February 28, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance (Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Annie Karni, Feb. 28, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House's top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Trump's decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been "ordered" to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner -- including by the C.I.A. -- and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Why the Left Can't Stand The New York Times (Amber A'Lee Frost, WINTER 2019, CJR)

Just for example, last spring I noticed not one but two pieces in the Times dedicated to a Twitter tempest in a teapot about whether it was "cultural appropriation" for a white Utah high school student to wear a cheongsam, a dress of Chinese origin, to prom. This is not journalism, cultural commentary, or even, really, a trend piece--it's an attempt to appear relevant. (But I suppose if you want your small town to get some ink in the Times, you should do something that would infuriate Sarah Lawrence students.) In an effort to survive the internet age, the Times has stooped to tracking tweets, chasing the sound and fury of never-ending online spectacles that rarely mean anything to anyone, save for an online microculture dedicated to "the discourse." 

Some fluff could almost be confused for reportage, such as the bizarre amount of space the paper of record devoted to Alan Dershowitz's alleged travails as a social pariah on Martha's Vineyard for his support of Trump, but if I wanted gossip I'd read the society pages. The paper's collective decision to dedicate space--even in the infinite arena of Web content--and resources to such utterly meaningless and unnewsworthy trivialities indicates an editorial commitment not to journalism, but to educated-middle-class dinner party talking points.

The greatest factor in the decline of liberal journalism, however, is the decline of the Left itself. In the absence of labor desks at local papers and a vibrant trade union movement to fund working-class publications, the labor beat goes largely unreported, or merely reported within the confines of an egregiously bourgeois myopia. Take #MeToo, a "movement" to combat the scourge of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. The media obsessively focused on wealthy movie stars and high-profile women in (you guessed it) the media. If readers had zero knowledge of the US and they picked up the Times, they might assume these rich, famous women are the most vulnerable women in the world, and not, as it is, the exact opposite. (FT is no Studs Terkel, but as a paper of capitalism its editors at least keep the focus on policy and women at work, without trying to pass endless lurid celebrity gossip off as feminist journalism.) 

A strong labor press would have expanded the conversation about #MeToo to include women who pick tomatoes, work assembly lines, wait tables, and clean hotel rooms. A strong labor press would have politicized the problem with serious policy and labor law demands. "Progressive" publications are no substitute for a labor Left, either. At this point The Nation appears to be largely a brochure for the magazine's woke travel agency (that's a real business). Unmoored from any working-class institution, they skew liberal, and of course suffer from the same funding woes as any other publication. 

And so the media landscape is dominated by the liberal publications and their clickbait #resistance outrage, their Fukuyama worldview still preserved in jiggling aspic. It's a difficult spell to break, especially when the ideologues are doubling down in a manic panic. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Tesla launching $35,000 Model 3 with deliveries as soon as next month: Electrek (Alexandria Sage, 2/28/19, Reuters) 

Tesla Inc's will offer a $35,000 version of its Model 3 sedan with a shorter battery range and new interior, Electrek reported on Thursday, nearly two years after the company originally promised the car at that price.

Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing (Caroline Fredrickson, Feb. 28, 2019, NY Times)

She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. "To your knowledge," she asked, "did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?" He had.

She asked whether Mr. Trump had tried to reduce his local taxes by undervaluing his assets. Mr. Cohen confirmed that the president had also done that. "You deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction," Mr. Cohen said, explaining the practice. These were the sort of questions, and answers, the committee was supposed to elicit. Somehow, only the newer members got the memo.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez continued, asking, "Do you think we need to review financial statements and tax returns in order to compare them?" She pressed Mr. Cohen for the names of others who would be able to corroborate the testimony or provide documents to support the charges. In response, Mr. Cohen listed the executives Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari -- names that, thanks in part to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, we will probably hear more about in the coming months.

These questions were not random, but, rather, well thought out. Like a good prosecutor, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. She asked one question at a time, avoided long-winded speeches on why she was asking the question, and listened carefully to his answer, which gave her the basis for a follow-up inquiry. As a result, Mr. Cohen gave specific answers about Mr. Trump's shady practices, along with a road map for how to find out more. Mr. Cohen began his testimony calling Mr. Trump a "con man and a cheat"; In just five minutes, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually helped him lay out the facts to substantiate those charges.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Israeli attorney general to charge Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption (Deutsche-Welle, 2/28/19)

Israel's attorney general intends to bring charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption, the Justice Ministry said on Thursday.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he had accepted the police recommendations to file charges against the Israeli prime minister in three different corruption cases.

The indictment could deal a major blow to Netanyahu's prospects in upcoming election in April. The Israeli leader is seeking a fourth consecutive term.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


A scorecard of key players in U.S. special counsel Russia probe (Andy Sullivan, 2/28/19, Reuters)

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russia interfered in the presidential election with a campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States and damage the Republican Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Russia denies it. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction of justice.

Here are some key figures in the investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Trump, Kim summit collapses amid failure to reach deal (JONATHAN LEMIRE, DEB RIECHMANN and FOSTER KLUG, 2/28/19, AP)

The nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un collapsed Thursday after the two sides failed to reach a deal due to a standoff over U.S. sanctions on the reclusive nation, a dispiriting end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global threat.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


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Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Ilhan Omar on Finding Her Way in Washington (Tess Stuart, Feb. 27th, 2019, Rolling Stone)

There have been reports of Saudi-backed news outlets attacking you and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women in Congress. What do you think they are scared of?

Our presence terrifies them. These are totalitarian regimes that have retained their power and influence in the West by setting themselves up as the gatekeepers and the ushers of peace for the Muslim community. They are threatened, really, by Muslims who have now come to Congress who have the roots and understanding of the problems and can speak to solutions that do not involve them. [...]

In a tweeted apology, you wrote you were grateful to 'Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating [you] on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.' What do you think you still have to learn about the Jewish faith or Jewish culture to avoid repeating such mistakes?

I know what intolerance looks like and one thing that has been painful about this whole process is knowing that I used language that caused hurt to others. My hope is that as much as I hold others accountable and help them learn, that people will also hold me accountable. I work every day to make sure we are living in a more tolerant world. And I hope people understand how deeply I care about creating that world. That's why one of the first things I did as a member-elect was to speak about the rise of anti-Semitism -- and one of the first bills I cosponsored as a new member was legislation to elevate the position of a Special Envoy to combat anti-Semitism. I'm an organizer at heart. I've given an earful to others who traffic in bigotry, so I need to listen and learn. Listening and working with communities directly impacted is what will make me a better public servant. Speaker Pelosi has been a mentor throughout this whole process and I look forward to working with her in furthering the people's agenda.

Vlad, the Sa'uds, Bibi and Donald are bound by this terror.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amid clouds of dust, border wall prototypes are demolished (ELLIOT SPAGAT, 2/28/19,  AP)

A jackhammer reduced prototypes of President Donald Trump's prized border wall into piles of rubble Wednesday, a quick ending to an experiment that turned into a spectacle at times.

February 27, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 PM


White House Bars 4 U.S. Journalists From Trump's Dinner With Kim in Hanoi (Michael M. Grynbaum and Katie Rogers, Feb. 27, 2019, NY Times)

It is highly unusual for a presidential administration to retaliate against reporters by restricting their access, particularly at a closely scrutinized foreign summit meeting. Given the backdrop -- a United States president meeting with the totalitarian leader of a country with no independent media -- the move sent a starkly different message from those delivered in such settings by Mr. Trump's predecessors, who often sought to encourage expressions of press freedom when meeting with representatives of autocratic regimes.

Shortly before the dinner was to start, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, informed the group of journalists traveling with Mr. Trump that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed to attend the event, excluding reporters for several print and radio news outlets.

...Donald follows the lead of dictators.

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 PM


Virginia first lady under fire for handing cotton to African American students on mansion tour (Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella February 27, 2019, zASHINGTON Post)

A Virginia state employee has complained that her eighth-grade daughter was upset during a tour of the historic governor's residence when first lady Pam Northam handed raw cotton to her and another African American child and asked them to imagine being enslaved and having to pick the crop.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


The Interrogator: Jorge Ramos' tense confrontation with Nicolás Maduro should come as no surprise. He's spent his career getting under the skin of the powerful. (LEÓN KRAUZE, FEB 27, 2019, Slate)

Jorge Ramos spent the past few days running through the list of questions he had prepared for Nicolás Maduro, the leader who has sunk Venezuela into an abyss of unprecedented proportions. Ramos, Univision's main news anchor for more than 30 years, was particularly focused on his first query, which would set the tone for the interview. He knew he had to put Maduro on the defensive to contain the Venezuelan strongman's penchant for long-winded, empty rhetoric. "I wanted him to face a dilemma," Ramos told me over the phone from Miami. He asked Maduro whether he should refer to him as Venezuela's president or merely as a dictator, "which is what millions of people think of him." It proved to be a brilliant journalistic choice.

Confronted with the growing assertions of his illegitimacy, Maduro grew irritable. The interview had run for 17 tense minutes when Ramos took out an iPad and showed Maduro a video he had shot hours before of a group of hungry Venezuelan men digging through trash in search of food scraps. "He couldn't go on," Ramos recalls. "He broke down and stopped the interview." Maduro then "stupidly" tried to cover Ramos' iPad and finally stood up and left, fuming, leaving Ramos behind.

Ramos would soon learn just how acutely he had gotten under Maduro's skin. Venezuelan security forces detained the anchor and his team, and confiscated all four Univision cameras and every memory card on which the interview had been recorded. They seized the crew's personal belongings and even forced Ramos to surrender his personal phone. For a while, Ramos and his producer were held in a dark room, where they were searched. Twenty-four hours later, Maduro's government summarily deported the group. By then, word of Maduro's despotic reaction had spread to every news outlet in the world.

Those unfamiliar with Jorge Ramos' interviewing style might have been shocked by the incident. I wasn't. As a colleague of his (I have worked with him for eight years at Univision), Ramos' courageous and astute journalistic provocation of the Venezuelan leader comes as no surprise. Maduro's reaction is just another notch on Ramos' belt, one more remarkable episode on a long list of historic clashes in the three decades since he took over Univision's network newscast.

A firm believer in confrontational journalism, Ramos has chosen the interview as his weapon of choice. His style is not without its critics. He has been accused of being an activist in the guise of a journalist. It's a claim Ramos doesn't shy away from. Especially in the age of Trump, he does not believe in detachment, so much so that his brand of forceful journalism has become a personal banner of sorts. "When it comes to racism, dictatorship and human rights, we cannot remain neutral, we have to take a stand," reads his Twitter cover picture. What makes Ramos unique, though, is that his appetite for confrontation is almost universal. He is a relentless interrogator of power, no matter who wields it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


'There Is No Widespread Voter Fraud': Federal Judge Slams the Door on Attempted Voter Purge in Texas (Colin Kalmbacher, February 27th, 2019, Law & Crime)

In a four-page ruling, Judge Biery takes repeat aim at Texas Secretary of State David Whitley over his office's issuance of an advisory notice instructing local officials to target 98,000 recently-naturalized Texans who had previously indicated they were not citizens but who are currently registered to vote.

Compiling this list in the first place was a problem because it immediately produced "flawed results," the court determined.

Judge Biery detailed how flawed those results were:

Out of 98,000 new American voters on the list, thus far approximately 80 have been identified as being ineligible to vote. Almost immediately upon sending the list, the government had an "oops" moment, realizing that 25,000 names should not have been included. It appears this is a solution looking for a problem.

The decision also contains some relevant statistics from a similarly-situated state:

As plaintiffs' counsel stated at the preliminary injunction hearing, "[o]n the Florida case,. . . they started at 180,000 identified voters in that state, and by the time they went through all the sifting, they ended up with 85" people who were ineligible to vote.

"The Florida program, similar in nature to Texas, was ultimately abandoned by the state," Judge Biery noted in his decision-which quoted both William Shakespeare and Henry David Thoreau in order to make the case that Texas officials had created this suddenly complicated problem out of whole cloth.

Dang 9th Circuit...

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


podcast:French 'yellow vests' want Venezuela? (Israel News Talk Radio, 28/02/19)

Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant and Jerry Gordon bring back Nidra Poller, an American ex-pat and writer based in Paris, to update on the popular insurrection of the French gilets jaune, "yellow vests".

She had revealed that this wasn't a populist movement. On the surface it was a demand for greater purchasing power on the part of an aggrieved minority. But on a deeper level is was a movement powered by hatred of the rich and ultimately Jew hatred.

"Yellow vests" posted signs along a French highway that Macron "is a prostitute for the Jews", as he had been a banker for Rothschild et cie in Paris. The irony is that Macron is a boy from the provinces who was bright enough to make it into the elite and became the object of scorn of the "yellow vests".

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Republicans Didn't Dare Contradict Michael Cohen (David Frum, 2/27/19,  The Atlantic)

Michael Cohen's testimony to the House Oversight Committee was uncontradicted. The former personal attorney of the president of the United States today accused him of a litany of crimes, improprieties, immoralities, and betrayals of national security. And not one Republican member of the committee breathed one word of defense of the leader of their party.

Those Republicans have learned the hard way never to trust President Trump's denials.

Did he direct payoffs to a porn star? Trump denied it. It was true.

Was the Trump Organization pursuing a hotel project in Moscow while he was running for president? Trump denied it. That was true, too.

Did his campaign meet with someone claiming to be an agent of the Russian state to seek dirt on Hillary Clinton? Denied. True.

Was there fraud at the Trump Foundation? Denied. True.

Who wants to be the member of Congress recorded for posterity rejecting Cohen's testimony that Roger Stone told Trump in advance of the impending Wikileaks dump?

Who doubts that Trump helped shape Michael Cohen's false testimony to Congress? Who wants to take the other side of the bet from Representative Ocasio-Cortez that Trump provided false financial information to insurance companies and local tax authorities? Who feels confident that Donald Trump Jr. did not lie to Congress when he denied Trump had foreknowledge of the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting?

Evidently, no Republican on the Oversight Committee.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Michael Cohen proves it: The president is a crook (Ryan Cooper, February 27, 2019, The Week)

The most damning piece of evidence Cohen provided was a copy of the $130,000 hush money payment he made to Stormy Daniels -- bribing her in October 2016 to keep quiet about allegedly having sex with Trump in 2006, just after his wife Melania had given birth to their son Barron. And contrary to Trump's insistence that Cohen did that on his own initiative, Cohen also provided copies of two reimbursement checks, one from Trump himself and one from the trust that owned his business, for $35,000 each in March and August 2017 -- after he had become president.

Even if Cohen had conducted the payment himself, this would be a violation of campaign finance law by the Trump campaign, as it constituted a campaign contribution that must be disclosed (which would obviously have negated the entire point of the bribe -- to hide the affair from the American people). But now we know that Trump personally arranged the payment -- including at least one check from his own personal bank account bearing his unmistakable signature.

Second, Cohen alleged that Trump engaged in major financial crimes regarding his net worth, possibly amounting to both bank and tax fraud. He said: "It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes." [...]

Cohen further alleged that Trump had arranged a "straw bidder" for a portrait of himself, who paid $60,000 to win the auction. Trump then allegedly repaid the bidder with money from the Trump Foundation, and hung the portrait in one of his country clubs. If true, that would be a stark violation of IRS rules about private foundations, which state that such an "organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests."

Once again, it's worth noting the Trump Foundation was shut down in December amid a lawsuit from the New York attorney general, who accused it of "persistently illegal conduct," said it "was little more than a checkbook for payments to not-for-profits from Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization," and that it engaged in extensive illegal political activity in addition to buying paintings and a Tim Tebow football helmet for Trump personally.

Finally, Cohen alleged that Trump implicitly directed him to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower deal in Moscow (which Cohen pleaded guilty to in November), and that contrary to CNN's reporting of statements Trump gave to Robert Mueller, knew about Roger Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Matt Gaetz Under Investigation By Florida State Bar Over Michael Cohen Threat (Lachlan Markay,  Sam Stein, 02.27.19, Daily Beast)

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) violated professional conduct rules by threatening former Trump fixer Michael Cohen ahead of Cohen's congressional testimony on Wednesday.

The organization, which licenses lawyers to practice in the state, would not disclose details of the investigation, but spokesperson Francine Walker, said the bar is "quite aware of [Gaetz's] comments...and we have opened an investigation."

"If rules have been violated, The Florida Bar will vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court," Walker said in a statement. "The Florida Bar takes its responsibility of regulating lawyer conduct very seriously."

Posted by orrinj at 12:38 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


"In His Way, He Was Telling Me To Lie": Michael Cohen Will Testify On Trump Moscow Cover-Up (Emma Loop, 2/27/19, BuzzFeed News)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former attorney, plans to tell Congress on Wednesday he lied to them after Trump told him -- "in his way" -- to conceal negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. [...]

In a statement, BuzzFeed News spokesperson Matt Mittenthal said Cohen's expected public testimony "reaffirms what he claimed in private to investigators, as we reported last month: President Trump directed him to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in the heat of the 2016 campaign."

Thus the careful couching of the Special Counsel's non-denial.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Impeach Donald Trump: Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals--and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs. (YONI APPELBAUM  MARCH 2019, The Atlantic)

On january 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America's divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us--of every race, gender, and creed--are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president's fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

"The damage inflicted by President Trump's naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate," the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain lamented last summer. "The president has not risen to the mantle of the office," the GOP's other recent nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney, wrote in January.

The oath of office is a president's promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the "Winter White House," as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty," Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller's investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the "enemy of the people" and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America's electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America's constitutional democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Michael Cohen Is Trump's Worst Nightmare: A Loser With Nothing to Lose (Rick Wilson, 02.26.19, Daily Beast)

Cohen is a man with nothing to lose and the benefit of painful hindsight that his role as Trump's attorney didn't shield him from the corruption and collapse of anyone who works for Trump.  

Cohen will not be asked to testify about candidate Trump's lust for an eponymous tower project in Moscow. Nor will be he asked about Trump's ludicrously amateur efforts to bribe Russian President Vladimir Putin with a penthouse there, or about any quid pro quo between the Trump campaign, the Trump organization, and their friends in Moscow. That's not relief for Trump, by the way; the president knows Cohen has already given all that up to Mueller and company.

All this is why the Trump world is in a flaming panic over Cohen's testimony tomorrow. When Donald Trump Jr.--a man who increasingly looks like a 1980s B-movie villain, all shiny suits and a surfeit of hair product--took to Fox and Friends this week, he was immediately on this dumb message, about how the probe of his pop is "as political as it gets," as it's the "dream" of those mean old feds to "try to find something to get Trump."

Of course, Trump and his allies are taking precisely the wrong approach. Calling Cohen names, or having pals in Congress direct mobster threats at the witness, doesn't discredit him.  It makes him more credible because the things he's saying are things that the Southern District and Mueller have matched up with more legitimate sources. The feds don't just have Cohen. They have Allen Weisselberg, the Trump organization's accountant and CFO.

As in all mob cases from time immemorial, once you take out the consigliere, then you take out the accountant, and the whole house of cards tumbles down.

Trump's media allies on Fox and elsewhere have been in overdrive the last few days, shocked that anyone would believe a serial liar like Cohen. For them, truth and character suddenly matter, and any word from Cohen's mouth is the fruit of the most poisonous tree. Like aides to Stalin being airbrushed out of the picture after being disappeared to the gulag, Cohen's unpersoning is proceeding apace.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


LIDL WHISKY COSTING £13.49 NAMED ONE OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD (Sabrina Barr, 2/27/19, Independent)

A bottle of whisky costing just £13.49 at Lidl has won big at this year's World Whiskies Awards, scooping the prize for 'Best Scotch Whisky'.

More than 40 international experts sampled whiskies from around the world for the competition.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Britain will have to give up its last African colony thanks to the UN--and Brexit (Olu Alake, 2/27/19, Quartz)

The attraction was obvious: the archipelago of over 60 islands is located just 600 kilometers off the coast of the Indian subcontinent mainland and remains a very convenient launch site for military air and sea craft. Without disclosing this interest, the UK formally disaggregated the Chagos Islands from Mauritius during independence negotiations in 1965, paying Mauritius a sum of £3 million. Mauritius was granted independence in 1968.

Between 1967 to 1973, UK then forcibly removed every one of the over 3,000 occupants of the Islands, moving them to the nearest African nations of Seychelles and Mauritius. Declassified correspondence from the time reveal that this was in accordance with the agreement that the UK had reached with the United States, including assurances that there will be "no indigenous population left on the island except seagulls". The US promptly built a military base on the largest of the atolls, Diego Garcia, which remains in use till today.

The Chagossians have been fighting for their right to return home since their eviction, and Mauritius launched legal proceedings to have the island restated as part of its sovereign control. They scored a major victory in 2017, when the United Nations General Assembly voted that the matter be referred to its principal judicial organ, the ICJ.

The Court's decision on Feb. 25 unequivocally stated that the UK had not respected the freewill expression of the people of Chagos when assuming control of the archipelago and they should therefore immediately relinquish it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Russia: US asks for advice on North Korea talks (AP, 2/25/19)

Lavrov, who is also visiting Vietnam this week, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on Monday that Russia believes that the U.S. ought to offer Pyongyang "security guarantees" for the disarmament deal to succeed. He also mentioned that "the U.S. is even asking our advice, our views on this or that scenario of" how the summit in Hanoi could pan out.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Thousands of miles away from Washington, Trump takes aim at Cohen (Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey February 27, 2019, Washington Post)

"I know what Mr. Trump is," Cohen wrote in his prepared testimony. "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat."

White House officials had hoped Trump would not become distracted overseas by the spectacle of his former attorney and fixer testifying publicly for the first time. But the president's mind, no matter where he is, often is on domestic issues and his political standing, current and former advisers said.

During a Wednesday afternoon lull at his hotel, Trump took to Twitter to slam one of his domestic critics, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

 "I have now spent more time in Vietnam than Da Nang Dick Blumenthal, the third rate Senator from Connecticut (how is Connecticut doing?)," the president tweeted. "His war stories of his heroism in Vietnam were a total fraud -- he was never even there. We talked about it today with Vietnamese leaders!"

 Trump was referring to Blumenthal's admission during his 2010 Senate campaign that he misrepresented his military service. He was in the Marine Corps Reserve, but did his service in the United States, not in Vietnam. Trump has made up false claims about Blumenthal, such as saying the senator brags about his heroism in Da Nang.

For his part, Trump received multiple deferments from the Vietnam draft, citing a bone spur. In his testimony, Cohen recalls that Trump asked him to manage press coverage of his deferments and once told him, "You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam."

Donald's incompetence is nowhere more obvious than when he tries to ape Richard Nixon.  The point of the "Madman Strategy" is to scare the enemy into doing what you want, not to do what it is he wants, as he has with Kim.  And, of course, when you try escaping your scandals by acting presidential abroad you don't then call attention to your own lies.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Bob Menendez 'surprised' by Bernie Sanders' soft Maduro stance (CAITLIN OPRYSKO,  02/26/2019, Politico)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez on Tuesday criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders for his refusal to label socialist Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro a dictator, telling CNN that he was "surprised" that the Democratic presidential candidate has declined to do so.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Missing from Trump's wall war: What immigration hawks really want: The failure could cost Trump critical standing among conservatives demanding results on border security as he heads into 2020. (NANCY COOK and GABBY ORR 02/26/2019, Politico)

Over two years in the White House, Trump has struggled to execute numerous agenda items long on immigration hardliners' wish list -- like finalizing stricter regulations, overhauling the immigration court system, adding additional surveillance technology to the border, doing away with sanctuary cities and making sure employers electronically check the immigration status of all workers.

Instead, Trump has picked high-profile battles over a southern border wall and banning travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries that generated controversy and whipped up parts of his base, but did not do much to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. In fact, the number of illegal crossings at the southern border rose this past fall to levels not seen since 2014 under President Barack Obama, although they still remain low relative to historic numbers.

"The focus on the wall is a bit myopic," said RJ Hauman, director of government relations at FAIR, a group that seeks to reduce immigration overall. "They are right to pursue fencing in some areas, but we need to remember: It is just one little cog in a much broader approach. Sometimes the wall can suck all of the air out of the room."

Often Trump blames this lack of progress on uncooperative Democrats, recalcitrant Republicans and activist judges. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

PRIDE OF THE DEPLORABLES (profanity alert):

Michael Cohen Plans to Call Trump a 'Con Man' and a 'Cheat' in Congressional Testimony (Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 26, 2019, NY Times)

"Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it," Mr. Cohen will say. "He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project." [...]

Mr. Cohen will also tell Congress that Mr. Trump had advance knowledge through his longtime adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. that WikiLeaks would publish hacked emails that would damage his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

"In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone," his written remarks say. "Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of 'wouldn't that be great.'"

Mr. Stone, who was recently indicted on charges that include witness tampering and false statements to Congress, has denied to reporters that such a conversation took place. The recent indictment against him made no mention of such a conversation, but it did state that a senior campaign official was directed to contact Mr. Stone around that period of time about what material WikiLeaks had.

And Mr. Cohen will reference a conversation he claims to have observed between the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his father, which he believes happened around the time of a planned meeting with a Russian lawyer promising "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

He does not claim to have heard a direct reference to the meeting. Instead, Mr. Cohen will say, he recalled this event after The Times revealed the June 2016 meeting had taken place.

"I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, 'The meeting is all set.' I remember Mr. Trump saying, "O.K. good ... let me know,'" Mr. Cohen will say. [...]

Mr. Cohen will chronicle less legally dubious but unflattering encounters, as well, according to the prepared remarks. He plans to say that as a candidate, Mr. Trump directed him to write letters to his high school, college and other entities threatening them not to release transcripts of his standardized test scores.

He will claim that Mr. Trump asked him to put off reporters asking about his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft, telling Mr. Cohen privately that there were no medical records of the bone spurs that he has said affected his heel.

"You think I'm stupid? I wasn't going to Vietnam," Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Cohen.

And he will assert that "it was my experience" that Mr. Trump inflated his wealth to garner attention, and deflated his assets to lower his tax bills. [...]

Detailing the hush money payments to the actress that Mr. Cohen was reimbursed for, he will state the affair as fact and will say that lying to Mr. Trump's wife, Melania, is something he deeply regrets. "She is a kind, good person," he will say. "I respect her greatly, and she did not deserve that."

February 26, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM



Ryan or Guidry? Rice or Parker? One of the axioms of baseball is that fans--and insiders, too--will forever argue over who is best at a particular skill. Best hitter, best pitcher, best peanut vendor. No claim of superiority is beyond dispute. Well, almost none. The sole exceptions are the superlatives bestowed on Jimmie Reese, a spry 74-year-old coach for the California Angels. Reese not only is the oldest man in a major league uniform, but he is also the world's greatest fungo hitter. There can be no debate on either point.

For the information of fans who never arrive at a game before the national anthem, fungoes are the balls a coach hits to fielders during pregame drills. The derivation of the term "fungo" is somewhat obscure. According to one explanation, it comes from an old game in which the hitter would yell, "One go, two go, fungoes." Whatever the source, White Sox Coach Bobby Winkles says that when it comes to fungoes, "Jimmie Reese is No. 1 and the rest of us are eighth, ninth and 10th." Minnesota Manager Gene Mauch adds, "He's got a swing any tournament golf pro would envy."

Mauch's praise helps explain how Reese once shot an 82 for 18 holes using only a fungo bat and a putter. In 1968, while coaching Seattle in the minors, Reese beat a golf pro in a test of accuracy. Standing at home plate, he stroked four out of 15 baseballs into a circle in centerfield with his bat, while the golfer dropped in two golf balls with a nine iron.

In another esoteric test, Reese won a bet from current Pirate skipper Chuck Tanner, when Tanner was the Seattle Rainiers' manager, by hitting a flagpole from 100 feet away on his first swing. But Reese's fungo skills have not always been employed so frivolously. Until 1972 he "pitched" batting practice in the minors with a fungo bat--and without a protective screen. "He hit strikes with 90% accuracy," says Cleveland Second Baseman Duane Kuiper. "That's better than most pitchers." Reese's mound career ended prematurely after a line drive whistled dangerously close to his head. "If that ball had hit me," recalls Reese with a shudder, "it would have sent me to the great beyond."

Reese broke into baseball in 1917 as a bat boy, a clear indication of destiny's call. The highlights of his playing career came as a Yankee rookie in 1930 when he hit .346 in 188 at bats and roomed with Babe Ruth. "I probably roomed with his bed more than with Babe," recalls Reese. "He had one of those unusual constitutions. He could stay up all night and still hit a ball 500 feet."

Since retiring as a player in 1938, Reese has banged out some two million short hoppers, towering pop-ups, long flies and sinking line drives--most of them with bats he makes in his workshop at home. That's right, Jimmie Reese, the game's premier fungo hitter, doesn't use a store-bought fungo bat. A wood-carver in his spare time, he fashions his own by splitting a regular bat through the middle with a band saw. "Tan oak doesn't crack or split as easily as the ash or poplar they use in the fungo bats today," explains Reese, "and mine is heavier. Normal fungo bats are 16 to 25 ounces; mine is 27 and has greater balance." Reese hits the ball with the rounded side and uses the flat surface to scoop up balls as the fielders throw them in to him. "Not having to bend down to pick up those balls has added two or three years to my career," he says. He also pops 80 vitamin pills daily and never lights the cigars he chomps.

For the most part, Reese has used the same fungo bat the last nine years, unlike other coaches, who go through at least three or four a season. But this one is not really his favorite. He almost lost that bat in 1967 when he made the mistake of lending it to a young player. Without Reese's knowledge, the player took the bat into the batting cage and--oh no!--broke it. Because of their light weight, fungo bats are easy to swing and control, but they cannot withstand the impact of a major league fastball. Reese was able to put the broken bat back together, and now he keeps it under lock and key.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


This 21-year-old tweeted lies about Robert Mueller and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now, he's eyeing the 2020 election (Gus Garcia-Roberts, 2/26/19, USA TODAY)

 A false claim bubbled up from the internet last month that Sen. Kamala Harris, the recently announced presidential candidate, wasn't eligible for election because she had immigrant parents and spent part of her childhood in Canada. The claim, an echo of the "birther" conspiracy that trailed President Barack Obama, was widely debunked but still addressed seriously by mainstream news pundits, including CNN's Chris Cuomo.

Even better for Jacob Wohl, the 21-year-old Californian who ignited the Harris birther claim with a tweet, some people actually seemed to accept it as fact. [...]

He flew to Minnesota last week to "investigate" the rumor that Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar married her brother, a mission for which he tried to fund-raise $25,000 from his online followers. Wohl's trip to the heartland devolved into bizarre tweets in which he suggested that Minneapolis was so overrun by Somali jihadists that he had to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a team of "security professionals."

Wohl's most prominent gambit was also his most disastrous: an apparent sloppy attempt to accuse Trump's nemesis special counsel Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct days before the midterm elections in November. His actions were referred to the FBI for potential criminal investigation. The woman he named as a credible accuser of the special prosecutor, Carolyne Cass, recently told USA TODAY that Wohl "made it up," deceived her with a false identity and tried to coerce her to appear at a news conference against her will.

Wohl initially maintained that Cass's allegations were credible. When told that Cass said they were inaccurate, Wohl then claimed that he couldn't speak about the situation because of a legal non-disclosure agreement with Cass, who denied that such an agreement exists. An FBI spokesperson declined to comment on whether the agency was investigating the episode. 

Deciphering the Mueller saga is characteristic of how difficult it is to grasp at the truth with Wohl, who represents a political moment in which even the most basic facts are in dispute.  

In some ways, Wohl is simply carrying on the dubious American tradition of deceit in politics, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President." Jamieson described 19th-century political operatives who would secretly buy newspapers to dictate coverage, and the dissemination of false accounts about President Andrew Johnson being a murderer.

The difference now, she said, is that the internet has democratized that deceit. It's more difficult online to determine the source of a claim, a major factor in deciding whether to believe it. Being repeatedly bombarded with a claim - social media's specialty -increases its perceived accuracy, even if it's false and has been publicly debunked. People are more likely to believe a false claim that fits their ideology, and the internet naturally facilitates people like Wohl finding and communicating with like-minded groups.

"It takes a real talent to figure out what kind of deceptions will gain traction," Jamieson said, and to have both the knowledge of their demographic and technical ability to "figure out what will resonate as opposed to what will be laughed at."

Wohl disclosed a raft of schemes he says are in the works that he hopes will resonate in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.  

He says he plans to create "enormous left-wing online properties" - such as deceptive Facebook and Twitter accounts - "and use those to steer the left-wing votes in the primaries to what we feel are weaker candidates compared with Trump." It's a plot similar to what Mueller has charged in indictments that the Russians crafted in an effort to boost the 2016 campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein and hobble Hillary Clinton.  

Another stated scheme: seeking to collect damaging information on left-leaning non-profits including Media Matters for America, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Right Wing Watch by offering their insiders "moral reconciliation," and if that doesn't work, "things of worth" - such as money.

And the Trumpbots wonder that they are figures of ridicule....
Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Legal Experts: Rep. Matt Gaetz Appears to Have Violated the Law with Cohen Twitter Threat (Matt Naham, February 26th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), self-described as a "Florida man proudly serving the First District in Congress" and described by President Donald Trump as a "machine" who is "handsome and going places," took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to say the following:

"Hey @MichaelCohen212 - Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison," he said. "She's about to learn a lot."

If it reads like a threat to you, you are not alone, as many have immediately drawn the conclusion that this was witness tampering.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Israel's far-right Otzma party is dangerous. I know because I banned its leader from the US.: As a US consular officer in Tel Aviv, I concluded that the Otzma leader, with his ties to a terrorist group, was a danger (Noah Siegel, FEB 26, 2019, JTA)

The next Israeli government may include terrorists that are barred from entering the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crossed every moral line for political gain in Israeli politics last week when he brokered a merger of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party with Otzma Yehudit, the racist successor to the Kach and Kahane Chai parties, who advocated for the "transfer" of Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories. This completes the near total rehabilitation of Kahanists into mainstream Israeli politics, despite the fact that Otzma's leader, Michael Ben Ari, has been banned from entering the United States for nearly a decade because of his links to terrorism.

I know this because I made the case for his ban.

Netanyahu's radical-right alliance rattles AIPAC's allegiance (Akiva Eldar, February 26, 2019, Al Monitor)

In 2007, AIPAC invited no less a racist than the evangelical preacher John Hagee to address its annual convention. That would be the same John Hagee who suggested in his book "Jerusalem Countdown" that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews back to Israel in order to fulfill a biblical prophecy. The Holocaust, Hagee has also opined, occurred because "the Jews rebelled and denied the true God." Thousands of pro-Israel activists cheered the man who said that "it was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews" that had led to the Jews' trials and tribulations over the centuries and that the Jewish Rothschild family was part of a global economic conspiracy.

AIPAC did not break its silence even when Netanyahu recently cooperated with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in waging an anti-Semitic campaign of incitement against the Jewish American philanthropist George Soros. The American gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, philanthropist to Netanyahu and Orban and patron of Israel's political right, does not appreciate Jews such as Soros who donate to human rights causes advocating minority rights.

Netanyahu knows that what most American Jews think does not matter. What counts is what AIPAC does for presidential and congressional candidates. As long as he has the wealthy, conservative lobby in his pocket, Reform and Conservative Jews can shout until they're blue in the face about his violating promises he made to enable egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.

AIPAC's tolerance of Netanyahu's alliance with Liberman and with pro-annexationists such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the New Right, has resulted in complacency on the right. So did AIPAC's tolerance of the series of discriminatory laws that Netanyahu, Liberman and Bennett enacted attacking minority rights.

Netanyahu was too busy with the police investigations against him and a possible indictment for bribery to examine what was happening in the American Jewish arena. He figured that his struggle against anti-Semitism from the left -- such as against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and anti-Zionists -- would leave him free to conduct his affair with Hagee and Co., those who convinced President Donald Trump to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May. The prime minister surmised that inflating the threat from enemies such as Iran and BDS would distract US Jewry's attention from other issues. It would conceal the threat by Israel's right to Israeli democracy and human rights from the eyes of American Jews, most of them Democrats.

Even more so, Netanyahu took into account that American Jewish organizations such as the liberal lobbying group J Street would protest his embrace of Otzma Yehudit. In fact, this provided him with an excuse to lash out at the "hypocrisy and double standards by the left," which he said "acted to bring extreme Islamists into Knesset." He was ill prepared for AIPAC to "make such a big deal" of the new alliance he cooked up on the right.

The desecration of Israel (Yossi Klein Halevi, FEB 24, 2019, Times of Israel)

For Kahanism the purpose of Jewish chosenness isn't to serve humanity - "and through you will be blessed all the families of the earth" - but to rule over it. The messianic era isn't Isaiah's vision of a world united in prayer but Kahane's vision of vengeance against the nations. Violence isn't a necessity to be dealt out with the measured caution of the rabbis, but an ecstatic affirmation of God's power and purpose.

The bitter irony is that Kahanism imagines itself to be the theology of Kiddush Hashem - sanctification of God's Name. According to Kahanism, the Jewish people sanctifies God's Name by defeating Amalek - the archetypal enemy that is the embodiment of evil, and that takes different forms in each generation. The ultimate expression of Kiddush Hashem, of the Kahanist inversion of the sacred, was the Goldstein massacre - which not coincidentally happened on Purim, celebrating the victory over Haman, a literal descendant of the tribe of Amalek.

The way to defeat Amalek, and thereby prepare the way for the coming of the messiah, is by showing, like Goldstein, a fearless contempt for the world, embracing our destiny of total isolation. We are forbidden to seek alliances: Only by freeing ourselves from the illusion of non-Jewish support will we merit redemption. The greatest Hillul Hashem is for Jews to seek friendship with "the goyim." Kahanism despises classical Zionism, which aspired to do precisely that by restoring the Jews to the community of nations.

The political agenda of Kahanism - the mass expulsion of Palestinians, the destruction of the Dome of the Rock - would ensure Israel's total isolation, proving we fear no one but God. Political madness as Kiddush Hashem.

Kahanism is the sanctification of our woundedness, the fantasies of vengeance of a powerless people wedded to the renewal of Jewish power. No one is more dangerous than armed fanatics who see themselves as victims.

In its final descent, Kahanism became a theology of racism. The platform of Kach - political precursor of the Otzma Yehudit party - promoted a law outlawing sexual relations between Arabs and Jews.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Why the Robert Kraft Bust Matters (RICH LOWRY, February 26, 2019, National Review)

As Donna Hughes of the University of Rhode Island has written in support of a perpetrator-focused approach to sex trafficking: "The men who purchase the sex acts remain nameless, faceless, and uncharacterized. They are not stigmatized the way that 'prostitutes' are. Yet, the men, the buyers of commercial sex acts, are the ultimate consumers of trafficked women and children. They use them for entertainment and sexual gratification, and often perpetrate acts of violence against them."

To their credit, authorities undertook a monthslong investigation of the Orchids of Asia spa, where strangely the only customers were male, and dozens of similar operations. They placed cameras inside and charged hundreds of men. (The agency that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives want to abolish, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, assisted on the case.)

The Orchids of Asia spa was in an unremarkable strip mall in a tony area of Florida, neighbors with other businesses including an Outback Steakhouse and a surf shop. Beneath the veneer of normality there existed a sink of degradation.

The women were lured from China with promises of legitimate work and then trapped in a life of sexual slavery. They were working to pay off debts incurred traveling to the United States. Some of them had their passports confiscated. There was no choice and no escape from a nightmarish existence that makes a mockery of the glamorous image of prostitution in much of the popular culture and belies the term "sex worker."

Sex with up to a thousand men a year. No change of clothes. Sleep on massage tables. Food from hot plates at the back of the parlor. Moved around from one parlor to the next as pawns of the traffickers.

And this is a major business. According to the anti-trafficking group Polaris, the country's 9,000 illicit massage parlors make $2.5 billion a year.

They are such a lucrative industry only because the Robert Krafts of the world are patrons. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Kamala Harris Calls Trump Racist (MAIREAD MCARDLE, February 26, 2019, National Review)

Senator Kamala Harris, one of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination for president, called President Trump a racist in an interview published Tuesday.

"When you talk about him calling African countries sh**hole countries. When you talk about him referring to immigrants as rapists and murderers, I don't think you can reach any other conclusion," the California senator told The Root. [...]

Harris also referenced Trump's comments on the deadly 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist purposefully drove a car into a crowd of people, killing a woman, amid clashes between white-nationalist activists and counter-protesters.

"I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said at the time.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


The Real Reason for Netanyahu's Ferocious Attacks on Israel's Arab Citizens (Ron Gerlitz, Feb 25, 2019, Ha'aretz)

Following improved polling for Blue and White (the combined Gantz-Lapid party), a potent threat, the prime minister ratcheted up his rhetoric into the danger zone with incitement against the political representatives of Arab citizens, claiming that the Arab parties are intent on destroying Israel.

This outrageous lie and its dangerous message poses a real physical danger to leaders of the Arab parties. Some passionate partisan from the ultra-right could decide to take action to prevent those Knesset members from "destroying Israel."

His election day talk of "Arab voters turning out in droves" is old news now, when Netanyahu is leading entire election campaign which is steeped in incitement against Arab citizens and their political representation.

Not to be outdone, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev began her primary campaign with a venomous video offering no details of her accomplishments in culture or sport. Instead, she vilifies Arab members of the Knesset one after another.

Other right-wing ministers are stoking the flames by accusing Arab MKs of treason and all of them together piloted the Nation-State bill through the Knesset to become the law of the land in July 2018, igniting outrage and protest in Israel among Arab citizens and all who hold democracy dear.

This bill and the ugly rhetoric top a decade of poisonous government political attack against Arab citizens since Netanyahu retook power in 2009.

