nothing to do with "this theatrical national claptrap of Thanksgiving, which has aided other causes in setting thousands of pulpits to preaching 'Christian politics.'" Wise's statement directly referred to anti-slavery politics.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Thanksgiving: an explainer for British people: An American answers all of your burning questions about what the hell Thanksgiving actually is.  (SARAH MANAVIS, 11/22/18, New Statesman)

And that leads us to: What is this Thanksgiving about?

Look, British people love to have layers upon layers of weird, boring, religious lore added to every holiday in the calendar. Nearly all of your holidays have some Christian significance, a million historical, dreadful oil paintings to honour it - not to mention a saint, which you guys seem to try to stick onto everything and anything you can. Thanksgiving is not like this: it is literally just a simple day where you are meant to reflect on what you appreciate in your life and spend time with people you are at least supposed to love. It has no religious element (at least, not technically), is celebrated by all Americans regardless of background, and doesn't really have a commercial element (other than bragging about how expensive your turkey was). It's genuinely a pretty nice holiday in theory, and is merely centred around gratitude, thankfulness, and eating. [...]

What do you eat?

From the delicious to the disgusting, a Thanksgiving meal features: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, blueberry pie, pecan pie (look, it's a lot of pies), roast potatoes, bread, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, acorn squash, anything with Velveeta cheese, salad, potato salad (it's a lot of potatoes), and the unholy sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping (please don't ask me to explain this, my family never ate it and it makes me feel ill too). To be fair, it's all pretty good aside from that.

Why do you guys eat pumpkin pie?

Jesus Christ, how is this so hard for this entire nation to wrap their heads around? Pumpkin pie is an incredibly smooth, silky sweet dessert that is insanely delicious despite being, as one colleague put it to me, a blended root vegetable. It's far better than raisins in pastry, or a brandy-soaked blazing cake, so why don't we all just keep our pudding judgements to ourselves this year, yeah?

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Spy Games: Britain's MI6 Horrified at Trump's Plan to Declassify Details of FBI's Carter Page Wiretap (DAVID MEYER, 11/21/18, Fortune)

British intelligence chiefs are reportedly desperate to convince the White House not to declassify more of the FBI wiretap application on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, because it would expose intelligence-gathering sources and methods.

According to a piece published late Wednesday in the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph, U.S. intelligence officials are also against the idea, as are those in Australia, another member of the intelligence-gathering club known as the Five Eyes (the group also includes Canada and New Zealand.)

Information wants to free...and agents want to share it with their bosses....

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


When Work and Meaning Part Ways (Jonathan Malesic, Fall 2018, The Hedgehog Review)

The very meaning of work is in jeopardy right now, and a big reason is that we expect too much meaning from work. We believe the false promise that work confers dignity, character, and purpose, and we inculcate that belief in our children and students. But in the present stage of American capitalism, working means having a job. It means having an employer who puts our time, sweat, and (one hopes) talent to use in accordance with current managerial doctrines and for the sake of profit. So what we say about work--at the dinner table, at graduations, in opinion columns, in sermons, on the floor of the Senate--doesn't match the reality of the work we do. This mismatch leads us to a sad, profound irony: Our commitment to the work ethic, meant to help us live the good life, is actually keeping us from doing so. It will take an effort engaging our entire society to replace the cultural mythology that created this problem, before the profit motive leads companies to do away with human labor altogether. 

Dude, you just stated the problem and its solution: human history consists of the process of lifting the punishment of labor.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Embattled Hyde-Smith posted photo of herself in Confederate hat (JAMES ARKIN and MATTHEW CHOI, 11/20/2018, Politico)

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith posed for a photo wearing a Confederate soldier's hat and holding a rifle in a Facebook post that surfaced Tuesday.

Hyde-Smith took the photo during a 2014 visit to the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. "Mississippi history at its best!" Hyde-Smith exclaimed.

November 21, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Democrats won House popular vote by largest midterm margin since Watergate (Allan Smith, 11/21/18, NBC News)

As of noon on Wednesday, Democratic House candidates won 58,990,609 votes while their Republican counterparts pulled in 50,304,975. That means that, so far, Democrats won 53.1 percent of all votes counted while Republicans earned 45.2 percent. [...]

So far, Democrats have a net gain of nearly 40 House seats.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


Tax returns reveal one six-figure donor accounts for entirety of "dark money" funding Whitaker's nonprofit (Anna Massoglia, November 21, 2018, Open Secrets)

A single six-figure donor accounted for 100 percent of funding raised by a nonprofit run by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker before he became Jeff Sessions' chief of staff last year, new tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics reveal. [...]

CRP discovered FACT's first tax return back in 2016, revealing its funding -- $600,000 for 2014, its first year of operation -- came entirely from a donor-advised fund called DonorsTrust, which acts as a pass-through vessel managing the money flow from wealthy individuals and foundations to nonprofit organizations while allowing the donors to remain anonymous. Beneficiaries of DonorsTrust include a breadth of conservative and libertarian initiatives. Due to DonorsTrust's design, although we are able to reveal the direct funder of FACT by piecing together grants from different tax returns, the ultimate donor remains hidden.

New tax returns obtained by CRP show that wasn't the only time DonorsTrust was FACT's main funder. In fact, DonorsTrust accounted for 100 percent of FACT's income from donations again in 2015, in 2016 and its most recent tax return -- meaning Whitaker's organization that claimed to be "dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency" has gotten all of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency every year since its inception.

In their application for tax-exempt status, FACT -- then called the Free Market America Educational Foundation -- told the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that its purpose was to "conduct research and provide informational studies on free market concepts in relation to environmental regulations and policy." The IRS approved the group's application for tax-exempt charity status on July 21, 2014, according to its determination letter.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


U.S. chief justice defends federal judiciary after Trump comments (Andrew Chung, 11/21/18, Reuters) 

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday defended the federal judiciary a day after President Donald Trump referred to a judge who ruled against his policy limiting asylum for certain immigrants as an "Obama judge."

"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," Roberts, a conservative who was appointed by Republican former President George W. Bush, said in a statement released by the Supreme Court. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."

Why should generals have all the fun...

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Scrap juries in rape trials, Labour MP suggests (Alexandra Topping,  20 Nov 2018, The Guardian)

Juries may need to be scrapped in rape trials because of the dominance of rape myths in society and "shockingly low" charging and conviction rates, the House of Commons will hear.

In a debate in parliament on Wednesday, Ann Coffey will call for an urgent independent inquiry into what she describes as "the crisis engulfing the criminal justice system's approach to rape cases". The Labour MP for Stockport will ask the government to examine whether juries are the best way to deliver justice in rape cases.

This war on Due Process is demented.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Here's Why the New York Times Bombshell Report Could Be the Finishing Touch for Mueller's Obstruction Case (Matt Naham , November 20th, 2018, Law & Crime)

As has been reported previously, Mueller has reportedly looked into Trump's tweets and other public statements targeting former FBI director Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In August, one tweet from Trump said that Sessions, who famously recused himself from the Russia investigation, "should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further."

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti argued at the time that this kind of tweet demonstrated "corrupt intent," and was "among the many reasons why Mueller will conclude Trump obstructed justice." Mariotti would add that Mueller and his prosecutors would have looked at that tweet and thought, "They think this is more evidence of corrupt intent. ... adding more tabs to their exhibit binder."

Now, Jeff Sessions is out of the picture and has been replaced by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, whose public statements on CNN in various forms indicated that Whitaker was more than a mere skeptic of the Mueller Probe. He said that Mueller may have gone "too far" and even used the president's own words ("witch hunt") to describe it.

As this Whitaker controversy is still brewing, the New York Times is providing information that could, in the same way as the aforementioned tweet, be seen as demonstrative proof of "corrupt intent." A prosecutor could persuasively argue that if Trump would suggest prosecuting Comey for his handling of the Clinton email probe, it stands to reason that Trump would fire Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


It's over. Democrat Ben McAdams ousts Republican Rep Mia Love by 694 votes (Lee Davidson, 11/21/18, Salt Lake Tribune)

Final vote counts Tuesday showed that Democrat Ben McAdams did not jump the gun when he declared victory a day earlier over two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love.

He won by 694 votes, or a margin of 50.129 percent to 49.871. That margin of 0.258 was barely outside the 0.25 percent that would have allowed Love to request a recount.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Hyde-Smith Demanded No Audience, No Press for Tonight's Debate (Ashton Pittman, Ko Bragg Tuesday, November 20, 2018 , Jackson Free Press)

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith demanded there be no audience or outside press allowed at tonight's U.S. Senate debate and requested other restrictions, two sources familiar with the debate negotiations told the Jackson Free Press Tuesday morning.

#When she faces off against Democratic challenger Mike Espy at 7 p.m., only the debate moderator, panelists and the production team will be allowed in the auditorium--a requirement the Hyde-Smith campaign pushed for and the Espy team argued against.

November 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Trump Is Losing His War Against the Courts: The judiciary has continued to quietly deliver subtle, devastating blows to the president's agenda. (DAHLIA LITHWICK, NOV 20, 2018, Slate)

Between the impending conclusion of the Mueller probe and the promise of oversight from various Democratic-controlled House committees come January, it's clear that the president is starting to panic. And it's easy to see why--given his tax returns, financial dealings, Russian investments, and other wrongdoing being surfaced in litigation, he has a good deal to worry about.

But that brings us once more to the greatest and least appreciated place at which President Donald Trump is proving to be the losing-est loser of all: the courts. Because they happen so frequently, it's almost impossible to keep track of all the massive and consequential rulings against this president and his administration that are logged every week and rarely viewed in the aggregate. But let's try: Late Monday night, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the president's Nov. 9 rule that barred migrants from applying for asylum unless they made the request at a legal checkpoint. The judge's order applies nationally. Last Friday's decision--by a Trump-appointed judge--to side with CNN against the White House in a dispute about revoked press credentials is only the most recent iteration of a near-constant drip-drip of legal losses. Even with a bench now containing almost 1 in 6 Trump appointed judges (and these are not your President Bush-edition conservative judges), Trump mainly loses, and then loses some more.

Here's another set: On Nov. 9, a federal judge in Montana temporarily blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, ruling that the Trump administration had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires "reasoned" explanations for government decisions and reversals. (The president immediately decried the ruling as "political" and "a disgrace.") Indeed, this is just the most recent in a line of environmental cases Trump keeps losing in the federal courts. One recent tally shows the Trump administration has actually lost in all but one of the legal challenges its brought in its efforts to undo Obama-era regulations. The government has either lost or ditched its position in 18 others. As a recent Brookings roundup notes, this 5 percent "win rate is far below the normal agency win rate, which averages 69 percent across eleven studies."

But there's so much more.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Meet this year's presidential pardon turkeys: Peas and Carrots (Cat Hofacker, 11/20/18, USA TODAY)

Thanksgiving is for family, friends and food, but on Tuesday at the White House, it was for the birds. 

Two birds, specifically: Peas and Carrots, who received a kind of "presidential pardon" from President Donald Trump on Tuesday in the Rose Garden.

"That turkey is so lucky. I've never seen such a beautiful turkey," Trump said.

He could have almost redeemed his presidency if he'd ended this asinine ritual by picking up an ax and beheading them personally.  Turkey is food.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


Obama suggests Trump is a confused, angry racist and has 'mommy issues' that are making him incapable of fixing the country's problems (KHALEDA RAHMAN, 20 November 2018, Daily Mail)

Former President Barack Obama hinted that Donald Trump's 'mommy issues' are part of what makes him incapable of fixing the nation's problems.

Obama told the audience at a talk at the Obama Foundation summit, held at the Mariott Marquis hotel in Chicago, on Monday that the world 'badly needs remaking.' 

And he insisted fixing issues around climate change, education, agriculture and so on are not nearly as complicated as they are made out to be.

Without mentioning Trump by name, Obama said 'the reason we don't do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues.' 

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing (Mark Landler, Nov. 20, 2018, NY Times)

President Trump defied his intelligence agencies and ample circumstantial evidence to declare his unswerving loyalty to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, asserting that the crown prince's culpability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi might never be known.

...he doesn't even pretend to be loyal to America.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


In blow to Trump's immigration agenda, federal judge blocks asylum ban for migrants who enter illegally from Mexico (Maria Sacchetti and Isaac Stanley-Becker November 20, 2018, Washington Post)

"Whatever the scope of the President's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," wrote the judge...

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Spain would not oppose future independent Scotland rejoining EU: minister  (Reuters, 11/20/18) 

Spain would have no objection to Scotland rejoining the European Union as an independent nation, as long as the secession process from the United Kingdom was legally binding, Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


The End of the American Order: At an international conference, allies grieved the loss of the United States they had believed in. (Kori Schake, November 19, 2018, The Atlantic)

The Halifax Security Forum is designed to be a gathering of the world's democratic countries, which are allied to protect each other. Hosted by the Canadian defense minister, the Forum's signature is the brief videos that introduce the annual gathering. This year's intro showed relay runners, mostly American, at the Olympics from Berlin in 1936 forward, ending in an uncertain baton handoff--a powerful metaphor for the free world's worries about American leadership in the age of Trump.*

The Halifax Forum, occurring just after President Donald Trump unleashed yet another petulant tirade against Germany and France that culminated in the unseemly taunt that Parisians were speaking German until the U.S. intervened in World Wars I and II, had a funereal feel this year. Allies are grieving the loss of an America they believed in, as it sinks in that they cannot rely on us any longer.

The U.S.'s senior military officer, General Joseph Dunford; the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz; and the indopacom commander, Admiral Philip Davidson, all participated and gave strong, sensible remarks. There was no policy representation from the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense; no senior diplomats or White House officials managed to make time for the country that took in American flights after September 11, or those nations that invoked nato's mutual-defense clause after we were attacked, or those countries struggling to become more democratic in our image. Experts on civil-military relations worried about the optics of only uniformed military personnel delivering American policy messages, but sorrowfully acknowledged that it was better to have the military provide forces of institutional stability than to leave allies completely adrift.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Trump's Criticism of Architect of Bin Laden Raid Draws Fire (Eric Schmitt, Nov. 19, 2018, NY Times)

"The president's remarks were wrong on every level," Nicholas J. Rasmussen, a top counterterrorism official in the George W. Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, said in an email on Monday. "Wrong about Bill and his politics. Wrong about the Bin Laden raid. And most troubling, wrong about what it takes for a commander in chief to enjoy the genuine respect of the women and men he should be honored to lead." [...]

The comments also underscored Mr. Trump's complicated relationship with the American military and spy services: In this case, the president appeared to not understand that intelligence agencies were responsible for finding Bin Laden. The Special Operations commandos led by Mr. McRaven were in charge of capturing or killing him.

In a statement to CNN on Sunday, Mr. McRaven said he did not endorse Mrs. Clinton or anyone else in the 2016 presidential election. He said he had supported Presidents Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom he worked for while in uniform.

"I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times," Mr. McRaven said. [...]

In his nearly four years as chancellor at the University of Texas, Mr. McRaven was credited by colleagues with expanding the university's focus on national security and elevating its national profile in the field. In his farewell letter to his colleagues on his last day as chancellor, he offered a path forward.

"The future rests with whether we have taught our young men and women the importance of being noble, the power of the noble deed," he said. "If we have taught them well, they will understand the importance of honesty and integrity, two qualities that will define their legacy in life."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Women's March Founder Calls on Leaders to Step Down amid Accusations of Bigotry (JACK CROWE, November 19, 2018, National Review)
Theresa Shook, founder of the Women's March, called on leaders of the liberal political-protest movement to step down on Monday amid widespread backlash against their refusal to condemn anti-Semitic and homophobic allies.

"As Founder of the Women's March, my original vision and intent was to show the capacity of human beings to stand in solidarity and love against the hateful rhetoric that had become a part of the political landscape in the U.S. and around the world," Shook wrote in a Monday Facebook post.

"Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women's March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course," she continued. "I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs. I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down and to let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent."

The GOP should follow suit.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Troops at U.S.-Mexican border to start coming home (WESLEY MORGAN, 11/19/2018, Politico)

The 5,800 troops who were rushed to the southwest border amid President Donald Trump's pre-election warnings about a refugee caravan will start coming home as early as this week -- just as some of those migrants are beginning to arrive.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Pompeo handed Riyadh a plan to shield MBS from Khashoggi fallout, says source (David Hearst & Daniel Hilton, 19 November 2018, Middle East Eye)

Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince are shielding themselves from the Jamal Khashoggi murder scandal by using a roadmap drawn up by the US secretary of state, a senior Saudi source has told Middle East Eye.

Mike Pompeo delivered the plan in person during a meeting with Saudi King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, last month in Riyadh, said the source, who is familiar with Pompeo's talks with the Saudi leaders.

The plan includes an option to pin the Saudi journalist's murder on an innocent member of the ruling al-Saud family in order to insulate those at the very top, the source told MEE.

That person has not yet been chosen, the source said, and Saudi leaders are reserving the use of that plan in case the pressure on bin Salman, also known as MBS, becomes too much.

"We would not be surprised if that happens," the source told MEE.

You can't get in trouble with Donald for killing and oppressing Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to send hundreds of emails about government business last year (Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, November 19, 2018, Washington Post)

White House ethics officials learned of Trump's repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter's prac­tices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. He attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her "Crooked Hillary" for using a personal email account as secretary of state.

November 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


A leader in vaccine exemption, Asheville Waldorf has NC's worst chickenpox outbreak since '95 (Sam DeGrave, 11/16/18, Asheville Citizen Times)

A chickenpox outbreak at a private school now ranks as the state's largest since a vaccine for the virus became available more than 20 years ago, health officials say. 

As of Friday, 36 students at Asheville Waldorf School had contracted the varicella virus, known to most as chickenpox. The school has one of the highest vaccination religious exemption rates in North Carolina. [...]

[H]ealth care providers for years have recommended all children medically able, namely those who have healthy immune systems, be vaccinated, she said.

Those recommendations have by and large have gone unheeded by the parents of Asheville Waldorf's 152 students -- 110 of whom have not received the chickenpox vaccine, which was made available in the United States in 1995. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


U.S. judge questions Trump administration on asylum policy (Dan Levine, 11/19/18, Reuters)

At hearing in San Francisco federal court, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar repeatedly asked a Justice Department attorney whether Trump's order was justified and supported by actual evidence.

"To say something is true does not make it true," Tigar said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Universal Quantum Phenomenon Found in Strange Metals (Natalie Wolchover, November 19, 2018, Quanta)

A ubiquitous quantum phenomenon has been detected in a large class of superconducting materials, fueling a growing belief among physicists that an unknown organizing principle governs the collective behavior of particles and determines how they spread energy and information. Understanding this organizing principle could be a key into "quantum strangeness at its deepest level," said Subir Sachdev, a theorist at Harvard University who was not involved with the new experiments.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


The ACLU Declines to Defend Civil Rights: The civil-liberties organization has taken a stand against stronger due-process protections in campus tribunals that undermines its own principles. (Conor Friedersdorf, 11/19/18, The Atlantic)

The most controversial changes concern what happens when a student stands accused of sexual misbehavior. "Under the new rules, schools would be required to hold live hearings and would no longer rely on a so-called single investigator model," The New York Times reports. "Accusers and students accused of sexual assault must be allowed to cross-examine each other through an adviser or lawyer. The rules require that the live hearings be conducted by a neutral decision maker and conducted with a presumption of innocence. Both parties would have equal access to all the evidence that school investigators use to determine facts of the case, and a chance to appeal decisions." What's more, colleges will now have the option to choose a somewhat higher evidentiary standard, requiring "clear and convincing evidence" rather than "a preponderance of the evidence" in order to establish someone's guilt.

The ACLU doesn't object to any of those due-process protections when a person faces criminal charges. Indeed, it favors an even higher burden of proof, "beyond a reasonable doubt," to find an individual guilty.

But the ACLU opposes the new rules for campuses. "Today Secretary DeVos proposed a rule that would tip the scales against those who raise their voices. We strongly oppose it," the organization stated on Twitter. "The proposed rule would make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, when there is already alarmingly high rates of campus sexual assaults and harassment that go unreported. It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused and letting schools ignore their responsibility under Title IX to respond promptly and fairly to complaints of sexual violence. We will continue to support survivors."

One line in particular was shocking to civil libertarians: It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused. Since when does the ACLU believe a process that favors the accused is inappropriate or unfair?

The triumph of ideology over principle is always sad to see.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


The 2019 White House Correspondents' Dinner Will Drop Political Comedy in Favor of a Historian Host (ISABEL TORREALBA, NOV 19, 2018, Slate)

Monday, the White House Correspondents' Association announced the (at least temporary) end of the comedian as host, as it is having Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow speak at the 2019 dinner. Oliver Knox, president of the WHCA, said that he was, "delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history," and added that, "as we celebrate the importance of free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history."

There's always been an inherent contradiction since no such liberal organization could tolerate actual comedy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


How California conservatives became the intellectual engine of Trumpism (Jane Coaston, Nov 19, 2018, Vox)

The epicenter of 2018's version of conservatism, and of American Trumpism, isn't Washington, DC. It's California.

Breitbart News was founded in Los Angeles, and its headquarters remains in the city's Brentwood Heights neighborhood. Its founder, Andrew Breitbart, who died in 2012, met former White House adviser Steve Bannon in LA. Ben Shapiro, whom Breitbart mentored and who worked at his eponymous publication, now runs his own conservative media empire,, out of a nondescript office building in LA.

Claremont McKenna College, located on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, was the birthplace of intellectual Trumpism and the "Flight 93 Election" -- an influential essay published in the Claremont Review of Books that stated that electing Trump was the only way to save the country. The author of that missive, Michael Anton, went to the University of California Berkeley and Claremont, and then went on to work in the Trump White House, alongside White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a native of Santa Monica, and Trumpist trade adviser Peter Navarro, who taught at the UC Irvine.

In September, I traveled the length of the Golden State, stopping at conservative outpost after conservative outpost, to try to understand how one of the most liberal states in the union had become the intellectual engine of contemporary conservatism.

In these conversations, one common theme emerged: Conservatives living and working in California view themselves as philosophically, culturally, and demographically under siege, and the political movement they are ideating, advocating, and building reflects that fully. [...]

 As Kesler told me, "The experience of seeing California go from a solidly Republican, Reaganite state to a very solidly Democratic state -- so solid that the Republicans are virtually an endangered species in statewide offices -- that experience has been very sobering for a whole generation of California conservatives, and that has helped, I think, to create a separate consciousness."

...they now want to destroy it nationwide. If George Soros really were an evil Socialist mastermind he'd be dumping money on these guys.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


CNN seeks hearing after White House again vows to yank reporter's access (Reuters, 11/19/18) 

CNN on Monday called on a federal court to hold emergency proceedings after the White House said it would again revoke press access to correspondent Jim Acosta despite a temporary restraining order on Friday to reinstate him.

Judge Napolitano and David French both disposed of the Administration case pretty savagely, but that shouldn't stifle our fun.

Which is more enjoyable, the Trumpbots celebrating genuinely unconstitutional actions by their hero or their simultaneous opposition to Due Process in this case and celebration of it in the new DeVos rules?

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump blasts retired Navy SEAL critical of him, suggesting he should've caught bin Laden sooner (Allan Smith, 11/18/18, NBC)

Trump, pointing to the bin Laden raid, added, "Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that. Wouldn't it have been nice?" [...]

McRaven responded on Sunday, telling CNN that he did not support Clinton or anyone else in the 2016 election. He emphasized that partisanship did not play a role in his career.

"I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for," he told CNN. "I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times."

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


The Average Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner May Be Less Than You Think (JAKE ROSSEN,  NOVEMBER 16, 2018, Mental Floss)

According to USA Today, the average cost of necessities for a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 (including leftovers) in 2018 is $48.90, a 22-cent reduction in price from this time last year.

November 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Trump Says California Can Learn From Finland on Fires. Is He Right? (Patrick Kingsley, Nov. 18, 2018, NY Times)

The secret to the Finns' forest management system lies instead in its early warning system, aerial surveillance system and network of forest roads, said Professor Henrik Lindberg, a forest fires researcher at the Häme University of Applied Sciences, a college in southern Finland.

At times of high incendiary risk, the Finnish authorities are highly effective at delivering warnings across most forms of media, Mr. Lindberg said.

Local aviation clubs are paid to fly over the most threatened areas of forest, increasing the likelihood fires will be spotted before they spiral out of control. "The ignition probability is about the same as in Sweden, but they're caught quicker," Mr. Lindberg said.

And timber and paper companies have built an extensive network of roads through Finland's forests. Built primarily to make the landscape more accessible for logging, they also slow down the path of a fire -- and allow fire brigades to reach the flames faster.

"Almost all Finland is covered by this forest road network, so of course it's easier to get nearer to the forest fires using fire trucks," Mr. Ruuska said.

Temperatures in Finland, part of which lies within the Arctic Circle, can drop below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in August, the temperature is usually in the mid-60s.

The incendiary risk is therefore much lower for most of the year in Finland than in California, where high temperatures, dry air and frequent wind make wildfires far more likely.

"It's not a good comparison," Mr. Ruuska said. "We have a half-meter of snow during winter, so it's quite natural that we don't have any fires over the winter, and our autumn is quite wet."

The new House will be happy to appropriate the money.

Posted by orrinj at 12:18 PM


Stuffing waffles: The greatest Thanksgiving leftover creation (MATT ELLIOTT, NOVEMBER 16, 2018, C/Net)

A stuffing waffle is exactly what it sounds like -- a waffle made from stuffing. This revolutionary idea lets you take leftover stuffing out of your fridge and quickly heat it up, replacing the gumminess of microwaved stuffing with the crispiness of a waffle. [...]

In addition to a heap of leftover stuffing, you need only two items:

A waffle iron
An egg or two

Put your leftover stuffing into a mixing bowl. To help bind the cold, dry stuffing you just removed from your fridge, beat an egg or two, then add your egg(s) to the stuffing and mix. If your stuffing is really dry, you could also add a bit of chicken broth, but I skip this step and just use a couple of eggs.

Add a dollop of your reconstituted stuffing to your waffle iron and within minutes, you'll have piping hot, crispy stuffing waffles.

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM


Trade war is costing Washington dearly (The Seattle Times editorial board, 11/16/18)

The pain of escalating tariffs is increasing as the United States tries to force China to play fair, accept trade reforms and stop stealing intellectual property.

The showdown cost companies in trade-dependent Washington state more than $100 million this year and contributed to a 28 percent decline in exports, according to Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a national business coalition including commodities companies.

At a coalition event in Seattle last week, representatives of agriculture, manufacturing, retailing and exporting companies explained how this is leading to higher prices, fewer jobs and long-term damage as overseas customer relationships are severed.

The next massive stimulus for the economy is ridiculously easy.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM

80-20 NATION::

The Psychology of Political Polarization: Our country is divided, but science suggests the rift is less severe than it seems. (Daniel Yudkin, Nov. 17, 2018, NY Times)

Our analysis revealed seven groups in the American population, which we categorized as progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives and devoted conservatives. (Curious which group you belong to? Take our quiz to find out.) We found stark differences in attitudes across groups: For example, only 1 percent of progressive activists, but 97 percent of devoted conservatives, approve of Donald Trump's performance as president.

Furthermore, our results discovered a connection between core beliefs and political views. Consider the core belief of how safe or threatening you feel the world to be. Forty-seven percent of devoted conservatives strongly believed that the world was becoming an increasingly dangerous place. By contrast, only 19 percent of progressive activists held this view.

In turn, those who viewed the world as a dangerous place were three times more likely to strongly support the building of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, and twice as likely to view Islam as a national threat. By contrast, those who did not see the world as dangerous were 50 percent more likely to believe that people were too worried about terrorism and 50 percent more likely to believe that immigration was good for America.

Another significant finding concerned people's views on personal responsibility. It may come as no surprise that 86 percent of progressive activists believed that "people's outcomes in life are determined largely by forces outside of their control," whereas 98 percent of devoted conservatives believed "people are largely responsible for their own outcomes in life." But what is notable is that those who believe the former were twice as likely to favor increasing the government safety net, 25 percent more likely to believe that America had a moral obligation to accept refugees and about 35 percent more likely to believe that gender-based differences in pay were a result of sexism.

A third core belief dividing liberals and conservatives was parenting philosophy. We asked participants a series of questions on this topic, including whether they believed it was better for children to have "curiosity" versus "good manners" and "independence" versus "respect for elders." Once again, striking differences emerged: While 75 percent of devoted conservatives leaned toward the more strict values, 77 percent of progressive activists leaned toward the more permissive. [...]

This distortion renders thoughtful dialogue difficult at a time when it is most necessary. Americans are far more aligned on many critical issues than you might think. For example, our data show that 75 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, 82 percent believe that racism is at least a somewhat serious problem in America and 79 percent favor providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought here as children. In addition, 77 percent of Americans agree that our differences are not so great that we cannot come together.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


The devil went down to Harlem -- to team up with a Jewish harmonica player: Twenty-three years in the making, the new documentary 'Satan & Adam,' screening Nov. 17-18 at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, chronicles a musical odd couple who rise to stardom (RICH TENORIO, 11/17/18, Times of Israel)

The duo paired veteran African-American blues guitarist Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee -- who had once played with such stars as James Brown and Etta James -- with young half-Jewish white harmonica player Adam Gussow.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Satan & Adam found success on the streets of Harlem, in clubs and at music festivals -- until Mr. Satan disappeared and subsequently moved into a nursing home in Florida.

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Now, they are the subject of a new documentary, "Satan & Adam," by filmmaker V. Scott Balcerek. It premiered earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival, and will be screened at the Boston Jewish Film Festival November 17-18. Reflecting the duo's real-life complexities, the film took an incredible 23 years to make.

"Certain times, years, I seriously doubted it would ever see the light of day," Gussow marveled in a phone conversation with The Times of Israel. "Thank god it's done. How wonderful is that?"

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Ocasio-Cortez backs campaign to primary fellow Democrats (ALEX THOMPSON, 11/17/2018, Politico)

The 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats want her victory over Crowley to be the beginning of a movement rather than just a one-off upset. "We recruited and supported Ocasio-Cortez all the way to a historic victory and now we're going to repeat the playbook," Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement.

Tlaib, a fellow Democratic socialist who had the support of Justice Democrats in her own competitive primary for Rep. John Conyers Jr.'s old seat, threw her support behind the new campaign as well.

"Help uplift women like us at all levels of government. We still need more of you to run with us. So get your squad together. We are waiting for you," Tlaib said in a statement.

The grass-roots group expects to focus more on safe Democratic seats -- as Crowley's was -- than on the swing districts, largely centered in the suburbs, that the party won en route to the House majority. That's a slight shift in strategy after all of the group's candidates, such as Kara Eastman in Nebraska, came up short in Republican-held congressional districts in 2018. Replacing safe Democratic incumbents with more progressives and diverse leaders, the thinking goes, could move the Overton window of what is and is not acceptable in the Democratic Party.

This is what the Tea Party types did and then discovered that moving the window just closes it to any legislative achievements.  You end up with a faction that can't compromise to improve things because they're wedded to nihilism as they particularly demonstrated with Obamacare.

Far from Washington, tea party activists cheer McCarthy's fall (David Weigel, October 8, 2015, Washington Post)

After the prayer, before the lengthy and worrisome report on a local school board's wasteful spending, the Greenville Tea Party enjoyed a little joke about Kevin McCarthy.

"On November 12, [state] Rep. Wendy Nanney will be our guest speaker, and I think I'm gonna ask her to address the Syrian refugee situation," said Ron Tamacchio, 72. "On December 11, Speaker Gowdy will be here."

Two dozen Tea Party activists chuckled quietly at the mention of their congressman, Rep. Trey Gowdy. Just hours after McCarthy abandoned his bid for speaker of the House of Representatives, the California Republican was an afterthought, a punchline. Five years after he helped the Republican Party take over Congress, the ambitious McCarthy was another scalp.

According to the Greenville Tea Party, McCarthy did it to himself. It was bad enough that the would-be speaker undercut Gowdy, a figure who commanded real trust, with a damaging gaffe last week implying that the Benghazi Select Committee was created to hurt Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign. His sins went beyond that and encompassed all sorts of threats to conservatism.

"If you go to the Heritage Foundation Web site," said Don Rogers, 76, "McCarthy's score is something like 63 percent."

That contrasted poorly with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who as Rogers immediately remembered scored 80 percent.

"I've heard good things about Chaffetz, and the other one -- Webster," said Rogers's wife Pat, 64, referring to Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida. "The local radio was talking him up. They weren't talking up McCarthy."

Jan Williams, 69, said that he'd seen even more rough ratings for McCarthy -- and not just from Heritage. "The freedom groups have been sending out e-mails, telling us he's wrong for the job," he said. "I can't remember what the reasons were exactly, but I agreed with them. Plus, he's from California, and they're all RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] out there."

The retirement of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had been celebrated by the tea party, and by the many conservative groups that either grew out of or latched onto that movement. McCarthy's failure to replace Boehner was a kind of aftershock -- and more proof, for a Republican Party hardly in need of it, of how little trust it commands from its base. As majority whip then majority leader, McCarthy gave his party's insurgents so much room to act that they frequently stymied him. His loose-leash approach had, for a while, prevented him from becoming a figure of right-wing derision like Boehner or one-time majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The new minority leader is one of the more effective legislators on the Hill; his opponent was very nearly the least.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Corporate Japan struggles to scale up as longevity limits dynamism (TSUKASA MORIKUNI and MIO TOMITA, November 18, 2018, Nikkei)

A variety of factors are a drag on the growth of Japanese companies compared with international rivals. These include a slumping domestic economy, slow progress on deregulation, failure to seize opportunities in online business, conservative mindsets among executives, and a lack of talent in cross-border business -- something due partly to a lack of personnel with foreign-language skills.

One factor noted by many, including Teikyo University economics professor Junichi Shukuwa, is a reluctance to rejuvenate themselves.

If there are no consolidations within an industry, the result is many companies scrambling in a crowded market, hurting profitability for all involved and impeding their ability to make new investments. Companies falling behind the times end up wasting the economy's available capital and human resources, stifling the growth of new industries. These factors are seen hindering innovation and growth for the entire Japanese economy.

One gets a sense of this looking at the data. Japan's listed companies tend to have a much longer life expectancy than those in other countries before they fall to the wayside to be delisted and replaced in the stock market by others. The average time for companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to be replaced is estimated at 98 years, compared with 15 for the New York Stock Exchange and nine for the London Stock Exchange.

While each of the past few years saw nearly 100 new listings in Japan, relatively few of the nation's companies delist because of bankruptcy or realignment. In the 10 years to 2017, 77 Japanese companies went belly up, according to Teikoku Databank. The U.S. had 354 companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over that period even when only counting those with assets totaling $100 million or more.

Japanese companies have also been more hesitant to consolidate than international peers. The country's top 100 by market cap have averaged 182 mergers or acquisitions a year since 2008, according to research firm Refinitiv. This pales beside the 341 annual cases among European companies and 225 at American ones.

"Many Japanese managers aim not to grow, but to simply sustain their companies," Masatoshi Kikuchi of Mizuho Securities said. 

They need immigration not just to staff jobs but to improve their culture.  They should be competing with us for Latinos.
Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


N.H. Judge Frees Somali Immigrant Who Was Detained 9 Months (The Associated Press, November 17, 2018)

A federal judge has freed a Somali immigrant who was held for nine months in a New Hampshire jail without a hearing.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire contends Immigration and Customs Enforcement unlawfully detained 45-year-old Abdigani Faisal Hussein, of Portland, Maine, who was released from the Strafford County Jail on Thursday. [...]

"Every person in this country has the right to due process. Cases like this are exactly why we formed the ACLU-NH Immigrants' Rights Project, and we are happy to see Mr. Hussein reunited with loved ones," said Devon Chaffee of ACLU New Hampshire.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


At NHPR, Podcasts Are a Blessing - Unless They Become a Curse ( David Brooks, 11/17/18, Concord Monitor)

NHPR is punching above its weight in the podcast world. It has produced successes like the environmental program Outside/In, which has won prestigious national awards; the government how-to show Civics 101, such a surprise hit with educators that it may be extended beyond its original run; and the true-crime podcast Bear Brook, which had been downloaded 1.1 million times as of Friday and nearly topped the iTunes version of the hit parade.

But NHPR also has to figure out how a station that has thrived via a half-century-old fundraising model will handle the financial transition that podcasting brings.

Public radio is very good at getting listeners and corporations, who hear the same programs at the same time, to give money, not just because they like a show but because they like the station as a whole. The question is how that can translate to a world where listeners are increasingly likely to hear only separate, distinct programs at scattered times.

Will NHPR have to depend on straightforward advertising in its podcasts like commercial TV, or subscription models like Netflix, or luring people into opening their wallets for exclusive content like some online newspapers? Or will something else entirely come along?

"We've been putting a process into place to figure out how we can do things moving forward. We understand that this is the future and we want to be there. But we have to figure not only should we do this, but can we do this?" said Maureen McMurray, director of content for the station.

"The revenue piece has to go there, too. But if you don't invest in the on-demand programming now ... at a certain point you're not going to exist," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


New Hampshire Refugee Community Pick [Up] the Pieces After a Tragedy (Leah Willingham, 11/18/18, Concord Monitor)

Butonga Zawadi's younger brother, Shabani Zawadi, knows the exact date his family moved to the United States: Feb. 11, 2016.

It is a date that's been ingrained into his memory -- the date that he, his parents and his four siblings left the Tanzanian refugee camp where they'd been living for 20 years before moving to snowy New England.

Sitting on a couch in his family's apartment in the Concord Heights neighborhood, wearing a shiny jacket and black sandals, Shabani, 22, admitted that Concord wouldn't have been his first choice for relocation -- he doesn't like the weather and there's not much of a social life. But he said anything is better than the refugee camp, where none of his family members could work and they lived in poverty.

Kigugu said most people who come from refugee camps are used to living in small tents, without electricity, and almost no access to health care.

"They need to start over, learning everything -- how to switch the lights off and on, how to clean a house, how to use a vacuum, how to live with other people," he said.

In the year and 10 months since his family arrived in the United States, Shabani has been able to get his own apartment and work -- first at Walmart in Concord and now at Harvey Building Products, a company that makes windows and doors in Londonderry, N.H.

When he worked at Walmart, he met Nelly Uwituze, who had worked there for almost two years after coming to the United States. As fellow Congolese refugees, they became close, Shabani said.

Many members of the African community know one another in Concord -- 600 people from Africa who live in the city now worship and socialize together, Shabani said.

"As Africans, we are all friends," he said.

Shabani's sister Zawadi, 25, was the only one who was old enough to remember anything about the Congo. She was around three when they left; Shabani was an infant.

Zawadi celebrated the culture through her love of traditional Congolese choir music, her brother said. She made food for herself, her 2-year-old son and her six other family members every night at their apartment off of East Side Drive. Her favorite food to make was ugali, a cornmeal porridge.

He said his sister was a hard worker who would do anything for her family. Sometimes she would help him pay rent when he needed it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Michelle Obama Book Slamming Trump Is Instant Bestseller (Oliver Willis, November 18, 2018, Share Blue)

The L.A. Times reports that in its first day on sale, the former first lady's book is "already a bestseller."

Barnes & Noble said it is the most preordered book since Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" was released in 2015. The book is also the top seller on, the world's largest bookseller, and was Oprah Winfrey's pick for her book club.

Notably, the former first lady's book discusses and slams Trump's promotion and support of the racist and fraudulent "birther" conspiracy movement against her husband. Trump claimed for years that President Barack Obama was not a natural-born U.S. citizen and was thus ineligible for the presidency.

"The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed," Obama writes in her book. "But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks."

Even after President Obama released his birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii, Trump continued to spread his ugly racist conspiracy theory.

"Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family's safety at risk," the former first lady writes. "And for this I'd never forgive him."

November 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, is down to less than $7,000 in savings (Megan Leonhardi, 16 Nov 2018, CNBC)

In the disclosure, which uses ranges rather than exact amounts, Ocasio-Cortez reported that she had:

$15,000-$50,000 in a checking account
$1,001-$15,000 in a savings account
$1,001-$15,000 in a 401(k)

Her wages in 2017 came to about $26,600, according to the 2018 disclosure, and she's still paying off $15,000-$50,000 in student loan debt.

...but should any adult who has their life savings earning 0% be allowed near any important job?

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Democrats' Draft House Rules Would Return Some Regular Order (Lindsey McPherson, 11/16/18, Roll Call)

Democrats' draft proposals for overhauling the House rules would return at least some so-called regular order processes to the lower chamber by ensuring major bills go through committee before hitting the floor. 

The requirement that all bills being brought to the floor under a rule must have gone through a committee hearing and markup is just one of several notable changes Democrats are floating to House rules now that they'll be in the majority. 

Whenever Democrats win Heritage wins, Fix the Broken Budget Process (Heritage Foundation, Jun 11, 2018)

The budget process provides the framework for the regular and orderly debate of fiscal issues with the goal of guiding legislative action. It determines the steps that are necessary for adopting a budget and for adopting or changing legislation. A properly functioning budget process should encourage debate on fiscal issues and set in motion negotiations over the trade-offs and considerations involved in congressional spending and taxing.

Regular order is the key to a properly functioning budget process. It provides a critically important procedure to ensure time for thorough debate and oversight of government priorities. Regular order follows a clear timeline laid out by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (1974 Budget Act). By the first Monday in February of each year, the President is to submit his budget to Congress. By February 15, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issues its Budget and Economic Outlook report for the upcoming decade, and the budget committees then rely on this report as a starting point for crafting the House and Senate budget resolutions. These resolutions then begin to move in the House and Senate, and Congress is required to complete consideration of the budget by April 15.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Poliquin Loss Wipes Out New England Republicans in the House (Simone Pathé, 11/15/18, Roll Call)

Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin's loss under the state's new ranked-choice voting system on Thursday likely means the end of New England Republicans in the House. 

It's the first time in over 100 years an incumbent has lost Maine's 2nd District. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Trump warns antifa: Opposition to you could be tougher and 'much more violent' (EMILY BIRNBAUM, 11/14/18, The Hill)

President Trump on Wednesday warned members of the anti-fascist movement, commonly referred to as "antifa," that opposition to them could be "tougher" and "much more violent" if their critics decide to "mobilize."

"They better hope that the opposition to antifa decides not to mobilize," Trump told the conservative outlet The Daily Caller in an interview. "Because if they do, they're much tougher. Much stronger. Potentially much more violent."

Proud Boys Faced Off With Protesters in Philadelphia (Will Sommer, 11.17.18, Daily Beast)

Members of the far-right Proud Boys and their allies were vastly outnumbered by protesters at a rally here outside the National Constitution Center on Saturday, the group's first public appearance since New York police arrested some Proud Boys after a high-profile October brawl.

Roughly two dozen people turned out for the "We the People" rally outside the center which sits hailed grounds that include the Liberty Bell and building where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Hundreds of protesters opposed the rally from across a police barricade, with chants and musical instruments that drowned out the conservative event.

Living in the bubble, Donald thinks his racist incel posse is legion and, seeing them shoot up crowds, lethal.  But in a head to head, bet the house on antifa. Then watch the jury nullification.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Shock of irrelevance awaits House Republicans in minority (David M. Drucker,  November 17, 2018, Washington Examiner)

"There's going to be a real awakening," said Tom Reynolds, a Republican from Buffalo who retired from Congress in 2009 after five terms. Reynolds, now a senior adviser at a D.C. lobbying shop, was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2006, when Democrats had last flipped the House prior to this year.

The desertion of the Washington press corps is perhaps the biggest culture shock that awaits House Republicans when the 116th Congress convenes in January.

With possession of the speaker's gavel and committee chairmanships, the Republican Party has dictated the terms of legislation in the House. That majority has afforded competing factions of rank-and-file Republicans -- such as the conservative House Freedom Caucus -- the ability to shape or block legislation favored by GOP leadership.

All of that attracts an inordinate amount of media coverage -- coverage that after the midterm elections quickly moved across the aisle to focus on House Democrats as sorted out leadership responsibilities and divvied up the spoils of their Nov. 6 victory. Even President Trump's usual Twitter antics, usually a staple of the topics House Republicans are asked to comment on, weren't enough to halt the exodus.

Michael Steel, who advised Ohio Republican John Boehner, first as House minority leader and then as speaker, compared transitioning to the minority to a superhero losing his powers.

"Going from the majority to the minority in the House is like going from being the Hulk to being Bruce Banner," Steel said. "There's just a huge drop-off in terms of influence, attention, and relevance."

Now they get a chance to actually legislate, if they can work with the majority.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi's assassination (Shane Harris, Greg Miller and Josh Dawsey November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, contradicting the Saudi government's claims that he was not involved in the killing, according to people familiar with the matter.

The CIA's assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is the most definitive to date linking Mohammed to the operation and complicates the Trump administration's efforts to preserve its relationship with a close ally.

In a normal administration such a leak would be scandalous, now it's just how we hold Donald accountable to American norms.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 PM


Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory: Credible sources say the Las Vegas shooting was a one-man job. But a small band of former government insiders is propagating a wild alternative theory--with dangerous consequences. (KEITH KLOOR November 16, 2018, Politico)

The idea sprang from the twisted, feverish mind of Infowars' Alex Jones days after the Vegas attack. "They found Antifa information in the room," Jones claimed in one telecast. "The whole thing has the hallmarks of being scripted by deep-state Democrats and their Islamic allies using mental-patient cutouts," he said. Others of his ilk then amplified the unsubstantiated Antifa-ISIS allegations on social media in what became a frothy concoction of phony tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos.

But weeks later, the theory took on a life of its own in an ad hoc "alternative" investigation spearheaded by my two lunch companions--Brad Johnson, a retired CIA officer, and Rich Higgins, a former Pentagon official who last year served for a few months in the White House as director of strategic planning for the National Security Council. (Yes, the same Rich Higgins who infamously got tossed off the NSC for writing a controversial memo warning that "Islamists," "globalists" and the "deep state" together were trying to subvert Donald Trump's presidency.) A month after the October shooting in Vegas, Johnson, Higgins and a handful of associates collaborated on a 51-page PowerPoint document based, according to its executive summary, on "open source information with tactical counter terrorism analysis, cyber intelligence, and digital data mining capabilities." Higgins and Johnson told me they sent the document to contacts in the CIA and FBI, as well as to conservatives in Congress and the media. Higgins claims a current FBI agent in his and Johnson's circle--who he says had input on the document--"filed it as a formal report with the bureau."