Its three main components: incitement of unprecedented scope and intensity from the prime minister and other senior ministers, including calls to boycott Arab areas and citizens and accusations levelled against Arab Knesset members of treason and collaboration with the enemy; attempts to erode the legitimate political representation of the Arab constituency; and harsh legislation clearly signaling that Arabs have no part here and do not belong.

The central premise is that only Jews are Israeli and, even there, only Jews approved by the Rabbinate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Wisconsin governor orders troops to leave southern border (TODD RICHMOND, 2/26/19, AP)

The governor said about 112 troops are currently serving in Arizona but keeping the borders safe and protecting immigrants seeking asylum is the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's job. He said there's not enough evidence to support Republican President Donald Trump's declaration that a national emergency exists and there's no justification for Wisconsin troops to remain.

"I cannot support keeping our brave service men and women away from their families without a clear need or purpose that would actively benefit the people of Wisconsin or our nation," Evers said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Have Dark Forces Been Messing With the Cosmos? (Dennis Overbye, Feb. 25, 2019, NY Times)

There was, you might say, a disturbance in the Force.

Long, long ago, when the universe was only about 100,000 years old -- a buzzing, expanding mass of particles and radiation -- a strange new energy field switched on. That energy suffused space with a kind of cosmic antigravity, delivering a not-so-gentle boost to the expansion of the universe.

Then, after another 100,000 years or so, the new field simply winked off, leaving no trace other than a speeded-up universe.

So goes the strange-sounding story being promulgated by a handful of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. In a bold and speculative leap into the past, the team has posited the existence of this field to explain an astronomical puzzle: the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be.

February 25, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Nikki Haley's next act: A policy group, a book -- but no word on 2024 (Anne Gearan, February 25, 2019, Washington Post)

"With the hyperpolarization that we have right now and the division that we have right now, I want to make sure that we put out good policy," Haley said in an interview with The Washington Post ahead of Monday's launch of "Stand for America," her new policy group. [...]

"I thought hard about what life was going to be like as a private citizen, and I think what I've always loved is policy -- whether it's foreign policy or domestic policy, I've always loved it, and I always want to have a voice," Haley said in the interview.

The organization's initial list of subjects reflects Haley's conservative worldview and political instincts, while its website features photographs of Haley traveling the world as U.N. ambassador and taking questions in the White House briefing room.

The group's policy positions mostly align with Trump's, while also bearing echoes of traditional Republican views that have taken a back seat during the populist-flavored Trump era.

She is tougher rhetorically on Russia that her former boss usually is, and says she disagrees with Trump's preference for punitive tariffs as a negotiating tactic in trade disputes.

"America faces many threats from enemies and competitors overseas. China, Russia, and Iran are chief among these international dangers. Stand For America is committed to stopping dangers from abroad and protecting the American people's security, interests, and values," the new group's website says. "More and more here at home, we see our prosperity being threatened by socialist schemes of higher taxes, burdensome job-destroying regulations, government-run health care, and unsecure borders."

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


More Democrats Now Identify as Pro-Life, Poll Finds (Rachel del Guidice, February 25, 2019, Daily Signal)

Americans are split down the middle as to whether they are pro-life or pro-abortion, a new poll finds, with more Democrats joining the pro-life camp.

"In a substantial, double-digit shift ... Americans are now as likely to identify as pro-life, 47 percent, as pro-choice, 47 percent," reads a Marist poll conducted for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization.

"Among Democrats, the gap between pro-life and pro-choice identifiers was cut in half from 55 percent to 27 percent," according to the poll.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


How Fringe Groups Are Using QAnon to Amplify Their Wild Messages (Kelly Weill, 02.20.19, dAILY bEAST)

The far-right QAnon conspiracy theory falsely accuses virtually all President Donald Trump's foes of being involved in a Satanic pedophilia and cannibalism ring. Its nebulous nature, branches of which include belief in time travel and reptilians, makes it a prime conspiracy theory for paranoid Americans. But the German far right--or at least people who support it--are jumping on the U.S.-based theory, according to a new study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an anti-extremism think tank. Now those troll armies are using QAnon as a megaphone for their own causes.

...but the shots in Yellow Vests this weekend were priceless.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


'We fell in love': Trump and Kim shower praise, stroke egos on path to nuclear negotiations (Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey February 25, 2019, Washington Post)

Aides have discussed with Trump that Kim is not a rational actor, and that he could be mentally unstable, according to a person present for those private conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Who--or What--Was the FBI's Mole at the Heart of the Trump Campaign? (John R. Schindler, 02/25/19, NY Observer)

On July 12, 2018, Strzok touched on this sensitive source in his public Congressional testimony:

What we had before us was an allegation that something significant, that members of the Trump campaign may have been working in cooperation with the Russians. Some people were saying, 'hey look, this sensitive source of information that's so sensitive, so vulnerable, we shouldn't put it in danger,' because sometimes if you go out and do aggressive investigation, if it's a drug snitch or an intelligence source, you can cause significant harm.

Who, then, was this super-sensitive source providing the FBI with evidence of possible collusion between candidate Trump and the Kremlin? Three individuals are known to have provided information to CROSSFIRE HURRICANE: Alexander Downer, Australia's high commissioner (i.e., ambassador to Britain), retired British spy Christopher Steele (complier of the notorious dossier about Trump and the Russians), and Stefan Halper, an academic and supposed intelligence source for the FBI and CIA.

To be blunt, none of these men is a plausible fit for the "very sensitive source" whom Strzok referenced. [...]

But what if the mole wasn't a person? The FBI has long protected super-secret technical intelligence programs, above all signals intelligence, by masquerading their information as coming from (non-existent) human sources. Were Strzok and Page obliquely referring to top-secret-plus SIGINT regarding Trump's clandestine ties to Moscow?

That would fit with what this column previously reported about the president's Kremlin ties. As I told you last May, "The counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump was kicked off by not one, not two, but multiple SIGINT reports which set off alarm bells inside our Intelligence Community," explaining that the initial information came from foreign intelligence partners. I added:

NSA understood quite a bit about Trump's connections to Moscow, and by mid-2016, it had increased its efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery regarding the candidate's Russian ties. In response to urgent FBI requests for more information, NSA rose to the occasion, and by the time that Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination in mid-July 2016, 'We knew we had a Russian agent on our hands,' as a senior NSA official put it to me recently.

That seems to be the same intelligence which Strzok and Page referred to in coded language, for classification reasons. The Trump White House now is no doubt searching frantically for an FBI mole in their ranks who may not exist. Excellent technical intelligence was always the underpinning of CROSSFIRE HURRICANE, as the FBI has been careful to conceal in order to protect top-secret intelligence sources and methods. The full spy story here, just as with the last major league joint NSA-FBI counterintelligence coup against Moscow, will take decades to be fully revealed to the public.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


Greener Childhood Associated With Happier Adulthood (JONATHAN LAMBERT, 2/25/19, NPR)

The experience of natural spaces, brimming with greenish light, the smells of soil and the quiet fluttering of leaves in the breeze can calm our frenetic modern lives. It's as though our very cells can exhale when surrounded by nature, relaxing our bodies and minds.

Some people seek to maximize the purported therapeutic effects of contact with the unbuilt environment by embarking on sessions of forest bathing, slowing down and becoming mindfully immersed in nature.

But in a rapidly urbanizing world, green spaces are shrinking as our cities grow out and up. Scientists are working to understand how green spaces, or lack of them, can affect our mental health.

A study published Monday in the journal PNAS details what the scientists say is the largest investigation of the association between green spaces and mental health.

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark found that growing up near vegetation is associated with an up to 55 percent lower risk of mental health disorders in adulthood.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Hopes of trade deal push Wall Street higher (Shreyashi Sanyal, 2/25/19, Reuters) 

Optimism on the trade front and dovish signals from the Federal Reserve have bolstered U.S. stocks in recent weeks, with the S&P 500 index is 4.5 percent away from its record closing high hit in late September.

All Donald has to do to liberate the economy is abandon everything he loves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Robert Kraft, Jeffrey Epstein, Donald Trump and a day of reckoning for America's billionaires (Will Bunch, February 24, 2019, Philly.com)

The women who serviced Bob Kraft were lured to America, typically from China, and promised a better life through legitimate massage-therapy work. According to local law-enforcement authorities who last week shut down not just the Orchids of Asia but five other spas and massage parlors along Florida's Gold Coast, these women were brought to an alien land halfway across the world from home and then pressured into prostitution with no days off and "minimal" hygiene. They lived in spartan quarters right there on the premises, so they can work until all hours of the night, having sex with 1,500 men a year.

These modern-day sex slaves worked for a clientele that were the supposed pillars of the affluent zip codes in and around Palm Beach -- members of the clergy and respectable business people, including, according to police, at least one other billionaire, Massachusetts equity fund owner John Childs. Childs has also donated a whopping $4.3 million to Republican causes, presumably to elect "family values" candidates. Did Childs, Kraft and these other paragons of civic virtue realize that they were subsidizing slavery? That doesn't matter -- what's so galling is that they didn't care, that the word wasn't even in their vocabulary.

Will Kraft get away with this? If his case goes down anything like that of his Palm Beach neighbor Epstein, he just might. Epstein, a former Bear Stearns partner and billionaire financier, was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage teen girls at his Palm Beach mansion between 2001 and 2006. The investigation began in 2005 with a tip to Palm Beach police about a 14-year-old girl who'd been brought there and paid $300 to strip and massage Epstein. A lengthy FBI investigation led to molestation allegations against Epstein from 36 different girls, many of whom were lured from troubled homes in what the Miami Herald later described as "a cult-like scheme."

But the billionaire's young victims were eventually abused not once but twice -- first by Jeffrey Epstein, and then by the U.S. Justice Department. Its prosecutors -- presented with a mound of evidence on the scale of a Jerry Sandusky or a Bill Cosby -- agreed to a stunning slap on the wrist. Epstein was allowed to plead to just one state felony charge of soliciting prostitution and granted immunity from federal charges. Coconspirators -- known and unknown, potentially including the rich and powerful of Palm Beach -- also got immunity.

Incredibly, Epstein slept just 13 months in a county jail and was allowed to leave for work every day. Even worse, as the Herald's Julie K. Brown (a former Daily News colleague and friend) reported in her Polk Award-winning series, Epstein's victims were never informed of his sweetheart deal or allowed to weigh in. On Friday, a judge ruled that Justice Department lawyers broke the law in their handling of the deal. The man who oversaw all of this -- the then-U.S. Attorney for Miami, Alex Acosta -- has moved on. He is still the U.S. Secretary of Labor, appointed by Epstein's friend President Trump.

February 24, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Want a Green New Deal? Here's a better one. (Editorial Board,  February 24, 2019, Washington Post)

ASK PRACTICALLY any climate scientist whether humanity must cut greenhouse-gas emissions, and you get an emphatic yes. Ask practically any economist how to do that as cheaply as possible, and the answer is equally emphatic: put a price on carbon dioxide emissions with a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program.

Pollution pricing is not untested theory. It is the policy that ended acid rain, ahead of schedule and more cheaply than projected. Following that success, it was long assumed that pricing carbon dioxide would be the centerpiece of any ambitious plan to slash emissions. Yet Republicans never embraced the market-based idea, even though conservative economists admit its appeal, because they never accepted the need to act at all. Some environmentalists, meanwhile, are increasingly wary of carbon pricing. The Democrats' Green New Deal, which is noncommittal on the policy, reflects the accelerating drift from the obvious.

Yet neither the science nor the economics has changed. It is still imperative to act. And carbon pricing is still the best first-line policy.

Theory and practice confirm this unassailable point: If it costs more to pollute, there will be less pollution. Taxing all fuels according to their carbon content would send a price signal to every business and every consumer. Habits that pollute would become more costly. Changes that reduced pollution -- generating cleaner electricity, buying more efficient appliances, weatherizing homes, investing in smart thermostats -- would become more desirable.

A high-enough carbon price would shape millions of choices, small and large, about what to buy, how to invest and how to live that would result in substantial emissions cuts. People would prioritize the easiest changes, minimizing the costs of the energy transition. With a price that steadily rose, market forces would steadily wring carbon dioxide out of the economy -- without the government trying to dictate exactly how, wasting money on special-interest boondoggles.

Here's an example. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found last year that an average carbon price between 2030 and the end of the century of $100, $200 or even $300 per ton of carbon dioxide would result in huge greenhouse-gas emissions cuts, could restrain warming to the lowest safety threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius and would almost certainly prevent the world from breaching the traditional warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius. In contrast, U.S. biofuels policy, a sad example of nanny-state inefficiency, costs $556 to $618 in 2010 dollars to abate one ton of carbon dioxide, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2013. With its array of green subsidies and mandates, the government is overpaying for too few emissions cuts in too few sectors of the economy. [...]

But even carbon pricing would not be quite enough. There are places where the price signal would not come through or be effective. In those circumstances, the government would have to do more.

For example, economists know that companies that invest in research and development do not get rewarded for the full social value of their work. Others benefit from their innovations without paying. Consequently, firms do not invest in research as much as society should want. On clean energy, that would be true even with a price on carbon emissions. The government should fill this research gap. It would take only a small fraction of the revenue a carbon pricing system would produce to fund a much more ambitious clean-energy research agenda. Basic scientific research and applied research programs such as ARPA-E should be scaled up dramatically.

You seldom hear Russ Roberts completely flummoxed on his Econ Talk podcast, though it's nearly always when his libertarianism comes into conflict with his faith and or reality, as here where he just can't process the fact that ARPA-E returns value.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Ed Gillespie's split personality campaign: The Republican nominee for Virginia governor is running on jobs on the stump and the culture war on TV. (KEVIN ROBILLARD 11/06/2017, Politico)

Ed Gillespie is running two very different campaigns for governor of Virginia.

In the last week of the biggest election of 2017, the Republican nominee has spent his time on the trail emphasizing his family's immigrant story and talking up plans to improve Virginia's economy.

But Gillespie's stump speech has diverged sharply from his fusillade of paid advertising focused on cultural hot buttons -- his support for keeping Confederate statues up, his opposition to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, and scorching accusations that Democrat Ralph Northam backs making it easier for sex offenders to buy guns.

The divergent campaigns appear to have helped Gillespie close the gap with Northam, the lieutenant governor and longtime polling leader, in the final weeks of the race. Democrats have responded with a furious effort to gin up black and Latino turnout and link Gillespie to President Donald Trump. But Gillespie's strategy -- adopting Trump's racially charged culture war issues without adopting the president's say-anything-at-any-time unpredictable style -- could be widely adopted by other establishment Republican candidates in 2018 as a way to fire up Trump's base without alienating Republicans who may dislike the unpopular president.

"You'd never take a knee ... so take a stand on Election Day," read campaign mailers from Gillespie featuring a kneeling football player, part of a series of mail pieces focused on social issues.

The mail is emblematic of Gillespie's advertising themes in the closing week of the race. Over the last seven days, Gillespie has aired 12 ads on broadcast television, according to Advertising Analytics. Eight have been negative attacks on Northam about social issues, mostly crime -- including four focused on Northam's support of restoration of rights for felons, including sex offenders, "making it easier for these violent felons to get guns"; two ads attacking Northam for supporting the removal of statues of Confederate generals; one ad linking a Northam vote to allow sanctuary cities in Virginia to the growth of the violent El Salvadoran gang MS-13; and another spot criticizing an ad from the pro-Northam group Latino Victory Fund, which featured a Gillespie supporter chasing immigrant children in a pickup truck.

...suggesting this is exactly who he thinks Virginians are:

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM



The mirrorworld doesn't yet fully exist, but it is coming. Someday soon, every place and thing in the real world--every street, lamppost, building, and room--will have its full-size digital twin in the mirrorworld. For now, only tiny patches of the mirrorworld are visible through AR headsets. Piece by piece, these virtual fragments are being stitched together to form a shared, persistent place that will parallel the real world. The author Jorge Luis Borges imagined a map exactly the same size as the territory it represented. "In time," Borges wrote, "the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it." We are now building such a 1:1 map of almost unimaginable scope, and this world will become the next great digital platform.

Google Earth has long offered a hint of what this mirrorworld will look like. My friend Daniel Suarez is a best-selling science fiction author. In one sequence of his most recent book, Change Agent, a fugitive escapes along the coast of Malaysia. His descriptions of the roadside eateries and the landscape describe exactly what I had seen when I drove there recently, so I asked him when he'd made the trip. "Oh, I've never been to Malaysia," he smiled sheepishly. "I have a computer with a set of three linked monitors, and I opened up Google Earth. Over several evenings I 'drove' along Malaysian highway AH18 in Street View." Suarez--like Savage--was seeing a crude version of the mirrorworld.

It is already under construction. Deep in the research labs of tech companies around the world, scientists and engineers are racing to construct virtual places that overlay actual places. Crucially, these emerging digital landscapes will feel real; they'll exhibit what landscape architects call place­ness. The Street View images in Google Maps are just facades, flat images hinged together. But in the mirrorworld, a virtual building will have volume, a virtual chair will exhibit chairness, and a virtual street will have layers of textures, gaps, and intrusions that all convey a sense of "street."

The mirrorworld--a term first popularized by Yale computer scientist David Gelernter--will reflect not just what something looks like but its context, meaning, and function. We will interact with it, manipulate it, and experience it like we do the real world.

At first, the mirrorworld will appear to us as a high-resolution stratum of information overlaying the real world. We might see a virtual name tag hovering in front of people we previously met. Perhaps a blue arrow showing us the right place to turn a corner. Or helpful annotations anchored to places of interest. (Unlike the dark, closed goggles of VR, AR glasses use see-through technology to insert virtual apparitions into the real world.)

Eventually we'll be able to search physical space as we might search a text--"find me all the places where a park bench faces sunrise along a river." We will hyperlink objects into a network of the physical, just as the web hyperlinked words, producing marvelous benefits and new products.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 PM


The Jussie Smollett Smokescreen: Several major stories this week revealed deep truths about this political moment in America. None pertained to the TV actor. (MATT FORD, February 22, 2019, New Republic)

[O]ne story received more media coverage than either of those, or any other this week: the arrest of Empire actor Jussie Smollett for filing a false police report in Chicago. Smollett, who is black and gay, told police earlier this month that he had been attacked by two white men who shouted "This is MAGA country," used racial and homophobic slurs, poured an unidentified liquid on him, and tied a noose around his neck. Investigators now say that Smollett paid two other men to help stage the apparent hate crime, potentially out of frustration with his salary and screen time on the popular Fox drama. Smollett denies the allegations.

Critics seized on the Smollett episode to make broad pronouncements about the American left and the journalists that covered his story. There's a certain irony about this, as the frenzy of coverage has obscured other news stories that tell deeper truths about the current political moment. For all the ways in which conservatives claim that mainstream news outlets are biased toward liberals, the last week shows how conservative narratives still get privileged in mainstream political discourse.

...when a gay black man fakes a hate/identity crime because he knows it makes him more marketable in the media capital of the world, it's what's wrong with conservatism.

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


Where in the world does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez live? (Isabel Vincent, Kevin Fasick and Mary Kay Linge, February 23, 2019, NY Post)

She has no district office and no local phone number, unlike the state's three other freshman members.

And it's unclear whether the 29-year-old lawmaker, who represents the Bronx and Queens, actually still lives in the Parkchester neighborhood that has been so closely tied to her rise -- even though she won her upset victory over fellow Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley with accusations that his home in Virginia made him too Washington-focused to serve his district.

Ocasio-Cortez has used her deceased father's Bronx condo on her voter registration since 2012, and even posed in the one-bedroom Bronx flat for celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz in a Vogue magazine profile after her stunning November election. But The Post could find little indication she continues to live there.

She seems confused about the role of the position to which she was elected.
Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


The suspiciously sexist views of Amy Klobuchar's management style, explained (Laura McGann, Feb 24, 2019, Vox)

It would be out-of-line for a typical boss to ask an employee to clean her lunch utensil. But a senator's job isn't typical. Her life is carefully choreographed and over-scheduled so she can run around Capitol Hill to hearings and press conferences and travel back-and-forth to her home state for appearances and meetings, town halls, campaign speeches, fundraisers and TV hits. Female senators are under more pressure than male colleagues to look their best.

The result is that staffers aren't working a typical job, even for the Senate. The aides to female senators make sure their boss is 360° ready, from being briefed, to fed with low-cal foods while traveling, to spotting salad-dressing stains on her blazer. That's not to say they are servants. A Senate ethics rule bars lawmakers from requiring staff perform "personal duties," which could, arguably, mean no picking up dry cleaning. But what about wiping off a comb before an event? Hard to say.

Most of the former staffer complaints fall into a couple of categories. A lot of the described incidents are connected to the extra tasks involved in working for a female politician.

...they're women so they need special accommodations, including not being expected to act decently?  Is that really where we are in 2019? 

Posted by orrinj at 11:00 AM


Potential Tight US Senate Race if Gov. Sununu takes on Sen. Shaheen (Emerson College Polling, FEBRUARY 23, 2019)

In a potential US Senate match up for 2020, current Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) is tied with Governor Chris Sununu (R) at 44% each, with 12% of voters undecided. Shaheen leads among independents 44% to 39%. The NH poll had a sample of n=910, +/-3.2%.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


Cheer up. Despite national gloom, we're actually pretty happy with our lives and neighbors. (Ryan Streeter,  Feb. 18, 2019m USA Today)

People are actually pretty happy with life in their communities. They think things are looking up for them, even if they think things are looking down for the country as a whole.

For instance, identity politics is overblown. Seventy-five percent of Americans derive a sense of community from the city where they live, compared with 64 percent who cite their political ideology and 58 percent their ethnic identity. Identity politics has its limits. [...]

Are our communities falling apart? Nearly three-quarters of Americans are satisfied to some degree with how things are going in our local communities, compared with just 43 percent who feel the same about the country. Eight in 10 Americans rate their communities as good or excellent places to live.

None of this means things are perfect. There are real differences by race and income in how satisfied people are with their neighborhoods, but majorities -- and often significant majorities -- in every demographic category are satisfied with their communities.

In reality, our lives are about much more than the "national conversations" in which we participate on social media. We go to work, run errands, pick the kids up from school, hang out at the bar with friends, and go to yoga classes and Bible studies. There is a lot of togetherness in America that we overlook while savaging each other on social media and shouting at the television.

We actually get along pretty well with each other. At least 74 percent of people in every racial, income and age group in America say those in their neighborhood get along fairly well or very well. Fifty-one percent of Americans talk to their neighbors at least a few times a week. Only 37 percent report helping neighbors with something a few times a month or more, but 75 percent say they live in a community in which people are willing to help out if needed.

Posted by orrinj at 10:02 AM


The Battle for New Hampshire (David Catanese, Feb. 22, 2019, U.S. News & World Report)

If New Hampshire isn't a straight-out must-win for both Sanders and Warren, it's near close to it. Part of it is their proximity. While the state has whipped up a national reputation of flinty independence, history shows that New Hampshire Democrats usually reward a regional candidate with their presidential primary selections.

Before Sanders in 2016, there was Kerry from Massachusetts in 2004. Massachusetts' Paul Tsongas beat Bill Clinton there in 1992, and Massachusetts' Michael Dukakis secured the state's primary in 1988. Even all the way back to 1972, the first year the nominee was chosen through a state-by-state primary system rather than a convention, Maine's Ed Muskie bested George McGovern in New Hampshire, even though McGovern ultimately became the Democratic nominee.

In fact, if Warren doesn't win New Hampshire, she'd be the first Massachusetts Democrat not to since Ted Kennedy's loss to President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Mourning for Religious-Zionism (Shayna Abramson, FEB 22, 2019, Times of Israel)

I've wanted to write about the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) - Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) deal for a while now, but I don't know what to say. I am struck, over and over, by the verse from the scroll of Lamentations, which mourns Babylon's expulsion of the Jews from the land of Israel: "About these I weep; my eyes drip water, for a comforter, a restorer of my soul, is far from me -- my children are desolate, for the enemy has become strong."

It is no wonder that this verse is stuck in my head, because I am in mourning for the Religious-Zionist project, and nobody can say anything to comfort me. The enemy -- the temptation of immorality -- has become strong, but so too, the enemy -- the "other side" in this conflict has become strong, if they can drive us to give up on our own morality.

I don't mean to sound like a religious fanatic, but to me, this is a religious issue. I believe it is a violation of Judaism to support a party that seeks to oppress people as part of its platform -- as Otzma Yehudit does, as reflected in its policy towards Palestinians. So when I see a party that claims to be a representative of Religious-Zionism make a deal with that party, I become upset not as a left-wing humanist, but as a religious Jew. I think if the Religious-Zionist mainstream is ready to make a deal with such a party, we can honestly say that Religious-Zionism has failed -- at least, if we assume that the goal of Religious-Zionism is to create some sort of moral state, or to serve as a redemptive (and therefore, by definition: moral) project for the Jewish people.

It hardly seems fair to condemn Bibi now for accepting his party's founding objective.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


Luke 22

39 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.

40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.

41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


The wrong decision on Hoda Muthana (Daniel L. Byman, 2/24/19, Brookings)

A failure to take responsibility for one's own citizens is a disaster on multiple levels. First, it suggests that a country is unable to handle its own security--a remarkable admission for Trump to make given his supposed pride in U.S. strength. If America, with all its resources, cannot handle the risk posed by one young woman who has agreed to stand trial, then our security problems are indeed grave. Second, the administration's decision risks further dispersing the foreign fighters. If the United States and Europe do not take back their citizens, some will be killed (which is perhaps what their governments not-so-secretly desire) but others will hide or flee to areas where they are safer. This is a threat to their new host countries and a potential long-term terrorism risk. The band of terrorists who gathered in Afghanistan before 9/11 included many who could not return home.

A better U.S. approach would be to present itself as a model. The United States can showcase its commitment to the rule of law and show that law can help the fight against terrorism (and in fact plays a critical role) rather than undermine it. The Trump administration's failure to lead, instead, makes the terrorism problem worse.

Want to Deradicalize Terrorists? Treat Them Like Everyone Else.: Many counter-extremism efforts falter because ideological reform programs run by governments lack credibility. Appealing to the basic psychological needs of ex-radicals is more promising. (ELENA SOURIS, SPANDANA SINGH | NOVEMBER 23, 2018, Foreign Policy)

A more comprehensive psychology-based framework would make deradicalization programs more effective, offer a more appropriate role for the government, and protect former extremists' legal rights.

The first step is to see ex-jihadis as individuals with unique psychological traits. Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies, argues that deradicalization can only happen when an individual has a "cognitive opening" and an environment that supports personal reflection. In this kind of environment, a program could then initiate deradicalization by applying and engaging what psychologists and researchers term the "significance quest theory" (SQT) as one component of the deradicalization process.

The SQT postulates that all individuals are motivated by a desire to have significance in their lives--essentially, to matter. When applied to violent extremism, the theory suggests there are three elements that can translate this basic human need into motivation for violence: a need for personal significance, an ideological narrative (often political or religious) that presents violence as an acceptable method, and a social network that supports this path. Some Islamic State recruits, for example, have cited political motivation or spiritual duty. Similarly, neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan propaganda often promises members a fulfilling role in protecting women, children, and country.

Psychologists including David Webber, of Virginia Commonwealth University, and Arie Kruglanski, of the University of Maryland, argue that successful deradicalization efforts might specifically address an individual's significant "deficits." That means analyzing their needs, narrative, and network, and redirecting those desires toward more positive goals such as meaningful jobs or community roles through therapy, education, and networking. When done well, this kind of approach sees former extremists as complex, multifaceted people.When done well, this kind of approach sees former extremists as complex, multifaceted people. [...]

To create successful programs and balance government involvement, governments should stick to their specialty: bureaucratic tasks like job identification to smooth the social transition and coordinating witness protection for former radicals who testified against other members. Then, community partners can take on their role as more credible--and legally appropriate--intermediaries to discuss ideology, religion, and extremism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view (CHAD DAY and ERIC TUCKER, 2/23/19, Associated Press)

By February 2016, they were ready. A memo circulated internally. Post content about "politics in the USA," they wrote, according to court papers, and "use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump -- we support them)."

As disinformation scrolled across American computer screens, an entirely different Russian operation readied its own volley.

In March 2016, as Clinton and Trump began to emerge as the leaders of their respective parties, Russian military intelligence officers began setting a trap.

Hackers in Russia's military intelligence, known as the GRU, started sending dozens of malicious emails to people affiliated with Clinton's campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

Like Watergate, it was a break-in. But this time, the burglary tools were emails disguised to fool people into sharing their passwords and in turn provide hackers unfettered access to their emails. The goal was to collect as many damaging documents as possible that could be released online and damage Clinton's candidacy.

In a few short weeks, the hackers had penetrated their targets and hit the mother lode: the private Gmail account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

While the Russians were hacking, a young Trump campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos received some startling news in London.

It was April 26, 2016. While traveling through Europe, he had connected with a Maltese academic. The professor, a middle-aged man with thinning gray hair named Joseph Mifsud, had taken a keen interest in Papadopoulos upon learning that he had joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser. To dazzle his young friend, Mifsud boasted of his high-level Russian connections and introduced him to a woman named Olga -- a relative, he claimed, of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mifsud and Olga wanted Papadopoulos to arrange a meeting between Trump aides and Russian officials. Eager to ingratiate himself with the campaign, Papadopoulos brought up his newfound connections in a meeting with Trump and several high-ranking campaign officials, saying he could broker a Trump-Putin summit. When he raised the idea, his lawyers later said, Trump nodded with approval and deferred to another aide in the room, future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said the campaign should look into it. Sessions later would say he remembered telling Papadopoulos that he wasn't authorized to speak for the campaign.

When he walked into a London hotel for breakfast with Mifsud, Papadopoulos expected to discuss Russia's "open invitation" to meet with Trump. But the conversation quickly turned to another subject. Mifsud confided in Papadopoulos that Russia had "dirt" on Clinton. What kind of dirt? "Thousands of emails."

What happened next remains a mystery. Prosecutors haven't revealed exactly where Mifsud got his information or what Papadopoulos might have done with it. The encounter, the first known instance of a Trump aide hearing of stolen emails, later would help kick-start the Russia investigation. But at the time, it was just one of many connections already established between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Unbeknownst to the public, Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen had been trying to broker a business deal in Russia for the Republican candidate. The proposal was for a Trump Tower Moscow. A letter of intent was signed. Cohen had discussed it with Trump and his children. Cohen had even gone so far as to reach out to the Kremlin directly for help, speaking with an official about ways to secure land and financing for the project.

While Cohen pursued the deal, another person with Russian ties joined the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort, a longtime Washington insider, had made millions as a political consultant for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Over that time, Manafort developed a close relationship with a man named Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI says has ties to Russian military intelligence. Manafort also had worked for a Russian billionaire named Oleg Deripaska who is close with Putin.

But in March 2016, Manafort was looking for a comeback. His business had dried up after Yanukovych was ousted and fled to Russia. The millions that Manafort had hidden from the IRS while enjoying a lavish lifestyle were largely gone. With the Trump campaign, Manafort saw an opportunity to get back on his feet. He and his protege, Rick Gates, quickly worked their way into the highest levels of the campaign, and they began trying to make sure old clients had heard about their new positions.

As Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Manafort and those around him began preparing for a general election battle against Clinton.

The Russians did, too. [...]

July 22 was supposed to be a big Friday for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The former secretary of state was planning to announce Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. The party's convention was just days away.

But at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, WikiLeaks stole the limelight, releasing more than 20,000 stolen DNC emails.

The cascade of stolen material was almost immediately picked up by American news outlets, conservative pundits and Trump supporters who, in the wake of Clinton's FBI investigation for using a private email server, were happy to blast out anything with "Clinton" and "emails" in the same sentence.

So was Trump. After publicly questioning that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic groups, he took to the stage in Florida to make his famous call to Russia, "if you're listening." He would later begin praising WikiLeaks.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Next cash 'crop' for farmers? Solar panels (GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER, 2/23/19, The Washington Post)

Randy DeBaillie pointed to the power meter on his snow-covered farm: Even on a foggy, monochromatic day, with the sun barely piercing the clouds, the flat black panels planted nearby in two long rows were generating electricity.

"There's enough energy produced to run the whole complex," said DeBaillie, 50, who farms 6,500 acres with his brother and cousin. They typically grow corn and soybeans each spring, but this year they want to put more solar panels on 15 acres -- and sell the energy.

The earnings, he said, would be about three times what an average harvest would yield there.

Across the flatlands of Illinois, a new 'crop' is rising among the traditional waves of grain as farmers increasingly make the same calculation as DeBaillie. Hundreds have applied to host acres of solar panels on their property, a move encouraged by a state law requiring that renewable resources provide 25 percent of Illinois power by 2025. [...]

In Carlyle, Ill., about an hour east of St. Louis, retired farmer Kevin Krebs hopes to add to the small plot of panels he installed in 2018 for personal use. Having more solar panels could benefit his retirement as well as the planet.

"You don't have to burn no coal. You don't have to burn no oil. You don't have to burn no gas," said Krebs, 60. "You get it from the sun and let it do its thing."

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


'Chilling the atmosphere': North Korea media condemns U.S. Democrats ahead of summit (Josh Smith, Hyonhee Shin, 2/24/19, Reuters) 

North Korea's state media criticized U.S. Democrats and American intelligence officials on Sunday for "chilling the atmosphere" ahead of leader Kim Jong Un's second summit with President Donald Trump this week.

...we all lived long enough to see a Communist regime recognize that a Republican president is its best friend and Democrats the enemy.

February 23, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Trump admin weighs softening demands ahead of second North Korea summit (Jim Sciutto, Kylie Atwood, Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak, 2/22/19, CNN)

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un for a second time, his administration is weighing backing off an earlier demand that North Korea agree during the upcoming summit to make a full accounting of its nuclear and missile programs as a prerequisite for US concessions, multiple administration officials tell CNN.

...that's not weaker than legitimizing the regime's enslavement of its people.
Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM



China has detained an estimated 1 million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, where they are undergoing re-education programs allegedly intended to combat extremism. The Uighur are an ethnic Turkic group that practices Islam and lives in Western China and parts of Central Asia. Beijing has accused the Uighur in its Western Xinjiang region of supporting terrorism and implemented a surveillance regime. Millions of Muslims are also allegedly being forced to study communist doctrine in the camps.

"The Chinese government has long carried out repressive policies against the Turkic Muslim peoples in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China. These efforts have been dramatically scaled up since late 2016, when Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo relocated from the Tibet Autonomous Region to assume leadership of Xinjiang," read a report from the organization Human Rights Watch.

"There have been reports of deaths in the political education camps, raising concerns about physical and psychological abuse, as well as stress from poor conditions, overcrowding, and indefinite confinement," the report continued. "While basic medical care is available, people are held even when they have serious illnesses or are elderly; there are also children in their teens, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with disabilities. Former detainees reported suicide attempts and harsh punishments for disobedience in the facilities."

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM



Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Russian Spy or Hustling Political Operative? The Enigmatic Figure at the Heart of Mueller's Inquiry (Kenneth P. Vogel and Andrew E. Kramer, Feb. 23, 2019, NY Times)

[I]n a federal court in Washington, Mr. Mueller's prosecutors have repeatedly portrayed Mr. Kilimnik as something potentially more nefarious: "a former Russian intelligence officer" who "has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016."

And around the same time that he was passing through Washington nearly three years ago -- just as Mr. Trump was clinching the Republican presidential nomination -- he first received polling data about the 2016 election from two top Trump campaign officials, Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, as Russia was beginning a social media operation intended to help Mr. Trump's campaign.

By early 2017, a senior F.B.I. official was lamenting that the bureau had botched an opportunity to question Mr. Kilimnik while he was in Washington for Mr. Trump's inaugural.

Prosecutors have also scrutinized the effort by Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik to drum up political consulting business with Kremlin-aligned political figures in Ukraine and Russia who were pushing plans to end the simmering conflict between the countries.

Those so-called peace plans could have resulted in the easing of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States -- a policy shift to which Mr. Trump had signaled an openness during the campaign and one that would have been a major foreign policy victory for the Kremlin.

Mueller Asks Judge to Throw the Book at Manafort (DAN FRIEDMAN, FEBRUARY 23, 2019, Mother Jones)

In arguing that he had violated his cooperation deal, prosecutors outlined contacts during and after the 2016 presidential campaign between Manafort and his longtime Ukrainian associate Konstan Kilimnik. According to earlier filings, the FBI has concluded that Kilimnik associated with the Russian intelligence unit that hacked and leaked Democratic emails in 2016 in a bid to help elect Trump. In a hearing earlier this month, prosecutors revealed that during a secretive August 2, 2016 meeting in New York, Manafort shared detailed Trump campaign polling data with Kilmnik and talked with him about a Kremlin-backed peace plan for Ukraine that is believed to have involved the US dropping sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014. Manafort and Kilimnik continued to discuss the plan throughout 2018, according to a transcript of that hearing.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Jeffrey Hart, R.I.P. (THE EDITORS, February 18, 2019, National Review)

Was there a better teacher? Most of Jeff Hart's colleagues had not matriculated at Dartmouth, where he taught 18th-century English and his beloved moderns, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But we all learned from him, about these subjects and so much else, via his articles, reviews, and the flow of his casual talk. Learned, witty, spiced at times with an eyewitness touch (his story of W. H. Auden dropping his 3-by-5 cards before a lecture at Dartmouth and being too many sheets to the wind to reorder them, was priceless: Auden made some interesting points, Jeff's colleagues said, but wasn't he a bit -- disjointed?). Jeff also knew everything about tennis -- he had played Don Budge -- and college sports.

He used to wear a button across campus that said: Eat the Poor.

A number of years ago I found a copy of Willmoore Kendall's democracy: The Two Majorities in a used bookstore that the professor used to frequent. It's inscribed by Kendall's widow, thanking him for the profile that introduces that version of the book.   

Posted by orrinj at 12:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 10:29 AM


Trump's Inaugural Team Scrambled to Defend Staff and Record Haul (Caleb Melby, February 21, 2019, Bloomberg)

The draft document, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, shows how the group prepared to defend its work as questions intensified about its reported $107 million haul. According to nine inaugural staffers and others familiar with the committee's efforts, the process of planning for Trump's big week was chaotic and opaque, dominated by staff culled from Colony Capital, the real estate firm founded by Barrack, and by ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort's circle of associates.

Many financial decisions were centralized in Barrack's office, and Gates, dubbed "deputy to the chairman," was Barrack's right-hand man, with responsibilities spanning everything from finances to entertainment, according to several people with knowledge of his involvement.

Now, federal prosecutors in New York are asking their own questions about the inaugural committee, looking for potential money laundering, false statements, mail and wire fraud, according to a subpoena sent earlier this month, according to news reports. The New Jersey attorney general sent a separate civil subpoena to the committee, ABC News reported.

Posted by orrinj at 10:27 AM


Elizabeth Warren opens door to reparations for Native Americans (Annie Linskey February 22, 2019, washington Post)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Friday evening that Native Americans should be "part of the conversation" on reparations, showing a willingness to expand the debate over whether minority groups that have faced discrimination should be financially compensated by the federal government.

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 AM


French boy suspected of reintroducing measles to Costa Rica: A five-year-old boy who had not received the measles vaccine went on holiday to Costa Rica with his parents. The country had been measles free for five years before his arrival. (Deutsche-Welle, 2/23/19)

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 AM


Cardinal admits to Vatican summit that Catholic Church destroyed abuse files (Joshua J. McElwee, 2/23/19, NCR)

 A top cardinal has admitted that the global Catholic Church destroyed files to prevent documentation of decades of sexual abuse of children, telling the prelates attending Pope Francis' clergy abuse summit Feb. 23 that such maladministration led "in no small measure" to more children being harmed.

In a frank speech to the 190 cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders taking part in the four-day summit, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the church's administration had left victims' rights "trampled underfoot" and "made it impossible" for the worldwide institution to fulfill its mission.

"Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created," said Marx, beginning a list of a number of practices that survivors have documented for years but church officials have long kept under secret.

"Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them," the cardinal continued. "The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden."

"These are all events that sharply contradict what the Church should stand for," said Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, head of the German bishops' conference, and a member of Francis' advisory Council of Cardinals.

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 AM


Spring training games underway in Florida, Arizona (JIMMY GOLEN, 2/22/19, AP)

The sun came out in Arizona. Free agents played for their new teams. Ichiro Suzuki was back in uniform at age 45.

Baseball is back.

A day after the scheduled exhibition opener was rained out, baseball returned to the ballparks of Florida and Arizona on Friday with the first spring training games.

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox began their hoped-for journey to a second straight title with a 6-0 victory over Northeastern University. The Phillies -- still without Bryce Harper, at least for now -- beat Tampa Bay 3-2. The Tigers topped Southeastern University of Florida 12-2. Suzuki started what may be his final spring training with a two-run, two-out single in the third inning of the Seattle Mariners' 8-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.

"It's a good start to spring training," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after dispatching the Huskies in the regularly scheduled seven innings in a tight 1 hour, 45 minutes, a day before the Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees. "It will be good to start playing" against major league teams.

Spring training has long been seen as the unofficial end to winter, but that was postponed when the Mariners and Athletics were rained out of their opener on Thursday. The teams, which got the early start in order to prepare for the regular season opener in Japan -- were back at it on Friday.

Ichiro prepared with Mariners for his 19th major league season (to go with nine in the Japan). Batting seventh and playing left field, Suzuki fouled out in the second inning against Liam Hendriks and singled in the third off left-hander Ryan Buchter. Suzuki then was replaced by a pinch runner. He did not have any chances in the field.

"Of course you have nerves, but this was one I hadn't experienced before, the nerves that I had today," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I'm just glad the first day's out of the way."

Imagine how much trouble Bob Kraft would be in if the Pats trained in FL?