This prosecutor's cut-and-paste mistake revealed case against WikiLeaks founder (Rachel Weiner, November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Any writer's nightmare is a copy-and-paste error that goes into print.

But it's the rare typo that makes international news.

That's what happened to Kellen Dwyer, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia who inadvertently revealed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been charged under seal. Dwyer twice put Assange's name, along with a vague description of the case against him, in a document filed in what officials said was a completely unrelated child solicitation case.

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


Who is Marcia Fudge, the Democrat considering challenging Nancy Pelosi for House speaker? (Clare Foran,  November 17, 2018, CNN)

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi continues to project confidence that she will be elected speaker of the US House of Representatives when the new Democratic-led Congress starts in January -- but she faces a potential challenger in Rep. Marcia Fudge.

Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, has publicly said she is considering jumping into the race for speaker, though she has yet to announce a final decision. She has represented Ohio's 11th Congressional District since 2008 and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of progressive Democrats in the House, and a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, an influential voting bloc in the lower chamber.

While it's fun to watch Ms Fudge and Ms Pelosi play the gender, race and sexuality cards against each other, you'd think someone might care that neither of them is even just a competent legislator, nevermind a good one. Meanwhile, the GOP picked a great one over one of the worst in Congress as their leader.  It would seem a minimum requirement for the jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Homelessness Is a Tragedy the U.S. Can Afford to Fix (Noah Smith, May 21, 2018, Bloomberg)

 In the mid-2000s, President George W. Bush's "housing first" program made substantial inroads against the problem. President Barack Obama continued the campaign with the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program in 2009 and a follow-up program in 2010. As a result of these efforts, the nationwide homeless population has continued to fall... [...]

About 3.5 million Americans will experience homelessness at some point in time, but only about a half-million are homeless at any given time, and roughly 87,000 of these are chronically homeless. By some estimates, housing a homeless person and providing them with a caseworker to see to their needs costs about $10,000 a year. That means for less than a billion dollars a year, chronic homelessness could be ended in the U.S. If temporarily homeless people were housed in temporary housing, and if each temporary residence were occupied half the time, homelessness of all kinds could be eliminated for about $10 billion a year. That's less than a seventh of what the government spends on food stamps.

The spending would be worth it. Homeless people are the country's most destitute and needy citizens, and every day they spend on the street is a human tragedy. It's hard to think of a better way to use a tax dollar than on housing a homeless person. What's more, a federal initiative to end homelessness would utterly transform many of the country's cities, making them more pleasant for all residents and raising productivity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:18 PM



In the short year and a half that Mueller has been investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's ties to it, he has indicted some of Trump's most senior campaign officials. In each of those court filings he has included far more information than he needed to, notes Graff. For example, when Mueller indicted officers of Russia's military intelligence GRU agency for hacking, he noted in the criminal filing that the night that Donald Trump went on live TV and invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton and find her missing emails, the GRU "returned to the office and attacked Hillary Clinton's personal email server for the first time," Graff says, emphasizing that last phrase.

"Mueller uses that phrase 'for the first time' in the indictment, which is totally unnecessary, unless Mueller wants us to know that further down the road," he says. "Mueller is making claims that I think point to breadcrumbs he is leaving us for where this is going to go."

Graff says that once you factor in the information hidden in plain sight in the indictments, as well as what is pointedly left out of them, you begin to see that Mueller is carving out the negative space where the heart of the investigation lies. "He is staying very, very focused," Graff explains, "and anything that he's finding that is not directly related to Russia he is handing off to other prosecutors in a really interesting way, because it gives us almost a negative relief of how to view Mueller's investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Dershowitz Received $120K From Anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute (Eli Clifton, 11/15/18, Lobelog)"

On cable news, Dershowitz has emerged as a go-to Trump-defender and critic of the left wing of the Democratic Party, all while self-identifying as a "liberal Democrat." Over the summer, Dershowitz loudly complained about being shunned by Martha's Vineyard's largely liberal residents.

But Dershowitz's shift to the right, and the frequent defense of the Trump administration, has coincided with a lucrative source of income for the retired professor.

Dershowitz's work for the anti-refugee and anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute paid him $120,000 in 2017, making him one of the group's highest paid contractors, according to tax disclosures reviewed by LobeLog.

They have a shared hatred of Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


RIP, California GOP: Republicans lash out after midterm election debacle: 'There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure,' says one top Republican. (CARLA MARINUCCI, 11/17/2018, Politico)

"I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die -- I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,'' says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. "There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure."

Republicans like Madrid also mourned another low point this week: the defeat of Southern California Assemblyman Dante Acosta, marking the demise of the last GOP Latino legislator -- in a state where Latinos comprise the fastest-growing electorate.

"The California Republican Party isn't salvageable at this time. The Grand Old Party is dead," wrote former state GOP Assembly leader Kristin Olsen, who startled fellow Republicans with a brutally frank op-ed this week saying Republicans must acknowledge their "serious problem" in California, particularly the effects of toxicity of President Trump.

GOP strategist John Weaver, who has worked California races and also has represented the presidential campaign of Ohio governor John Kasich, seconded Olsen's view, tweeting that the effects of the Trump presidency have doomed any chance of resurrection. "In one fell swoop Trump & Republicans who willingly handcuffed themselves to him have turned Orange County into a GOP wasteland,'' he tweeted this week. "You want to see the future? Look no further than the demographic death spiral in the place once considered a cornerstone of the party."

Madrid argues that many California Republican leaders remain in complete denial of the fact that their continued support of Trump presidency has sealed the fate of the GOP -- and last week's midterm elections revealed the true extent of the GOP's rot in California, where the state party has now shrunken to third party status.

"Now, it's just open warfare. The barbarians have broken through the gates. The army is in full retreat,'' said Madrid, who adds there's no hope left for a party that for years has been on a path toward destruction. "Burn it to the ground. I want to reconstitute.''

To the contrary, the message could hardly be clearer: we are the party of old white men and no one else is welcome.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


When the Scientific Consensus Is Corrected by a Skeptic (ABE GREENWALD, 11/16/18, Commentary)
A group of international scientists is walking back major claims they'd made in the journal Nature about the rate at which the earth's oceans are warming. A newly published note from the study's co-author, Ralph Keeting, makes it plain that these researchers still believe the oceans are warming at an alarming rate, but they now acknowledge that procedural mistakes "that came to our attention" created an unacceptably large margin of error in their results.

That "came to our attention" line conceals the most important aspect of the story. These scientists work out of Princeton University, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, and various international institutions that make up the much lionized "scientific consensus" on climate change. And they had their landmark study debunked by an independent global-warming skeptic of no institutional standing named Nicholas Lewis.

Where did Lewis debunk the doomsayers? No, not in the esteemed pages of Nature but in a blog post at a website called Climate Etc., a small, dissenting dot in the vast universe of online science discussion. Lewis wrote: "The findings of the...paper were peer-reviewed and published in the world's premier scientific journal and were given wide coverage in the English-speaking media." He went on: "Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results. Just a few hours of analysis and calculations, based only on published information, was sufficient to uncover apparently serious (but surely inadvertent) errors in the underlying calculations."

Open Source everything.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Why Jim Acosta Got His Pass Back (Garrett Epps, 11/16/18, The Atlantic)

The judge's cryptic statement suggests that revoking a reporter's press pass may or may not violate the Constitution--but revoking it without providing a reason, and a chance for the reporter to contest that action, does. The judge said he was relying on precedent, though he added, "whether it's what I agree with, that's a different story, but I must apply precedent as I see it."

The case he is referring to is almost certainly Sherrill v. Knight, which concerned Robert Sherrill, the cantankerous Washington editor of The Nation, who was denied a press pass to the White House even though he had congressional press credentials. The Secret Service at first refused to explain the refusal, then finally alleged that the denial was based on reports of a couple of fistfights the cantankerous writer had gotten into during his days as a Southern newsman. (Disclosure: I was briefly a researcher for Sherrill, which got me chased out of Hollywood by the FBI, but that's a story for another time.)

Neither Sherrill nor anybody else, Circuit Judge Carl McGowan wrote, was entitled to White House access as a matter of First Amendment law. But the White House had "voluntarily decided to establish press facilities for correspondents who need to report therefrom." Once government made that choice, "the protection afforded newsgathering under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press ... requires that this access not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons." For that reason, the Secret Service could not deny Sherrill or anyone else a pass without making public its rules. And if the Service wanted to deny anyone a pass based on those rules, it had to give the rejected applicant "notice of the factual basis for denial, an opportunity ... to respond to these, and a final written statement of the reasons for denial."

Eventually the Service offered Sherrill his pass; having made his point, he declined.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Genetics Start-Up Wants to Sequence People's Genomes for Free (Karen Weintraub, November 17, 2018, Scientific American)

The quality of gene sequencing has improved so much and its price has fallen so far that a start-up now says it can offer the service for free.

Nebula Genomics aims to sequence a customer's entire genome, according to the company's chief scientific officer Dennis Grishin. In contrast, current commercial services offer genotyping, which focuses on the differences between the person's genome and a reference one. The new service, which was officially made available Thursday, will provide 2,000 times more data than existing services, but will still not be accurate enough to serve as a basis for medical advice, he says. [...]

The service will be particularly appealing to people who want to benefit science as well as themselves, says Laura Hercher, a professor of human genetics at Sarah Lawrence College in New York State who has no connection to Nebula Genomics. "If you're interested in helping genomic research, this whole picture makes sense. You can be helpful at no cost."

Free is obviously just the intermediary step, as consumers should be charging companies for the value of the data we provide.  Indeed, data is becoming more valuable than labor.

The Box That AI Lives In: How could an 18th-century robot win at chess? By using a trick that big tech firms still pull on us today. (TOM STANDAGE and SETH STEVENSON, SEPT 05, 2018, Secret History of the Future)

In the new podcast The Secret History of the Future, from Slate and the Economist: Examine the history of tech to uncover stories that help us illuminate the present and predict the future. From the world's first cyberattack in 1834 to 19th-century virtual reality, the Economist's Tom Standage and Slate's Seth Stevenson find the ancient ingenuity that our modern digital technology can learn from and expose age-old weaknesses we are already on a course to repeat.

In the first episode: An 18th-century device called the Mechanical Turk convinced Europeans that a robot could play winning chess. But there was a trick. It's a trick that companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook still pull on us today. Guests include futurist Jaron Lanier and Luis von Ahn, founder of CAPTCHA and Duolingo.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


What we really know about China's Reform and Opening Up (Joshua Eisenman, November 15, 2018, Washington Post)

China's national amnesia regarding the sources of its own material success means that those who came of age during or after the 1980s generally regard their elders as part of the "lost" Cultural Revolution generation and thus undervalue their contributions and sacrifices.

At the highest level, this means that nationwide rural reforms advanced by Deng and his supporters 40 years ago have received too much credit for China's rapid economic growth, while extensive investments made under his predecessors (e.g., Zhou Enlai and Hua Guofeng) have received too little. But there's a far bigger problem at the grass-roots level. In 2013, China had 50 million "left behind" elderly -- an aging rural population largely abandoned as their children left to work in cities.

A study by Liu Yanwu at Wuhan University examined this population in 40 villages in 11 provinces and found the suicide rate among the rural elderly had risen from 100 per 100,000 to 500 per 100,000 over the past two decades. The suicide rate for elderly rural residents is now 50 times higher than the general population -- a phenomenon Liu associates with a lack of social security.

There are consequences for China's foreign relations as well. Every day the country welcomes more foreign students eager to learn about China's development experience, and in September more than 50 African presidents were feted at the development-driven Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Dispelling the myths of China's development story means acknowledging that China's success was born out of painstaking investments in agricultural modernization, and a nationwide commitment to vocational education and basic health care.

An economy that can top $30 billion in a single day of online sales is not the product of a "China miracle," or a unique "Chinese model," as Zhang Weiying at Peking University expertly observed. Rather, China in 2018 is the result of a national development saga that began -- as it did in Britain, the United States and other developed countries -- with a green revolution in agriculture. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


A Saudi Murder Becomes a Gift to Iran: The assassination of a journalist has further hurt the Trump administration's frail strategy of buddying with Saudi Arabia to restrain Iran's expanding influence. (Vali R. Nasr, Nov. 12, 2018, NY Times)

The Trump administration is not ready to admit it, but its Middle East strategy is in deep trouble, now compounded by the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month. The administration's recent pressure on the Saudis to seek a truce in their war in Yemen is a clear signal of just how much the credibility of Saudi Arabia, which is at the heart of that strategy, has shrunk, perhaps even in President Trump's eyes.

The strategy's goal was to work with the Saudis to contain Iran's influence in the Middle East. Instead, we can now expect a growing sense of ease in Tehran about exerting its influence, even as it adjusts to the tough economic sanctions that were reimposed last week. That freedom is more likely to be used through maneuvering and deal-making, rather than through aggressions.

It's not as if Iran expects a change in American policy toward it in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair. Instead, the weakening of confidence in Saudi Arabia throughout the region is more likely to confirm to Iran's leaders the wisdom of their own current strategy -- manage pressure from America by mobilizing domestic resources; rely on Europe, China and Russia to keep economic channels with Iran open; and consolidate Iran's alliances and positions of influence politically.

...but the entirety of the WoT consists of working with our democratic allies--the Shi'a and the Brotherhood--against the Salafi and the secular dictators.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Rep. Mia Love pulls ahead of Democrat Ben McAdams as judge dismisses her lawsuit (Felicia Sonmez November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Rep. Mia Love (R) pulled ahead of Democrat Ben McAdams in the vote count Friday in Utah's 4th Congressional District, a positive twist for the GOP lawmaker's campaign hours after a judge separately dismissed her lawsuit seeking to halt the counting of ballots in Salt Lake County.

As of Friday evening, Love was leading McAdams by 419 votes, or 0.16 percentage point. [...]

President Trump had called out Love by name at a combative White House news conference the day after Election Day, arguing that she and other lawmakers had been defeated because they had not been sufficiently supportive of him. McAdams was ahead in the vote count when Trump made his remarks, although the race had not been called.

"Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost," Trump said. "Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia."

Utah's shift in approval for Trump is the highest in the nation, new poll says (Herb Scribner, October 8, 2018, Deseret News)

In Utah, about 58 percent of residents approved of the president when he was inaugurated in January 2017, according to Morning Consult, while 31 percent disapproved of him.

Fast forward to now and you'll see Utah's approval rating sits at 45 percent and his disapproval rating hovering around 50 percent, showing a switch from a majority approval to majority disapproval, according to the poll.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


I'm a Patriot, Not a Nationalist (Rhett Jenkins, 11/16/18, Splice Today)

In our present political climate, with public discourse dominated by ideologues and demagogues, the concept of nationalism has been largely absorbed into a cultural war between angry racists clinging to a hateful past and avenging progressives assaulting every aspect of a culture that offers ordinary human beings greater scope for fulfillment--as they define it--than almost any other in history. Americans are right to reject and oppose the ignorant, naive, and doomed social dream of white nationalists, and right to call out the racist basis of the movement. Likewise Americans are right to reject and oppose the impracticable demands and intellectually embarrassing fulminations of the extreme Left. Yet the bickering of these enemies, while contemned and ignored by the majority of Americans, obscures a more fundamental and corrosive element creeping back into domestic and global politics.  The resurgence of nationalism as such poses a far broader and more tenacious threat to shared social values and the political structures erected to embody and protect them.

Nationalism enjoins upon the mob (revolving around a monolithic unifying principle, nationalist movements are powerfully popular and emotional) a rejection of other ways of life and political orientations. National identity is not only threatened from within and without, it must be purified to achieve some transcendent ideal that'll confirm the whole shabby edifice of belief. [...]

While there are nations, there will always be nationalists. Unilateral value systems appeal to the intellectually lazy, as they provide an efficient and self-exonerating explanation for personal and social problems and resentments, a clear guide to action, and a sense of moral purpose. These and similar factors have always endangered the health of society; the need to impose ideological compliance by authority signals decadence in the civil order and prefigures the radicalization of public rhetoric, the institutions of government, and the citizenry.

There's need to differentiate patriotism from nationalism, as America and the world face a choice between the two. Tariffs, immigration law, and other issues merely form the foam upon the tidal forces of history, and our collective decisions now will shape the human experience forever. The primal social elements of cooperation, organization, and conflict play out in terms of our human relationships, not our official policies.

Patriotism invites critical engagement with the political, social, and moral context of our national and personal interests. Nationalism demands adherence to a single idea, an article of faith, a totem. Patriotism, like any love, entails responsibility. One must discharge these responsibilities consciously, willingly, and generously, or the relationship is sick. Like any tribal mentality sprung from fear, nationalism pragmatically regulates behavior and belief, so far as it can. Nationalist movements require force, coercion, and intimidation to impress their agenda upon the unwilling, as they lack the power to inspire sacrifice as love of country does.

Eric Hoffer had their number.

Authorities find a rocket launcher and pipe bombs during massive Florida white supremacist sting (Noor Al-Sibai, 16 NOV 2018, Raw Story)

Thirty-nine members of the United Aryan Brotherhood and Unforgiven neo-Nazi groups were arrested in a Florida drug trafficking sting -- and one had functional pipe bombs in his home.

Tampa's WFTS-TV reported that the multi-agency sting codenamed "Operation Blackjack," a three-year-long investigation, led to the seizure of more than 110 illegal firearms, a rocket launcher and two pipe bombs from the individuals mostly based in Pasco County, Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Along southern border, numerous Army barricades, no sign of migrant 'invasion' (Julia Ainsley, 11/16/18, NBC News)

In another sign of the rushed deployment, the soldiers had to spend their first few nights at the border in Nogales sleeping inside a warehouse used to store cold food during cargo inspections, but with the freon turned off, until CBP could provide them with sleeping quarters inside their offices at the border crossing.

The rush to deploy soldiers to the border, 1,500 of whom are in Arizona, has been criticized even by anonymous military officials, who have described it as a political ploy that drew on voters' fears of illegal immigration ahead of the midterms and resulted in an ill-defined mission without proper planning.

Here in Nogales, commanders are reluctant to criticize the mission, but offer few answers about what doomsday scenario they seem to be preparing for.

...but Donald won't visit active war zones...

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Pence vows US will hold Khashoggi murderers to account (AFP, 11/17/18)

United States Vice President Mike Pence vowed Saturday the US would hold the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi to account, following media reports that the CIA had concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the journalist's killing.

"The United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder," Pence said on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Rouhani sees Iran, Iraq expanding trade despite U.S. sanctions (Reuters, 11/17/18)  

Iran and Iraq could raise their annual bilateral trade to $20 billion from the current level of $12 billion, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, amid concerns in Tehran over the economic impact of renewed U.S. sanctions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Black Jew Swarmed By Hasidic Mob -- For Carrying A Torah While Not White (Ari Feldman, November 16, 2018, The Forward)

Yehuda Webster has a routine when it comes to Torahs.

Just about every month, he picks up a rented Torah in a plastic sleeve from J. Levine Books and Judaica in Manhattan. He uses the Torahs for the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies he arranges through an organization he founded, for families that don't belong to a synagogue. Then he gets in a Lyft and returns the Torah to J. Levine.

On Monday, that routine was ruptured.

That morning, he walked out of his apartment in the heart of the heavily Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood Crown Heights, Torah in hand. Almost immediately, Webster, who is black, was confronted by a Hasidic man who Webster says demanded to know where he was going with the Torah. Webster shrugged him off, telling the man it wasn't his business.

By the time Webster got into his Lyft at a nearby intersection, several more men were accosting him. When the Lyft driver tried to leave, a car swerved in front of the car, trapping them.

"And that's when things got really scary," Webster told the Forward.

November 16, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Betsy DeVos Strikes a Blow for the Constitution (DAVID FRENCH, November 16, 2018, National Review)

First and perhaps most important, the rules will not only require colleges to permit cross-examination of witnesses (including the accuser), but will also prohibit universities from relying on the statements of any witness who refuses to submit to cross-examination.

Cross-examination is so fundamental to adversary proceedings that it's is simply incredible that some universities have been prosecuting and expelling students without permitting the accused's representative to question his accuser. Prohibiting cross-examination irrevocably stacks the deck against the accused. The Supreme Court has rightly called cross-examination "the greatest legal engine ever invented for discovery of the truth."

But you don't have to trust SCOTUS; the importance of cross-examination is among the most ancient of legal principles. Consider Proverbs 18:17: "In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward to cross-examine."

Interestingly, however, the proposed rules prohibit the accused himself from cross-examining the accuser -- instead requiring that questioning come from an "advisor." While some complain this limits the rights of the accused, as a practical matter advisers (attorneys, for example) are far better equipped to cross-examine witnesses than are undergraduates or young graduate students.

In addition to mandating cross-examination, the proposed rules grant both parties "equal opportunity to inspect and review evidence obtained as part of the investigation that is directly related to the allegations raised in a formal complaint."

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Is Mike Pence Loyal? (Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers, Nov. 16, 2018, NY Times)

In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Mr. Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal?

Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Judge hands CNN victory in its bid to restore Jim Acosta's White House press pass (Paul Farhi, November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of CNN and reporter Jim Acosta in a dispute with President Trump, ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials that the Trump administration had taken away from Acosta last week.

In a victory for the cable network and for press access generally, Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN's motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. Donald and his enablers just made him a legend in reality?


Posted by orrinj at 10:22 AM


The Defeat of Reason: a review of What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker (TIM MAUDLIN, Boston Review)

Becker does not discuss the earliest signs that something was amiss in the theory of light and matter, but the fundamentals are well known. The first hints of particle-like behavior in electromagnetic waves were dropped by Max Planck in his treatment of blackbody radiation, the light given off as a body heats up. In 1905 Albert Einstein took a decisive step with his analysis of the photoelectric effect, the current that flows in certain metals exposed to light. Einstein postulated that the light wave delivers its energy to the metal in small packets or quanta. The energy per packet varies with the color (frequency) of the light, and the number of packets with the brightness (amplitude). Below a critical frequency, no current flows, no matter how bright the light. Above that frequency, some flows no matter how dim.

Light is not just absorbed by matter; it is also emitted. The emission from atoms occurs at only certain precise frequencies. These constitute atomic spectra, which permit us to determine how much of each element there is in a distant star.

In 1913 Niels Bohr devised the Bohr atom. Electrons orbit the nucleus just like planets orbiting the sun. Only certain orbits--which Bohr gave rules for--are available to the electron, and when an electron jumps from a higher orbit to a lower one, it emits light of a frequency determined by the energies of the orbits. The challenge was figuring out how these quantum jumps happen. Over the next decade, Bohr failed to find any precise electron motions. The spectra and intensities of emitted light never came out right. This is the period of the "old" quantum theory.

Becker's main historical narrative begins dramatically at the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference in Brussels. In 1925 Werner Heisenberg had invented matrix mechanics. Heisenberg's mathematical formalism got the predictions that Bohr had been seeking. But the central mathematical objects used in his theory were matrices, rectangular arrays of numbers. The predictions came out with wonderful accuracy, but that still left the old puzzle in place: how does the electron get from one orbit to another? You can stare at a matrix from morning to night, but you will not get a clue.

Bohr took an unexpected approach to this question: instead of asking if the theory was too young to be fully understood, he declared that the theory was complete; you cannot visualize what the electron is doing because the microworld of the electron is not, in principle, visualizable (anschaulich). It is unvisualizable (unanschaulich). In other words, the fault lay not in the theory, it lay in us. Bohr took to calling any visualizable object classical. Quantum theory had passed beyond the bounds of classical physics: there is no further classical story to tell. This became a central tenet of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory.

Imagine Bohr's motivation to adopt this extreme conclusion. For over a decade, he had been seeking exact, visualizable electron trajectories and failed. He concluded that his failure was rooted in the impossibility of the task.

But in 1926 Erwin Schrödinger produced a mathematically different theory, wave mechanics. Schrödinger's mathematics was essentially just the classical mathematics of waves. The atomic system was not designated by a matrix, it was described by a wavefunction. And waves may not be particles, but they are certainly visualizable objects from everyday life.

What is Real? and The Ashtray are spellbinding intellectual adventures into the limits, fragility, and infirmity of human reason.

Schrödinger's theory proved easier to use than Heisenberg's, in part because it is more intuitive. Furthermore, first Schrödinger and then Paul Dirac proved that the two theories are equivalent. In physics any two theories that make precisely the same observable predictions are observably equivalent. And one of the predominant philosophical views of the age--logical positivism--held that any two observably equivalent theories are really one and the same theory. That is, although the two theories may seem to be giving completely different accounts of the world, they are not. The total content of an empirical theory consists in the predictions it makes about the observable. No more and no less.

Logical positivism is a very attractive view for people who do not want to worry about what they cannot observe. It is ultimately a theory about meaning, about the content of a theory. According to the positivists, a theory says no more than its observable consequences.

Logical positivism has been killed many times over by philosophers. But no matter how many stakes are driven through its heart, it arises unbidden in the minds of scientists. For if the content of a theory goes beyond what you can observe, then you can never, in principle, be sure that any theory is right. And that means there can be interminable arguments about which theory is right that cannot be settled by observation.

So the situation in 1926 was rather confused. Matrix mechanics and wave mechanics were, in some sense, thought to be the same theory, differently expressed. But if you use the mathematics to derive a certain matrix yet have no notion of how the physical situation associated with the matrix would appear, how do you get a prediction about what you will observe? And wave mechanics is not much better off. Waves are certainly visualizable, but the world we live in, the world of laboratory experiments, does not present itself as made of waves. It presents itself, if anything, as made of particles. How do we get from waves to recognizable everyday stuff?

This, in a nutshell, is the central conundrum of quantum mechanics: how does the mathematical formalism used to represent a quantum system make contact with the world as given in experience? This is commonly called the measurement problem, although the name is misleading. It might better be called the where-in-the-theory-is-the-world-we-live-in problem.

For Bohr and Heisenberg, the measurement problem is how the unvisualizable can influence the observable (and hence visualizable). For Schrödinger it is how waves can constitute solid objects such as cats. In wave mechanics, the little planetary electron of the old quantum theory gets smeared out into a cloud surrounding the nucleus. If quantum mechanics provides a complete description of the electron--as Bohr insisted--this diffuseness is not merely a reflection of our ignorance about where the electron is, it is a characteristic of the electron itself. As Schrödinger memorably wrote to Albert Einstein, "There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks." This unexpected (but perfectly visualizable) mistiness of the electron was fine by Schrödinger: after all, we have no direct experience of electrons to contradict it. But the dynamics of the theory could not confine the smeariness to microscopic scale. In certain experimental situations, the haziness of the electron would get amplified up to everyday scales. The electron that is nowhere-in-particular gives birth to a cat that is no-state-of-health-in-particular. Schrödinger found this result manifestly absurd: something must have gone wrong somewhere in the physics.

For his part, Bohr insisted--as he had to--that the description of an experimental procedure and its outcome be classical, which is to say visualizable. Otherwise, you could not tell what experiment was done and how it came out. But at some point, if we are probing the microscopic realm, we must reach the unvisualizable. And the interaction between the two must itself be unvisualizable, since one part is. So all one can ask for is a mathematical rule: if an interaction occurs, what are the probabilities of the various possible classical outcomes? There is no more to be sought from quantum theory than these numbers. And matrix mechanics typically does not provide a precise prediction but a set of probabilities for different outcomes. The deterministic world of classical physics has been lost.

Which is all well and good, so long as you know what counts as the point of interaction between a quantum system and a classical one. But this Bohr could never nail down. We are left with the question: under what conditions does such an interaction (a measurement of the quantum state) occur? Do we need a human observer? Some conscious detection device, even if not human? Will a mouse do? Some detection device, even if not conscious? The Copenhagen interpretation never answered.

For Schrödinger, we get a different problem. We can visualize the microworld: it is a wave. But at some point, waves must manage to appear as particles, things located at definite positions in space. And just as the Copenhagenists advert to measurement here, so too does Schrödinger. The sudden change from an electron wavefunction being spread all over space to being located at a point is called "the collapse of the wavefunction." So for wave mechanics, the measurement problem becomes: When and how does the wavefunction collapse? And the tentative answer is, upon measurement.

We are all Designist now; the Anglosphere was fortunate to never stray from that truth.
Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Whitaker abandoned taxpayer-funded project in Iowa in 2016  (RYAN J. FOLEY and DAVID PITT, November 13, 2018, AP)

While in private business, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker walked away from a taxpayer-subsidized apartment-rehabilitation project in Iowa after years of cost overruns, delays and other problems, public records show.

The city of Des Moines ultimately yanked an affordable housing loan that Whitaker's company had been awarded, and another lender began foreclosure proceedings after Whitaker defaulted on a separate loan for nearly $700,000. Several contractors complained they were not paid, and a process server for one could not even find Whitaker or his company to serve him with a lawsuit.

As Charlie Sykes notes, the competition for Donald's worst appointment is ferocious, but this guy is at least a medallist.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


There Is Only One Superpower (Gordon G. Chang, November 15, 2018, Strategika)

We start with the conventional wisdom. "No one denies that in the long term, things look good for the People's Republic," writes Kerry Brown, a professor at King's College in a recent opinion piece.

Actually, the situation is not good. The economy, the engine of China's extraordinary four-decade advance, is clearly exhausted.

Juiced by debt--especially since the end of 2008--the country now cannot grow without gobs of it. When the so-called "hidden debt" is taken into account, the economy is incurring one-and-a-half times as much indebtedness as it is producing nominal gross domestic product if official GDP figures are accurate.

They're not. China is not growing at the 6.7 percent pace claimed for the first three quarters of this year. In reality, it's less than half that. The combination of slow growth and unprecedented accumulation of debt suggests the country is heading to a systemic crisis.

While China moves toward its debt crisis, Xi Jinping, its ruler, is reversing the "reform and opening up" policies that fueled China's rise. It is ironic that as the country approaches the 40th anniversary of the start of its era of economic liberalization, Xi is reembracing not only state-dominated economics but also totalitarian-style politics.

The embrace of Maoism leaves China ill-prepared to meet the critical challenges of the eroding environment, crumbling demographics, and emerging societal modernity. Xi can coerce but not persuade. His ideological campaigns are leaving the Chinese people, for the most part, cold.

Externally, Xi is showing a face of China that most abhor. Beijing is grabbing territory from neighbors, closing off the global commons, and proliferating nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. It makes common cause with a host of bad actors, such as genocide-committing generals in Burma and misery-creating autocrats in Latin America. Even Beijing's friends recognize it has chosen the wrong path. For instance, Brown, the King's College professor, is the author of "How China Is Losing the World."

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Hating Sin (ANTHONY ESOLEN, 11/14/18, Crisis)

It is Passover, and Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem with his disciples. He has come to the Temple, where he finds people "selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the moneychangers at their business." It is interesting to note what he does then, and what he does not do.

He does not engage the moneychangers in a discussion about what profits are licit and what are not in the sale of sacrificial animals. He does not bid the salesmen good day. He makes a whip of cords, which must have taken some deliberation and time. We can imagine the intense anger of our Lord as he did this, and it is hardly likely that any of the disciples knew what he would do next before he began to do it: he "drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple." Jesus, remember, was a construction worker. The man whose image is imprinted miraculously upon the Shroud of Turin is tall, broad shouldered, and barrel-chested. He was not singing falsetto in the Galilee glee club.

Nor does Jesus spare the instruments of their trade. For "he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables," and told the men to get lost, because they had turned his Father's house "into a house of trade," and, in another account, "a den of thieves." His disciples later applied to the scene a verse from the Psalms: "Zeal for thy house will consume me." This zeal is a powerful word for a powerful emotion: it is related to the word that is translated as jealous in the commandment: "For I the Lord your God am a jealous God," who would have his people devoted to him entirely, and not to any other gods, or to any graven image of some creature on earth, under the earth, or in the skies above.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Man of Tomorrow (ALAN GREENBLATT | NOVEMBER 2018, Governing)

Because he is unusual, Brown has always been caricatured. But he returned to the governorship in 2011 not just older, but also more grounded. Politicians in Sacramento can tell you what books he's been reading lately, which may include histories of the Weimar Republic or the treatment of American Indians, but they insist he is not some ephemeral, abstract thinker. He explores ideas not for their own sake but for how they might be put into practice. He's had the discipline in his later terms to promote his big ideas in small batches, setting clear priorities each year. He's gotten better both as an executive overseeing the government and as a policymaker able to win legislators over to his point of view. He may quote Latin in his spare time, but on the job he does his homework. "He's this combination of a cigar-chomping politician and a philosopher king," says Leonor Ehling, director of the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State University.

Thad Kousser, who chairs the political science department at the University of California, San Diego, describes Brown's uniqueness a little differently: "I can't see anyone patterning themselves on his persona." Kousser describes that persona as "be grouchy and supercheap, quote obscure philosophers, avoid social media and never make a public presentation without a doomsday-predicting graph."

Perhaps the most telling example of Brown's forward-looking stewardship has been his handling of the state budget. Throughout his last eight years in office, he's worked with a legislature thoroughly dominated by his fellow Democrats. But he's never given them everything they wanted. He signaled his intention to act as a brake on the legislature right away, vetoing the first budget it sent him in 2011 because it didn't include enough spending cuts. As the state's economy has boomed during his tenure, he has resisted his party's impulse to spend whatever was available. "In the last four or five years, there were plenty of chances for him to spend, and he chose to save," says state Sen. Steve Glazer, who once served as a political adviser to Brown. "This is the key to good executive leadership, thinking not only about what it will cost this year but the projection of the out-years going forward."

While exercising restraint on the spending side, Brown has helped increase the state's revenue intake. California has a highly progressive tax code that relies heavily on taxing income and capital gains earned in more affluent places like Palo Alto and Beverly Hills. But Brown showed no hesitation in asking voters in 2012 to further raise taxes on those with personal incomes over $250,000 as part of a package that also raised the sales tax. In 2016, voters gave him a 12-year extension of the income tax increase.

All these factors together -- Brown's fiscal constraints, his willingness to raise taxes and the overall health of the state's economy -- have turned California's finances around. Before he took office, it was common to hear that California, which faced chronic budget shortfalls larger than most other states' budgets, was going to be the next Greece. The state was unable to pay its bills, often resorting to IOUs. California led the nation in municipal bankruptcies. Kevin Starr, a celebrated California historian, wrote that it was on the verge of becoming America's "first failed state."

You don't hear that kind of talk anymore. Brown inherited a shortfall of $27 billion, but he's leaving with $18 billion stashed away in the state's rainy day fund. He paid down much of the short-term debt his predecessors had taken on, as they dug their way temporarily out of holes while leaving bigger messes behind. Now, the state has its highest bond rating in two decades. At one point this year, it was sitting on $31 billion worth of voter-approved but unsold bonds.

Every American governor elected in the large Class of 2010 is leaving his or her state in better financial shape in 2018, thanks to the long recovery that followed the last recession. But none has accomplished as dramatic a turnaround as Brown, who is leaving plenty of money in the bank for his successor (almost certainly Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom) to play with. "He held the line single-handedly," says state Sen. Bob Hertzberg. "He made a lot of tough choices. The credit goes to him 100 percent. Not 96 percent, 100 percent."

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Trump's conservative media comfort trap (Jonathan Swan, 11/16/18, Axios)

Trump fell into the conservative media trap again this week while speaking with The Daily Caller, a conservative site that generally gives him glowing coverage.

A Daily Caller reporter threw Trump a seemingly harmless open-ended question, saying the president seemed happy with his acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. After saying a few nice things about Whitaker, Trump launched into an anti-Mueller diatribe: "I'm concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. ... It's an illegal investigation."

According to the transcript, the Daily Caller had not brought up the special counsel.

The bottom line: The president clearly makes a strong connection between Whitaker's installation at the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 AM


LUST FOR DESTRUCTION: a review of  Victor Sebestyen's Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror  (Waller R. Newell, Fall 2018, Claremont Review of Books)

Sebestyen's biography comes closer to the mark in his exhaustive exploration of Lenin's ideological writings before and after the Revolution, which have only become available in recent years. Nevertheless, I don't think they add anything fundamental to what we already knew. Lenin was no more a "theorist" than was the Führer, his dreary tracts mainly vicious diatribes against rivals. Among his epithets for anyone who disagreed with him, Sebestyen observes, were "filthy scum," "whores," "class traitors," and "scoundrels." Ransacked bits of Karl Marx served his purpose of seizing absolute power and crushing society, just as Hitler would later invoke Friedrich Nietzsche.

In Lenin's version of Marxism before the revolution, tactical compromise with other political groups was possible, but there could be no compromise on the strategic goal of a collectivized society without private property. Like Robespierre during the Jacobin Terror, Lenin aimed to impose a geometrical purity on corrupt human fodder. This cold-blooded lust for destruction was born primarily of his outrage over his brother Aleksandr's execution in 1887 for treason and the family's resulting disgrace, for which he sought revenge on the whole world. Decades after it happened, Sebestyen writes, Lenin confided to Nadya that he was still "bitter...about Sasha's execution and how much he hated the regime that sentenced him to death."

Lenin never believed that socialism could triumph in Russia alone and would never have been content with such small stakes. ("I spit on Russia," he once said. "This is merely one phase through which we must pass on the way to a world revolution.") He thought the Russian Revolution would spur a proletarian uprising in Europe, which would then, with its far more advanced industrial means of production, help Russia's backward agrarian society.

When World War I shook Czarist Russia to its foundations--millions of casualties in the trenches and a collapsing economy sparking unrest at home--Leon Trotsky egged Lenin on to seize control amidst the chaos. Despite his later pose in exile in the West as a sensitive intellectual, Trotsky was another revolutionary nihilist and mass murderer, an armed bohemian seeking revenge against his exclusion from prominence. "Whatever moral eunuchs and Pharisees might say," he enthused, "the feeling of revenge has its right.... We [must] direct all our strengths toward a collective struggle against this class structure. That is the method by which the burning desire for revenge can achieve its greatest moral satisfaction."

Seizing power in a coup d'état, the Bolsheviks used the empty husk of the Czars' now vacant absolute state to impose Communism by force. It was a one-party state from the start: the "first freely elected government" in 1917, Sebestyen observes, "survived for about twelve hours. There would not be another for nearly seventy-five years."

From the outset, Bolshevik savagery surpassed the Czars at their most autocratic. During the final years of Czarism in Russia, 1,144 political prisoners were executed following the failed 1905 revolution. Immediately following the 1917 coup, Lenin had upwards of 100,000 "enemies of the revolution" liquidated, and by the time of his incapacitation in 1922 from a stroke, an estimated 5 million had lost their lives due to starvation. As Lenin put it, "a revolution without firing squads is meaningless.... The purpose of terror is to terrorize."

 Although he claimed to be an orthodox Marxist (and may even have believed it), he was really a putschist and would-be dictator. The Bolsheviks' real predecessors in Russia included a Nietzschean sect called the "God-builders," who envisioned creating a new world on the rubble of the old, as well as the "People's Will" movement, driven by Rousseauian nostalgia for an allegedly lost golden age of peasant wholeness. As the late Robert Conquest observed, the Communist Party leadership contained no genuine economists. They were pledged to a millenarian doctrine, and their justification for holding power was to create by force a new, superior society in which the individual was submerged in the collective. As Sebestyen correctly observes, "the first major 'deviationist'" from Marxist theory was Lenin himself. He set about to create a socialist state by force, despite the absence of the socio-economic conditions Marx had decreed as necessary for its success according to the laws of "scientific socialism."

Lenin and his henchmen were devoid of patriotism, since their revolution was but the first stage in a coming international Communist order. Any illusions people might have had that Lenin stood for electoral democracy were dashed when the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion against emerging Soviet dictatorship was ruthlessly put down.

The USSR's spasms of reform depended on the notion of good Lenin and bad Stalin.  But when dissidents were given any freedom they buried the Revolution at its birth.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 AM


The Kinks discuss their masterpiece about societal decline (Andrew Dansby Nov. 14, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

The music of "The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society" laments societal change in England as an empire heads toward autumn. And as social tumult consumed the States, such understated and melancholy thematic fare simply wasn't at the forefront of hotter discussions.

But as author and sometimes music critic Jonathan Lethem told me earlier this month while talking about "Village Green," "One of the things the English have on us is that they're way out ahead on the empire-in-decline curve."

Admittedly, empires decline in different manners, dependent on their culture and economic and social structures. Fitting, then, that the Kinks' album was more melancholy with a British stiff upper lip, compared to the petulant and angry pouting that engulfs a culture across an ocean decades later.

A pastoral folksiness runs through the record, which runs contrary to the Kinks' reputation as a tightly wound progenitor of the British Invasion.

Ray's meditations on people and structures gone was mirrored by the guitar parts played by his brother, whose visceral, serrated work just a few years earlier helped define the sound of rock 'n' roll on songs such as "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night." They were no longer singing three-minute garage-rock songs about girls. They were summoning ghosts.

"Everything was psychedelic," Dave says. "That wasn't what we were going for. We wanted it more mystical. Something that captured this feeling of lost innocence. This idea of embracing the new but missing the old."

"Ray was never one to follow a trend," says Avory, the Kinks drummer. "He always tried to set one. When you got a trend, something in fashion, at that time, it was very difficult to break it. ... But he was more interested in telling a story with some quality. Not a throwaway. I think that's why it had a different sound and feel, all part and parcel, from what we did before."

There were indications before 1968 that the Kinks were headed in a different direction.

The band formed around its sibling core in 1964 in Muswell Hill, in the northern part of London. By October that year, the Kinks were rock stars thanks to those singles, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," which played well in Britain as well as the States, where each broke into the Top 10.

The turgidity of the music hung like a gray cloud around the band, even after the songs finished. The Kinks were famously among the most internally pugnacious bands in rock history. Their reputation likely played a part in being banned from touring the States just as the group found its groove. So from 1965-69, the Kinks were a nonpresence in the U.S., which explains a four-year blackout from the charts.

Which doesn't mean the Kinks stopped making music. And perhaps the insularity back in England helped them. Because the band found itself distanced from trends of the day.

The 1966 single "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" may have been written as a swipe to trend-following British listeners, but the Kinks in the late-'60s found themselves freed of connection to what was in vogue in North America.

Albums "Face to Face" in 1966 and the aptly titled "Something Else" a year later showed a group uninterested in hitching its wagon to any pre-existing trend.

The sound on the album is interesting. Though the Beatles' White Album -- also released in November 1968 -- was informed by a ramshackle looseness, likely a response to the every-hair-in-place quality of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" a year earlier -- the Kinks played songs that sounded loose.

I brought up Al Bowlly, the popular '30s British vocalist, and Dave Davies' came alive. "Yeah!" he said. "We wanted people to know the influences from the past were important and that we were reintegrating them. We had vast influences as kids. It was a big family. My sisters all played piano and sang. My dad played the banjo. Obviously, the blues and Chuck Berry were a big influence, but so was skiffle and all this stuff we heard growing up. It was a wealth of influence."

Avory pointed out that Davies was a fan of American vaudeville, which can also be heard on the record, as well as old musical theater. "Imagine a bar band," he says, "but rehearsing a bit more. Because all these great ideas needed to come out."

That instrumental approach was inviting and engaging, giving the record an almost informal vibe, which gently obscured just how specific the themes in the songs were.

"There's something particular about English nostalgia," Avory says. "That's what Ray was writing about. We were very English people, interested in our culture. And there are things that change and they're good, and there are things that change and they're not for the better. Buildings become boxes. Ray looked at the idea of a Village Green and all these things that went with it. It was quaint. But it also made you think about change. Things move on, but it's not always a progression, is it?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Houston Republican Dan Crenshaw's next mission: 'Make conservatism cool.' So far, so good (Kevin Diaz, Nov. 14, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

In a Weekly Standard interview in February, Crenshaw, now 34, warned Republicans about their white-haired image and affluent demographic. "You keep electing old, rich, white people to the seat -- you can expect the Republican party to be gone in 50 years," Crenshaw said. "We can't keep doing that. We have to make conservatism cool and exciting again." [...]

With little money at the start, his campaign relied heavily on social media like Facebook Live, Twitter and email blasts. He also sought out a younger audience than traditional Republican candidates, echoing the youth outreach of Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, an ideological opposite who is credited with mobilizing young progressive voters across Texas, including the Second District.

"One thing he did consistently was not just the traditional political events, but gatherings of young people at bars, restaurants, brew pubs, sporting events," Steinhauser said of Crenshaw. "He really got outside of the normal political gatherings and went to social gatherings and civic spaces."

In a bid for recognition - and to add youth and vitality to his campaign - Crenshaw embarked on a five-day, 100-mile run in February across his district, which snakes around Houston from Bellaire in the south to Sherwood Trails in the north.

It was a quintessentially millennial act - one more commonly associated with young Democrats like O'Rourke, an avid runner.

"I have seen the face of the future of the Republican Party and the leadership of America," conservative radio host Michael Berry told Crenshaw's supporters at a primary election night party at the Cadillac Bar in May. "And it's wearing an eye patch."

His supporters give Crenshaw props for deep policy knowledge. He graduated from Tufts University and has a masters degree from Harvard University. Growing up in Ecuador and Colombia, he played soccer and speaks good Spanish.

Jacob Monty, a Houston attorney and GOP Latino activist who broke with Trump over his hard-line immigration rhetoric, credits Crenshaw with an equally conservative but more nuanced understanding of the border and immigration.

"He's not for open borders, he's not for amnesty, but his tone is very positive," Monty said. "He understands you can have a very conservative position, but you don't have to be mean-spirited. You don't have to demonize immigrants."

Monty cited an essay Crenshaw wrote for the National Review in July calling for more U.S. engagement south of the border: "Rebuilding the civic fabric of Central American countries is the only long-term solution to stemming the flow of illegal migration," Crenshaw wrote. "And without Mexico as a willing partner, the U.S. will continue to fight an impossibly uphill battle."

For Monty, who resigned last year from Trump's Hispanic Advisory Council, the essay was a departure from the current GOP's predominant tone on immigration. "When's the last time we had a congressman who wrote for the National Review?" he said. "Instead of just calling in to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Berry?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 AM


'Preparing for the worst': Mueller anxiety pervades Trump world (DARREN SAMUELSOHN 11/15/2018, Politico)

[H]alf a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in that Mueller is about to pounce after his self-imposed quiet period, and that any number of Trump's allies and family members may soon be staring down the barrel of an indictment.

Then there are the president's own tweets, which have turned back to attacking Mueller after a near two-month break. Thursday morning, Trump launched an oddly detailed condemnation of the special counsel and his team: "They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want," adding that the investigators "don't ... care how many lives the[sic] ruin." [...]

"You can see it in Trump's body language all week long. There's something troubling him. It's not just a couple staff screw-ups with Melania," said a senior Republican official in touch with the White House. "It led me to believe the walls are closing in and they've been notified by counsel of some actions about to happen. Folks are preparing for the worst."

Adding to the unease is a spate of anonymously sourced media reports suggesting Mueller's self-imposed quiet period that started about two months before 2018 Election Day is about to transition into a Category 5 hurricane.

Mueller, as has been his custom throughout the investigation, hasn't said a word about what's next for his probe into the Trump 2016 campaign and whether it conspired with Russian hackers to win the White House. Instead, the special counsel has let his legal filings do the talking. On Wednesday, Mueller stirred the speculation pot yet again, delivering a one-page motion to a federal judge in Washington, D.C., confirming that former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates "continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations" and still isn't ready to be sentenced. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy against the U.S. and making a false statement in a federal investigation.

Late Thursday, Mueller and attorneys for Paul Manafort confirmed in a joint motion that they've been meeting since the former Trump campaign chairman's mid-September guilty plea and requested a 10-day extension until Nov. 26 to file a status report that will help set the stage for the longtime GOP operative's sentencing.

In and around Trump world, the pressure is tangible.

After the Midterms, Robert Mueller's Got a New Wingman on Capitol Hill: President Trump is back to threatening the special counsel's "witch hunt," but he hasn't reckoned with Adam Schiff and the Democratic House. (Susan B. Glasser, 11/15/18, The New Yorker)

In an interview, Representative Adam Schiff, of California, described to me his evolving plan to act as Mueller's congressional backstop, insuring that, even if Trump and Whitaker attempt to shut down the investigation, Mueller's investigatory work and conclusions will not be covered up. Schiff, who is widely expected to be elected the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also made it clear that he will revive and expand the committee's investigation of the Russia allegations that Republicans on the panel abruptly shut down earlier this year, telling me he would like to recall Steve Bannon, Trump's former strategist, and Michael Cohen, the President's estranged former lawyer and fixer, among others, to get answers that the G.O.P. majority wouldn't or couldn't extract.

Most urgent is the crisis Trump has provoked in firing Sessions and installing Whitaker. Before our interview, Schiff had published a Washington Post op-ed, on Monday, promising, "Matthew Whitaker, we're watching you." In our conversation Schiff expanded on that, saying he was determined to "discover and expose any kind of wrongdoing" regarding the Mueller investigation. "If he takes any action adverse to the investigation or communicates any facts of the investigation to the President or his legal counsel, we're going to find out about it," Schiff told me. "There was a strong norm established after Watergate that the White House doesn't intervene in specific cases. Now this is a specific case that involves the President, and this would go well beyond intervening. This would be affirmatively appointing someone to hinder the investigation."

Schiff, a former federal prosecutor in California, said that he believes the Justice Department under Trump has set a precedent by turning over internal documents to the House Republicans in the Mueller probe and the investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails that it would have to follow if Schiff demanded information regarding Whitaker's actions involving Mueller. "They established a precedent, and I told them, 'You are going to have to live with this,' " Schiff said. " 'Someone is going to be briefed at the end of the Mueller investigation, and how are you going to say that the Democratic majority is not entitled to the same access to the materials that you have provided in the Clinton investigation or even in the Mueller investigation?' "

As for resurrecting the Intelligence Committee's own Russia investigation, Schiff said the first step involves pushing to immediately release the transcripts from the panel's interviews with key figures in the Mueller investigation; the committee has already voted to do so but never followed through. Schiff suggested that some of those who testified--he named the rogue Republican consultant and sometime Trump friend Roger Stone as one example--may have lied under oath in ways that would be relevant to Mueller and could subject them to possible perjury charges. "Our first order of business is to make sure that Mueller has the benefit of the work that we've done," Schiff said, "so that he can view that evidence in the context of what he knows, which is far more than we do. But also so that he can determine whether people committed perjury before our committee." Schiff said he wanted to recall Bannon because he simply refused to answer key questions when Republicans controlled the panel, not even bothering to cite a valid legal reason for his refusal beyond the White House's request. And Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen could have valuable additional information, given that his first testimony to the Hill panel occurred before he broke with the President and agreed to coöperate with Mueller. "We'd be very interested in talking to him again," Schiff said.

November 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 PM


Ocasio-Cortez gets in closed-door fight with veteran lawmaker over climate change (ANTHONY ADRAGNA, JOHN BRESNAHAN and ZACK COLMAN 11/15/2018, Politico)

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, incoming chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee -- backed by a number of other committee members -- slammed the creation of the new climate panel, according to multiple sources in the room. Pallone argued that his committee and other existing panels within the House could take on the issue aggressively.

But Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rep.-elect Joe Neguse (Colo.) and some of the other progressive incoming lawmakers fought back, saying they ran on the issue and needed to do it. Ocasio-Cortez earlier this week pushed for a "Green New Deal" as she backed more than 200 young protesters at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office. [...]

Pallone declined to comment on what happened during the closed-door meeting, but further explained why he opposes the select committee.

"My fear is that if you have a select committee, by the time the select committee gets going, gets appointed and hires staff that it might actually delay what we're doing," the New Jersey Democrat told reporters. "We've got people who are in charge of these committees who are very progressive and I just don't see the need for the select committee. I think it may actually delay what the progressives are trying to achieve." get in a fight with Frank Pallone, one of the gentlest politicians you'd ever want to meet. She might want to at least consider the possibility that folks with more experience can give her some good advice.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Terrorists, cultists - or champions of Iranian democracy? The wild wild story of the MEK (Arron Merat, 9 Nov 2018, The Guardian)

Since its exile from Iran in the early 1980s, the MEK has been committed to the overthrow of the Islamic republic. But it began in the 1960s as an Islamist-Marxist student militia, which played a decisive role in helping to topple the Shah during the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-American, MEK fighters killed scores of the Shah's police in often suicidal street battles during the 1970s. The group targeted US-owned hotels, airlines and oil companies, and was responsible for the deaths of six Americans in Iran. "Death to America by blood and bonfire on the lips of every Muslim is the cry of the Iranian people," went one of its most famous songs. "May America be annihilated."

Such attacks helped pave the way for the return of the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who quickly identified the MEK as a serious threat to his plan to turn Iran into an Islamic republic under the control of the clergy. The well-armed middle-class guerrillas, although popular among religious students and intellectuals, would prove to be no match for Khomeini's organisation and ruthlessness.

Following the revolution, Khomeini used the security services, the courts and the media to choke off the MEK's political support and then crush it entirely. After it fought back, killing more than 70 senior leaders of the Islamic republic - including the president and Iran's chief justice - in audacious bomb attacks, Khomeini ordered a violent crackdown on MEK members and sympathisers. The survivors fled the country.

Saddam Hussein, who was fighting a bloody war against Iran with the backing of the UK and the US, saw an opportunity to deploy the exiled MEK fighters against the Islamic republic. In 1986, he offered the group weapons, cash and a vast military base named Camp Ashraf, only 50 miles from the border with Iran.

For almost two decades, under their embittered leader Massoud Rajavi, the MEK staged attacks against civilian and military targets across the border in Iran and helped Saddam suppress his own domestic enemies. But after siding with Saddam - who indiscriminately bombed Iranian cities and routinely used chemical weapons in a war that cost a million lives - the MEK lost nearly all the support it had retained inside Iran. Members were now widely regarded as traitors.

Isolated inside its Iraqi base, under Rajavi's tightening grip, the MEK became cult-like. A report commissioned by the US government, based on interviews within Camp Ashraf, later concluded that the MEK had "many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labour, sleep deprivation, physical abuse and limited exit options".

After the US invasion of Iraq, the MEK launched a lavish lobbying campaign to reverse its designation as a terrorist organisation - despite reports implicating the group in assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists as recently as 2012. Rajavi has not been seen since 2003 - most analysts assume he is dead - but under the leadership of his wife, Maryam Rajavi, the MEK has won considerable support from sections of the US and European right, eager for allies in the fight against Tehran.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Dayramir Gonzalez: The Grand Concourse (Machat): Review of the pianist's ambitious suite linking Havana and New York (Michael J. west, 11/15, 18, Jazz Times)

The Grand Concourse is a major statement from pianist Dayramir Gonzalez. It makes the most of the increasingly endangered 70-plus-minute album format, featuring an overture, a thoughtful musical dialogue between turn-of-the-20th-century Havana and 2010s New York (the album's title is after the Bronx's main thoroughfare), and an escalating rhythmic aggression. It's quite an achievement.

Indeed, that "Sencillez," a delicate and remarkably authentic circa-1900 danza with string quartet and vocal chorus, can sit in close quarters with the fiercely percussive (thanks to guests Pedrito Martinez and Yosvany Terry) and contemporary "Iyesa Con Miel" in a way that makes any sense at all is an achievement in itself. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Roy Clark, 'Hee Haw' Host And Country Music Ambassador, Dies At 85 (Anastasia Tsioulcas, 11/15/18. NPR)

Clark became something of an ambassador for country music, not just in the U.S. but internationally, appearing in locales as far-flung as the Soviet Union, where he did a groundbreaking tour in 1976. He also helped turn the Ozark town of Branson, Mo., into an entertainment hot spot for Americans after opening the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre there in 1983.

Born Roy Linwood Clark on April 15, 1933 in Meherrin, Va., he grew up mostly in Washington, D.C., and gained a love of all kinds of music early on. His father, who played in a square dance band, took him to see the National Symphony Orchestra and military bands.

A remarkably talented multi-instrumentalist, Clark started out on the banjo and mandolin; when he was 14, he received his first guitar as a Christmas present -- and made his first television appearance that same year. First performing alongside his father, he began playing in D.C. bars and clubs, ignoring his schoolwork to the point of dropping out at age 15, and soon going on tour with the likes of Hank Williams.

He was first invited to the Grand Ole Opry as a teenager, after winning a national banjo competition in 1950. While he was first and foremost a country artist, Clark was something of a polymath, with facility in rock, jazz and pop; he became the first country artist to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival and recorded an album with jazz artist Joe Pass in 1994. In the mid-'50s, Clark honed his television chops as a regular on Country Style, the D.C.-based television show hosted by Jimmy Dean, eventually taking over as host after Dean relocated to New York.

But Clark hit his big break in 1960, when he was invited to Las Vegas to open for country artist Wanda Jackson. After the dissolution of Jackson's band, Clark savvily hired her old manager, who secured him appearances on The Tonight Show and Beverly Hillbillies. His first album, 1962's The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark, was soon followed by his first hit single, "The Tips of My Fingers," the next year. In 1969, his song "Yesterday, When I Was Young" became a hit on both the pop and country music charts; other major hits included "Come Live with Me" in 1973, and "Somewhere Between Love and Tomorrow." With seven nominations throughout his career, Clark's recording of "Alabama Jubilee" won a Grammy Award in 1982.

25 Years Of A-Pickin' And A-Grinnin': Roy Clark Reflects On 'Hee Haw' (Scott Simon, January 2, 2016, Weekend Edition Saturday

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Even Trump Can't Stop Mocking Sean Hannity's 'Dumb' Softball Questions (Asawin Suebsaeng, Lachlan Cartwright, 11.15.18, Daily Beast)

Trump's many radio and TV interviews, always touted as "exclusives" and rarely making any news, have been widely derided by media critics and political observers as simpering propaganda. And the president himself, a man famous for demanding relentless validation and unwavering loyalty, feels the same way.

Trump has repeatedly--and sometimes for a sustained period of time--made fun of Hannity's interviewing skills, usually zeroing in on the low-quality laziness of the host's questions, the three people with direct knowledge tell The Daily Beast.

"It's like he's not even trying," Trump has said, one source recalled, right before the president launched into a rough imitation of Hannity's voice and mannerisms to complain that the questions about how "great I am" give him nothing to work or have fun with.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Japan cybersecurity and Olympics minister: "I've never used a computer" (Reuters, 11/15/18) 

Japan's recently appointed cybersecurity and Olympics minister has told parliament he has never used a computer in his life, though he is responsible for overseeing cybersecurity preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

...she maintained the only secure server in Washington.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Federal Judge Trolls Marco Rubio, Rules Florida Must Let Voters Correct Alleged "Signature Mismatches" (MOLLY OLMSTEAD and MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 15, 2018, Slate)

Florida election officials have rejected between 4,000 and 5,000 ballots on the basis of amateur handwriting analysis. These officials are tasked with comparing the signatures on voters' absentee ballots to the signatures on their registration forms; if they find a "mismatch," they nullify the ballot. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker described this process as an "arbitrary determination" and ruled that elections supervisors must now give voters two days to fix these alleged signature mismatches. In an apparent jab at Sen. Marco Rubio, who analogized this litigation to football in a bizarre series of tweets, Walker explained: "Football fans may quibble about the substance of the rules, but no one quibbles that rules are necessary to play the game." He continued:

[N]o one quibbles that football referees make certain calls, under the rules, that deserve review. Indeed, not every call is going to be clear--the ultimate decision may hinge on highly subjective factors. Hence, a call will be overturned only when there is "clear and obvious visual evidence available that warrants the change." ... Coaches may challenge calls themselves by throwing a red flag, or, in certain circumstances, the referees may initiate review on their own.

All that process. Just for a game.

In this case, the Plaintiffs have thrown a red flag. But this is not football. Rather, this is a case about the precious and fundamental right to vote--the right preservative of all other rights. And it is about the right of a voter to have his or her vote counted. 

Rough week for the newborn Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Golden wins Maine's 2nd District race, flips another seat in U.S. House to Democrats (KEVIN MILLER, 11/15/18, Press Herald)

 Democrat Jared Golden was declared the winner of Maine's 2nd Congressional District race on Thursday following a historic tabulation of ballots using ranked-choice voting.

Golden, a Marine Corps veteran and state lawmaker from Lewiston, began the day roughly 2,000 votes behind incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin. But Golden surged past Poliquin by slightly less than 3,000 votes after the ranked-choice votes of two independents in the race were redistributed Thursday afternoon.

Posted by orrinj at 10:20 AM


Is this how the Freedom Caucus ends? (Matthew Walther, November 15, 2018, The Week)

In a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, former House Speaker John Boehner spoke about his experience with Freedom Caucus types: "They can't tell you what they're for. They can tell you everything they're against. They're anarchists. They want total chaos. Tear it all down and start over. That's where their mindset is." I'm not so sure this is true. What they support is clear enough. The problem is that the American people do not agree. A long if non-exhaustive list of issues about which the average American does not and will never care about would include balanced budgets; the deficit; repealing or reducing or otherwise fiddling with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; lower corporate taxes; "deregulation;" and the gold standard.

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM


Trump is Having to Confront the Fact That He's Losing (Nancy LeTourneau, November 15, 2018, Washington Monthly)

The discussions between the president and McCarthy about Jordan, which took place last week, set off a round of speculation among lawmakers inside the Capitol that Trump may try to push Jordan to become the top Republican lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee, a panel expected to launch an array of Democratic investigations against the president -- and possibly even an impeachment probe.

"Jim Jordan will be the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee," top Trump ally Cory Lewandowski predicted Tuesday evening on MSNBC's Hardball.

Jordan wants that position, according to GOP lawmakers and aides. And Trump thinks Jordan would be a ferocious defender.

But McCarthy does not have authority to unilaterally appoint a lawmaker to any ranking member position. Rather, the decision is up to the Republican Steering Committee, a collection of members who do not like Jordan and may not take their cues from the White House.

Not every move this president makes could be labeled "obstruction of justice," but it's clear that everything he does revolves around his fear of investigations. So this whole attempt at "peacemaking" between McCarthy and Jordan was really about trying to set up one of his loyalists to muddy up attempts by the Judiciary Committee to hold him accountable.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Despite common usage, health savings accounts are helpful for retirement (Russ Wiles, 11/15.18, Arizona Republic)

What does health care have to do with retirement? Plenty, and there's an investment vehicle out there that can help with it.

Health savings accounts could be an important option, though most people aren't thinking of them for retirement. As their name implies, these vehicles are designed to help Americans stash away cash for medical expenditures. Most people use them for near-term costs, while still employed. But medical bills also accumulate in retirement, and the money that builds up can be used to meet such costs, very efficiently.

The accounts allow for pretax contributions, tax-sheltered growth of investment dollars and tax-free withdrawals if used to pay for medical costs. They can help minimize taxes compared with taking withdrawals from other accounts, such as traditional Individual Retirement Accounts.

HSAs increasingly are included in benefits packages offered by employers. They also may be opened through the government health insurance marketplaces or exchanges. Either way, HSAs are designed for people who use high-deductible health insurance plans. With open-enrollment season here, now's the time to investigate.

Just universalize them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM



When asked what people in the U.K. think of the way that Trump communicates, Perrior said that British people "view him with amusement."

"We are amused by him. His public polling ratings...I would hazard a guess they would be pretty low. You know, the kind of stocking presents we get at Christmas is Donald Trump toilet paper, that should give you an indication of the way they view him," she told CNN.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


The looming threat to Trump's booming economy: A sugar high -- from tax cuts and other stimulus -- is expected to wear off in the coming year, constricting economic growth. (BEN WHITE 11/15/2018, Politico)

President Donald Trump, already in a grumpy post-midterm mood, faces a growing list of economic problems that could irritate him even more next year. Chief among them is a withdrawal from the economy's sugar high.

Fiscal stimulus from the GOP tax cuts is likely to start running out. The Federal Reserve is expected to keep bumping up interest rates. And few analysts expect a divided Congress -- facing soaring deficits and with its eyes on 2020 -- to join hands and pass a big infrastructure package or sweeping middle-class tax cuts to keep the fiscal juice flowing. that he could easily give the economy a massive jolt by dropping all tariffs, immigration restrictions and the sanctions on Iran, joining TPP and starting negotiations to add the UK to NAFTA.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM



The campaign for the Texas Senator seat between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democrat challenger Beto O'Rourke was ruthless, expensive and nasty. But then, on Wednesday, there was a kumbaya moment between the two Texas politicians at, of all places, the George Bush International Airport in Houston. [...]

Tiffany Easter captured the moment through photo and encapsulated the meeting between Cruz and O'Rourke on her social media. She said O'Rourke approached Cruz to personally congratulate the Senator on his successful reelection bid.

"Beto noticed Ted sitting down and walked over to congratulate him on his re-election and campaign," Easter wrote on her Facebook page. "It was the first time they had seen each other since the election and the entire conversation was both of them talking about how they could move forward together."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Neomi Rao for the D.C. Circuit (Jonathan H. Adler|Nov. 13, 2018, reason)

Before taking the reins at OIRA, Rao was a Professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, where she founded the law school's Center for the Study of the Administrative State (where I am a Senior Fellow). Under her leadership, the Center sponsored conferences and workshops on various issues related to modern administrative law and regulatory policy, featuring legal academics and policy experts from across the political spectrum. In this work, and through her scholarship, she garnered a well-deserved reputation for her thoughtfulness and her intellect.

Rao is not merely an academic, though. She also worked in the White House Counsel's office during the Bush Administration, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and in private practice. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School, she clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Justice Clarence Thomas. She has also served as a Member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and on the Governing Council of the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice and co-chair of the Section's Regulatory Policy Committee.

As the above should indicate, Rao has the range and depth of experience to make an excellent D.C. Circuit judge, including service to all three branches of the federal government. Her OIRA experience, in particular, will provide her with particular in sight and expertise on administrative law and process issues. (She also would not be the first OIRA Administrator to be nominated to that Court. Judge Douglas Ginsburg had also served as OIRA Administrator.) Though labeled a "czar," the job of OIRA Administrator often involves acting as something of a traffic cop, making sure agencies play by the rules and do the work necessary to justify their desired policies. In this Administration, this has often meant telling federal agencies to go back and try again or to do more to show their work -- something judges on the D.C. Circuit often have to do as well.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Incoming Intelligence chair wants to release interviews to aid Mueller probe (MICHAEL BURKE - 11/12/18, The Hill)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the probable incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Axios that he intends to use his new role to aid special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Schiff told Axios that he plans to publicly release dozens of interviews the committee has conducted in its own investigation of Russia's election interference.

Schiff said he wants Mueller to have that evidence at his disposal and be able to use it to determine whether any witnesses lied to the committee. Schiff said some information in the transcript contradicts facts and other testimony related to the Russia investigation.

"I want to make sure that Bob Mueller has the advantage of the evidence that we've been able to gather," Schiff said in an appearance on "Axios on HBO." "But equally important: that Bob Mueller is in a position to determine whether people knowingly committed perjury before our committee."

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


'This is not all of us.' Call to remove Muslim from post divides Tarrant Republicans (ANNA M. TINSLEY, November 14, 2018, Star Telegram)

At a time when many want to focus on the 2020 election, in the wake of this reliably red county turning blue in this year's U.S. Senate race, Tarrant Republicans instead are focused on a call to remove a Muslim from party leadership.

One side, described as a small group with a loud voice, wants to remove Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, from the post of vice chairman. They say it's not about religion but whether Shafi is loyal to Islam or connected "to Islamic terror groups."

The other side supports Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake City Council member. At least one member is ready to step down if the effort to remove him from office is successful.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 AM


The Threat to Nancy Pelosi's Speakership Is Suddenly Serious: Her antagonists have her full attention. (JIM NEWELL, NOV 14, 2018, Slate)

Following House Democrats' first full meeting with both their departing members and incoming members-elect, reporters asked Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan--who's organizing a suddenly serious opposition to Nancy Pelosi's bid for speaker--whether he and his allies would really follow through with the effort that's driving such a rift within the caucus, on its first day in charge, during its first vote.

"Yes," he said. He didn't miss a beat.

Ryan claims that his group has members numbering in the "mid-20s" who are adamant that they would not support Pelosi in a floor vote for speaker. Of those known publicly, it's about an even split between incumbents who've sought to overthrow Pelosi for years and new members who ran on a pledge not to support her. Since Pelosi can only suffer about 15 or 17 defections, and if this group's resolve is as firm as its generals insist it is, she would not have the votes. On Tuesday night, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, one of Pelosi's most persistent thorns, said with "100 percent" confidence that Pelosi would not have the numbers to become speaker, as did Texas Rep. Filemon Vela.

...they risk going for image over legislative skill.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 AM


Hard-liners call for Zarif's head over money laundering comment (Al-Monitor Staff November 14, 2018)

Iran's foreign minister has entered another tough battlefront at home, riling up relentless criticism from the country's conservative camp after speaking up against "widespread money laundering" in the Islamic Republic.

"After all, money laundering is a reality in our country," Zarif said in a Nov. 10 interview with Khabar Online, a moderate news agency. The foreign minister refused to name any individuals or institutions involved in the practice, but estimated the money involved as billions of dollars.

Zarif's comments were apparently meant to address criticism of a controversial bill that has been widening the rift between Iran's Reformists and hard-liners. Iran's parliament approved a proposed law to join the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Oct. 7 as a precondition for Iran to be fully removed from the blacklist of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The government of President Hassan Rouhani has been pushing the measure to help fight the impact of sanctions reimposed by the United States after the latter withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The ratification of the FATF-related bills would also the Iranian government attain greater financial transparency and improve access to the international banking system. However, the country's hard-liners oppose the measure, considering the four bills -- including the one on joining the terror financing convention -- a concession to the West.

"Some of those concerns are rooted in honesty. ... But others are voicing those concerns for their own financial interests," Zarif said, adding that there were many who benefited from money laundering -- a revelation that was more than enough reason for his opponents to relaunch their attacks on the popular foreign minister.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 AM


What Genghis Khan Can Teach Us About American Politics: The brutal warlord understood how to govern shrewdly and even humanely. (CASEY CHALK • November 14, 2018, American Conservative)

As a former history teacher, I picked up Jack Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World because I realized I knew relatively little about one of the most influential men in human history. Researchers have estimated that 0.5 percent of men have Genghis Khan's DNA in them, which is perhaps one of the most tangible means of determining historical impact. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The Mongolian warlord conquered a massive chunk of the 13th-century civilized world--including more than one third of its population. He created one of the first international postal systems. He decreed universal freedom of religion in all his conquered territories--indeed, some of his senior generals were Christians.

Of course, Genghis Khan was also a brutal military leader who showed no mercy to enemies who got in his way, leveling entire cities and using captured civilians as the equivalent of cannon fodder. Yet even the cruelest military geniuses (e.g. Napoleon) are still geniuses, and we would be wise to consider what made them successful, especially against great odds. In the case of Genghis Khan, we have a leader who went from total obscurity in one of the most remote areas of Asia to the greatest, most feared military figure of the medieval period, and perhaps the world. This didn't happen by luck--the Mongolian, originally named Temujin, was not only a skilled military strategist, but a shrewd political leader.

As Genghis Khan consolidated control over the disparate tribes of the steppes of northern Asia, he turned the traditional power structure on its head. When one tribe failed to fulfill its promise to join him in war and raided his camp in his absence, he took an unprecedented step. He summoned a public gathering, or khuriltai, of his followers, and conducted a public trial of the other tribe's aristocratic leaders. When they were found guilty, Khan had them executed as a warning to other aristocrats that they would no longer be entitled to special treatment. He then occupied the clan's lands and distributed the remaining tribal members among his own people. This was not for the purposes of slavery, but a means of incorporating conquered peoples into his own nation. The Mongol leader symbolized this act by adopting an orphan boy from the enemy tribe and raising him as his own son.

Weatherford explains: "Whether these adoptions began for sentimental reasons or for political ones, Temujin displayed a keen appreciation of the symbolic significance and practical benefit of such acts in uniting his followers through his usage of fictive kinship." Genghis Khan employed this equalizing strategy with his military as well--eschewing distinctions of superiority among the tribes. For example, all members had to perform a certain amount of public service. Weatherford adds: "Instead of using a single ethnic or tribal name, Temujin increasingly referred to his followers as the People of the Felt Walls, in reference to the material from which they made their gers [tents]."

America, alternatively, seems divided along not only partisan lines, but those of race and language as well. There is also an ever-widening difference between elite technocrats and blue-collar folk, or "deplorables." Both parties have pursued policies that have aggravated these differences, and often have schemed to employ them for political gain. Whatever shape they take--identity politics, gerrymandering--the controversies they cause have done irreparable harm to whatever remains of the idea of a common America. The best political leaders are those who, however imperfectly, find a way to transcend a nation's many differences and appeal to a common cause, calling on all people, no matter how privileged, to participate in core activities that define citizenship.

The Great Khan also saw individuals not as autonomous, atomistic individuals untethered to their families and local communities, but rather as inextricably linked to them. For example, "the solitary individual had no legal existence outside the context of the family and the larger units to which it belonged; therefore the family carried responsibility of ensuring the correct behavior of its be a just Mongol, one had to live in a just community." This meant, in effect, that the default social arrangement required individuals to be responsible for those in their families and immediate communities. If a member of a family committed some crime, the entire unit would come under scrutiny. Though such a paradigm obviously isn't ideal, it reflects Genghis Khan's recognition that the stronger our bonds to our families, the stronger the cohesion of the greater society. Politicians should likewise pursue policies that support and strengthen the family, the "first society," rather than undermining or redefining it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 AM


What are the risks of the Amazon deal? Ask Scott Walker.: Opponents of the Amazon's public giveaways say those governing Virginia and New York should take heed. (STEVEN OVERLY 11/14/2018, Politico)

The more than $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies being lavished on Amazon's new East Coast headquarters are dredging up a cautionary tale from the heartland -- the fate of Wisconsin's once-hyped Foxconn deal.

It was just last year that the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer landed an initial $3 billion in economic incentives to open a plant in Wisconsin, in a seeming triumph for Republican Gov. Scott Walker and President Donald Trump. "This is a great day for American workers," the president enthused from the White House at the announcement 16 months ago, portraying Foxconn's arrival as a vindication of his "Made in the USA" economic agenda.

But then came more than a year of sour aftertaste about the tax breaks, regulatory rollbacks and other favors that Wisconsin was handing Foxconn. The cost of the state incentives continued to climb while the size of the factory and number of new jobs appeared to be shrinking -- a reality that may have contributed to Walker's ouster at the polls last week.

Opponents of Amazon's public giveaways say the leaders governing Virginia and New York should take heed.

"The fact that Walker didn't get reelected after announcing the biggest potential state deal in history speaks volumes," said Greg LeRoy, executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog group Good Jobs First, which promotes accountability in economic development.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 AM


How Economists Became So Timid: The field used to be visionary. Now it's just dull. (Eric Posner and Glen Weyl MAY 06, 2018, The Chronicle Review)

The demise of political economy began in the late 19th century. As academia became more professionalized and specialized, political economy gave way to its successor disciplines -- economics, sociology, political science, and the like. By its midcentury nadir, economists hardly interacted with researchers in those other fields.

The transition from a field of creative social visionaries to one of specialized technocrats is epitomized by the story of Alfred Marshall and his star student, John Maynard Keynes. Each had a foot in both worlds and was ambivalent about the change. In many ways, Marshall was the archetype of the 19th-century political economist. Keynes eulogized him, writing that he exemplified the economist who was a "mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher. ... No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard ... as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician."

Ironically, Marshall's 1890 Principles of Economics -- for three generations the field's definitive textbook -- marked a decisive transition from this comprehensive vision of political economy. Marshall worked to professionalize and eventually narrow the field. Keynes, despite his flirtations with probability theory and philosophy and his bold vision for transforming economic policy, cemented the position of economists as technocrats -- the furthest thing from the aloof, incorruptible artist. The macroeconomic management he advocated requires expert technicians; accordingly, the mid-20th century saw the profession churn out a class of specialized workers. History, politics, sociology, philosophy, and law all drained out of economics.

This is not to say that economics did not incubate any new ideologies after Keynes. University of Chicago economists such as Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and George Stigler were central to inspiring the "neoliberal" ideology that defined the political careers of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Like the political economists of old, their perspectives were far broader and bolder than those of their contemporaries. But unlike the political economists of old, they did not offer radical social reform or innovation. Instead they advocated a return to institutions that had prevailed in the 19th-century Anglo-Saxon world. All the other major novel ideologies of the period -- mostly associated with the New Left: environmentalism, feminism, civil rights, anti-colonialism -- developed with almost no input from economics, though they did connect to some currents in sociology, anthropology, and philosophy. And by the 1990s even neoliberalism had transitioned from an insurgency into a consensus governing philosophy administered by a new technocratic class, one that was not much different from the liberal technocracy of the postwar period.

Globalization is just the rest of the world getting to where the Anglosphere arrived in 1776.

November 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 PM



"He really thought he won the midterms," a prominent Republican who spoke with Trump said.

But by Wednesday, after hours of commentary about the suburbs' distaste for him and with seat after undecided House seat slipping toward the Democrats, his mood slid, too, hitting bottom in a bizarre and combative press conference. "He was furious about the narrative. He said, 'Look, I went to all these states and now people are saying Trump lost the election,'" the Republican who spoke with him recalled. Within hours, Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matt Whitaker, who'd been a frequent cable-news critic of the Robert Mueller investigation. Next, Trump directed his press office to revoke CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press pass, something he'd wanted to do for months but had been talked out of by aides. "This is a matter of the president now being on his own without any countervailing force whatsoever," a person close to Trump said. "It's just 100 percent Donald Trump doing what Donald Trump wants."

Trump remained in a dark mood during his weekend trip to France to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. As The Washington Post reported, he got into an argument with British Prime Minister Theresa May during a phone call on the flight across the Atlantic on Friday. On Saturday morning, Trump skipped attending a rain-soaked ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery to honor the Battle of Belleau Wood. When his absence became a scandal, the White House said the decision had been made because Marine One reportedly could not fly in the rain, and Secret Service did not want Trump traveling by motorcade. One Republican briefed on the internal discussions said the real reason Trump did not want to go was because there would be no tent to stand under. "He was worried his hair was going to get messed up in the rain," the source said. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


Referee suspended for using rock/paper/scissors to decide kickoff in Women's Super League (Chris Wright, 11/14/18,

The English Football Association has suspended a referee after he used an impromptu game of rock/paper/scissors to decide the kickoff of a recent Women's Super League match.

Realising he'd left his coin in the dressing room, official David McNamara asked the two captains of Manchester City and Reading -- Steph Houghton and Kirsty Pearce, respectively -- to determine which side kicked off.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


New York's Amazon Deal Is a Bad Bargain (The Editorial Board, Nov. 14, 2018, NY Times)

[D]id Amazon really select New York City for its transportation system? The subways are a shambles. The company couldn't have chosen New York for its affordable housing because, as in Seattle, there isn't any. As for outdoor recreation, our beaches and parks are jammed, our soccer fields overrun. There's a lot more green space elsewhere. Cost of living? Hardly a selling point, unless you are seeking to increase your operating expenses. And no, Amazon didn't choose New York because we have real bagels -- although it couldn't hurt.

Amazon wants to develop a four-million-square-foot campus by the East River because of the talent that resides in New York. Lots of it. According to the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, New York has more than 320,000 tech workers in the labor pool, the most in the nation. (Washington is second.) That talent commands high salaries, great benefits and won't move to Pittsburgh or Austin or any other of the perfectly nice cities that tried to woo the online giant.

Which raises the question: if New York has what Amazon wants, why is it paying the company so much to make the move?

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM

NIKKI 2020:

Poll: Trump has little support for reelection bid (CAITLIN OPRYSKO, 11/14/2018, Politico)

A Monmouth University poll out Wednesday found that though the president's approval rating stands fairly steady at 43 percent, only 37 percent of registered voters want to see him reelected, compared to 58 percent of voters who want someone new in the Oval Office come January 2021. [...]

The Monmouth poll, which was conducted from Nov. 9-12, shortly after last week's midterm elections, also asked respondents how they would like a new, divided Congress to function in relation to the president. The vast majority (72 percent) of the public said they wanted it to be either a major or minor priority of Congress to act as a check on the president. While Democrats and independents were mostly unified in their belief that Congress should keep Trump in line, even 54 percent of Republicans said that it should at least be a minor priority.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook's Leaders Fought Through Crisis (Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas, Nov. 14, 2018. NY Times)

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed -- as the company's stock price plummeted and it faced a consumer backlash -- Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


Surprise! Tesla Is Quietly Taking Over the Luxury Car Market: It's easy to be distracted by Elon Musk's troubles, but his company is killing it. (Minda Zetlin, 11/14/18, Inc)

While everyone has been distracted by the Shakespearean drama that is Tesla under Elon Musk, something's been happening under the radar: The automaker is quietly gaining an ever-larger share of the U.S. luxury car market, according to new research by the automotive site Edmunds. 

Just how much of a share? Statistics about Tesla are always a little iffy since the famously closed-mouthed automaker doesn't share its sales numbers or break its delivery numbers down by nation or region. But Edmunds analyzed things like registration records and estimated that Tesla sold 64,727 luxury cars in the third quarter of this year. That's just a couple of thousand less than Mercedes-Benz, and more than Cadillac and Lincoln combined. (Would you have believed a decade ago that an electric car could outsell Caddy and Lincoln combined? I wouldn't.)

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


NGO RESCINDS AWARD TO U.S. WOMEN'S MARCH DUE TO ANTISEMITISM: Social democrats accused US Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour of antisemitism. (BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, NOVEMBER 11, 2018, Jerusalem Post)

The think tank for the German social democratic party withdrew its Human Rights Award to the Women's March USA in Washington, DC, on Thursday because doctoral students associated with the foundation accused the organizers of the march of hardcore antisemitism and support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state.

"We believe that the Women's March USA does not meet the criteria of this award, as its organizers have repeatedly attracted attention through antisemitic statements, the trivialization of antisemitism and the exclusion of Zionists and Jews since Women's March USA's establishment in 2017. Women's March USA does not constitute an inclusive alliance," wrote members of the scholarship working group, called Critique of Anti-Semitism and Jewish Studies, from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in a public letter.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Text messages show Roger Stone and friend discussing WikiLeaks plans (Anna Schecter, 11/14/18, NBC News)

Six days before WikiLeaks began releasing Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails, Roger Stone had a text message conversation with a friend about WikiLeaks, according to copies of phone records obtained exclusively by NBC News.

"Big news Wednesday," the Stone pal, radio host Randy Credico, wrote on Oct. 1, 2016, according to the text messages provided by Stone. "Now pretend u don't know me."

"U died 5 years ago," Stone replied.

"Great," Credico wrote back. "Hillary's campaign will die this week."

Roger Stone Sold Himself to Trump's Campaign as a WikiLeaks Pipeline. Was He? (Sharon LaFraniere, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Danny Hakim, Nov. 1, 2018, NY Times)

When the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, appeared on a video link from Europe a month before the 2016 presidential election and vaguely promised to release a flood of purloined documents related to the race, the head of Donald J. Trump's campaign, Stephen K. Bannon, was interested.

He emailed the political operative Roger J. Stone Jr., who had been trying to reach him for days about what Mr. Assange might have in store. "What was that this morning???" Mr. Bannon asked on Oct. 4.

"A load every week going forward," Mr. Stone replied, echoing Mr. Assange's public vow to publish documents on a weekly basis until the Nov. 8 election.

The email exchange, not previously reported, underscores how Mr. Stone presented himself to Trump campaign officials: as a conduit of inside information from WikiLeaks, Russia's chosen repository for documents hacked from Democratic computers.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


The intellectual maverick behind Brazil's conservative wave. (SILVIO SIMONETTI, November 14, 2018, Acton)

The recent victory of the conservative populist Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential elections brought the name of the philosopher Olavo de Carvalho to the center of Brazilian political debate. Many have since stated that Carvalho is an intellectual precursor to the populist candidate - as someone who was able to reshape the Brazilian political discussion in ways that cleared an intellectual path for Bolsonaro's electoral victory. It is not a coincidence that when Bolsonaro gave his victory speech, Carvalho's best-selling book The Minimum You Need to Know not to be an Idiot (2013), was in plain sight. [...]

First, Carvalho believes that philosophy, since at least Rene Descartes, has broken with its Greek roots in the Socratic project. According to Carvalho, the philosophy developed initially by Socrates and his disciple Plato was based on the search for understanding the position of the individual in the universe. Therefore, individual experience is the raw material of philosophical reflection. By contrast, modern philosophy in the form in which it started to develop under Descartes abandoned this understanding of the importance of personal experience as a compass of philosophical construction in favor of an extreme introspection. Carvalho calls this displacement cognitive parallax.

Karl Marx is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Marx argues in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right that the social reality of men conditions his consciousness; later, in his Theses on Feuerbach, he goes a little further and says that social reality determines our consciousness. In short, our position in society is defined by our role in the system of production and our ideas is determined by this position

The proletariat, according to Marx, is the only class capable of apprehending the reality of the historical process and contemplating reality beyond the illusion imposed by class ideology. But, we must ask ourselves, how is it that Marx, a non-proletarian, could have been the announcer of a truth that only a proletarian could contemplate? This elementary contradiction between philosophy and reality is the cognitive parallax.

Carvalho identified the most common and intense manifestation of cognitive parallax in a process he calls revolutionary mentality. This occurs when the mental framework of cognitive parallax is converted into a phenomenon of crowds. This has two characteristics. First, the revolutionary sets the hypothetical future which [...] he wants to realize as the parameter of the judgment of his actions. The past thus becomes irrelevant.  Second, the revolutionary inverts the subject and object positions; attacking the opponents of his future society and turning them in scapegoats who prevent him from achieving his plans.

In substance, then, the revolutionary process is unleashed through the systematic rejection of reality. The higher the level of alienation of the individual concerning to the reality that surrounds him, the higher will be the power exerted by the proposal to transform the present so that it [conforms] to an imaginary future. their rejection of the permanence of human nature and belief that Man can be remade if only we tweak society.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Mattis Visited The Troops Deployed To The Border And They Had Some Questions For Him (Vera Bergengruen, 11/14/18, BuzzFeed News)

"Let's have at it, young soldiers: What's on your mind?" he jovially asked a group of US Army soldiers in military police and engineering units. Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and roughly two dozen troops were all huddled in a tent set up in a vast, barren field, in a moment caught on a 30-minute livestream of his visit by the Pentagon press pool. The previous group had asked him what he missed most about being a Marine and listened to his historical analogies and calls to "keep the faith." These soldiers had more practical questions.

"Sir, I have a question. The wire obstacles that we've implanted along the border... Are we going to be taking those out when we leave?" one of them asked, drawing a few smirks from those around him. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Trump claims an ID is needed to buy cereal and that fraudulent voters simply switch hats (Philip Bump, November 14, 2018, Washington Post)

Here's the first claim Trump made, hoping to bolster his assertion that fraud is rampant: "When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on."

Here's the second claim he made, hoping to bolster the idea that photo ID should be required at polling places: "If you buy a box of cereal -- you have a voter ID. They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing."

Let's start with that second claim, because it's funnier.

Amazingly, Trump has made this very odd assertion about needing an ID to buy groceries before. He said something similar in August and, at the time, the media assessed the validity of the claim. It is, uh, not valid. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Fox News, other outlets back CNN's lawsuit against Trump administration (AVERY ANAPOL - 11/14/18, The Hill)

Fox News joined a number of media outlets on Wednesday in announcing that they would back rival CNN's lawsuit against the Trump administration.

Fox News President Jay Wallace said in a statement that the network intends to file an amicus brief with a U.S. District Court in the lawsuit.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


One of the most important authors of the GOP's ObamaCare repeal bill just went down in defeat (Brendan Morrow, 11/14/18, The Week)

Democrats are continuing to add to their new majority in the House of Representatives -- the party just flipped a seat held by a Republican who was key in the GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare.

Andy Kim, who served as a national security aide to former President Barack Obama, defeated two-term Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) in the race for New Jersey's 3rd District, The Associated Press projected on Wednesday.

Republicans were only ever going to strengthen Obamacare.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


"Furious" Trump is not taking his midterms defeat all that well (David Gilbert Nov 14, 2018, Vice News)

Why is Trump so "furious"? Here are a number of reasons:

The midterms: Last week's vote was a "big victory" for the Republicans, Trump said publicly. In private, he is reportedly worried about Democrats gaining control of the House and the investigations they could launch into his administration. He is also brooding about the recount in Florida and key races being called for Democrats.

Macron: Trump spent a testy 43 hours in France, including attending a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War In which Macron spoke of the dangers of rising nationalism. Trump took this as a direct attack on him -- and lashed out Monday on Twitter.

Mueller: Trump gambled that replacing Jeff Sessions with loyalist Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general may help him. But the appointment has been criticized by both sides of the aisle, and a legal challenge has already been filed in Maryland. Meanwhile, Mueller's investigation is set to bring more indictments this week.

Trade: In his interactions with world leaders over the last week, Trump railed against the perceived injustice perpetrated against the U.S. over trade imbalances. A report published Wednesday concluding that "China's technology-manufacturing strength threatens U.S. national security" is unlikely to lift the mood.

Iran: The lack of action on Iran to curb its nuclear capabilities continues to vex Trump. While National Security Adviser John Bolton promises to "squeeze" Iran "until the pips squeak," Trump believes the rest of the world is not falling in line. In his call with May Friday, he berated the PM for not doing enough to contain Tehran and expressed similar frustrations to Macron during a private meeting in Paris.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


ORDER FROM CHAOS: How Brazil's Bolsonaro can apply global lessons learned in fighting crime (Michael E. O'Hanlon, November 13, 2018, Brookings)

[B]olsonaro would do well to bear in mind principles that have been learned in creating successful strategies to fight crime around the world. Several are highlighted in a 2017 study, "Securing global cities: Best practices, innovation, and the path ahead," that I co-authored with former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Iraq commander General Raymond Odierno.  Below, in short, are the core findings of our research, which examined a range of major challenges to the world's cities, including "normal crime," transnational criminal organizations and drug cartels, terrorism, and massive disasters. Not all the principles are equally relevant to Brazil's core problems today, but it is still useful to summarize all of them in case the situation evolves. It is also worth emphasizing that the general concept of community policing must be adapted to the circumstances of a given country; in Brazil, this will admittedly be a challenge, yet it is important not to give up, or to think there is an easier way. [...]


To gain support from communities and address the root causes of crime and terrorism, authorities must promote social cohesion as a central element--not an afterthought--of the urban security effort. The neighborhoods and demographic groups most affected by crime and violence must be treated as essential allies. Moreover, education and employment opportunities must be expanded in urban areas suffering from lack of opportunity and hope in order to address the root causes of crime. Our research has uncovered several creative ideas--for example, using fire departments or national army outreach efforts in places where police departments may not be easily trusted, and engaging formerly incarcerated individuals or rehabilitated former members of violent gangs or groups to reach out to disenfranchised communities. The private sector can make inclusion a priority in hiring and retention policies. Public-private partnerships can also help steer private funds and energies to programs that promote inclusion. [...]


This theme is so central to our findings that it is interwoven throughout all six of the above principles, and hard to separate out from any of them. The "Securing Global Cities" paper attests to many examples of where it is working already--and argues strongly for expanding such efforts in the future. The importance of public-private collaboration bears emphasis in any summary of the core principles of the urban security enterprise.

President-elect Bolsonaro has been a divisive figure in Brazilian politics, but as he begins his presidency, he will have an opportunity to help unify the country if he can deliver on his promise to take on crime. That is an important priority for Brazil, to be sure, but it is also a daunting challenge. To be successful, he will need to emulate and implement best practices from around the world. Fortunately, many ideas and approaches have by now been tried in enough different places and settings that we are beginning to know a lot more about what works. I hope Bolsonaro will take the time to study and to learn.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


It wasn't the caravan or the economy, it was the women (MOISÉS NAÍM, 14 NOV 2018, El Pais)

Donald Trump bet on the caravan and lost the House of Representatives. While the president was busy using every campaign stop to frighten his supporters about an imminent invasion by a caravan of Central American refugees, American women were getting out the vote for women candidates.