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


If Working with Moscow Is 'Collusion,' It's a Bipartisan Offense (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, February 23, 2019, National Review)

While it's to his credit that he's admitting that Donald colluded with Vlad, his attempt to evade the natural meaning of the term is deeply dishonest. Pretending that Boris Yeltsin was an enemy of America is particularly obscene. It was not until the UR signed the Magnitsky Act into law, in December 2012, that America;'s national posture returned to treating Russia as an adversary, to some degree or another. Even then, it would hardly have been collusion for private businesses to pursue Russian opportunities so long as they adhered to the sanctions regime.  After all, McDonald's can not change US policy towards Vlad.

As Mr. McCarthy conspicuously avoids noting, the charge against Donald is sui generis: that he asked the Russians to violate US laws to benefit his campaign while promising to lift sanctions in order to benefit Vlad.

This was, of course, all done publicly, so it's useless to try and refute, so one can hardly blame him for not even trying.

Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view (CHAD DAY and ERIC TUCKER, 2/23/19, AP)

Donald Trump was in full deflection mode.

The Democrats had blamed Russia for the hacking and release of damaging material on his presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump wasn't buying it. But on July 27, 2016, midway through a news conference in Florida, Trump decided to entertain the thought for a moment.

"Russia, if you're listening," said Trump, looking directly into a television camera, "I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing" -- messages Clinton was reported to have deleted from her private email server.

Actually, Russia was doing more than listening: It had been trying to help Republican Trump for months. That very day, hackers working with Russia's military intelligence tried to break into email accounts associated with Clinton's personal office.

It was just one small part of a sophisticated election interference operation carried out by the Kremlin -- and meticulously chronicled by special counsel Robert Mueller.

We know this, though Mueller has made not a single public comment since his appointment in May 2017. We know this, though the full, final report on the investigation, believed to be in its final stages, may never be made public. It's up to Attorney General William Barr.

We know this because Mueller has spoken loudly, if indirectly, in court -- indictment by indictment, guilty plea by guilty plea. In doing so, he tracked an elaborate Russian operation that injected chaos into a U.S. presidential election and tried to help Trump win the White House. He followed a GOP campaign that embraced the Kremlin's help and championed stolen material to hurt a political foe. And ultimately, he revealed layers of lies, deception, self-enrichment and hubris that followed.

Woven through thousands of court papers, the special counsel has made his public report. This is what it says.


Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Trump's Trade Chief Lectures His Boss and Gets an Earful in Return (Jennifer Jacobs  and Justin Sink, February 22, 2019, Bloomberg)

Trump told gathered reporters that the memorandums would "be very short term. I don't like MOUs because they don't mean anything. To me, they don't mean anything."

Lighthizer then jumped in to defend the strategy, with Trump looking on. "An MOU is a binding agreement between two people," he said. "It's detailed. It covers everything in great detail. It's a legal term. It's a contract."

But the president, unswayed, fired back at Lighthizer. "By the way I disagree," Trump said.

The top Chinese negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, laughed out loud.

The one prediction about Donald's presidency that has absolutely come true is that he's a laughingstock.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Average tax refund down 17 percent, IRS reports (BRIAN FALER and AARON LORENZO, 02/22/2019, Politico)

The average tax refund issued so far this year is down by 17 percent, the IRS said, a steep decline that promises more headaches for Republican lawmakers.

The agency released data late Friday showing refunds are down for the third consecutive week, with the typical payment made through Feb. 15 totaling $2,703, compared to $3,256 during the same period last year.

This filing season is the first under Republicans' overhaul of the tax code, and lawmakers have already been under fire as some taxpayers find their expected refunds smaller or gone altogether. The payments are sacrosanct to many Americans who rely on them to fill holes in their budgets.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


Dianne Feinstein clashes with school children, telling them the Green New Deal is 'not a good resolution' (The Week, 2/23/19)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued with a group of school of children over her unwillingness to support the Green New Deal on Friday.

The Sunrise Movement, an organization which encourages young people to combat climate change, posted a video of the encounter to Facebook. More than a dozen children and adults met with Feinstein to ask her to vote yes on the proposal. Feinstein, however, informed the crowd that the resolution will never pass the senate and "there's no way to pay" for the deal.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Are people with more self-discipline happier?: Why self-control makes your life better, and how to get more of it. (SCOTTY HENDRICKS, 17 September, 2018, Big Think)

Each test showed that people with higher levels of self-control were not only more satisfied with life overall, but also had more positive emotions on a day to day basis. As the authors of the study phrased it: "high self-control does make you happy."

While the types of happiness that people with high levels of self-control experience might be different from the kinds that people with low self-control experience, the long run results are clear. Self-control helps lead to a more satisfying life.

Right and Left are nowhere more unified than in their emotional self-indulgence.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Japan's Immigration Policy: Turned Corner or Cul-De-Sac?: A new immigration reform package still doesn't go far enough to meet Japan's needs. (Arnab Dasgupta, February 21, 2019, the Diplomat)

Undoubtedly the new reforms come at a time of dire need for Japan. The influx of approximately 350,000 lower-skilled and semi-skilled workers will undoubtedly bring cheer to many sectors of Japanese economy. Small and medium-scale enterprises, burdened as they are with declining worker productivity due to a shortage of helping hands as well as difficulties with the fundamental problem of adapting to new production methods, will undoubtedly appreciate the boost foreign workers will bring to their sagging margins. Agriculturists, cosseted by the state until the new millennium, will also have reason to be satisfied; foreign workers will be a great help to rapidly aging farmworkers who have been struggling to maintain the viability of their profession while the economy progressively lurches into a post-post-industrial twilight.

More broadly, another group of stakeholders in the Japanese democratic system will have reason to rejoice: local governments. As Japan's birth rate plunges into a total crash (the total fertility rate for an average Japanese woman has retreated to a lowly 1.21 in 2018, with no let-up in sight), even as life expectancies continue to maintain world-beating highs, the problem of "ghost towns" is becoming more and more an object of concern, even alarm in some local corridors of power. Responses to this issue have been haphazard; some municipalities are effectively offering abandoned or vacant houses for free, conditional on certain residence and tax requirements, while others prefer to gently fade away. To be sure, major hubs of global significance such as Tokyo and Osaka are not under threat just yet, recording the only positive demographic growth due to the sheer number of young people moving base to live and work in these global centers, but a slowly creeping sense of desperation has nevertheless enveloped much of the rest of Japan, especially metropolitan areas in the less well-known parts of the archipelago. The resulting stress to the social welfare infrastructure, as well as to the fiscal viability of some regions, has led many to turn to attracting foreigners instead. The news media has recently given some attention to municipalities that are aggressively attracting foreign residents, with promises of political and social rights that would effectively make migrants equivalent to locals.

Within a decade or two immigrants will be writing their own tickets to their choice of developed nations which will compete fiercely for them.  Happily, America has all the advantages.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


LIBERTÉ FOR WHOM?: French Muslims Grapple With a Republic That Codified Their Marginalization (Murtaza Hussain, February 23 2019, The Intercept)

FOR SIHAME ASSBAGUE, Saint-Denis is just home. She was born in France to a family from Morocco and grew up in and around Paris. Several years ago, she moved to Saint-Denis. When I met her in the district on a Saturday morning, the streets were packed with people shopping and drinking coffee in cheap cafes. The ornate ancient gothic cathedral, bearing the name of the district, towered over the area, though inside it was mostly empty. On a side alley, a small mosque -- just a few houses and trailers merged into a single structure -- was packed with congregants and children attending weekend Arabic classes.

In Assbague's telling, the despair of the young, mostly Arab and African residents of the area is most often expressed in the self-destructive behaviors of drugs, street violence, and delinquency.

"When people get to a certain age, and it dawns that there's no opportunity for them, it's a turning point," she said. "There is a difference between what they thought their life was going to be like and what the reality is that becomes very hard to accept."

Like many people from the area, Assbague is frustrated with the international's media fixation on Islam, which she says makes invisible the social pathologies that tend to lead people into crime or extremism.

"If you look at the profiles of the people who were involved in the attacks, they were not even practicing religion," she said, referring to French media reports about the terrorists' apparently lax religious practices. "They were drinking, going to nightclubs. For people like this, who are angry in general, religion is a marker of identity. Muslims are killed when terrorist attacks happen too. They're scared of being hurt when they go out, just like anyone else. The first woman who was killed by the terrorist in Nice was wearing a headscarf."

The physical distance between Seine-Saint-Denis and central Paris is just a short train ride. But the subtle psychological barriers -- as well as the effect of policing on young people in the area -- are huge. A kind of apartheid separates lavish central Paris from the great poverty that is so close by.

In March 2017, Mamadou Camara, then 18 years old, was returning from a school trip to Brussels with his class. Pulling into Paris's Gare du Nord station, he and two other boys, both African and Arab, were taken aside from their class and searched. They were frisked and made to open their luggage in full view of everyone in the packed station, over the protestations of their teacher. Camara lives in the neighborhood of Épinay, just west of central Saint-Denis, where random encounters like this with police are a daily fact of life. But to be humiliated even on a class trip in the middle of Paris was too much. With the help of their teacher, he and the other two boys filed a lawsuit for racial profiling.

Camara is tall and lanky, his short hair neatly trimmed into a geometric design. He has golden ear piercings and was wearing a tracksuit when we met in a library at Épinay. Outside, groups of men smoked cigarettes and drank coffee on a Friday morning. Soldiers armed with assault rifles also milled around the neighborhood, while sirens could be heard in the distance. Camara grew up around this area. He was shy when we first met, but opened up and became more animated as he described what life is like in the area.

Camara was born in Mali but left with his family for France when he was 1 year old. He grew up in Saint-Denis, though for years his family sent him to a school outside the district in hopes that the quality of education would be better. When getting to school became too difficult, he started attending one of the high schools in the area. After he and the other two boys filed the lawsuit with the help of their teacher, the police in Épinay tended to leave him alone a bit more.

"I'm used to being profiled, because I grew up with it. But I don't want my brothers to have to have the same experience," he added, referring to his two younger brothers, both adolescents. "I really like France, actually -- it's my home and I feel at home. There's some racism, but the thing I really like about this country in the first place is that there are so many different people living here together. We just need to stand up for our rights, and things will be OK."

IN MID-2015, A police official working at the Orly Airport south of Paris invited Ismail Difallah for a coffee in the main terminal. For over a decade, Difallah, who was born in France to Algerian parents, had worked at the airport in various roles, most recently in security. Over six feet in height, he is built like a security guard -- tall and thickset -- yet he is also gregarious and frequently sports the sort of smile that can be disarming.

On the day they met, the police official had an offer for him. "After making some small talk, he asked me if I would 'work' for them in the airport," Difallah told me when I met him.

The police official was inviting Difallah to become an informant for the government -- something that happens to huge numbers of Muslim men in Europe and the United States. The job, such that it is, wasn't always so difficult. In most cases, it entailed meeting with a handler periodically and giving them information about people in one's network. In some extreme cases, it could involve working on entrapment cases and stings of people that the authorities target.

Difallah quietly let the officer know that he wasn't interested. "I told them I already have a job, so I'm fine," Difallah said.

He went back to work, though for a while the conversation left a bad taste in his mouth. Within a few weeks, however, he had largely forgotten it. The next time the conversation popped into his head was at the end of the year, when Difallah needed to get his security clearance renewed to continue working at the airport. He applied, as he had done routinely for more than a decade. This time, however, things didn't work out.

"They told me that we can't give you the clearance now," Difallah told me at a home in the suburbs, not far from the airport. "I asked them why, and they just said they didn't have any information for me."

His mind started racing, trying to think back to figure out why he was suddenly being rejected. The only thing that sprang to mind was the conversation with the officer, but he had no way of finding out if that was the real reason for his denial. A denunciation to the local prefect, by a police officer or even another citizen, could be enough to land him on a secret list, like the notorious S-File, that would make him ineligible for a clearance. As many was 20,000 people are believed to be in the S-File database, which can lead to surveillance, prevention of travel, or difficulties getting work.

Suddenly, deprived of the ability to work with no explanation, Difallah's life was thrown into turmoil. He got a lawyer in an attempt find out what information the state may have used to have his clearance pulled. Due to the opaque nature of France's system of secret evidence and security listings, however, his legal efforts found no success. Difallah has still not gotten his job back. For now, he is working as a private bus driver to make ends meet. "I'm just tired," he told me, resignation in his voice. "Honestly, I am tired."

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 18: Armed police asks residents near the assault area to stay inside at Saint-Denis on November 18, 2015 in Paris, France. Officials said police had been hunting Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamist militant accused of masterminding the Nov. 13 carnage, but more than seven hours after the launch of the pre-dawn raid it was still unclear if they had found him. Seven people were arrested in the operation, which started with a barrage of gunfire, including three people who were pulled from the apartment, officials said.

ONE OF THE quirks of liberal democracies is that, during periods of crisis, they have the ability take on the attributes of authoritarian states. In its effort to confront terrorists after 2015, this is what the French government has done. Immediately after the attacks, France instituted a nationwide state of emergency. The measure allowed security forces to conduct warrantless raids, shut down private institutions, and restrict the movements of targeted people.

While drastic measures were widely seen as necessary to roll up the extremist networks responsible for the wave of attacks, it soon became clear that the dragnet was catching far more than just terrorism suspects. By mid-2016, nearly 3,600 warrantless raids had been carried out across the country. Only six resulted in terrorism charges.

Macron campaigned on a pledge to end the state of emergency. The promise was kept, but only by a sleight of hand. Although the state of emergency was lifted in 2017, its most draconian measures were institutionalized into a new anti-terrorism law called Strengthening Homeland Security and the Fight Against Terrorism. The state of emergency is now permanent.

In an office just off central Paris's opulent Place de la Concorde, a human rights attorney named Emanuel Daoud is fighting a lonely battle to push back against France's creeping authoritarianism. Daoud's office -- adorned with upbeat modern art, in juxtaposition to the subject matter of his cases -- sees a steady stream of petitioners who have found themselves caught in the dragnet of France's counterterrorism policies. The volume of casework is such that the office buzzes with activity, even late into the night.

When I visited his office, Daoud told me that the use of secret evidence, blacklists, and denunciations have gradually built an atmosphere of fear in the suburbs and beyond. He singled out the S-File. "The maintenance of secret lists like the S-File -- created in part through the use of private denunciations -- is taken from the practice of the Vichy regime in World War II, though the consequences of being placed on such a list are ultimately different," he told me. "There is a general climate of fear and paranoia being created by these measures that is expanding beyond just minority groups living in the suburbs."

In a meeting with a former high-level French intelligence official, Daoud was told that the state of emergency had only been useful as a counterterrorism tool for a few weeks after the 2015 attacks. After the perpetrators and their network had been rolled up, the draconian measures mostly stayed in place for political reasons.

February 22, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Think Government Is Big? You Shoulda Seen It in 1984 (Justin Fox, February 4, 2019, Bloomberg)

The federal government had 2.8 million civilian employees in January. That number includes the 800,000 or so people who weren't getting paid because of the partial government shutdown, plus 606,900 postal workers. It doesn't include 1.3 million active-duty military or those employed via government contracts and grants, estimated to be 5.2 million full-time-equivalent positions in 2017 by Paul Light of the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

That adds up to about 9.3 million people who get their paychecks--when they get them--directly or indirectly from the federal government. That sounds like a lot, but it represents a much smaller share of the U.S. workforce than it used to. The chart below shows only civilian federal workers, but Light's estimates, which go back to 1984, don't change the overall trajectory other than to show a big rise in contract employment during the 2000s that has since mostly reversed. In 1984 there were almost 9.8 million federal workers of all stripes.

Meanwhile, even though federal spending has more than doubled since 1984, adjusted for inflation, it's declined slightly as a share of gross domestic product. And with most federal dollars now going to Social Security, Medicare, and other programs in which money is transferred from one set of Americans to another, spending on everything else--infrastructure investment, the military, government agencies--is down sharply as a percentage of GDP.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Cohen Gave Prosecutors New Information on the Trump Family Business (Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 22, 2019, NY Times)

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, met last month with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, offering information about possible irregularities within the president's family business and about a donor to the inaugural committee, according to people familiar with the matter.

There's ample reason why the hysteria from the Right has hit 11 this week.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


A Swamp Story: Trump Encouraged a Foreign Official to Back a Donor's Business Deal (DAN FRIEDMAN, FEBRUARY 22, 2019, Mother jones)

Here's a new scandal for Donald Trump: The president personally encouraged the Qatari government to finance a nuclear power plant project pursued by a top Trump donor. And shortly after Trump's intervention, this big-money donor, Franklin Haney, a Memphis-based real estate developer who contributed $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee, hired Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer, to help land this Qatari investment. This wheeling and dealing was occurring as the Gulf nation was eagerly seeking to gain influence with Trump. It's a tale of how the Trump swamp works: Trump's personal and political connections overlap with private business interests that are linked to foreign policy matters.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


New York Has Prepared Paul Manafort Charges If Trump Pardons Him (Greg Farrell, February 22, 2019, Bloomberg)

New York state prosecutors have put together a criminal case against Paul Manafort that they could file quickly if the former chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign receives a presidential pardon.

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is ready to file an array of tax and other charges against Manafort, according to two people familiar with the matter, something seen as an insurance policy should the president exercise his power to free the former aide. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


House Puts GOP Senators in Career-Defining Moment with Resolution Against Emergency Declaration (Matt Naham, February 22nd, 2019, Law & Crime)

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a resolution against President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration. This would force a vote in the Senate to see if the resolution will make its way to the president.

Republican senators who vote to go all-in on Trump"s border wall and national emergency declaration should never again be taken seriously, particularly when they express concerns about the size of government and the power of the executive branch encroaching on the legislative branch.

It should be a career-defining -- nay, career-ending -- moment, but probably won't be.

If it's about the separation of powers it should be a change to the law that will apply universally.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


A Fed pivot, born of volatility, missteps, and new economic reality (Howard Schneider, Jonathan Spicer, 2/22/19, Reuters)

Interviews with officials as well as analysis of Fed minutes and policymakers' public statements suggest the emergence of a long-elusive consensus that interest rates would likely never return to pre-crisis levels, and that once established relationships, such as inflation rising when unemployment fell, no longer worked.

Concern that years of solid economic growth and falling unemployment would inevitably rekindle inflation or threaten financial stability have been a staple of Fed debates, but had largely disappeared by the Fed's Dec. 18-19 meeting, according to a review of Fed meeting minutes and officials' public statements.

It was a conclusion hiding in plain sight. After a year when the Trump administration pumped around $1.5 trillion of tax cuts and public spending into a full employment economy, the Fed in 2018 would miss its 2 percent inflation target yet again.

"I hate to say we were right," Dallas Federal Reserve president Robert Kaplan told reporters on Jan. 15 in Dallas. "But we have been warning for quite some time that...the structure of the economy has changed dramatically."

Technological innovation, globalization, and the Fed's commitment to its inflation target all held down prices, and "those forces are powerful and they are accelerating," he said.

His arguments echoed those made by St. Louis Fed president James Bullard and Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari. New Fed vice chairman Richard Clarida and Governor Lael Brainard have flagged similar issues.

Later in January, the Fed's policy meeting jettisoned mention of any further rate increases and cited "muted inflation" among the reasons, largely aligning the Fed with the prevailing sentiment among investors who saw conditions weakening.

This even with the inflationary impact of Trumponomics.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Will Uighurs upend Turkey-China relations? (Semih Idiz, February 22, 2019, Al Monitor)

Turkey's scorching condemnation of China on Feb. 9 over the treatment of the Turkic Uighur minority in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region caught many, including Uighur activists in Turkey, by surprise. Few expected such an outburst after Ankara's prolonged period of silence despite China's well-documented and ongoing repressive policies against the Uighurs.

Ankara's statement pleased many in the expatriate Uighur community, giving them hope that it signals the start of a new and more dynamic policy regarding their cause. Others are not so sure, however, due to past experience, broken promises and Turkey's openly expressed and actively pursued desire to develop ties with China as a counterbalance to its deteriorating ties with the West.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


How Amy Klobuchar Treats Her Staff (Matt Flegenheimer and Sydney Ember, Feb. 22, 2019, NY Times)

Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience.

An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Netanyahu's dance with anti-Semitism (Akiva Eldar, February 21, 2019, al Monitor)

The description by acting Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz of Poles as a species of anti-Semitic mammals is unlikely to be studied in the Foreign Ministry's training programs as a model of diplomatic conduct. [...]

Netanyahu, also Israel's foreign minister at the time of the toast, said Israel was waging a particularly tough battle over justice and truth vis-à-vis the European Union. "Justice," according to Netanyahu, is the right of the Jewish people, and only of the Jewish people, to the Land of Israel, the entire Land of Israel. His "truth" is that the only nuclear state in the Middle East (according to foreign reports) faces an existential risk of a "second Holocaust." According to Netanyahu, the state that has set the record in the democratic world for the longest occupation is the victim of the people it occupies. The EU refuses to recognize Netanyahu's justice and truth and insists on adhering to the nuclear agreement with Iran and to its demand for an end to Israel's occupation.

In the Polish and Hungarian governments, Netanyahu had found the perfect allies. All three hate foreigners, incite against leftists and aspire to wipe out every trace of liberal democracy. At the center of Netanyahu's deal with them was a promise to their leaders to bend the truth about the role the two countries played in the Holocaust and to ignore the injustice to its victims and survivors. Netanyahu forgave Morawiecki for outrageously asserting in February 2018, "There were Polish perpetrators [of the Holocaust], just as there were Jewish and Russian and Ukrainian perpetrators, not just German ones."

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Charged In Prostitution Sting (Aiden Pink, 2/22/19, The Forward)

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and a major Jewish philanthropist, was charged Friday with two counts of soliciting prostitution as part of a prostitution ring bust in south Florida.

Kraft, 77, was one of 25 people charged in the sting, which prosecutors say involved human trafficking of people from China. Local police had set up hidden cameras inside the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, where police say they captured videos of Kraft on two occasions roughly a month ago.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM

NIKKI 2020:

Early Poll of New Hampshire Voters Shows Potential Problems for Trump a Year Out from 2020 Presidential Primary Season (Tatishe Nteta, 2/21/19, UMass )

Thirty-nine percent of likely Republican voters in the Granite State said they think that President Trump should be challenged in the 2020 primary, according to poll results released today by the UMass Poll.

"While nearly 40 percent of all likely Republican voters believe President Trump should face a primary challenge, almost half of college-educated Republican voters believe that Trump should be 'primaried,'" said Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science and director of the UMass Poll. "Given the comparatively higher levels of turnout among highly educated voters, these results do not bode well for Trump."

"The fact that a significant share of Republican primary voters supports a primary challenge to Trump reflects the reality that the president's divisive rhetoric and policies are alienating parts of the Republican coalition," said Jesse Rhodes, associate professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll. "Significantly, support for a primary challenge is strongest among younger and female voters, pointing to bigger problems for Trump and for the Republican Party. In a diversifying electorate, the GOP can ill afford to drive away members of these groups."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An open letter to my Republican colleagues (Adam B. Schiff February 21, 2019, Washington Post)

The president has just declared a national emergency to subvert the will of Congress and appropriate billions of dollars for a border wall that Congress has explicitly refused to fund. Whether you support the border wall or oppose it, you should be deeply troubled by the president's intent to obtain it through a plainly unconstitutional abuse of power.

To my Republican colleagues: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn't like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse.

Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private.

That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'He is not going to be the nominee': Dems slam Sanders over Maduro stance: The just-announced 2020 contender declines to say whether the socialist Venezuelan dictator should go. (MARC CAPUTO, 02/21/2019, Politico)

Florida Democrats are denouncing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for refusing to call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a dictator -- a politically explosive issue in the nation's biggest swing state.

Sanders also would not say whether he considered Venezuela's assembly leader, Juan Guaidó, as the nation's interim president, which is the position of the United States and a majority of Latin American countries European countries.

February 21, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Schumer: Senate Dems to introduce measure to block Trump's national emergency (MARIANNE LEVINE, 02/21/2019, Politico)

The Senate Democrats' resolution of disapproval comes as House Democrats plan to introduce a similar resolution disapproving of Trump's emergency declaration on Friday.

"This issue transcends partisan politics, and I urge all senators -- Democrats and Republicans -- to support this resolution to terminate the president's emergency declaration when it comes up for a vote in the Senate," Schumer said in a statement, referring to the House resolution. "Identical companion legislation to the House resolution will soon be introduced in the Senate."

How about rewriting the Emergency Powers laws to restore your constitutional prerogatives?

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Domestic airfares hit a record low, but fees help airlines make healthy profits (HUGO MARTIN, FEB 21, 2019, LA Times)

In the July-through-September quarter of last year, the average domestic airfare was $343, according to data released Thursday. Adjusted for inflation, that's the lowest average price in any quarter since the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics began keeping track in 1995.

thanks, Ted!

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Trump's Presidency Is Getting Weaker (Jonathan Bernstein, February 21, 2019, Bloomberg)

First: "Although President Donald Trump tweeted that he had ordered his administration to cut off disaster aid to wildfire victims in California, federal officials confirmed on Wednesday that they never received any such directive." Political scientist Brendan Nyhan gets it right: "Weakest president in contemporary times. 'Ordered' likely means he said something to a staff member who ignored him." 

Second: "Bowing to bipartisan concerns in Congress, President Trump retreated Tuesday from his plan to create an independent 'space force' in the Pentagon, proposing instead to consolidate the military's space operations and personnel in the Air Force." Kevin Drum at Mother Jones explains: "So now it's just a branch of the Air Force, which is more-or-less what it already is since the Air Force Space Command already exists. It's just going to get a little bigger now."

In both cases, it's as if Trump had carefully read Richard Neustadt's classic study of presidential power and then chosen to do the exact opposite of what it advises.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Russian-backed US energy company hires lobbying firm with connections to Trump to help with China deal (Brian Schwartz, 2/21/19, CNBC)

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, just united with a political party that experts say is like the KKK (John Haltiwanger, 2/21/19, Business Insider)

The party is an offshoot of the Kach party, a faction that was banned in Israel and designated a terrorist organization by the Israeli government, the US State Department, and the FBI.

The Kach party was led by the late US-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, an ultranationalist who advocated for barring non-Jews from Israel and called for Arabs and Jews to be segregated.

They are superfluous given where Likud has ended up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


IRS Analyst Identified as Michael Avenatti's Source on Bombshell Michael Cohen Dirt (Matt Naham, February 21st, 2019, Law & Crime)

Remember when Michael Avenatti shared Michael Cohen's bank records on Twitter and no one had a clue how that came to pass? An IRS analyst identified as John C. Fry now faces the charge of unlawful disclosure of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).

In the complaint, it is alleged that Fry, a San Francisco, committed the major no-no of disclosing Cohen's records to Avenatti. Fry was also identified as the anonymous "law enforcement official" who told the New Yorker he "immediately became concerned" when he discovered two of Cohen's finance-related files were missing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


ObamaCare Is Looking Better and Better to Republicans (Martin Longman February 21, 2019, Washington Monthly)

Sometimes, I am gobsmacked when I watch conservatives talk to each other. Take, for example, Kevin Williamson of the National Review trying to explain why Republicans should examine some European health care systems. [...]

Here's the thing: Republicans, and most Americans, say they want a system in which insurance companies are obliged to cover expenses associated with preexisting conditions. They also want insurance to be provided privately in the market. I have a very hard time seeing how you can have both of those things without having an individual mandate, without which the underlying incentives all but ensure a dysfunctional insurance market. You'd have no incentive to sign up for a plan and pay premiums until you came down with something expensive. [...]

If the Republicans hadn't demonized the Affordable Care Act, they could use it for their alternative model to what the many Democrats will be pushing for on the 2020 campaign trail. This shouldn't surprise us. The Affordable Care Act was modeled on the Massachusetts health care law that was established while Mitt Romney was serving as governor of the Bay State. And the Massachusetts law was based on a 1993 plan the Heritage Foundation promoted (very disingenuously) as an alternative to HillaryCare.

thanks, UR!
Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


PODCAST: Episode 87: Marxist Table Turning (JONAH GOLDBERG, February 19, 2019, The Remnant)

Was Karl Marx an anti-Semite? Are Jews money-worshippers? Does anyone even remember that Marx wrote an essay "On The Jewish Question"? Jonah is interviewed by Jonathan Silver of the Tikvah Fund for an episode of the Tikvah Podcast that we have cross-posted here.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


'I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth': A self-proclaimed white nationalist planned a mass terrorist attack, the government saysy Lynh Bui February 20, 2019, washington Post)

A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist was arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists.

Christopher Paul Hasson called for "focused violence" to "establish a white homeland" and said, "I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth," according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

Somebody spends too much time on Donald's Twitter feed.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Devin Nunes Was Trump's Mole Inside the Gang of Eight (Nancy LeTourneau, February 21, 2019, Washington Monthly)

[M]cCabe believes that Rep. Devin Nunes--who participated as chair of the House Intelligence Committee--was acting as a mole for the president in the briefings. The steps McCabe took to open an investigation after Trump fired Comey were immediately relayed to the White House by Nunes.

That is not something that comes as a surprise to any of us who have been watching all of this unfold. But it is important that McCabe shares those suspicions. If fits perfectly with Nunes' history of disclosing classified information whenever it suits his purposes.

For example, Rep. Nunes was the subject of an ethics investigation in 2017 when he held a press conference to announce that intelligence agencies incidentally collected information about some of President Trump's associates. In January, he became the subject of another ethics complaint.

The complaint, filed by the Campaign for Accountability, ...calls on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Nunes or committee staff leaked closed-door testimony of the head of the company that produced the bombshell dossier of Russian information on Donald Trump.

Parts of the confidential testimony apparently were "selectively leaked" to discredit Fusion GPS and to "retaliate against Fusion for its role in investigating" Trump and his campaign's ties to Russia, according to the complaint. It alleges the leak further aimed to "deter the firm from engaging in any continued investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 1:10 PM


How Our Universe Could Emerge as a Hologram (Natalie Wolchover, February 21, 2019, Quanta)

The fabric of space and time is widely believed by physicists to be emergent, stitched out of quantum threads according to an unknown pattern. And for 22 years, they've had a toy model of how emergent space-time can work: a theoretical "universe in a bottle," as its discoverer, Juan Maldacena, has described it.

The space-time filling the region inside the bottle -- a continuum that bends and undulates, producing the force called gravity -- exactly maps to a network of quantum particles living on the bottle's rigid, gravity-free surface. The interior "universe" projects from the lower-dimensional boundary system like a hologram. Maldacena's discovery of this hologram has given physicists a working example of a quantum theory of gravity.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the toy universe shows how space-time and gravity emerge in our universe. The bottle's interior is a dynamic, Escheresque place called anti-de Sitter (AdS) space that is negatively curved like a saddle. Different directions on the saddle curve in opposite ways, with one direction curving up and the other curving down. The curves tend toward vertical as you move away from the center, ultimately giving AdS space its outer boundary -- a surface where quantum particles can interact to create the holographic universe inside. However, in reality, we inhabit a positively curved "de Sitter (dS) space," which resembles the surface of a sphere that's expanding without bounds.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


The McCabe Show (Charlie Sykes, February 20th, 2019, The Bulwark)

On today's Bulwark Podcast, Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss the rollout of Andrew McCabe's new book, a look at his tenure at the FBI, and an update on the Mueller Investigation and President Trump's transparent efforts to discredit law enforcement and his investigators. Also, a discussion about Justice Clarence Thomas and his views on stare decisis and Times v. Sullivan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


'Want to see the Lincoln bedroom?': Trump relishes role as White House tour guide (Josh Dawsey January 28, 2019, washington Post)

Trump often has groused about flies in the White House and has told groups that his aides have mixed luck killing them. "Swarming everywhere," he said at one point early in his presidency, according to a senior White House official, backing up an account in Sims's book.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


What the Jussie Smollett Story Reveals: It shows a peculiar aspect of 21st-century America: victimhood chic. (John McWhorter, 2/20/19, The Atlantic)

Smollett doesn't need the money he would get from a court settlement, and he isn't trying to deny someone higher office. So why in the world would he fake something like that attack--if he did indeed fake it? The reason might be that he has come of age in an era when nothing he could have done or said would have made him look more interesting than being attacked on the basis of his color and sexual orientation.

Racial politics today have become a kind of religion in which whites grapple with the original sin of privilege, converts tar questioners of the orthodoxy as "problematic" blasphemers, and everyone looks forward to a judgment day when America "comes to terms" with race. Smollett--if he really did stage the attack--would have been acting out the black-American component in this eschatological configuration, the role of victim as a form of status. We are, within this hierarchy, persecuted prophets, ever attesting to the harm that white racism does to us and pointing to a future context in which our persecutors will be redeemed of the sin of having leveled that harm upon us. We are noble in our suffering.

None of this is to deny that racism exists, and that it is hardly limited to acts as baldly depraved as that of Dylann Roof, who attacked worshippers in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015. However, one might argue--perhaps with the same kind of guilt I had in doubting Smollett's story--that there is a degree of exaggeration in how Americans today discuss and process race. We operate according to a larger narrative, as it were, that at times renders fussing too much with mundane facts improper, beyond a certain point.

Certainly, the professional martyr is a race-neutral personality type. However, since the civil-rights victories of the 1960s, when whites became open in a new way to understanding black pain, that personality type has been especially useful to black Americans. With positive racial self-image possibly elusive after hundreds of years of naked abuse, the noble-victim position can seem especially, and understandably, comforting. It can also be handy, in a fashion quite unexpected to anyone who was on the front lines of race activism 50 years ago--as a road to stardom.

Notable in smollett's account is that he sought to come off as an especially fierce kind of victim--the victim as hero, as cool. "I fought the fuck back," he told ABC's Robin Roberts in an interview. Smollett has long displayed a hankering for preacher status. His Twitter stream is replete with counsel about matters of spirit, skepticism, and persistence that sounds a tad self-satisfied from someone in his 30s. His mother associated with the Black Panthers and is friends with the activist Angela Davis, and in interviews Smollett has identified proudly with the activist tradition.

The problem is that amid the complexities of 2019 as opposed to 1969, keeping the Struggle going is more abstract, less dramatic, than it once was. Angela Davis is on T-shirts; it seems less likely that, for example, the Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson will be. How do you make as stark and monumental a statement as a King or a Malcolm these days? With a touch too much thirst for glory, and a tad too little inclination for analysis, one might seek to be attacked the way they were.

It's given us our first Grievance President in quite some time too. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Top Posts for Merging With Kahanists: Netanyahu, Far-right Party Reach Deal: (Chaim Levinson, Feb 20, 2019, Ha'aretz)

Israeli far-right party Habayit Hayehudi has accepted an offer from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join forces with Otzma Yehudit, a right-wing party led by followers of racist Rabbi Meir Kahane, in exchange for the education and housing ministries in addition to two seats in the security cabinet. Furthermore, the 28th slot on the Likud ticket will be given to the newly merged party according to the agreement.

Otzma Yehudit is led by former lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari, together with Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Benzi Gopstein, all former disciples and political descendants of Meir Kahane - the infamous American-rabbi-turned-Knesset-member whose vitriolic racism against Arabs got his Kach party banned from running in the 1988 election.

And they wonder that they've lost American Jews?
Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM

FACED IN THE CROWD (profanity alert):

Dutch historian exposes Tucker Carlson's fraud (Erik Wemple, February 20, 2019, Washington Post)

Here's the fascinating part of this clash: Carlson starts out by bathing Bregman in praise for his remarks at Davos, which the video replays. "That's one of the great moments -- maybe the great moment in Davos history," Carlson said, chuckling about the hypocrisy of the folks who travel by private jet to talk about the world's problems in Switzerland. "If I was wearing a hat, I would take it off to you," Carlson said.

Thus was established the planned rhythm of the interview. Bregman, you see, was brought in as a friendly voice, a fellow who would presumably play along with the host. That very status gave Bregman enough space to turn the whole conversation into a referendum on Carlson's own hypocrisy. "The vast majority of Americans, for years and years now, according to the polls, including Fox News viewers and including Republicans, are in favor of higher taxes on the rich. . . . It's all really mainstream but no one's saying that at Davos just as no one's saying that at Fox News," Bregman said in the discussion. Folks at Davos and at Fox News, he alleged, had been "bought by the billionaire class."

Carlson didn't immediately anger, though he did try to steer the discussion elsewhere. When Bregman persisted in his critique of Fox News, Carlson said it would be "interesting" to know how much Fox News the historian had watched.

After some more back-and-forth, Bregman showed that he'd really, really studied the programming values of "Tucker Carlson Tonight": "I think the issue really is one of corruption and of people being bribed and not talking about the real issues. What the Murdochs really want you to do to is scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance," he said.

As Bregman continued showing a command of Fox News's pro-elite advocacy, Carlson blew up. He called Bregman a "moron" and couldn't figure out how this fellow had even viewed the network's programming. "Fox doesn't even play where you are," said Carlson. "Well, have you heard of the Internet?" replied Bregman. "I can watch things whatever I want."

By this point, Bregman, thousands of miles away, was sitting where Carlson usually sits -- in complete command of the interview, setting the pace, putting his interlocutor on the defensive. The host was verily gasping for air. The most telling words of the interview came when Carlson said, "Wait -- but, but can I just say?" That was just shortly after Bregman said Carlson was a "millionaire funded by billionaires."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Patrick Shanahan's clash with Congress in Munich over Syria (Josh Rogin, February 20, 2019, Washington Post)

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the leader of the main congressional delegation, pressed Shanahan on whether he was telling European officials in Munich that the full U.S. withdrawal from Syria was a done deal.

"Are you telling our allies that we are going to go to zero by April 30?" he asked Shanahan, according to Graham.

"Yes, that's been our direction [from the president]," Shanahan replied.

"That's the dumbest f---ing idea I've ever heard," Graham responded.

Graham then launched into a list of consequences he feared would result from a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Syria without a follow-up plan: The Islamic State would return, Turkey would attack Kurdish forces, Iran would gain the advantage. Graham asked Shanahan if he disagreed with that analysis.

"That could very well happen," Shanahan said.

"Well, if the policy is going to be that we are leaving by April 30, I am now your adversary, not your friend," Graham told the acting Pentagon chief, according to Graham. (Several other lawmakers confirmed this exchange.)

Graham's alternative idea, which he spent the weekend pitching in Europe, is for European countries to contribute hundreds of new troops to build a safe zone on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. This zone would keep the Islamic State from returning and provide a buffer between Turkish troops and the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces that the United States trained and armed (but now seems poised to abandon).

The fact that Shanahan was telling European officials the United States was planning a full withdrawal undercut Graham's parallel message that a deployment of European troops would motivate President Trump to leave a couple hundred U.S. forces there to help.

In defense of the Senator, imagined you'd sold out everything your mentor, John McCain, believed in and then you found out you had no influence with the guy you sold it to. Who did he think Donald was?

February 20, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Surgical stitch-up: meet the placebo surgeon: Could the placebo effect work in surgery? When a doctor wanted to investigate - by opening patients up but not operating - some said it was criminal. But the resulting study has shaken the medical world (XAN RICE, 2/20/19, New Statesman)

In the summer of 2012 Carol Brennan started to feel pain in her right shoulder. Her GP prescribed painkillers but they did little to ease her discomfort. Nor did physiotherapy. Brennan's shoulder became so sore that she had to give up yoga, Pilates, even knitting. Standing upright, the 63-year-old academic was unable to raise her arm more than 45 degrees from her hip. Lying down offered little relief. The only way she could sleep was on her stomach with her right arm hanging over the edge of the bed. When she was finally referred to a specialist in late 2013, Brennan told him: "I can barely sleep and when I do I dream about pain."

Shoulder pain is a common complaint, especially among people over 50, accounting for more than 2 per cent of all primary care consultations in the UK. Usually the soreness concerns the shoulder joint, where the long bone in the upper arm, the humerus, fits loosely into the shoulder blade, like a ball and socket. The pain occurs when tendons attached to the humerus rub or catch on nearby tissue or on the acromion, the bone that extends over the joint.

More than 40 years ago, doctors proposed a surgical remedy for such shoulder pain. Removing a small area of tissue and acromial bone would increase the space around the tendon so it no longer caught or rubbed. It was a minor procedure greatly eased by advances in keyhole surgery, which allows slender tools to be passed through little cuts in the skin. Subacromial decompression, as the surgery became known, is now one of the most common operations in orthopaedics. In the UK, 30,000 are performed each year, costing the NHS £150m.

By coincidence, the specialist Brennan was referred to lived in the same village as her on the outskirts of Oxford. Andy Carr, who is now 60, is a widely respected academic surgeon and had performed the shoulder operation many times. He told Brennan that because her pain had lasted so long she was now in a position where surgery was usually offered. But first, he wanted to see whether she would consider taking part in a study of people with persistent shoulder pain.

At Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, which he heads, Carr was conducting a clinical trial of decompression surgery, to assess its effectiveness. He explained to Brennan that if she agreed to participate she would be randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first would receive regular surgery. The second set would get "placebo surgery", with all the surgical procedures identical to the normal operation except that no bone or tissue would be removed. Patients in these two groups would not know if they'd had the real or sham surgery. The third group would receive no treatment.

"My immediate reaction was: yes, of course I'll do it, because that's the sort of person I am," Brennan told me when we met recently for coffee in an Oxford bookshop. "But I was concerned that I might end up in the 'do nothing' category, as I was already at my wits' end."

To Brennan's relief she was assigned for surgery. In January 2014, she was shown to a ward at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, where she changed into a hospital gown and was given a general anaesthetic. Inside the operating theatre, Carr made two tiny incisions in Brennan's right shoulder: one at the back for the endoscope, a thin tube fitted with a light and camera that relays pictures to a monitor, and another at the side of the shoulder to allow entry for the tool with a rotating burr used to shave bone. The procedure took around 30 minutes.

When Brennan awoke in the recovery room, she discovered she was unable to talk, an upsetting side effect of an anaesthesia that lasts for a day. Her arm was painful, heavily bandaged and in a sling. Her son drove her home. After a few days she was allowed to remove the sling and gently use her arm. When she returned to the hospital for a consultation a month later she was downbeat. "I said to the nurse: I'm still so sore. This is a disaster."