In the wake of the mid-term elections, two things have become clear. The first is that nobody talks that much about the caravan anymore, not even Trump. The second is that, as a result of their recent electoral victories, there are now more women in positions of power in the United States than ever before.

This milestone was made possible by President Trump himself. His policies, his behavior, and even his style, have mobilized millions of women against him. As soon as he was sworn in, they began to organize massive Women's Marches. Then they organized themselves so that their grievances would be heard. Next, thousands of them decided to run for elected office - they ran for Congress, for governor, for attorney general and for seats in the state legislatures. Then, finally, they voted en masse. And they won.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Whitaker's Appointment Is Unconstitutional (John Yoo, 11/13/18, The Atlantic)

[W]hitaker's appointment must still conform to a higher law: the Constitution. As the Supreme Court observed as recently as this year, Article II provides the exclusive method for the appointment of "Officers of the United States." The president "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States." The appointments clause further allows that "the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments."

The Constitution, therefore, recognizes only two types of federal officers. First, there are what the Supreme Court has come to recognize as "principal" officers, who require presidential appointment with Senate advice and consent. Second, there are "inferior" officers, posts for which Congress can choose to allow appointment by the president, courts, or even Cabinet members alone. As the nation's top lawyer, the attorney general heads one of the four "great" departments of government, along with State, Defense, and Treasury, and the office has existed since the first Washington administration. The attorney general is clearly a principal officer of the government; if he or she is not, it is difficult to imagine what other officer is--the Supreme Court said as much in Morrison v. Olson, the 1988 case upholding the constitutionality of the independent counsel as an inferior officer because she reported to the attorney general as the principal officer.

Whitaker's appointment violates the appointments clause's clear text because he serves as attorney general, even if in an acting capacity, but never underwent Senate advice and consent. His defenders might consider the appointments clause to be an antiquated, ceremonial, or obsolete process that could not possibly support the massive number of officials in today's administrative state. It might need to give way to the practical demands of staffing a modern executive branch with hundreds of thousands of officers and employees, more than a dozen major agencies, and hundreds of commissions, boards, and other odds and ends, with officers who might resign, die, or go awol without time to proceed through the 18th century's idea of a human-resources manual. Defenders might rely on an 1898 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Eaton, which allowed for the temporary appointment of a vice-consul in Thailand "for a limited time, and under special and temporary conditions," namely, the illness of the consul and the vast distance between the U.S. and Thailand. This is basically the approach of a 2003 Justice Department opinion approving the elevation of an assistant Office of Management and Budget director to acting director, and the likely reasoning of the White House in appointing Whitaker.

Elevating practical needs over constitutional meaning, however, is not an attitude usually adopted by conservatives. They generally believe that the original understanding of the Constitution held by those who ratified it should govern--Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court's most committed originalist, set out precisely the reasoning of this article in a concurring opinion in last year's National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, which struck down the recess appointment of an NLRB officer. Nor is it the view of the Supreme Court, which has continued to demand that all federal officers meet the appointments clause's requirements. It is difficult to see John Roberts's Court finding that the acting attorney general, responsible for all federal law enforcement in the nation, amounts to the same sort of officer as a vice-consul struggling in the hinterlands of Thailand before the days of air flight and instantaneous communications. there are no loyalists on the bench.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Judge Napolitano Schools Fox Business Host on Jim Acosta Lawsuit: CNN Has a 'Very Good Case' (Matt Wilstein, 11.13.18, Daily Beast)

Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has a way of bursting his Trump-defending colleagues' bubbles.

On Tuesday, during an appearance on Fox Business Network, Napolitano surprised host Stuart Varney by arguing that CNN has a "very good case" against the Trump administration when it comes to the company's lawsuit over Jim Acosta's White House access.

"The only grounds for revoking the pass are, 'Is the person a danger to the physical security of the president or his family?' And obviously, Acosta may have been an irritant to the president, but he was hardly a danger to him!" Napolitano said emphatically. "So I think CNN's got a very good case. I think this will be resolved quickly."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


California's New Governor Has a Problem: His Own Party: Gavin Newsom was elected easily, and he's got a $9 billion surplus to play with. So why is he so nervous? (CARLA MARINUCCI, November 14, 2018, Politico)

Brown noted that unlike his predecessor, Newsom isn't a creature at home in Sacramento's insular political cultural or statewide Democratic Party machine politics. A business owner and entrepreneur who has enjoyed the backing of the Getty oil family, Newsom has frequently been labeled a "pro-business Democrat." Early in his political career, he even described himself as a "dogmatic fiscal conservative and a social liberal'' - a profile that has earned him barbs from the party's far left.

"He's not part of the Democratic Party on a fulltime basis. He's not part of organized labor on a fulltime basis. He's not part of the business world on a fulltime basis," Brown said. While "there will all these wannabes" crowding around to get part of his circle, he said, "the lobbyist types will be disappointed. ... Newsom never performed in that way. He has paid no interest to them. But he's smart enough, and sharp enough, to have talented folks seek him out."

In the final days of his gubernatorial campaign, camped out in the back of his big blue campaign bus, Newsom acknowledged that he'd told his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, he'd been feeling "butterflies," a combination of exhilaration, and a sobering gut check as the reality of that challenge set in.

"It's been such a long, multiyear journey," said a reflective Newsom in the waning hours of a dawn-to-dusk campaign barnstorm across California that would seal his win. And now, the reality is here: "There's an ending,' he said. "There's a real responsibility. That's the job."

Newsom acknowledged that it's daunting to be following Jerry Brown, a man who's "a master" of California political dialectic, calling him "exceptionally gifted, exceptionally skilled ... one of the best political minds of our generation."

But as much as Newsom respects Brown, he's got little time to waste -- there's a preliminary budget due on December 15, though he won't be formally sworn in until January 7. "I just want to get to work," he told POLITICO. "I'm not going to wait around for the first 100 days ... these transitions are pretty quick."

Newsom is approaching his first budget, which gets reviewed by the legislature in May, the way he approaches everything else: with deadly earnestness. It's "your first chance at a first impression ... demonstrably a reflection of your values," he said. And for one who has talked about prioritizing issues like early childhood education, he noted, it will be seen as a "proof point" of his commitments.

For months, Newsom has been quietly assembling 30 policy teams - experts in academic, tech, business and government; the groups have been examining the challenges ahead in issues ranging from health care and climate change to more granular topics like cybersecurity, job automation and government procurement. Those efforts have produced a series of in-depth policy papers over the last months.

So far, Newsom said, "I've been focusing on 'how.'" As the governor-elect, "I think the next phase is 'who.' ... You can make big mistakes in a transition - and often they're attached to personnel."

Already, Jason Kinney, a longtime Newsom advisor, resigned his spot at California Strategies, a powerhouse state lobbying firm, to help the former mayor navigate what he acknowledges will be critical decisions ahead.

And Newsom's first major picks, two veteran women in politics, have already won praise. His chief of staff - and the head of his transition team - will be Ann O'Leary, a former policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. And Ana Matosantos, who served as budget director to both Gov. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be his Cabinet secretary - a key post that will serve as the new governor's chief contact to key government agencies and departments.

Friends say Newsom, while seeking the advice and views of his trusted staffers, relishes the work of governing, and is known to read policy papers from the moment he wakes up, highlighting in yellow and crowding the margins with notes.

"He's been looking at these issues for a long time and he is so far ahead of most people coming into this office on a policy level - because he really does love policy issues and he doesn't jump fast," said veteran Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. "He's thoughtful in his approach."

Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who was previously an adviser to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, says the new job will require Newsom to tone down his national profile and go local. "He has to spend a lot of time talking to lawmakers, staying on top of bills, building relationships," he said. "Sacramento is a lot closer to Davis than to Davos. ... He has to take care of matters at home first."

Still, Whalen says it's a good sign that Newsom is one of the few Democrats who in the last year has visited the conservative think tank, in part to explore the views of some of the nation's most preeminent economists and policy experts on the other side of the aisle. Many came away impressed with the depths of the discussion, he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Donald Trump's trade war sparks squabble between aides (Alan Rappeport and Glenn Thrush, 11/14/18, AFR)

President Donald Trump's trade war is stoking an internal fight among his top economic advisers, with officials sparring both publicly and behind the scenes over the White House's approach to dealing with China, the European Union and other trading partners.

The disagreements spilled into view on Wednesday (AEDT) as Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, accused Peter Navarro, a top trade adviser, of doing the president "a great disservice" by making hawkish comments about trade talks with China.

Kudlow said Navarro's speech last week - which included a prediction that Trump would have the "courage" to reject a bad trade deal with China - was "not authorised" by the administration.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Has the love affair with driving gotten stuck in traffic? (Ashley Halsey III, November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

America's love affair with the automobile and those dreams of roaring off on open highways are on the wane as the nation grapples with too much stop-and-go traffic and too many hours spent behind the steering wheel.

Those findings are contained in a report to be released Thursday by Arity, a technology research spinoff created two years ago by Allstate Corporation, parent company of Allstate Insurance.

Arity underscored the growing disillusionment by using an illustration: Americans, on average, spend more time in their cars -- mostly driving to and from work -- than they receive in vacation time.

Arity researchers said most people average 321 hours in the car each year and get 120 hours of vacation.

"To me, that really crystallizes the issue," said Lisa Jillson, who leads Arity's research and design department. "I get a certain amount of vacation time, and I spend almost three times that in my car just getting back and forth to a job."

Her research showed a notable difference between millennials and baby boomers. Unhappiness with driving becomes more pronounced, with 59 percent of millennials saying they'd "rather spend time doing more productive tasks than driving," while only 45 percent of baby boomers make that same statement.

"Millennials don't see it as worth it anymore. It's not worth the [expense of] car ownership, and traffic becomes even more of a headache," Jillson said. "Boomers are more just comfortable that 'this is the way things are,' but millennials have seen how technology can impact things for the better."

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Harder Wins House Race in California for Democratic Pickup, AP Reports (Daniel Flatley, November 13, 2018, Bloomberg)

Democrat Josh Harder defeated Republican U.S. Representative Jeff Denham in California's 10th district in a race focusing largely on health care. Denham was seeking a fifth term and was first elected to the seat in 2010.

Harder, a venture capitalist, made his support of the Affordable Care Act a centerpiece of his campaign against Denham, who voted to repeal the law. California's 10th district includes part of the San Joaquin Valley, where agriculture is also a major issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


New York's Amazon Deal Will Be a Lasting Monument to Andrew Cuomo's Economic Incompetence (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 13, 2018, Slate)

The individual flops are less important, though, than the big picture, which is that Cuomo's spending has done just about jack for upstate's overall economy. As the Investigative Post summed things up in its essential series on the governor's subsidies earlier this year:

Employment upstate has grown by only 2.7 percent during Cuomo's tenure - compared with 13.1 percent downstate and 11 percent nationally. Four of upstate's 12 major metropolitan areas have actually lost jobs since Cuomo took office.

If it were a state, upstate's job growth would rank fourth-worst in the nation, below, among others, Mississippi.

Cuomo's upstate misadventures illustrate a simple lesson: When governors try to spark growth in economically struggling areas using corporate subsidies, it tends to fail. They're simply fighting the laws of economic gravity, which lead companies to locate in parts of the country that are already thriving, because they can find talent or suppliers. There are exceptions, of course. Once in a while, a state hooks a company with incentives, and then others follow. South Carolina, for instance, has a thriving auto-manufacturing sector in large part because it cajoled BMW into locating there with a $150 million incentive package. But even when a company actually delivers the jobs it promises, it rarely leads to an industrial revival. "There are more failures than successes," Joseph Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, told me. "It's like spending a lot for a lottery ticket and hoping it pans out."

The Amazon deal--which is the biggest incentive package Cuomo has offered yet--illustrates the other pitfall with corporate subsidies: When they "work," they're often unnecessary.

Contrary to what the governor says, plenty of companies come to New York City without a gift basket from Albany. That includes other tech companies like Facebook and Google, both of which say they don't receive state subsidies. There is a strong chance that Amazon would have felt compelled to open a large office in New York at some point no matter what, because it's already a center of media, tech, and advertising, and Jeff Bezos desperately needs to recruit top talent in those fields who would otherwise go to work at his competitors. Even if it didn't, there are plenty of other growing businesses that already employ thousands in NYC.

As for Long Island City? It was already the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in the entire country. The place is basically a canyon of gleaming and impersonal condos and rentals. If the land Amazon plans to build its new office on didn't get used for HQ1.5, it would just as likely get used for something else economically valuable--such as desperately needed new housing, without which New York will only be able to grow so much.

And that gets to the mistake at the heart of Cuomo's math. Even if the incentive package he gave Amazon convinced it to pick New York over, say, Dallas, something else probably would have grown in the company's absence. The counterfactual to consider isn't Amazon or nothing. It's probably Amazon or a bunch of new housing, or some other tech company and a smaller Amazon office. Meanwhile, the grants and tax incentives Cuomo gave Bezos have created a bad precedent that will lead more companies to demand the same.

Why would a major business want to be located near the financial and political capitals of the world?

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


California's Wildfire Epidemic Blamed on Bad Building Decisions (Christopher Flavelle, November 14, 2018, Bloomberg)

"It's a land-use issue," said Alice Hill, a senior adviser for climate resilience to President Barack Obama. Without so many homes being constructed in vulnerable areas at the edge of the forest, "we would still have the fires. But we wouldn't have this kind of devastation."

A paradox of California's wildfire epidemic is that it already has one of the most aggressive building codes in the nation. The state uses the most up-to-date version of model national codes, and doesn't allow local governments to opt out of those codes. It also requires that homes in areas with the highest risk of wildfire get built with fire-resistant materials and construction techniques.

"I always use California as an example," said Sara Yerkes, senior vice president of government relations for the International Code Council, the Washington-based nonprofit that releases updated model codes every three years. "The state really takes its responsibility seriously."

But Yerkes said building codes are meant to be a baseline, providing a set of minimum requirements that states can add to based on their specific environments. And she said they don't account for broader policy decisions, such as allowing subdivisions in places with high fire risks.

"There's more people now living in these areas," Yerkes said. "Maybe that's something that these local governments need to look at."

November 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 PM


Five days of fury: Inside Trump's Paris temper, election woes and staff upheaval (Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker November 13, 2018, Washington Post)

As he jetted to Paris last Friday, President Trump received a congratulatory phone call aboard Air Force One. British Prime Minister Theresa May was calling to celebrate the Republican Party's wins in the midterm elections -- never mind that Democrats seized control of the House -- but her appeal to the American president's vanity was met with an ornery outburst.

Trump berated May for Britain not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran. He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries. May has endured Trump's churlish temper before, but still her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood, according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation.

For Trump, that testy call set the tone for five days of fury -- evident in Trump's splenetic tweets and described in interviews with 14 senior administration officials, outside Trump confidants and foreign diplomats, many of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"He was frustrated with the trip. And he's itching to make some changes," said one senior White House official. "This is a week where things could get really dicey."

During his 43-hour stay in Paris, Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a "big victory." He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I.

The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron's public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack. And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran. 

Pity the poor Trumpbots, who had all their ethno-nationalist dreams pinned to this nullity. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


The Women's March Is Victim Blaming. Again. (Ariel Sobel, November 12, 2018, The Forward)

I'm a reporter for The Advocate, the country's largest LGBTQ publication. The publication is as liberal as it gets; it covers feminism daily and has an editor who specifically covers the issue.

I asked Milano about the Women's March because Louis Farrakhan is an open enemy to queer people. In 2006, he said, "It's the wicked Jews, the false Jews, that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality." And just this year, he said "Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men."

Collectively, the Women's March leaders have refused to apologize for praising him and have overlooked his vitriolic hatred of the marginalized communities their intersectional movement claims to represent.

Why is the Women's March ignoring these details? Why are they blaming the right when the criticism is coming from Jewish and LGBTQ liberals?

Because by painting their critics as hateful right wing nuts or privileged white ladies, they don't have to hold themselves accountable. Instead, they can shift blame for partaking in bigotry, claiming anyone who won't tolerate budding up with queer-phobia and anti-Semitism is either an alt-right troll or white feminist.

...and he's a less tanned Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Trump Weighs Replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly in White House Shake-Up (Michael C. Bender and Dion Nissenbaum, Nov. 13, 2018, WSJ)

"This is how the president works," one White House official said. "He's doused a bunch of people in gasoline and he's waiting for someone to light a match."

That's genius level.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


The More Things Stay the Same: Why the Trump Administration's Counterterrorism Strategy is Surprisingly Conventional (Christopher Fonzone and Luke Hartig, November 13, 2018, Just Security)
The most striking thing about the Trump Administration's counterterrorism strategy - which the White House finally released last month, after President Trump had been in office for nearly two years - is its utter conventionality.  President Trump has reveled in his "different kind of Presidency" since the day he took office by delivering an Inaugural Address that, unlike the hopeful speeches of his predecessors, dwelled on the "American Carnage" ravaging the country.  And some of Trump's most provocative campaign rhetoric - bringing back waterboarding and a "hell of a lot worse," filling up Guantanamo Bay, and seizing Iraqi oil - concerned his desire to "Make American Safe Again" by adopting a new, much tougher counterterrorism approach that broke sharply from what he believed were the failed policies of the past.  But the Trump Administration has not followed through on these campaign statements, and its new counterterrorism strategy is so conventional that it even largely shies away from discussing the controversial immigration and border policies that the President has embraced during his time in office.

Except his personal and staff corruption levels and a few racist trade and immigration policies he can effect by fiat and you'd barely know he'd even been president.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


National security aide headed for exit after clash with Melania Trump's office (Jeremy Diamond, Kate Bennett and Jeff Zeleny, 11/13/18, CNN)

The statement amounted to a stunning public rebuke by a first lady of a senior official serving in her husband's administration. It came after reports surfaced earlier Tuesday indicating Ricardel would be pushed out of her post after less than seven months on the job.

Neither Ricardel nor spokespeople for the National Security Council responded to CNN requests for comment.

Reflecting the fast-moving nature of the events, soon after a Wall Street Journal report surfaced Tuesday afternoon alleging Ricardel was fired and escorted off the White House grounds, a senior White House official denied the story to reporters.

The official said Ricardel was still in her office Tuesday afternoon. The official declined to speculate further about Ricardel's future in the administration.

Her departure would leave national security adviser John Bolton without one of his key allies in the administration, a deputy who has also shared his penchant for bureaucratic infighting.

It was those sharp elbows that sources said led to the first lady's stinging statement, with Ricardel most recently feuding with members of the first lady's staff over her trip to Africa. One person familiar with the matter said Ricardel quarreled with the first lady's staff over seating on the plane and use of National Security Council resources.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Trump, stung by midterms and nervous about Mueller, retreats from traditional presidential duties (Eli Stokols, NOV 13, 2018, LA Times)

[T]rump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources.

Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides, from junior press assistants to senior officials. "He's furious," said one administration official. "Most staffers are trying to avoid him."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of a brooding president "trying to decide who to blame" for Republicans' election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are close allies, "seem to be on their way out," the official said, noting recent leaks on the subject. The official cautioned, however, that personnel decisions are never final until Trump himself tweets out the news -- often just after the former reality TV star who's famous for saying "You're fired!" has directed Kelly to so inform the individual.

And, according to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week's Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump's central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood.

Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days -- except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place -- including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.

Jordan's King Abdullah was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.

Also Tuesday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced plans to travel on Wednesday near the U.S.-Mexico border to visit with troops Trump ordered there last month in what is ostensibly a mission to defend against a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States.

Trump had reportedly considered making that trip himself, but has decided against it. Nor has he spoken of the caravan since the midterm elections, after making it a central issue in his last weeks of campaigning.

Unusually early on Monday, the White House called a "lid" at 10:03 a.m. EST, informing reporters that the president would not have any scheduled activities or public appearances for the rest of the day. Although it was Veterans Day, Trump bucked tradition and opted not to make the two-mile trip to Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as presidents since at least John F. Kennedy have done to mark the solemn holiday.

Trump's only public appearance Tuesday was at a short White House ceremony marking the start of the Hindu holiday Diwali at which he made brief comments and left without responding to shouted questions.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


CIA considered potential truth serum for terror suspects (DEB RIECHMANN, 11/13/18, AP) 

Shortly after 9/11, the CIA considered using a drug it thought might work like a truth serum and force terror suspects to give up information about potential attacks.

After months of research, the agency decided that a drug called Versed, a sedative often prescribed to reduce anxiety, was "possibly worth a try." But in the end, the CIA decided not to ask government lawyers to approve its use.

The existence of the drug research program -- dubbed "Project Medication" -- is disclosed in a once-classified report that was provided to the American Civil Liberties Union under a judge's order and was released by the organization Tuesday.

The 90-page CIA report, which was provided in advance to The Associated Press, is a window into the internal struggle that medical personnel working in the agency's detention and harsh interrogation program faced in reconciling their professional ethics with the chance to save lives by preventing future attacks.

"This document tells an essential part of the story of how it was that the CIA came to torture prisoners against the law and helps prevent it from happening again," said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin.

We should be testing such drugs vigorously now, or we will, of course, torture next time.  The point of the story is that--unlike the sorts of torture that are immoral and should be illegal--the goal of these interrogations is just to get truthful and timely answers to vital questions about genuine threats

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Trump Points to Polls in France, Where 80 Percent Say He's a Dangerous, Incompetent Racist (Robert Mackey, November 13 2018, The Intercept)

According to the polling, conducted last week for Le Figaro, a conservative newspaper, just 20 percent of French citizens call Donald Trump competent, while 84 percent agree that he is "racist" and 83 percent say he is "dangerous." His overall approval rating comes in at 10 percent.

Trump accidentally called attention to his vast unpopularity in France after enduring a weekend of harsh criticism for his conduct during a visit to Paris to mark the anniversary of the end of the First World War -- specifically his decision to skip a ceremony honoring Americans who were killed in the conflict because it was raining.

By the time Trump had returned to Washington, even the French military had joined in, with a mocking reference to his aversion to rain on its official Twitter account.

Donald made these claims for himself when he acknowledged he's a Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


I looked for a state that's taking gun violence seriously. I found Massachusetts. (German Lopez, Nov 13, 2018, Vox)

Over the past few months, mass shootings have repeatedly propelled gun violence into the national spotlight. Meanwhile, studies have found that the US leads developed nations in gun deaths, with one recent study in JAMA finding that the US's civilian gun death rate is nearly four times that of Switzerland, five times that of Canada, 35 times that of the United Kingdom, and 53 times that of Japan.

Yet there's been little movement, at least at the federal level, to do something about these trends in the US.

But surely, I thought, there's some place in the US getting this right, which could perhaps show a path forward for the rest of the country. So I asked gun policy researchers and experts about which state is doing the most to prevent gun violence. They pointed not to states like New Hampshire and others that have weak restrictions on firearms, but to Massachusetts, which over time built one of the most comprehensive gun control regimes in the US.

In particular, experts honed in on Massachusetts's gun licensing system, which treats the ability to own and use guns much like the ability to own and use a car: with license and registration required.

The system, experts said, is one of the major reasons Massachusetts consistently reports the lowest gun death rates in the US. Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Massachusetts had 3.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2016. In comparison, the top three worst states for gun deaths in the country -- Alaska, Alabama, and Louisiana, all of which have loose gun laws -- each had more than 21 gun deaths per 100,000 people.

As David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, put it, "All other things equal, [places] where there's strong laws and with few guns do much better than places where there's weak laws and lots of guns."

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Does anyone love our military less than President Trump? (Karen Tumulty, November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

Forget for a moment that Trump and the Republicans have been pushing, without evidence, conspiracy theories of massive election fraud. Trump's off-the-wall proposal to "go with" the election night totals would throw out a great number of military and overseas ballots, which are required by Florida law to be counted if they arrive by Friday, so long as they were postmarked by Nov. 6.

This comes after Trump on Saturday skipped a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France, where there are headstones for 2,289 U.S. troops, many of whom were killed in the bloody 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood. The names of more than 1,000 others who were never found are inscribed on a wall there. [...]

Meanwhile, now that the election is over, Trump is no longer talking about the supposed "invasion" of this country by a migrant caravan. But 5,600 U.S. troops are still having to live with the effects of the stunt he pulled, when he rushed them to the border to perform the vital mission of -- well, that still isn't exactly clear.

It is far from certain when, where or even if the destitute, footsore migrants will arrive. And yet the New York Times reported:

Instead of football with their families on this Veterans Day weekend, soldiers with the 19th Engineer Battalion, fresh from Fort Knox, Ky., were painstakingly webbing concertina wire on the banks of the Rio Grande, just beneath the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

Nearby, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State were making sure a sick call tent was properly set up next to their aid station. And a few miles away, Staff Sgt. Juan Mendoza was directing traffic as his engineer support company from Fort Bragg, N.C., unloaded military vehicles.

Come Thanksgiving, they most likely will still be here.

Two thousand miles away, at the Pentagon, officials privately derided the deployment as an expensive waste of time and resources, and a morale killer to boot.

Leading up to the midterm vote on Tuesday, the military announced that the border mission would be called Operation Faithful Patriot. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Election Day told officials to drop the name, and the Pentagon sent out a terse news release a day later saying the operation was now simply to be known as border support. The term "faithful patriot," officials said, had political overtones.

Though he is nearly two years into his presidency, Trump has yet to visit U.S. troops in a combat zone, something his four most recent predecessors all did. Last month, Trump, who has spent more than 100 days of his presidency golfing, told the Associated Press that he believed such a trip is not "overly necessary. I've been very busy with everything that's taking place here."

All of this perhaps should not be surprising, given how Trump as a candidate mocked the suffering of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a North Vietnamese prison and attacked a Gold Star family.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Mystery surrounding extinct 'opposite birds' deepens : A 75-million-year old fossil shows a group of ancient birds could fly as well as their more successful peers, so why did they die out? Samantha Page, 11/13/18, Cosmos)

Scientists have completed an analysis of a rare, nearly complete fossil from a group of birds that went extinct, finding they were "aerodynamic equals" to the ancestors of today's birds.

The 75-million-year old fossil, about the size of a turkey vulture, raises new questions about why the group, known as enantiornithines, died out while euornithes, ancestors to all modern bird species, survived, the researchers report in the journal PeerJ.

"What this new fossil shows is that enantiornithines, though totally separate from modern birds, evolved some of the same adaptations for highly refined, advanced flight styles," says Jesse Atterholt, a former doctoral candidate at University of California, Berkeley, where the fossil is housed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


The Dan Crenshaw Moment (DAVID FRENCH, November 12, 2018, National Review)

Davidson's father was a firefighter. He died trying to save others when Davidson was a young boy. In one moment, Crenshaw not only honored a true hero, but also softened American hearts towards Davidson, casting him in a new light. He's a man who carries his own pain.

It turns out that there's a market for grace in American politics. Within minutes, clips of the apology and Crenshaw's tribute to Davidson's dad rocketed across Twitter. As of this morning, the YouTube clip of the moment -- not even 48 hours old -- already had more than 5 million views. And it seems as if this is no act. This act of grace was an expression of who Crenshaw is.

In a long Washington Post profile, Crenshaw spoke of the distinct trail he wants to blaze in the age of Trump. Speaking of the president, he said, "His style is not my style. I'll just say that. It's never how I would conduct myself. But what readers of the Washington Post need to understand is that conservatives can hold multiple ideas in their head at the same time. We can be like, 'Wow, he shouldn't have tweeted that,' and still support him. . . . You can disapprove of what the president says every day, or that day, and still support his broader agenda."

Crenshaw's young. He's 34. And that means that he stands a good chance of being in Washington long after Donald Trump is gone. If he's a voice of the post-Trump GOP, then perhaps the future isn't as bleak as critics may fear.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?: Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hookup apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession. (KATE JULIAN  DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE, The Atlantic)

To the relief of many parents, educators, and clergy members who care about the health and well-being of young people, teens are launching their sex lives later. From 1991 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey finds, the percentage of high-school students who'd had intercourse dropped from 54 to 40 percent. In other words, in the space of a generation, sex has gone from something most high-school students have experienced to something most haven't. (And no, they aren't having oral sex instead--that rate hasn't changed much.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has plummeted to a third of its modern high. When this decline started, in the 1990s, it was widely and rightly embraced. But now some observers are beginning to wonder whether an unambiguously good thing might have roots in less salubrious developments. Signs are gathering that the delay in teen sex may have been the first indication of a broader withdrawal from physical intimacy that extends well into adulthood.

Over the past few years, Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has published research exploring how and why Americans' sex lives may be ebbing. In a series of journal articles and in her latest book, iGen, she notes that today's young adults are on track to have fewer sex partners than members of the two preceding generations. People now in their early 20s are two and a half times as likely to be abstinent as Gen Xers were at that age; 15 percent report having had no sex since they reached adulthood.

Gen Xers and Baby Boomers may also be having less sex today than previous generations did at the same age. From the late 1990s to 2014, Twenge found, drawing on data from the General Social Survey, the average adult went from having sex 62 times a year to 54 times. A given person might not notice this decrease, but nationally, it adds up to a lot of missing sex. Twenge recently took a look at the latest General Social Survey data, from 2016, and told me that in the two years following her study, sexual frequency fell even further.

Some social scientists take issue with aspects of Twenge's analysis; others say that her data source, although highly regarded, is not ideally suited to sex research. And yet none of the many experts I interviewed for this piece seriously challenged the idea that the average young adult circa 2018 is having less sex than his or her counterparts of decades past. Nor did anyone doubt that this reality is out of step with public perception--most of us still think that other people are having a lot more sex than they actually are.

When I called the anthropologist Helen Fisher, who studies love and sex and co-directs's annual Singles in America survey of more than 5,000 unpartnered Americans, I could almost feel her nodding over the phone. "The data is that people are having less sex," she said, with a hint of mischief. "I'm a Baby Boomer, and apparently in my day we were having a lot more sex than they are today!" She went on to explain that the survey has been probing the intimate details of people's lives for eight years now. "Every year the whole Match company is rather staggered at how little sex Americans are having--including the Millennials."

Those With One Sexual Partner in Their Lifetime More Likely to Have Happy Marriage (Tristan Justice, October 23, 2018, Daily Signal)

New research published Monday by the Institute for Family Studies reveals that married couples who have only had sex with their spouse throughout their lifetime are more likely to report a happier marriage than those who have had multiple partners.

The study, authored by University of Utah professor Nicholas Wolfinger, found that both men and women reported higher levels of satisfaction in their marriage if their only sexual partner was their spouse.

"In sum, the surprisingly large number of Americans reporting one lifetime sex partner have the happiest marriages," Wolfinger writes. "Past one partner, it doesn't make as much of a difference."

It's a Puritan Nation.
Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Federal Judge Delays Certification of Georgia Election Results (Alan Blinder, Nov. 12, 2018, NY Times)

Georgia's secretary of state, Robyn A. Crittenden, had been preparing to certify the outcome of the election as soon as Wednesday, one day after Georgia's 159 counties were to complete their tabulations and six days before state law mandated certification. But in a 56-page ruling on Monday night, Judge Totenberg forbade Ms. Crittenden, who assumed office only last week, from certifying the results until at least Friday evening.

Judge Totenberg, who had already raised concerns about Georgia's system of elections this year, wrote that the state's announced timetable for a swift certification "appears to suggest the secretary's foregoing of its responsibility to confirm the accuracy of the results prior to final certification, including the assessment of whether serious provisional balloting count issues have been consistently and properly handled."

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


The Founders' Go-To Text : a review of  Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers by Daniel L. Dreisbach (JAMES BRUCE, 7/10/17, Imaginative Conservative)

The book is at its best--and shows how it is "the product of three decades of research"--when Dreisbach makes a point about the Bible and then uses a Founder to illustrate his observation or, even better, quotes a Founder making his point for him. Such is the case when Dreisbach claims that "the founding generation wove biblical language, often without quotation marks or explicit references" because "quotation marks and citations were unnecessary to identify the source of words so familiar to a biblically literate people."

Dreisbach's opponents may take issue with him here. Perhaps the Founders used biblical phrases without even knowing they were in the Bible. Dreisbach thinks the reverse is far more likely. The Founders knew the Bible, even if historians do not: "The failure to recognize Washington's numerous biblical references perhaps indicates widespread biblical illiteracy among modern scholars."

But whether quotation marks were unnecessary for the Founding generation isn't a matter on which Dreisbach is speculating. He turns to historical testimony. When Benjamin Franklin--hardly the poster child for Christian America--agreed to translate and publish a Boston minister's sermon for a European audience, he told the minister he would have to insert scriptural citations for the biblically illiterate non-Americans:

It was not necessary in New England where every body reads the Bible, and is acquainted with Scripture Phrases, that you should note the Texts from which you took them; but I have observed in England as well as in France, that Verses and Expressions taken from the sacred Writings, and not known to be such, appear very strange and awkward to some Readers; and I shall therefore in my Edition take the Liberty of marking the quoted Texts in the margin.

The translation that "every body" read in the Founding era was the King James Version, which has two advantages: It uses few words, and the words it uses are short. But, Dreisbach says, it also "enjoyed the favor of English authorities." Why? He hides the answer in a footnote on page 250: "The marginal notes in the Geneva Bible," its chief rival, "were an irritant to civil rulers, especially James I, because they were said to articulate a right to resist tyrannical rulers." As Dreisbach makes clear, the Founders did not require margin notes to defend a revolution. [...]

[S]ome Founders were Bible students, teachers, or even commentators. John Witherspoon was a clergyman as well as president of the College of New Jersey; his student, James Madison, could read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. Roger Sherman published a sermon on the Lord's Supper; John Dickinson left behind a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, and Samuel Osgood wrote "a 500-page commentary entitled Remarks on the Book of Daniel, and on the Revelations (1794)." Something tells me I'd rather read Dreisbach on Osgood than Osgood on Daniel.

The Founders made a serious push to get the Bible into people's hands. Elias Boudinot served as the first president of the American Bible Society; John Jay served as the second. John Quincy Adams, Francis Scott Key, and John Marshall served as vice-presidents.

Dreisbach exhibits impressive craftsmanship in his chapters on single verses. His chapter on Proverbs 14:34 ("Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people") shows his method at its best. He first sets the stage with some appropriate quote from a Founder, places the verse in its biblical context, and proceeds to show the extent to which the writer or speaker used, adapted, or modified the verse.

George Mason's concern for national righteousness is as striking as it is prophetic:

In a speech in the Constitutional Convention on the corrupting effects of slavery, Mason argued that slavery produces "the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves," he declared, "is born a petty tyrant." The scourge of slavery, he continued, will "bring the judgment of heaven on a Country. As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes & effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities."

When considering Proverbs 29:2 ("When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn"), Dreisbach goes so far as to consider whether the King James Version correctly translates the Hebrew text. He also nicely catalogs the different ways the same Founder could use a verse. For example, George Washington uses Micah 4:4 both as an expression of hospitality ("I should be very happy in seeing you under my vine and fig tree") and as a picture of religious liberty (in his1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island).

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


There Are 200 California Inmates Fighting the Camp Fire. After Prison, They Likely Won't Be Allowed to Become Firefighters (Eric Boehm, Nov. 12, 2018, reason)

Those inmate fightfighters are volunteers who earn $2 a day, and $1 an hour when fighting an active fire, while working alongside professionals who get paid an average of $74,000 per year. Those significant cost savings are part of the reason why convicts can account for up to half of the firefighting personnel on the scene at any California wildfire, according to a 2017 profile of the state's inmate firefighter program by The New York Times.

California's inmate firefighter program is open to prisoners who are not convicted of arson, sexual crimes, kidnapping or gang-related offenses, as long as they do not have a history of escape attempts and are not facing a life sentence. They receive two weeks of firefighting training and must pass a physical exam.

As I wrote in August, most of California's inmate firefighters will not be able to work in the firefighting profession after they are released because of the state's deliberately exclusionary licensing laws. Firefighters in California are required to be licensed as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), which requires taking classes and passing a few state-administered exams. No problem there, but state law allows licensing boards to block anyone with a criminal record from getting an EMT license.

These so-called "blanket bans" on letting formerly incarcerated individuals obtain mandatory licenses don't do much to improve public safety--if someone is a legitimate threat to the public, or has been convicted of certain crimes, the licensing board could block that individual application without denying a job opportunity to scores of others--and may increase crime in the long run. Indeed, a 2017 study by the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University found that formerly incarcerated residents are more likely to commit a new crime within three years of being released from prison if they live in a state that prohibits them from getting a license solely due to a criminal record.

Instead of a blanket ban, California should rewrite its licensing laws to include prohibitions for specific criminal offenses--exactly how the California Department of Corrections operates their inmate firefighter program, for example, by prohibiting individuals who committed certain crimes. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Sinema wins Arizona Senate race (JAMES ARKIN 11/12/2018, Politico)

Sinema's victory gives Democrats their second pickup of the election, and limits Republican gains in the chamber to just one seat so far, pending a recount in Florida and a runoff in Mississippi.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Trump is cracking (Jennifer Rubin, November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

[T]he press and the country at large should keep in mind that Trump acts out when he is weak, humiliated and cornered. He's all those things right now:

His performance in Europe was panned.

The election results get worse for Republicans with each passing day.

His great North Korea diplomacy, contrary to the gullible pundits and political spinners, was a bust. (He was snookered.)

We now have two major Middle East problems -- Iran and out-of-control Sunni despots who think (not unreasonably) they can lead him around by the nose.

He is not winning the trade war, and it may be one of many factors leading to an economic pullback before the 2020 election.

Mueller plows ahead, with possibly more indictments (e.g., Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr.). 
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (aided by Michael Cohen's cooperation) has its own case(s) to pursue against Trump and/or his helpmates.

Obamacare is here to stay. It's more popular than ever, and red America has fallen in love with Medicaid expansion.

Trump's finances are no longer protected from scrutiny, nor are his daughter and son-in-law's.

In sum, we should continue to tally Trump's constitutional offenses just as we keep a running count of his lies. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Trump and Pelosi Set Collision Course on Immigration Policy (Jennifer Epstein  and Laura Litvan, November 13, 2018, Bloomberg)

Trump's immigration policies and the lack of deportation protections for Dreamers -- immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children and are now adults -- helped Democrats oust House Republicans in districts with heavy concentrations of Latino voters, including Representatives Mike Coffman of Colorado and Carlos Curbelo of Florida.

For Trump, the goals he wasn't able to achieve when his own party controlled both chambers -- including funding for his border wall and lower limits on legal immigration -- will be further out of reach with a Democratic majority in the House. Democrats, meanwhile, plan to move ahead with legislation to expand protections for immigrants, showing voters what could become law if they were to win the presidency and Senate in 2020.

It is the ideal battleground for Democrats. Not only is the issue great for them but it keeps the most racist talking heads on the Right in the spotlight.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say (Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

Nielsen has been reluctant to leave the administration before reaching the one-year mark as secretary on Dec. 6, but she has been unhappy in the job for several months, according to colleagues. Trump has berated her during Cabinet meetings, belittled her to other White House staff and tagged her months ago as a "Bushie," a reference to her previous service under President George W. Bush and meant to cast suspicion on her loyalty.

When Nielsen has tried to explain the laws and regulations that prevent the government from drastically curtailing immigration or  closing the border with Mexico, as Trump has suggested, the president has grown impatient and frustrated, aides said. 

Nielsen's departure would leave a leadership void at the government's third-largest agency, which has 240,000 employees and a $60 billion budget. The deputy secretary job at DHS has been vacant since April, and the White House has not submitted to Congress a nomination for that post.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 AM


My America, 1620 (Bradley J. Birzer, 11/08/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Armed with scripture, the English Common Law, some weapons, families (for social stability), and an audacity rarely witnessed in the history of human kind, the Pilgrims made a go of it. To establish the import of the moment of community creation and to solidify their fragile community itself, the Pilgrims wrote a covenant, now incorrectly labeled the "Mayflower Compact." While the re-naming of this document demands its own essay, suffice it to note here: New England historians and archivists employed the name "Mayflower Compact" for the first time ever in the early 1790s. Attempting to define American history from Plymouth Rock, not from Charleston or some other southern port of entry, the New Englanders of the 1790s renamed the document so as not to put off non-religious Americans. Compact, after all, was more acceptable for a secular, liberal, and Lockean people. Its original name--the Plymouth Combination--made its authors too much into exactly what they were--a radically religious sect of people. When the Pilgrims used "Combination," they meant it quite literally. Combination was the English term for "covenant."

It's worth reproducing here:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Once again, just imagine the audacity. With no king, no judges, no lawyers, no bureaucrats, and no bishops, a small group of people asserted the right to govern themselves as they saw fit. Though only half of the sojourners and half of the strangers made it through the winter of 1620-1621, it would be impossible to call the experiment a failure. After all, half did survive, rule themselves, and established the pattern for almost all settlement of what would become the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


November 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Trump Job Approval (Weekly) (Gallup, 11/12/18)

Republicans must learn from the election mistake on immigration (JORDAN BRUNEAU, 11/12/18, The Hill)

No one embodies this lesson better than Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for governor in Kansas. Kobach is a longtime and vocal immigration critic. He is the architect of harsh anti-immigration legislation in Arizona and Alabama that courts have largely invalidated. He also headed up the quixotic and now disbanded White House voter fraud commission. He successfully primaried sitting Republican governor John Colyer with the backing of Trump. Yet he managed to handily lose his race last week in Kansas, a state that Trump won by 20 points two years ago.

Throughout the country, suburban districts filled with college educated and pro-immigration voters were the bulkhead upon which the blue wave crashed. South of Miami, Democrats picked up House seats held by Republican Carlos Curbelo and the outgoing Ileana Ros Lehtinen. West of Washington and east of Denver, incumbents Barbara Comstock and Mike Coffman lost by significant margins. In Texas, Pete Sessions and John Culberson lost in the Dallas and Houston suburbs. West of Chicago, Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren lost in the suburbs as well.

Democrats flipped multiple suburban seats near Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Incumbent Dave Brat lost his reelection bid in the Richmond suburbs. Even Mia Love and Keith Yoder in the conservative leaning Salt Lake City and Kansas City suburbs lost their seats. If 2016 was the election of the disaffected Democrats in the midwest, then 2018 was the revolt of the moderate Republicans across the suburbs.

Rather than engage in a positive campaign featuring tax cuts, wage increases, full employment, and 3 percent economic growth that would appeal to suburban voters, President Trump chose to campaign on the caravan, birthright citizenship, and homages to his unpopular family separation policy. Republican election ads suggested immigrants were violent criminals. Trump called it the "election of the caravan."

Despite what the comments section at the Daily Caller may suggest, there are not enough anti-immigrant voters to win close elections. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


More than 1 million homes planned for high-risk fire areas in California. Should they be built? (RYAN LILLIS AND KEN CARLSON, September 10, 2018, Sacramento Bee)

Not long after she bought her home in the grassy hills of western Stanislaus County, Julie Davis watched as a helicopter filled buckets of water from a nearby pond and attacked a windswept wildfire burning just outside her community.

The Diablo Grande resort area, where developers envision building hundreds of homes around two upscale golf courses about eight miles west of Patterson and Interstate 5, was spared. But Davis' neighbors remain watchful. "If anyone sees smoke, almost immediately residents are notified through a social media page," she said.

Diablo Grande is one of several growing communities in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills facing a severe risk of wildfire. More than 380,000 people between Redding and Bakersfield live in areas that state and local officials have identified as high or very high wildfire hazard zones, according to a McClatchy analysis of state and local emergency preparedness plans. Tens of thousands more in the Bay Area and Southern California also live in high risk areas.

The population under threat is rapidly growing. As many as 1.2 million new homes will be constructed "in the highest wildfire risk areas" of California between 2000 and 2050, according to a 2014 research report by environmental scientists from around the state and country.

It's fine to build them provided that banks and insurance companies charge them for the risk and they are ineligible for disaster aid.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


Conservatives are irate the Parkland shooter registered to vote from jail (Avi Selk, November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

A father of a Parkland school shooting victim appeared on "Fox & Friends" over the weekend and suggested, without evidence, that Democrats registered the accused shooter to vote from jail as part of an effort to steal Florida's election.

"It just shows you how despicable these Democrats are that they'll stoop that low to go into the prison, the jail, and register these criminals," said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was one of 17 people Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. "It's never been done in 20 years."

Citing a "tip from deputies at the jail," Pollack said the plan failed because Broward County -- which is now involved in a recount battle that could swing Florida's Senate and gubernatorial elections -- failed to send the inmates their ballots in time to vote.

"They probably shouldn't be voting anyway," Fox's Katie Pavlich remarked after listening to Pollack's accusations, which neither she nor her two co-hosts challenged at any point, although they contradicted all public evidence.

There was a kernel of truth at the heart of the segment and the spiraling social media outrage that accompanied it: Nikolas Jacob Cruz really did register to vote in July, listing his home address as the county jail where he awaits trial after police say he confessed to the mass shooting.

He registered as a Republican...

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Steve King dared a conservative outlet to release audio of him calling immigrants 'dirt.' It did. (Kristine Phillips November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

Rep. Steve King, the newly reelected Iowa Republican with a history of incendiary comments about race and immigration, dared a conservative magazine to show evidence that he had called immigrants "dirt."

"Just release the full tape," King, who eked out a narrow victory last week despite affiliations with white nationalism, told the Weekly Standard's online managing editor Saturday on Twitter. Days earlier, the magazine reported that King had made an inflammatory joke about immigrants.

The Weekly Standard released said recording...

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


A new genetic-engineering technology could spell the end for malaria: In tests, a gene drive has already driven a small, caged mosquito population to extinction (The Economist, Nov 12th 2018)

[I]n 2012, a powerful new gene-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9 became available. Gene drives based on CRISPR-Cas9 could easily be engineered to target specific bits of the chromosome and insert themselves seamlessly into the gap, thus ensuring that every gamete gets a copy (see diagram). By 2016, gene drives had been created in yeast, fruitflies and two species of mosquito. In work published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in September, Andrea Crisanti, Mr Burt and colleagues at Imperial showed that one of their gene drives could drive a small, caged population of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae to extinction--the first time a gene drive had shown itself capable of doing this.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


The Real Cause of the Humanities' Woes: The problem is politics (Sarah E. Chinn, NOVEMBER 09, 2018,  The Chronicle)

[C]lune's essay deflects blame from the real causes of the decrease in literary study: an ever-increasing emphasis on vocational and preprofessional education, a growing focus on quantitatively assessable outcomes, and a shift in employment choices by students away from education (which often overlapped with literary-studies majors) and toward the health sciences (the impressive statistical analysis of David Laurence at the Modern Language Association clearly shows all these changes).

...while the End of History has been killing them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Bolsonaro Has Investors Racing to Brazil as They Bolt From Mexico (Aline Oyamada  and Carolina Wilson, November 12, 2018, Bloomberg)

Mexican assets have underperformed peers since incoming President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador scrapped a partially built $13 billion airport project, while his party later announced proposals to cut bank fees. Lopez Obrador may not be the only factor depressing Mexican assets though. Brazil's incoming President Jair Bolsonaro is growing on investors amid plans to sell state-owned companies, reform the pension system and narrow the fiscal deficit, potentially attracting funds out of other emerging markets.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


UK calls for end to Yemen war, Khashoggi justice (Al Jazeera, 11/12/18)

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt visits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday to press for an end to the war in Yemen and to call on Saudi leaders to cooperate with an investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Australia's terrorist attack killed far fewer people than the US's mass shooting 24 hours earlier: Why? Gun control. (Rachel Withers  Nov 11, 2018, Vox)
US gun control advocates often point to Australia's gun laws in the wake of mass shootings as evidence of how effective a solution it can be, partly because it provides such a stark before-and-after case study.

In 1996, a conservative Australian government enacted strict gun laws after 35 people died in the Port Arthur mass shooting, shocking the nation. The reforms restricted gun ownership, while outright banning automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. The government introduced a mandatory buyback of the newly illegal guns, peacefully purchasing and destroying about 650,000 firearms.

The reforms seemed to work, if lowering gun deaths is the aim. According to a 2011 review by Harvard researchers, Australia's firearm homicide rate dropped by about 42 percent in the seven years after the law passed (its firearm suicide rate fell by 57 percent). As Vox's German Lopez noted, it's hard to know how much of that drop came from the reforms, but experts think they're definitely linked:

It's difficult to know for sure how much of the drop in homicides and suicides was caused specifically by the gun buyback program and other legal changes. Australia's gun deaths, for one, were already declining before the law passed. But researchers David Hemenway and Mary Vriniotis argue that the gun buyback program very likely played a role: "First, the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback. Second, firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates."

And there hasn't been a mass shooting in Australia since. "While 13 gun massacres (the killing of 4 or more people at one time) occurred in Australia in the 18 years before the [gun control law], resulting in more than one hundred deaths," the Harvard team wrote, in the 14 following years, there were none. By that metric, the US has had four in the past month alone.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Trump Makes the Midterms Great Again: The man many see as an existential threat to the republic has done wonders for participatory democracy. (JACK SHAFER, November 06, 2018, Politico)

Am I wrong to attribute our democratic orgy to Trump? I think not. As John Hudak of the Brookings Institution points out, good economic times resound at the ballot box to the benefit of the party holding the White House, and these are very good economic times. Popular presidents also stir large midterm turnouts. Trump doesn't qualify as a popular president, with only lackluster approval ratings, but among his most devout followers he commands a godlike status that makes up for his ratings deficiencies. Could any current Democratic aspirant for the White House fill aircraft hangars and arenas in red-state America the way he does and make them howl? He's the most popular unpopular president we've ever had.

The Trump virus still seems to be having its way with red-state America. But every virus entering the body politic creates an antibody, and the Trump antibody has been equally potent. The Democrats treated Trump's special brand of politics and personality as fodder for lampoonery in 2016. But in 2018, the same package has bestirred Democrats to conduct their midterm campaigns as if waging Armageddon. It's hard to imagine Democrats mounting such a furious midterm fight against a President Romney or a President McCain. Trump arouses a competitive something in Democrats we haven't seen since Richard Nixon enraged them with his autocratic skulduggery. What he's better than Nixon at doing is capturing the Democratic responses to his provocations and then inserting them into a feedback loop. Recent example: He nominated hardcore conservative Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and then repurposed Capitol Hill protests against Kavanaugh as an example of how the Democrats advocate mob rule.

Approaching politics like a reality show, Trump inserts new plot points into the drama whenever the going gets slow and the ratings falter. He's incredibly mindful of "ratings," even imaginary ones, making mention of them at least 24 times since becoming president, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "You know, I am a ratings person," he told Sean Hannity last month. He has repeatedly called his show, "The Apprentice," the No. 1 show on TV--even though it wasn't. He boasted about the ratings he got when he greeted returning American prisoners from North Korea, claimed credit for the high ratings "Roseanne" got on its return to the airwaves, and toasted former press secretary Sean Spicer for his "ratings."

And now he has taken credit for the midterms, too. At a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump insisted he had made a fortune for the media he loves to bash. "You know the midterm elections used to be, like, boring, didn't they?" Trump said. "Do you even remember what they were? People say midterms, they say, 'What is that, what is it,' right? Now it's like the hottest thing."

And he's right on every count.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


The Voice of the 'Intellectual Dark Web': Claire Lehmann's online magazine, Quillette, prides itself on publishing 'dangerous' ideas other outlets won't touch. How far is it willing to go? (Amelia Lester, 11/12/18, Politico)

One evening this fall at a house in West Hollywood, the Australian editor and writer Claire Lehmann had dinner with the neuroscientist Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein, the managing director of tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel's investment firm. Joe Rogan, the podcast host, joined later on, when the group decamped to a comedy club.

You could think of the gathering as a board meeting of sorts for the "intellectual dark web," or IDW, a loose cadre of academics, journalists and tech entrepreneurs who view themselves as standing up to the knee-jerk left-leaning politics of academia and the media. Over the past year, the IDW has arisen as a puzzling political force, made up of thinkers who support "Enlightenment values" and accuse the left of setting dangerously illiberal limits on acceptable thought. The IDW has defined itself mainly by diving into third-rail topics like the genetics of gender and racial difference--territory that seems even more fraught in the era of #MeToo and the Trump resistance. But part of the attraction of the IDW is the sense that many more people agree with its principles than can come forward publicly: The dinner host on this night, Lehmann says, was a famous person she would prefer not to name.

Over steaks, Lehmann recalls, the conversation revolved around a brewing academic scandal, a prank engineered by friends of hers. They had successfully placed seven nonsensical research papers in various academic journals devoted to what they characterized as "grievance studies." One of the papers included a lengthy passage from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, rewritten to focus on feminism and intersectionality. Another was about rape culture in dog parks. Absurd as the papers were, they had been accepted by expert editors and published as serious research. For those in attendance, it was a ringing confirmation of just how politicized academia had become, and how blindly devoted to fashionable moralities.

It was also a big story for Quillette, the online magazine Lehmann runs and the unofficial digest of the IDW. Lehmann had known about the prank before the Wall Street Journal broke the news, and she had some time to formulate a response that would fan the flames. "I wanted the public to be aware that there are many people within the academy who are fed up with grievance studies scholarship," says Lehmann, who went on to publish responses from five like-minded academics--one of whom called the incident "a Cultural Revolution in our own backyard."

For readers and thinkers who regard themselves as intellectually curious but feel alienated from the lock-step politics of universities and the broader left, Quillette has become a haven for stories like this--and topics treated as taboo elsewhere. At times, it has drawn intense social media backlash, with contributors labeled everything from "clowns" to "cryptofascists" on Twitter. But fans of the site include pop psychologist Jordan Peterson, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, psychology professors Steven Pinker of Harvard and Jonathan Haidt of New York University, and columnists like David Brooks, Meghan Daum and Andrew Sullivan. "I continue to be impressed that Quillette publishes heterodox but intellectually serious and non-inflammatory pieces [about] ideas that have become near-taboo in academic and intellectual discourse," Pinker wrote to me in an email, "including ones connected to heritability, sex and sex differences, race, culture, Islam, free speech and violence." Haidt, co-author of the recent book The Coddling of the American Mind, called Quillette in an email "a gathering place for people who love to play with ideas and hate being told that there are ideas they are not supposed to play with." [...]

Lehmann, though, doesn't think of herself as a journalist. When I spoke with her by phone from her home in Sydney, she said she's not even very interested in politics. And as a woman and an Australian, she is an unusual gatekeeper for a group that is mostly male and almost entirely American. (They're also mostly, though not all, white, as is Lehmann.) "I'm an outsider to the debate," Lehmann concedes. "I think that helps." Whether you think the magazine is a "safe space for academics and others with novel ideas who feel stifled by oppressive social and speech norms," as Lehmann herself does, or a "hub for reactionary thought," per the website the Outline, Quillette keeps appearing in roiling controversies about speech and identity, so much so that what started as a niche destination for evolutionary psychologists is now on the front lines of the culture wars. Yet, with its increased popularity comes greater scrutiny of Quillette's controversial ideas--as well as the risk that its mostly dry, academic discussion could become flash points for extremists. Just how far will Quillette go in its devotion to iconoclasm? always that, as a mode of thought, it eventually requires you to oppose even what is right and worthwhile.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


'Being silenced is not acceptable': Doctors express outrage after NRA tells them 'to stay in their lane' (Frances Stead Sellers,  November 11, 2018, Washington Post)

At first, Judy Melinek didn't know how to respond when she learned about a National Rifle Association tweet last week telling doctors who dared enter the gun debate "to stay in their lane."

But two days later, when the West Coast forensic pathologist was on her way to the morgue to examine the body of one of the country's many forgotten gunshot victims, the words came to her.

"Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn't just my lane," she tweeted Friday. "It's my [expletive] highway."

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Trump wants no more relief funds for Puerto Rico (Jonathan Swan, 11/12/18, Axios)

President Trump doesn't want to give Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria, White House officials have told congressional appropriators and leadership. This is because he claims, without evidence, that the island's government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.

November 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


Kellyanne Conway claims the doctored video of CNN's Jim Acosta is 'not altered,' just 'sped up'  (Bonnie Kristian, 11/11/18, The week)

The doctored video of CNN's Jim Acosta shared by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was "not altered," White House counsel Kellyanne Conway claimed on Fox News Sunday, just "sped up." [...]

Independent expert analysis of the clip commissioned by The Associated Press found changing the speed of portions of the video is exactly how the alteration was accomplished. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:16 PM


Is Anyone Surprised Trump Doesn't Know the Difference Between Baltic States and the Balkans? (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 11, 2018, Slate)

Although it's hardly surprising world geography isn't Trump's strong suit, this case is particularly notable considering Melania Trump is originally from the Balkans. The first lady was born in Slovenia, which gained independence in 1991 at the start of the Balkan wars. As Le Monde wrote, Trump remained "apparently uneducated in the matter by his wife, Melania, originally from the former Yugoslavia." the idea of him listening to anything she says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


Schumer on the Election: Kavanaugh's Confirmation 'Helped Us More Than It Hurt Us' (Jeffrey Cimmino, November 11, 2018, Free Beacon)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) said Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation helped more than hurt the Democratic Party in last week's midterm elections.

"The bottom line is, you know, the Kavanaugh dispute, I think, helped us more than it hurt us," Schumer said. "It's one of the reasons we won the House so decisively. Suburban voters, traditionally Republican, came to our side. If the coalition -- the old Democratic coalition can add suburban voters to it and continue to focus on issues like health care, which matter to working class Americans throughout the country, we're going to win."

"I think the president lost more votes because of the Kavanaugh issue than gained throughout the country," Schumer added.

Republicans needed Democrats to defeat the nomination, so a Court seat was at risk, for it to be helpful.  Instead, they were left just defending sexual assault.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher loses, and the Republicans' 'bad year' may get worse yet (JOE MOZINGO  and JAZMINE ULLOA, NOV 10, 2018, la tIMES)

The defeat to Democrat real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda represents a landmark shift away from the GOP for suburban America. No county -- no part of a county -- has been at the heart of conservatism since the 1960s like the coast between Dana Point and the Los Angeles County line.

This was John Wayne country.

Even now Republicans have a 10-point voter registration advantage in Rohrabacher's 48th Congressional District -- but President Trump and his supporters in Congress do not. [...]

"The district became much more of an anti-Trump suburb, and he no longer connected to the people there," Quinn said. "He had an opponent who was a former Republican businessman, not some wild-eyed lefty. And for at least two years, people were willing to try something new."

It is a stark change for the region once embodied by the legendary movie cowboy John Wayne -- its international airport's namesake -- who was an ultra-right John Birch Society member and lived on the harbor in Newport Beach.

Republicans have now lost three of the six races Democrats targeted most in the state. They have fallen behind or are holding thin leads in the remaining unresolved races, as suburban voters nationwide rebuked Trump and his allies in the House of Representatives.

Democrats earlier won the seats of GOP Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista, who declined to seek reelection, and Steve Knight of Palmdale, who was ousted by Katie Hill.

On Friday, Democrat Josh Harder overtook Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the latest tally in a Modesto-area district.

In two other races, GOP Rep. Mimi Walters, who represents the Irvine area, and Republican candidate Young Kim of Fullerton are holding thin leads over their Democratic opponents, who have gained votes with each ballot count since election night.

With the three losses, Republicans will hold, at most, 11 of California's 53 seats in the House. Overall, Democrats are now in a position to make the greatest gains their party has seen in the chamber since Watergate.

"This is more than just a bad year," said Mike Madrid, a GOP political strategist. "This is essentially a realignment in California politics, and the traditional base that has served the Republican Party no longer exists."

Madrid said "a clean sweep" of GOP incumbents was possible. He said he expects the party to see worse results in 2020 because it didn't have "leadership with the strength and the foresight to get us out of this."

The Right is not Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


Why California counts its ballots so slowly (REID WILSON - 11/10/18, tHE hILL)

The process of counting ballots in the nation's most populous state has always taken time. But the delays in finalizing vote counts grew longer in 2016, and they are longer again this year, because of several new laws the state legislature has passed in recent years that have slowed vote counts.

The new laws are a conscious trade-off, those involved with election administration said: They are meant to place a greater weight on enfranchising voters and counting more ballots than on counting those ballots quickly.

"We'd rather get it right than get it fast," Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) said in an interview. "We have many policies in place to make sure that every eligible voter in California has the right to cast a ballot."

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


Haredi minister appears to liken secular Jerusalem candidate to devil (Times of Israel, 11/11/18)

In a video released Sunday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri appeared to compare Jerusalem's secular mayoral candidate Ofer Berkovitch to the devil and said he would "desecrate" the city.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Dan Crenshaw started the week as an SNL joke and ended it as a GOP star. The real story came before that. (Dan Zak November 11, 2018, Washington Post)

Thirty-six hours after his election-night triumph, Crenshaw still hadn't caught up on sleep. There was some stale cake sitting in his campaign office, and he was juggling phone calls and a haircut he was going to be late for. He just left a luncheon with business leaders and was due early the next morning for a veterans ceremony. In two days he would make a surprise appearance on "Saturday Night Live," before heading to Capitol Hill for a two-week orientation.

A whirlwind to everyone else, it seemed, but him.

"It's life," Crenshaw said, sitting at a conference table in his Houston office last week. "It's not a challenge." He was the picture of calm. The eyepatch was off. The gold trident sparkled. Behind him was a large framed photo of Ronald Reagan. Ahead of him was the next mission.

Weirdly, his election wasn't the biggest news in Crenshaw's life last week. That came in the first minutes of Sunday, Nov. 4, during the "Weekend Update" portion of "Saturday Night Live," when cast member Pete Davidson, riffing on the midterms, presented a photo of Crenshaw, eyepatch on.

"You may be surprised to hear he's a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit-man in a porno movie," the comedian joked. "I'm sorry, I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever."

[SNL's Pete Davidson hasn't apologized for mocking a GOP candidate who lost an eye in war]

The studio audience laughed, but everyone else took to their soapboxes. How dare liberal jokesters malign an American hero! How dare conservatives put constraints on comedy! A wave of national media came his way and Crenshaw, appearing on CNN and Fox News, was cool as a cucumber. He wasn't offended. He was just disappointed that the joke was so lame and unfunny.

Then, he says, "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels called to apologize and invite him on the show. Crenshaw hesitated. He's not an entertainer. And he had Veterans Day events over the weekend. But he saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share a clear message with a national audience.

After roasting Davidson in classic "SNL" fashion ("This is Pete Davidson. He looks like if the meth from 'Breaking Bad' was a person"), Crenshaw took a moment.

"But, seriously, there's a lot of lessons to learn here," Crenshaw said, addressing the camera as he sat next to Davidson. "Not just that the left and right can still agree on some things but also this: Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country." He encouraged Americans to connect with veterans by telling them, "Never forget," instead of just "thanks for your service."

"When you say 'never forget' to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them. . . . And never forget those we lost on 9/11 -- heroes like Pete's father," a firefighter who died in the World Trade Center. "So I'll just say, Pete? Never forget."

"Never forget," Davidson replied.

Of course, Mr. Davidson's line was funny and Mr. Crenshaw's was not, but Mr. Davidson lost the comedic effect with his follow-up line, while Mr. Crenshaw followed up with a worthwhile civics lesson.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Florida Begins Vote Recounts in Senate and Governor's Races (Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei, Nov. 10, 2018, NY Times)

Florida began the first full, statewide vote recount in its history on Saturday after authorities found that tallies submitted by its 67 counties left the contests for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner too close to call.

Recounts were also ordered in a State Senate race and two contests for the State House, a measure of the slender margins in the nation's largest swing state that have left two of the most closely watched races in the country still undecided, four days after the midterm elections.

After unofficial results came in shortly after noon on Saturday, Gov. Rick Scott's edge in the race for the Senate had slipped to nearly 12,600 votes over the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic Tallahassee mayor who on election night had conceded his loss in the governor's race to Ron DeSantis, rose to within 33,600 votes, and retracted his earlier concession.

"Florida has never had a full statewide recount. It's about to have three," Andrew Weinstein, the national chairman of the Democratic Lawyers Council, said on Twitter. "Buckle up." [...]

Manual recounts seem almost certain in the races for Senate and commissioner of agriculture, which are already within that quarter-point margin.

A manual recount does not mean every ballot is counted by hand.

Only the votes that come up as an "undervote" or "overvote" get pulled for manual review. For example, if a voter had put a check mark next to a candidate's name instead of filling the circle out completely, a vote-counting machine could have missed it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Why Trump Should Be Worried About 2020 (Josh Kraushaar,  Nov. 11, 2018, National Journal)

What should worry Trump is the GOP's glaring slippage in the suburbs, where brand-name Republicans were unable to sustain the unstable coalition of white-collar professionals and populist-minded Trump fans that propelled so many down-ballot Republicans to victory in 2016. In Wisconsin, Walker lost serious ground in the deeply conservative suburban stronghold in Waukesha County. Pragmatic Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, who evolved into a Trump ally running for the Senate, is lagging behind Trump's performance in vote-rich Maricopa County (Phoenix). Her inability to hit Trump's vote share in the state--despite her pandering to his supporters--shows how hard it will be for Republicans to play both sides of the intraparty divide.

Even in races where Republicans won--holding off Beto O'Rourke in the Texas Senate race and defeating Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor's race--there were ominous trend lines for the GOP. Abrams, despite running a progressive campaign in a red state, notably improved on Hillary Clinton's performance in the suburban Atlanta counties that were once solidly Republican. Democratic dominance in the Texas population centers brought O'Rourke within 2 points of Sen. Ted Cruz, and flipped House seats around Houston and Dallas. If the Trump campaign has to invest valuable money in Texas and Georgia in 2020, that bodes poorly for his reelection chances (even if he holds onto both states). The shifts in these states are a lot more about Trump than about the celebrity Democratic candidates.

Importantly, there is no one the Democrats can nominate in 2020 who is as unpopular as Donald and Hillary, who he ran three million votes behind.
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In apparent dig at Trump, Macron says patriotism the 'opposite of nationalism' (Times of Israel, 11/11/18)

Macron also asserted that "patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


In Suicide Prevention, It's Method, Not Madness (The Bryant Park Project), 7/08/08, NPR)

The rate of suicide in America is 11 victims per 100,000 people.

That's almost exactly the same as it was in 1965. In spite of the rise of anti-depressant drugs, crisis hotline centers, and better treatment of mental illness, we still haven't gotten much closer to understanding or preventing suicide.

The reason for that might be that prevention focuses more on the study of illness than it does on the actual ways people attempt to kill themselves, says Scott Anderson, the author of a New York Times Magazine article, "The Urge to End It All."

In effect, it's the method, not the madness.

Anderson says that suicide is an overwhelmingly impulsive act. He cites a study of survivors that said only 13 percent reported thinking about committing suicide for eight hours or longer; 70 percent said they thought about it for less than an hour; and a whopping 24 percent said the idea had occurred to them less than five minutes before their attempt.

If that's true, then suicide is highly opportunistic, and Anderson suggests that reducing the opportunities would reduce the incidence. He says that research and anecdotal evidence appear to bear this out. For example, he notes in his magazine piece that states in which gun ownership are highest have the highest rates of suicide by gun; in fact, the higher rates of gun ownership closely track the higher rates of gun suicides by state. Yet suicide rates by other means remain roughly similar.

Anderson points to another example where simply making a change in people's access to instruments of suicide dramatically lowered the suicide rate. In England, death by asphyxiation from breathing oven fumes had accounted for roughly half of all suicides up until the 1970s, when Britain began converting ovens from coal gas, which contains lots of carbon monoxide, to natural gas, which has almost none. During that time, suicides plummeted roughly 30 percent -- and the numbers haven't changed since.

Guns and suicide: A fatal link (Karin Kiewra, Spring 2008, HSPH)

In the United States, suicides outnumber homicides almost two to one. Perhaps the real tragedy behind suicide deaths--about 30,000 a year, one for every 45 attempts--is that so many could be prevented. Research shows that whether attempters live or die depends in large part on the ready availability of highly lethal means, especially firearms.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health of all 50 U.S. states reveals a powerful link between rates of firearm ownership and suicides. Based on a survey of American households conducted in 2002, HSPH Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management Matthew Miller, Research Associate Deborah Azrael, and colleagues at the School's Injury Control Research Center (ICRC), found that in states where guns were prevalent--as in Wyoming, where 63 percent of households reported owning guns--rates of suicide were higher. The inverse was also true: where gun ownership was less common, suicide rates were also lower.

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Calls for open trade to greet Pence as Trump skips Asia summit (Jack Kim, 11/11/18, Reuters) 

Asia-Pacific leaders will join the heads of Southeast Asian states this week in Singapore to renew calls for multilateralism and fresh pledges to resolve regional conflicts ranging from the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar to tensions in the South China Sea.

Notably absent when regional powers such as China, Japan and India seek to enlist support for a multilateral trading system will be U.S. President Donald Trump, whose decision to skip the Asia summit has raised questions about his commitment to a regional strategy aimed at checking China's rise.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Critics denounce 'low energy' Donald Trump for skipping WWI cemetery ceremony (David Jackson, 11/10/18, USA TODAY)

"They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate Donald Trump couldn't even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen," said Nicholas Soames, Churchill's grandson and a member of British Parliament. [...]

"Real low energy, @realDonaldTrump to not bother to honor the sacrifice of American soldiers in WWI due to some rain," tweeted Kelly Magsamen, a National Security Council adviser for both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


The Death of Europe: Two Classic Films and the Great War (Mark Malvasi, 11/11/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Emphasizing the primacy of human relationships over class identity and national antagonism, La Grande Illusion offers both a hopeful and a pessimistic vision; it is at one elegiac and tragic. Although war has shattered European civilization, Renoir maintains that people are still capable of treating each other with decency and compassion. There is no need to make enemies in war. Shared values and a common humanity are bonds stronger than politics and nationality. At the same time, the film rails against human folly, which is often animated and exaggerated by nationalist hatreds and the will to power. However artificial they may be, the divisions of class and nationality are real, and not easily overcome.

The narrative focuses on the plot of French prisoners of war to escape the fortress-prison in which the Germans have incarcerated them. The camp is a microcosm of Europe. The attempt requires cooperation among men of different nations, classes, and religions; Russians, English, and French, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic must work together to achieve a common goal. The commandant, the aristocrat Hauptmann von Rauffenstein, treats his charges more as guests than as captives. He is an old-fashioned gentleman who believes that the prisoners will not try to escape since they have given their word not to do so. A former pilot, von Rauffenstein has fractured his spine in a crash. Symbolizing the condition to which the war has reduced the European aristocracy, von Rauffenstein's body is held together by a brace. He is a broken man.

His counterpart, whom he befriends, is the French aristocrat, le Captaine de Boledieu. Von Rauffenstein and Boldieu share ideals, values, and code of conduct. They even have common acquaintances. Moving effortlessly between languages, they speak to each other at some times in German, at other times in French, and even, on occasion, in English. A man of refined tastes and cosmopolitan sensibilities, von Rauffenstein is beguiled not by a strident German nationalism, but by the sentimental illusion--only one of many that Renoir tried to dispel--of gentlemanliness and chivalry, which the war has destroyed. His sense of honor, civility, and friendship are as much casualties of war as the wounded and the dead. Not cynical but more realistic, de Boldieu knows better. "Neither you nor I can stop the march of time," he tells von Rauffenstein. De Boldieu understands that the world now belongs to the commoners. It changed hands not, as von Rauffenstein thinks, with the French Revolution, but when the gentlemen who ruled Europe abandoned their principles and declared war on one another. The old order may be dying, but for de Boldieu it is the aristocracy that bears most of the responsibility for killing it.

A more venal pair of aristocrats are Generals Paul Mireau and George Broulard in Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957), based on the Canadian writer Humphrey Cobb's novel.[4] Banned from being shown in France until 1975, Paths of Glory is loosely based on the Battle of Verdun, which Renoir also referenced in La Grande Illusion. But unlike Renoir's film, in Paths of Glory there is an expansive disparity between those who take orders and those who give them. The military hierarchy recapitulates the social hierarchy that held sway in peacetime. Examining those differences, the film becomes a meditation on injustice.

Along with Colonel Dax, Lieutenants Maréchal and Rosenthal in La Grande Illusion constitute the finest incarnations of the new order. Maréchal, a mechanic, and Rosenthal, a banker, can only succeed in escaping the Germans if they cooperate. Maréchal must overcome his anti-Semitism and recognize how little being a Jew defines Rosenthal's life. Although he is wealthy and proud, Rosenthal is generous with his comrades in the camp. He readily shares the sumptuous provisions he receives from home. So many delicacies can Rosenthal offer that the French prisoners eat and drink better than the German guards. He is a man, a human being, a good and trusted friend, who incidentally happens to be Jewish. Making their way across Germany to Switzerland, Maréchal and Rosenthal learn to acknowledge the differences that separate them while coming to share the equality of friendship. "Are you sure we're in Switzerland?" Maréchal asks Rosenthal. "It's all so alike." "Of course," Rosenthal answers. "You can't see frontiers. They were invented by men. Nature doesn't care." By the time they are climbing the Alps to freedom, their common humanity has replaced class, national, and even religious identity. The same is true of the German soldiers who have been pursuing them. Maréchal and Rosenthal are no longer the enemy. They are simply men. The Germans lower their rifles and refuse to shoot.

In addition, when Rosenthal injures himself on the journey and needs time to recuperate, the fugitives seek refuge at a remote farmhouse. There Maréchal falls in love with a German widow, whose husband has died in combat, and promises to return to her and her young daughter after the war. They celebrate Christmas together and teach each other their languages. Their affection belies the hostility that separates their countries and the carnage that their countrymen are at that moment inflicting on one another. It is, provisionally at least, a hopeful vision of the future.

But perhaps that sense of hope is the final, and the most painful, illusion.

Trump misses cemetery visit as Macron and Merkel vow unity (Kim Willsher,  10 Nov 2018 , The Guardian)

Under grey clouds and persistent drizzle, France's president, Emmanuel Macron, and Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, clasped hands at a solemn ceremony at Compiègne as they marked the centenary of the armistice signing.

It was the first time since 1940 that leaders from the two countries had met at the historic site, where Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the western front, signed the ceasefire agreement with Germany in a railway carriage.

On Saturday, as the French and German national anthems were played, the sun briefly broke through and the chancellor rested her head on the president's. The two leaders laid a wreath and unveiled a plaque celebrating their reconciliation. They then signed the visitors' book in a replica of Foch's railway carriage, known as the Compiègne Wagon, where in an act of revenge Adolf Hitler forced France to sign its capitulation in June 1940.

"We owe it to our soldiers," said Macron afterwards. Symbolically, he and Merkel sat side by side and not face to face as the French and German representatives had in 1918 and 1940.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Dana Rohrabacher Loses, Eroding Republican Foothold in California (Adam Nagourney, Nov. 10, 2018, NY Times)

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican fixture in California who represented Orange County for 15 terms, has lost his bid for re-election. His defeat underlines the party's setbacks in a part of the state that was long a symbol of its political dominance.

The Associated Press called the race on Saturday, with Harley Rouda receiving 52 percent of the vote to Mr. Rohrabacher's 48 percent.

Mr. Rouda, 56, is a former Republican turned Democrat who became a symbol of the Democratic efforts to win back Congress this year.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Voting Rights Foe Defeated By Native American Democrat (Matthew Chapman, November 11, 2018, National Memo)

[N]orth Dakota Republicans didn't anticipate what a massive backlash there would be to their skullduggery. Immediately after the Supreme Court let the law take effect, furious Democratic activists all over the country crowdfunded a massive effort to get street addresses and updated ID cards for Native Americans in the state.

The effort was so successful that on Election Day, Native turnout was actually higher than 2012 in several places. The high turnout was not enough to save Heitkamp, as the state's electorate has shifted significantly right of where it was six years ago -- but at the legislative level, angry Native voters flipped at least three red seats blue, including state House Majority Leader Al Carlson.

In the most poetic justice of the night, Randy Boehning, a GOP state representative in Fargo who sponsored the Native American disenfranchisement law in the first place, was unseated by Democrat Ruth Anna Buffalo -- a Native American.

November 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Was Lawrence of Arabia murdered? Death 'more likely assassination than accident': EXCLUSIVE Filmmaker Mark Griffin, 60, claims he has found new bombshell evidence which throws into question the official line about Lawrence's death (Matt Roper, 10 NOV 2018, Daily Mirror)

Back home he turned to writing his war memoirs The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which immediately captured the public's imagination.

An abridged version called Revolt in the Desert, published in 1927, became an international bestseller.

But Lawrence appeared to shy away from public recognition, once turning his back on King George V and walking out of Buckingham Palace after the monarch had summoned him there to offer him a knighthood.

He also attempted to enlist back into the military using pseudonyms in an attempt to avoid the glare of celebrity.

First in the Royal Air Force using the name John Hume Ross, but he was unmasked by the press months later, and then in the Royal Tank Corp under the name Thomas Edward Shaw.

After retiring from service for good, Lawrence moved to Dorset where he lived in Clouds Hill, an isolated cottage near Wareham, and would spend much of his time roaring around the country lanes on his beloved Brough motorbikes.

Mark said his interest in finding the truth about the war hero's death began after hearing many accounts of a black car which was seen speeding from the scene of the accident, close to Clouds Hill, shortly after the fatal crash.

He said: "Black paint was found on the handlebars and petrol tank of Lawrence's Brough.

"Of course that could only happen if he had collided with a black vehicle.

"And you can see from pictures of the bike at the time that the damage on the right side of the bike is consistent with a collision with a car.

"Following the accident Lawrence's bike was examined by George Brough, the person who made the bike.

"In 1985 he testified that he had wanted to give evidence at the inquest, but that they had told him he shouldn't mention that the bike had been structurally damaged.

"So he didn't give evidence because if he had he would have had to say that it had been hit by something.

"So that got my thinking, why would they want to cover that up?" [...]

Perhaps the most credible theory, according to Mark, is that Lawrence was assassinated by the British intelligence community after hints that Winston Churchill planned for him to lead the Secret Service.

Following his death, Churchill, a friend of Lawrence, appeared to confirm the role saying he had hoped he would "take a commanding part in facing the dangers while now threaten the country."

Mark said: "Churchill was planning a huge shake-up the secret service.

"In his diary he talked of creating a directorate which would oversee the Secret Service, the police and the military all together.

"The person who but a stop to that, a guy called Quex who had run the SS since the First World War, was sacked when Churchill was made Prime Minister in 1940."

While Mark admits he doesn't know for sure what really happened, he is certain that something was covered up.

He said: "I have wondered if it was a simple accident, that a VIP was in that black car which collided with the motorbike, and that was the reason why the Secret Service needed to manage what would have been an embarrassing situation."

But he claims that it won't be long before the world will know the truth about how and why the legendary Lawrence of Arabia really died.

He said: "There is a big reveal in 2020, which will be 85 years since the event, when the National Archives will release all the top secret documents about his death.

"It will be fascinating to finally know the truth, and I think many will be shocked by what they discover."

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GOP Rep. Denham falls behind Democrat as 3 other Republicans lose ground in Friday's ballot tally (MAYA SWEEDLER  and MICHAEL FINNEGAN, NOV 10, 2018, LA Times)

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham lost his lead over Democrat Josh Harder on Friday in one of California's four unresolved congressional races as updated ballot counts showed the GOP in growing danger of losing as many as six House seats in the state.

GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa fell further behind Democrat Harley Rouda, who is now more than 7,300 votes ahead of the 15-term congressman.

Another Republican Orange County incumbent, Rep. Mimi Walters, has seen her election-night lead of 6,233 votes drop to 2,020 in her race against Democrat Katie Porter.

The tabulation Friday was also alarming for Republican candidate Young Kim of Fullerton, whose election-night lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros has shrunk to 2,672 votes.

If historical voting patterns hold, Republicans will lose all four of those seats. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


More Provisional Ballots Found in Broward (Daniel Molina, 11/10/18, Floridian Press)

The controversy surrounding unaccounted for ballots in Broward continues as provisional ballots were found unattended in a the Tamarac Lakes Community Center.

Upon finding them Saturday night, a citizen called the Broward Sheriff's Office after finding election equipment and two locked boxes marked "Provisional Ballot Box."

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Trump's Acting Attorney General of the Country Suggested He "Believes" in States' Right to Nullify Federal Laws (ELLIOT HANNON, NOV 10, 2018, Slate)

The current acting attorney general of the United States, the highest law enforcement officer in the entire country, believes that states have the constitutional right to disobey federal laws when they deem appropriate.

The Right and Left are united by their hatred of the Constitution.

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Nothing unusual about vote count in Arizona dragging on (NICHOLAS RICCARDI, 11/10/18, AP)

Blame the fact that Arizonans like to vote early, by mail. That sounds like a contradiction, but a mailed-in ballot requires more work for Arizona elections officials.

That's because state law requires the envelope to be sealed and signed, and for elections officials to match each signature to the one on file with the voter's registration before even opening the envelope. In this election, that's about 1.7 million individual signatures that had to be confirmed, one-by-one. A total of about 2.3 million votes were cast in Arizona.

The problem comes in the final days when the ballots flood election offices. Voters can also drop off sealed mail ballots on Election Day, adding to the pile. Those ballots can't be counted that day because the elections office is busy setting up and administering in-person voting.

The state's Republican secretary of state, Michele Reagan, added another reason: election security. To ensure against voter fraud, mail ballots dropped off Election Day - which totaled 320,000 - are double-checked with votes cast at the polls to confirm no one voted twice.

"Arizona takes elections seriously - from the poll workers to the county elections officials, and the Secretary of State's office," Reagan said in a statement Friday. "Everybody is working diligently to tabulate all of the election results in a manner that Arizonans can be proud of and, most importantly, trust the results."

It normally takes more than a week to count all the ballots in Arizona. The recorder in the state's biggest county - Maricopa, where 60 percent of votes are cast - Adrian Fontes, expects the counting to be done by Nov. 15.

Fontes added that another bottleneck in his office is the computer system. It dates from the 1980s and is designed for a less populated county that rarely voted by mail. So it can only process up to 75,000 ballots a day. Maricopa has about 350,000 ballots that have yet to be tallied.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


Peter Navarro slams Wall Streeters as 'foreign agents' hindering the White House (Curt Mills, November 10, 2018, Spectator USA)

'Wall Street and Goldman's the most important thing,' said Peter Navarro, the White House trade policy pointman, at a Washington think tank Friday. 'When these unpaid foreign agents engage in this kind of diplomacy - so-called diplomacy - all they do is weaken this president and his negotiating position.'

Posted by orrinj at 10:14 AM


James Comey discussed sensitive FBI business on his private email (Marisa Schultz, November 9, 2018, NY Post)

Fired FBI chief James Comey used his private Gmail account hundreds of times to conduct government business -- and at least seven of those messages were deemed so sensitive by the Justice Department that they declined to release them.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Trump celebrated the midterm results, but without millennials and women he could be headed for disaster in 2020 (Evan Siegfried, 11/09/18, NBC: Think)

The party's attitude toward avoiding calamity was akin to an airline pilot playing a game of chicken with a mountain. They dismissed millennials and young voters using two flawed arguments: They don't vote and, when they ultimately do, they will have become conservative because they have "responsibilities" like having a job and paying taxes.

However, there were multiple signs that millennials and young voters in particular were going to vote this year. Poll after poll showed an increase in enthusiasm among this sector of the electorate and voter registration data saw a significant uptick in registration.

As for the claim that millennials will vote Republican as they age and assume responsibilities such as having jobs and paying taxes? It is a bunch of malarkey. The oldest millennials are now 37, have jobs, pay taxes and are busy worrying about how to pay for their kids' college educations -- and they themselves likely faced or still face massive student debt, which only heightens these concerns. Despite being marginally older, they still feel that the Republican Party does not represent them or their values, so they are continuing to support Democratic candidates.

Making matters worse, the Republican Party seems to believe that the way to win over millennials is to promote figures like Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens and Tomi Lahren, who are the Baby Boomers' idea of a millennial Republican. Each of these demagogues believe that the best way to expand the GOP is to shamelessly promote themselves while "owning the libs," in the process pushing the kinds of divisive rhetoric and ideas that make millennials turn away from the Republican Party in the first place. Even many millennial Republicans find their antics and 280-character-at-a-time, right-wing Twitter infomercials to be intellectually lacking and outright vacuous.

Making matters worse, the Republican Party seems to believe that the way to win over millennials is to promote figures like Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens and Tomi Lahren.

Continuing to rely on these soapbox orators and their obtuse drivel to bring millennials and young Americans to the GOP will continue to lead to the opposite effect. Instead, these dunces should be cast out in favor of more thoughtful conservatives who have proven they can speak to and work with audiences other than the GOP base.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


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The government is raking in billions of dollars from Trump's tariffs. Americans are the ones paying. (Gina Heeb, 11/10/18, Business Insider)

Federal revenue from tariffs in the third quarter increased by more than 33% from the same quarter last year, Treasury Department data shows. And in October -- the first full month in which all tariffs announced to date were in effect -- the monthly collection appears to have doubled from the 2017 level to about $6 billion, according to estimates from daily receipts.

Thus far, his legacy is increased taxes, regulations, Democrats in elective office and aides convicted and indicted.

Trump's trade war may have helped Democrats win the House (Jeff Stein, November 9, 2018, Washington Post)

"Family farmers in our district saw reliable markets disrupted by impulsive and unpredictable trade decisions," said Democrat Angie Craig, who unseated Rep. Jason Lewis (R). "I heard a lot of the same things: They want a representative who will listen to the concerns they have about instability stemming from the trade war."

Democratic candidates across the country tried to leverage angst about Trump's trade policies in their campaign pitches to voters. In Senate races, most Democrats who tried running on those sentiments lost. But in House races, such candidates fared much better and may have even helped swing control of the chamber to Democrats, underscoring the mixed political ramifications of one of the administration's key economic policies.

"It's very clear, based on how they lost seats in the Upper Midwest, that declining agricultural markets likely led to the overturning of the GOP majority in the House," said Joe Brusuelas, an economist with RSM, an international accounting firm. "It's hard to imagine that these seats would have flipped anyway."

In March, Trump slapped 25 percent tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States, followed by two separate rounds of tariffs -- one on $50 billion in products and another on $200 billion in products -- on China.

China, Mexico and other foreign governments have retaliated by imposing their own tariffs on U.S. exports, in many instances in areas where they might hurt the president's domestic political fortunes.

They targeted Midwestern farms that export to Chinese markets, Harley-Davidson motor­cycles manufactured in the Rust Belt, and even bourbon produced in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky, among other businesses in Republican-controlled states.

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Sessions realized too late that Whitaker was auditioning for his job (Evan Perez, Laura Jarrett and Ariane de Vogue, November 9, 2018, CNN)

On Wednesday, the attorney general received the call everyone in Washington knew was coming some day soon.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, asked Sessions to submit his resignation, according to multiple sources briefed on the call. Sessions agreed to comply, but he wanted a few more days before the resignation would become effective. Kelly said he'd consult the President.

Soon, the sources say, top Justice officials convened on the 5th floor suite of offices for the attorney general. Eventually, there were two huddles in separate offices. Among those in Sessions' office was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, his deputy Ed O'Callaghan, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Steven Engel, who heads the Office of Legal Counsel.

A few yards away, Whitaker strategized with other aides, including Gary Barnett, now his chief of staff.

The rival huddles, which haven't been previously reported, laid bare a break in the relationship between Sessions and Whitaker that had emerged in recent weeks, after it became clear that Whitaker played a behind-the-scenes role in an aborted effort to oust Rosenstein.

A source close to Sessions says that the former attorney general realized that Whitaker was "self-dealing" after reports surfaced in September that Whitaker had spoken with Kelly and had discussed plans to become the No. 2 at the Justice Department if Rosenstein was forced to resign.

In recent months, with his relationship with the President at a new low, Sessions skipped several so-called principals meetings that he was slated to attend as a key member of the Cabinet. A source close to Sessions says that neither the attorney general nor Trump thought it was a good idea for Sessions to be at the White House, so he sent surrogates. Whitaker was one of them.

But Sessions did not realize Whitaker was having conversations with the White House about his future until the news broke in late September about Rosenstein.

On Wednesday as aides began drafting Sessions' resignation letter, the distrust for Whitaker burst into the open.

The fact that Whitaker would become acting attorney general, passing over Rosenstein suddenly raised concerns about the impact on the most high-profile investigation in the Justice Department, the Russia probe led by Mueller. The Mueller probe has been at the center of Trump's ire directed at Sessions and the Justice Department. Whitaker has made comments criticizing Mueller's investigation and Rosenstein's oversight of it, and has questioned the allegations of Russian interference.

Rosenstein and O'Callaghan, the highest-ranked officials handling day-to-day oversight of Mueller's investigation, urged Sessions to delay the effective date of his resignation.
Soon, Whitaker strode into Sessions' office and asked to speak one-on-one to the attorney general; the others left the two men alone. It was a brief conversation. Shortly after, Sessions told his huddle that his resignation would be effective that day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


Whoops! Brenda Snipes' office mixed bad provisional ballots with good ones (ALEX HARRIS, November 09, 2018, Miami Herald)

Broward's elections supervisor accidentally mixed more than a dozen rejected ballots with nearly 200 valid ones, a circumstance that is unlikely to help Brenda Snipes push back against Republican allegations of incompetence.

The mistake -- for which no one had a solution Friday night -- was discovered after Snipes agreed to present 205 provisional ballots to the Broward County canvassing board for inspection. She had initially intended to handle the ballots administratively, but agreed to present them to the canvassing board after Republican attorneys objected.

"We have found no clear authority controlling the situation faced by the board," said Broward County Attorney Andrew Meyers.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Whitaker may have violated group's tax-exempt status (JEFF DONN, 11/10/18, AP) 

Matthew G. Whitaker, the nation's new acting attorney general, repeatedly chided presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in public statements during 2016 while he was speaking for a group that is barred by its tax-exempt status from supporting or opposing political candidates during a campaign.

Before coming to the Justice Department in 2017, Whitaker was president and executive of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a charitable organization that styles itself as nonpartisan government watchdog promoting ethics and transparency. The tax-exempt group -- known by its initials, FACT -- is supposed to serve the public interest under Section 501c3 of the U.S. tax code, without directly or even indirectly supporting or opposing specific candidates for office.

Yet the group has engaged in one partisan pronouncement after another, mostly directed at Democrats.

Of course, the law is backwards, the only speech the 1st protects is political and religious.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Vote tallies due in Florida's hotly contested elections (TERRY SPENCER and BRENDAN FARRINGTON, 11/10/18, AP)

Scott had asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections departments in South Florida's Democrat-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties after his lead narrowed in ballot-counting that continued through the week. However, a spokeswoman for the agency said Friday that there were no credible allegations of fraud; therefore, no active investigation. [...]

Scott's lead had narrowed by Friday evening to 0.18 percentage points --a lead of less than 15,000 out of nearly 8.2 million ballots cast -- below the threshold for a recount. Florida law requires a machine recount when the leading candidate's margin is 0.5 percentage points or less, and a hand recount if it's 0.25 or less.

In the race for governor, DeSantis was leading by 0.43 percentage points late Friday.

A third statewide race that could go to a recount -- the agriculture commissioner race between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell -- is the tightest of all, with Fried holding a 3,120-vote lead, a margin of 0.039 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Rain nixes Trump stop at US cemetery in France (The Associated Press, 11/10/18)

The White House is calling off President Donald Trump's scheduled visit to a World War I cemetery due to poor weather. [...]

White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, his wife and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit instead.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


The Big Blue Wave That Everyone Missed (Cody Fenwick, November 10, 2018, AlterNet)

MSNBC's Ari Melber] noted (using a lower projection of 35 House seats gained) that this was the greatest wave election in four decades for the Democrats. The only other time the party won such a big night was during President Richard Nixon's most scandalous years.

"Democratic House gains keep growing and the most favorable Senate map for one party in a century could end up close to a status quo reshuffling," said NPR politics reporter Scott Detrow. "This was not a split decision election."