Then, as if she were slowly recovering from an illness, the pain began to subside and her mobility returned. After six months, she was able to do some light yoga and Pilates again. After a year she had gone from "a nine to a two" on the one-to-ten scale, which is the most common tool used by doctors to assess pain and requires the patient to put a number to their level of discomfort. "To all intents and purposes I was cured," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 PM


Supreme Court says constitutional protection against excessive fines applies to state actions (Robert Barnes February 20, 2019, Washington Post)

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution's prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on just her second day back on the bench after undergoing cancer surgery in December, announced the decision for the court, saying that the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause protects against government retribution.

"For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties," Ginsburg wrote. "Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. . . . Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence."

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


New Hampshire gives Harris a hard time for rarely showing up (CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO, 02/19/2019, Politico)

[H]er chances of capturing New Hampshire were viewed with such a jaundiced eye by local media that one of Harris' first exchanges during a two-day swing -- with an in-state reporter -- included a not-so-subtle reminder that she waited weeks after announcing her White House bid to travel to the Granite State.

"We're glad you're here," the reporter told Harris. Then he asked whether her absence helped feed the perception that New Hampshire isn't a high priority.

Another interviewer -- this one on ABC affiliate WMUR -- was more direct: "We haven't seen much of you in the previous two years. Why was that?" he asked. "The narrative is out there, I guess, that 'Sen. Harris is focusing elsewhere.'" [...]

Harris didn't campaign in New Hampshire in the midterms -- and her team has sketched out paths to the Democratic nomination that run through the other early states and to Super Tuesday. Harris traveled to South Carolina before and after her presidential announcement and was in Iowa for her recent CNN town hall. She launched her campaign in Oakland, Calif., and has returned to her home state to raise money and lock down endorsements.

Some of it may be structural. New Hampshire's open primary, which allows independents to participate, can favor mavericks and ideologues. Harris doesn't fit in either camp.

The Daughter Judd was all in for Jeb but went to see John Kasich and was impressed: "I'll have to meet him again before I decide." Flatlanders don't really get the degree to which presidential politics is like Red Sox baseball here. Everybody follows it every day and takes it personally.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


California Republicans look into the abyss (CARLA MARINUCCI 02/19/2019, Politico)

A battle over the state party chairmanship offers two competing visions for the future. One embraces President Donald Trump; the other focuses on the nuts and bolts of party building and organizing.

The two approaches aren't complementary. Trump, who lost California by 30 percentage points in 2016, is highly unpopular there: Nearly two-thirds of California's voters disapprove of his performance as president.

"What it really comes down to is whether a party's first obligation is to motivate its base -- or to reach out beyond that base,'' said Dan Schnur, a former GOP strategist and adviser to Sen. John McCain who is a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and is now an independent. "We'll see what they decide."

As it stands, the Republican Party in the nation's most populous state is barely breathing. The midterm elections saw the landslide victory of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, Democrats win supermajorities in both state legislative chambers and the flipping of seven GOP House seats.

25 years of Nativism destroyed Ronald Reagan's party.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


AP source: FBI had backup plan to save Russia probe evidence (ERIC TUCKER, 2/19/19, AP) 

The FBI developed a backup plan to protect evidence in its Russia investigation soon after the firing of FBI Director James Comey in the event that other senior officials were dismissed as well, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

The plan was crafted in the chaotic days after Comey was fired, when the FBI began investigating whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice and whether he might be, wittingly or not, in league with the Russians.

The goal was to ensure that the information collected under the investigations, which included probes of Trump associates and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, would survive the firings or reassignments of top law enforcement officials. Those officials included special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed eight days after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump grows frustrated with Coats, leading some to fear he might be fired (Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima February 19, 2019, Washington Post)

Trump is still "enraged" about Coats's congressional testimony on national security threats last month, believing that the director undercut the president's authority when he shared intelligence assessments about Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that are at odds with many of Trump's public statements, said one adviser who spoke with the president over the weekend. [...]

Last July, Coats was being interviewed onstage at the annual Aspen Security Forum when the White House announced via tweet that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin had been invited to Washington.

Coats was clearly taken by surprise and made little effort to hide his displeasure.

"Okaaaay," Coats said. "That's going to be special." The audience erupted in laughter.

In the same interview, with NBC News's Andrea Mitchell, Coats also said no one had asked him if it was a good idea for Trump to meet privately with Putin at a summit meeting in Helsinki. Trump didn't allow any Cabinet officials or aides to attend the meeting, and several officials have said they couldn't get a reliable account of the conversation between the two leaders, which was attended only by two interpreters, The Washington Post has reported.

Coats said that he hadn't been told what happened in the meeting. If asked, he said, he'd have advised the president against speaking one-on-one with Putin and that U.S. security officials were concerned there were no notes taken.

Asked whether it was possible Putin had secretly recorded the more-than-two-hour meeting, Coats answered, "That risk is always there."

Trump was livid, and believed that Coats was trying to embarrass him in a room filled with high-ranking current and former national security officials, many of them outspoken critics of the president, a senior U.S. official said at the time.

You can't serve both America and omerta.  

February 19, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 PM


Ilhan Omar apologizes to Jewish groups for hurt caused by AIPAC tweet (Times of Israel, 2/19/19)

"Let me reiterate my sincere apology for any actual hurt my words have caused," Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, said on Tuesday afternoon, according to someone present on the call.

"I know there are a lot of people who in the last weeks have expressed support in trying to say this isn't anti-Semitic or this shouldn't be looked at in that way," she added.

But Omar said it is up to the Jewish community to define anti-Semitism.

"I do not want to give space or energy to anyone who wants to minimize the hurt," she said. [...]

The call Tuesday included a range of centrist and liberal Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the refugee resettlement agency HIAS, Americans for Peace Now and Bend the Arc.

Omar kept her remarks brief but promised to meet face to face with the groups in the near future.

She said the call was an opportunity "for you all to directly hear from me how I feel about my actions and for us to start the process of not only healing but building a relationship and getting to the process of politicking on our viewpoints on this."

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


Divided High Court Throws Out Texas Death Sentence Again (Jordan S. Rubin, Feb. 19, 2019, Bloomberg Law)

Moore failed first grade twice and then every grade after that. He was socially promoted until he dropped out of school in ninth grade. At 13, he lacked a basic understanding of time and math. In 2013, he got the lowest score on an executive functioning test that the expert evaluating him had ever recorded.

But despite the Supreme Court's opinion and the new DA's agreement that Moore shouldn't be executed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals--the state's highest court for criminal cases--insisted Moore must die when it ruled against him again last year. 

The justices reversed that latest state decision Feb. 19, admonishing the state court for "too many instances" in which it repeated the analysis previously rejected by the high court in 2017.

The Supreme Court majority therefore agreed "with Moore and the prosecutor that, on the basis of the trial court record, Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability."

In his concurrence, Roberts noted that, while he still disagrees with the way that the 2017 majority articulated how to apply the high court's intellectual disability precedent, he joined the majority here because the Texas court repeated its improper analysis and emphasized Moore's adaptive strengths rather than his deficits.

"That did not pass muster under this Court's analysis last time," Roberts wrote. "It still doesn't." [...]

And though it's unclear which way Kavanaugh voted here, another noteworthy aspect of Moore's case is that it attracted an outside brief from the justice's former boss, Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who enlisted Kavanaugh in his pursuit of then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Signed by Starr and other conservatives, the brief argued that the Texas court's failure to follow "the rule of law" was so great that the justices didn't even need to hold oral arguments before siding with Moore again. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


BDS-supporting Rashida Tlaib uses Israeli tech for her personal website (STUART WINER, 2/19/19, Times of Israel)

In a video published on the Facebook page of the Israel Advocacy Movement, founder Joseph Cohen displayed a screen capture of the code used for Tlaib's website which showed it was created using Wix.com.

"That's right, the Palestinian queen of BDS has a website that was built and bought from Israel," Cohen says.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Putin To Deliver State Of Nation Address As Popularity Wanes (Radio Liberty, February 19, 2019)

This year's speech comes with a recent poll showing public trust in Putin has fallen to its lowest level in 13 years amid continuing economic woes. More than one in five Russians now lives in poverty, according to recent research by an institute with links to the Kremlin. Nationwide protests broke out in 2018 over the government's plans to raise the age of eligibility for pensions.

Russia still faces international sanctions for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, as well as its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 have died since the conflict erupted in April 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


A Different Kind of Theory of Everything: Physicists used to search for the smallest components of the universe. What if that's not the point? (Natalie Wolchover, 2/19/19, The New Yorker)

Perhaps the most striking thing about those explanations is that, even as each draws only a partial picture of reality, they are mathematically perfect. Take general relativity. Physicists know that Einstein's theory is incomplete. Yet it is a spectacular artifice, with a spare, taut mathematical structure. Fiddle with the equations even a little and you lose all of its beauty and simplicity. It turns out that, if you want to discover a deeper way of explaining the universe, you can't take the equations of the existing description and subtly deform them. Instead, you must make a jump to a totally different, equally perfect mathematical structure. What's the point, theorists wonder, of the perfection found at every level, if it's bound to be superseded?

It seems inconceivable that this intricate web of perfect mathematical descriptions is random or happenstance. This mystery must have an explanation. But what might such an explanation look like? One common conception of physics is that its laws are like a machine that humans are building in order to predict what will happen in the future. The "theory of everything" is like the ultimate prediction machine--a single equation from which everything follows. But this outlook ignores the existence of the many different machines, built in all manner of ingenious ways, that give us equivalent predictions.

To paraphrase another physicist, "we have no idea what the Final Theory will be, only that it will be beautiful and simple."

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


McCabe: 'No One Objected' When Congressional Leaders Were Told about Trump Probe (JACK CROWE, February 19, 2019, National Review)

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe said Tuesday that "no one objected" when he briefed congressional leaders about the counterintelligence probe he had recently opened into President Trump in May 2017.

"That's the important part here, Savannah," McCabe told Savannah Guthrie on NBC's Today show. "No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts."

The ideal solution for them is to be rid of him without getting their hands dirty.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Socialism is now a classification that no longer classifies (George Will, Feb. 19, 2019, lAS vEGAS sUN)

Time was, socialism meant thorough collectivism: state ownership of the means of production (including arable land), distribution and exchange. When this did not go swimmingly where it was first tried, Lenin said (in 1922) that socialism meant government ownership of the economy's "commanding heights" -- big entities. After many subsequent dilutions, today's watery conceptions of socialism amount to this: almost everyone will be nice to almost everyone, using money taken from a few. This means having government distribute, according to its conception of equity, the wealth produced by capitalism. This conception is shaped by muscular factions: the elderly, government employees unions, the steel industry, the sugar growers, and so on and on and on. Some wealth is distributed to the poor; most goes to the "neglected" middle class. Some neglect: The political class talks of little else.

Two-thirds of the federal budget (and 14 percent of GDP) goes to transfer payments, mostly to the non-poor. The U.S. economy's health care sector (about 18 percent of the economy) is larger than the economies of all but three nations, and is permeated by government money and mandates. Before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, 40 cents of every health care dollar was government's 40 cents. The sturdy yeomanry who till America's soil? Last year's 529-page Agriculture Improvement Act will be administered by the Agriculture Department, which has about one employee for every 20 American farms.

Socialists favor a steeply progressive income tax, as did those who created today's: The top 1 percent pay 40 percent of taxes; the bottom 50 percent pay only 3 percent; 50 percent of households pay either no income tax or 10 percent or less of their income. Law professor Richard Epstein notes that in the past 35 years, the fraction of total taxes paid by the lower 90 percent has shrunk from more than 50 percent to about 35 percent.

Sorry Bernie Bros But Nordic Countries Are Not Socialist (Jeffrey Dorfman, 7/08/18, Forbes)

[T]he Nordic countries practice mostly free market economics paired with high taxes exchanged for generous government entitlement programs.

First, it is worth noting that the Nordic counties were economic successes before they built their welfare states. Those productive economies, generating good incomes for their workers, allowed the governments to raise the tax revenue needed to pay for the social benefits. It was not the government benefits that created wealth, but wealth that allowed the luxury of such generous government programs.

Second, as evidence of the lack of government interference in business affairs, there is the fact that none of these countries have minimum wage laws. Unions are reasonably powerful in many industries and negotiate contracts, but the government does nothing to ensure any particular outcome from those negotiations. Workers are paid what they are worth, not based on government's perception of what is fair.

A third example of Nordic commitment to free markets can be found in Sweden which has complete school choice. The government provides families with vouchers for each child. These vouchers can be used to attend regular public schools, government-run charter schools, or private, for-profit schools. Clearly, the use of government funds to pay for private, for-profit schools is the opposite of socialism.

We can also confirm these isolated facts by looking at a comprehensive measure of capitalism relative to socialism. The Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based, pro-free market, think tank, compiles a worldwide ranking of countries called the economic freedom index. Its website explains that its ranking "is an effort to identify how closely the institutions and policies of a country correspond with a limited government ideal, where the government protects property rights and arranges for the provision of a limited set of "public goods" such as national defense and access to money of sound value, but little beyond these core functions." Clearly, a socialist country should perform poorly in any ranking based on these principles.

What we find, however, is the Nordic countries rank quite high on this index of economic freedom. In fact, while Hong Kong and Singapore top the list and the U.S. ranks 12th, we can find the Nordic countries in quite respectable rankings. Denmark ranks 15, Finland 17, Norway 25, and Sweden 27. In terms of numerical scores, Sweden is only 5% lower than the U.S. For further comparison, South Korea and Japan, both considered fairly pro-free market, rank 32 and 39, respectively.

When Donald rants about Socialism he's just expressing the Right's hatred of America as it exists.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


When Reagan Righted FDR's Wrong (Carl M. Cannon, 2/19/19,  RCP)

For reasons neither of them could ever quite explain, young Norm Mineta and young Al Simpson hit it off immediately. Their alliance was rekindled in Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s. Simpson arrived as a Republican senator from Wyoming. Mineta was already here, one of the stars of the fabled "Watergate" class of House Democrats elected in 1974.

Together, with help from Inouye, Matsui, and many others, the two men worked for a decade on passing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It compensated the survivors of the internment camps with $20,000 in a tax-free payment -- hardly enough -- along with an official apology.

It was signed into law on Aug. 10, 1988 by President Reagan, who made a point of mentioning the tribulations of Norm Mineta and his family. As Mineta watched solemnly from the audience, the president described how the Minetas were taken from their homes in San Jose, sent by train to Santa Anita Racetrack, where they showered in the paddock, and then were shipped to Heart Mountain where the entire family lived in a one-room shack.

"The legislation that I am about to sign provides for a restitution payment to each of the 60,000 surviving Japanese-Americans of the 120,000 who were relocated or detained," Reagan said. "Yet no payment can make up for those lost years. So, what is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. For here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law."

The president also paid homage to the famed all-nisei regiment, focusing on the central injustice: "The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up entirely of Japanese-Americans, served with immense distinction to defend this nation, their nation," he noted. "Yet back at home, the soldiers' families were being denied the very freedom for which so many of the soldiers themselves were laying down their lives."

Here, Reagan wasn't just reading something drafted by his speechwriters. The 77-year-old president knew more about this than anyone on the White House staff. He knew about some of that ugly wartime prejudice because he was there. Reagan recalled the saga of Kazuo Masuda, a decorated veteran of the 442nd who was killed in Italy. While the 25-year-old Sgt. Masuda was giving his life for his country, his family was held behind the barbed wire at a relocation camp in Arizona. Even after the war, his sister Mary was threatened when she returned to her Southern California farm. An Orange County cemetery refused to inter Sgt. Masuda's remains.

This did not go well down with the U.S. Army brass. An incensed Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell went personally to Orange County, where he publicly pinned Kazuo Masuda's Distinguished Service Cross on his sister's lapel. Other dignitaries attended the ceremony, too, including Robert Young, Will Rogers Jr. and a 34-year-old film star who'd served stateside during the war as a U.S. Army captain.

"Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all one color," the actor said that day. "America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race, but on an ideal. Not in spite of that, but because of, our polyglot background, we have all the strength in the world. That is the American way."

Japanese Internment: Why It Was a Good Idea--And the Lessons It Offers Today (Daniel Pipes, 12/28/04, NY Sun)

Leftist and Islamist organizations have so successfully intimidated public opinion that polite society shies away from endorsing a focus on Muslims.

In America, this intimidation results in large part from a revisionist interpretation of the evacuation, relocation, and internment of ethnic Japanese during World War II. Although more than 60 years past, these events matter yet deeply today, permitting the victimization lobby, in compensation for the supposed horrors of internment, to condemn in advance any use of ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion in formulating domestic security policy.

Denying that the treatment of ethnic Japanese resulted from legitimate national security concerns, this lobby has established that it resulted solely from a combination of"wartime hysteria" and"racial prejudice." As radical groups like the American Civil Liberties Union wield this interpretation, in the words of Michelle Malkin,"like a bludgeon over the War on Terror debate," they pre-empt efforts to build an effective defense against today's Islamist enemy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Why Mueller tucked a big Roger Stone reveal in a Russia filing on a technical matter (Barbara McQuade, Feb. 19, 2019, usa tODAY)

First, the filing discloses that the government has evidence of Stone's direct communications with Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks. This revelation goes much further than the Stone indictment itself and establishes a direct link between Russia and Stone, a Trump campaign adviser.

Referring to these communications as "evidence" suggests that the special counsel considers the communications probative and relevant to proving Stone's guilt. Whatever these communications are, we can reasonably conclude that they are incriminating.

Second, the filing indicates that search warrants were used to obtain these communications. Search warrants can be used to obtain email and social media accounts, including the content of every email or Twitter direct message a user has ever sent or received. These communications would help Mueller determine whether Stone was ever in direct contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as Stone claimed in August 2016.

In addition, a search warrant can be used to obtain emails from internet service providers doing business in the United States, even if the account user is overseas. If, for example, a Russian hacker were using a Gmail account, a search warrant to Google could provide every email ever sent or received on that account. And if the special counsel has obtained Stone's email communications, it seems likely that he has also obtained the email communications of others, such as Donald Trump Jr., who has admitted to sending email messages to set up a meeting with Russians to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton in June 2016.

Third, the phrase "to discuss the timing and promotion of their release" emphasizes that Mueller considers the conspiracy with which he has charged the Russian intelligence officers to include not just hacking and stealing emails, but also disseminating them. The GRU indictment provides a framework for adding as co-conspirators anyone else who conspired to promote the release of the stolen emails at a time that would be most beneficial to Trump's campaign.

In fact, one batch of emails was released about an hour after news broke about the "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump was heard disparaging women. If someone from the campaign suggested to WikiLeaks that stolen emails be released that day, that person could potentially be charged as a co-conspirator in the GRU case.

You can always tell how damaging revelations are by the level of Trumpbot hysteria over the Steele Dossier, FISA warrants and the FBI flunkies. When they bring up Hillary and the DNC you want to grab them some smelling salts.
Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump's Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him (Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 19, 2019, NY Times)

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump's role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to "jump on a grenade" for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president's many legal problems go away.

Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. [...]

White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president's staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration's first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Malcolm X at Oxford: 'They're going to kill me soon': Just before his assassination, the radical black activist took part in a debate at Oxford. Tariq Ali recalls their meeting, which left him in a state of shock - and is now the subject of a TV show (Tariq Ali 19 Feb 2019, The guardian)

[E]rc Abrahams - the radical Jamaican president of the Oxford Union (and a friend) - decided to invite Malcolm to participate in his farewell debate. The subject was a quote from Barry Goldwater, the alt-right Republican candidate for the presidency: "Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

To our astonishment, Malcolm agreed to come and defend the motion. A problem arose: the union did not have the funds to pay Malcolm's fare. Abrahams mentioned this to an acquaintance in the BBC. Within days, the Beeb agreed to buy his plane ticket, provided it had exclusive rights to filming and broadcasting the debate. We laughed a lot and agreed. Yes, the BBC was a different outfit in those times and its director-general, Hugh Greene, appeared mild-mannered but was fiercely independent-minded. As a result, the debate took place and is now part of Malcolm X's history: two books on his visit to the Oxford Union; a movie under way, and, later this week, a documentary to launch the Smithsonian Channel in the UK.

I met him on the day of the debate. He greeted me with a huge smile as a "Muslim brother". I felt I had to disillusion him immediately. "Only in name," I whispered. "I'm an atheist." To my amazement, he roared. "I've just finished a trip to the Muslim world," he said, "and met many people like you." It had been an educative trip and he spoke of how the theologians at the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo had convinced him that, whatever else, the Nation of Islam was not a Muslim organisation. Islam was universalist, not separatist in any sense of the word. The sight of blue-eyed, fair-skinned pilgrims at Mecca, which pleased him, helped complete his ideological break with his former colleagues.

His speech at the union was not one of his virtuoso performances in terms of rhythm, improvised cadences, silences and eruptions. At his peak, his speeches were like word-jazz, with gestures but no other accompaniment, except the response of the crowd. But that was reserved for his own people. In this, he was not unlike Fidel Castro, whom he had met and hosted in Harlem a few years previously.

Here, in a foreign land at a famous location, he was slightly bemused, whispering to me: "I've never addressed such a well-dressed white audience before." The importance of his speech lay in its political content. He broke with black separatism in public, declaring that intermarriages between races were fine and that black and white people had to get together and fight the system.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Top Takeaways from Bombshell Report Flynn Wanted to Give Nuclear Tech to Saudis, May Have Broken Law (Matt Naham, February 19th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Flynn was allegedly involved in the following proposal:

The proposal, which involved enlisting the U.S. nuclear power industry to build nuclear plants across the Middle East, was backed by a group of retired generals who formed a firm called IP3. Flynn described himself in financial disclosure filings as an "advisor" to a subsidiary of IP3, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016 -- at the same time he was serving as Trump's national security adviser during the presidential campaign and the presidential transition, the report says.

Not only was Flynn told he might have violated the law, the Trump administration's pursuit of this nuclear tech transfer, Cummings said, appears "ongoing."

These goals may even raise new speculation about why President Donald Trump, for instance, responded the way he did in the aftermath of Saudi Arabian agents' assassination of journalist and permanent U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


On Immigration, Trump Needs to Focus on the Numbers (STEVEN CAMAROTA, February 19, 2019, National Review)

[F]or all the talk about the border, the biggest issue when it comes to immigration is not welfare or illegal immigration per se; it is the total number of immigrants settling in the country, legally or illegally. While Democrats focus on amnesty, business associations endlessly push for ever more guest workers -- and the media happily support both. But the president should always bring the discussion back to the numbers. Both the national interest and his political future depend on it.

Always fun when the Natists pretend it's only the illegality they oppose, but then come out against legalization and getting rid of quotas.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Immigrants Recognize American Greatness: Immigrants and Their Descendants Are Patriotic and Trust America's Governing Institutions (Alex Nowrasteh and Andrew Forrester, February 4, 2019, Cato)

Based on their responses to the General Social Survey, we found that immigrants and their children have levels of patriotism that are about the same as those of native-born Americans or that exceed them. Additionally, immigrants and their descendants have more trust in the three branches of American government than do native-born Americans. Immigrants bolster patriotism and national trust in American government institutions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Trump's national emergency looks like a 2020 loser (Aaron Blake, February 19, 2019, washington Post)

A new NPR/PBS/Marist College poll was launched when Trump declared his national emergency four days ago. And the verdict isn't a good one: The poll shows 61 percent of registered voters disapprove of Trump's national emergency declaration, vs. 36 percent who approve of it. [...]

Perhaps more important in the Marist poll, though, is this question: "Does President Trump declaring a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border make you more likely or less likely to vote for him for reelection in 2020?" On that question, a majority -- 54 percent -- says this is a motivator to vote against Trump, while just 33 percent say it's more likely to make them vote for Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Texas Republicans -- and Beto -- are more conservative than their national parties (Mark P. Jones,  Feb. 18, 2019, Texas Tribune)

O'Rourke's score also reveals that, within the context of national Democratic politics, Beto is quite moderate, with a more centrist ideological position than those of more than three-quarters of all Democratic U.S. House members. Within the current context, where the Democratic Party is veering further to the left on issues ranging from health care to taxes, Beto's centrist track record could represent a liability in a race for president. On the other hand, with a Democratic left lane that is more congested than Houston freeways during rush hour, O'Rourke's centrist profile could give him room to maneuver in the comparatively uncongested center lane, where the potential number of candidates seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination is much smaller.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


The Taking: How the federal government abused its power to seize property for a border fence: A decade ago, many border Texans got a raw deal when the federal government seized land for a barrier -- while others pushed up the price. Will the government's rushed, haphazard process be repeated as it pushes for a border wall? (T. CHRISTIAN MILLER, PROPUBLICA AND KIAH COLLIER AND JULIÁN AGUILAR, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE DEC. 14, 2017, Texas Tribune)

Years before President Donald Trump promised to build his wall, Homeland Security erected an 18-foot-high fence here in a botched land grab that serves as a warning for the future.

An investigation by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune shows that Homeland Security cut unfair real estate deals, secretly waived legal safeguards for property owners, and ultimately abused the government's extraordinary power to take land from private citizens.

The major findings: 

Homeland Security circumvented laws designed to help landowners receive fair compensation. The agency did not conduct formal appraisals of targeted parcels. Instead, it issued low-ball offers based on substandard estimates of property values.

Larger, wealthier property owners who could afford lawyers negotiated deals that, on average, tripled the opening bids from Homeland Security. Smaller and poorer landholders took whatever the government offered -- or wrung out small increases in settlements. The government conceded publicly that landowners without lawyers might wind up shortchanged, but did little to protect their interests.

The Justice Department bungled hundreds of condemnation cases. The agency took property without knowing the identity of the actual owners. It condemned land without researching facts as basic as property lines. Landholders spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves from the government's mistakes.

The government had to redo settlements with landowners after it realized it had failed to account for the valuable water rights associated with the properties, an oversight that added months to the compensation process.

On occasion, Homeland Security paid people for property they did not actually own. The agency did not attempt to recover the misdirected taxpayer funds, instead paying for land a second time once it determined the correct owners.

Nearly a decade later, scores of landowners remain tangled in lawsuits. The government has already taken their land and built the border fence. But it has not resolved claims for its value.

The errors and disparities played out family by family, block by block, county by county, up and down the length of the border fence.

One assumes the landowners will be better represented now.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Self-Driving Cars Might Kill Auto Insurance as We Know It (Paul Tullis, February 19, 2019, Bloomberg)

The transition points to a larger, existential crisis for the multbillion dollar car insurance industry. If nobody's driving, why do we need auto insurance? Premiums--and company revenues--are based on a driver's likelihood of being in an accident and actual crash rates. With more than 90 percent of accidents caused by human error, taking the driver out of the equation is going to mean big changes for insurers. 

It's impossible to overstate deflationary pressures.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 AM


Tomi Lahren Is Trump's Rightful Heir: Just because she's the poor man's Ann Coulter, don't sleep on Tomi. She could be destined to inherit Trump's movement. (MOLLY JONG-FAST  FEBRUARY 19, 2019, The Bulwark)

She's got all of the rage and racialist attitudes of Ann Coulter but isn't burdened by any of Coulter's intellectualism. When she's not in attack mode, she's perfected the blank stare of Steve Doocy, which allows her to take on the aspect of tabula rasa conservativism. Is she for free markets? Crony capitalism? Outlawing abortion? Who can say. What matters is that she's into melting snowflakes. She's the perfect designated successor for Trumpism.

Tomi didn't just emerge, fully-formed, from Ann Coulter's head. No, she was shaped and molded by the awesome power of the conservative media feedback loop mixing with her raw talent and ambition. She got her start in the ecosystem with One America News Network (of course) and then migrated to Glenn Beck's Blaze, where she was eventually fired for announcing that she was pro-choice while doing a guest spot on The View. The surprise conversion on a network show was a total coincidence and in no way an attempt to get out of her contract with a niche streaming service in order to break into the bigtime.

It's interesting how smoothly Tomi's pro-choice views dovetail with the binary-choice pro-lifers who are always trying to talk themselves into believing that they have to support Trump, no matter what, in order to save babies. They seem unperturbed by Tomi's heterodoxy and not terribly interested in what it says about Trump's commitment to the cause of life that a pro-choice zealot is one of his biggest apologists. Perhaps this is a signal achievement of Trumpism, which seems to have crafted its own fusionism between the religious right and the libertarian wings of the party. Or maybe it's an achievement unique to Tomi's own brand in which she bridges the divide with anti-abortion crusaders by gleefully calling for the gassing of migrant children and rage tweeting about the "pathetic" "snakes" who were upset about a child dying in an ICE detention facility. She's a uniter, not a divider.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


The Future of the Liberal Order Is Conservative: A Strategy to Save the System (Jennifer Lind and William C. Wohlforth, March 2019, Foreign Affairs)

After the Cold War, the liberal order expanded dramatically. With the Soviet Union gone and China still weak, the states at the core of the order enjoyed a commanding global position, and they used it to expand their system. In the Asia-Pacific, the United States strengthened its security commitments to Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and other partners. In Europe, NATO and the EU took on more and more members, widened and deepened cooperation among their members, and began intervening far beyond Europe's borders. The EU developed "neighborhood policies" to enhance security, prosperity, and liberal practices across Eurasia, the Middle East, and North Africa; NATO launched missions in Afghanistan, the Gulf of Aden, and Libya. 

For liberals, this is simply what progress looks like. And to be sure, much of the order's dynamism--say, the GATT's transformation into the more permanent and institutional World Trade Organization, or the UN's increasingly ambitious peacekeeping agenda--met with broad support among liberal and authoritarian countries alike. But some key additions to the order clearly constituted revisionism by liberal countries, which, tellingly, were the only states that wanted them. 

Most controversial were the changes that challenged the principle of sovereignty. Under the banner of "the responsibility to protect," governments, nongovernmental organizations, and activists began pushing a major strengthening of international law with the goal of holding states accountable for how they treated their own people. Potent security alliances such as NATO and powerful economic institutions such as the IMF joined the game, too, adding their muscle to the campaign to spread liberal conceptions of human rights, freedom of information, markets, and politics. 

Democracy promotion assumed a newly prominent role in U.S. grand strategy, with President Bill Clinton speaking of "democratic enlargement" and President George W. Bush championing his "freedom agenda." The United States and its allies increasingly funded nongovernmental organizations to build civil society and spread democracy around the world, blurring the line between public and private efforts. U.S. taxpayers, for example, have footed the bill for the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit that promotes democracy and human rights in China, Russia, and elsewhere. Meddling in other states' domestic affairs is old hat, but what was new was the overt and institutionalized nature of these activities, a sign of the order's post-Cold War mojo. As Allen Weinstein, the co-founder of the National Endowment for Democracy, admitted in a 1991 interview, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."

As never before, state power, legal norms, and public-private partnerships were harnessed together to expand the order's--and Washington's--geopolitical reach. Perhaps the clearest example of these heightened ambitions came in the Balkans, where, in 1999, NATO harnessed its military power to the emerging "responsibility to protect" norm and coerced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to acquiesce to Kosovo's de facto independence--after which the United States and its allies openly joined forces with local civil society groups to topple him from power. It was a remarkably bold move. In just a few months, the United States and its allies transformed the politics of an entire region that had traditionally been considered peripheral, priming it for incorporation into the security and economic structures dominated by the liberal West.

To say that all of this represented revisionism is not to equate it morally with, say, Beijing's militarization in the South China Sea or Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and electoral meddling in the United States and Europe. Rather, the point is that the order's horizons have expanded dramatically, with state power, new legal norms, overt and covert actions, and public-private partnerships together stretching the order wider and pushing it deeper. No country these days is consistently interested in maintaining the status quo; we are all revisionists now. Revisionism undertaken by illiberal states is often seen as mere power grabbing, but revisionism undertaken by liberal states has also resulted in geopolitical rewards: expanded alliances, increased influence, and more perquisites for the chief sponsors of the order, the United States above all. [...]

One might wonder whether an order grounded in liberal principles can in fact practice restraint. In the mid-eighteenth century, the philosopher David Hume warned that the United Kingdom was prosecuting its wars against illiberal adversaries with "imprudent vehemence," contradicting the dictates of the balance of power and risking national bankruptcy. Perhaps such imprudence is part and parcel of the foundational ideology and domestic politics of liberal powers. As the political scientist John Mearsheimer has put it, "Liberal states have a crusader mentality hardwired into them."

Indeed, the principles of liberalism apply to all individuals, not just those who happen to be citizens of a liberal country. On what basis, then, can a country committed to liberal ideals stand idly by when they are trampled abroad--especially when that country is powerful enough to do something about it? In the United States, leaders often try to square the circle by contending that spreading democracy actually serves the national interest, but the truth is that power and principle don't always go together.

Because liberal convictions are part of their identity, Americans often feel they should support those who rise up against tyranny. Perhaps in the abstract one can promise restraint, but when demonstrators take to Tahrir Square in Cairo, Maidan in Kiev, or Bolotnaya Square in Moscow, many Americans want their government to stand with those flying freedom's flag. And when countries want to join the order's key security and economic institutions, Americans want the United States to say yes, even when there is scant strategic sense in it. Political incentives encourage this impulse, since politicians in the United States know that they can score points by bashing any leader who sells out lovers of liberty. 

The conceit being that we can stop Asians, Arabs and Africans from insisting we fulfill our own ideals.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Alabama newspaper editor calls for Klan return to 'clean out D.C.' (Melissa Brown, Feb. 18, 2019, Montgomery Advertiser)

The editor of a small-town Alabama newspaper published an editorial calling for "the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again" against "Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats [who] are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama." [...]

Goodloe Sutton -- who is the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter newspaper in Linden, Alabama -- confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser on Monday that he authored the Feb. 14 editorial calling for the return of a white supremacist hate group.  [...]

When asked if he felt it was appropriate for the publisher of a newspaper to call for the lynching of Americans, Sutton doubled down on his position.

"... It's not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we're talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?" Sutton said.

February 18, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 PM


The Creeping Liberalism in American Islam: Far from spreading Shariah, as Islamophobes have suggested, America's Muslim clerics are focusing on a more familiar trend: youngsters blending into American life.  (Mustafa Akyol, Feb. 18, 2019, NY Times)

When you examine the internal discussions among conservative Muslim leaders or pundits in America today, they don't come across as concocting some "Protocols of the Elders of Mecca." Instead of cheering for any creeping Shariah, they seem worried about a creeping liberalism within American Islam.

Read Mikaeel Ahmed Smith, for example. He's an imam in Virginia who has titled an internet article "A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims, Making Them Gods Above God." His criticism targets a new genre of Muslim bloggers and writers who he says "challenge or outright reject the traditionally normative Islamic view on social issues and Muslim life." These young people care less about traditional religious texts, the imam warns, because of "a rejection of any authority other than one's own intellect."

Or read Butheina Hamdah, an academic, who sees alarming signs of "liberal individualism" among American Muslim women. She thinks the hijab (the Islamic head scarf) is becoming a mere "cultural marker of identity" while losing its "deeper theological dimensions." That is why "trendy" or "sexy" versions of the hijab are emerging, she argues, while young Muslim women embrace feminist notions of "bodily autonomy" and "individual choice."

Perhaps nothing marks this liberal trend more than the skyrocketing acceptance of gay marriage, which, as a 2017 poll showed, is now stronger among American Muslims than among white evangelical Christians. It is also reflected in the pro-L.G.B.T.Q. stance of two new Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. (This month, Ms. Omar took a lesson in how to integrate into America's pluralist politics when she apologized, after heavy criticism from her own Democratic Party's leaders, for a tweet that insinuated that American support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group. "Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes," she said almost immediately, adding, "I unequivocally apologize.")

There are two distinct lines in this trend toward American values. One is a kind of anything-goes social liberalism, spearheaded by small groups like Muslims for Progressive Values. The other, larger line is a political liberalism that accepts a pluralist framework for society while preserving its own social and moral conservatism. Jonathan Brown, a convert to Islam and scholar of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, theorized the latter approach in a much-discussed article in which he accepted gay marriage of non-Muslims by making an analogy to traditional Muslim empires' noninterference in what he called "incestuous Zoroastrian marriages."

Islam is particularly vulnerable to Amrericanization because it has so little theological content.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Kamala Harris Tells New Hampshire: 'I Am Not a Democratic Socialist' ( Katharine Q. Seelye, Feb. 18, 2019, NY Times)

The exchange involving Mr. Sanders, the independent senator from neighboring Vermont who won the 2016 primary here with 60 percent of the vote, came after a question about whether Ms. Harris would have to tack left like Mr. Sanders to do well in the New Hampshire primary next year.

"The people of New Hampshire will tell me what's required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist," she said. Mr. Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist, a label that some prominent Democrats have also embraced, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"I believe that what voters do want is they want to know that whoever is going to lead, understands that in America today not everyone has an equal opportunity and access to a path to success," she added.

Ms. Harris holds a mix of liberal and more moderate policy positions, and she has been criticized by some on the left for her criminal justice record as a prosecutor and attorney general in California.

Awfully late for a first visit.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Why I Am Staying in the GOP (Charlie Sykes,  February 18th, 2019, The Bulwark)

On today's Bulwark podcast, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss why he's remaining a Republican, the current state of the RNC and Trumpism, his relationship with Reince Priebus, President Trump's so-called National Emergency, the 2020 elections and future of the GOP majority in the Senate.

Mr. Steele does not pull any punches.

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


Andrew McCabe worried Trump was a potential national security threat. America should listen to his warning. (Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence and NBC News/MSNBC analyst, 2/18/19, NBC News)

FBI agents are trained to identify and mitigate threats. It's clear that McCabe was seriously concerned about a national security threat emanating directly from the Oval Office. As such, he tried to mitigate that threat. These passages paint an image of a chaotic administration made even more chaotic with the firing of the FBI director.

In an interview Sunday on CBS, "60 Minutes," McCabe stated that during the days after Comey was fired, "the highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what to do with the President," even exploring the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to have Trump removed from office. [...]

Shockingly, as excerpted in the Washington Post, McCabe recounts an Oval Office briefing in July 2017, wherein the president refused to believe a U.S. intelligence report that North Korea had test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Trump dismissed this intelligence as a "hoax" because Russian President Vladimir Putin told him North Korea lacked that capacity. To a trained senior FBI agent and lawyer like McCabe, this would have fueled further concern that a president whose potential ties to Russian agents was already under suspicion, was relying on and receiving disinformation from the head of our most formidable adversary.

In McCabe's telling, he was seriously worried that obstruction of the Mueller probe was happening or could happen. In his "60 Minutes" interview, McCabe said that fearing he might be fired, he moved to try and ensure the "Russia case was on solid ground." He took steps to make it tougher for anyone to end the investigation if he was removed. Specifically, McCabe said he ordered an obstruction of justice investigation of the president. This additional obstruction component would have added a layer of protection to the Russian case in that someone trying to close the investigation would have had to prove that decision was not intended to obstruct, or aid the president in obstructing, the broader investigation.

Of course, McCabe's fears about his job were warranted. He was fired from the FBI a mere 26 hours before he could have retired with an FBI pension. This firing was the result of a DOJ Inspector General inquiry that recommended McCabe be fired for an unauthorized media disclosure and for lacking candor on four occasions. I led an adjudication unit in the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and was responsible for disciplinary decisions in cases of serious misconduct. I later served as the FBI's chief inspector, investigating and reviewing sensitive personnel and program performance issues. In the hundreds of internal investigations that I've handled, I never saw an FBI employee fired within 26 hours of retirement.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


Councilors pitch downtown summer street closures (Jeff McMenemy, 2/18/19, seacoastonline.com)

PORTSMOUTH - City Councilors Ned Raynolds and Nancy Pearson will ask their fellow councilors to authorize a report from city staff on their proposal to close a number of downtown streets to vehicular traffic on July weekends.

"The idea of making downtown Portsmouth more pedestrian friendly and bike friendly is something I think has been an idea that's been around for a long time to talk about," Raynolds said Monday. "We do it a few times a year, like when we have the Halloween Parade and Christmas Parade."

The councilors believe that it's the right time "to give the idea a little more prominence and take a closer look. Our goal is to make downtown Portsmouth even more vibrant and economically thriving by making the experience for people an even better experience," Raynolds said.

Cities ought not have autos in them.
Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM

You Should Be Roasting Cabbage Whole: This simple cooking method transforms the staple into a sweet and creamy late-winter star (JENNY EVERETT, February/March 2019, Garden & Gun)

Charred Green Cabbage
Yield: 4 servings

1 large head of green cabbage
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 lemon
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the outside of the cabbage and place it in the oven on a baking sheet. Roast for about 2 hours, until outer leaves are very dark and a small knife goes into the core easily. Remove from oven and carefully peel off and discard dark leaves until you reach less-browned layers. Cut cabbage into quarters, then brush with melted butter and char on a hot grill until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon over top and sprinkle with salt to taste. Top with chopped chives and roasted sunflower seeds. Serve with any grilled or roasted meat or fish.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Ranky Tanky: Keeping the Faith: The Charleston band taps its roots to bring Gullah music to the top of the charts (ALLISON GLOCK, February/March 2019, Garden & Gun)

Charleston-based Ranky Tanky formed in May 2016, when five musician friends with shared personal and professional history dating back decades--trumpeter Charlton Singleton, drummer Quentin Baxter, guitarist Clay Ross, bassist Kevin Hamilton, and vocalist Parler--got together at Ross's urging to record their interpretation of Gullah music, songs and spirituals passed on from those descended from enslaved people, primarily along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, who developed their own language and culture thanks to their relative seclusion.

"When Clay approached us about Ranky Tanky, honestly the first thing I said was 'Why would we go out and do Gullah?'" Singleton recalls, sitting beside Parler as he tears open a biscuit and slathers it with jam. "'I can go to church right now and hear folks singing those songs.'"