As results continue to pour in, the GOP's Senate victory is looking more hollow. They defeated Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). But Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson looks poised to head to a recount against Republican Rick Scott, leaving the race in doubt. In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema's race Marta McSally is still undecided, but it is leaning Sinema's way. And Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) was ousted by Democrat Jacky Rosen.

"There was a moment, around 10:30pm EST on Tuesday night when I thought GOP was gonna pick up SIX senate seats," said MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "They mayyyy end up with only a net gain of ONE." (FiveThirtyEight is projecting a GOP gain in the Senate of 2 seats.)

Some of the most devastating races for Democrats actually are having upsides. Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum's race appears to be heading for a recount. Stacey Abrams in Georgia is still fighting against her extremely dubious opponent for a fair vote count, and she could end up in a runoff. And though Beto O'Rourke lost decisively in Texas against Ted Cruz, he outperformed the almost all his polling and came within three points of his Republican opponent in what was thought to have been a quintessentially red state. Texas may now be considered purple.

The Washington Post's Paul Waldman pointed out, too, that Democratic gains at the state-level were extremely impressive.

"You've probably heard that over the eight years Barack Obama was president, Democrats lost a net of almost a thousand seats in state legislatures," Waldman wrote. "Which is bad, but last night Democrats gained about 300 seats, so they're well on their way to reversing those losses."

The DLCC, in fact, reported that it had flipped 350 state legislature seats by Wednesday morning -- and it may end up closer to 400.

He also noted that, even if Abrams and Gillum don't come from behind, Democrats have flipped seven governorships in their direction, while Republicans flipped none.

The degree to which this was a Donald/racism-driven disaster was most evident in NH, where voters stuck with a popular and competent Republican governor but also two Democrats for Congress and reversing control of the state legislature and Executive Council. 

For Democrats, a midterm election that keeps on giving (Dan Balz and Michael Scherer November 9, 2018, Washington Post)

Democrats appear poised to pick up between 35 and 40 seats in the House, once the last races are tallied, according to strategists in both parties. That would represent the biggest Democratic gain in the House since the post-Watergate election of 1974, when the party picked up 49 seats three months after Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency.

Republicans will gain seats in the Senate, but with races in Florida and Arizona still to be called, their pre-election majority of 51 seats will end up as low as 52 or as high as 54. Meanwhile, Democrats gained seven governorships, recouping in part losses sustained in 2010 and 2014, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats, where they had suffered a virtual wipeout in the previous two midterm elections.

The Democrats' gains this week are still far short of what Republicans accomplished in their historic victories of 1994 and 2010. But they would eclipse the number of seats Democrats gained in 2006, the last time the party recaptured control of the House, as well as the 26-seat gain in 1982, when the national unemployment rate was at 10 percent. This year, the election took place with the unemployment rate at just 3.7 percent.

Day by day, the outlook for Democrats in the House has improved. At the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, already high spirits have been rising all week as more races fell into the party's column. One joke that has been making the rounds there goes like this: "This is actually turning out to be more of a Hanukkah than a Christmas election," meaning day after day of gifts, rather than just one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Sinema expands lead in Arizona Senate race: The Democratic candidate increases her lead over GOP's McSally as election authorities continued to count ballots in the uncalled race. (JAMES ARKIN and ALEX ISENSTADT 11/09/2018, Politico)

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema expanded her lead to 20,203 votes over GOP Rep. Martha McSally Friday evening as Arizona election authorities continued to count ballots in the state's uncalled Senate race.

Sinema's lead amounts to just over 1 percentage point after more than 2 million votes have been counted. Sinema was up by 9,610 votes earlier in the day before the counties processed approximately 80,000 additional votes Friday -- but slightly more than 350,000 ballots have yet to be counted across the state. [...]

In a statement, McSally said: "Equal protection under the law is a fundamental constitutional right for American voters. As a combat veteran, I fought to protect it. And today, we won an important battle to preserve that right for rural voters in Arizona. I will continue fighting until every ballot is counted."

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


The Midterms Swept in a New Class of Black Politicians: Most of the winners are under 40. And most seem likely to run for even higher offices down the line. (EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, 11/10/18, The Atlantic)

Tuesday saw the election of three new African American lieutenant governors, four new African American attorneys general, and seven new African American members of the House. (An eighth candidate, Steve Horsford, won back a seat he had previously held.) Other elections had reverberations lower down, like the 19 black women elected to county-judge spots in Texas or the black woman who will now become the majority leader of the New York State Senate.

Most are under 40 years old. Most are the first African Americans elected to the jobs they now hold. And most seem likely to run for even higher offices down the line.

"We stand on this stage upon the shoulders of giants who had a vision that went beyond generations," said Garlin Gilchrist, the new lieutenant governor of Michigan, claiming victory on Tuesday night. "And it's our generation's responsibility to live up to that responsibility by having our imaginations exceed our expectations."

Gilchrist got into politics two years ago, after he tried to vote in the 2016 election, had a problem with his ballot at the local library, and was urged by the people around him to run for city clerk in Detroit to address those same access issues. He lost, but ended up making a big-enough impression that Gretchen Whitmer picked him as her running mate over the summer, making him the first African American elected statewide in Michigan. Not far away, Mandela Barnes, a 31-year-old former community organizer from Milwaukee, was elected lieutenant governor after two terms in the state assembly.

In public and in interviews, many of these new elected officials talk about the larger historical legacy they're part of, and what policy problems they want to tackle now that they've won. "There is definitely the sense that there is a certain weight that comes with it," Barnes said, referring to the responsibility of being elected in this moment as a young black leader. "And I accept it."

They also talk about the racism and bias, implicit and explicit, that they faced during their campaigns. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


We Must Hold the NRA Accountable After Another Massacre at Their Hands (David Atkins, November 10, 2018, Washington Monthly)

Reasonable countries do not allow people to randomly possess weapons of mass death. Reasonable countries do not allow men who terrorize women to possess weapons of mass death. Reasonable countries do not allow people to modify common weapons of mass death to become even more deadly to large groups, carrying even more rounds of ammunition than originally designed.

The Putin-funded National Rifle Association is in part directly responsible for the deaths. In 2016 California voters passed Proposition 63 to ban the possession of high-capacity magazines. This was in large part a response to the deadly San Bernardino shootings enabled by them. But the California chapter of the NRA sued to block implementation of the law, and the case won't be resolved until at least the middle of 2019. So Californians are still legally entitled to own high-capacity magazine attachments to handguns, instruments of death that have no purpose in any realistic self-defense situation but are extremely effective for those looking to aggressively murder as many people as possible.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Trump played key role as candidate in hush payoffs for sexual affairs -- report (Times of Israel, 11/10/18)

Citing interviews with "three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents," the WSJ says Trump intervened directly on a number of occasions to "suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women," and provide them with hush money.

The report appears to corroborate the account of Trump's longtime former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen who was also heavily involved in the deals and who pleaded guilty this summer to eight counts, including violations of campaign finance rules during the 2016 presidential race, implicating his former boss in the process.

Cohen told a federal judge in August that he had paid sums of $130,000 and $150,000 each to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, adult film star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) and Playboy model Karen McDougal, acting at his boss's request in a bid to buy their silence "with the purpose of influencing the election."

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Polls: Voters Punished GOP Over Health Care Threat (Tommy Christopher, 11/10/18, ShareBlue)

According to exit polls, health care was the most important issue to 41 percent of voters -- nearly double the percentage who prioritized the next most important issue. Health care hasn't topped that list in any other exit polls for presidential or midterm elections in this century.

And of the many voters who named health care the most important issue, a whopping 75 percent voted for Democrats on Tuesday.

That's a massive repudiation of Trump and the Republicans on an issue that is not going to go away.

It wasn't just blue state voters who made their voice heard specifically on health care.

Voters in three very red states -- Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah -- voted in favor of bringing Obamacare's Medicaid expansion to their state, which those states' elected Republicans had refused to do.

Republican desperation on health care reached an absurd fever pitch when Trump tried to warn a rally crowd that Democrats were really the ones who "would obliterate Obamacare."

Unfortunately for the GOP, there is a pile of receipts that say otherwise.

...the only real question is whether the GOP wants to help shape the form of universal health care we arrive at. All electorates consider it a core obligation of government.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM

60-40 NATION:

When Voters Finally Said No To NRA (Oliver Willis, November 10, 2018, Shareblue)

Voters soundly rejected the NRA and the candidates carrying water for its anti-gun-safety agenda in 2018. The gun extremists refused to change course even after mass shootings claimed the lives of dozens of innocent Americans, and their candidates suffered because of it.

The NRA was already in something of a retreat before Election Day. They significantly reduced spending on the midterm elections, cutting their donations to Republican candidates.

It did not help the NRA that the FBI, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), and Senate investigators have opened up probes looking at the flow of Russian money to their bank accounts during the 2016 election. In that contest, the NRA gave $54 million to Republicans, with $32 million backing Trump.

Washington state held the only ballot initiative on guns, where voters were asked to strengthen their gun laws by limiting access to assault weapons. It won, with 60 percent of the vote.

On Tuesday, candidates backing gun safety won against the NRA, and they did it all over the country.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


The curse of the Honeycrisp apple (DEENA SHANKER  and LYDIA MULVANY, 11/08/18,  BLOOMBERG)

Production of Honeycrisps has doubled over the last four years, making it the fifth-most-grown variety, according to Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs at the U.S. Apple Assn. But not everyone is a fan. Those who produce Honeycrisps often have the most cutting words for it.

"The first challenge is controlling its vigor," said Brenda Briggs of Rice Fruit Co., which has been selling apples out of Adams County, Pa., for more than 100 years. Growers, she explains, have to train the trees so that their branches don't get too tall too fast, with leaves that block the sunlight from the apples below.

The fruit is also vulnerable to bitter pit -- small, sunken brown spots that sully an otherwise perfect orb. The flaw is a result of the trees' inability to properly take up calcium from the soil. Growers spray their orchards with foliar calcium to boost their intake, but it's not always enough.

Size can also be an issue. "The fruit tends to grow very big," said Mark Nicholson of New York's Red Jacket Orchards, whose business includes about 400 acres dedicated to apples. "That's good, but at a certain point the consumer doesn't want to buy an apple the size of a grapefruit."

The thin skin that makes those first bites so juicy is also very delicate and easily sunburned. Birds love Honeycrisps more than other apples, so growers need to buy and install netting to keep them away.

Even if a producer manages to grow a decent crop of Honeycrisps, harvesting and storage come with additional hurdles. The variety is so delicate that the stems have to be clipped off so the apples don't tear one another. And while other apples can go right from tree to cold storage, Honeycrisps must first spend five to 10 days being "tempered" at a mild temperature before they can be refrigerated.

"It requires growers to do a lot more work," Nicholson said. In the end, only 55% to 60% of the fruit makes it to retail, Seetin said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Where the guns used in Chicago actually came from (Philip Bump. November 7, 2017, Washington Post)

[A]s a report released earlier this year by the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) reveals, most of the guns recovered in Chicago came from outside the state.

Only 40 percent of the guns recovered in the city were purchased in Illinois, the report read, including hundreds purchased at gun shops outside city boundaries. The report includes maps of two gun shops from which a large number of guns recovered in Chicago were purchased. The black dots are where the guns were recovered; the red Xs are the locations of the gun stores.
Many of the guns recovered in Chicago -- a fifth of them -- were purchased in Indiana, which abuts the city's eastern border. An additional 9 percent of the guns recovered in the city came from Mississippi and Wisconsin.
This pattern is not unique to Chicago. States with tougher gun laws often discover that places with more lax legislation are the source of many of the firearms used in crimes.

Last year, the attorney general of New York issued a report about the flow of guns into his state. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman identified what he called the "iron pipeline," a string of East Coast states through which guns flowed into the state.

In New York City, for example, nearly 9 in 10 firearms come from out of state.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Californians Tried to Protect Themselves From a Mass Shooting Like Thousand Oaks: A court wouldn't let them. (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 09, 2018, Slate)

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, blocked Proposition 63 in June 2017. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later declined to lift his injunction. In his ruling, Benitez declared that the law "is a poor fit as a means to eliminate the types of mass shooting events experienced in California." He insisted that high-capacity magazines are "an incredibly rare danger to public safety."

"Of the ten mass shooting events that occurred in California," Benitez wrote, "only two involved the use of a magazine holding more than 10 rounds." He reasoned that the law was a "poor fit" as means to increase public safety. And he concluded that, as a result, Proposition 63 likely cannot survive constitutional scrutiny.

Benitez expressly discounted a Mother Jones survey that found that half of 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 involved magazines with more than 10 rounds. He ignored another study that found that high-capacity magazine shootings produced 60 percent more fatalities. And he overlooked the fact that mass shootings in Virginia fell when the state banned high-capacity magazines, only to rise once more when the ban was lifted.

The shooting illustrates how illogical, how callous to human life our Second Amendment jurisprudence has become.
But leave that data aside and consider the situation in California. Benitez wrote that "only two" mass shootings in the state had theretofore involved high-capacity magazines. Only two? These massacres were the 2013 Santa Monica shooting, which killed five civilians, and the 2009 Oakland shooting, which killed four police officers. You might expect these tragedies to influence the court's reasoning. But Benitez insisted that it wasn't entirely clear whether Proposition 63 would've kept these shooters from obtaining high-capacity magazines. And the "marginal good effects" the law might've had--that is, the lives it might have saved--didn't justify the ban.

What interests lie on the other side of this dispute? Gun advocates claimed that they need high-capacity magazines to defend themselves. But an expert witness hired by the state found that an average of 2.2 shots were fired in self-defense situations. Between 2011 and May 2017, just two of the 736 incidents examined involved an individual firing more than 10 rounds in self-defense.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


Can Brazil's Bolsonaro Replicate the Chilean Miracle? (Daniel J. Mitchell  , 11/09/18, FEE)

Brazil appears to be a tragic example of what happens when societal capital erodes (or never gets established in the first place) and too many people in the country see government as a vehicle for redistribution. That environment leads to statist policies. 

This presumably helps explain why Brazil is ranked #144 in the Economic Freedom of the World report. That's not as low as some of its neighbors, such as last place Venezuela (#162) or close-to-last Argentina (#160), but it's still miserable. The country definitely deserves to be in the "Least Free" group. [...]

[I]t looks like Brazil is about to have a very good finance minister.

The UK-based Financial Times has an encouraging report:

For Brazil's new finance minister Paulo Guedes, the government of far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro could represent a "Pinochet" moment for Latin America's largest economy. Mr. Bolsonaro, who won elections last Sunday, ending almost 15 years of left-wing rule, will take over a moribund economy burdened by a bloated public sector when he assumes office on January 1. ...The Chilean dictator's solution was a dose of Milton Friedman-style free market economics from University of Chicago-trained academics. Mr. Bolsonaro is considering the same medicine in the form of Mr. Guedes, who has a doctorate from Chicago... For supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro, the 69-year-old Mr. Guedes' uncompromisingly free market view of the world is the only answer. "Liberals know how to do it," Mr. Guedes once said.

Since pro-market reforms turned Chile into the "Latin Tiger," let's hope Guedes is serious.

He definitely has a pro-growth agenda:

Mr Guedes--who first considered joining Mr. Bolsonaro's campaign only last year--has repeatedly said his priority is to end Brazil's 7 percent fiscal deficit through privatizations of the country's 147 state-owned enterprises. ...Mr Guedes' other plans include a radical simplification of Brazil's tax system, one of the world's most convoluted, and reforming the country's costly pension system, which is threatening to overwhelm the budget.

Sounds like Guedes has the right ideas. Assuming Bolsonaro does what is right for his country (such as enacting much-needed pension reform), Guedes could be the Jose Pinera of Brazil.

Here's a chart from Economic Freedom of the World. It shows how economic liberalization produced a dramatic increase in freedom between 1975 and 1995. Chile is now ranked #15 for economic liberty. Brazil, by contrast, has slowly lost ground since a period of pro-market reform between 1985 and 2000.

November 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


A look at Broward elections chief Brenda Snipes' long history of trouble: Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is now being sued by Gov. Rick Scott's Senate campaign, which alleges "fraud" in the vote count. But this is hardly the first lawsuit against Snipes, nor is it the first lengthy vote tally. (Dan Sweeney, 11/09/18, South Florida Sun Sentinel)
In a move usually reserved for elected officials accused of crimes or serious ethical violations, then-Gov. Jeb Bush removed Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant from office in Nov. 2003, writing in a letter about her mismanagement of the elections office: "To leave Ms. Oliphant in office would put the voting rights of every citizen of Broward County in chronic jeopardy." The Broward elections office had a $423,000 deficit, and a disastrous 2002 primary election had seen polls open late and close early, plus 268 uncounted votes were found a year afterward, stuffed in a filing cabinet. They had never been counted. Bush named Snipes, a former principal and school administrator, to replace Oliphant. Snipes won election for the office in 2004 and has been re-elected every four years since then.

Things got off to a slightly rocky start
In her first test as supervisor, Snipes had to scramble when a handful of mail-in ballots were sent to the wrong addresses ahead of the March 2004 presidential primary. But Snipes took full responsibility and had the office recheck addresses on remaining mail-ins. A week before that election, her office informed 100,000 voters that their polling place had moved.

Despite all that, things went smoothly on Election Day, and Snipes passed her first test in office.

Mail-in ballots mysteriously vanish
By the general election in 2004, problems were more pronounced. Some 58,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered, and while the post office tried to figure out what happened, Snipes' office scrambled to send out replacements.

Counting and counting and counting ...
In an omen of elections to come, the Sun Sentinel reported that the Broward elections office was still counting ballots days after the 2004 election.

And counting and counting
In the 2006 election, after the rest of the state had finished tallying votes, Broward was still counting because of the possibility that some votes had been left in machines at polling places.

Crash landing
Also in 2006, one mail-in ballot was sent to Snipes' office with an Inverted Jenny for a stamp. The stamp, featuring a misprint of an upside down plane, is among the rarest and most valuable in stamp collecting. It turned out to be a fake.

The golden years
The 2008 election was lauded as error free, with "no meltdowns, no hanging chads, no thousands of missing ballots." The 2010 election was similarly noncontroversial.

Felons voting
Despite Gov. Rick Scott's attempt to purge felons from the voter rolls after he was elected in 2010, at least five felons managed to vote in Broward County in 2012. That year, people were still waiting in line to vote past 9 p.m., and some locations ran out of ballots. A week after the election, almost 1,000 uncounted ballots turned up in a warehouse.

And counting and counting and ...
Following those long lines, Florida was the 50th state to report election totals in 2012...

If only incompetence were a bar to office...
Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


In 'Becoming,' Michelle Obama Mostly Opts for Empowerment Over Politics (Jennifer Szalai, Nov. 9, 2018, NY Times)

[I]t's the moments when Obama tries to make sense of what she's seeing now, in the country, that are among the most moving -- if only because she's so clearly struggling to reconcile the cleareyed realism of her upbringing, brought about by necessity, with the glamorous, previously unthinkable life she has today. During her entire time in the White House, she says, "I had lived with an awareness that we ourselves were a provocation." She unequivocally calls the new president a "bully" and a "misogynist," watching him do everything he can to roll back her husband's legacy and replace "carefully built, compassionate policies" with what seems to be brazen cruelty. "I sometimes wonder," she writes, "where the bottom might be."

"My grandfather lived with the bitter residue of his own dashed dreams," she recalls; like many African-American men of his generation, she says, his stymied aspirations left him with "a basic level of resentment and mistrust." Her life has been different, filled with possibility, wealth and achievement. She insists on enumerating the gains the country made in the eight years before 2016, however incremental, because it would be too easy, she suggests, to succumb to despair. "Progress is slow," she tells young people nowadays; they need to rely on "their persistence, self-reliance and ability to overcome."

For all the attempts by conservatives a decade ago to paint her as a radical, Obama seems to be a measured, methodical centrist at heart. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Trump reportedly directed all those hush money payments himself, The Wall Street Journal reports (Kathryn Krawczyk, 11/09/18, The week)

In a massive investigation published Friday, the Journal reports Trump either personally directed, or told his former attorney Michael Cohen to make, payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump previously claimed he had no knowledge of the payments before they happened, but federal prosecutors have reportedly heard otherwise -- from Cohen himself.

News that Pecker, a former longtime friend of Trump, and Cohen paid to bury McDougal's and Daniels' allegations of affairs with Trump has already been reported. But the Journal's interviews with "three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events" reveal the payments all stemmed from a 2015 Trump Tower meeting in which Trump personally asked Pecker to keep his campaign safe from damaging stories. And when a payment to Daniels stalled, Trump reportedly urged Cohen to "get it done," forcing the lawyer to pay off Daniels himself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Truck full of gas cylinders set on fire, three stabbed in Australia terror attack (Tom Westbrook, Sonali Paul, 11/09/18, Reuters) 

A man set fire to a pickup truck laden with gas cylinders in the center of the Australian city of Melbourne on Friday and stabbed three people, killing one, before he was shot by police in what they called a terrorist attack.

How Australia All But Ended Gun Violence (CLIFTON LEAF February 20, 2018, Fortune)

If all this sounds too horrifically familiar--an estranged loner, an AR-15, dozens dead in a matter of minutes--there is a remarkable twist to the story. In the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, Australian lawmakers did something about it.

Within just weeks of that tragedy, elected officials in each of Australia's six states and two mainland territories--pressed forward by police chiefs across the continent and by the then-newly elected prime minister--banned semi-automatic and other military-style weapons across the country. The federal government of Australia prohibited their import, and lawmakers introduced a generous nationwide gun buyback program, funded with a Medicare tax, to encourage Australians to freely give up their assault-style weapons. Amazingly, many of them did. (Simon Chapman, an emeritus professor in public health at the University of Sydney, and an influential proponent of the original firearms legislation, has a very good summary here. You can also read his free ebook here.)

A land of roughneck pioneers and outback settlers, Australia had never embraced much government regulation and certainly not about their guns. This was a land of almost cartoonish toughness and self-reliance, home of Crocodile Dundee and Australian rules football. Here even the kangaroos box. But Port Arthur had followed too many prior deadly shooting sprees and Australians were clearly sick to death of them.

So what happened after the assault-weapon ban? Well therein lies the other half of the story twist noted above: Nothing.

Nothing, that is, in a good way.

Australian independence didn't end. Tyranny didn't come. Australians still hunted and explored and big-wave surfed to their hearts' content. Their economy didn't crash; Invaders never arrived. Violence, in many forms, went down across the country, not up. Somehow, lawmakers on either side of the gun debate managed to get along and legislate.

As for mass killings, there were no more. Not one in the past 22 years.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM

60-40 NATION:

A Step Forward in the Fight Against Gun Violence: Voters across the country are pushing back against the gun lobby's agenda. (Editorial Board, November 9, 2018, Bloomberg)

[W]ashingtonians decided that keeping powerful weapons out of the hands of children and the unfit is a priority higher than convenience. (Another mass shooting, this time near Los Angeles, provides the most recent evidence of how necessary such efforts are.) 

Even more remarkable in the midterms was the number of congressional candidates running in swing districts nationwide who advocated gun-safety regulation. Among Democrats competing in the party's targeted "red-to-blue" districts held by Republicans, a majority spoke up for gun regulation. In Georgia's 6th Congressional District, gun-safety advocate Lucy McBath upset incumbent Republican Karen Handel. (McBath's son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death in 2012 by a man who didn't like the music playing from Davis's parked car.)

In Florida, Georgia and Texas, Democrats who ran on gun safety lost statewide races -- but only narrowly, charting a seismic shift in gun politics in the South. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who had appeared in NRA advertising and earned the group's A+ rating, lost his bid to become governor to a gun-safety candidate, Steve Sisolak. A host of other candidates with A grades lost as well, including gubernatorial hopefuls in Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and New Mexico.

Earlier this year in Vermont, another traditional gun-rights state, Governor Phil Scott signed laws to expand background checks, limit magazine capacity and enable the removal of guns from people at "extreme risk" of violence.

The prospects for gun safety have improved partly because political intensity around the issue has changed sides. Gun policy has become a top issue for voters, midterm exit polls showed. And those who favor stricter gun laws are now more likely than those who oppose them to say the issue of gun regulation is a very important voting issue, according to an October poll for Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group backed by Bloomberg L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg.

Gun restrictions are just another idea that 60-80% percent of Americans support--like abortion restrictions, universal health care, immigration, etc. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Trump White House Unprepared for Wave of Democratic Probes (Shannon Pettypiece, November 9, 2018, Bloomberg)

The White House is unprepared to defend itself against a coming wave of investigations by newly empowered House Democrats, who have vowed to probe everything from cabinet members' ethics scandals to conflicts of interest involving the president's business empire.

President Donald Trump doesn't have a chief lawyer at the moment. Three weeks after White House Counsel Don McGahn departed, replacement Pat Cipollone hasn't started on the job as he wraps up ties with his law firm, said a person familiar with the situation. [...]

Cipollone is looking to hire 15 to 20 attorneys amid a series of departures, said another person familiar with his plans. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


How the Swedish left moved right (Daniel Andersson, 11/09/18, Al Jazeera)

In order to survive under neoliberal hegemony, Swedish and European social democracy have moved towards the political centre under the banner of supposedly post-conflict Third Way politics. This is actually an adoption of neoliberal ideology, justifying market liberalisation, privatisation and welfare degradation as the only alternative. Over time, the move has effectively narrowed the political field and resulted in rising inequality. Today, Sweden shows the largest growth in inequality among OECD-countries.

As mainstream parties have started to look more and more the same, right-wing populists have managed to use ethnocentric xenophobia, welfare chauvinism and contempt of elites to attract those disenchanted by consensus politics.

The conflict between free markets and identitarianism could hardly be more natural.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Georgia governor's race is still undecided as votes continue to be counted (Gregory Krieg, Kaylee Hartung and Devon M. Sayers, 11/09/18, CNN)

Kemp currently leads Democrat Stacey Abrams, with 50.3% of the vote. But there are still ballots to count. If Kemp's share drops below 50%, the contest would automatically go to a run-off on December 4, even if he ends up as the top vote-getter. [...]

By stepping down as secretary of state, a move Democrats pushed for during the campaign, Kemp ensured he will not be seen formally signing off on his own election -- a potentially embarrassing step following a contest he oversaw amid accusations his office was trying to suppress the minority vote. The certification is currently planned for next Tuesday.

Kemp will also now be on the sidelines in the event of a recount. During a campaign debate, he said he would not recuse himself. But a group of voters asked a federal judge to bar him from supervising any potential recount. The case, which was brought by Project Democracy, which alleged a conflict of interest, was dismissed this morning after Kemp's decision rendered it moot.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Florida governor's race faces recount as Senate race gets even tighter (Steven Lemongello and Gray Rohrer, 11/09/18, Orlando Sentinel)

The Florida governor's race is heading to a machine recount and the U.S. Senate race will face a lengthier manual recount after returns from Broward County on Thursday pushed Democrats Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson closer to their Republican opponents Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott.

Mr. Scott is a decent enough sort, but it would be worth his seat to defeat DeSantis.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Democrat Kyrsten Sinema pulls ahead in razor-close Arizona Senate race (CBS News, 11/09/18)

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema pulled ahead of Republican Martha McSally on Thursday in the Arizona Senate race by a margin of 2,000 votes. This marked the first time that Sinema has pulled ahead of McSally in the days since the election.

An additional 120,000 outstanding ballots were made available from Maricopa County Thursday. The county encompasses Phoenix and some of the state's liberal enclaves. There are an 345,000 ballots that needed to be counted per a knowledgeable source with the Arizona Secretary of State's office.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Following investigation, Houston Chronicle retracts eight stories: Action follows external review of former staff reporter accused of fabricating sources (David Wood, Correspondent Nov. 8, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

On July 31, the Houston Chronicle published a front-page story with a provocative headline. "'We've moved on': Political anger after Harvey has eased," it declared, adding: "Experts believe disaster response is unlikely to be a factor in November."

It was a significant story by veteran reporter and Austin bureau chief Mike Ward. It asserted that Houston residents initially fed up with the uneven government response to Hurricane Harvey actually weren't going to blame politicians after all. The story began with West Houston resident Betsy Scheer, whose anger had faded. She was going to vote Republican.

"My friends are mostly the same way now," she was quoted as telling Ward.

But in the weeks after the story ran, questions were raised about the sourcing in Ward's story. No one could find Betsy Scheer. And no one could find three others quoted in the story -- Tran Ng, Martina Racelli and Jack Nito.

Quality Press outlets police themselves in this manner.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Democrats rack up more gains in House as key tight races are called (Alex Seitz-Wald, 11/08/18, NBC News)

The House Democratic majority continued to grow Thursday as Rep. Karen Handel, the Republican who won a high-profile Georgia special election last year, conceded to challenger Lucy McBath, bringing the party's net gain of seats in Tuesday's midterm elections to 31.

That number could grow again in coming days as more outstanding races are called. Many analysts have estimated that the number will climb closer to 38 seats by the time all votes are counted, and a dozen competitive House contests remained too close to call by midday Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Zinke prepares to leave Trump's Cabinet (BEN LEFEBVRE and ELIANA JOHNSON 11/08/2018, Politico)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been exploring potential roles with Fox News, the energy industry or other businesses amid growing signs that he will leave President Donald Trump's Cabinet as he faces investigations into his ethics, according to people knowledgeable about the discussions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline (TIMOTHY CAMA - 11/08/18, The Hill)
A federal judge blocked the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline Thursday, saying the Trump administration's justification for approving it last year was incomplete.

There was never any chance of it being built.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Whitaker backlash prompts concern at the White House (Kaitlan Collins and Betsy Klein, 11/09/18,  CNN)

There is a growing sense of concern inside the White House over the negative reaction to Matthew Whitaker being tapped as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions' abrupt firing. [...]

Several senior officials told CNN they were surprised by the criticism, and believe it could potentially jeopardize Whitaker's chances of remaining in the post if it continues to dominate headlines.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


OOTP 19 Perfect Team mode Media Assets:

OOTP 19 Media Assets:

OOTP 19 Trailer:
November 7, 2018

Out of the Park Developments announces public beta of Out of the Park Baseball 19 that introduces Perfect Team, its all-new online baseball multiplayer strategy mode 

Out of the Park Baseball 19, an Official Licensee of, MLBPA, and, offers its owners and subscribers the chance to be the first in the world to experience the next generation of online baseball strategy

Out of the Park Developments, an official licensee of, the MLBPA, and, today announced the release of a public beta of Out of the Park Baseball 19 featuring Perfect Team, its new online baseball multiplayer strategy mode. Out of the Park Baseball 19 owners and subscribers can participate for free. The game is available via Steam, Origin, Origin Access, or directly from Out of the Park Developments.

Perfect Team is a completely new game mode in the award-winning Out of the Park Baseball strategy game. Players compete against each other in a dynamic online league universe, fielding their own versions of "Perfect Teams" pulled from digital baseball cards collected over time. Teams battle each other in simulated online leagues of 30 teams each, featuring 5 league levels (Rookie Leagues, Single A, Double A, Triple A, Major Leagues).

Players put their teams together by collecting special Perfect Team cards, assembling lineups, defining tactics, and customizing their team color scheme, name, location, weather, and ballpark. Simulations run 28 times a day, in 30-minute intervals. At that pace, an entire season is completed within one week. Between simulations, players can make changes to their team (such as modifying lineups, strategies, and tactics), scouting their upcoming opponents, making roster moves, and acquiring more cards via packs or the marketplace. But they need to be aware that the clock is ticking!

After a season is over, the top teams of a league are promoted to the next level, while the bottom teams are relegated to a league one level below. The ultimate goal is to reach one of the Major Leagues with a Perfect Team, compete for World Series titles, and climb the ranking of the best Perfect Team managers worldwide!

"We are delighted and excited to offer an all-new way for our fans and players to compete in Out of the Park Baseball," said CEO Markus Heinsohn. "This is a next-level phase for us, offering an always-on, dynamic new online experience for players that has never been available in our history. Giving players the chance to assemble completely unique teams, tailored to their preferred style, and competing against other fans from around the world, is extraordinarily fun."

"We've put everything we have and more behind Out of the Park Baseball's Perfect Team mode for several years," said CMO Richard Grisham. "As we continue to strive to make Out of the Park Baseball the definitive baseball experience, Perfect Team cements that. Fans have always been able to assemble players from the entire history of the sport, assemble lineups, and define strategies - but never against thousands of others in real time with incredibly high stakes. We are beyond thrilled to let fans try this for the first time."

The Out of the Park Baseball 19 Public Beta featuring Perfect Team mode is now available worldwide. All owners of Out of the Park Baseball 19 are eligible to participate, whether purchased from Steam, Origin, or directly from Out of the Park Baseball. In addition, subscribers to Origin Access can also participate in the Public Beta.

Out of the Park Baseball 19 sells for $39.99 and is available on Steam, EA Origin, and through the company's website at these links:

November 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Lina Hidalgo, a 27-Year-Old Latina, Will Lead Harris County, Texas' Biggest (Mihir Zaveri, Nov. 8, 2018, ny tIMES)

Lina Hidalgo never thought she would work in politics or run for office.

She and her family fled their home country of Colombia as a drug war raged, arriving in the United States in 2005. She studied law, public policy and political science at elite universities as she pursued a career influencing government from the outside.

But on Tuesday, Ms. Hidalgo, a 27-year-old Democrat, narrowly won an upset election to lead Harris County, which includes Houston and is the third-most populous county in the country and the largest in Texas. She beat the 11-year Republican incumbent to become the first woman and the first Latina elected to the county judge office. [...]

Tuesday's midterm elections were unlike any that Texas had seen in decades. Representative Beto O'Rourke lost to Senator Ted Cruz by less than 3 percentage points in a Senate race, one of the smallest margins in years for a Democrat running for statewide office. Democrats also flipped at least two congressional seats, 12 State House seats and two State Senate seats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


How to Make Conservatism Compelling to Black Americans (Tosin Akintola, Fall 2018, Intercollegiate Review Online)

Conservatives have a real opportunity to make inroads into a demographic that­--despite the strong Democratic Party voting pattern--is incredibly diverse. Though black voters typically strike the ballot blue, only 59 percent of black voters actually identify as Democrats, and even within that group the majority do not identify as liberal, with 44 percent identifying as moderates and 27 percent as conservatives. While the media would have us believe that black Americans look at the world through the same lens, having the same experiences and struggles, that is just not the case. Not all black Americans are Marc Lamont Hill, but neither are they Larry Elder.

The majority of black Americans fall somewhere in the middle, and within this bloc is where conservatives can make their appeal. First, there has to be a noted effort to acknowledge the concerns of black Americans, especially young black Americans, over issues such as the militarization of police departments across the country, the war on drugs, prison and criminal justice reform, states' rights as pertains to voter discrimination, and the factions hostile toward minorities currently embedded within the Republican Party. From Roy Moore to Corey Stewart, Russel Walker to John Fitzgerald, and others like Paul Nehlen, if men like these continue to infect the Republican Party, the conservative movement has no hope of attracting black Americans en masse, nor of making a ripple in the pool of black Democrat voters.

Compassion is such a simple thing, and yet in the "facts don't care about your feelings" meme that has swept through the conservative movement, care and tact have given way to owning and destroying. During his campaign against Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz attempted to use a clip of Mr. O' Rourke denouncing the murder of Botham Shem Jean in his home by a police officer, as evidence of O'Rourke's anti-police bias. The fact that Cruz felt this characterization of O' Rourke would appeal to his base (and indeed it does) is telling. Yet, it was refreshing to see conservative figures condemn and decry Cruz's overt attempt to placate the most mean-spirited within the party's voting bloc. If conservatives hope to expand their movement, they'll need to be far more vocal in denouncing such tactics in the future.

...than getting Mia Love out of office.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


NPR: Neo-Puritan Revival: Why can't young feminists seem to acknowledge their agency, or fathom that they experience desire at all? (Kat Rosenfield, November 8, 2018, The Tablet)

A throughline emerges in all these cases: These are women who made decisions under their own power, but couldn't cope in the aftermath when those choices made them feel terrible. Under other circumstances, this might lead a person to contemplate the gap between her actions, her desired outcome, and the actual result--and to recognize that this kind of miscalculation is normal, human, and an essential part of the trial-and-error process by which we eventually become better judges of what will make us happy. But consent culture increasingly doesn't leave the door open for that kind of nuance. There is no room within the framework for a desired choice to lead to regret, or for a woman to say, "I wanted this in the moment, even if things didn't work out as I'd hoped." Instead, women retroactively strip themselves of their agency: "I didn't consent to feeling bad about this, hence I didn't consent to any of it."

It's not hard to understand why young women are leaning into victimhood in the aftermath of these "gray area" encounters. Societally, and particularly when it comes to sex, we remain far more comfortable with the idea of women as helpless victims than as autonomous human beings who sometimes want things that aren't good for them. Overt slut-shaming has gone out of style, but the stigma surrounding female desire lingers. And there are few things that are worse to feel than ashamed of yourself, and few things harder than owning responsibility for the choices that led you there. Under those circumstances, "Look what you made me do" can be an attractive way out, an opportunity for young women to avoid reckoning with the consequences of their own choices. Faced with the weight of self-blame, or blame from others--deserved or not-- it's all too tempting to dump it all in someone else's lap, or maybe even see him punished for not saving you from yourself. Consider this moment in the first episode of the Radiolab series, in which Prest walks home after hooking up with a former boyfriend--sex which she initially claimed not to want, but then consented to and enjoyed, a fact which leaves her angry and conflicted. Marinating in regret, she considers her decision, wondering, "Is that on me?"--only to reject the patently obvious answer: Yes, it's on you.

The easier path is a retreat from autonomy and into pre-ordained powerlessness, where "I didn't say 'no'" becomes "I couldn't," and the thousand-year weight of the patriarchy pins you in place but also shields you from responsibility. Passivity can feel like safety. But that safety comes at a cost, one that women ought to consider before they go all in on this fragile, passive brand of femininity: To admit your desires is to make yourself vulnerable, and to pursue what you want is to risk not getting it (or getting but regretting it, and having to revise your future behavior accordingly). But if your goal is to protect women at all costs from feeling bad about their choices--because you don't think they can handle it, and they probably don't know what they want anyway--then we already have a word for that. It's not feminism. It's paternalism. And it denies women a fundamental if unglamorous freedom: to not just make decisions, but to live with and learn from the consequences of their less-than-great ones.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


How Bill Nelson could ultimately win the recount in Florida's Senate race (Steve Contorno, 11/08/18, Tampa Tribune)

As of Thursday morning, two voter-rich counties were still tabulating an unknown number of ballots.

Broward County, where Nelson received 68.9 percent of the votes, was still counting early voting, vote-by-mail and Election Day ballots.

Palm Beach County, where Nelson received 58.4 percent of the votes, was still counting vote-by-mail ballots.

If the breakdown of these pending ballots is anything close to the results so far, Nelson should pick up more votes than Scott. But no one has been able to say how many uncounted ballots remain, not even Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

"Were finishing up with the count as we speak. And we've got to get every vote in," Snipes said. "We're not going to rush through it ... Our absolute deadline is tomorrow for the first unofficial results."

In Broward County, 695,799 people turned in ballots. But only 665,688 voted in the Senate race.

That's a 30,000 difference, a remarkable disparity given the stakes in this race and the name-recognition of these officials.

It's a degree of undervote that is non-existent in the other statewide races on the ballot. For example, more than 690,000 people voted in the governor's race. If the results as they stand are accurate, more people voted for Agriculture Commissioner than U.S. Senate.

So what happened? It's not clear. Elias dismissed bad ballot design, a theory that circulated a bit on Wednesday. Instead, Elias thinks that either a machine problem in certain precincts or marking issues on the ballot led to thousands of uncounted votes in the Senate race.

If that's the case, Elias said he expects those issues will be remedied in a recount, in which case Nelson is likely to further narrow the gap, given where this occurred.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Appeals court upholds block on Trump's attempt to end DACA (TED HESSON 11/08/2018, Politico)

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court's temporary order preventing President Donald Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump's decision to phase out the Obama-era DACA program, which allows roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to obtain work permits and protects them from deportation, was likely "arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law."

Trump and Republicans made immigration restrictions central to the midterm election campaign. In recent weeks, Trump has suggested he could revoke birthright citizenship by executive order -- a legally contentious proposition -- and ordered a massive troop surge to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ruling Thursday by a three-judge panel represents a major setback to the administration's anti-immigration agenda. [...]

"The executive wields awesome power in the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws," the ruling reads. "Our decision today does not curb that power, but rather enables its exercise in a manner that is free from legal misconceptions and is democratically accountable to the public."

In a concurring opinion, Judge John Owens disagreed that the DACA termination was reviewable as an "arbitrary and capricious" executive decision. However, he found plaintiffs reasonably alleged the rescission was motivated by racial animus, which warranted a freeze on the termination.

"A merits decision from the district court concluding that the executive rescinded DACA because of unconstitutional racial animus would be little more than an advisory opinion if by that time thousands of young people had lost their status due to the lack of an injunction preserving it," he wrote.

During oral arguments before the 9th Circuit in May, Owens repeatedly raised questions about the possible role of racial bias in the decision to end the program.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose state is a party in one of the lawsuits affected by the decision, called the ruling "a tremendous victory" for the program's enrollees.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


A 69-year-old man asks to be declared 49, claiming age is as fluid as gender (Isaac Stanley-Becker, November 8, 2018, Washington Post)

In the quixotic battle against old age, some people use skin care and spin class.

That's not enough for Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old who feels like he's in his 40s. The Dutch pensioner is asking a court in his hometown of Arnhem, southeast of Amsterdam, to change his birth certificate so that it says he took his first breath on March 11, 1969, rather than on March 11, 1949. The judges heard his case Monday and promised they would render a verdict in the next several weeks.

Ratelband sees his request as no different from a petition to change his name or the gender he was assigned at birth -- and isn't bothered that this comparison might offend transgender people, whose medical needs have been recognized by the American Medical Association. It comes down to free will, he maintains.


Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Thousand Oaks shooting leaves 13 people dead, including gunman, and 18 injured (JAMES QUEALLY , RICHARD WINTON , ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN , SEAN GREENE , SARAH PARVINI , BRITTNY MEJIA , ANDREA CASTILLO , HANNAH FRY  and LAURA J. NELSON, NOV 08, 2018, LA Times)

Suspected shooter Ian David Long, 28, lived in Newbury Park, five miles from the dance hall, officials said. He drove his mother's car to the Borderline on Wednesday night and did not say anything before opening fire, a law enforcement official said.

Long was a decorated gunner in the U.S. Marine Corps, reaching the rank of corporal, and served an seven-month tour in Afghanistan during his nearly five years in the service, according to the Department of Defense.

Neighbors on the quiet street where he lived said they were aware that Long may have been disturbed. Deputies who were called to Long's home in April for a complaint of disturbing the peace said he was acting irrationally, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean. Mental health workers decided he did not meet the standard for an emergency psychiatric hold. [...]

The shooter was armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun, Dean said. A source said he purchased it legally in Simi Valley.

The gun is designed in California to hold 10 bullets, in addition to one in the chamber. The shooter's weapon had an extended magazine on it, Dean said; he added he did not know how many bullets were in the weapon or how many the magazine could actually hold.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America and demand that crazy people have access to instrumentalities whose sole purpose is to kill fellow Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Matt In VA's Political Conversion (ROD DREHER, November 8, 2018, American Conservative)
[T]he very biggest thing that changed me was living as a sexually active gay man in the city and experiencing gay male sexual culture and watching what it did to some of my friends, including one of my very best friends.

When you have been led to believe that you are a Minority, oppressed by the majority, and that the Evil Conservatives are the ones who want to hurt you -- they want to pull a Matthew Shepard on you! -- and that it is your fellow minority members, your LGBT "community," that cares about you and supports you, that you are the least safe when among the evil conservative Enemy and most safe among members of your own group... when you have been led to believe this, it is really something to watch one of your best friends get deeper and deeper and further and further down into the worst parts of the communal-sewer gay sex culture, having sex with random guys and anonymous strangers week in and week out, endlessly, it never ever leading anywhere or to anything, him growing more and more cynical and callous about himself and about his sex partners, him getting HIV, him having bad reactions to a number of the HIV drugs, him experiencing serious depression and mental illness (yes, I know people can experience this without it being due to being gay), him getting addicted to crystal meth, him being unable to hold down a job, him disappearing for long periods... when you get to the point when you find yourself wondering periodically if the next time you hear his name it's because someone is telling you that he's dead... and when he has told you, in moments of frankness, about some of the things he's allowed other men to do to him, in this strange nonchalant voice that makes your shiver, and you think about how you remember when he used to talk about wanting to find a man to be with forever and get married to, but all that kind of talk is gone, gone...

And the thing is, you don't just see this trajectory in your close friend. You see it all over, if you're a gay man, you don't even really have to look for it hard. You don't see it early, when guys are just coming out, when they are full of hope and when they are naive-and I think lots of gay guys start out genuinely wanting to find real, meaningful love -- but over time, over the years, this sick sexual culture sucks people in. And it always feels like, even if you're OK at the moment, it's waiting for YOU. I mean, maybe not for everybody, but I always feel that -- it's there, waiting for ME, too. It lies in wait, sitting somewhere inside me, happy to make itself felt sometimes. If you are a gay man, you can *always* find sex, no matter what, provided you are willing to degrade yourself to a greater or lesser degree (and probably it will need to be greater as you get older), and there is no real bottom or floor there, believe me.

Liberalism today has as a *core tenet* the idea that if you are a type of minority you are safest, happiest, and most well when among your own group and are at most risk when surrounded by the majority. But nothing could be further than the truth when it comes to gay men. The number of gay men who get killed or seriously injured due to "homophobia" or whatever is probably one-ten-thousandth of the number of gay men who have killed or seriously hurt each other via our insane sexual choices, and the idea that we make these choices because of "homophobia" causing us to have "low self-esteem" or whatever is belied by the fact that gay men make the worst sexual choices in the biggest cities and "gay meccas" where the most gays are and which are the most gay-friendly or gay-tolerant. Gay male sexual culture is so incredibly effective at making gay men internalize an understanding of both themselves and their sexual partners as worthless that it has persisted even through an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of gay men within my lifetime.