Singleton, who is forty-eight, could not have predicted how their arrangements of age-old Gullah mainstays would penetrate a cluttered media landscape and resonate with listeners hungry for authenticity and mainlined soul. How the music of his youth and family would quench a thirst he never suspected existed beyond his backyard. "What I learned is that everybody can relate to it somehow," he says. "In all of our travels, whether it's us playing in Seattle or Nebraska or Northern Canada, everybody's got some sort of turmoil that they've been through. And this music, coming from this community and those enslaved Africans, everybody can feel a piece of Ranky Tanky." (The very name is an evocation of movement, meaning "work it" or "get funky.")

Parler remembers thinking when she signed on that the band would book a few local gigs, perhaps some summer festivals. "The initial talk was maybe ten tour dates," seconds Singleton, who at the time had just agreed to be the first artist in residence at Charleston's Gaillard Center for the performing arts. But ten shows turned into twenty, then fifty. "And then it was five countries in Europe. I was like, 'What?'"

"We went to the Czech Republic, and they were screaming 'Ron-ky Ton-ky!'" says Parler, bemused still.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Roger Stone posts photo of judge next to crosshairs after gag order (Bob Fredericks, February 18, 2019, NY Post) 

Just days after federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson slapped Roger Stone with a gag order, President Trump's longtime ally attacked her on social media -- posted her photo with a fundraising rant and crosshairs next to her head on Instagram.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


Farrakhan: The 'Wicked Jews' Use Me to Attack Women's Movement, March Leaders (Cameron Cawthorne, February 18, 2019, Free Beacon)

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Sunday blamed "wicked Jews" for trying to use him to criticize Women's March leadership and "break up the women's movement." [...]

As of early last month, over 300 organizations have withdrawn their sponsorship of the Women's March amidst controversy over the ties of the group's co-chairs to Farrakhan and allegations of anti-Semitism. Organizations that have rescinded their support include AFL-CIO, NARAL, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, NRDC, OXFAM, Greenpeace, Amnesty, Southern Poverty Law Center, and EMILY's List.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM

WHICH EXPLAINS A LOT (profanity alert):

Lyndon LaRouche, 1922-2019: The death of a charmless kook (Jesse Walker, Feb. 15, 2019, reason)

LaRouche, who died Tuesday at age 96, was a despicable old fraud, and the warmest feeling I've ever been able to conjure for his devotees is pity. Fiercely authoritarian in both his political ideals and his personal life, LaRouche fed his followers a stream of lies, psychological abuse, and paranoid fantasies. Those fantasies featured a big cast of villains, from the queen of England to Aristotle to "Dope, Inc." to gay people, not to mention whichever follower or ex-follower was the designated scapegoat of the moment. One such scapegoat, Ken Kronberg, committed suicide after the denunciations turned his way.

LaRouche didn't limit his abuse to the people who chose to cast their lot with him. He aimed it outwards too--most infamously during "Operation Mop-Up," when his followers in several cities used fists, bats, chains, and nunchuks to attack members of the Communist Party and other leftist groups. When those assaults began in 1973, LaRouche considered himself a part of the radical left; Operation Mop-Up, he hoped, would establish his "hegemony" over the competition. But a few years later he was aligning himself with Klansmen and the far-right Liberty Lobby. He had a habit of flipping positions like that. [...]

In 1989 LaRouche went to prison for fraud, and he spent five years behind bars before he was paroled. After that, he and his followers were less likely to get meetings with Washington officials (though Roger Stone was flirting with him recently--and another ex-governor, Jesse Ventura, became a LaRouche fan). But his former followers sometimes did well for themselves. Matthew Sweet's recent book Operation CHAOS notes that a fellow named Clifford Gaddy managed to hop from the LaRouche world to the Brookings Institution, where he co-wrote a book on Putin with future Trump advisor Fiona Hill. (I should probably note that Sweet thinks it possible that Gaddy had been spying on the LaRouchies for the feds all along.) And there are journalists on both the left (Robert Dreyfuss) and the right (David "Spengler" Goldman) who spent time in LaRouche's orbit before heading off in their own directions.

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


Limbaugh calls 25th Amendment discussions 'silent coup' (BRETT SAMUELS,  02/17/19, The Hill)

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Sunday decried former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's comments that Justice Department officials raised a plan to potentially remove President Trump from office as a "silent coup," and suggested those involved should be imprisoned. [...]

"This is a silent coup," he continued. "These guys, if you ask me, ought to be the ones in jail. They ought to be the ones under investigation."

They aren't.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


Presidents Day in Hebrew; Gettysburg as haftarah (Joanne Palmer, FEB 14, 2019, Times of Israel)

On Monday, at Shacharit services that begin at 8 in the morning, Rabbi Joseph Prouser will read from the Torah, as he does every Monday morning.

But because that Monday, February 18, also is Presidents Day, Rabbi Prouser will follow the Torah reading by reading the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln's short, transcendent, beautiful, despairing, soaringly hopeful eulogy. Rabbi Prouser has translated it into Hebrew and set it to haftarah trope, so instead of reciting it he sings it. [...]

When Rabbi Prouser chants the Gettysburg Address in Hebrew, he brings together all the strands -- of striving toward what is right; of acknowledging the losses inherent to life; of understanding that decisions have consequences, and that sometimes those decisions are wrong; of trying to live with dignity and courage and decency and love.

Or, as Lincoln said in that second inaugural, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in."

We have much to do.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Lawsuit Against Trump's National Emergency Immediately Throws His Own Words Back in His Face (Matt Naham, February 18th, 2019, Law & Crime)

It was immediately apparent that numerous lawsuits would arise in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border, but it was just as obvious how these complaints would begin. Legal experts cried out that Trump had already undercut his executive action by uttering the words "I didn't need to do this." George Conway, for example, said that would be the "first sentence of the first paragraph of every complaint filed this afternoon."

Conway was a little off on the paragraph, line number, and the day, but animal and wildlife activists at the Center of Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense fund did not take long to mention that Trump himself said he didn't have to do this, calling into question whether this was a legitimate emergency.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


N.C. congressional contest marred by absentee ballot scheme: official (Marti Maguire, 2/18/19, Reuters) 

An investigation of a disputed 2018 congressional contest in North Carolina has uncovered a "coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme," the state's elections board executive director said on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Donald Trump can call a 'national emergency,' but that doesn't mean he can build the wall (Ilya Somin, Jan. 22, 2019, USA Today)

Poorly drafted laws give the president a wide range of easily abused emergency powers. Even if he can declare a "national emergency," however, that does not mean he can use it to pay for and build a wall.

Some point to 10 U.S.C. 2808 and 33 U.S.C. 2293 as possible justifications. But Section 2808 states that, during a "national emergency" that "requires the use of the armed forces," the president can reallocate defense funds to "undertake military construction projects ... that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces." No threat posed by undocumented immigration "requires the use of the armed forces," and it is hard to see why a wall is "necessary to support such use."

In fact, as Yale Law School professor Bruce Ackerman explains, longstanding laws bar the use of troops for domestic law enforcement (including enforcing immigration law).

Section 2293 also only applies to a war or emergency that "requires or may require use of the armed forces." Another federal law allows the military to condemn property for various purposes, such as "fortifications." But that only extends to projects for which funding has been appropriated by Congress.

Arguments that Trump can use disaster relief funds to build the wall are even more implausible. [...]

Even if the president can use emergency powers to get funds, that does not mean he can seize property by eminent domain. The Supreme Court has long held that the use of eminent domain must be expressly authorized by law. No emergency law expressly permit the use of eminent domain for border walls not otherwise authorized by Congress.

Building Trump's wall requires using eminent domain on a massive scale. A third of the needed land is owned by the federal government. The rest would have to be taken from private owners, Native American tribes and state governments, many of whom are unlikely to sell voluntarily.

The result would be one of the largest federal condemnations in modern U.S. history. In Texas alone, there are almost 5,000 privately owned lots in the likely path of the wall. Securing the land and building on it is likely to be costly and time-consuming. Construction and legal battles over compensation can drag on for years.

This reality underscores the absurdity of claiming that a wall is needed to combat an "emergency." Emergency powers are intended to address immediate threats that cannot be dealt with by slow-moving legislative processes. If the supposed emergency can be fixed by a wall that takes years to build, this means it was not an emergency in the first place. In reality, there is no genuine crisis that a wall could fix. It would not even meaningfully reduce undocumented immigration.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An off-key Pence sings from the Trump hymnal to a stony European reception (Anne Applebaum, February 17, 2019, Washington Post)

Even inside a hotel so secure that it has body scanners at the entrance and snipers on the roof, Vice President Pence travels with a vast security detail. Its main function, it seems, is to elbow people out of the way so that the vice president and his unsmiling wife can walk through a lobby, crowded with European officials and military brass, and speak to no one. Which is perhaps unsurprising, for Pence was heading to the main forum of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday -- an annual event whose origins lie deep in the Cold War -- to make statements so tone-deaf and, frankly, peculiar that their intended audience could not have been the one in the room.

Part of his problem is the new context. Two years ago, when Pence spoke at the same forum, many in Europe were still hoping to work with the Trump administration. His speech was banal and uninspiring -- it was "an entirely conventional restatement of American commitment to Europe," I wrote at the time -- but Europeans were so relieved to hear it that they decided, on balance, to believe him. Now they don't. At a side event honoring the late senator John McCain, who had been the moving spirit of the Munich conference for decades, Pence announced that "I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump." He then waited for applause. None came.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Graham Vows to Investigate Whether 'Bureaucratic Coup' Tried to Oust Trump (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Feb. 17, 2019, NY Times)

Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed on Sunday to investigate whether the top officials at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. plotted an "attempted bureaucratic coup" to remove President Trump from office, and said he would subpoena the former F.B.I. director and the deputy attorney general if necessary.

Even Devin Nunes would know better than to parade a bunch of national security officials to explain why Donald needs to be removed.

Former acting FBI director: Trump's 'own words' prompted counterintelligence investigation (Laura Jarrett, 2/17/19, CNN)

McCabe said officials looked at the following events:

Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to "include Russia" in a memo the President requested outlining reasons to fire Comey (which Rosenstein did not do).
Trump fired Comey.

Trump made public comments linking his firing of Comey to the Russia investigation on NBC.

Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian officials where Trump reportedly said that firing Comey relieved "great pressure."

February 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Trump Wants "Retribution" Against Comedy Shows (David Atkins February 17, 2019, Washington Monthly)

[A]t the very least the historical record should show that we made note and attempted to raise a red flag at every step downward to the valley of hell. And today is a fairly important milestone: the president of the United States just demanded "retribution" against comedy shows he found offensive, and again declared the media the "enemy of the people," a phrase with clear fascist historical precedents.

If the writers at SNL were actually funny they would have just devoted a segment to showing Donald's emergency order announcement, which is devastating.

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


Heather Nauert Withdraws as Trump's Nominee for UN Ambassador (Jennifer Jacobs , Nick Wadhams , and Margaret Talev, February 16, 2019, Bloomberg)

Nauert's nomination began to falter after the White House was alerted to a problem in her background: She had in the past employed an immigrant nanny who was in the U.S. legally but wasn't authorized to work, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Two of Trump's Bedminster undocumented housekeepers speak out (Kate Snow, 12/06/18, NBC News)

Two years ago, when Donald Trump was running for president, he proudly declared that he employed no undocumented immigrants in the construction of his grand Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

That doesn't appear to be true for some of his other properties.

When Victorina Morales went to work in 2013 as a housekeeper at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, "I told them that I don't have papers, I don't speak English and that I was an immigrant," she told NBC News on Thursday in an interview.

"They said, 'No, it doesn't matter,'" she said.

Morales left Guatemala and illegally crossed the U.S. border in 1999, according to The New York Times, which she and a second woman who used to work at the golf club, Sandra Diaz, approached to tell their story in an article published earlier Thursday.

Morales, who still works at the golf club, told NBC News that she knows she could be fired or deported for having come forward.

Posted by orrinj at 9:57 AM


How Pat Caddell's Political Life Took Him From Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump (Eleanor Clift, 02.16.19, Daily Beast)

McGovern didn't win the presidency, but the way he amassed the delegates necessary for the nomination became Carter's road map. And the themes Carter struck: "I'll never lie to you" and "a government as good as its people" had their roots in post-Watergate disillusionment and Caddell's theory about alienated voters--a theory that would eventually lead him to supporting Donald Trump. [...]

He was a mixed blessing for the administration during Carter's four years in the White House. No one ever doubted his brilliance, but it didn't always mesh with the reality as others saw it. In the summer of 1979, his poll numbers sinking, Carter retreated to Camp David for ten days to re-think his presidency. With Caddell advising him, Carter emerged to deliver what became known as the "malaise" speech. Carter never used the actual word, but Caddell did, and the rhetoric that Carter used about the public's "crisis of confidence" echoed themes that Caddell had voiced since the McGovern campaign - and that he would continue to emphasize throughout his life.

In a retrospective on the McGovern campaign in Vanity Fair in November 2012, Caddell recalled his meeting with Gary Hart, then McGovern's campaign manager, at the Miami airport. "We're in the corridor waiting for different flights, and I'm telling him my theory about alienated voters, and how the people who'd voted for Wallace in the South in 1968 were the same people who voted for Bobby Kennedy in the North. I said that the war was a one-dimensional issue. There was a lot of sentiment against it, but also a lot of support for it, especially among blue-collar voters. My argument was that McGovern was a prairie populist and that, if he used populist issues, he could appeal to that alienated vote. [...]

Last year, in November, Caddell spoke on a panel with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon at David Horowitz's Restoration Weekend Conference in Florida. He cited a raft of numbers that explained Trump's victory in 2016, according to an article on the Breitbart news site. Seventy-five percent of Americans believed the country was in decline; only 15 percent of U.S. citizens believe that if you work hard, you will succeed, while 85 percent of Americans think the rich and powerful rigged the system for their benefit.

"This is ultimately the truth," Caddell said. "Political leaders are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right for the American people, 81 percent of Americans agree." He declared "Make America Great Again" the greatest slogan of his lifetime.

Carter and Anderson got about the same % of the vote as Donald in 1980 and McGovern got about what Donald's approval number is. Populism just isn't that popular in America.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


Young adult households are earning more than most older Americans did at the same age (RICHARD FRY, 2/17/19, Pew)

After bottoming out in 2011, incomes are rising for American households - and those headed by a Millennial (someone age 22 to 37) now earn more than young adult households did at nearly any time in the past 50 years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new census data. [...]

Incomes of households headed by 54- to 72-year-olds, Baby Boomers today, are at record levels, while those of current Generation X households (ages 38 to 53) are about the same as the peak earnings of similarly aged households in the past.

It's all just whingeing.

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


Kaepernick Won. The NFL Lost. (Jemele Hill, 2/17/19, The Atlantic)

Owners and coaches already had given depositions in Kaepernick's case and the details that emerged from those proceedings did not look good for the NFL.

For one, the depositions showed just how much league owners were petrified of President Trump, who had loudly criticized the player protests. According to The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones testified in a deposition that in a phone conversation with Trump, the president told him, "This is a very winning, strong issue for me" and "Tell everybody, you can't win this one. This one lifts me."

Trump felt that public sentiment was on his side when it came to the player protests, and was warning that he would not back off. That conversation with Jones, and separate ones with Miami owner Stephen Ross and New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, suggested that the league was allowing their fear of Trump to influence how it dealt with Kaepernick and the other protesters.

Had Kaepernick's case gone further, there was no question that more sensitive and damaging information would have come out. Who knows what was said about Kaepernick or other players in texts and emails. Even if Kaepernick lost the case, the NFL would have been left with a significant mess.

There are some who already are criticizing Kaepernick for settling, not realizing how rare it is to see the NFL backed into a corner, especially by a player. Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback ever, couldn't beat the NFL in court. Even he eventually had to accept his four-game suspension for Deflategate in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


Mueller questions Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser: Second former employee of controversial data firm to be questioned by special counsel's inquiry into Russia collusion (Carole Cadwalladr, 17 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

In August, Sam Patten, a US political consultant who had worked for Cambridge Analytica on campaigns in the US and abroad, struck a plea deal with Mueller after admitting he had failed to register as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian oligarch.

He became a subject of the special counsel's inquiry because of work done with Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager, in Ukraine. He had also set up a business with Konstantin Kilimnik, a key figure who Mueller has alleged has ties to Russian intelligence and who is facing charges of obstruction of justice. In a 2017 statement to the Washington Post, Kilimnik denied any connection to intelligence services. Kaiser, however, is the first person connected directly to both the Brexit and Trump campaigns known to have been questioned by Mueller.

The news came to light in a new Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, which premiered at the Sundance film festival last month and is expected to be released later this spring. Film-makers followed Kaiser for months after she approached the Guardian, including moments after she received the subpoena. She claims the summons came after the Guardian revealed she had visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while still a Cambridge Analytica employee in February 2017, three months after the US election.

One part of Mueller's investigation focuses on whether the Trump campaign sought to influence the timing of the release of emails by WikiLeaks before the election. Investigators are looking at communications between them. In the film, Kaiser says that she has gone from being a cooperating witness to a subject of investigation because of her contact with Assange.

In October 2017, it was revealed that Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, had contacted Assange in August 2016 to try to obtain emails from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign - which indictments from Mueller's team say were obtained by Russian military intelligence - to use in Donald Trump's campaign. When Kaiser gave evidence to parliament last year, she was asked about her relationship with Assange and WikiLeaks but failed to reveal that she had met Assange.

In the documentary, Kaiser is shown after receiving an email from the Guardian last June asking about meeting Assange and alleged donations of cryptocurrency to WikiLeaks. Kaiser did not respond to the email at the time, but on camera says: "She knows I met Assange. And she knows I donated money to WikiLeaks in bitcoin."

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


The Evolution Controversy: On the Links That Are Missing: It is my reason, not my faith, that is challenged by this sort of evolution. (Joseph Pearce, 2/17/19, NCR)

As for a healthy skepticism with regard to the claims of evolution, let's not forget the missing links. Let's not forget that Science has been trying to make the "accident" of evolution happen for over a century without success. It has worked with countless generations of fruit flies, trying to make evolution work, i.e., playing at God by interfering in the "accidental" processes of nature in order to prove the theory of "accidental" evolution. This is, of course, a delightful paradox: Darwinian evolutionists have been practicing intelligent design, i.e., interfering as outside agents into natural processes, in order to disprove the notion of intelligent design! And yet what is the result of all of these countless experiments by numberless scientists to make evolution work (evolution by design)? The result is a complete failure to turn fruit flies into anything but fruit flies. All of the genetic tampering with this primitive species has made mutants, to be sure, but they are mutant fruit flies. We have very large fruit flies; we have blind fruit flies; four legged fruit flies; fruit flies that can't fly; and, for all I now, fruit flies that are allergic to fruit. But the one thing they all have in common is the fact that they are still fruit flies.

Isn't this curious? And, so my microbiologist friends inform me, what is true of fruit flies is true of even more basic life forms, such as bacteria. It seems that the best efforts of evolutionist microbiologists have failed to turn basic elements, such as E. coli, into different types of bacteria. If science cannot make evolution work from one species to the other, even when applying its own intelligent design to the most basic life forms, is it really outrageously unscientific to request an element of skepticism about evolution across countless different species, beginning with inanimate specks of dust (rock) and ending with Man?

Nor has it been observed in the 300,000 years of human history, leading to the delightful dodge amongst Darwinists that we are in an evolutionary pause. It's why applied biologists (physicians, in the parlance) eschew the theory.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


The White House asked Japan's prime minister to nominate Trump for a Nobel prize (Heather Timmons, 2/17/19, Quartz)

Abe did indeed nominate Trump, Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports, but there was a twist: The Japanese leader did it at the request of the White House. "The U.S. government 'informally' asked Tokyo to nominate Trump after he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June," the paper reported, citing unnamed Japanese government sources. Abe was "acceding to a request from Washington" when he made the nomination last autumn, the paper said.

Must really eat at him that the Kenyan Muslim has one.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


Two Witnesses Back Account Rosenstein Considered Taping Trump (Billy House, February 17, 2019, Bloomberg)

The explosive assertion that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein considered secretly recording President Donald Trump has been backed up in private testimony to Congress by two FBI lawyers.

Both officials also told lawmakers that there was simultaneous talk in the spring of 2017, just months after Trump's inauguration, that two unidentified Cabinet officials were on board with the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as president.

Sally Moyer, who worked in the FBI's Office of General Counsel, wasn't in the room when Rosenstein allegedly raised the idea of wearing a wire in order to secretly record interactions with Trump. But she testified behind closed doors in October 2018 of being told that the conversation had taken place during a high-level Justice Department meeting in the days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Sunni Jihad Is Going Local (HASSAN HASSAN, 2/17/19, THE ATLANTIC)

For decades, Sunni jihadism has been characterized by transnational terrorism, suicide bombing, and excommunication. These three pillars not only attracted the ire of American and European governments, but turned off many of the jihadists' target constituents, namely Sunnis living in the Muslim world. Yet there are signs that Sunni extremists are changing their ways, drifting away from the global agenda that reached its apotheosis in al-Qaeda's attack on the World Trade Center, and toward a hyperlocal one.

The transformation is happening in various countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, and Mali. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's offshoot in Syria, provides an illustrative example of how the jihadist threat is changing across the region.

In 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra put together a lengthy training manual for its new recruits. In the roughly 200-page book, obtained by me, the group argues the merits of country-focused jihad over global jihad. It advises followers that al-Qaeda's stated strategy of going after the "far enemy" was not set in stone, and that, in the current moment, a focus on anything other than the local fight would be an "unacceptable distraction."

Throughout the Syrian War, the group has put that theoretical injunction into practice. Its leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, even pledged in an interview with Al Jazeera in May 2015 that Syria would not be used as a launchpad for jihadists to attack the West, based on orders from al-Qaeda's central leadership. The group established a political office and reached out to countries including Turkey to sell itself as a reliable partner, one that poses no threat to anyone outside Syria.

Simultaneously, the group has moved away from the other two pillars of suicide bombing and excommunication, part of the grander effort not to alienate locals.

Ironically, the West owes an immense debt to ISIS, which defied al Qaeda by turning away from the Far War to the Near War and turning a global conflict, where we were vulnerable, into a set of civil wars, where they are. 

Their vulnerability is best illustrated by the Afghan War and by the crushing of the caliphate, existential conflicts for their states in which we were nearly casualty free.  The simple reality is that in any symmetrical warfare all their attempt to exercise political power does is make them easy for us to destroy at no risk to ourselves.  Their assertion of sovereignty also brings them into direct conflict with the citizenry and leaders of the areas where they operate, giving the locals skin in the game, which they did not have when attacks were occurring exclusively against Far targets. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


The Politics of Fury: France's Yellow Vests condemn violence but 'have to admit that it is efficient' (Philippe de Lara, January 2, 2019, The Tablet)

Before the violent demonstration of Dec. 1, 2018, on the Champs Elysées, one could wonder about the nature of the Yellow Vests movement, given its spontaneous and "apolitical" appearance. The media were complacent, intellectuals divided: Was it a democratic insurrection against oligarchy or a populist revolt seeking some new form of authoritarianism? Was it a protest of the poorest people against growing inequalities, or of the lower middle class of neglected rural territories against "wired" cities? The last battle of endangered professions and regions unable to find their place in the new digital-robotic economy? An expression of concern about painful economic reforms to come, notably on pensions? Such social and political factors may be at play, but there is more and, unfortunately, it is not reassuring.

First, the urban violence, insults, and vandalism that characterized the Yellow Vests demonstrations are not the collateral damage of a peaceful mobilization. Yellow Vests leaders cynically admit this fact in their oft-repeated media slogans: "We firmly condemn violence, but we have to admit that it is efficient." Indeed, their violence was instrumental in the retreat of the government.

Instead of organizing and channelling their demonstrations, Yellow Vests stick to a strategy of unpredictable gatherings and do nothing to help the police in preventing vandalism and violence. This guerrilla strategy is by no means spontaneous. It requires careful organization. After six weeks, the spontaneity of the movement, maybe genuine at the beginning, has become a myth: Leaders and spokesmen have emerged on Facebook, all sticking to the same talking points, including the insistence on the "horizontality" of a movement without leaders, and the denial of their own accountability: "I speak only for myself, others may think differently, and I will follow them." "I am satisfied with the measures announced by the government, but since my fellow men aren't," etc. etc.

Second, anger against Macron has evolved into a watchword that overshadows all other demands: the "Citizen's Initiative Referendum." It sounds like participatory democracy, but it is not. The main point of these referendums, it has emerged, is not to decide policy questions but to nullify elected representatives. Yellow Vests want the referendum to be free from any legal or constitutional checks (for instance if it contradicts human rights or international obligations). It is not meant to empower civil society, but to give unlimited force to individual resentments, and to surmount the political process in its entirety. While Yellow Vests stay programmatically "apolitical," in Facebook groups they endlessly repeat their hostility to the EU, even promoting a "Frexit," and vent the most extreme clichés against Jews, migrants, George Soros, Freemasons, homosexuals, etc. Behind their "righteous anger," fake news and conspiracy theories flourish, spread by overheated social networks.

The populism of this new movement goes along with distrust of media and elites ("them") and credulity to any hoax circulating on Facebook ("we"). Before the Yellow Vests, belief in conspiracy theories was already high in France, like everywhere else in the Western world. According to a national poll in December 2017, 35 percent of respondents believe that the American government took part in the Sept. 11 attacks, a statement that attracted 47 percent belief among young people (ages 18-34). Twenty-two percent of respondents suspected or are sure that the Islamist attacks in Paris in January 2015 (17 killed: satirical journalists, policemen, customers of a kosher grocery store) were in fact planned or manipulated by the French secret service. This last figure jumps to 34 percent among the 18-24 age group. Fifty-five percent of respondents believe that the Department of Health conspires with drug companies to hide to the public the harmfulness of vaccines.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM



The reason so many Republicans are opposed to Trump's move here is that the wall is small ball. If you're going to trample on Congress and put political and legal capital on the line for a fight that goes to the Supreme Court, at least make it a battle that's worth the cost. No one really believes a few more miles of the wall -- for which Trump will raid Department of Defense coffers -- will do much to halt drug or human traffickers. The spending bill Trump signed to avoid another damaging shutdown, in fact, includes far more money for border security, with high-tech monitoring technologies that would likely provide a much more cost-effective way to secure the 2,000-mile barrier with Mexico.

Trump considers his Game of Thrones solution (Spoiler: It didn't work in Westeros either) a political imperative -- a way of showing the base he's fighting for tough immigration policy. Even if held up in court, he's doing everything he can to fulfill a central campaign promise. In a typically entertaining zigzagging Rose Garden appearance on Friday, Trump declared that he didn't really need the emergency order, but "I just want to get it done much faster."

So then why not go big? Declare a national emergency to change the asylum rules, or end family reunification (aka "chain migration"), or change the system to favor high-skilled immigrants. Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- still in legal limbo nearly seven years later -- accomplished a policy goal to remove the threat of deportation for hundreds of thousands of people, in a wild executive overreach of Congress that proved to be an effective election-year play for the Latino vote. But Obama wasn't fiddling with appropriations accounts.

Republicans' chief concern right now? That the next Democratic president will use the Trump precedent to declare a national emergency on gun control -- there was another mass shooting in Illinois on Friday -- or climate change and sidestep Congress to enact the liberal policies she or he wants.

February 16, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Man who's made crosses after tragedies makes 'toughest' ones in Aurora, his hometown (Paul Murphy, 2/16/19, CNN)

Aurora resident Greg Zanis' 26,275 crosses have been seen at nearly every national tragedy since Columbine. Now, five more stand in his hometown.

He knew something was wrong when dozens of law enforcement vehicles, sirens screaming, rocketed by his house Friday afternoon. About 15 minutes later, Zanis' daughter called, saying there was an active shooter.

Police said Gary Martin, 45, opened fire at Henry Pratt Co., killing five colleagues and wounding five police officers and a fellow worker.

"I guess I never thought it could possibly happen here," Zanis said solemnly.

Most Americans probably don't know his name, but many have seen Zanis' work -- painted crosses with victims' names on them -- erected after a national tragedy.

Each one uses about $45 of wood, uses two coats of paint and takes about an hour to make.

"My simple message is just that heart on the cross," he said. "Love your brother, love your neighbor. Don't judge them. Life isn't that complicated. Hate and revenge is."

One year and one day before the shooting in Aurora, Zanis quietly constructed and installed 17 crosses at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

When there is tragedy, Zanis slips in, often unnoticed to many, to help Americans make sense of what's happened.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


PODCAST: First One In (Charlie Sykes, February 15th, 2019, The Bulwark)

On today's Bulwark Podcast, Democratic Presidential Candidate John Delaney joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss his campaign (he's been running since July of 2017), where he stands on the issues, and where he thinks Americans can find common ground.

Want to topple Trump? Take John Delaney seriously. (George F. Will, November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Suppose, however, Democrats are more interested in scrubbing the current presidential stain from public life than they are in virtue-signaling and colonizing the far shores of leftwingery. Delaney is much more than an example of the If-Trump-Can-Be-Elected-So-Can-My-Cocker-Spaniel response to 2016.

His grandparents, he says, "made pencils and worked the docks." He did not become wealthy, as today's businessperson-turned-president did, through a father's largesse supplemented by tax chicanery. Neither of Delaney's parents went to college. His father was a 60-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. An IBEW scholarship, and support from the American Legion, VFW and Lions Club, helped Delaney through Columbia University. After Georgetown Law School, where he met his wife, he founded a financial company and became the youngest-ever chief executive on the New York Stock Exchange. His second company invests in small and midsize companies. In 2017, Fortune magazine included him among the "World's 50 Greatest Leaders."

Solidly built and impeccably tailored, Delaney, 55, is a Democrat who believes in what he has lived: upward mobility, with assistance. He recognizes the obvious, that globalization has been "extraordinarily positive" for billions more people than it has injured, but its American casualties are real and deserve government help. He speaks with the calm confidence of one who understands, as the man he hopes to displace does not, that the lungs are not the seat of wisdom. He checks various boxes that might mollify all but the most fastidious progressives: He likes early-childhood education, a carbon tax, a $15 minimum wage and extending the Social Security tax to higher incomes. He dislikes the National Rifle Association, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, high interest rates on student loans and "outrageous" drug prices. He would achieve "universal" health care by offering Medicaid for all, and for those who choose to opt for private programs, as he thinks most people would, there would be federal subsidies for those who need them.

John Delaney Is Playing the Long Game: The Maryland Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate has visited all 99 of Iowa's counties--well before many better-known Democrats have even decided whether to run. (ELAINE GODFREY, DEC 10, 2018, The Atlantic)

The Maryland Democrat is much more of a policy wonk than a rhetorical charmer, and he spends more time talking about national unity than he does about Donald Trump. In a recent interview with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Delaney summed up what he views as the central issue facing the country: "How do we take this terribly divided nation, where American is pitted against American, and how do we start bringing it back together and restoring a sense of unity and common purpose to our country?"

While it's not exactly rare to find a politician preaching national unity on the campaign trail, Delaney says he's different. Others might give lip service to bipartisanship, he told me, "but I'm the only one actually focused on that."

During his time in Congress, the multimillionaire lawmaker teamed up with two Republicans to push for legislation that would use revenue from international tax reform to fund various infrastructure projects. On the campaign trail in Iowa, Delaney has pledged that, if elected, he would only introduce legislation that receives bipartisan support for his first 100 days in office. Some of his top priorities for those first few months include passing a comprehensive infrastructure package, doubling the earned-income tax credit, and establishing an optional National Service Program for young people between high school and college.

Several Iowa party leaders told me that this kind of message could be particularly appealing after such a divisive two years in American politics. "I think there's often an ebb and flow to such matters," said Kurt Meyer, chair of the Mitchell County Democrats. Residents of this county backed Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, but in 2016, Trump won it by more than 24 points. "After fighting with people in the other party, the message that Delaney sends--Let's meet in the middle--it might fall on fertile soil," Meyer said.

Debra Rodgers, a 68-year-old retired secretary and registered Democrat, lives in Henry County, which Trump won by more than 30 points two years ago. Rodgers had a chance to meet Delaney in the spring, and since then, she's been a fan. "After a year of listening to the butt head in the White House--I'm sorry to talk like that--[Delaney] was so refreshing," Rodgers told me. "He was a bit of a throwback, you know? Being a Baby Boomer, this is the kind of politician we remember, the kind we want to have in office."

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


The national emergency is all in our president's skull (VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN, FEB 15, 2019, LA Times)

When Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, he said, "Mexicans. They're rapists."

Why did anyone even air that clip without using seven-second delay to bleep out Trump's creepy racist rape-fantasy madness? Why did cable TV run and rerun it? Maybe we couldn't believe it, so it had to spool around and around so we could take it all in. But there it was: Trump's lecherous invocation of sexual violence. His absurdist lying. And of course his lynching-era pretext for racist subjugation and violence.

Trump has declared war on our institutions because of a fantasy, in which he saves imaginary women, bound with imaginary electrical tape, from imaginary rape.
That speech was a brick to the head. It should have been inadmissible in the public sphere. In three words, Trump told us he was a vicious demagogue who would drag us all down to vanquish his imaginary demons. But at that moment, he also wasn't tracking. Donald Trump was running for president because Mexicans, they're rapists. Huh?

Now, with his Friday Rose Garden speech, Trump has declared war on our institutions because of that same fantasy, in which he saves imaginary women, bound with imaginary electrical tape, from imaginary rape by ineffectively and expensively walling out refugees and immigrants on the southern border. It adds up to a national emergency in the president's skull only.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Tear gas, hate speech marks 14th yellow vest protest (Elaine Ganley, 2/16/19, AP)

In Paris, an array of insults, some anti-Semitic, by a handful of yellow vest protesters targeted a well-known French philosopher, Alain Finkelkraut, underscoring excesses that surge within an increasingly divided movement with radical fringes.

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that "the anti-Semitic injuries he received are the absolute negation of what we are and of what makes us a great nation."

The president's was among a chorus of tweets, with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner denouncing "the surge of pure hate," while government spokesman Benjamin Griveau tweeted that "the ugly beast lurks in the anonymity of the crowd."

The insults included words like "Zionist!" and "Go back to Tel Aviv!" and "We are France!" Finkelkraut once showed sympathy for the movement but criticized it in a recent interview with Le Figaro daily. Some yellow vest protesters have expressed racist or anti-Semitic views online and on the sidelines of protests.

"I felt an absolute hate," Finkelkraut told the Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche. He expressed relief that police intervened.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Conservative Ohio voters want most of Ohio's electricity to come from renewable sources (John Funk, 2/15/19, The Plain Dealer)

Ohio's political conservatives strongly favor renewable energy over coal and especially over nuclear power, a new poll commissioned by the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum has found.

"Conservatives in Ohio are strong supporters of renewable energy, with a clear majority, 70 percent, wanting 50 percent or more of their energy to come from renewable sources," concluded Jim Hobart, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, a national polling firm which does research for Republican candidates.

The poll was the third such survey Public Opinion Strategies had done for the the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum. It found growing support for clean energy. And a willingness to pay extra for it.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Two Additional Trump Lawyers Accused of Lying to Federal Investigators About Hush Money Payments (Colin Kalmbacher, February 16th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Two lawyers working for President Donald Trump may have lied to government ethics officials about the Michael Cohen-facilitated hush money payment to adult actress Stormy Daniels, according to records obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

In a Friday letter addressed to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Oversight Committee Chair Elijiah Cummings (D-Md.) said those documents showed that Trump's personal lawyer Sheri Dillon and former deputy White House ethics counsel Stefan Passantino provided "false information" to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) about whether Trump reimbursed Cohen for the Daniels payment.

Cummings notes that Dillon "repeatedly stated to federal officials at OGE that President Trump never owed any money to Mr. Cohen in 2016 and 2017." Cummings then details three separate incidents-in March and April 2018-where Dillon told OGE investigators that Trump did not pay Cohen back any money over the hush money arrangement. Pressed on the issue, Dillon repeatedly confirmed the lack of reimbursement on each occasion.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


The Point of Impeachment (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, November 15, 2014 , National Review)

In writing Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment, I had a purpose: Explain that the capacity of Congress to oust a lawless president is central to the Framers' design of our governing system. Because executive power is awesome, and intended to be that way, certain abuses of it can be discouraged only by the credible threat that Congress will remove the president from power -- or, if discouragement fails, can be remediated only by the president's actual removal. That is why Madison believed that the inclusion of impeachment in Congress's arsenal was "indispensible" to preserving the Constitution's framework of liberty vouchsafed by divided power.

Abuse of the executive's power over immigration enforcement now belongs in this category of maladministration that impeachment alone can counter. One must use the qualifier "now" because this was not always the case. Immigration enforcement was originally a state responsibility. Washington has supplanted the states since the early 20th century, an erosion of federalism largely responsible for our current immigration crisis. [...]

As Faithless Execution elaborates, "high crimes and misdemeanors," the Constitution's trigger for impeachment, is a term of art for abuses of power that violate the president's fiduciary obligations to the American people he serves, the constitutional system he takes an oath to preserve, and the laws whose faithful execution is his core duty. High crimes and misdemeanors are not -- or at least, not necessarily -- the same as "crimes" and "misdemeanors" prosecutable in the courts. Impeachment is a political remedy (i.e., the removal of political authority), not a legal one (i.e., the removal of liberty after criminal indictment and conviction). That is why Hamilton, in Federalist 65, described impeachable offenses as "political" in nature -- as "proceed[ing] from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust." [...]

This is the theme of Faithless Execution: All Americans who aspire to sustain a nation of laws not men have a vital interest in rejecting executive lawlessness. The Framers understood that presidential usurpation of lawmaking power would be the road to tyranny. They were right . . . and avoiding tyranny should not be a partisan issue.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:20 AM

ALL ABOUT THE BANNONS, BABY! (profanity alert):

Far-right Tommy Robinson declares himself a 'Zionist' in leaked video (Middle East Monitor, February 15, 2019)

In another section of the video, Robison can be seen singing that he is "king of the whole Islam race," before declaring his love for Israel. [...]

The footage ends with Robinson saying: "Palestine! F*ck Palestine. Why would you support Palestine," adding: "If there was a war tomorrow, which probably there would be, I would be there in the front line fighting for Israel".

The footage - released by the Sun - captures the growing bond between the far-right and Israel. Racists and neo-Nazis in Europe and the US often harbour deep-seated envy for the Zionist states' ethno-religious nationalism and wish to model Europe and the US on a similar footing.

Leaders of the far-right - like white nationalist Robert Spencer who is known to harbour Nazi sympathies - gave a ringing endorsement to Israel's Nation-State Law saying: "I have great admiration for Israel's nation-state law. Jews are, once again, at the vanguard, rethinking politics and sovereignty for the future, showing a path forward for Europeans."

In another incident, a former Israeli soldier who was a member of Tommy Robinson's campaign addressed protestors on a London street saying: "no matter what the left call us, I am the world's proudest Jewish Nazi".

The trend has led to what critics are describing as "the unholy alliance between Israel and alt-right ideologues". They say that what unites Israel, far-right ideologue Steve Bannon and Spencer more than anything else is their animosity towards the liberal left, Islam and global institutions like the UN, which prioritises a global order based on the rule of law over assertive ethno-religious nationalism.

As Andrew Gillum said to Ron DeSantis...

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


H&R Block agents took 'empathy training' to handle people upset by smaller tax refunds or surprise tax bills (NICOLE LYN PESCE, 2/15/19, Market Watch)
Some tax return preparers are doubling as therapists this tax season, comforting clients who are dismayed to find that they will get smaller tax refunds -- or worse, will get hit with unexpected tax bills.

H&R Block HRB, -0.41%   puts its returning tax pros through 30 hours of training ahead of each filing season to make sure they are up-to-speed -- and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress in late 2017 already gave them plenty of homework to do by cutting many deductions and changing the withholding tables.

But this year, agents also underwent "empathy training," which included a "refund surprise training module" to coach their responses to clients shocked or upset by a lower tax refund or a surprise tax bill, the service told MarketWatch. For example, the new training included listening to a scenario where a client who received a $1,500 refund last year learned that she owed $575 this year because she didn't adjust her withholdings under the new tax laws.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


New therapy turns cancer cells into fat to stop it from spreading: Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have hijacked cancer's cellular plasticity to turn the disease against itself. (KEVIN DICKINSON, 25 January, 2019, Big Think)

Cancer cell plasticity -- an ability that allows cancer cells to shift physiological characteristics dramatically -- fosters metastasis and is responsible for cancer's resistance to treatments. To combat its resistance, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland decided to turn cancer's cellular plasticity against itself. They used Rosiglitazone, an anti-diabetic drug, along with MEK inhibitors in mice implanted with breast cancer cells. Their aim was to alter the cancer cells.

The drug combination hijacked the breast cancer cells during epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process by which the cells undergo biochemical changes. EMT plays a role in many bodily functions, such as tissue repair. In unaltered cancer cells, EMT allows them to migrate away from the original tumor while maintaining their oncogenic properties.

But in cancer cells assaulted by the new drug therapy, EMT changes them into adipocytes, or fat cells. Like normal fat cells, these former breast cancer cells were both functional and post-mitotic, meaning they could no longer divide and proliferate.

While the therapy did not alter the original tumor, it did prevent new cancer cells from dividing and spreading elsewhere in the body. This repressed metastasis in the researcher's preclinical trials.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Man Postpones Retirement to Save Reefs After He Accidentally Discovers How to Make Coral Grow 40 Times Faster (McKinley Corbley, Dec 1, 2018, Good News Network)

Dr. David Vaughan stumbled upon the groundbreaking discovery as he was working with corals at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. He had been trying to remove a coral from the bottom of a tank when it broke into a dozen pieces.

To his shock, all of the pieces regrew to the same size in just three short weeks, as opposed to the three years it had taken to grow the original coral.

Ordinarily, it takes coral reefs between 25 to 75 years to reach sexual maturity. This means that it can take up to 6 years just to plant 600 coral - but Vaughan's process of breaking up corals for reproduction, which is called "micro-fragmenting", helps them to grow 40 times faster than they do in the wild.

Furthermore, their tests showed that it works with every single species of coral found in the Florida Reef.

In fact, the method is so efficient, the researchers are reportedly producing coral faster than they can get tanks to hold them.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


As More Electric Cars Arrive, What's The Future For Gas-Powered Engines? (Camila Domonoske, 2/16/19, NPR)

"Electrification, you cannot stop it anymore -- it's coming," says Elmer Kades, a managing director with the consulting firm AlixPartners. "We have fantastic growth rates, between 50 and 60 percent on a global level."

Electric vehicles are currently a tiny fraction of the car market, which is dominated by internal combustion engines. But many more electric car models will hit showrooms in the next few years, and several factors have analysts convinced that's part of a major transition in the industry.

Government policies -- particularly in Europe and China -- are giving a boost to electric vehicles, as regulators consider not only the devastating impacts of climate change, but also the value of improved air quality in cities.

Auto companies around the world are gearing up for what will be a massive financial commitment. Car makers plan to invest more than $90 billion on the shift to electric vehicles over the next decade or so, according to a Reuters analysis.

Electric motors are simpler, which makes them easier to maintain and means they should last longer. Keeping them charged is cheaper than buying gas, an advantage that will grow even more significant if gas prices rise.

Plus, "they are fun to drive," says Tom Murphy, a managing editor at Wards Auto, which ranks the world's best engines. "They're enjoyable, they're quiet ... and there's loads of torque" -- which means instant acceleration, he says. [...]

"Probably in the mid-2020s timeframe it becomes comparable or cheaper to actually buy and operate an EV than an internal combustion vehicle," says Sam Abuelsamid, an auto analyst with Navigant. Felipe Munoz, a global analyst at JATO, predicts electric vehicles outsell conventional ones by 2030.

Now just raise the price of gas.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


How One Crash 10 Years Ago Helped Keep 90 Million Flights Safe:  After the Colgan Air disaster, reforms contributed to an unprecedented decade of safety. (Alan Levin, February 12, 2019, bLOOMBERG)

Investigators never figured out precisely why the pilot abruptly sent the Colgan Air turboprop into a fatal dive 10 years ago as it neared Buffalo, N.Y.

But they did learn enough from the Feb. 12, 2009, crash, which killed 50 people, to make it one of the most important milestones in the history of aviation safety, leading to changes in everything from pilot training to managing fatigue.

The reforms have contributed to an unprecedented decade of safety: There hasn't been another accident with multiple fatalities on a U.S. passenger carrier anywhere since the Colgan disaster. In fact--outside of crashes of foreign carriers or cargo planes--there has been only one passenger death.

"Colgan Air was truly a watershed event," said Robert Sumwalt, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board who served as a board member when the accident occurred. "The safety record bears out the impact that this crash, that this tragedy, had in ultimately improving safety."

Coaxed and prodded by an unusually well-organized group of family members representing the victims, Congress passed a law in 2010 enshrining several of the safety board's recommendations from the accident into law.

After Congress passed legislation in 2010 that tightened airline safety regulations, the number of fatal accidents and associated deaths dropped dramatically.
The action broke a decades-old logjam that had stalled new regulations on pilot fatigue as airlines and unions sparred over proposed rules. Under orders from Congress, the government completely revamped how airlines schedule pilots. It also helped prompt dramatic improvements in how pilots are trained to handle flights that go out of control, which is by far the biggest killer in commercial aviation.

Other actions increased the use of flight data to probe for hidden risks, improved vetting of pilots before they were hired, and required major airlines to disclose to passengers when they were flying on a separate regional carrier.

...but we all know the industry was secretly going to take these safety measures without government doing anything....

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Why radicals can't recognize when they're wrong: It's not just ostriches who stick their head in the sand. (MATT DAVIS, 15 February, 2019, Big Think)

If you find yourself in an argument about politics, climate change, religion, or any number of conversation topics that are taboo at the Thanksgiving table, you've probably silent screamed to yourself, "Why won't this jerk change their mind? It seems so obvious!" Not only that, but it seems like the crazier position the other side has, the more obstinate they are that you're wrong, not them.

New research published in Current Biology on December 18, 2018, confirms this feeling: people with radical beliefs actually think differently than those without. Specifically, radicals have less metacognitive sensitivity than moderates.

Metacognition refers to the ability to be aware of and analyze one's own thinking. Metacognitive sensitivity is similar, but more specific: it refers to the ability to distinguish between one's correct and incorrect judgements. The new paper, titled "Metacognitive Failure as a Feature of Holding Radical Beliefs," shows that radicals have measurably less metacognitive sensitivity than moderates. [...]

Can we become better at metacognition?

"In times of increasing political polarization and entrenchment of opinion, the ability to reflect on our viewpoints may be crucial for a fruitful discourse," said Max Rollwage -- the lead researcher on the study -- in an interview with Tonic. "It is not yet clear whether reduced metacognition is the cause or consequence (or both) of radicalization, nevertheless it is easy to imagine that deficits in metacognition will contribute to the consolidation of radical beliefs."

Fortunately, metacognition is not fixed. It can be exercised like a muscle. In fact, a significant amount of research in education theory deals with how best to teach metacognition to students, as it can improve learning outcomes. It seems that simply being aware of the concept of metacognition can improve one's metacognitive ability. Meditation, too, has been shown to increase metacognition. If we can improve our ability to reflect on how we think, we might incidentally improve our national and global discussions about politics and policy, become better at recognizing when we're wrong, and -- at the very least -- improve conversation over the Thanksgiving table.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


BOARD GAMING, EVOLVED -- A natural selection: Evolution evolves from board game to digital app (KEITH LAW - 2/16/2019, ArsTechnica)

North Star Games has been developing the app version of its popular board game Evolution (read our review) for years, showing demos as far back as PAX Unplugged in November 2017. Now the game is out for Steam, iOS, and Android--and the results have been well worth waiting for. The final version is immaculate in look, feel, and ease of play. Even if you didn't love the cardboard version, the digital adaptation offers a new and better gameplay experience.

Players in Evolution compete to create and grow their species to consume more food tokens, which are worth points at the game's end and which become scarcer as the game progresses. Each species can have up to three Trait cards that give it extra powers or makes it harder to attack. One of the Traits makes species (which are herbivores by default) into Carnivores, which feed by attacking other species--including your own, if you can't feed them by attacking species belonging to other players.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


What Authorities Is President Trump Using to Build a Border Wall? (Scott R. Anderson, Margaret Taylor, February 15, 2019, LawFare)

Much of the discussion surrounding possible legal vulnerabilities has focused on the president's declaration of emergency. But that may be an area of less vulnerability than many believe. The NEA does not actually impose any substantive requirements for what constitutes a "national emergency"; instead, it focuses on procedural and similar requirements, which the Trump administration so far appears to be following. While Trump's declaration no doubt stretches the limit regarding what many think of as a national emergency, Congress's failure to incorporate many of these requirements into law gives the federal courts remarkably little to work with in limiting the president's actions. Combined with the fact that courts tend to be deferential to the executive branch in such circumstances, this makes a direct challenge to the national emergency declaration itself a slimmer prospect than many hope.

More vulnerable, however, are the other statutory authorities that Trump is relying on. Can § 284's authorization to build a "fence" to "block drug smuggling corridors" really be used to build a wall across the entire southern border? Is the wall really a "military construction project" of the sort authorized by § 2808? Does the president's declaration of national emergency really "require[] the use of the armed forces" as required by § 2808? The patchwork of legal authorities on which the Trump administration is relying exposes the administration to a wide array of these challenges. One possible outcome may be a partial victory and partial defeat, in which the Trump administration is able to rely on some authorities and associated funding but not others. Regardless, plaintiffs are likely to seek--and federal courts seem likely to grant--injunctions that stop the federal government from taking any irrevocable steps towards building the wall while these legal challenges are resolved. In this sense, the primary function of these challenges may be to buy time until Congress is able to impose new limitations on the use of these funds and authorities, or even until a new Congress or a president is elected in 2020 who no longer wishes to pursue this agenda.

February 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Trump's bewildering national emergency press conference, annotated (Aaron Blake and Transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government,  February 15, 2019, Washington Post)

Broadcasting him live does damage to truth, justice and the American way.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


'Bring back our #ChildHoodDiseases,' White House official's wife says as she criticizes vaccines (Lindsey Bever, February 15, 2019, Washington Post)

Darla Shine, the outspoken wife of White House communications director Bill Shine, has been tweeting about childhood diseases, claiming that illnesses such as measles, mumps and chickenpox "keep you healthy & fight cancer." Health experts warn that the claim is not true and adds to misinformation that could cause harm.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Mueller Unceremoniously Went into Significant Detail About Roger Stone Connection to DNC Hack (Matt Naham, February 15th, 2019, Law & Crime)

[M]ueller emphasized that the Stone did case did arise from a common search warrant, which was contested by Stone's lawyers as "not likely."

"In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone's communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1," Mueller continued. "Evidence obtained from those search warrants resulted in the allegations that the Netyksho defendants hacked and stole documents for release through intermediaries, including Organization 1, and that Stone lied to a congressional committee investigating, among other things, the activities of Organization 1 regarding those stolen documents."

"This case is properly related to Netyksho for the additional reason that the cases "arise[] from . . . activities which are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction," he added.

Notice as well that Mueller said Stone case is part of the "same criminal event or transaction," which was another thing Stone's lawyers disputed.

At one point, the special counsel put this even simpler:

In other words, the criminal conduct alleged in Netyksho was a central focus of the congressional investigation that the defendant is alleged to have obstructed, and therefore the activities underlying the crimes charged in that case are part of the same activities underlying the crimes charged in this case. The defendant's false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1 [WikiLeaks]), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


One Obstacle to Trump's Border Wall Might Be His First Supreme Court Appointee (STEPHANIE MENCIMERFEBRUARY 15, 2019, Mother Jones)

[T]rump's border wall still faces a host of thorny legal obstacles. Foremost among those might be one of his own making: his first Supreme Court appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Building an actual wall along the southern border will require the federal government to seize thousands of acres of private land, mostly in Texas. The government's seizure of private land through eminent domain is hugely controversial, but the Supreme Court has largely given the federal government free rein to use it widely so long as private landowners are compensated for their losses. The most recent decision reaffirming that power is Kelo v. City of New London, decided in 2005, in which the court upheld the right of the government to seize private land and give it to a private party for redevelopment.

According to emails released during his confirmation hearing, Gorsuch thinks Kelo was wrongly decided, and court watchers have taken that as a sign that he might be highly skeptical of claims by the Trump administration that its declaration of an emergency would authorize the mass seizure of private land. "It's clear that Gorsuch values constitutional property rights far more than Trump does," says Ilya Somin, a libertarian law professor at George Mason University and the author of a book on the Kelo decision.

It's not a question of how you feel about property rights but of how you feel about the Constitution. There is no coherent argument that government takings to build a defensive wall would be unconstitutional.  The Takings Clause, after all, states that: "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." Whatever else it may be, the wall is a public use.

Kelo offered a more interesting, because debatable, question: how broadly is public use meant to be read.  Justices Thomas and Gorsuch believe that the property taken then has to be used by a public entity:

Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that "the law of the land ... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property." 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134--135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for "public necessity," but instead for "public use." Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a " '[P]ublic [P]urpose' " Clause, ante, at 9--10 (or perhaps the "Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society" Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is "legitimate" and the means "not irrational," ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a "public use."

This is a far narrower dispute than the Court will face when the Wall case is argued. If they want to rule against the takings then they will have to either repudiate the Constitution or rely on the possibility that the compensation offered to the current landowners is unjust.

Of course, they are more likely to avoid ever getting to the defense of private property by simply finding that the presidential emergency order fails a simple factual test.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Black-white cancer disparities narrow sharply amid progress against common malignancies (Laurie McGinley February 14, 2019, Washington Post)

Longtime cancer disparities between African Americans and whites -- with blacks having a sharply higher mortality rate -- have narrowed significantly during the past several years and disappeared nearly entirely for a few age groups, including men under 50 and women who are 70 and older, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society. [...]

"The message is progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go," said Len Lichtenfeld, interim chief medical officer for the cancer society. [...]

Lichtenfeld noted that early evidence suggests the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage, helped "made a difference" in narrowing cancer disparities but he said it was too early to know the impact of some recent changes.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Philadelphia beats U.S. appeal in sanctuary city case (Jonathan Stempel, 2/15/19, Reuters) 

A federal appeals court said on Friday the Trump administration cannot cut off grants to Philadelphia for its refusal to cooperate with immigration authorities seeking to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM


'Off the reservation' Ann takes on 'idiot' president over wall 'emergency' (Jacob Heilbrunn, February 15, 2019, Spectator US)

The sheer weirdness of Trump's press conference, in which he veered around wildly from praising China for liquidating drug dealers to professing his love for tariffs to claiming Barack Obama, whom he always derided previously as a wimp, was on the verge of war with North Korea until he came along, must have given McConnell a fresh case of heartburn. Trump didn't even really make the case for an emergency declaration perhaps because he knows it's bogus. He himself gave away the game when he declared, 'I didn't need to do this.' Meanwhile, his erstwhile fan Coulter is busily tweeting about the 25th Amendment.

No One Hates the Immigration Plan More Than Trump's Base (ANDREW EGGER  FEBRUARY 15, 2019, The Bulwark)

Here's maybe the king of the immigration hawks, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, beseeching Trump not to sign the bill in a Thursday column at National Review:

The text of the funding bill was released last night/this morning, and lawmakers are expected to vote on the 1,169 page measure as early as this evening. The bill is disappointing in many respects, but if it had been as advertised earlier, it might have been tolerable.

But my fears that senators Durbin and Leahy would trick the Republican conferees (none of whom knows the first thing about immigration policy) were realized. Standing out among the many distasteful provisions are two poison pills that I hope the Republican committee members either didn't know about or didn't understand.

Krikorian goes on to describe how the bill sneaks in provisions requiring the Department of Homeland Security to get permission from local elected officials before building barriers in counties along the border--while also opting only to authorize new walls in the Rio Grande Valley, where local governments are overwhelmingly Democratic. Even worse, he says, the bill blocks border security agents from detaining "anyone who has effectively any relationship with an 'unaccompanied' minor--either because they're sponsors, in the same household as sponsors, or even just 'potential sponsors' (or in the household of potential sponsors!) of such a child.

It's genuinely difficult to put into words just how bananas this all is. The president of the United States is currently setting the concept of constitutional governance on fire, making a mockery of every conservative warning about the imperial presidency, and hanging his allies in Congress out to dry to boot, all in an apparent effort to placate the immigration wing of his base--who all the while are shrieking for him not to do the thing he is nevertheless doing.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


PODCAST: Episode 86: Venezwailin' (HOSTED BY JONAH GOLDBERG, February 12, 2019, The Remnant)

Will Venezuela collapse? Will Maduro be overthrown? Is God Emperor of Dune the key to understanding American politics in 2019? Venezuela expert and AEI scholar Roger Noriega comes onto The Remnant to answer the first two questions, leaving Jonah and his Sancho Paza to attempt to answer the third by themselves.
A few points of interest here: (1) Marco Rubio is basically running our policy there; (2) No one knows what the opponents of Maduro are for, other than socialism; (3) the Cubans, speaking from 60 years of experience, tell Maduro to ignore our regime change chatter.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


5 insane provisions in the amnesty omnibus bill (Daniel Horowitz, February 14, 2019, Conservative Review)

Here are the immediate issues to flag:

1) Less of a wall than even what Democrats already agreed to: Trump originally demanded $25 billion for the wall. Then he negotiated himself down to $5.6 billion. Democrats balked and only agreed to $1.6 billion. This bill calls it a day at $1.375 billion, enough to construct 55 miles. But it's worse than that. This bill limits the president's ability to construct "barriers" to just the Rio Grande Valley sector and only bollard fencing, not concrete walls of any kind. [...]

2) Liberal local officials have veto power over wall: Actually, on second thought, it's likely that not a single mile of fence will be built. Section 232(a) of this bill states that "prior to use of any funds made available by this Act for the construction of physical barriers" the Department of Homeland Security "shall confer and seek to reach mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers within that city." With whom must the feds consult? "The local elected officials." Now you can understand the brilliance of limiting the wall to the Rio Grande Valley. These are the most liberal counties on the border (thanks to demographics of open borders itself!), and there is practically no local official who supports the wall in these counties. [...]

3) This bill contains a blatant amnesty for the worst cartel smugglers: Section 224(a) prohibits the deportation of anyone who is sponsoring an "unaccompanied" minor illegal alien - or who says they might sponsor a UAC, or lives in a household with a UAC, or a household that potentially might sponsor a UAC. It's truly difficult to understate the betrayal behind this provision. [...]

4) More funding to manage and induce the invasion rather than to deter it: While offering no new funding for ICE deportation agents or immigration judges to speed up asylum claims, as the president requested, this bill adds another $40 million for the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, which moves asylum seekers to facilities in the interior of the country, where they are usually released. [...]

5) Doubling low-skilled workers: This bill (p. 1,161) doubles the number of H-2B non-agricultural, unskilled seasonal workers who will continue to be a public charge on America. This gives you a glimpse of what is driving this amnesty bill on the Republican side.


Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


Experts consistently underestimate U.S. oil production (Ben Geman, Harry Stevens, 2/15/19, Axios)

A new report this week underscores a wider trend: The Energy Department's data arm and private forecasters alike have consistently underestimated the U.S. crude oil production surge in recent years.

Malthusianism and everything that follows is faith, not science.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Six GOP House Members Who Need to Resign for Anti-Semitism Before Ilhan Omar (Mehdi Hasan, February 15 2019, The Intercept)

There is a bigger issue here, though. Trump said that "anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress." I agree with him. But here's his problem: The modern GOP is riddled with bigots, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites.

If the president wants Omar to resign from Congress over alleged anti-Semitism, here are six Republican members of the House, including the two most senior members of the GOP leadership, who need to resign first.

The main difference is that the Congresswoman regrets her choice of memes.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


Japan to recognise Indigenous Ainu people for first time (SBS, 2/15/19)

Japan's government introduced a bill Friday to recognise the country's ethnic Ainu minority as Indigenous people for the first time, after decades of discrimination against the group.

The Ainu people - many of whom live in northern Hokkaido - have long suffered the effects of a policy of forced assimilation, and while discrimination has receded gradually, income and education gaps with the rest of Japan persist.

"It is important to protect the honour and dignity of the Ainu people and to hand those down to the next generation to realise a vibrant society with diverse values," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


How Watford's Heurelho Gomes juggles his faith in people, Jesus and Jair Bolsonaro: Interview: As the popular goalkeeper approaches retirement and a new career as a football agent, he reflects on the challenges Brazilians face both in the Premier League and back home in a divided nation (Jack Pitt-Brooke, 2/15/19, Independent)

No one in English football has a bad word to say about Heurelho Gomes. He will retire this summer, 11 years after he arrived here, with the good wishes of everyone he has met. A cult hero at Tottenham, an authentic hero at Watford, he has won people over with his enthusiasm, professionalism and personal warmth. [...]

You do not have to spend very long with Gomes to realise that his faith is what drives his life. Like one third of Brazilians, including many footballers - Kaka, David Luiz, Willian - he is part of Brazil's evangelical community, and he worships at the Christian Community of London, a popular church for Brazilian evangelicals here. "People change a lot the way they worship God, they find the right way to do it. God is opening the mind of the people, that is why people are changing. I was a Catholic, my family is Catholic, but Jesus just grabbed me by the hand and said 'this is the way I want you to follow.'"

It is not the practice, but the faith itself, that Gomes says has changed his life. "Religion is not important, Jesus is important to me. People think religion will change you, Jesus will change you. It is very important to me to follow him. Some people are in church, but they are not changed. Some people take religion to hide themselves, and when they are out of church, they behave the same. If I behave on the pitch, I have to behave off the pitch as well. I have to be an example. Religion doesn't change people. Jesus, when you accept him, will change you."

When far-right Jair Bolsonaro won the run-off round of the Brazilian presidential election in October, nearly 70% of evangelicals voted for him. He was well-supported in the Brazilian sports community, from within UFC, ju-jitsu, and professional surfing and of course football, with Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Felipe Melo, Lucas Moura and many more throwing their support behind the former army captain. So how much of a surprise should it have been to see Gomes smiling in a 'Bolsonaro Presidente' t-shirt in a post on his Instagram from last October? It does feel at odds with everything else we know about Gomes, his compassion, his warmth and sense of caring for others.

Gomes insists that Brazil was in such a bad state after years of PT (workers' party) rule and corruption that it needed the painful medicine of Bolsonaro. Even though Gomes quickly made clear he could not support every policy of his new president, a man who supports the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and police violence in the favelas.

"We were just going down, down, down, down. We were already there. It is going to take a long time for us to grow again, because of the corruption, and the people just ignoring it.

"We need a change in Brazil. And he was the one and only one that can change the way. I probably don't support the whole of his ideas. But I support the change...we need a change. That is why we needed to do something, to change everything that was going on in Brazil. The economy has changed already. So he was the only way to change the way that politics were going in Brazil."

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


The President Is Hallucinating and I Think We Should Be Concerned (TIM MILLER,  FEBRUARY 15, 2019, The Bulwark)

What I know for certain is that here on the physical plane of existence there is no security emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The incursion the president describes is not the lived reality of any actual Americans. Border crossings are down, crime is down, employment is up. Yet the president's hallucinations persist, and in the past week they seem to be growing more severe.

At a speech in El Paso, rather than just talking about the imaginary caravan of people invading the country, Trump actually claimed that he had invented the word "caravan" altogether. (In fact, the word is sourced from medieval Latin, caravana, picked up during the Crusades from Persian karwan "group of desert travelers." Donald Trump is very old but this is slightly before his time.)

He has also begun touting the construction of an imaginary wall. "The wall is being built. It'll continue. It's going at a rapid pace," he said. "Now you really mean 'finish the wall' because we've built a lot of it," he continued. None of these statements are remotely true. And rather than be alarmed that the president is having a wall-themed seance, everyone is going along with it. After all, the wall is in our hearts.

So then I start to wonder--maybe I'm the crazy one. Maybe this is all just equal parts Trumpian hyperbole and good old fashioned gaslighting.

But if so, what explains the other delusions, like the blubbering tough guys crying whenever they meet Trump. And it's not just this one time. Trump seems to keep meeting "monster" sized buff men who are brought to tears by their gratitude to him. For a wall that doesn't exist. That's designed to stop an infiltration that isn't happening.

The layers of unreality build upon itself.

After-all, whatever happened to the president's friend "Jim" who used to go to Paris every year but now doesn't? He was scared of the imaginary brown-skinned "infiltration" of the City of Lights. We haven't heard from him in a while. Are you in there Jim?

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Stadium gates gradually open for Iranian women (Saeid Jafari, February 14, 2019, Al Monitor)

During his March 2018 trip to Iran, the president of the world soccer governing body FIFA attended the popular derby between Tehran archrivals Persepolis and Esteghlal in the capital. Following the match, Gianni Infantino sat down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. And back in Zurich the day after, the FIFA chief announced in a presser that his Iranian host had given his word that the ban on women's entry to men's soccer events will be lifted.   

"There are two ways to deal with this matter -- either we criticize, we sanction, we condemn, we don't speak and we cut relations," said Infantino in a soft warning to Iran and other states practicing similar bans. "Or we go there and have a discussion and try to convince the leaders of the country." The FIFA president said that Rouhani, while offering assurances, had also noted that the process would take "a bit of time."

Ever since that meeting in Tehran, several positive steps have been taken toward a settlement of the issue. On June 20, Iran's national team faced Spain in a key match during the FIFA World Cup in Kazan, Russia. In Tehran, the city's iconic Azadi Stadium hosted a screening of the game, which would up being a nail biter. This was the breakthrough. Authorities allowed women to enter the stadium and watch live video of the match on a giant 1,200 square-meter screen. Hours ahead of the game, rumors kept circulating that permission for women to attend had been revoked. But women ended up entering the stadium in relatively large numbers for the first time in nearly four decades of Islamic Republic rule.

Arameh Etemadi, a Tehran-based journalist, was one of the female spectators who made it into the stadium. "I was not actually watching a real soccer game [in person]. But even that was still a thrilling experience, which we as women had been deprived of for years," she told Al-Monitor. While bringing into question the logic behind the ban, Etemadi said she believes the recent small developments paving women's way into stadiums are the fruit of years of campaigning by Iran's civil society activists.

Not everything has gone smoothly after the Iran-Spain game. The country's hard-liners further sharpened their attacks, albeit to little avail as the next episode marked another victory for Iranian women. On Oct. 16, they once again found their way into the grand stadium, purchasing tickets this time for a friendly match between the national teams of Iran and Bolivia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Trump Keeps Doubling Down On The Same Failed Strategy (Nate Silver, 2/14/19, 538)

President Trump will declare a national emergency and seek money to build a border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday, moments before the U.S. Senate passed a compromise spending bill that didn't include wall funding.

If Trump follows through on the emergency declaration, he'll be doing something that large majorities of Americans oppose -- and he'll be doing it at right as his job approval ratings had begun to rebound following the partial government shutdown in December and January.

Indeed, the act of declaring a national emergency to build a wall is even more unpopular than the wall itself -- and the wall isn't popular. Polls as tracked by PollingReport.com show an average of 32 percent of Americans in favor of the declaration and 65 percent opposed. Even in an era where many of Trump's top priorities poll only in the low-to-mid-40s, that's an especially large split, with roughly twice as many voters opposed as in favor.

Americans dislike him to precisely the degree he's fighting for racist objectives.
Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


SAY THIS MUCH for the "reproducibility crisis" in science: It's poorly timed. At the same instant that a significant chunk of elected and appointed policymakers seem to disbelieve the science behind global warming, and a significant chunk of parents seem to disbelieve the science behind vaccines ... a bunch of actual scientists come along and point out that vast swaths of the social sciences don't stand up to scrutiny. They don't replicate--which is to say, if someone else does the same experiment, they get different (often contradictory) results. 

...they might intuit that Science's abandonment of reproducibility contributed to the distrust.  See under: Darwinism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


A Growing American Crisis: Who Will Care for the Baby Boomers? (JAY NEWTON-SMALL , 2/15/19, TIME)

Beatrice is one of 43 million unpaid caregivers in America, a number poised to spike as the Baby Boomers, who comprise most of the family caregivers now, join the ranks of the oldest old. "Family caregivers make up a silent support army -- without them, health and social systems within our aging societies would be absolutely overwhelmed," says Scott Walker, who oversees Embracing Carers, an international caregiving initiative for pharmaceutical company EMD Serono. The group conducted a survey of unpaid caregivers in 2017, which found that nearly half of family caregivers suffer from depression, and 45% did not have time to book or attend their own medical appointments as a result of their caregiving activities -- thus putting caregivers at risk of falling ill and needing caregiving themselves. A 2002 Stanford University study found that 40% of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers actually die from stress-related disorders before the one for whom they are caring.

Compounding pressure on this unpaid labor force is a shortage of paid caregivers to fill a growing class of jobs that are troubled by low pay and poor working conditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked home health and personal care aides as among the fastest growing occupations, with an anticipated 1.2 million new jobs anticipated between 2016 and 2026. But these are already jobs that most Americans don't want, leading to high turnover rates of 74% annually in nursing homes. So who will be filling these jobs?

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Independents Trust Mueller, Which Could Be Bad News For Trump (Nathaniel Rakich, 2/15/19, 538

According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released this week, 51 percent of adults approve of the way Mueller is handling the investigation, while 34 percent disapprove. Similarly, 57 percent think Mueller is mostly interested in uncovering the truth, while 36 percent think he's out to hurt President Trump politically. By contrast, a majority of Americans thought Starr was mainly interested in hurting then-President Bill Clinton politically in the Whitewater investigation.

During both the Starr and Mueller probes, members of the president's party were convinced that the investigators had the knives out for their president, and members of the opposition party believed the investigators had noble intentions. Since the partisan divides are similar in both cases, independent voters are the main drivers behind the difference in overall public opinion. In 1998, as the Whitewater investigation was wrapping up, 59 percent of independents told the Post that they thought Starr's investigation was politically motivated. This year, 57 percent said they have faith in Mueller.

The poll also suggests that independents may be the deciding factor in whether the public supports Trump's impeachment, if it comes to that. Per the Post poll, if Mueller's report finds that Trump obstructed justice by trying to undermine the Russia investigation, Americans believe -- 65 percent to 29 percent -- that Congress should impeach Trump and try to remove him from office.1 And if the report concludes that Trump authorized his campaign staff to collude with Russia, Americans support impeachment and attempted removal by a similar margin: 61 percent to 33 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


This Is What the Beginning of a Real Israel Debate Looks Like (BEN EHRENREICH, February 15, 2019, New Republic)

By the time Ilhan Omar walked onto the national stage, a lot had changed, and not much at all. Since 2006, we've seen three devastating and overwhelmingly one-sided Israeli assaults on Gaza, the massive expansion of settlements in a brutal and seemingly endless occupation, the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations and anything that could be called an Israeli "left," a widening gulf between Israeli and American Jews, and an Israeli prime minister who went out of his way to embarrass a popular Democratic president and to embrace the neo-fascist right. Ever-larger cracks are appearing in the defensive wall the U.S. media has for years erected around Israel: Critical voices--even Palestinian ones--are increasingly making it into the op-ed pages. Space for debate is finally opening up. And the controversy that blew up around Omar is a foretaste of how bitterly that space will be contested. [...]

Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership rebuked Omar. Chuck Schumer jumped in on Twitter, as did Chelsea Clinton. Omar apologized on Monday without exactly backing down, reaffirming "the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry." The following day, President Trump demanded she resign. Mike Pence called for "consequences." For a minute it seemed like it would be 2006 all over again, only potentially far uglier, since neither Mearsheimer nor Walt wore a hijab.

And then, suddenly, it didn't anymore. Leftist Jews rushed to Omar's defense, taking to the pages of the Guardian, Jacobin, and The Nation to declare that Omar was right about AIPAC, and that accusing her of anti-Semitism was opportunistic and absurd. Prominent liberal Jewish commentators refused to join the anti-Omar pile-on. Peter Beinart focused on "the sick double standard" of the attacks on Omar. Her tweets had been "irresponsible," he wrote, but her "fiercest critics in Congress are guiltier of bigotry than she is." Foreign Policy's David Rothkopf, who had shown little mercy to Mearsheimer and Walt, tweeted that while Omar's words had been "ill-considered," it was "vitally important we distinguish between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism." And Jeremy Ben-Ami, chair of AIPAC's liberal rival J Street, dismissed the whole affair as "overblown," issuing a statement warning politicians to "refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as 'anti-Semitic,' in a transparent effort to silence legitimate discussion."

By Wednesday, the story was no longer Omar, but the schism within the Democratic Party that the controversy had revealed. CNN, Slate, Politico, Time, and the The Washington Post all ran stories on the Democrats' Israel split, pointing out that only one of the seven Democrats vying for the presidency voted for Rubio's anti-BDS bill, and citing poll after poll finding Democratic voters' allegiance to Israel slipping.

That story has been developing for years, but what happened in Washington this week was something we haven't seen before. The imputation of anti-Semitism, an old and much-used tool, was suddenly revealed to be blunt. Critics of Israel have long understood that speaking too loudly would get them silenced and shunned. But Ilhan Omar is still standing. Let the arguing begin.

The End of History was always coming for Eretz Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Universal basic income: the idea that shows no sign of abating (ANTHONY PAINTER, 2/14/19, New Statesman)

Finland was the first country to launch a UBI trial in January 2017. The results of the country's two-year trial were published last Friday. The aim of a basic income - a universal, regular, unconditional flat-rate payment for all citizens - is to underpin economic security and enable personal wellbeing. At first glance, the initial results of the Finnish trial are promising. [...]

The most impressive long term trial, however, is Alaska's permanent dividend fund, where every Alaskan receives an annual unconditional cash payment. Economists at the University of Chicago studied the fund and found that the policy, which has been in place for almost forty years, has not reduced employment overall, and has increased part time employment as cash is recycled back into the Alaskan economy. It's unsurprising that Alaska's permanent universal divided fund had no adverse impact on work. The universal support of the NHS, for instance, has hardly frayed the UK's work ethic.

Four years of trials in Canada in the 1970s showed very positive impacts on health and education. The Canadian trials suggested that young men remained in education for longer, and young mothers were more likely to take a longer period of maternity leave. A Basic Income experiment among Cherokee Indians in North Carolina had similar positive effects.

Last week's data from the Finnish trials reveals a similar pattern. There was no detrimental impact on employment during the first year of the UBI trial. There were positive impacts on health and wellbeing, including on mental health. Levels of trust amongst basic income recipients improved - in others and in Government - and participants became more confident about their future work opportunities. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM



Germany's armed forces are struggling to attract much-needed recruits, with the number of new soldiers joining the Bundeswehr falling to an all-time low last year. The shortages are an urgent challenge for the German military, which has tried to boost its strength and capabilities at a time of record-low unemployment, and against fierce competition from both the private sector and institutions such as the police. [...]

The hiring difficulties were highlighted by the revelation that 21,500 officer and non-commissioned officer positions were vacant, according to a recent official Parliament report, which is a closely followed assessment of the Bundeswehr's strengths, weaknesses and challenges. Recruitment troubles aside, the report points to another critical but increasingly familiar failing: the poor state of military equipment and weaponry.

"My report for the year 2018 finds the personnel situation of the Bundeswehr is strained and the material situation still unsatisfactory," says Hans-Peter Bartels, the commissioner and author of the report. "I would like to say that spring has come, and everything has changed. But the truth is: This is still winter."

February 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Andrew McCabe's disturbing account of working for Sessions and Trump (Greg Miller, February 1, 2019, Washington Post)

He didn't read intelligence reports and mixed up classified material with what he had seen in newspaper clips. He seemed confused about the structure and purpose of organizations and became overwhelmed when meetings covered multiple subjects. He blamed immigrants for nearly every societal problem and uttered racist sentiments with shocking callousness.

This isn't how President Trump is depicted in a new book by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Instead, it's McCabe's account of what it was like to work for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The FBI was better off when "you all only hired Irishmen," Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau's workforce. "They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos -- who knows what they're doing?"

It's a startling portrait that suggests that the Trump administration's reputation for baseness and dysfunction has, if anything, been understated and too narrowly attributed to the president. [...]

Inevitably, the book includes disturbing new detail about Trump's subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an Oval Office briefing in July 2017, Trump refused to believe U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile -- a test that Kim Jong Un had called a Fourth of July "gift" to "the arrogant Americans."

Trump dismissed the missile launch as a "hoax," McCabe writes. "He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so." [...]

Sessions "believed that Islam -- inherently -- advocated extremism" and ceaselessly sought to draw connections between crime and immigration. "Where's he from?" was his first question about a suspect. The next: "Where are his parents from?"

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Paul Manafort Keeps Lying About Russia Collusion. Is It to Protect Donald Trump? (Jonathan Chait, 2/14/19, New York)

When the first Manafort indictment came down in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reassured its readers that Trump was guilty of nothing more than "poor judgement" in hiring a "notorious Beltway operator," as it called the man who had been directing Russian overseas political operations in Ukraine. "One popular theory is that Mr. Mueller is throwing the book at Mr. Manafort so he will cop a plea and tell what he knows about Russian-Trump campaign chicanery," reasoned an editorial. "But that assumes he knows something that to date no Congressional investigation has found."

The next year, a gimmick filing by Manafort's attorneys seized on the fact that prosecutors had not charged him with colluding with Russia yet to present him as innocent. Mollie Hemingway breathlessly wrote it up in the Federalist. Manafort's "legal team also reveals the government has provided no evidence of any contact between Manafort and Russian officials," she declared. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, impressed by this "evidence," declared, "If Manafort did not illegally collide [sic] with Russia, it's hard to imagine anyone who did."

Last summer, Byron York was still proclaiming, "There's no collusion in the case against Manafort."

This defense has been smashed to pieces. 

Here's the Real Reason Robert Mueller Thinks Paul Manafort Lied To Prosecutors (Colin Kalmbacher, February 14th, 2019, Law & Crime)

As Law&Crime previously reported, a birds-eye review of the hearing suggests that Manafort's lie not only had to do with exactly the Kilimnik allegation-but includes cinematic levels of intrigue as well. Enter: the Midtown Manhattan members-only club, the Grand Havana Room.

Kilimnik, in mid-2016, offered to meet with Manafort and the meeting that occurred was the one at the Grand Havana Room. Apparently, former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates and Manafort printed something for the meeting, but Mueller's redactions ensure that we don't know what was printed. The operating theory is that the alleged poll data exchange happened at the Grand Havana Room on August 2, 2016 for a purpose Manafort would later "lie" about.

Manafort, by way of his attorneys, repeatedly argued that he did not intentionally lie. A last-ditch effort from the defense on Wednesday went so far as to accuse Mueller's attorneys of dishonesty and of failing to understand federal law regarding false statements. That filing didn't work out so well for them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


The Amnesty Omnibus 'Deal' Is The Exact Boondoggle Trump Ran Against (JOSH HAMMER, February 14, 2019, Daily Wire)

This bill is, frankly, a disaster. And, holding aside the noxious optics -- which Trump himself, merely a year ago, had pleged to never engage in again -- of signing yet another last-minute, massive omnibus boondoggle, the substance of the bill is so bad that it is not even remotely obvious how a concomitant declaration of a national emergency might sufficiently negate it. In fact, it almost assuredly could never counter this bill's bad provisions.

Two provisions, in particular, stand out.

If we had a Republican Party truly committed to securing our sovereignty and ending the ceaseless amnesty magnets fomented by the open-borders zealots and ruthlessly taken advantage of by the murderous cartels, then Section 224(a) of the bill would single-handedly be a dealbreaker. Here is the text of Section 224(a) (emphasis added):

None of the funds provided by this Act or any other Act, or provided from any accounts in the Treasury of the United States derived by the collection of fees available to the components funded by this Act, may be used by the Secretary of Homeland Security to place in detention, remove, refer for a decision whether to initiate removal proceedings, or initiate removal proceedings against a sponsor, potential sponsor, or member of a household of a sponsor or potential sponsor of an unaccompanied alien child ( as defined in section 462 (g) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 279(g))) based on information shared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

As Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies stated in her above tweet, this amounts to a "de facto sanctuary" for anyone remotely near an "unaccompanied alien child." The ramifications of this provision are simply extraordinary. Unaccompanied alien children are already trafficked and exploited by the cartels to take advantage of our insane "credible fear" aslyum loophole regime. Furthermore, according to Vaughan, "ICE has estimated that 30-40 percent of the MS-13 members it has arrested in the last two years arrived as [unaccompanied alien children]." Remarkably, every "sponsor" or "potential sponsor" (emphasis added) of an unaccompanied alien child is shielded from being "place[d] in detention" or "remove[d]." This is insanity. Why are Republicans and this White House shilling for mass amnesty for MS-13 thugs? Why are we incentivizing the mass importation of MS-13 barbarians by the cartels?

But it gets worse. Unbelievably, the bill also provides largely Left-leaning local public officials in Texas's Rio Grande Valley with unilateral vetoes over the meager amounts of wall funding that the bill even authorizes. Section 232(a) of this bill states that "prior to use of any funds made available by this Act for the construction of physical barriers," the Department of Homeland Security "shall confer and seek to reach mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers within that city." The bill then specifies that it is "local elected officials" with whom the Department of Homeland Security must consult. Crucially, the bill actually only authorizes fencing for the Customs and Border Protection-designated Rio Grande Valley sector. But the Texas border counties in the Rio Grande Valley sector are generally heavily Democrat-leaning; as Daniel Horowitz laments, "These are the most liberal counties on the border (thanks to demographics of open borders itself!), and there is practically no local official who supports the wall in these counties."

Signing the bill itself undercuts the notion of an emergency.
Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


TVA defies Trump, votes to shut down two aging coal-fired power plants (STEVEN MUFSON, 2/14/19,  WASHINGTON POST)

The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors voted to shut down two aging coal-fired power plants, defying a tweet from President Trump on Monday urging the agency to keep one of them open.

The TVA directors voted overwhelmingly to close the Paradise 3 and Bull Run plants. Three of the four people appointed by Trump to the board joined the majority voting to close down the coal units.

"It is not about coal. This decision is about economics," TVA Chief Executive Bill Johnson said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Why Did Republicans Vote Against Their Own Bill On Anti-Semitism? (Ron Kampeas, February 14, 2019, The Forward)

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were in the odd position Wednesday of voting against a bill that included an initiative to combat anti-Semitism, a measure they initially insisted was in the national security interests of the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Conspiracy Theorist And Frequent Presidential Candidate Lyndon LaRouche Dies At 96 (JAMES DOUBEK, 2/14/18, NPR)

His philosophies varied over time, beginning with the far left and then swerving to the far right. Critics accused him of invoking anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic themes. He was prolific in his output of writings and speeches that frequently involved economics. He advocated "a just new world economic order" and imagined that world events were controlled by elites. [...]

More recently, LaRouche's organizations have advocated a theory that the U.K., rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. [...]

Dennis King, author of the book Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism, told Fresh Air in 1989 that LaRouche's success in finding supporters shows Americans' "extreme vulnerability to manipulation and infiltration and influence by a cleverly disguised right-wing extremist movement."

King said LaRouche and his supporters were "able to make in the 1980s almost unbelievable inroads into American public life."

LaRouche and his followers raised over $200 million and ran thousands of candidates for offices across the country, according to King, "more candidates than any extremist group in American history."