I remember a commenter on this blog, back some years ago when gay marriage was still highly contested, wrote a comment that imagined a gay man praying to God to change his sexuality because it couldn't be reconciled with his faith, and God not changing it; and then the commenter imagined a gay man praying to God to change his *religion,* for the same reason, and God not doing it, either. And I feel like that second gay man, in the sense that I find that I have come to believe something even against my own will. I *cannot* believe, anymore, that gay male sexual culture, collectively speaking, is anything but toxic, or that its toxicity can be justified or rationalized as being due to "homophobia," no matter how much I might need or want something like that to be true. Maybe gay men who lived at a time when it was much much harder to be openly gay can believe that, but I can't. My faith in sexual liberalism is broken, and since all of my liberalism was based on that, all of it is gone, too.

The notion that it is compassionate and loving to accept and endorse an inherently self-destructive behavior is deeply disordered in its own right.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Newly emboldened Democrats want healthcare protected - and Trump impeached (Chris Kahn, 11/08/18, Reuters)

The poll released on Thursday found that 43 percent of people who identified as Democrats want impeachment to be a top priority for Congress. That goal was second in priority only to healthcare, which played a major role in Democratic campaigns' closing arguments before Tuesday's elections.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Republicans abandon the fight to repeal and replace Obama's health care law (Sean Sullivan,  November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

For eight years, Republicans waged a war against Barack Obama's health-care law, holding dozens of repeal votes, filing lawsuits and branding it a dangerous government takeover.

On Wednesday, they effectively surrendered.

The day after crushing midterm election losses handed Democrats control of the House, GOP leaders signaled they had no appetite to make another go at shredding the signature accomplishment of Obama's presidency anytime soon.

"I think it's pretty obvious, the Democratic House is not going to be interested in that," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who suggested instead that lawmakers address the flaws in the Affordable Care Act "on a bipartisan basis."

Mic drop.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM



Trump's move against Sessions today arrives at a moment when Trump allies are increasingly concerned about Donald Trump Jr.'s legal exposure. In recent days, according to three sources, Don Jr. has been telling friends he is worried about being indicted as early as this week. One person close to Don Jr. speculated that Mueller could indict him for making false statements to Congress and the F.B.I. about whether he had told his father about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians to gather "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. This source had heard that the case could revolve around Trump's former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who's cooperating with Mueller and who was deeply involved in the campaign at the time of the meeting. Trump, this person continued, is "very upset" about the risks Don Jr. faces. "The president is very depressed," this person said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How the House Fell: Republican Chaos and Democratic Focus (Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Democrats, in turn, delivered a message about health care with the repetitive force of a jackhammer. They cracked congressional maps drawn to favor Republicans and seized an array of open seats, while also felling longtime incumbents who had grown complacent.

And in the end, President Trump may have delivered the final blow to his party across the diverse and growing metropolitan communities that decided control of the House. In the last weeks of the campaign, Mr. Trump cast aside a positive Republican message about economic prosperity in favor of stoking racial panic about immigration -- with appeals that veered into overt racism, alienating moderate swing voters and further enraging Democrats.

Republicans lost control of the House Tuesday night after eight years in power, with Democrats picking up seats in several suburban districts where the party traditionally did well. But if House Republicans were badly shaken by their defeat, few party leaders were genuinely surprised at the nature of their losses. In interviews with dozens of lawmakers, campaign strategists, activists and donors in both parties, a clear consensus emerged about the arc of the 2018 election.

It was a campaign defined early by Mr. Trump's divisive persona and hard-right ideology, and by Republican leaders' unswerving decision to align themselves with Mr. Trump and his overwhelmingly white, rural base rather than politically vulnerable moderates in Congress who hailed from the country's population centers and represented the political middle.

A campaign of retribution against Republicans who did not pledge fealty to Mr. Trump -- and to Speaker Paul D. Ryan's legislative agenda -- triggered an exodus of senior legislators that opened the way for a Democratic takeover.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 AM


Trump Bars CNN's Acosta From the White House (Peter Baker, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, who has also repeatedly clashed with Mr. Acosta during televised briefings at the White House, announced the decision, claiming falsely that Mr. Acosta had placed "his hands on a young woman" who was responsible for giving the microphone to reporters asking questions.

November 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Texas House Speaker Joe Straus: Texas and the Republican Party are "moving in opposite directions" (ALEX SAMUELS NOV. 7, 2018, Taxes Tribune)

Republicans in the Texas House were dealt a big blow Tuesday night, losing 12 seats to Democrats and two in the Texas Senate.

Joe Straus, the Republican who has presided over the House for nearly a decade, said that's because win-at-all-cost politics may be effective at the state level, but "it creates carnage down-ballot in a changing state where a Republican Party and the state of Texas are moving in opposite directions."

The "small issues" that were popular among Republican primary voters didn't resonate in November, he said.

"Something had to give sooner or later," Straus said Wednesday morning.

In a wide-ranging conversation in his Capitol office with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith for the pilot episode of the Tribune's new podcast, Point of Order, Straus launched jabs at two fellow Republicans: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and President Donald Trump. Straus, who is leaving the House in January, declined to weigh in on who should succeed him as the leader of the lower chamber.

He lamented that the Texas House and Senate were unable to find common ground on divisive political issues. Patrick, who presides over the Senate, should "listen more and talk less," Straus said.

Tuesday's election results might have been a direct reprimand of policies pushed by the Trump administration, he said. The Democratic pick-ups in the House Tuesday marked the biggest shift in the lower chamber since the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans picked up more than 20 House seats. Straus decried Trump rallies that he said showcased "borderline racism."

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


Blasted by Trump over Russia probe, Sessions fired as attorney general (Sarah N. Lynch, 11/07/18, Reuters) 

In a step that could have implications for the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who will be acting attorney general. He had been Sessions' chief of staff.

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate immediately called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller probe.

"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

In an opinion piece for CNN that appeared on Aug. 6, 2017, while he was a commentator for the network, Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, said Mueller would be crossing a line if he investigated the Trump family's finances.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Ozone: The Earth's protective shield is repairing (BBC, 6 November 2018)

The ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet light, looks to be successfully healing after gaping holes were discovered in the 1980s.

The Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

A new United Nations report says it's an example of what global agreements can achieve.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


What if the Placebo Effect Isn't a Trick? (Gary Greenberg, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times Magazine)

When Ted Kaptchuk was asked to give the opening keynote address at the conference in Leiden, he contemplated committing the gravest heresy imaginable: kicking off the inaugural gathering of the Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies by declaring that there was no such thing as the placebo effect. When he broached this provocation in conversation with me not long before the conference, it became clear that his point harked directly back to Franklin: that the topic he and his colleagues studied was created by the scientific establishment, and only in order to exclude it -- which means that they are always playing on hostile terrain. Science is "designed to get rid of the husks and find the kernels," he told me. Much can be lost in the threshing -- in particular, Kaptchuk sometimes worries, the rituals embedded in the doctor-patient encounter that he thinks are fundamental to the placebo effect, and that he believes embody an aspect of medicine that has disappeared as scientists and doctors pursue the course laid by Franklin's commission. "Medical care is a moral act," he says, in which a suffering person puts his or her fate in the hands of a trusted healer.

"I don't love science," Kaptchuk told me. "I want to know what heals people." Science may not be the only way to understand illness and healing, but it is the established way. "That's where the power is," Kaptchuk says. That instinct is why he left his position as director of a pain clinic in 1990 to join Harvard -- and it's why he was delighted when, in 2010, he was contacted by Kathryn Hall, a molecular biologist. Here was someone with an interest in his topic who was also an expert in molecules, and who might serve as an emissary to help usher the placebo into the medical establishment.

Hall's own journey into placebo studies began 15 years before her meeting with Kaptchuk, when she developed a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing a wrist brace didn't help, and neither did over-the-counter drugs or the codeine her doctor prescribed. When a friend suggested she visit an acupuncturist, Hall balked at the idea of such an unscientific approach. But faced with the alternative, surgery, she decided to make an appointment. "I was there for maybe 10 minutes," she recalls, "when she stuck a needle here" -- Hall points to a spot on her forearm -- "and this awful pain just shot through my arm." But then the pain receded and her symptoms disappeared, as if they had been carried away on the tide. She received a few more treatments, during which the acupuncturist taught her how to manipulate a spot near her elbow if the pain recurred. Hall needed the fix from time to time, but the problem mostly just went away.

"I couldn't believe it," she told me. "Two years of gross drugs, and then just one treatment." All these years later, she's still wonder-struck. "What was that?" she asks. "Rub the spot, and the pain just goes away?"

Hall was working for a drug company at the time, but she soon left to get a master's degree in visual arts, after which she started a documentary-production company. She was telling her carpal-tunnel story to a friend one day and recounted how the acupuncturist had climbed up on the table with her. ("I was like, 'Oh, my God, what is this woman doing?' " she told me. "It was very dramatic.") She'd never been able to understand how the treatment worked, and this memory led her to wonder out loud if maybe the drama itself had something to do with the outcome.

Her friend suggested she might find some answers in Ted Kaptchuk's work. She picked up his book about Chinese medicine, "The Web that Has No Weaver," in which he mentioned the possibility that placebo effects figure strongly in acupuncture, and then she read a study he had conducted that put that question to the test.

Kaptchuk had divided people with irritable bowel syndrome into three groups. In one, acupuncturists went through all the motions of treatment, but used a device that only appeared to insert a needle. Subjects in a second group also got sham acupuncture, but delivered with more elaborate doctor-patient interaction than the first group received. A third group was given no treatment at all. At the end of the trial, both treatment groups improved more than the no-treatment group, and the "high interaction" group did best of all.

Kaptchuk, who before joining Harvard had been an acupuncturist in private practice, wasn't particularly disturbed by the finding that his own profession worked even when needles were not actually inserted; he'd never thought that placebo treatments were fake medicine. He was more interested in how the strength of the treatment varied with the quality and quantity of interaction between the healer and the patient -- the drama, in other words. Hall reached out to him shortly after she read the paper.

The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes. He elaborated on this idea in a comparative study of conventional medicine, acupuncture and Navajo "chantway rituals," in which healers lead storytelling ceremonies for the sick. He argued that all three approaches unfold in a space set aside for the purpose and proceed as if according to a script, with prescribed roles for every participant. Each modality, in other words, is its own kind of ritual, and Kaptchuk suggested that the ritual itself is part of what makes the procedure effective, as if the combined experiences of the healer and the patient, reinforced by the special-but-familiar surroundings, evoke a healing response that operates independently of the treatment's specifics. "Rituals trigger specific neurobiological pathways that specifically modulate bodily sensations, symptoms and emotions," he wrote. "It seems that if the mind can be persuaded, the body can sometimes act accordingly." He ended that paper with a call for further scientific study of the nexus between ritual and healing.

When Hall contacted him, she seemed like a perfect addition to the team he was assembling to do just that. He even had an idea of exactly how she could help. In the course of conducting the study, Kaptchuk had taken DNA samples from subjects in hopes of finding some molecular pattern among the responses. This was an investigation tailor-made to Hall's expertise, and she agreed to take it on. Of course, the genome is vast, and it was hard to know where to begin -- until, she says, she and Kaptchuk attended a talk in which a colleague presented evidence that an enzyme called COMT affected people's response to pain and painkillers. Levels of that enzyme, Hall already knew, were also correlated with Parkinson's disease, depression and schizophrenia, and in clinical trials people with those conditions had shown a strong placebo response. When they heard that COMT was also correlated with pain response -- another area with significant placebo effects -- Hall recalls, "Ted and I looked at each other and were like: 'That's it! That's it!' "

It is not possible to assay levels of COMT directly in a living brain, but there is a snippet of the genome called rs4680 that governs the production of the enzyme, and that varies from one person to another: One variant predicts low levels of COMT, while another predicts high levels. When Hall analyzed the I.B.S. patients' DNA, she found a distinct trend. Those with the high-COMT variant had the weakest placebo responses, and those with the opposite variant had the strongest. These effects were compounded by the amount of interaction each patient got: For instance, low-COMT, high-interaction patients fared best of all, but the low-COMT subjects who were placed in the no-treatment group did worse than the other genotypes in that group. They were, in other words, more sensitive to the impact of the relationship with the healer.

The discovery of this genetic correlation to placebo response set Hall off on a continuing effort to identify the biochemical ensemble she calls the placebome -- the term reflecting her belief that it will one day take its place among the other important "-omes" of medical science, from the genome to the microbiome. The rs4680 gene snippet is one of a group that governs the production of COMT, and COMT is one of a number of enzymes that determine levels of catecholamines, a group of brain chemicals that includes dopamine and epinephrine. (Low COMT tends to mean higher levels of dopamine, and vice versa.) Hall points out that the catecholamines are associated with stress, as well as with reward and good feeling, which bolsters the possibility that the placebome plays an important role in illness and health, especially in the chronic, stress-related conditions that are most susceptible to placebo effects.

Her findings take their place among other results from neuroscientists that strengthen the placebo's claim to a place at the medical table, in particular studies using f.M.R.I. machines that have found consistent patterns of brain activation in placebo responders. "For years, we thought of the placebo effect as the work of imagination," Hall says. "Now through imaging you can literally see the brain lighting up when you give someone a sugar pill."

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Scrabble's World Champion Masters the Tiles in 2 Languages (Mike Ives, Oct. 29, 2018, NY Times)

Even for a decorated Scrabble whiz, Mr. Richards, who is from New Zealand and lives in Malaysia, has a way with words.

Mr. Richards, 51, was the world Scrabble champion in 2007, 2011 and 2013. He also won the French edition of the championship in 2015 and again this year -- apparently without actually speaking that language. (He is said to have memorized the French Scrabble dictionary.)

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Good Riddance to Dana Rohrabacher, 'Putin's Man in Congress' (Vladislav Davidzon, November 7, 2018, The Tablet)

The folklore surrounding Rohrabacher's pro-Russian activity is rife with the quirky and bizarre. There was the time that he took part in a delegation of Republican congressmen on a fact-finding mission to the Russian FSB building (the FSB replaced the KGB as Russia's internal security service) led by the action movie star Steven Segal. (The portly Segal who has maintained a jet black ponytail into his late sixties even as the rest of him has gone to seed, is now a Russian citizen and has announced his candidacy for the governorship of a far Eastern province). And who could forget the time Rohrabacher bragged about having arm wrestling competitions with President Putin? Of course, there were other escapades that were only whispered about  Russia connoisseurs.

Ironically, Rohrabacher began his political life as a pro-Ukrainian firebrand. In his youth, Rohrabacher had a sideline as a Bob-Dylan-esque folk singer known to take out his guitar and serenade Ukrainian American journalists and official Soviet-Ukrainian delegations with his own ballads about the Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno.

Among those who knew Rohrabacher in his younger years, like members of the Ukrainian-American diaspora active in Republican politics during the 1980s and colleagues in the Reagan administration, the Congressman's transformation from ardent cold warrior to equally ardent pro-Kremlin apologist has been a subject of bemusement for many years.

Rohrabacher's activities have become better known to the general public in recent years as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign cast its gaze on the Congressman's activities. In particular, a meeting between Rohrabacher and President Trump's national security adviser Mike Flynn (an equally avid supporter of close relations with Russia) had come under the microscope.

A year ago the New York Times reported that Rohrabacher was seen as a possible Russian asset worthy of being bequeathed an FBI code name. The Times also pointed out that:

"the F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump's short-lived national security adviser."

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Red-State Voters Expanded Medicaid (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 07, 2018, Slate)

Along with Utah, blood-red Idaho and Nebraska also embraced Medicaid expansion. Between the three, more than 300,000 lower income Americans could become eligible for coverage under the program.

The GOP decision to abandon the field after the UR passed their healthcare plan has made National Health all but inevitable.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Despite Everything, Turkey and the U.S. Are Getting Closer (Eli Lake, November 5, 2018, Bloomberg)

It was only three months ago that President Donald Trump was boasting about sanctions designed to cripple Turkey's economy. On Monday, Turkey became one of eight countries to receive an exemption from sanctions designed to cripple Iran's economy.

Granted, in the interim, a few things happened. To start, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month finally allowed the American pastor Andrew Brunson to leave his jail cell and return home. His imprisonment had been a major irritant with Trump, who believed Erdogan had backed out of an earlier deal to free him. Brunson's release came when Erdogan had some leverage because of Saudi Arabia's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Turkish consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan's government has been dripping out details of that Saudi crime for a month, but has yet to release an audio recording of the crime itself.

Add to this Erdogan's decision to tone down his anti-American rhetoric. He used to be "defiant and outspoken" about the Iran sanctions, says Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament and scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. No longer. The Turks have not stopped buying Iranian oil altogether, but they are buying less of it.

Quicktake: How the U.S. Can Force the World to Squeeze Iran's Oil

The U.S. line on Turkey has also softened -- beyond granting Turkey an exemption from the Iranian oil sanctions. The U.S. Treasury lifted sanctions related to the detention of Brunson last week on two senior Turkish officials.

The entirety of the WoT consists of the alliance between the Anglosphere (minus Israel), the Shi'a, Kurds and Islamist political parties to promote democracy and oppose the Salafi/Wahabbi and secular dictators.  That the alliance makes everyone uncomfortable on the psychological plane makes it no less real on the ground.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Democrats Can Thank Trump for Their Midterms Boost: Republicans suffer the consequences of backing one of the most unpopular presidents of the polling era.  (Jonathan Bernstein, November 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

So why did the Republicans have a bad night? The basic story is pretty simple: This is what happens to a party when it controls the White House and the president is unpopular. In fact, most of what was resolved on Tuesday was probably a consequence not of the fall campaign, but of Trump's record-shattering bad year in 2017, at least in terms of approval ratings. A large group of Republicans decided to retire last year; that's when Democrats recruited many of their top potential candidates to run; and that's when Republicans failed to find good candidates in several states where they might have been competitive. 

Trump's standing recovered a bit in 2018, but as of Tuesday he was the least popular president through 656 days in the polling era. The slight uptick in his approval ratings wasn't going to be enough to help the party recover from 2017, and it's possible he cost Republicans a little more. 

And unlike George W. Bush in 2006 or Barack Obama in 2010, when poor policy outcomes (Iraq in Bush's case, a slow recovery for the economy for Obama) turned people against them, Trump's failure to date has mainly been strikingly personal. Granted, the two big Republican policy initiatives in Congress, the attempted repeal of Obamacare and the tax cut, didn't help. But Trump failed to contribute any popular policy ideas -- and certainly wasn't effective at pushing for any ideas that might have been popular, such as an infrastructure bill. 

The bottom line is that despite a solid economy and without any high-casualty war, Trump spent 2017 at around 38 percent approval, and 2018 at around 42 percent. And he has spent his entire presidency, after a brief honeymoon, solidly over 50 percent disapproval, with a large portion of that strongly disapproving. 

Given the state of the economy and the decade of growth, it took a superhuman effort to lose so the suburbs, but he was just the ubermensch to do it. Consider a really simple thought experiment: suppose that, upon being sworn in, Donald had taken a vow of silence and turned over the running of the Executive to a competent chief of staff. What would last night's results have looked like if it were being contested on only the economic boom that he inherited from the UR and the Federalist Society judiciary picks, with no policies of his own nor statements from him thrown into the mix?  

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Three Cheers for the Return of Divided Government (Eric Boehm, Nov. 7, 2018, reason)

As election results go, that's about the best possible outcome. Not only that, but it's an outcome that allows, for one night at least, the faintest hope that the crazy train of American politics over the past two years may be slowing to a more sensible pace.

Conservatives now wonder if transactional Trump might leave them in the cold (Robert Costa, November 6 , 2018, Washington Post)

Trump, meanwhile, could ignore budget hawks and the federal deficit and rally behind a more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill next year.

"He's able to move a bit because he is set with the conservatives for the next 10 years because he picked Pence and put two justices on the court," said John Brabender, a Republican consultant who works with Vice President Pence's team.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday on PBS's "NewsHour" that infrastructure "has always been nonpartisan. Hopefully we can work together to advance that agenda." Pelosi, however, could face leadership challenges of her own in the coming weeks amid Democratic unrest.

"Can we get along? Maybe," Trump said last month on "Fox & Friends," when asked about how he would handle a Democratic-controlled House.

Trump could also work with Democrats to lower the cost of prescription drugs. That is a prospect that Pelosi acknowledged to PBS, saying it's possible "if the president is serious."

A year ago, Trump worked with Democrats on a spending agreement that alarmed conservatives -- and reminded them that the former real estate investor and ex-Democrat could abandon their cause.

"The deal is a warning to Republicans -- primarily to the party establishment, which has fought Trump at every turn, but also to conservative Republicans, who have long worried about Trump shifting leftwards," Breitbart editor Joel B. Pollak wrote at the time on the hard-line conservative website.

Another ominous prospect for GOP leaders is Trump raging at his party and using them as a target as much as the Democrats, should he lash out over coming struggles and stalled items on his to-do list.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Nancy Pelosi draws criticism for promising bipartisanship when Dems win (Filipa Ioannou, November 6, 2018, SF Gate)

"We will have accountability and strive for bipartisanship" she said in D.C. Tuesday night, echoing comments she'd made earlier in the day. "We must try."

"We have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong," she added. "We have all had enough with division."

She also called for unity in the name of the vision of the Founding Fathers, as she had earlier in the day.

On Twitter, many on the left responded with anger, frustration and expletives, calling for Dems to take off the gloves and stop gesturing at civility.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Trump faces restraints after Democrats seize U.S. House (John Whitesides, 11/07/18, Reuters)

[T]he Democrats will now head House committees that can investigate the president's tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and possible links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.

The Democrats also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, told supporters at victory party. 

With the exception of a couple of the worst Trumpbots hanging on--King & DeSantis, for instance--those were pretty optimal results.

Rust Belt Defeats Are a 2020 Warning for Trump (Sahil Kapur, November 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump got a warning sign on Tuesday from the Midwestern and Rust Belt states that handed him the presidency, as voters delivered big victories to Democrats and offered a road map for the crowd of candidates lining up to challenge him in 2020.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan swept the races for Senate and governor, and picked up valuable House seats, defeating Trump-backed Republicans at all levels.

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses in Kansas (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 06, 2018, Slate)

On Tuesday night, Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost the governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren't.) He led Donald Trump's failed voter-fraud commission, then eked out a victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary against current GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer. But even in deep-red Kansas, voters appear to have rebelled against his brand of paranoid, xenophobic conservatism.

Although Kobach built up a national profile as a formidable politician, he is, in fact, deeply incompetent. He spent years promoting Crosscheck, a program that ostensibly detected double voting but actually had an error rate of 99.5 percent. He pushed a law that compelled Kansans to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, then defended it himself at trial--at which point it became clear that he doesn't understand basic rules of civil procedure. A federal judge repeatedly reprimanded him during the hearings, then ruled against him and held him in contempt of court.

As Kobach struggled to defend his signature law, he led Trump's voter-fraud commission right off a cliff.

Ilhan Omar, the First Muslim Woman Elected to Congress, Led Her Speech With "As-Salam Alaikum." I'm Transported. (AYMANN ISMAIL, NOV 07, 2018, Slate)

When Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar stepped on stage tonight as one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress--the other, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, was also elected tonight--she led with "as-salam alaikum." Then: "alhamdulillah." I'm transported. This was not an acceptance speech I expected to hear. In a cycle recently dubbed "the most Islamophobic election ever," even basic Muslim salutations on a stage like this feel like a tangible achievement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


The first five things the Democrats should do with their House majority (Ronald A. Klain, November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

First, a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and restore Trump-repealed rules protecting overtime pay. Democrats should show their support for hard-working people who are doing everything right and still not earning enough to live on. During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to support a minimum-wage increase; on the eve of the 2018 election, his chief economic adviser proposed abolishing the law altogether. Democrats should find out where the president and the Trump-dominated Senate really stand.

Second, legislation to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expand its coverage and patch up the gaps that the Trump administration has punched in it. Put aside the big debate over comprehensively changing the system for later; deliver on the core promise of most Democratic campaigns in 2018.

Third, a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act and reverse Republican voter-suppression efforts. The cause of democracy should not be carried by Democrats alone, but that is what it has come to. The greatest democracy in the world should not be the one where it is hardest to participate in the democratic process.

Fourth, a simple, non-porked-up infrastructure bill, with funding for bridges and roads, airports and mass transit, clean-energy projects and new schools. Avoid the complexity and exotica that -- while good policy -- ultimately made the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bad politics. If it doesn't employ workers in hard hats, it isn't "infrastructure" for this purpose.

And finally, a clean bill, free of extraneous issues, that grants legal status to the immigrant children known as "dreamers." Trump has promised to sign such a bill; it's time to end the uncertainty of these young people, who have so much to contribute.

...much of that just holds Donald to his promises.  Given his politics, they are his natural allies.
Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM



When we launched the Niskanen Center in January 2015, we happily identified ourselves as libertarians. Sure, we were heterodox libertarians, but there are many schools of libertarianism beyond those promoted by Charles Koch's political operations. The school we identified with was a left-libertarianism concerned with social justice (a libertarian perspective that I've defended in debates with more orthodox libertarians here and here). That worldview lacked an institutional voice in 2015. Our ambition was to create a space for it and, in so doing, redefine what it meant to be libertarian in the 21st century.

I have abandoned that libertarian project, however, because I have come to abandon ideology. This essay is an invitation for you to do likewise -- to walk out of the "clean and well-lit prison of one idea." Ideology encourages dodgy reasoning due to what psychologists call "motivated cognition," which is the act of deciding what you want to believe and using your reasoning power, with all its might, to get you there. Worse, it encourages fanaticism, disregard for social outcomes, and invites irresolvable philosophical disputes. It also threatens social pluralism -- which is to say, it threatens freedom.

The better alternative is not moral relativism. The better alternative is moderation, a commodity that is rapidly disappearing in political life, with dangerous consequences for the American republic. [...]

Reason, as David Hume famously noted, is a slave of the passions, and libertarian passions point in one direction and one direction only: hostility to government. This passion is a powerful engine of motivated cognition, which invariably leads to weak policy analysis and dogmatism. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


You can't take the Diwali out of Indians--even when they're in America (Ananya Bhattacharya, November 6, 2018, Quartz)

Like food, fashion, and faith, Indians carry with them their beloved festivals wherever their livelihood takes them.

It's no different in the US where people of Indian origin have been living since the 1820s.

Over the years, a growing Indian immigrant population has been celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, going all out to replicate the massive festivities from their motherland.

The scale of celebrations has become such that popular US tourist spots like Disneyland in California and New York's Times Square get painted in vibrant Indian colours. Even the White House has been celebrating the festival for many years. After all, the 3.1 million Indian-Americans form one of the most successful immigrant communities in the US.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM


Why the US is allowing India to develop an Iranian port (Al-Monitor,  November 6, 2018)

Even as it seeks to cut off Iran from the world economy, the Donald Trump administration acknowledged today that it will allow India to continue developing the Iranian port of Chabahar, an alternative South Asian trade route to the congested Suez Canal.

November 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Election Live Blog: Strong Voter Turnout, High Enthusiasm At N.H. Polls (NHPR, 11/06/18)

Oyster River High School in Durham saw throngs of student voters from the nearby University of New Hampshire campus throughout the day. The polling place is about a mile from the center of campus, and in past years the university has offered transportation for students who wanted to vote locally.

UNH did not offer its own shuttle this year, but other groups like NextGen -- a liberal PAC trying to mobilize young voters -- did. And that made a big difference for students like Avery Judd.

"To take time out of the middle of the day and either walk here or find someone with a car would have probably discouraged me from voting," said Judd, who also helped with the New Hampshire Democratic Party on campus this campaign season. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Our Final Forecast In The Senate, House And Gubernatorial Races (Nathaniel Rakich, 11/06/18, 538)

Republicans have a 5 in 6 chance (82.0 percent) of holding on to the Senate in the Deluxe version of our forecast (which we'll be using as the default version of the forecast for Election Day). In other words, Republicans are a strong, but not insurmountable, favorite in the upper chamber. Any scenario from a three-seat Republican gain to a two-seat Democratic gain falls within our 80-percent confidence interval. [...]

Democrats have a slightly better chance of winning the House than Republicans do of holding the Senate. Democrats are a 6 in 7 favorite (85.8 percent) to win a majority of seats. Their average seat gain is 36, which would result in a House of Representatives with 231 Democrats and 204 Republicans. But the model considers a wide range of outcomes as still well within the realm of possibility: We think there's an 80 percent chance that Democrats gain somewhere between 20 and 54 seats.

Roughly, your expectation should be that a Republican upset in the House is about as unlikely as a Democratic upset in the Senate. However, it's much less likely that we will see an upset in both chambers at once, because polling errors tend to lean in the same direction, so if Democrats perform better than expected in the Senate, they will probably also perform better than expected in the House. [...]

Finally, our model foresees that Democratic governors will preside over an average of 24.2 states in 2019, or eight more than the party's current 16. That would mean that roughly 197 million Americans, or 64.4 percent of the country's population, would have a Democratic governor.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


Trump allies fear his primary endorsements are coming back to haunt him (Brendan Morrow, 11/06/18, The Week)

This is according to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who mentioned during Election Night coverage Tuesday that some Trump allies feel several of the candidates he backed this year could win their Republican primary, but not a general election. Specifically, she named three Trump-backed nominees: Florida gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, Georgia gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp, and Kansas gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach.

All three of these races are seen as tossups. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


Trump hails 'beautiful' barbed wire on southern border in Montana rally speech (ALI ROGIN Nov 3, 2018, ABC News)

"We have our military on the border. And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today, barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


...but Election Day is always particularly enjoyable.
Like, one suspects, numerous Republicans, I voted straight GOP at state level but Democrat for Congress.

NH is likely to re-elect our GOP governor but send two Democrats to Congress, a level of ticket-splitting which is fairly unusual here. (Heard a great line about the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Molly Kelly: Two first names but no agenda.)

That reflects the fact that we are in a conservative epoch and most Americans are quite satisfied with their incumbent Republican governors, but that the president is profoundly unpopular and we want someone to ride herd on him, a duty which congressional Republicans completely abdicated. Open gubernatorial seats look likely to swing Democratic due to the Donald headwind.

The GOP is extremely fortunate that the Senate map was so favorable this year, making it almost impossible to lose the majority.  

Meanwhile, the stasis of a divided government could give us all a nice pause until 2020 when we get a do-over at the national level and put the awful Baby Boomer generation behind us, once and for all.

Our right to vote (John R. Allen, 11/02/18, The Brookings Institution

For much of my adult life, I served my country abroad in places where democracy was either a long-ago memory or distant idea.  These were regions that had known generations of cruel dictatorships and corrupt governance structures, where the notion of free political thought was utterly foreign and often deemed unthinkable or dangerous to those who gripped power so tightly.  And in those places, where nascent democracies were struggling to take root, I was frequently reminded of the precious gift Americans have been given: a democracy, with the freedom for every citizen to vote in peaceful elections as part of our democratic process.

Our foundational right to vote is central to our need to continually work to protect, preserve, and strengthen our democracy.  This is something for which I have fought nearly my entire life to uphold. We, as Americans, have paid a significant price for our freedom and our form of government, but we should regularly remind ourselves that democracy is by no means inevitable. Yet today our right to vote, and our belief in the inevitability of our democratic system, are too often taken for granted.

The United States is grounded upon the idea that individuals are owed the equal opportunity to voice their opinion as we, through our elected officials, chart the course of our nation.  This idea is foundational to our American values and informs a great deal about what it means to be a citizen of the United States.  And while we have important work to do to remove barriers to voting, improve voter access and enforce the rights of all voters to make their voices heard and their votes to count, we cannot allow these challenges to derail our urgency to vote in the first place.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


The 401(k) is forty and fabulous (Allison Schrager, 11/06/18, Quartz)

The 401(k) has come a long way in the last 40 years. As it evolved, policy makers have introduced improvements that are becoming standard practices. Automatically enrolling employees dramatically increase participation. Selecting low-fee index funds as the default investment option lowered costs to consumers and improved diversification. These have made 401(k)s more popular and more successful.

But problems remain. Only about 61% of  Americans employees have access to a retirement benefit at work. Smaller  employers are less likely to offer them because of high administrative costs and many part-time employees are not offered them at all. While  it's not clear that 100% of the population should be saving for retirement--for example, a worker earning low wages who will see a large income relative to their salary from Social Security may not need retirement savings--participation in 401(k)s should be higher. A new bill introduced in Congress this year that would make it cheaper for small employers to offer retirement accounts could increase coverage.

The other unresolved question is how retirees should spend the money in 401(k)s after they retire. We've figured out saving, participation, and the wisdom of using index funds, but knowing how much to spend each year and managing money after retirement is a harder problem with little margin for error. Annuities, where insurance company pays a steady income for life, are popular with economists, but no one else. It remains a problem for regulators and the retirement industry.

Retiring Baby Boomers are the first generation to retire on a 401(k), with the first reaching age 65 in 2011. Their financial security will be the first big test of the plans' success. Other countries have been successful combining 401(k)-like accounts with government pensions, ensuring most of their citizens receive 70% of their working income in retirement. With a few tweaks, those systems could work in America too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


One Legacy of Merkel? Angry East German Men Fueling the Far Right (Katrin Bennhold, Nov. 5, 2018, NY Times)

"We have a crisis of masculinity in the East and it is feeding the far right," said Petra Köpping, minister for integration in Saxony.

When Ms. Köpping took office in 2014, she thought her job was to integrate immigrants. But as hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers began arriving in Germany a year later, a middle-aged white man heckled her at a town-hall-style meeting.

"Why don't you integrate us first?" the man had shouted.

That question, which has since become the title of a book written by Ms. Köpping, prompted her to tour her eastern home state and interview dozens of angry men. The disappointed hopes and humiliations of 1989, she found, still fester.

Some three million jobs, most of them in traditionally male industries, were lost over two years. The working-class heroes of Socialism became the working-class losers of capitalism.

East German men were abandoned by their newly united country practically overnight, Ms. Köpping said: "They are the original left-behinds."

And they were quite literally left behind -- by their women.

Long before the #MeToo movement, Communism succeeded in creating a broad class of women who were independent, emancipated, often better educated and working in more adaptable service jobs than eastern men.

After the wall came down, the East lost more than 10 percent of its population. Two-thirds of those who left and did not come back were young women.

It was the most extreme case of female flight in Europe, said Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, who has studied the phenomenon. Only the Arctic Circle and a few islands off the coast of Turkey suffer comparable male-female imbalances.

In large swaths of rural eastern Germany, men today still outnumber women, and the regions where the women disappeared map almost exactly onto the regions that vote for the Alternative for Germany today.

"There is a gender element to the rise of the far right that is not sufficiently acknowledged and studied," Mr. Klingholz said.

Time to start importing Syrian widows.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Republicans attack Jewish candidates across the U.S. with an age-old caricature: Fistfuls of cash (Eli Rosenberg, November 6, 2018, Washington Post)

"I was revolted," Kendall recalled in a phone interview, saying he believed the ad was blatantly anti-Semitic. "Jesse is proudly and prominently a member of Juneau's Jewish community. . . . It is tough for me to process through that and not see an ill intent."

In North Carolina, the state Republican Party depicted Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) with what appeared to be a stack of bills in his hand.

In a hotly contested race outside Seattle, Republicans illustrated Kim Schrier, a Democratic candidate for Congress who is Jewish, with a wad of $20 bills fanned out in her hands.

In California, a Republican state assembly candidate tinted his Jewish challenger a shade of green in an ad, adding $100 bills to his hands for good measure.

And national outcry ensued last week after a Republican candidate's ad against a Jewish challenger in Connecticut was digitally altered in a way to play off classic anti-Semitic tropes. That advertisement, which was sent out by Ed Charamut's campaign for a state senate seat, depicts his challenger, Democratic state Rep. Matthew Lesser, holding a wad of cash in front of him, with a crazed look in his eyes. [...]

"What's stunning is that these are old images that are very similar to those from other eras and other places," said Pamela Nadell, a history professor at American University and the director of its Jewish Studies program.

"The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes."

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Trump Models U.S. Economy on Kansas. That's a Mistake: The better choice is one of his favorite whipping boys, California, which has a balanced budget, rapid growth and industries of the future.   (Barry Ritholtz, October 19, 2018, Bloomberg)

Kansas has been a disaster, with giant budget shortfalls, service cuts, slashed education budgets and a brain drain with young people leaving the state. The economy has failed to keep up with growth in the rest of the country and is much weaker in terms of job gains, wage increases and gross domestic product growth than neighboring states with similar economies. In 2015, for example, Kansas had one of the worst job growth rates in the country, at 0.8 percent, adding just 10,900 nonfarm jobs.

In the five years before Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, no state economy performed worse than Kansas. Things became so bad that Kansas decided to simply stop updating the public about state economic news. There's no reason to do this other than to obscure the obvious: Kansas's wounds were self-inflicted.

Compare that record with California's robust economy, increased tax base, balanced budget and job growth that exceeds the national average. The president may criticize the politics of the state, but there is little to find fault with its economy. If California were its own country, its $2.75 trillion economy and would be the world's fifth largest, after the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.

Governor Moonbeam should have been the 2016 presidential nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Trump calls Fox's Hannity onstage at campaign rally (DAVID BAUDER, 11/06/18, AP) 

Sean Hannity spoke from the stage of President Donald Trump's last midterm election rally on Monday, after Fox News Channel and its most popular personality had insisted all day that he wouldn't.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


ICE moves to silence detention center volunteer visitors (KATE MORRISSEY, NOV 06, 2018, LA Times)

Immigration officials have stopped allowing a volunteer group to visit people at Otay Mesa Detention Center unless its members agreed not to talk with the media or other groups about conditions inside.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said members of Souls Offering Loving and Compassionate Ears must sign the Volunteer Code of Ethics to be in compliance with the agency's detention standards. The group so far has refused, arguing that detention standards don't require them to sign away their 1st Amendment rights in order to visit detainees.

"I think they're circling the wagons to stop people from knowing what's going on inside," said SOLACE volunteer Steve Gelb of Mission Valley. "It gives ICE more impunity."

Since 2012, SOLACE volunteers have made more than 1,450 visits to at least 800 immigrants at Otay Mesa. They try to give detainees who don't have anyone to visit them a feeling of humanity, emotional support and hope.

"Without SOLACE, people who are detained at Otay have very little way to communicate with the outside world," said Angela Fujii, who coordinates the program through the First Unitarian Universalist Church. "It's a very vulnerable population that we know is now suffering and being neglected."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Joint Chiefs chair says soldiers will not be involved in denying border entry to migrants (Kate Sullivan and Ryan Browne, 11/05/18, CNN)

"There is no plan for US military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States," Dunford said, speaking at an event at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. "There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce Department of Homeland Security as they're conducting their mission."

"We are providing enabling capabilities," Dunford said, explaining they were tasked with supporting the DHS.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM



Sources say Trump advisers are girding themselves for Mueller to deliver the results of his investigation to the Justice Department as early as Wednesday, although it's more likely he'll wait till later this month. Sources say besides the president, the ones with the most exposure are Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. "I'm very worried about Don Jr.," said another former West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The possible exposure would be that Mueller would demonstrate that Don Jr. perjured himself to investigators when he said he didn't tell his father beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to gather "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. (Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, declined to comment.)

One potential sign of how seriously Trumpworld is treating the Mueller threat has been the near total silence of Rudy Giuliani. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


In secret chats, trolls struggle to get Twitter disinformation campaigns off the ground (Ben Collins, 11/05/18, NBC News)

In a private "strategy chat" with more than 40 far-right trolls, one user who tried to create a new Twitter account to spread disinformation ahead of Tuesday's midterms elections described how he had hit an immediate roadblock: Twitter banned him for deliberately giving out the wrong election date.

"Were they really banning people for saying [vote on] November 7? Lol, whoops," the user, whose name was a racist joke about Native Americans, wrote. "Maybe that's what got me shadowbanned."

The remark, seen by NBC News in a closed chat room used for planning and executing misinformation efforts, suggested that the changes that Twitter has undertaken in the past two years to avoid a repeat of the 2016 U.S. election may be working. Two years ago, the company did little to police misinformation and allowed a Russian influence campaign and politically motivated trolls to thrive.

A screenshot from a private chat in which a social media troll described getting blocked by Twitter from spreading misinformation A screenshot from a private chat in which a social media troll described getting blocked by Twitter from spreading misinformation
But the trolls are also learning from their mistakes and developing new strategies to sidestep Twitter's rules -- sometimes with new technology available on other apps -- highlighting the arms race between these groups and social media companies that are developing systems to stop them.

While much of its focus has been on foreign operations, Twitter has ramped up preventative measures against domestic troll networks that organize in private chats to push coordinated disinformation on their platform. On Friday, Twitter revealed it took down 10,000 accounts that discouraged voting, mostly accounts posing as Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Why science can't replace religion: John Gray on the myths the "New Atheists" tell themselves. (Sean Illing, 11/04/18,

Sean Illing

I see you as someone who enjoys exposing the hypocrisies of people who enjoy exposing the hypocrisies of others. Is that how you see yourself?

John Gray

Indeed. I'm a skeptic by nature, so I'm resistant to claims by anyone to have complete answers to intractable human problems. I'm particularly annoyed by what's now called "New Atheism," and I react strongly against those who debunk the beliefs of others in a way I find bullying and shallow.

The New Atheists -- Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and others -- attack religions in the sublime confidence that these religions are myths and that they themselves harbor no myths, but that's not true.

In many cases, the New Atheists are animated by 19th-century myths of various kinds: myths of human advancement, myths of what science can and cannot do, and all kinds of other myths. So yeah, I'm compelled to attack anyone who is debunking others for their reliance on myths when the debunkers themselves can't see how their own thinking is shaped by myths.

Something as ancient, as profound, as inexhaustibly rich as religion or religions can't really be written off as an intellectual error by clever people. Most of these clever people are not that clever when compared with really clever people like Wittgenstein or Saint Augustine or Pascal -- all philosophers of the past who seriously engaged the religious perspective.

The great Anglospheric insight--since, at least, Hume--is the need to be skeptical of skepticism for exactly the same reason as other beliefs.  Which leads us back to the primacy of faith and the recognition that our choice of faiths is a simple matter of aesthetics.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Democrats are running to the middle to win the midterms: The left is fired up, but Democrats are still relying on centrists in the 2018 campaign. (Dylan Scott,  Nov 5, 2018, Vox)

Amid Trump ramping up rhetoric about dangerous criminals streaming over the Mexican border, Democrats are relying on moderate candidates to carry them to victory in many of the most competitive races in the 2018 midterms.

Ken Harbaugh is a military veteran running in Ohio's deep-red Seventh Congressional District against Republican Bob Gibbs. Though Gibbs has held the seat for more than a decade, the University of Virginia's Center for Politics recently slid the race from Safe Republican into the Likely Republican category based on Harbaugh's strong fundraising and profile. Harbaugh is far from a lefty, but he was probably the Democratic Party's only shot to take this solidly red district that Trump won by 30 points.

Democrats are trading ideological purity for electoral viability in many campaigns -- much more so than the Republican Party, which seems to be sliding further and further to the right. A plurality of Republican voters now describe themselves as "very" conservative.

If the GOP continues to drift Right and Democrats were capable of allowing social issues to return to the local instead of the national level, the latter would be the natural majority in what is a conservative epoch.

November 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Star Wars Politics (Thomas Bruscino, 11/05/18, Aero)

A few years after the Star Wars prequel trilogy came out, after we had all had time to digest just how unsatisfying it had been, an independent filmmaker named Mike Stoklasa produced a series of online videos picking the movies apart, figuring out just exactly why Anakin, Jar Jar, computer Yoda and the rest bothered us so much. Published under the imprimatur of Red Letter Media, the videos are quirky and profane--and also masterpieces of film critique. [...]

[A]s Stoklasa points out, something was off about this particular galactic star war. If you look just a little bit closer, you will notice that, as grand as the stakes appear to be, the conduct and effects of the war do not extend much beyond a small handful of individuals. There are only a few dozen Jedi fighting on one side, and, by rule, two Sith on the other. Their armies are made up of literally disposable droids on one side, and nearly disposable clone troopers on the other. Most importantly, at few points is this galactic fight connected to the people that make up the galaxy, least of all on Coruscant, the capital planet itself. [...]

As I write this, the current galactic problem is the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and the sexual assault allegations leveled against the nominee. [...]

By the time this comes to print, we will have moved on to something else. Whatever that is will be so important that we must all line up in our digital armies, increasingly backed by the implied or even literal threat that someday soon those armies will be virtual no longer.

The specific issue doesn't matter, really--not when we treat all issues as if they were battles in wars raging across our galaxy.

We are so partisan these days precisely because, given the broad consensus on nearly all policy issues at the End of History, the only stakes are which party gets to govern.  The Kavanaugh nomination was illustrative not just because the nomination fight got so ugly but because he is pretty much indistinguishable from Merrick Garland.

And, if we look at the "something else," we have moved on to, Americans (Republicans included) overwhelmingly support immigration, which Donald has staked this election cycle on opposing and Republicans are running on their support for Obamacare, which was after all just the Heritage Foundation plan. or the GOP plan from the '90s.

Look behind the partisan bickering and you find an American electorate that has a historically high popular overlap on most actual policy questions: not just pro-immigration and pro-trade but in favor of limits on both guns and abortion, while party leaders take the most extreme positions, and even in favor of universal health care, which the UR was too conservative to propose.  

Of course, if we stick with the Star Wars mode of analysis, we can find another fruitful point: it's not even apparent that "our" side is preferable to the "dark" side:  

The Case for the Empire (JONATHAN V. LAST, May 15, 2002, Weekly Standard)

Lucas wants the Empire to stand for evil, so he tells us that the Emperor and Darth Vader have gone over to the Dark Side and dresses them in black.

But look closer. When Palpatine is still a senator, he says, "The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good." At one point he laments that "the bureaucrats are in charge now."

Palpatine believes that the political order must be manipulated to produce peace and stability. When he mutters, "There is no civility, there is only politics," we see that at heart, he's an esoteric Straussian.

Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It's a dictatorship people can do business with. They collect taxes and patrol the skies. They try to stop organized crime (in the form of the smuggling rings run by the Hutts). The Empire has virtually no effect on the daily life of the average, law-abiding citizen.

Also, unlike the divine-right Jedi, the Empire is a meritocracy. The Empire runs academies throughout the galaxy (Han Solo begins his career at an Imperial academy), and those who show promise are promoted, often rapidly. In The Empire Strikes Back Captain Piett is quickly promoted to admiral when his predecessor falls down on the job.

And while it's a small point, the Empire's manners and decorum speak well of it. When Darth Vader is forced to employ bounty hunters to track down Han Solo, he refuses to address them by name. Even Boba Fett, the greatest of all trackers, is referred to icily as "bounty hunter." And yet Fett understands the protocol. When he captures Solo, he calls him "Captain Solo." (Whether this is in deference to Han's former rank in the Imperial starfleet, or simply because Han owns and pilots his own ship, we don't know. I suspect it's the former.)

But the most compelling evidence that the Empire isn't evil comes in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader is battling Luke Skywalker. After an exhausting fight, Vader is poised to finish Luke off, but he stays his hand. He tries to convert Luke to the Dark Side with this simple plea: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. . . . Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy." It is here we find the real controlling impulse for the Dark Side and the Empire. The Empire doesn't want slaves or destruction or "evil." It wants order.

Significantly, on all the "issues" listed above Americans just want some order restored to our lives and we are sick of the apocalyptic partisanship because it is so disordered.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Florida yoga shooter spouted misogynistic and racist views on YouTube (Kalhan Rosenblatt and Brandy Zadrozny, 11/04/18, NBC News)

Scott Beierle, the man who killed two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, before apparently killing himself, appeared to have posted dozens of misogynistic and racist videos and songs to YouTube and SoundCloud before the attack.

Tallahassee police identified Beierle, 40, as the shooter who killed Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21, and injured several other people inside Hot Yoga before turning the gun on himself on Friday.

An account that appears to be Beierle's posted several grainy, dimly lighted videos four years ago, which show Beierle discussing his misogyny, as well as his racist beliefs, including that interracial couples stem from mental illness and that women who are promiscuous should be crucified.

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


The GOP is running plenty of racist ads this cycle, but how is this different?

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


More than 4,884,528 Texans voted early in the midterm election (ELBERT WANG, DARLA CAMERON AND CHRIS ESSIG UPDATED NOV. 3, 2018, Texas Tribune)

Early voter turnout in the 2018 midterms surpassed turnout from the 2012 presidential election in the 30 Texas counties where most registered voters in the state -- 78 percent -- live. In the entire early voting period, 4,514,930 Texans cast in-person ballots and 369,598 cast mail-in ballots. This means 39.9 percent of the 12.3 million registered voters in those 30 counties have voted.

With days to go, contest for attorney general shows signs of a competitive race (EMMA PLATOFF AND PATRICK SVITEK NOV. 4, 2018, Taxeas Tribune)

Less than 36 hours before Election Day, the race for attorney general is showing signs of competition that have been absent in just about every other statewide contest.

Republican incumbent Ken Paxton, who was indicted more than three years ago on felony securities fraud charges, has been running a relatively quiet campaign with the comfortable advantage of a GOP incumbent in a state that has not elected a Democrat statewide in more than two decades.

But now he is firing back at his Democratic challenger, Justin Nelson, with a new attack ad -- the first one from Paxton that addresses the indictment -- and getting a fresh influx of high-dollar campaign donations, signals that Republicans are not taking anything for granted in the race for Texas' top lawyer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don't Know How to Stop It.: For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized. (JANET REITMANNOV. 3, 2018, NY Times Magazine)

The first indication to Lt. Dan Stout that law enforcement's handling of white supremacy was broken came in September 2017, as he was sitting in an emergency-operations center in Gainesville, Fla., preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and watching what felt like his thousandth YouTube video of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va. Jesus Christ, he thought, studying the footage in which crowds of angry men, who had gathered to attend or protest the Unite the Right rally, set upon one another with sticks and flagpole spears and flame throwers and God knows what else. A black man held an aerosol can, igniting the spray, and in retaliation, a white man picked up his gun, pointed it toward the black man and fired it at the ground. The Virginia state troopers, inexplicably, stood by and watched. Stout fixated on this image, wondering what kind of organizational failure had led to the debacle. He had one month to ensure that the same thing didn't happen in Gainesville.

Before that August, Stout, a 24-year veteran of the Gainesville police force, had never heard of Richard Spencer and knew next to nothing about his self-declared alt-right movement, or of their "anti-fascist" archnemesis known as Antifa. Then, on the Monday after deadly violence in Charlottesville, in which a protester was killed when a driver plowed his car into the crowd, Stout learned to his horror that Spencer was planning a speech at the University of Florida. He spent weeks frantically trying to get up to speed, scouring far-right and anti-fascist websites and videos, each click driving him further into despair. Aside from the few white nationalists who had been identified by the media or on Twitter, Stout had no clue who most of these people were, and neither, it seemed, did anyone else in law enforcement.

There were no current intelligence reports he could find on the alt-right, the sometimes-violent fringe movement that embraces white nationalism and a range of racist positions. The state police couldn't offer much insight. Things were equally bleak at the federal level. Whatever the F.B.I. knew (which wasn't a lot, Stout suspected), they weren't sharing. The Department of Homeland Security, which produced regular intelligence and threat assessments for local law enforcement, had only scant material on white supremacists, all of it vague and ultimately not much help. Local politicians, including the governor, were also in the dark. This is like a Bermuda Triangle of intelligence, Stout thought, incredulous. He reached out to their state partners. "So you're telling us that there's nothing? No names we can plug into the automatic license-plate readers? No players with a propensity for violence? No one you have in the system? Nothing?''

One of those coming to Gainesville was William Fears, a 31-year-old from Houston. Fears, who online went by variations of the handle Antagonizer, was one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right. Countless YouTube videos had captured his progress over the past year as he made his way from protest to protest across several states, flinging Nazi salutes, setting off smoke bombs and, from time to time, attacking people. Fears was also a felon. He had spent six years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in a case involving his ex-girlfriend, and now he had an active warrant for his arrest, after his new girlfriend accused him of assault less than two weeks earlier. On Oct. 18, the night before the event, Fears and a few others from Houston's white-nationalist scene got in Fears's silver Jeep Patriot for the 14-hour drive. Fears's friend Tyler TenBrink, who pleaded guilty to assault in 2014, posted video from their trip on his Facebook page. There were four men, two of them felons, and two nine-millimeter handguns. "Texans always carry," Fears said later.

Gainesville would be Spencer's first major public appearance since the violence of the Unite the Right rally two months before, and the city, a progressive enclave in the heart of deep-red north Florida, was on edge. Anticipating chaos, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency -- prompting Spencer to tweet out an image of his head making its way across the Atlantic toward Florida: "Hurricane Spencer." A few days before the event, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent out a small, bound "threat book" of about 20 or so figures, most of them openly affiliated with Spencer or with anti-fascist groups, which Stout knew from his own research meant they weren't the people to worry about. Anonymous online chatter on sites like 4chan, meanwhile, described armed right-wing militants coming to Gainesville to test Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Stout envisioned 20 white supremacists with long guns. We're screwed, he thought.

By the morning of Oct. 19, a fortress of security, costing the University of Florida and police forces roughly half a million dollars, had been built around the western edge of the 2,000-acre campus and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer and his entourage arrived that afternoon. More than 1,100 state troopers and local cops stood on alert, with another 500 on standby. There were officers posted on rooftops. Police helicopters buzzed the skies. The Florida National Guard had been activated off-site, and a line of armored vehicles sat in reserve. Hundreds of journalists from around the United States and abroad were in attendance, anticipating another Charlottesville.

Some 2,500 protesters had descended on the small area cordoned off for the event, where they confronted a handful of white supremacists, most of them Spencer groupies like Fears and his friends. "Basically, I'm just fed up with the fact that I'm cisgendered, I'm a white male and I lean right, toward the Republican side, and I get demonized," Colton Fears, Will's 28-year-old brother, who was wearing an SS pin, told HuffPost. TenBrink, also 28, told The Washington Post that he had come to support Spencer because after Charlottesville, where he was seen and photographed, he had been threatened by the "radical left." He seemed agitated by the thousands of protesters. "This is a mess," he told The Gainesville Sun. "It appears that the only answer left is violence, and nobody wants that."

But Will Fears told reporters he came to Gainesville to intimidate the protesters. "It's always been socially acceptable to punch a Nazi, to attack people if they have right-wing political leanings," he said. "We're starting to push back." [...]

White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.

These statistics belie the strident rhetoric around "foreign-born" terrorists that the Trump administration has used to drive its anti-immigration agenda. They also raise questions about the United States' counterterrorism strategy, which for nearly two decades has been focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion -- 16 percent of the overall federal budget -- on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report.

"We're actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it's far-right extremism," says the national-security strategist P. W. Singer, a senior fellow at the New America think tank. During the first year of the Trump administration, Singer and several other analysts met with a group of senior administration officials about building a counterterrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats. "They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism," he says.

One of Bill Clinton's under-rated successes was crushing the militia movement.  It's time for another round.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


U.S. militia groups head to border, stirred by Trump's call to arms (Mary Lee Grant and Nick Miroff November 3, 2018, Washington Post)

Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have heard a call to arms in President Trump's warnings about threats to American security posed by caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. They're packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border.

"We'll observe and report, and offer aid in any way we can," said Shannon McGauley, a bail bondsman in the Dallas suburbs who is president of the Texas Minutemen. McGauley said he was preparing to head for the Rio Grande in coming days.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


New Al Jazeera film uncovers 'rotting foundation' of U.S. Israel lobby: A new Al Jazeera documentary provides a sobering look at a lobby that continues to defend Israel's control of Palestinian lives, despite the many Americans turning against it. (Antony Loewenstein, 11/05/18, +972)

There's a moment near the end of the four-part, Al Jazeera documentary on the U.S. Israel lobby -- censored by its own network due to pressure from the U.S. government and incensed U.S.-based, pro-Israel lobbyists -- where the show's undercover reporter, "Tony," films a key Israel advocate in Washington. Eric Gallagher was a senior manager at The Israel Project and admits that the dominant pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, faces an existential crisis.

"People at AIPAC know that something has changed," Gallagher says. "They know something is wrong. They are not as effective as they used to be." He worries that the day is coming soon when AIPAC wouldn't be able to deeply influence the Israel lobby crafted in the U.S. Congress, as it does today, and that the pro-Israel lobby will have to operate without AIPAC's power. "There's this big bowling ball that's being hurled towards them [AIPAC] and the response is to run faster," Gallagher continues. "They need to get on the bowling ball and start dancing."

Gallagher doesn't explain why so many Americans are turning against Israel in public opinion polls. The latest figures from The Economist and YouGov, an online data analytics firm, find that U.S. liberals, millennials, and women have turned against the Jewish state in large numbers. The 50-plus year occupation of Palestinians and their lands, constant killings of civilians in Gaza, and the Trump administration's obsessive embrace of Israel's hard-right are all factors.

Republicans and conservatives still back Israel in large numbers, as do many in the evangelical Christian community (though younger members are more skeptical). For the foreseeable future, however, Israel will likely receive unprecedented financial, military, and diplomatic support from the United States.

Tony films Gallagher in a Washington D.C. café explaining that "the foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting. There used to be widespread public support for Israel in the United States...I don't think that AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome, because who is?"

It's a telling admission in a documentary that's full of them. 

The problem is that the Right loves Israel for the same reason other Americans have begun to criticize it: the divergence from American values in its oppression and attacks on Muslims. By appealing to those who love the state's illiberal exercise of power and driving away those who love Judaism, Israel is only adding to its demographic and theological existential crises.

Trump's veiled anti-Semitism comes home to roost in Pittsburgh: Trump is well aware of how white supremacists and others interpret his remarks. What makes it so sinister is that he keeps doing it anyway. (Edo Konrad, 11/04/18, +972)

[T]he president need not resort to Nazi anti-Semitism to inspire the bloodlust of Bowers and his ilk. After all, Jews do not categorically bother Trump. It is a particular kind of Jew -- cosmopolitan, progressive, anti-racist -- that Trump has adopted as a scapegoat for America's problems. His repeated attacks on George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who has historically funded liberal causes, is exemplary of the way right-wing leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian President Viktor Orban are now deploying anti-Semitism: by using coded language to paint left-wing Jews as the source of a global conspiracy working to undermine everything their nationalist worldview represents.

Trump does not need to mention Soros' Jewish identity at all; the implication of mentioning Soros in the first place is totally clear. That's the beauty of dog-whistling -- the president doesn't have to talk about "the Jewish agenda" to make clear to his followers who or what he is referring to.

And while Trump may actually only be talking about Soros -- who holds significant political and economic power -- his most radical followers make no distinction between Soros as a person and Soros as codeword for "Jews." Robert Bowers may have despised HIAS and its support for refugees and immigrants, but his attack on a Jewish place of worship is proof that Trump's brand of veiled anti-Semitism is no less dangerous than the kind one finds on the front page of the Daily Stormer.

That is what precisely makes it so sinister: the president knows exactly what he is doing. He is well aware of what kind of violence his remarks can inspire and fuel, yet he continues to make them anyway.

In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett's Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu's Government and American Jews (Bernard Avishai, October 31, 2018, The New Yorker)

As Daniel Benjamin (my colleague at Dartmouth) noted in Time, earlier this week, a Pew "thermometer" poll last year found that Americans feel more warmly toward Jews than toward any other religious group--"one degree higher than Catholics, two higher than mainline Protestants, six higher than Evangelical Christians and 13 higher than Mormons." True, the Anti-Defamation League reported a fifty-seven-per-cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year. But for liberals, even Zionists with a liberal imagination, this could hardly be a surprise. Anti-Semitism "is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and cannot be removed," Theodor Herzl wrote in "The Jewish State," in 1896. The problem he pointed to was not Christian bigotry, which emancipation was slowly dispersing, but class conflict, which created workers, some of whom rise and some of whom fall. Jews, who tended to rise, naturally became the target of "mediocre intellects, who cannot find an outlet downwards or upwards," Herzl wrote. What would protect all minorities--in the case of the Jewish state, Arab Muslims--would be the same secular and liberal principles that one fights for in the West. That's why, ironically, Herzl's ideal Jewish state, which he laid out in his novel "The Old New Land," from 1902, looks much more like Squirrel Hill than like Bennett's airless settlements.

Indeed, much like Trump, Bennett has fomented bigotry in electoral campaigns and from a state position. He lobbied feverishly for the discriminatory nation-state law. (He suggested that Israeli courts throw the Israeli-Arab civil-rights group Adalah "down the stairs.") He has led the fight against asylum seekers in Israel, calling them "infiltrators" and purveyors of "threat" and "crime." He has consistently opposed civil marriage and, as education minister, tried to suppress a book about an Israeli Jew falling in love with a Muslim. He supports his government's cozying up to the Hungarian President, Viktor Orbán, who has normalized attacks on George Soros. Bennett condemns "shooting worshippers," but he is the chief advocate for the kind of settlement policy in and around Hebron that, in 1994, produced Baruch Goldstein's notorious massacre at the mosque of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

American Jews reflexively express affection for, and fascination with, Israel as a historical achievement. But they do not require history lessons from rightist Israelis who debase liberalism, or from any Israeli who cannot see how the distinct achievement and the continual struggle of American Jews rival those of Zionists. "Go home," David Simon, the creator of "The Wire" and "The Deuce," tweeted when he heard that Bennett was on his way. "Netanyahu's interventions in US politics aided in the election of Donald Trump and his raw and relentless validation of white nationalism and fascism. The American Jewish community is now bleeding at the hands of the Israeli prime minister. And many of us know it."

Last June, in the hamlet of Wilmot, New Hampshire, where I live half the year, the caretaker of the local white-clapboard Congregationalist church, next to the public library, discovered graffiti: "No remorse for the dead kike on a pike." It wasn't clear whether "kike on a pike" threatened the local Jews--of whom there are but a few--or the crucified Jesus. But the offense was certainly taken to be anti-Semitic. Unsure of what to expect, the minister, the Reverend Sara Marean, called on local ministers and residents to show the Jewish community fellow-feeling. The following Sunday, three hundred people gathered on the church green. The speeches and the songs sounded like America. Arthur Rosen, a retired public-relations executive and the representative of the Upper Valley Jewish community, wondered aloud if the person who had written the graffiti was in the crowd, and invited him or her to forgo inflammatory Web sites and come to his home for a forgiving conversation. Nobody left the gathering feeling that the scribbler had "prevailed."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


'Trump has hijacked the election': House Republicans in panic mode (RACHAEL BADE, CARLA MARINUCCI and ELANA SCHOR 11/04/2018, Politico)

House Speaker Paul Ryan got President Donald Trump on the phone Sunday for one final plea on behalf of anxious Republicans: Please, please talk up the booming economy in the final hours before Election Day.

But Trump, unsurprisingly, had another issue on his mind. He boasted to Ryan that his focus on immigration has fired up the base, according to a source familiar with the call.

Two days out from an expected Democratic takeover of the House, Republicans focused on the chamber are profoundly worried that Trump's obsession with all things immigration will exacerbate their losses. Many of these same Republicans welcomed Trump's initial talk about the migrant caravan and border security two weeks ago, hoping it would gin up the GOP base in some at-risk, Republican-held districts.

The base may not be racist, but the Republican leadership obviously believes it is.*

[*] credit to Mr. Gillum

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Twin Pillars of a Free Society (David Shribman, 11/03/18, Uexpress)

Religion. The press. Twin pillars of a free society. Each an affirmation of personal liberty and an assertion of individual and institutional autonomy, the two were woven together from almost the very beginning of our republic and tied in a circle of sadness here this week.

For it has been true from the start of this country, and apparent to us as journalists from the start of this week of remorse and remembrance, that the freedom to worship and the freedom to think, write and publish are inextricably linked in a way none of us considered before, in a way our neighbors and fellow countrymen very likely never considered before.

But the relationship is intimate, and it is indispensable.

"Those focal points of personal and communal allegiance are vital platforms for speaking truth to power and for affirming the reality of truths not subject to state manipulation," said Lawrence H. Tribe, the Harvard Law professor regarded as one of the leading authorities on constitutional law. "That's why every tyrannical regime begins by crushing both the independent press and independent religious bodies -- and by replacing the truth as perceived and pronounced by honest journalists and incorruptible clergy with an official orthodoxy."

Moments after I discussed this notion with Tribe, I sat with a gaggle of rabbis, grim-faced mourners in the brightly lit environs of the Milky Way kosher restaurant on Murray Avenue in the heart of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill. They were here for the funerals, some from great distance, and it struck them that the connection was not a nuance but a fundamental feature of our national character.

"They're related, for sure, and they are at the core of the founding of the United States," said Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogue in Houston. "If either of them is endangered, we are tearing at the fabric of what America is."

His dining companion, Rabbi Adam Scheier of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount, Quebec, Canada, chimed in:

"They're both efforts to try to make sense of the world -- the press with that which is obvious and confusing at the same time, and religion, which renders what we don't perceive but believe exists."

The First Amendment speaks of the responsibility of speaking truth to power, and of using the power of truth for the betterment of society. They are sacred responsibilities leading to sacred acts.

But there is a third element to the First Amendment, the right of the people to assemble peaceably.

That was expressed with eloquence as well in Pittsburgh this week, in vigils across the city.

Of all the poignant and potent messages, this one, expressed at one of those vigils by another man of the cloth, the Rev. Glenn Grayson, pastor of the Wesley Center AME Zion Church, seemed to speak to the moment with unusual power:

"A tragedy for Squirrel Hill is a tragedy for the Hill," he said of the historically black Hill District. "It's a tragedy for the whole city."

Second Amendment extremism is a quintessentially anti-republican effort to deny these core liberties.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Nationalism Isn't a Bad Thing, But Trump's Version Is (Hal Brands, October 3, 2018, Bloomberg)

[T]he reason nationalism gets a bad name is that collisions between the sharpest types of nationalism -- those that take a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest approach to international affairs, that depict global politics as an unceasing clash in which one must dominate or be dominated, that exalt struggle as the ultimate test of a nation's worth, and that turn every international interaction into a zero-sum competition for glory and advantage -- have caused repeated geopolitical cataclysms.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with Trump's America First nationalism. At a time when the international system is being tested by resurgent nationalism on the part of China, Russia and other powers, the Trump administration is undermining a system that has benefited the U.S. immeasurably by embracing a toxic nationalism of its own.

Trump built much of the momentum for his candidacy and presidency through foreign-policy pronouncements that have been openly hostile to the international system the U.S. built after 1945. Yet his speech at the UN was more subtly subversive. Some parts -- his paeans to the distinctive histories, cultures and traditions of different countries -- had a Kumbaya quality that might seem right at home in Turtle Bay. Until, that is, one realizes that by championing unrestrained nationalism in foreign policy, Trump is inviting a return of the brutal, destructive patterns that the UN and so much of today's international system were created to overcome.

The emergence of such hypernationalism was a critical driver of World War I -- at that point, the most violent conflict in history. Just 25 years later, the rise of predatory regimes motivated by some of the most unconstrained, aggressive nationalisms ever seen triggered an all-consuming conflagration.

This dynamic was hardly unique to the 20th century. As Charles Edel and I argue in our forthcoming book, "The Lessons of Tragedy," the clash of extreme nationalisms has been a recurring feature of geopolitics since the emergence of the modern nation-state system in the 17th century, and the result has often been to foster cycles of great-power war and all the accompanying devastation.

The determination to break this cycle was at the heart of the postwar system. Contrary to what the president argues, the U.S. never abandoned nationalism -- it never pursued a foreign policy that was intended to do anything other than promote a secure, peaceful and prosperous world in which America itself could flourish. But U.S. officials of the 1940s and after understood that the most vicious aspects of nationalism had to be tamed if the international system was not to be pulled back into violent, chaotic darkness. The great innovations of postwar foreign policy were thus expressly designed to cage and control nationalism.

America's promotion of an open global economy was meant to avert the protectionist, beggar-thy-neighbor policies that had set countries against each other in the 1930s, frustrating cooperation and hastening the spiral into depression and bloodshed.

The Right is so hostile to trade because capitalism is inherently transnational.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


When Faith in Your Fellow Human Is Ebbing, Look to Baseball (Gene Lyons, 10/31/18, Uexpress)

Watching the familiar ritual of the winners hugging, high-fiving and carrying little children around the Dodger stadium infield after winning Game 5 felt like a throwback to a better time.

In the wake of the atrocity in Pittsburgh, I felt exactly like The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg: "For a few hours Sunday night ... the final game of the World Series felt like America as it could be .... When our most basic rules are regularly trampled, even a tiny, temporary restoration of the moral order provides some warmth against the encroaching cold."

Of course, every MLB club's team picture these days looks like the United Nations: black and white, Dominican, Mexican and Venezuelan, and in Boston's case, Taiwanese and Aruban as well. But the Red Sox were also among the happiest teams I've ever seen. If there were any malcontents on the bench or in the bullpen -- as there nearly always are among highly competitive professional athletes -- they were impossible to identify.

Under the leadership of rookie manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox came to embody much of what's best about America: a passion for excellence, a personal and communal determination to succeed, and an unwillingness to be divided.

According to The Boston Globe's terrific baseball writer Alex Speier, the team's "remarkable cohesion" owes itself largely to Cora. Red Sox players unanimously praise his (bilingual) communication skills and his regard for them as individuals with lives off the baseball diamond. The new Red Sox manager didn't ask for a signing bonus before coming over from the Houston Astros; he asked for a planeload of hurricane relief supplies for his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

It's no exaggeration to say that the Red Sox and Houston Astros organizations provided more effective Hurricane Maria relief than the White House. Less bureaucracy, superior leadership.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 AM


Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps": A Coded Message? (K. V. Turley, 11/02/18, Imaginative Conservative)

In October 1932, Sir Oswald Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists (BUF). By 1934, BUF's membership had risen to 50,000. Rallies were impressive affairs. From its neo-Gothic fortress, Black Shirt House, on the King's Road in Chelsea, London, Black Shirted followers would travel to the arenas at nearby Earl's Court or Olympia where Mosley's oratory would electrify. The enemy, he pronounced, was clear for all to see: the Jews, the Reds, the whole corrupt capitalist system and its front: liberal democracy. For many, it seemed, at last, Great Britain's very own 'Strong Man' had emerged. The Hour of the Fascist had finally come. It seemed as if power was within the Black Shirts' grasp. The roars of appreciation from within and outside the arenas could be heard all over London, and indeed beyond. The national newspaper, The Daily Mail, ran an editorial entitled: 'Hurrah for the Black Shirts!' Gazing out over London from the top of Black Shirt House, Mosley must have wondered not 'If' but 'When'.

In the same city, to the north of fashionable Chelsea, was another London, Shepherds Bush. In its backstreets there existed an industrial facility: Lime Grove Studios. Built in 1915, its artisans did not make cars or armaments but films. And it was there that, in 1934, a young Alfred Hitchcock started to work on John Buchan's 1915 novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps. The plot of the novel had been changed, but its essentials were retained if stripped of the Edwardian paranoia around Empire loss. Now the story was brought up to date, and spoke instead of fears around national survival. As the thunderous applause still echoed across London from Earls Court for the Black Shirted Color Party as it carried forth into the night the Fascist flag of the BUF, just a few miles to the north, the cameras began to roll upon a thriller that spoke of fascism, of foreign agents and their fellow travellers.

The 39 Steps is one of five films that Hitchcock made in England about espionage in the mid-to-late 1930s. These films capture the growing threat felt in Britain from foreign powers. In their scenarios the nation's security was nowhere more threatened than by spies hiding in plain sight. In The 39 Steps this premise is never more clearly on display, startlingly so. [...]

Importantly, as film production commenced, the shooting script was altered. The 39 Steps 'secret' was no longer what it had been in the source material. As Hitchcock cries 'Action!' and Richard Hannay, played by Robert Donat, is pursued across the Highlands and eventually back to London, let us return to Broadstairs where truth is stranger than fiction.

On Broadstairs' North Foreland Estate there stands a 20-room mansion, called Naldera. The inspirational '39'--there were in fact 78--steps to the sea are there. For many years it had been the home of the wealthy politician, Lord Curzon. A frequent visitor to the house was his son-in-law, Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley had married Curzon's daughter, Cynthia, in 1920.

By 1934, however, there was someone else living at Naldera. There was a man who, like the foreign agents in The 39 Steps, had impeccable manners and an immaculate English accent, and even, on occasion, was known to wear a monocle. His name was Dr. Arthur Tester. He claimed to be English. He was in fact a Nazi spy.

November 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


'No Blame'? ABC News finds 17 cases invoking 'Trump' in connection with violence, threats or alleged assaults (MIKE LEVINE Nov 4, 2018, ABC News)

[A] nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 17 criminal cases where Trump's name was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence, or allegations of assault.

Nearly all -- 16 of 17 -- cases identified by ABC News are striking in that court documents and direct evidence reflect someone echoing presidential rhetoric, not protesting it. ABC News was unable to find any such case echoing presidential rhetoric when Barack Obama or George W. Bush were in the White House.

The perpetrators and suspects identified in the 17 cases are mostly white men, as young as teenagers and as old as 68, while the victims represent an array of minority groups -- African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and gay men.

Federal law enforcement authorities have privately told ABC News they worry that -- even with Trump's public denunciations of violence -- Trump's style could inspire violence-prone individuals to take action against minorities or others they perceive to be against the president's agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM

NIKKI 2020:

Exclusive poll: Trump's 2020 woman problem (Kim Hart, Alexi McCammond, 11/04/18, Axios)

President Trump would lose the 2020 election against every woman mentioned as a possible Democratic opponent, according to an Axios poll by SurveyMonkey, aired first on HBO Sunday night. [...]

Even though they're unlikely to run, both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey would crush Trump if the election were held today, according to the poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

And both women lead by double digits in favorability. Trump's favorability is just 40% among registered voters, per the poll, compared to 62% for Obama and 55% for Winfrey.

More probable but lesser-known candidates -- Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) -- would all beat Trump, too.  [...]

The two women who barely edge out Trump are Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is in a virtual tie with the president. 

Could Haley beat Trump? Among some key voters, the answer could be 'yes' (BRISTOW MARCHANT, October 12, 2018, The State)

Of likely GOP primary or caucus voters in 2020, 52 percent in New Hampshire and 51 percent in Iowa said they would consider casting their vote for the outgoing U.N. ambassador over Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


The Luck of the Democrats (Ross Douthat, Nov. 3, 2018, NY Times)

[W]hile they were obviously unlucky in their disastrous 2016 defeat, in most respects liberalism and the Democratic Party have been very lucky since. So their optimism isn't just a gritted-teeth pose; it's an appropriate reaction to a landscape that's more favorable than it easily might have been.

To understand this good fortune, consider two counterfactuals. In the first, the last 21 months proceeded in exactly the same fashion -- with the strongest economy since the 1990s, full employment almost nigh, ISIS defeated, no new overseas wars or major terrorist attacks -- except that Donald Trump let his staffers dictate his Twitter feed, avoided the press except to tout good economic news, eschewed cruelties and insults and weird behavior around Vladimir Putin, and found a way to make his White House a no-drama zone.

In this scenario it's hard to imagine that Trump's approval ratings wouldn't have floated up into the high 40s; they float up into the mid-40s as it is whenever he manages to shut up. Even with their threadbare and unpopular policy agenda, Republicans would be favored to keep the House and maintain their state-legislature advantages. All the structural impediments to a Democratic recovery would loom much larger, Trump's re-election would be more likely than not, and his opposition would be stuck waiting for a recession to have any chance of coming back.

Then consider a second counterfactual. Imagine that instead of just containing himself and behaving like a generic Republican, Trump had actually followed through on the populism that he promised in 2016, dragging his party toward the economic center and ditching the G.O.P.'s most unpopular ideas. Imagine that he followed through on Steve Bannon's boasts about a big infrastructure bill instead of trying for Obamacare repeal; imagine that he listened to Marco Rubio and his daughter and tilted his tax cut more toward middle-class families; imagine that he spent more time bullying Silicon Valley into inshoring factory jobs than whining about Fake News; imagine that he made lower Medicare drug prices a signature issue rather than a last-minute pre-election gambit.

This strategy could have easily cut the knees out from under the Democrats' strongest appeal, their more middle-class-friendly economic agenda, and highlighted their biggest liability, which is the way the party's base is pulling liberalism way left of the middle on issues of race and culture and identity. It would have given Trump a chance to expand his support among minorities while holding working-class whites, and to claim the kind of decisive power that many nationalist leaders around the world enjoy. It would have threatened liberalism not just with more years out of power, but outright irrelevance under long-term right-of-center rule.

But instead all the Trumpy things that keep the commentariat in a lather and liberals in despair -- the Twitter authoritarianism and white-identity appeals, the chaos and lying and Hannity-and-friends paranoid style -- have also kept the Democrats completely in the game.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Kamala Harris's Big Policy Idea Is Even Worse Than I Thought (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 04, 2018, Slate)

This bill would put a lot of money into the hands of working families, and lift millions out of poverty. So what's wrong with it? Last month, I noted three issues: First, it's extremely similar to a program that already exists--the Earned Income Tax Credit--and it's not clear why you'd want to add even more complexity to our hard-to-navigate welfare state by creating a totally new benefit rather than modernize and expand the one that already exists. Second, because only workers (and some college students) receive the bill's benefits, it offers nothing to the absolute poorest Americans--those who don't have jobs. At the same time, it give zilch to families who make more than $100,000. And whether or not you think those households--which make up about 29 percent of the country--need any help, that fact alone will probably undercut its political support.

Which is a problem, since a program this expensive would be an enormous political lift. Harris's office did not score the bill before circulating it (which seemed like a bit of a gamble). But since then, the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Wharton Budget Model has concluded it would cost $3.1 trillion over a decade. The conservative Tax Foundation estimates it would be slightly cheaper: $2.8 trillion. Either way, you're talking about a big, fat chunk of federal change. If one were to total up all of the money that Washington is expected to spend on Obamacare's private insurance subsidies, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Social Security Disability Insurance program over the next ten years, that only gets you to $2.7 trillion.

As a couple of anti-poverty experts pointed out to me, the LIFT Act also contains a fairly serious design flaw. As it's currently written, the bill creates a serious financial penalty for getting married.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Customers Buy Out Doughnut Shop Early Every Day So Owner Can Be With Sick Wife (CBSLA, 11/02/18)

Donut City owner John Chhan just wants more time with his ailing wife, so his customers are helping out, a dozen doughnuts at a time.

Chhan and his wife, Stella, have owned Donut City in Seal Beach for three decades. The couple came to Orange County as refugees from Cambodia in 1979. Since then, they've worked side by side every morning to serve doughnuts at their Pacific Coast Highway shop - until recently.

Customers who missed Stella Chhan's presence behind the counter were shocked to discover she had suffered an aneurysm. She's alive, but is weak and in rehab, and John Chhan rushes home every day to be with her as soon as the shop sells out of doughnuts.

Chhan declined customers' offer to set up a GoFundMe account for the couple, saying he simply wants more time with his wife. Instead, customers have endeavored to help Donut City sell out early every day so he can return to the rehabilitation center where she is recovering.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part I: Our Immoderation (Peter Berkowitz, September 14, 2018, Real Clear Policy)

Our politics increasingly encourages citizens -- members of the intellectual and political elite particularly -- to take to an extreme the perennial human propensity to take one's opinions to an extreme. This imperils liberal democracy in America.

More than most forms of government, American liberal democracy is a hybrid, multi-dimensional regime. Grounded above all in the conviction that human beings are by nature free and equal, the American constitutional order embodies a mix of principles. It draws upon and shelters a variety of traditions. And it calls upon citizens to tolerate a diversity of beliefs and practices, including beliefs with which they may intensely disagree and practices of which they may strongly disapprove.

To accommodate these manifold tendencies, the Constitution establishes complex institutional arrangements that summon the political moderation -- that is, the ability to combine and reconcile competing claims about sound policy and justice -- on which the American experiment in self-government depends. 

Resisting the Constitution's incentives to combine and reconcile, leading figures on the left and right seem bent on heightening tensions and magnifying divisions. Donald Trump's ascent to the White House exacerbated both camps' growing determination, in evidence well before Trump upended the 2016 presidential campaign, to insist that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Powerful conservative voices argued that a Hillary Clinton victory would irreversibly entrench a ubiquitous progressivism that ruthlessly uses government to redistribute wealth, regulate the economy, and restrict worship and speech. Since the election, many prominent progressive voices, joined by a few vehement conservatives (and ex-conservatives), have accused Trump of wrecking democracy in America by debasing political discourse, trampling on norms, corrupting political institutions, empowering working-class bigots and white supremacists, and undermining the rule of law.

The reality is that our politics is so partisan precisely because there are so few differences over policy at the End of History.  And this has, ironically, made compromise more difficult, because while the two sides advocate identical policies, they desperately want to deny the other side credit for achieving them.  This generates the strange phenomenon where Bill Clinton vetoes his own Welfare to Work program so Newt Gingrich doesn't get sole credit for it, where Democratic Senators (including Barrack Obama) defeat immigration reform so that W doesn't get credit for it and where Republicans fight hammer and tongs to deny the value of their own Heritage Plan for healthcare--though, revealingly, they never use their power to do anything about it.

This is why it would be so useful to organize an Obama/Bush Roadshow and have the two ex-presidents tour the country and expound upon our commonalities and discuss the sorts of overlap between the two parties on extant issues, so we could see the shape of possible compromises.  

For instance, on immigration, we could easily forge a coalition around the twinned policies of Closed Borders and Open Immigration.  What bothers even non-racists about our current situation is the aesthetics--that by allowing so much illegal immigration we essentially have no policy and no control over our own borders.  Americans don't want less immigration--nor much more--we just want an orderly process that is fair to all seeking to come here. 

A bill that set aside money to "Build the Wall" and that adopted an Ellis Island model for processing newcomers would restore that sense of orderliness.  

The recording and issuance of official identification would pull millions out of the shadow economy and help them find work, help businesses hire honestly, help law enforcement find wrongdoers, etc.   

We would get the more diverse immigrant population that many on the Right desire because people would not have to rely on sneaking over the border to get in.  Just as prior generations knew that they would be welcomed once they got here by boat, folks could fly in to anywhere and know they had not wasted their life's savings.  

Just as importantly, a more open and legalized system would allow people to return home to their nation of origin if they fail to adapt or simply choose to live elsewhere.  In the past, this was a great boon to both them and their homelands. Anyone who has ever worked with many immigrants will be familiar with the desire of some to take their experience and new wealth and return home to open their own business. A healthy policy would make that easier to do.

Given the increasing demand for labor and raw population, one can easily see a future where businesses and states would have recruiting operations at points of entry to try and lure immigrants.  This would entail offering benefits that would only speed their adaptation to and assimilation into American society. (Even illegals are currently assimilating faster than any prior cohorts, thanks to mass media.)

Of course, the fact remains that some portion of the Right--the hardcore ethno-nationalists--and of the Left--the anti-religious, environmental extremists and paleo-organized labor types--would not be satisfied with such a compromise, because they genuinely oppose immigrants.  But even that opposition would serve American purposes because it would expose their marginality.

Meanwhile, America would have moved beyond one big divisive issue.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Roy Hargrove 1969 - 2018: A heart attack claims one of jazz's leading trumpeters at 49 (Michael J. West, 11/03/18, Jazz Times)

Roy Anthony Hargrove was born on Oct. 16, 1969 in Waco, Texas, and grew up in Dallas, where he began playing trumpet at age nine and attended the city's famous Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts. During his junior year, Wynton Marsalis visited the school on an educational tour and heard young Hargrove play, encouraging him to pursue a career in jazz. Hargrove took his advice, enrolling at Berklee College of Music in 1988.

Hargrove stayed at Berklee only a year, during which he spent more time commuting to New York and attending jam sessions than he did attending class (a fact that, amusingly, he enjoyed sharing with his students after he became a teacher at Berklee). The following year he transferred to Manhattan School of Music, becoming a permanent fixture on the New York scene; that same year, 1989, he recorded his first album (Diamond in the Rough), which began a long association with alto saxophonist Antonio Hart. Other regular collaborators included bassist Christian McBride, pianists Stephen Scott and Marc Cary, and saxophonist Ron Blake. He won two Grammy Awards in 1997 and 2002.

Along with Hart, McBride, and tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, Hargrove became the face of a new generation of "Young Lions" for jazz in the 1990s. Like those musicians, Hargrove at first made music that was steeped in the swinging hard bop tradition, but gradually began branching out into the funk, soul, and hip-hop with which he grew up. In 2000, he was featured on the seminal album Voodoo by R&B singer D'Angelo; a few years later he formed the neo-fusion project RH Factor, featuring D'Angelo as well as rappers Common and Q-Tip and his former Dallas schoolmate, singer Erykah Badu. "I had to go all the way in there," he explained about starting the band.

Hargrove never abandoned the hard bop matrix with which he'd broken through, however; he led a stable longtime quintet with saxophonist Justin Robinson, pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Ameen Saleem, and drummer Quincy Phillips to continue that pursuit. His soulful 2006 hard bop composition "Strasbourg-St. Denis" became both his theme song and a latter-day jazz standard. In these contexts, Hargrove also moonlighted as a singer, drawing on the deep well of Great American Songbook lyrics he'd learned over the years and proving a competent scatter.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Drama builds around Stone in Mueller probe (MORGAN CHALFANT, 11/03/18, The Hill)

Robert Mueller continues to zero in on Roger Stone as speculation builds that the special counsel could take a major overt step in his Russia investigation following the midterm elections next week.

Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump who briefly worked on his campaign, is viewed as central to the question of what, if anything, members of the Trump campaign knew in advance about Democratic emails hacked by Russian operatives and then released by WikiLeaks.

Legal analysts say Mueller is likely interested in determining whether the campaign helped coordinate the document dump, and views Stone as key to making that judgment.

Stone, who both publicly and privately referenced contacts with WikiLeaks during the campaign, has drawn the interest of Mueller in recent weeks and months.

Get Me Roger Stone Profiles the Man Who Created President Trump (SOPHIE GILBERT, MAY 11, 2017, The Atlantic)

Stone, at the age of 19, was the youngest person to testify to the Watergate grand jury, as an employee of the Committee to Re-elect the President. He was, he says, behind the Brooks Brothers riot during the 2000 election. And, in perhaps the most influential act of his career, he persuaded Donald Trump to get into politics. "[Stone] always likes to take on somebody that at least has a good chance of winning," the president says in an on-camera interview, showcasing his characteristic flair for self-aggrandizing compliments.

But the film, which follows Stone through his fluctuating role on the Trump campaign, is also an incisive portrait of how Stone's brand of dirty tricks--in which the only motivating factor in politics is to win--came to dominate the current state of disarray. Stone, as he's wont to do, cheerfully takes credit for all manner of shifts in the last four decades of U.S. elections, from the birth of PACs and superPACs to the rising influence of lobbyists to the dominance of anger and fear in the media. You may find yourself wondering, as the Fox host Tucker Carlson does at one point, whether all of these developments can actually be traced back to Stone, or whether he's just the most dastardly self-promoter in history. But Get Me Roger Stone is a thorough and entertaining primer into how American politics got so ugly, not to mention a crucial window into the mentality of the unorthodox 45th president.

Now in his 60s, sporting bow-ties, suspenders, and an overbearing air of insouciance, Stone resembles no one so much as a senior Pee-wee Herman. He stokes the caricature of the mustache-twirling plutocrat, being interviewed in an opulent dining room next to a three-olive martini, where he expounds on "Stone's Rules," one-sentence aphorisms like, "It's better to be infamous than never to be famous at all," and "One man's dirty trick is another man's civil political action." Extremely charismatic and unabashedly outspoken, he's a documentarian's dream. And this before the film even gets to unpacking Stone's involvement in the rise of Trump, or his embrace of the alt-right.

The Stone mystique is carefully curated. Stone recalls early on how, at a mock election at his elementary school, he took a liking to John F. Kennedy because he had "better hair" than Nixon, and he persuaded his classmates to vote for JFK by assuring them Nixon planned to introduce school on Saturdays. "For the first time ever, I understood the value of misinformation," Stone says, with a glint in his eye. [...]

This indomitable spirit pushed Stone toward his lobbying years with the firm Black, Manafort, and Stone (yes, that Manafort, and he's also interviewed in the film), which became known as "the torturer's lobby" for its list of highly unsavory clients. Stone, Toobin explains, "sees morality as a synonym for weakness." Then, in 1988, the lawyer Roy Cohn introduced Stone to Trump, and Stone was immediately taken with the brash businessman's potential. Again, the two seemed like twin souls, with their penchant for attention and their dyed blonde combovers. "I was like a jockey looking for a horse," Stone recalls. "And [Trump's] a prime piece of political horse flesh in my view."

The key to Stone's success, Paul Manafort explains, is that he sees things that others don't. Where other, more ethically minded strategists might choose optimism when it comes to the will of the American people, Stone's dogged lack of morality gives him a keen instinct for tactics that might reverberate across swing states. Hence his stoking of the flames of the birther movement, which echoed Nixon's "southern strategy." And his recent alignment with InfoWars' Alex Jones, seen hollering in one clip about "chemicals in the water that turn the frigging frogs gay." The "Lock Her Up" chant is Roger Stone. So were the guests Trump brought to a presidential debate to claim the Clintons were victimizers of women, at least one of whom was paid to appear by Stone's superPAC.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


Trump stumps in cities that don't look that much like US (JOSH BOAK, 11/03/18, AP) 

President Donald Trump is in the final stretch of a 44-city blitz for the midterm elections, but the America he's glimpsed from the airport arrivals and his armored limousine is hardly a reflection of the nation as a whole.

The president has mostly traveled to counties that are whiter, less educated and have lower incomes than the rest of the United States, according to Census Bureau data. It's a sign that he is seeking to galvanize the same group of voters that helped carry him to victory in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


'Jim Crow's Last Stand' In Louisiana May Fall To Ballot Measure (Debbie Elliot, 11/04/18, NPR Morning Edition)

The split-jury system is a vestige of Louisiana's 1898 constitution, adopted in the period after the Civil War when slavery was abolished.

Henderson says when former Confederates regained power after Reconstruction, they created a system to more easily ensnare free black people.

"They realized the only way we're going to disenfranchise all these African-Americans and be able to get this free labor, you know, we have to devise a way," Henderson says. "And this is what they concocted."

At the time, the state would lease convict labor to private landowners.

Historians and legal scholars say the intent was clear.

"That constitutional convention is really interesting," says Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

"It put into place a number of measures in order to -- this is a quote from the convention itself -- 'to maintain the supremacy of the white race.'"

Armstrong says the legacy of the non-unanimous jury is evident today in racial disparities in the criminal justice system of Louisiana, which has the second highest incarceration rate in the country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM


GOP Candidate: No Peace In Israel Until Jews Convert To Christianity (Aiden Pink, 11/02/18, The Forward)

Mark Harris, who served as a Baptist pastor in Charlotte until resigning last year to run for office, recounted in 2011 his visit to the Holy Land.

"You cannot be in that land, as powerful and as moving as it is, without realizing the incredible tension that is constantly in that land between the Palestinians and the Jews," Harris said. "There will never be peace in Jerusalem until the day comes that every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

Harris went on to say that no Jewish or Muslim resident of Jerusalem would find peace unless they accepted Jesus Christ. [....]

A Harris campaign spokesperson did not return CNN's request for comment. The polling website FiveThirtyEight calls the race between Harris and Democrat Dan McCready in North Carolina's 9th district a "toss-up."

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


The Myth of a 'Tight Labor Market' (Andrew L. Yarrow, August 31, 2018, RCB)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which sorely needs some new terminology to describe the state of the U.S. workforce, counts only those who have looked for a job within the last four weeks as unemployed. Less noticed are its counts of how many Americans are "participating" in the labor force by working or being "unemployed" as a proportion of the entire "working age" population. Unfortunately, BLS seems stuck in a long-ago world