Here's an Insane Story About Roger Stone, Lyndon LaRouche, Vladimir Putin, and the Queen of England (SHILPA JINDIA, DECEMBER 21, 2018, Mother Jones)

Stone's recent association with LaRouche is consistent with his decades-long evolution from a mainstream GOP operative to an advocate and ally of the conspiratorial and political fringe. Stone is reportedly being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining his possible interactions during the 2016 campaign with WikiLeaks ahead of its releases of emails stolen by Russian government hackers. (Mueller himself is no stranger to LaRouche; he was a key player in the 1980s investigation that sent LaRouche to jail.) Despite all the scrutiny over Stone's role in the 2016 campaign, his alignment with a political group that the Heritage Foundation once described as a "strange asset for the KGB's disinformation effort" remains a little-examined aspect of his recent activities.

Also under-examined has been a tantalizing clue about possible ties between LaRouche's organization and Moscow. Buried in Christopher Steele's dossier on Trump's possible links to Russia was an August 2016 report with this allegation: A "Kremlin official involved in US relations" had claimed that Russia facilitated a LaRouche delegation's trip to Moscow, offering members of LaRouche's group assistance and enlisting them in an effort to disseminate "compromising information" as part of the Kremlin's 2016 influence campaign. A lawyer with ties to both Stone and LaRouche's network has claimed that he introduced Stone to a key LaRouche aide in early 2016, as Trump began to secure the Republican nomination.

While Stone's interactions with the LaRouche crowd may at first blush seem bizarre, Stone himself has long been a conspiracy theorist. In 2014, he published a book claiming that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And in recent years, he has forged a political alliance with Alex Jones, the chieftain of Infowars who has peddled noxious conspiracy theories, including the claim that the 2012 Newtown massacre was a hoax.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE DREAMLIFE OF TRUMP NATIONAL: Indignant solidarity for my fellow golf-club workers (Paul Berman, February 13, 2019, The Tablet)

At age 16, I graduated from mowing the neighbors' lawns and watering their plants to my first real job, which was clearing tables and washing dishes at a college cafeteria, and then to a still better job, with looser hours and wider vistas, as golf caddy at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, known in those days as the Briar Hall Golf and Country Club, in Briarcliff Manor, New York. My career at the cafeteria was brief. During perhaps my second or third day on the job, I noticed that we cafeteria workers were entirely at the mercy of our supervisors, and we were not as well-remunerated as seemed to me just, and, furthermore, many of us, though not me, were members of a cruelly oppressed racial minority--notably the cooks, who were significantly older than 16, with power over the kitchen and impressive skills. And we ought to resist oppression.

I proposed unionization, to be achieved through militant action. And, a week or two later, I was, in a phrase that puzzled me, "let go." I never gathered the courage to tell my parents what had happened. I was ashamed to have lost my first job.

I was proud of the next job, though. After school when the afternoons were long, or on weekends and over the summer, I made my way to the caddy shack at the golf club and sat patiently on a bench until all the caddies with greater status than me had been called, and my turn at last came up. I threw a canvas golf bag, or maybe a leather bag, over my left shoulder and trundled around nine holes of the course, or around all 18 holes, in the footsteps of whomever I was serving.

Sometimes, I was asked to carry two bags, which was difficult. My right shoulder was not as adept and horizontal as my left one, which allowed the bag to slide off. Two bags were heavy, and if they were plush leather and filled with extra and peculiar clubs, a 5-wood or 1-iron or an alternative putter, they were more than I could handle. No one took pity on me. The golfers strode about in their golfing attire and chatted among themselves and said almost nothing to me, apart from issuing orders. Nor were the other caddies full of talk. I labored. Zealously I tramped about in the weeds, looking for lost balls. And I set off along the fairways.

The slopes were ocean seas. The green grass brushed at my toes and parted in foamy waves, and a brine of the freshly mown swept over my cheeks, and I floated along with everyone else from tee to green, and tee to green, almost in silence, except for the regular thwack of the club blades hitting the balls, and snatches of conversation. Some of those golfers were laughably awkward at the game, the women especially, out for the first time, perhaps, on a golf course, unsure how to stand or swing. But we caddies knew how to stand, which was upright with the bags in front of us, like Civil War soldiers at parade rest in the war memorials, wordless, expressionless, snickerless, and reliable.

Best were Tuesday afternoons, when the greenkeepers irrigated the lawns and undertook repairs. The course was closed to the club members, and the caddies were allowed their day. Only a handful of us showed up for those afternoons, mostly the high school boys, and we wandered the course alone, past the noisy lawn tractors and the water sprinklers, carrying our own bags. I owned a set of nine or 10 mismatched clubs and was always well-stocked with the slightly damaged balls that I gleaned from the roughs, and the banged-up wooden tees that were everywhere to be found, and a leather fingerless glove, and that was sufficient.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Republicans can hate the 'Green New Deal' or they can compete with it (Eddie Scarry, February 08, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Ronald Reagan is dead. Along with him, the version of conservative politics that says, "Cut taxes, let freedom ring, and everything else is up to you."

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll last year found that about 60 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, "Government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people."

The average person has no idea how to go about helping "meet the needs of people," but they know the answer they don't want to hear is, "The government just screws everything up so you're better off figuring that one out on your own."

Conservative Republicans for too long have framed elections as a choice between getting free stuff from Democrats or getting a smaller government from the GOP, a position that seems to suggest there is no alternative to "bad government" or "no government." Is there a "halfway decent government" option?

The current healthcare system is a sham, constructed in a way that allows both hospitals and insurance companies to bilk their patients. For all its problems and unpopularity, Obamacare attempted to expand healthcare access. The Republican attempt to fix the law, such as it was, was to give little bits of money to people so they might have enough to buy their own insurance. Which one of those sounds better to you? [...]

The "Green New Deal" is a bad idea. But it's an idea, nonetheless. And the country has shown it's willing to try new things if it might make lives better.

Republicans should learn that quickly, or lose.

One of the biggest problems with the anti-government argument is that we've been rather well-governed since 1981.  Look no further than the way W and Ben Bernanke saved us from Great Recession or even Depression and it becomes awfully hard to coherently argue against effective governance.

And a GOP Green Plan virtually writes itself: replace income taxes with consumption taxes, particularly punitive ones on gas, coal, etc..

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Desperate for Recruits, Police Consider Non-Citizens (SIMONE WEICHSELBAUM, 2/14/19, Marshall Project)

   Non-citizens with legal status can enlist in the U.S. military and risk their lives in combat. But in most states they cannot be employed as police officers. Now dozens of police chiefs and sheriffs, alarmed at the shrinking numbers of qualified recruits, want to see the long-standing prohibition lifted."I don't think someone's citizenship is indicative in any way of someone's suitability to be a police officer," said Police Chief Tom Manger in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. He co-chairs a national task force of policing executives, which includes members who are lobbying legislatures to change the law in Maryland and elsewhere.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


Tyson plans own plant-based foods (Nathan Owens, February 9, 2019, AK Democrat-Gazette)

Demand for products that look, feel and taste like meat, poultry and cheese will likely continue to grow, Tyson Foods said this week. The company plans to develop its own similar protein products and they could be on store shelves as early as this year, said Noel White, the company's president and chief executive.

During Tyson's first-quarter earnings call Thursday morning, White said Tyson is using all its resources to make "great tasting protein alternatives that are more accessible for everyone."

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Israel 'displeased' with Hezbollah in Lebanon government (Middle East Monitor, February 14, 2019)

Israel is displeased with the wide participation of Hezbollah in the new Lebanese government, saying it will enhance Iranian influence in the country.

A report issued by the Institute for National Security Studies at Israel's Tel Aviv University said yesterday that the formation of the new government in Lebanon is "bad news for Israel," noting that 18 ministers out of the cabinet's 30 belong to Hezbollah or allied political forces.

The struggle between Israel and Iran is about Iran supporting and Israel opposing democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


California governor wants users to profit from online data (DON THOMPSON, 2/14/19, AP) 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has set off a flurry of speculation after he said the state's consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make by capitalizing on personal data they collect. [...]

Axios calculated that the average Facebook user is worth $7.37 to the company, while a Twitter user is worth $2.83, and a Reddit user, about 30 cents. The calculation basically divided the companies' annual revenue by their monthly active users.

Steyer promised "landmark legislation" that will change the way consumers view the value and privacy of their online information. Most consumers don't realize that companies "are taking your data at extremely detailed levels and selling it and monetizing it," he said.

"You're basically saying, 'It's my data,'" Steyer said. "And if you do use it, I would like a portion of that because you're monetizing my personal information. That's a big deal, and that will represent an enormous step forward for consumers in California and all across the country."

On the other hand, it seems fair to ask what the value is of these services.  Can we even quantify the value of free Google?

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Trump Puts Best Face on Border Deal, as Aides Try to Assuage an Angry Right (Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 13, 2019, NY Times)

One call was made to Lou Dobbs, a favorite of Mr. Trump's whose Fox Business Network show he often tries to catch live. Another was placed to Sean Hannity, the Fox host who regularly talks with the president. [...]

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, contradicted the White House line and declared that the agreement was "a bad deal for the president."

"Only in Washington, D.C., can we start out with needing $25 billion for border security measures and expect applause at 1.37," he said Tuesday on Fox News. "I mean, only in D.C. is that a winning deal."

Mr. Meadows and his allies were among those targeted by the White House in hopes of avoiding a more threatening conservative revolt. A meeting with members of his Freedom Caucus in the Oval Office was partly aimed at urging them to hold their fire in television interviews when talking about the bill, according to a person briefed on the effort.

Fox News Rejects National Ad for Oscar-Nominated Anti-Nazi Documentary (Jeremy Barr, 2/13/19, Hollywood Reporter)

Fox News has rejected a national advertising buy for a 30-second spot that warns viewers about the potential dangers of American fascism after an ad sales representative said network leadership deemed it inappropriate, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. [...]

A Fox News national ad sales representative told the distributor's media-buying agency on Wednesday that CEO Suzanne Scott ("our CEO") said the ad was "not appropriate for our air," according to email correspondence viewed by THR.

Can't attack your own viewers and hosts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


A Confederate book was open to a racist passage in a GOP congressman's office. He blamed his staff. (Reis Thebault, February 13, 2019, Washington Post)

Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) has removed from his office a biography of Robert E. Lee, which was previously displayed there under a glass case and opened to a page highlighting the Confederate general's racist ideology. [...]

The book, titled "Gen. Robert Edward Lee: Soldier, Citizen, and Christian Patriot," was opened to a page that trumpeted proslavery beliefs, reading in part, "The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race, and, I hope, will prepare and lead them to better things."

Drew Ferguson on Immigration (On The Issues)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Iraq beat the drought and become the breadbasket of the Middle East again? (Kieran Cooke, 13 February 2019, MEE)

[A]mid this environmental meltdown, Azzam Alwash - conservationist, civil engineer and one of the leading figures in Iraq's fledgeling ecological movement - remains optimistic. 

"People don't give nature enough credit for how resilient it is," says Alwash. "With the right policies, Iraq could manage its water supplies and become, as in ancient times, the breadbasket of the Middle East."

Alwash, 60, was born in Nasiriyah, in south-eastern Iraq. As a child, he recalls paddling a small boat through southern Iraq's marshes with his father, an irrigation engineer.

"It was a piece of heaven, full of fish and birds, water buffalo grazing on land amongst the reeds."

In the late 1970s, Alwash went to California, studied for an engineering doctorate and built up a successful career as a civil engineer.  He married, had two daughters and, for a while, lived the American dream.

"I learned my optimism in the US," says Alwash. "A 'can do' attitude was injected into me and has stayed despite all the setbacks and problems encountered over the years."

In the mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein launched his brutal campaign against the Shia of the south, bombing, draining and poisoning large areas of Alwash's beloved marshes.

Following Saddam's downfall in 2003, Alwash - after more than 20 years of living and working in California - returned to Iraq. He founded the Nature Iraq environmental group and put his hydraulic engineering skills to work, becoming one of the prime movers behind the re-flooding of the marshes region.

February 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


As Trump rallied for border wall Monday, migrant families arrived in record numbers (Nick Miroff, February 12, 2019, Washington Post)

More than 1,800 Central American parents and children crossed the border illegally Monday, the largest number of "family unit apprehensions" recorded on a single day by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday.

The total included two groups of more than 300 people, both of which arrived to CBP's El Paso sector on the same day President Trump held a rally in the city to tout his plans for a border wall.

We Republicans love family values, unless your family is brown. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Judge voids Paul Manafort plea deal, says he 'intentionally' lied to the FBI, special counsel and grand jury (Katelyn Polantz,  February 13, 2019,  CNN)

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, lied to special counsel Robert Mueller, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Manafort "intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the (office of special counsel) and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Taxation is no way to spur innovation (Sam Dumitriu, 2/13/19, CapX)

When you tax something, you get less of it. That's why when governments want to raise revenue to fund public services, they need to pay close attention to how taxes affect behaviour.

In general, they would be wise to tax 'bads' (e.g. tobacco, pollution, and congestion) before taxing 'goods' (e.g. work, investment, and R&D). 

That is precisely the argument for using taxes to force innovation. Taxing gasoline will reduce its use forcing invention and adoption of alternatives quicker.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


House votes to end military support for Saudi-backed war in Yemen (Khorri Atkinson, 2/13/19, Axios)

The House overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would force the Trump administration to withdraw U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The bill, which passed 248-177 and now heads to the Senate, is a rebuke of President Trump's foreign policy amid broader pushback over his defense of Saudi Arabia, whose role in the conflict has been under heightened scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Senate passed a parallel resolution 56-41 in December, but a blocked vote by House Republicans prevented it from ever reaching the floor of the House.

The WoT is all about our alliance with the Shi'a against the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Gavin Newsom wants California to be its own nation-state in the Trump era (Joe Garofoli Feb. 12, 2019, LA Times)

Newsom said the president has "described a country where inequality doesn't seem to be a problem, where climate change doesn't exist, and where the greatest threat we face comes from families seeking asylum."

So California, as the world's fifth-largest economy, is going to be a counterweight, a West Coast enclave built on its own values and funded, in part, by an anticipated $21.6 billion surplus.

So while the White House is "laser-focused on destroying the Affordable Care Act," as Newsom said Tuesday, he proposes that California offer its own health-insurance subsidies to families earning up to $150,000. He wants to expand Medi-Cal coverage to all Californians, including undocumented immigrants, until they are 26.

To counter what Newsom characterized as a "so-called emergency" at the nation's southern border, he said Monday that California will remove its National Guard troops stationed there and redeploy them to take care of state issues like wildfire protection and the eradication of illegal cannabis farms.

Newsom even appointed California's own surgeon general -- Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician who is the chief executive of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco.

Even as he offered rare praise for Trump for calling attention to soaring prescription drug prices, Newsom highlighted his executive order that would create a single-purchasing system for medication, which he said "will save hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the people of California."

Since Trump and the GOP-led Congress passed a new tax law that largely benefited the wealthy, Newsom wants California to expand its earned income tax credit to "a million more Californians who need it the most."

Newsom has already proposed that California extend paid family leave and offer universal preschool and free community college to help low-income residents, since little is being done in Washington to address wealth inequality.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Trump's failed shutdown strategy produced an even worse deal than he started with (Aaron Blake, February 12, 2019, Washington Post)

[T]he bigger issue is this: The amount of funding is actually shy of the original deal Republicans and Democrats reached last year that Trump rejected. At that time, the spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security included $1.6 billion for 65 miles of fencing, both slightly more than the current tentative deal.

This was the deal on the table (it passed 26 to 5 in the Senate Appropriations Committee in June) when Trump initially began demanding $5 billion for his wall. He's now getting slightly less than that $1.6 billion while also making a concession to Democrats on detention beds.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


McCarthy rebuffs accusations of anti-Semitism in deleted tweet about Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg (CAITLIN OPRYSKO, 02/13/2019, Politico)

In a tweet last October, McCarthy wrote that "we cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA."

The tweet included a video featuring McCarthy discussing George Soros, Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, all Jewish men who are significant donors to Democratic campaigns and causes.

It invoked a stereotype about the Jewish faith that has long been considered to be an anti-Semitic dog whistle popular among the alt-right, and it's a tactic that the president himself was accused of employing in his 2016 campaign.

Trump Former Inaugural Committee Chair Defends Saudi Arabia  (AP, 2/13/19)

The man who led President Donald Trump's inaugural committee has said America is in no moral position to criticize Saudi Arabia over the killing of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse," Tom Barrack said Tuesday at the Milken Institute MENA Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Thank goodness neither is Muslim!
Posted by orrinj at 1:05 PM


Trump is running out of options for his border wall as Republican leaders break with the president (John Harwood, 2/13/19, CNBC)

It's hard to hear above the din from the Oval Office. But through their new spending compromise, GOP leaders signaled clearly that they, like Congressional Democrats, will no longer play border-wall make-believe with President Trump.

Trump sought the White House promising to build a "great wall" along the U.S. border with Mexico. Assailing previous presidents as ineffectual, he vowed to make Mexico pay for it.

GOP leaders always understood that pledge as fanciful, even as they cautiously avoided saying so out loud. Last December, when Trump changed his mind and chose a government shutdown over a bipartisan spending compromise, they reluctantly went along.

But 35 days of political pain, ending with Trump's initial surrender last month, changed their calculations.

Conservative Republican negotiators - Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Kay Granger of Texas - struck the deal with Democrats last night even as Trump roared about the wall in El Paso. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


Airbus poised to ax A380 as Emirates reviews demand: sources (Tim Hepher, 2/13/19, Reuters) 

Airbus is nearing a decision to ax production of the world's largest airliner amid a downward revision in demand from the Gulf and is likely to give an update with its full-year earnings on Feb. 14, industry sources and analysts said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


U.S. Inflation Remains Contained Amid Fed Patience on Rates (Jeff Kearns, February 13, 2019, Bloomberg)

A key measure of U.S. inflation was little changed in January while the broader gauge slowed on lower energy costs, underscoring the Federal Reserve's recent decision to be patient on raising interest rates.

Excluding food and energy, the so-called core consumer price index rose 0.2 percent from the prior month and 2.2 percent from a year earlier, according to a Labor Department report Wednesday. The monthly pace matched the median estimate of economists. The broader CPI was unchanged from December, below forecasts, while the annual gain of 1.6 percent was the smallest since June 2017.

Especially impressive given Donald's inflationary attacks on the free movement of goods and people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


The Wall Is in Their Hearts (Andrew Egger, Feb. 12th, 2019, The Bulwark)

[T]rump still holds one critical card. His greatest remaining strength is that, apart from a handful of ideologues, such as Coulter, most of the voters that backed him because he promised them a wall still seem to believe he's got the goods. And that means that Trump doesn't need to finish a "wall" to lock down their support. All he needs to do is to keep them convinced that construction is underway, they're making good progress, and what he really needs from Congress is money to finish the wall. In other words, he just needs to run out the clock.

Will Trump fold on the wall this week, then turn around and declare total victory? Will he continue to offer regular glowing progress reports on wall construction that doesn't exist? You might protest that this would be a bridge too far for even his biggest loyalists. But going by the jubilation of an El Paso crowd that was happy to trade in the usual "Build the Wall" signs Monday for ones emblazoned "Finish the Wall," you might not want to bet on it. Why would Trump go to all the trouble of declaring a national emergency when he can build the wall in the hearts of "his people"?

"We are setting the stage, folks," Trump said. "We are doing whatever we have to do. The wall is being built. It'll continue. It's going at a rapid pace."

If nothing else, Donald has illustrated for skeptical Americans just how the Fuhrer principle works.  The Trumpbots are happy to believe anything he tells them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


The Moment Macron Gave Up on Trump: After 18 months of frustrating efforts to sustain a partnership with America's president, the "special relationship" is over. (Helene Fouquet, February 13, 2019, Bloomberg)

A White House contact had warned Macron that Donald Trump was about to announce the pullout of U.S. troops from Syria.

Such a decision would be a body-blow to U.S. allies in the European Union. It risked releasing hundreds of Islamic State veterans and giving Russia's Vladimir Putin influence over the flow of refugees which has fueled a populist backlash in the EU.  For Macron, it heightened his concerns that the U.S. might back away from another, more sacred commitment: the NATO defense alliance.

As Macron prepared for a call with the White House that evening, his view on Syria was informed by a broader realization after 18 months of frustrating efforts to woo Trump: EU leaders can no longer rely on the U.S. to help underpin European security. [...]

On the call that night in December, the 41-year-old president reminded Trump of his pledge to stand alongside his allies in the fight against terrorism and urged him to consider his responsibilities to Europe. Less than 24 hours later, Trump announced the withdrawal in a tweet.

The decision came as a shock even in Washington, and triggered the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. For Macron and his inner circle, it was a watershed moment.

Anonymous still doing the Lord's work.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump's Take on Trade Sounds a Lot Like Ocasio-Cortez's Brand of Socialism (Shawn Donnan, February 13, 2019, Bloomberg)

On the face of it, self-declared socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump have little in common when it comes to economic policy. He's been cutting taxes. She wants the rich to pay more. He wants more coal-fired power plants. She has plans for a Green New Deal.
And then there's trade.
Trump has lately taken to declaring himself the bulwark of American free enterprise against a socialist onslaught personified by the headline-grabbing phenomenon that is Ocasio-Cortez. But many analysts see an uncomfortable truth for the president.

On trade, Trump behaves more like a state-interventionist than a laissez-faire guy. And he has more in common with the New York congresswoman, who like many progressive Democrats argues for stronger trade rules to protect American jobs, than with the standard-bearers of his own Republican party.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Carmageddon: The future is catching up with the motor giants: The world is changing -- and the auto industry is struggling to keep up (Ross Clark, 9 February 2019, The Spectator)

BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Nissan: for decades, the same names ruled. It was a complacent industry, and progress was incremental. Every five years or so, a new model of car would be brought out that was slightly better, slightly more efficient than the last. The domination of the internal combustion engine meant that this piece of late 19th-century technology set a huge entry barrier to new entrants. You couldn't set up a car company from scratch and hope to steal a march on the established players.

So they scoffed at suggestions that their world might be upended by electronic cars, ride-sharing apps like Uber -- which could mean fewer people owning cars -- or various degrees of driverless technology.

But life has come at them hard. Tesla has proved that there is a large market (and long waiting lists) for premium models -- and, so far, the company has defied the short-sellers who have bet on its demise. As for self-driving technology, it is Google which has led the way, investing more than a billion dollars. A fatal accident last year hasn't deterred Uber either. Eager to catch up, Toyota recently invested $500 million in Uber to help develop self-driving technology.

Another upstart in the automotive sector is Dyson, which since 2015 has been investing £2.5 billion to develop, in Wiltshire, an electric car with some element of driverless control. Driverless technology is crucial for the future shape of the automotive sector because it promises to slash the cost of taking a taxi -- which could undermine car owner-ship altogether, at least in cities.

Alternatively, it may turn out that hydrogen fuel cells prove to be the low-emission, carbon-neutral long-term replacement for petrol and diesel. Toyota is certainly looking that way -- it recently launched a hydrogen car, the Mirai. Hyundai, too, is investing heavily in hydrogen, last December announcing a £5.5 billion investment in the technology The battle between the two -- hydrogen vs electric -- has been dubbed by analysts at KPMG the car industry's 'Betamax vs VHS' moment, echoing the big battle over video technology in the 1980s. Electric cars ought to be more efficient, as hydrogen first has to be extracted from water -- there being no natural earthly source for pure hydrogen. But then, unlike battery cars, hydrogen cells can be refuelled in minutes. That is one reason why, according to a survey by KPMG, motor executives believe battery cars will eventually lose the battle. But nobody knows, which is what makes the future so uncertain for the car industry. And we all know how the video battle played out -- a victory for VHS before it, in turn, was blown away by DVD.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


Incredible Shrinking Europe: The Continent's grand unity project is failing, and its global influence is fading (Walter Russell Mead, Feb. 11, 2019, WSJ)

As its economy lags behind, Europe is becoming more divided politically. Brexit negotiations have inflamed tempers on both sides of the English Channel; Central European countries like Hungary and Poland are alienated from the West; much of Southern Europe remains bitter about the aftermath of the euro crisis; and anti-EU political parties continue to gain support across the bloc. A recent report from the European Council on Foreign Relations projects that anti-EU parties from the right and left are on course to control enough seats in the next European Parliament that they will be able to disrupt the EU and weaken it further. [...]

One European initiative did work: the single market. Europe remains formidable as a consumer bloc, and the EU's ability to regulate the conditions under which foreign companies like Google and Gazprom operate inside its wealthy market is the most important card in its hand.

Free markets require transnationalism to function. Democratic governance requires sovereignty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Schiff: The need to probe Trump's finances is getting more urgent (Greg Sargent, February 12, 2019, Washington Post)

Congressional Republicans are angry with President Trump for blowing off their demands for a report on Saudi Arabia's role in the murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Politico reports. They say they are going to act -- no, really, they mean it this time -- to compel the president to supply that report, in accordance with a law requiring him to deliver such an assessment to Congress, now that they've solicited it from the administration.

Which raises an interesting question: Just how far are Republicans willing to go in holding Trump accountable for his ongoing protection of the Saudis, anyway? What will they say when House Democrats begin digging into Trump's finances, to try to determine whether financial motives help explain it?

In an interview, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that Trump's refusal to issue a report on the murder of Khashoggi underscores the need to push forward with congressional scrutiny of Trump's ties to the Saudi regime.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


McCarthy blames Republican loss of House majority on GOP health care bill (Mike DeBonis February 12, 2019, Washington Post)

Speaking privately to his donors, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy squarely blamed Republican losses in last year's midterm elections on the GOP push to roll back health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions -- and in turn blamed his party's right flank.

McCarthy's comments, made in a Feb. 6 conference call from which The Washington Post obtained partial recordings, represent a vindication of Democratic efforts to elevate health care as an issue in last year's campaign. And in singling out the House Freedom Caucus, the remarks threaten to rekindle internal resentments inside the House Republican Conference.

McCarthy to GOP: DACA vote could cost us the House (RACHAEL BADE and JOHN BRESNAHAN, 05/17/2018, Politico)

House Republicans are flailing to get on the same page on immigration, as rebellious moderates inch closer toward forcing a vote protecting Dreamers and leaders scramble to stop the intra-party collision.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned centrist Republicans in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that their effort to force votes on immigration could cost the party its House majority and empower Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

...that opposing health care and hating the other is a recipe for oblivion?  Who'd have dreamt....

February 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


How Manafort's 2016 meeting with a Russian employee at New York cigar club goes to 'the heart' of Mueller's probe (Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger February 12, 2019, Washington Post)

The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign's Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan.

Court records show Manafort was joined at some point by his campaign deputy, Rick Gates, at the session at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-paneled room with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the city.

The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik.

The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.

It was at that meeting that prosecutors believe Manafort and Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump's presidential bid. The encounter goes "very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating," prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge in a sealed hearing last week.

One subject the men discussed was a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine, an issue of great interest to the Russian government, according to a partially redacted transcript of the Feb. 4 hearing.

During the hearing, the judge also appeared to allude to another possible interaction at the Havana Room gathering: a handoff by Manafort of internal polling data from Trump's presidential campaign to his Russian associate.

The new details provide a rare hint at what Mueller is examining in the final stretch of his nearly 21-month-old investigation -- and underscore his deep interest in the Grand Havana Room gathering, which ended with the three men leaving through separate doors, as Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


Laurel and Hardy - another fine mess: The real story of their final days: Stan & Ollie follows the comedians' final years. How closely does it match the reality? (Stephen Dixon, 1/09/19, Irish Times)

Forty years later, Stan Laurel was back in Britain, touring some of the same theatres he had appeared in before the first World War. As film artists, Laurel and Hardy were washed up: their glory days with Roach studios in the 1930s far behind and even the inferior Fox and MGM movies of the 1940s just bad memories.

Aged around 60, they embarked on three very long tours of Britain and Ireland, in 1947, 1952 and 1953-54 - their main source of income during those years. Neither had received a cent in residuals from the old Roach shorts that were constantly playing on American television.

At the height of their fame Laurel and Hardy rarely socialised together. Stan was the creative force, rewriting scripts, making props, working late in the editing suites. Ollie, always known as Babe, was far less driven: he gave it 100 per cent when the cameras were rolling then headed for the golf course or the racetrack with his drinking buddies.

It was only on these later variety tours that the comedians, constantly together on trains, ships and in hotels, really got to know each other properly for the first time and, in the words of their biographer, John McCabe (who knew both personally) "each found a cherished friend".

Stan & Ollie explores the 1953-54 tour, though it contains elements of all three. Directed by Jon S. Baird from a screenplay by Jeff Pope, it stars Steve Coogan and John C Reilly, with Shirley Henderson as Ollie's wife, Lucille, and Nina Arianda as Stan's Russian wife Ida.

Some events are elided for dramatic reasons and the chronology changed, but there is little sense in the movie that Stan was returning home, and to theatres where he would have been well known not only from films but in person from recent tours and much-earlier appearances. There is a grain of truth, and some emotional justification, in portraying Laurel and Hardy as semi-forgotten has-beens, I suppose, but contemporary reports show that, as Hollywood royalty, they were received rapturously by cheering crowds in austerity-stricken post-war Britain.

Stan, in particular, had difficulty visiting his family because he was mobbed whenever he set foot outside his hotel.

In Stan & Ollie, on the posters outside the sometimes tatty theatres (in fact they played the Number Ones) only their names appear, giving an impression they were onstage during the whole show. In reality, they performed a 20-minute sketch topping vast bills that included stars of the day such as Elsie and Doris Waters, budding comics like Harry Worth and the usual assortment of singers, jugglers, acrobats and animal acts.

The late ventriloquist Ray Allen told a story that demonstrated Oliver Hardy's essential sweetness and humility. At the end of each week Hardy, in poor health and at his heaviest, struggled up all the backstage stairs to tiny dressing rooms to obtain the autographs of every artist who had appeared on the bill, no matter how humbly. Alan suggested he might save Hardy the trouble and get the signatures for him. "Oh no," explained Ollie. "It is I asking the favour."

A famous story (in the film but chronologically misplaced) has them docking in Cobh in 1953. Their previous tour had ended only 11 months before and Hardy, as a US citizen, couldn't work in Britain until a full year had elapsed. However, he could perform in Northern Ireland if he entered from the Republic. No advance publicity about their arrival had been released, but the people of Cobh found out anyway and thronged the quayside to greet them. Stan, Ollie and their wives waved back from the deck, and suddenly the town's church bells started ringing out their theme tune, Dance of the Cuckoos. "I looked at Babe and he looked at me and we wept," Stan told McCabe.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


DOJ Indicts Dozens of White Supremacists Accused of Violence and Drug Dealing on RICO Charges (Colin Kalmbacher, February 12th, 2019, Law & Crime)

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), 54 adherents of the New Aryan Empire (NAE) were charged with participation in a racketeering enterprise that plotted and engaged in attempted murder, solicitation of murder, kidnapping, maiming and conspiracy in service of "a wide-ranging drug-trafficking operation" which sought to distribute large quantities of methamphetamine.

"[L]aw enforcement officials investigated the NAE's methamphetamine trafficking organization," the press release noes. "During the coordinated federal and state investigation, law enforcement agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine, seizing more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as 69 firearms and more than $70,000 in drug proceeds."

Law enforcement nicknamed their operation "To The Dirt," a sardonic reference to that NAE slogan which itself references the gang's overarching rule that members who join up are saddled with their gang affiliation for life.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


The Myths of Voter ID (Ross Douthat, Feb. 12, 2019, NY Times)

For as long as I've been politically conscious, conservatives have touted tougher identification requirements at the polls as a means to fight the scourge of voter fraud, and over the last decade Republicans have successfully implemented voter ID laws in a number of reddish states. Over the same period those laws have been cited by liberals as evidence that Republicans are bent on winning elections by disenfranchising Democrats -- locking out poor and minority voters in a rerun of the Jim Crow-poll tax era, and electing conservative politicians at the expense of democracy itself.

You could imagine a world in which the voter ID debate reflected a real and sweeping clash of interests. If conservatives were right that the laws reduced rampant voter fraud by preventing illegal immigrants from voting for Democrats in large numbers, and meanwhile liberals were also right that the laws dramatically reduced turnout among African-Americans and other liberal-leaning constituencies, effectively limiting the right to vote, then the whole debate would be extremely consequential and difficult to resolve.

In this world, however, the stakes seem to be considerably lower. That's the conclusion of a new study, one of the largest to date, from the economists Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons, which assessed the impact of voter ID laws between 2008 and 2016 using a nationwide voter file. The study finds that requiring voter identification has no effect on turnout -- not overall, and not on "any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation."

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Illegal Immigration Doesn't Cause Crime (TANVI MISRA, 2/10/19, defense One)

The core of Trump's argument is that a wall is needed because there's a flood of immigrants illegally crossing the border, driving up crime and violence in cities nationwide. It's such a foundational assertion that even foes of the president often don't pause to think critically about it any longer; instead, they get tied up debating logistical and cost-related points. So below are some big questions related to claims typically made around crime and immigration--responses to which come from numerous peer-reviewed studies, working papers, analyses, and government data CityLab has sifted through.

Are large numbers of migrants crossing the border?

Illegal immigration is the lowest it has been in over a decade. But a record number of families with children are crossing the border and turning themselves in to Border Patrol, in order to claim asylum: Border Patrol's apprehension numbers for financial year 2019 show that uptick. As Vox's Dara Lind recently put it, there is a crisis at the border--it's just not exactly the one the government is talking about. The problems at the border lie in the humanitarian need and the lack of capacity--and will--to meet it.

Do immigrants cause crime?

Sure, individual immigrants commit crimes. But a review of available research (a study of studies, if you will) does not support the claim that migrants are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than native-born Americans. In fact, researchers have often observed the opposite relationship.

One (imperfect) way to think about a group's relationship to crime is to see how many people from that group end up in prison--and why. An analysis by Michelangelo Landgrave and Alex Nowrasteh at the libertarian Cato Institute from 2016 found that legal and undocumented immigrants were less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans--and that likelihood appeared to be decreasing over time. Another one out of the Cato Institute focused specifically on the state of Texas. It showed that in 2015, undocumented immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 50 percent below that of native-born Americans. The conviction rate of those here legally was 66 percent below.

It does not appear that these are rates are low because immigrants found committing crimes were swiftly deported. A working paper from 2007 released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) concluded that immigrants who come to the country either self-select so that they are less likely to cause crime to begin with, or they have much more to lose by committing crime and therefore are more easily deterred.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Why southern Libya overwhelmingly supports Hifter (Alessandra Bocchi February 10, 2019, Al Monitor)

The three main tribes in Libya's southern Fezzan region largely support Gen. Khalifa Hifter's military takeover. Despite little media coverage, his Libyan National Army (LNA) has come to an agreement with most of the main tribal authorities in Libya's southern capital city, Sabha, and other areas in the southeast. The military operation has restored some security in a part of the country where human, fuel and drug trafficking has run rampant since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in 2011.

Libya's three main southern tribes are Awlad Suleiman, Tebu and Tuareg. They have all released official statements declaring support for Hifter's army, though some members have raised concerns for the LNA's reputation of brutal military force over the territories it controls. Awlad Suleiman released a statement through its municipal council, rather than directly through its tribal spokespersons, to avoid disputes with the rival Tripoli government it receives support from.

Despite the complexity of Libya's war, the key southern region -- which has been lawless for almost a decade -- has now seen a return to the rule of law with Hifter's military advances in the south.

In addition to the majority of the tribes, other Libyans also appear to be supportive of Hifter's military operation, according to individuals and organizations in the area.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


McCourtys Tell All About Super Bowl LIII: From Flores's Plays to Hoyer's Crucial Role (Albert Breer, February 11, 2019, MMQB)

Stephon Gilmore made arguably the biggest play of Super Bowl LIII. Give Duron Harmon credit, too, for getting to Jared Goff on the Patriots' all-out, second-and-10 blitz. Don't forget de facto coordinator Brian Flores, either, for the call, or Bill Belichick for assembling a heady defense ready for the moment.

And then there's the other critical piece of that championship team: Brian Hoyer, the Patriots' backup quarterback, the only one of 46 New England players in uniform who didn't make it into the game two Sundays ago.

It may sound crazy to say that the Patriots might not have lifted their sixth Lombardi Trophy in 18 years without a guy who didn't take a meaningful game rep all year. But after listening to the way Devin and Jason McCourty talk about their backup quarterback, it's clear just how much of a difference Hoyer made on the team, and a play that will be forever remembered here, one for which he wasn't actually on the field.

And maybe the coolest part about all that is how his impact has a way of explaining just who the 2018 Patriots became--a group that squeezed every inch out of every roster spot it had.

"Hoyer's been crucial," Jason McCourty says from Devin's kitchen table, at his house about a mile and a half from Gillette Stadium. "Hoyer's not a scout-team quarterback from the standpoint where, 'O.K., here's the card, here's what's circled, and I'm gonna throw the ball here.' Hoyer lines up, and says, 'here's the card, but this is just a route concept.'"

"Bill would tell him, 'Read what you think and go,'" Devin says.

"He's reading our defense for what he thinks it is--'if it's Cover-3, I'm going here.' So the whole time, he's reading and reacting," Jason says. "So I think for us as a defense, if something gets carved up in practice, it's 'Hey, Hoyer, what were you seeing there? O.K., that's something we need to adjust from a look standpoint.'"

Details win titles in the NFL, and the Patriots have always owned the details. But even for them, following the bouncing ball on this one, all the way into the waiting hands of Gilmore eight nights ago, is dizzying.

We'll explain.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Shelved: Sonny Rollins Live at Carnegie Hall (Tom Maxwell, February 2019,  Longreads)

Sonny Rollins was busy in 1957. The tenor saxophonist was present for about sixteen recording sessions, some private, most released, with his own bands as well as with groups led by Miles Davis, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, and Kenny Dorham. His landmark A Night At The Village Vanguard, a live recording of two sets, one in the afternoon and one in the evening performed on November 3rd at New York's legendary jazz club, became a standard by which other improvisers are judged. In addition, Rollins debuted at Carnegie Hall and headlined the first Monterey Jazz Festival the following year.

"When I look back, people say, 'Oh, you did a lot of records in 1957...' Well, I mean, I had to be told about it," Rollins recently told an interviewer. "So, I guess it was more or less of a norm, you know."

As luck would have it, there was an additional, forgotten Sonny Rollins recording from that year. Voice of America taped the Sonny Rollins Trio performance at Carnegie Hall on November 29, 1957. Named "Thanksgiving Jazz," this benefit show for the Morningside Community Center featured an all-star bill that included Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, and the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra. The tapes were discovered in the Library of Congress vaults during a digitization process in 2005. They'd been recorded, never broadcast, and forgotten.

Inspired by the discovery, Rollins decided to hold a 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall in 2007, where a new trio would play the same three songs he performed 50 years earlier, with the intention for Rollins' label to release both performances. This album got shelved -- and not, this time, because of a lack of resources or label interest. Even though he liked the idea in theory of releasing two recordings united by place but not time, Rollins wasn't satisfied with the final product. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Trump Is Tough on Venezuela -- but Won't Let Fleeing Venezuelans Into the U.S. (MANUEL MADRID, FEBRUARY 12, 2019, American Prospect)

 To the tens of thousands of Venezuelans in need of protection in the U.S. and those at risk in other countries, the administration has slammed its doors.

In fact, the United States has deported more Venezuelans in the past few months than it's resettled Venezuelan refugees in years. 

In October and November of last year alone immigration officials deported more than 120 Venezuelan nationals, according to the latest statistics compiled by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). Meanwhile, the U.S. has not resettled a single Venezuelan refugee since 2013, according to government records, nor does it have any plans to do so in the near future. 

When asked if the State Department was at least accepting submissions from Venezuelan refugees, a spokesperson said: "At this time, the United States is not in discussions about resettling large numbers of Venezuelan refugees."

At a time of deepening crisis for displaced people worldwide, including Venezuelans, the Trump administration has brought refugee admissions to historic lows, from the 110,000 yearly limit set by the Obama administration in 2017, to 45,000 in 2018, and now 30,000 in 2019. Moreover, the actual number of refugees resettled is much lower than those ceilings. Under Trump, the U.S. has admitted the lowest number of refugees in the almost four-decade history of the resettlement program.

"The U.S. is abdicating its role as a leader on refugee protection and admission of immigrants," says Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies. "The [federal government] should be looking at the Venezuelan crisis holistically. That includes diplomatic efforts, sanctions, humanitarian funding, and, yes, helping refugees and protecting asylum seekers."

Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM


U.S. job openings hit record high; workers more scarce (Lucia Mutikani, 2/12/19, Reuters) 

U.S. job openings surged to a record high in December, led by vacancies in the construction and accommodation and food services sectors, strengthening analysts' views that the economy was running out of workers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Beto O'Rourke gets under Trump's skin in El Paso (Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann, 2/12/19, NBC News)

It's not every day that an ex-congressman who isn't even an announced presidential candidate (though he very well might be) gets under the skin of the president of the United States. But that's exactly what happened as President Trump campaigned for his border wall last night in El Paso.

Referring to the protest that former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, and other El Paso leaders had organized, Trump said: "A young man who's got very little going for himself, except he's got a great first name... He challenged us. So we have let's, say, 35,000 people tonight. And he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good."

He continued, "In fact, what I'd do, what I would say is that may be the end of his presidential bid."

Later in the speech, Trump once again brought up the former congressman. "Well, how about Beto? Beto was defeated too, right? But he suffered a great defeat. Watch what the news does tomorrow, though, they won't mention the disparity [in crowd size], they won't mention the disparity tomorrow. They'll say "Beto O'Rourke" - that's his last name, right, O'Rourke? - "Beto O'Rourke had a wonderful rally, although about 15 people..."

One of the more comical talking point about a primary challenge to Donald is that he would refuse to debate, which assumes a level of discipline and skin thickness that no one actually believes he has.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Ilhan Omar Just Made It Harder to Have a Nuanced Debate About Israel (EMMA GREEN, FEB 11, 2019, The Atlantic)

The problem with Omar's comment is it leaves the impression that she sees Jewish money, and Jewish money alone, as the explanation for why politicians support Israel. U.S. political leaders, along with many Americans, back Israel for an enormous range of cultural, religious, historic, and security-related reasons. Many American Jews support Israel, but their views are complicated and diverse. And they are joined in this by many non-Jews, including, notably, politically powerful evangelical voters. [...]

That Omar has become the face of anti-Israel sentiment on the American left in a short space of time is most frustrating of all for activists and advocacy groups who wish for more nuanced conversations and policies on Israel and Palestine. Especially on the left, there is a hunger for this kind of conversation: According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, less than a third of self-identified Democrats say they're more sympathetic to Israel than to Palestine, and yet the vast majority of Democratic politicians in Washington are staunchly pro-Israel.

Groups like J Street, which lobbies in Congress for a two-state solution, have defended Omar and Tlaib in the past, and their cause is set back in the wake of comments like these. "J Street is dismayed and frustrated by the ongoing war of words" over this issue, the organization said in a statement on Monday. "This pattern of overheated, ill-considered, and reductive attacks ... has failed to address these issues with the nuance, sensitivity, and seriousness that they deserve." Young Jewish activists, including groups like If Not Now, have called on Jewish institutions to push back against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. In this highly fractured and fraught debate, however, extreme voices and provocative comments tend to find the most airtime, and outrage wins the day.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


Neomi Rao writes a flawless apology -- politicians, take note (Tiana Lowe, February 11, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Rao begins by definitively apologizing, not trying to explain away or employ whataboutism to justify her former argument. She instead explains specifically why victim-blaming is always wrong, conceding that her words may not have only hurt the feelings of her classmates, but that they may have "discourage[d] a victim from coming forward or from seeking help." She then goes on to explain that this came from ignorance, not malice, and that if she were to revisit these issues now, she would "have more empathy and perspective."

We cannot expect any politician or judicial nominee to have an unimpeachable past, nor should we. Humans are ignorant by nature, but also worthy of the opportunity to learn, apologize, and earn total forgiveness. While there's certainly a difference between saying awful things and doing violent ones, people who have done the former due to ignorance or even due to hate should be allowed to redeem themselves as long as it comes from the heart.

Rao's apology was about as close to a textbook model for how to exemplify evolution, self-betterment, and grace. She admitted she was wrong, explained why she was wrong, and has spent the subsequent decades of her life doing better.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Republicans Got Us Into This Mess, and They Have to Get Us Out of It (Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

Recent developments should deeply worry Republicans, starting with those disastrous midterms. The Republican Party may have held on to the Senate, but Democrats now control the House of Representatives because they won more congressional seats than they had since the post-Watergate tsunami of 1974. They gained seven governorships and nearly 350 state legislature seats. According to exit polls, Democrats improved over their 2014 midterm showing by six or more percentage points among men, women, married voters, unmarried voters, whites, Hispanics, Asians, voters under 30, voters over 59, moderates, independents, urbanites and voters with college degrees.

In other words, Republicans lost significant ground among everyone except Mr. Trump's core base of rural, evangelical and "noncollege" supporters (and even among them, the Republican margin shrank a bit). This happened with unemployment lower than at any time since 1969 and with Republican turnout at its highest level in a century.

Mr. Trump's hard-core base is large enough to dominate the Republican Party, at least for now, but it is not large enough to dominate the country. In the long run, a third or so of the country cannot effectively govern the other two-thirds with an unpopular agenda and a Twitter account. Mr. Trump will almost surely achieve less legislatively in the second half of his term than he did in the first, when Republicans controlled both branches of Congress -- and even then their record was not impressive.

In short, by consolidating behind Mr. Trump, the Republican Party is isolating and alienating itself from the broader public. Indeed, the Trump paradox is that his support deepens among his most persistent admirers even as it erodes everywhere else. As a result, Mr. Trump headed into his third-year State of the Union message with the second-lowest approval rating in history, despite a roaring economy. (Ronald Reagan, who bested Mr. Trump for this dubious honor in 1983, spoke at the nadir of a deep recession.)

Meanwhile, chaos is consuming the Trump administration. The president, cowed by his base, engineered a very unpopular government shutdown for which most people held him (and his party) responsible. He finally agreed to a deal to reopen the government, but only on terms dictated to him by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to the dismay of some of his most prominent right-wing supporters. In December, his mercurial decision-making drove his widely respected defense secretary to quit in protest. Scandals and corruption besiege the president on every side. His administration is being investigated by a special counsel, by the Southern District of New York and soon by House Democrats armed with subpoena power. The president's behavior is becoming more erratic and bizarre, and his own aides have confided that he is "unhinged."

...as this Conversation with Kristen Soltis Anderson reveals, but, on the other, the portion where she discusses the Follow the Leader phenomenon offers hope: the Trumpbots are more shheplike than wolflike.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel's Mueller Holds Key to Netanyahu's Fate (Ivan Levingston, February 11, 2019, Bloomberg)

Handpicked by Benjamin Netanyahu, he's worked side-by-side with him for years and was raised on the nationalist philosophies that underpin his worldview. Now, the protege has become a potential adversary, holding the fate of Israel's prime minister in his hands.

This month, Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit is expected to announce whether he intends to indict Netanyahu in a tangle of corruption cases that have raised painful questions about the state of Israeli politics and the future of a deeply divided country. [...]

The allegations against Bibi, as the Israeli leader is widely known, paint a sordid picture of a man who abused his power to receive expensive gifts of champagne, cigars and jewelry and was willing to tilt laws and regulations in favor of media figures who could provide sympathetic coverage. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ilhan Omar's tweets were appalling. What happened next was inspiring. (Dana Milbank, February 11, 2019, Washington Post)

Monday, the Democratic House leadership issued a joint demand for an apology, saying "Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive."

Ninety minutes later, Omar issued an "unequivocal" apology, saying "anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."

Contrast that with what happened when President Trump on Saturday appeared to joke about the genocide of Native Americans. Again referring to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas," Trump tweeted: "See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!"

In fairness, we've seen enough of Donald to know how ignorant and unread he is; the idea that he'd ever even heard of the Trail of Tears strains credulity.

February 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Ilhan Omar Apologizes After Being Accused Of Anti-Semitism Over AIPAC Tweet (Aiden Pink, 2/11/19, The Forward)

"Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes," she wrote. "My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize."

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Hormones, surgery, regret: I was a transgender woman for 8 years -- time I can't get back (Walt Heyer, Feb. 11, 2019, USA Today)

I started my transgender journey as a 4-year-old boy when my grandmother repeatedly, over several years, cross-dressed me in a full-length purple dress she made especially for me and told me how pretty I was as a girl. This planted the seed of gender confusion and led to my transitioning at age 42 to transgender female.

I lived as "Laura" for eight years, but, as I now know, transitioning doesn't fix the underlying ailments.

Studies show that most people who want to live as the opposite sex have other psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety. In my case, I was diagnosed at age 40 with gender dysphoria and at age 50 with psychological issues due to childhood trauma.

Eventually, my parents found out, and my unsupervised visits to Grandma's house ended. I thought my secret was safe, but my teenage uncle heard about it and felt I was fair game for taunting and sexual abuse. I wasn't even 10 years old. If not for the purple dress, I believe I would not have been abused by my uncle.

Read more commentary:

Trump's anti-transgender memo would hurt teens like me. I'm hoping my state protects me.

My high school's transgender bathroom policies violate the privacy of the rest of us

High school could have been hell for my transgender son. Don't make it hell for the next kid.

That abuse caused me to not want to be male any longer. Cross-dressing gave me an escape.

The embrace of transgenderism is the opposite of love.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


The Military Says Pashtuns Are Traitors. We Just Want Our Rights.: Pakistan's powerful military is trying to crush a nonviolent movement for civil rights. (Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen, Feb. 11, 2019, NY Times)

I lost my home in 2009 when a major operation by the Pakistan military forced us to leave our village in South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Around 37 million Pashtuns live in this region that includes the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- which have now been merged with the province -- and parts of southwestern Baluchistan province. Our impoverished region has been desolated by the long war on terrorism. [...]

In January 2018 Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring model and businessman from Waziristan who was working in Karachi was killed by a police team led by a notorious officer named Rao Anwar. Mr. Anwar, who is accused of more than 400 extrajudicial murders, was granted bail and roams free.

Along with 20 friends, I set out on a protest march from Dera Ismail Khan to Islamabad, the capital. Word spread, and by the time we reached Islamabad, several thousand people had joined the protest. We called our movement the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or the Pashtun Protection Movement.

Ours is a peaceful movement that seeks security and political rights for Pashtuns. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


House Democrats Urge Party Leaders To Condemn Anti-Semitism (Susan Davis, 2/11/19, NPR)

Two Jewish House Democrats are circulating a letter to their colleagues asking them to join in asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the party leadership to condemn anti-Semitism citing "recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus."

The letter, by Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia, does not name lawmakers but it is clearly a reference to freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who is the target of recent criticism on the left and right for comments seen as both overt and subtly anti-Semitic.

Posted by orrinj at 1:05 PM


A look back at the day Frank Robinson cried when he took catcher Matt LeCroy out of a game (Brittany Ghiroli Feb 8, 2019, The Athletic)

He shouldn't have been playing that game. Not with his knees the way they were, and certainly not with that arm injury. But LeCroy didn't want to pass up the opportunity and Robinson had no choice. The Nationals were bad and, worse yet, they were banged up. Starting catcher Brian Schneider was on the disabled list. Backup Wiki Gonzalez was dealing with a mild concussion suffered two days prior.

That left LeCroy, who hadn't thrown out a baserunner all year. The Astros were well aware of his shortcomings, turning the late-May contest into a track meet. Seven steals, two throwing errors and a crowd of 24,733 anxiously wondering if the Nationals would indeed blow a six-run lead, forced Robinson into the unthinkable: he yanked LeCroy off the field in the middle of the inning.

Right there, in the top of the seventh, Robert Fick -- who hadn't caught a pitch in a big league game all season -- came on to relieve LeCroy and try to save the game. In a game of unwritten rules, the mid-inning switch was one that tugged at the conscience, with players admitting later that it was tough to watch and not feel bad for LeCroy.

But LeCroy wasn't upset. He was well aware he wasn't doing his job. What the South Carolina native wasn't aware of was how much the decision had torn up Robinson. LeCroy was in the weight room when media relations director John Dever sheepishly came in after the game. "Can you answer some questions tonight?" Dever asked LeCroy. "Frank got emotional."

LeCroy turned around. "What do you mean, Frank got emotional?"

Dever played back the post-game press conference. There he was: hard-nosed Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, crying. Not because the Nationals had won three games in a row for just the second time all season. No, Robinson wept at the thought of humiliating LeCroy, of disrespecting a fellow player and the game he loved so much.

"I hated that he got emotional, I told him I wasn't good enough for somebody to cry over," said LeCroy, who was blown away by the size of the scrum of reporters waiting at his locker when he arrived. "It was a crazy day. I didn't think much about the situation. Didn't realize that it was going to be such a big deal. That's when I said the daddy quote."

The exact, priceless line from LeCroy was, "If my daddy was managing this team, I'm sure he would have done the same thing." The snippet circulated the Internet along with the footage of Robinson, tears welled in the corner of his eyes and spilling out onto his cheeks.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Europe Does Not Exist (JOSEF JOFFE, January 2019, Commentary)

Modern history knows no example where nation-states voluntarily coalesced into one. The United Kingdom is the product of endless war among the warring tribes of the Isles. Germany's 25 city-states and kingdoms were fused by "iron and blood" in 1871, to invoke Bismarck's famous phrase. In the beginning, the Thirteen Colonies did strike a peaceful deal in Philadelphia. But in the end, it took a murderous civil war to fuse North and South into one nation. In those four years, more Americans died than in all wars thereafter. 

Unification will not be achieved by committees hashing it out in Brussels. Or by national parliaments emasculating themselves for the sake of the greater European good. To bestride the world as a heavyweight like the United States requires cracking the hard shells of sovereignty, notably in matters of defense and public finance. 

Never in our lifetime will this Europe go to war because a majority of member states says so. Nor will elected governments hand over spending and taxation to Brussels--not when their fate at the ballot box hangs on the state of the business cycle. No national parliament will give up the power of the purse, the Holy Grail of democratic governance.

Cracking these shells would require fusing 27 post-Brexit states into one, complete with a supreme legislature like Congress and an elected executive like the U.S. president. Yet power in Europe remains rooted in the European Council representing 27 governments jealously guarding their turfs. 

For all the hysteria the Right expends and the hope the Left nurtures, national sovereignty is too strong to succumb to transnational rule.  Only free trade requires an overarching structure.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


More Trump Schedules Leaked--Fifty Percent of Plans Taken Up by 'Executive Time' (Daily Beast, 2/11/19)

More of Donald Trump's schedules have been leaked, showing the president spent around 50 percent of last week on "executive time." Axios, which obtained three months of Trump's private schedules last week in a leak that infuriated Trump and White House officials, has published four more of the president's private schedules from last week. 

Some staffer is having a ball.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


California Governor to Pull Troops From Border, Slams Trump's 'Manufactured Crisis' (Daily Beast, 2/11/19)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will pull back all National Guard troops who have been deployed to the Mexican border, saying his state will play no part in Donald Trump's "manufactured crisis." In his State of the State address Tuesday, Newsom will say the 360 National Guard troops in California will be redeployed to fight "real threats" such as wildfires and the war on drugs.

Besides being the right thing to do, the governors are further weakening the case for any emergency order chicanery.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Shutdown talks take a turn for the worse (MARIANNE LEVINE, HEATHER CAYGLE and BURGESS EVERETT,  02/10/2019, Politico)

Among the issues Democratic negotiators are focused on is Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., not just crossing the border. They also insist they want a cap on detention beds to force ICE to prioritize which undocumented immigrants it targets within the U.S., and they say that without it, the agency will increase deportation raids in local communities without valid reason.

The latest impasse suggests Democrats are not seeing much incentive to concede to the Trump administration's requests for billions of dollars in border wall money, after winning the last round of shutdown negotiations. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Iraq Rebuffs U.S. Demands to Stop Buying Energy From Iran (Edward Wong, Feb. 11, 2019, NY Times)

Iraq's defiance further jeopardizes Mr. Trump's goal of getting all nations to comply with sanctions after withdrawing from the deal to limit Tehran's nuclear program last year. Already, European nations have set up a legal financial mechanism to do business with Iran, and China and India are resisting American efforts at prodding them to cut off oil purchases.

The WoT is about empowering our Shi'a allies to help democratize the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


In Closed Hearing, a Clue About 'the Heart' of Mueller's Russia Inquiry (Sharon LaFraniere, Kenneth P. Vogel and Scott Shane, Feb. 10, 2019, NY Times)

Of the few hints to emerge from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about evidence of possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia, one of the most tantalizing surfaced almost in passing in a Washington courtroom last week.

Comments by one of Mr. Mueller's lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump's candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia's incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

Trump, Deferring To Putin, Deleted GOP Platform's Call To Supply Ukraine With Lethal Defensive Weapons (Paul Roderick Gregory, 7/18/16, Forbes)

According to multiple accounts, the Trump campaign has successfully worked behind the scenes to make sure the new Republican platform would not pledge the lethal defensive weapons Ukraine has been pleading for from the United States. Trump's forces have tabled a platform amendment that would call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, and have substituted "appropriate assistance" for  "providing lethal defensive weapons" to Ukraine's military. Removing sanctions and blocking lethal military assistance to Ukraine are the two primary goals of Putin's foreign policy. The Republican platform is handing those goals to Putin on a golden platter.


Trump urges Russia to hack Clinton's email (MICHAEL CROWLEY and TYLER PAGER, 07/27/2016, Politico)

Donald Trump invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails on Wednesday, asking one of America's longstanding geopolitical adversaries to find "the 30,000 emails that are missing" from the personal server she used during her time as secretary of state.


Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Why Elizabeth Warren Abandoned Her Native-American Story: This is what happens when identity politics runs up against actual law. (ROBERT TRACINSKI  FEBRUARY 11, 2019, The Bulwark)

The answer is contained in the wording of her apology.

"I can't go back," Warren said in an interview with the Washington Post. "But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted."

This is what happens when modern feel-good identity politics posturing comes up against an ethnic identification that has a specific legal identity.

In claiming that she was Native American, Warren had been playing by the rules of academia, in which ethnicity (and a great deal else) is subjectively self-identified and you can more or less claim to be whatever you want. Those standards usually apply in the way racial and ethnic identification is treated in the culture. Rachel Dolezal--excuse me, Nkechi Amare Diallo--can claim she's black and there's no legal structure that can dictate otherwise. Not unless everyone wants to return to the "one drop rule." (Though some racial set-asides have been pushing us in that direction.)

But Native-American status does not work according to those rules, because it's not merely an ethnic identification but a special legal status that dates back before the founding of the United States of America.

Native American tribes are not immigrant groups. Legally, native tribes have the recognized status of sovereign nations which were incorporated within the United States by treaty as they were surrounded, integrated, and sometimes defeated in war by the expansion of American settlements. This special status has historically conferred certain legal disadvantages--members of Native American tribes were not covered by birthright citizenship and were not necessarily citizens of the United States until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924--as well as certain legal advantages, such as exemption from some taxes and from regulations on tobacco and gambling.

Because of that special legal status, Native American tribes are recognized by state and federal governments and have carefully maintained membership rolls. You can't just say, "I have high cheekbones," or refer to stories your grandparents told you, or take a DNA test.

Ultimately, this defined legal status is what scuppered Warren. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Behind the scenes: Troubles ahead for Trump's NAFTA replacement (Jonathan Swan, 2/10/19, Axios)

About 10 days ago, a deputy to Trump's top trade negotiator gave a shockingly optimistic forecast on the political fate of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) -- the president's renegotiated NAFTA deal. To the bemusement of two sources on the call, C.J. Mahoney, Robert Lighthizer's deputy, said he figured the USMCA could get through Congress with huge bipartisan support by the end of April.

Nobody we've spoken to on Capitol Hill thinks Mahoney's prediction is remotely possible. The two sources on the call called his comments "naïve," saying they betrayed only a tenuous grasp of the USMCA's troubled politics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Omar ignites new anti-Semitism controversy with comments on AIPAC (JOHN BRESNAHAN,  02/10/2019, Politico)

Freshman Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar ignited a new controversy on Sunday night when she suggested GOP support for Israel is driven by campaign donations from a prominent pro-Israel group.

Omar singled out AIPAC, one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, as the source of those donations.

Omar's comments touched upon a long-running, and particularly ugly, thread of the anti-Semitic movement -- that Jewish money fuels backing for Israel in the United States and elsewhere.

She, of all people, should recognize that the support for Israel is far more insidious than crackpot theories about Jewish money. The Right approves of how Israel treats its Muslim population. The Judaism is coincidental.

February 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:37 AM


Bob Costas, unplugged: From NBC and broadcast icon to dropped from the Super Bowl (Mark Fainaru-Wada, 2/10/19, ESPN)

IN DECEMBER 2015, the movie "Concussion" was set for a Christmas Day release in nearly 3,000 theaters across America. The film told the story of the NFL's attempts to discredit research tying brain damage to football, and Bob Costas wanted to address it on national television.

Over the previous decade, Costas had become the face of football on NBC, hosting one of TV's most-watched programs, "Sunday Night Football." As part of every broadcast, Costas would take two minutes at halftime to speak directly to the program's 18 million viewers about the NFL issues of the day. Mostly, his commentaries were celebrations of the sport -- Brady vs. Manning, a tribute to Lambeau Field -- but, occasionally, he addressed subjects like gun control or the controversial name of the Washington, D.C., football team.

With his 28 Emmys and eight National Sportscaster of the Year awards, Costas had become the most-respected broadcaster of his generation -- a kind of Walter Cronkite for sports. He believed it was his responsibility to address uncomfortable truths, or "elephants in the room," as he often called them.

The release of "Concussion" seemed a natural topic given the nationwide awakening about head trauma in contact sports, especially the NFL. Costas believed it was important to have viewers confront football's existential crisis and consider their own moral dilemma as fans complicit to the sport's carnage.

Yet he recognized such a speech posed a challenge for his bosses and NBC. The network was paying the NFL billions to air games on Sunday nights. Even more, Costas knew NBC executives were hoping to expand the network's NFL package to Thursdays.

Costas sent the essay to his bosses for approval, something he typically did not do -- and waited.

What would ensue that week -- and in the years that followed -- reveals for the first time how a broadcasting icon went from fronting America's most popular sport to being excised from last year's Super Bowl and, ultimately, ending his nearly 40-year career with NBC.

Outside the Lines spoke with the 66-year-old Costas dozens of times over the course of the past year. Those conversations provide not only the never-before-told backstory of how he became an NFL outsider, but also deep insight into his personality: the intelligence and self-assurance that have driven his career; the years-long struggle as he reconciled the celebration of a sport that enriched him financially and helped make him a broadcasting icon, but also weighed so heavily on his conscience; and the insecurity and intense worry -- near agony -- about the possibility of betraying his colleagues and friends by sharing his story. All of it points to the all-encompassing influence of the NFL -- even over the most distinguished broadcaster of his era.

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


Forget The Crown, ITV's Endeavour is the period drama for our time (REBECCA RIDEAL, 2/08/19, New Statesman)

1960s Oxford looks magnificent - a cityscape of grey and gold, with blue skies, leafy country pubs and a milky brown River Thames. It is a place where the dangerous allure and terrible beauty of a city founded on privilege, hypocrisy, intellectual power and raw talent is overt. Against this backdrop, Endeavour is like an enlarged crossword puzzle - we have literature, class division, sandwiches, ambition, boating, excessive alcohol consumption, opera, mystery, greed, art, and murder. At its heart, however, is the most poignant fictional detective ever created: Endeavour Morse.

He is played as thoughtfully by Shaun Evans as he ever was by John Thaw. Indeed, the genius of Endeavour is the way the repositioning of the "Morse story" into a 1960s period drama has enabled a retrograde metamorphosis of its central character. He has become a tragic hero yearning for love and purpose, failing to realise that what he wants, and what he needs, are under his nose.

In this early incarnation, we see the roots of Morse's incredibly flawed view of women develop. He places those he admires on unattainably high and unrealistically romantic pedestals. Given these circumstances, it would be easy for female characters to become one-dimensional plot devices that propel the central character's narrative. It is testament to the consistently brilliant writing of Russell Lewis (the show's writer since 2012) that the series deftly navigates this toxic side to Morse's character and offers us some of the most interesting female characters onscreen. [...]

Running throughout the drama is an exploration of the generational pushback that often follows war. This is manifest in the relationship dynamics between Endeavour and his boss, the World War Two veteran DI Fred Thursday. Thursday (played brilliantly by Roger Allam) is of the generation to have seen things no human should endure. Much of his trauma is implied, but it reverberates loudly for younger characters who display a tacit guilt over failing to match the perceived heroism of the preceding generation.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees (Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Somini Sengupta, Sept. 18, 2017, NY Times)

Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.

The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. 

It's always about racial hygiene, not what's good.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


On the Endlessness of the World Story (James V. Schall, S. J., 2/10/19, University Bookman)

[T]o grasp what Tolkien is driving at in "Note H," it is well first to recall the memorable lines at the end of the essay "On Fairy-Stories" itself. Few better lines have ever been written. "But in God's kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the 'happy ending'." It is the "happy ending" that is both the most hoped for and, in the light of so many of our actual human choices, the most dubious story ending of all.

Tolkien's last words of the essay are as follows: "All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the form that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen [man] that we know." We know the tales that take place amidst our fallenness. We sometimes blame God for creating a world in which we can fail and fall, as if to say that, in the end, we should prefer not to be free. Man "fully redeemed" will be like and unlike ourselves. If redeemed man were necessarily to turn out to be exactly as he was before, there would be no purpose in creating him. If he were absolutely different, he would not be the same person who once lived in this world.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Jewish Americans reject Trump's theatrics  (Hailie Soifer, FEB 10, 2019, Times of Israel)

In 2016, Trump campaigned for president using anti-Semitic imagery and rhetoric. In 2017, after neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us," he publicly created a moral equivalence between those professing hate and those protesting it. Last year, Trump proudly identified himself as a "nationalist," embracing a term historically used in association with Nazism and white supremacy. He has espoused hate-filled rhetoric targeting Jews and other minority groups, while refusing to denounce white nationalism. Since becoming president, Trump has both inspired the unprecedented rise of anti-Semitism in our country and done little to combat it.

We deeply respect and honor survivors of the Holocaust, as well as those who liberated them, but will not forget that President Trump omitted any mention of Jews in his first Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. We will not forget that he delayed the appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for more than two years, while appointing at least two senior White House advisers associated with the anti-Semitic alt-right movement his first weeks in office. We will not forget that he refused to denounce Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and has publicly repeated anti-Semitic dog whistles and conspiracy theories. These dangerous actions speak louder than scripted words, and expose the president for who he really is.

Trump has implemented a domestic agenda that goes against our core Jewish values. He has enacted a "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has ripped away children from their parents and closed America's borders to those seeking refuge and asylum. He has completely ignored the crisis of gun violence in our schools and communities, denied the science of climate change and reversed environmental protections, and restricted access to affordable healthcare and public education. His insistence on fulfilling a campaign promise to build an unnecessary border wall has demonstrated that he is either unwilling or unable to recognize the best interests of our country.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


JOURNALISM ISN'T DYING. IT'S RETURNING TO ITS ROOTS (Antonio Garcia Martinez, 2/09/19, Wired)

[I]f you were to magically teleport the architects of our democracy--men like Ben Franklin or Samuel Adams (newspapermen, both of them)--to today, they'd find our journalistic ecosystem, with its fact-checked both-sides-ism and claims to "objectivity," completely unrecognizable. Franklin wrote under at least a dozen pseudonyms, including such gems as Silence Dogood and Alice Addertongue, and pioneered the placement of advertising next to content. Adams (aka Vindex the Avenger, Philo Patriae, et al.) was editor of the rabidly anti-British Boston Gazette and also helped organize the Boston Tea Party, when activists dumped tea into Boston Harbor rather than pay tax on it. Adams duly covered the big event the next day with absolute aplomb. They'd have no notion of journalistic "objectivity," and would find the entire undertaking futile (and likely unprofitable, but more on that soon).

If, however, you explained Twitter, the blogosphere, and newsy partisan outlets like Daily Kos or National Review to the Founding Fathers, they'd recognize them instantly. A resurrected Franklin wouldn't have a news job inside The Washington Post; he'd have an anonymous Twitter account with a huge following that he'd use to routinely troll political opponents, or a partisan vehicle built around himself like Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire, or an occasional columnist gig at a less partisan outlet like Politico, or a popular podcast where he'd shoot the political breeze with other Sons of Liberty, à la Chapo Trap House or Pod Save America. "Journalism dying, you say?" Ben Franklin v 2.0 might say. "It's absolutely blooming, as it was in my day."

What is dying, perhaps, is that flavor of "objective" journalism that purports to record an unbiased account of world events. We take journalistic objectivity to be as natural and immutable as the stars, but it's a relatively short-lived artifact of 20th-century America. Even now it's foreign to Europeans--cities such as London cultivate a rowdy passel of partisan scribblers who don't even pretend there's an impregnable wall between reportage and opinion. The US was much the same until the late 19th and early 20th century. Until 1900 or so, most newspapers were overtly political, and a name like The Press Democrat meant Democrat with a big D. Advertising was a minor concern, as party leaders encouraged members to subscribe to their local party organ, obviating the need for anything more than classifieds.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Technique creates objects using rays of light (PETER HOLLEY, 2/09/19, The Washington Post)

Though we remain a long way away from being able to transmogrify matter into a chocolate sundae on command, a team of real-life researchers has created a 3-D printer that can create entire objects simultaneously instead of creating them one painstaking layer at a time like most printing techniques. The new approach -- known as Computer Axial Lithography (CAL) -- carves an object out of a synthetic resin that solidifies when it comes into contact with particular patterns and intensities of light.

Using a device dubbed "the replicator," researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used the technique to create tiny airplanes and bridges, copies of the human jaw, a screwdriver handle and minuscule copies of Rodin's Thinker.

The team's work was published last month in the academic journal Science.

"This is an exciting advancement to rapidly prototype fairly small and transparent parts," Joseph DeSimone, a chemist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Nature.

The CAL process involves more than just light and gooey resin. Researchers write that the printing begins with a computer model of a 3-D object, which is fed into a digital video projector. The machine beams the images into a rotating cylinder that is full of the synthetic resin, the article states.

The video projections are perfectly synchronized with the cylinder's rotation, the article states.

"As the container rotates, the pattern that's projected changes, so over time the amount of light that each point receives can be controlled," Hayden Taylor at the University of California at Berkeley told the Guardian. "Spots that receive a lot of light solidify, while those that do not remain liquid."

The CAL printing process requires only two minutes to complete, researchers said. Though still in its infancy, they said the technique could be used to create "patient-specific medical devices" and "aerospace components," according to the article published in Science.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Pitched battle between opposing 'yellow vests' in Lyon (The Local, 10 February 2019)

Opposing groups of yellow vest protestors -- believed to be from the far-right and from the far-left -- locked in a face-to-face battle in Lyon on Saturday, judging by videos posted on social media. [...]
Some commentators on Twitter argued that it was inevitable that there would be fractures in the unlikely coalition that makes up the protest movement, which has the blessing both Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party and Jean-Luc Mélénchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise movement. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


The Federal Reserve's Strange Case of Dr. Janet and Chairman Jay (Jeanna Smialek, February 8, 2019, Bloomberg)
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has just finished his first year on the job--marking the fifth year of what could be called the Yellen-Powell Fed. Together with predecessor Janet Yellen, Powell has presided over the slowest rate-hiking cycle the U.S. has ever seen. Their patience might just deliver that most elusive of goals of central bankers: bringing a hot economy into a "soft landing," tamping down nascent inflation while avoiding a recession.

Inheriting a Fed that still had key interest rates near zero, Yellen began to raise them when economic data was strengthening--then paused and pledged restraint at the first sign of trouble. Powell has largely followed her lead. So far, so good. Inflation is hovering at about the Fed's 2 percent goal, and 13 million Americans have joined the job market since Yellen took office in February 2014. The central bank has coaxed interest rates up to between 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent. And it's managed to shrink the massive balance sheet of bonds it built up after the financial crisis without sending markets into a tailspin. [...]

July will crown this U.S. economic expansion as the longest on record. If growth stays slow but positive, employees trickle back into jobs, and inflation remains contained, this could be the sort of cycle policymakers dream about. "There is a path to a soft landing, but it is a very narrow one," says Seth Carpenter, chief U.S. economist at UBS Securities and a former senior monetary affairs official at the Fed. "The recent change in tone increases the chances, because it is far better to hike too little, then have to do more later." The Fed will accomplish a rare feat if it stabilizes growth without major trouble. The central bank has stuck the landing exactly once in its 105 year history, in 1994 and 1995, under then-Chairman Alan Greenspan.

What's most impressive about the economy that W/Bernanke and the UR/Yellen handed to Donald is that it has been able to withstand the tariffs (taxes/regulations) and other attacks on free trade and the free movement of peoples so far.  If Donald cared about re-election more than he hates the other, he'd drop all the Nativism and let the economy boom its way through the next few years too. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Sunderland 'Til I Die, and the plight of the merely-very-good football player (Andrew Anthony, 10 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

[W]hat was most revealing was the plight of professional sportsmen a rung or, as it would turn out, two down from the elite. Sunderland, who in the documentary had been relegated to the Championship and were on their way to League One, had operated as a kind of transit hub for pros going in different directions. There was young talent on the way up (the England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had moved to Everton), old talent on the way down (John O'Shea, five times a Premier League winner with Manchester United), players on loan who hadn't quite worked out elsewhere (the Wales midfielder Jonny Williams, borrowed from Crystal Palace), and players whose bright futures seemed suddenly behind them (the former Everton prodigy Jack Rodwell).

Watching the Premier League, you see footballers who, by and large, perform at a very high level week in, week out. It gives a deceptive picture of football, rather like seeing the tip of an iceberg peeking out of the sea and not realising there's a massive pyramid descending beneath. Sunderland had dropped below that waterline, not necessarily because their players lacked talent, but because they couldn't produce a consistent level of form. But why?

This is the mystery that hastens hair loss for coaches and managers. In the case of Williams, the answer seems clear. It was a mixture of bad luck with injuries (and luck is an underrated contributor to success) and a chronic lack of confidence. He tells a psychologist that he's "scared to lose the ball. Scared to miss. Scared of failure". Put like that, it's a wonder he manages to put his kit on. Obviously he knows he's good. He just doesn't know if he's good enough.

One of the finest pieces of journalism written on professional sport was the late David Foster Wallace's 1996 extended essay on Michael Joyce, then ranked the 79th-best tennis player in the world. Most of Foster Wallace's readers wouldn't have heard of Joyce, and yet he was a sublime player, devoted to the game and his improvement, and destined to be forgotten. As Foster Wallace coolly observes, Joyce could hit a winner at any angle. He just couldn't do it "quite as well as Agassi, or as often". That's the difference between the very good and the great.

Watching Williams on his magnificent slalom runs is to witness a highly accomplished sportsman at work. But there's the simultaneous recognition that he, like Michael Joyce, will never make it to the very top. Last month he joined Charlton Athletic in League One.

The question is, if success is all about wanting more, never settling for second-best and all the other cliches that haunt dressing rooms and training grounds, can a player ever find satisfaction in being in the third tier of his or her sport?

Sunderland are desperate to get out of League One (before Saturday's fixtures they were fourth with games in hand), and presumably their players are too. But will they be failures if they don't manage it?

Sunderland 'Til I Die shows all that is right and wrong in English football (Barry Glendenning, 12 Dec 2018, The Guardian)

It's the hope that kills them, Sunderland fans can handle the despair. And it is a prevailing sense of hope that percolates throughout all eight episodes of a behind-the-scenes documentary chronicling the club's relegation to the third tier of English football last season. Throughout a preposterously chaotic campaign, even by the standards of a club long considered utterly dysfunctional, Sunderland's fans remain surprisingly upbeat, despite having grown wearily accustomed to coping with apparently bottomless levels of crushing disappointment.

Commissioned by Netflix, Sunderland 'Til I Die is a love letter to a city on its knees and the conspicuously wayward child its citizens cannot bring themselves to disown. Despite its proclivity for repeatedly letting them down, even as tears and booze flow during a maudlin pub sing-song following relegation to League One, the mood among locals is one of hope things will ultimately get better because, well ... they cannot get much worse.

The series was produced by Fulwell 73, a company owned by Sunderland fans done good and named after a stand at Roker Park, the club's former ground, along with a nod to their famous FA Cup win. Having expressed an interest in buying the club before shelving their plans, they were invited to film a documentary by the since departed American owner Ellis Short in the hope of creating the kind of buzz that might generate interest among other prospective purchasers.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Loving the stranger (Mishpatim 5779): The Torah implies that the only counterweight to the powerful hatred of xenophobia is personal identification (Jonathan Sacks, JAN 31, 2019,Times of Israel)

There are commands that leap off the page by their sheer moral power. So it is in the case of the social legislation in Mishpatim. Amid the complex laws relating to the treatment of slaves, personal injury and property, one command in particular stands out, by virtue of its repetition (it appears twice in our parsha), and the historical-psychological reasoning that lies behind it:

Do not ill-treat a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)

Do not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know how it feels to be a stranger [literally, "you know the soul of a stranger"], because you were strangers in Egypt. (Ex. 23:9)

Mishpatim contains many laws of social justice - against taking advantage of a widow or orphan, for example, or charging interest on a loan to a fellow member of the covenantal community, against bribery and injustice, and so on. The first and last of these laws, however, is the repeated command against harming a ger, a "stranger." Clearly something fundamental is at stake in the Torah's vision of a just and gracious social order. [...]

Whatever the precise number, the repetition throughout the Mosaic books is remarkable. Sometimes the stranger is mentioned along with the poor; at others, with the widow and orphan. On several occasions the Torah specifies: "You shall have the same law for the stranger as for the native-born."[2] Not only must the stranger not be wronged; he or she must be included in the positive welfare provisions of Israelite/ Jewish society. But the law goes beyond this; the stranger must be loved:

When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native- born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:33-34)

This provision appears in the same chapter as the command, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). Later, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses makes it clear that this is the attribute of God Himself:

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are strangers, for you yourselves were strangers in Egypt." (Deut. 10:17-19)

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


The Jewish realtor who helped keep Frank Robinson in Baltimore (RON KAMPEAS, 2/09/19, JTA) 

Those subsequent wins might not have happened had it not been for a Jewish realtor, Malcolm Sherman, who was known in the city for a commitment to integrating its neighborhoods.

Sherman's daughter, Wendy, writing Friday on Twitter, said her father was unable to get the outfielder the home he wanted in an integrated neighborhood when Robinson first came to the city.

A year later, Robinson threatened to leave the team if he couldn't move into an integrated neighborhood.

"Dad found a house in what then became an integrated neighborhood by promising signed bats and balls, meeting one by one with each family," and also agreeing to a hiked rental fee, Sherman wrote.

Last Rosh Hashanah, in a separate thread, Sherman described how in 1963 her father heeded a rabbi's call to champion civil rights and committed to never discriminating in his sales. It was a decision that eventually lost him his business.

February 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


Tensions quickly spiral as Democrats ramp up investigations of Trump administration (Seung Min Kim, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey February 7, 2019, wASHINGTOn pOST)

In private, Trump and his aides grew increasingly anxious and angry over Democrats' maneuvering -- sparked by news that Schiff's committee has hired at least one former White House national security official to assist in its oversight of the administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

The quickly spiraling tensions underscore how acrimonious relations between the White House and Capitol Hill will probably grow as Trump campaigns for reelection and Democrats look to exercise oversight they say was ignored in the first two years of Trump's presidency, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. 

"You're seeing the reestablishment of what is a normal function of Congress: oversight," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Oversight Committee. "It looks a little overwhelming only because you're so used to zero oversight. Zero. So to go from zero to something looks, you know, humongous, when in fact it isn't."

Darn that Constitution....

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Conservatism & the politics of prudence: On Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk & the conservative ethos. (Daniel J. Mahoney, January 2019, New Criterion)

As Kirk was careful to note, Burke never made natural right the direct foundation of political life and political judgment. That was too revolutionary and too doctrinaire, and it risked separating the rights of man from one's equally important duties as a human being and member of the social order. But he defended a traditional system of morals indebted to Aristotle, Cicero, the Fathers of the Church, and Hooker and Milton. Burke claimed no originality in this regard, as Kirk points out. But through his eloquence and fiery Irish spirit, he "put new warmth into their phrases, so that their ideas flamed above the Jacobin torches." He thus renewed old and enduring wisdom, what Kirk, following Eliot, called the "permanent things." It is in this limited sense that Burke's politics of prudence perfectly coheres with the "natural law," understood as moral verities that largely transcend historical change and cultural variation. As Greg Weiner argues in an impressive forthcoming book on Burke's and Lincoln's views on prudence, Burke believed that political judgment was essentially circumstantial but that moral truths came closer to reflecting unchanging truths about human nature and the divine and natural "constitution of things." So understood, Burke is both a partisan of prudence (not to be confused with fearful timidity or "the false, reptile prudence" that Burke denounced in the Letters on a Regicide Peace) and the moral law as articulated by the moral traditions of the Christian West and by other civilized peoples. This moral consensus is related to "the universal constitution of peoples" mentioned above. To affirm a politics of prudence is not to deny a common "moral constitution" that belongs to man as man. In that limited sense, Burke is as "universalist" as Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas. And Burke adds, as Kirk is right to observe, a note of Christian humility before the moral inheritance which is among the great gifts of classical and Christian civilization.

Kirk made two additional contributions to Burke studies, both of some significance. Kirk stressed that Burke was among the first to see the limits, all the limits, of social contract theorizing. Choice and consent play some legitimate role in politics (guided by humane and prudent judgment), but they should never obscure obligatory duties that are not a "matter of choice." Parents, citizens, neighbors, and children all have "burdensome duties" (as Burke puts it in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs) that they are obliged to carry out with grace and a sense of responsibility. Likewise, Kirk noted, Burke believed that every member of a political community was "obliged to obey the laws and sustain the state." Choice plays an important role in politics (and marriage), but it cannot be the basis of every aspect of life. Duty is as fundamental as consent. Kirk stresses the multiple ways in which Burke's conservative liberalism was decidedly un-Lockean: while defending the rights of property, Burke never believed that civil society arose from a pre-political "state of nature." Men and women are not truly born "free and independent," and the only true social contract is "between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born." That is the great primeval contract that Burke so eloquently invokes in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. In the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he sides with the classics and the Christians against full-blown modern "individualism." [...]

For Kirk, Burke was above all the prudent and humane advocate of ordered freedom. Liberty entails limitation, order demands respect for the liberty and dignity of human beings, especially those long rooted in the social and political life of a free people such as the English.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Character in Character (PETER TONGUETTE, January 24, 2019, National Review)

Among the Crosby films covered in Giddins's book, the musical comedy Holiday Inn (1942) -- the first of two in which he shared top billing with Fred Astaire -- arguably best encapsulates the star's special brand of magic. Crosby was cast as a performer whose venue welcomes the public only on holidays. Elegantly directed by the gifted Mark Sandrich, and bursting to the seams with classic songs by Irving Berlin, Holiday Inn contains many iconic Crosby moments, but his companionable, unperturbed persona comes across most clearly in his performance of Berlin's "Happy Holiday." In a beautifully staged scene, Crosby -- joined by his sweet, bright co-star, Marjorie Reynolds -- croons the tune while moving among the guests in the main lobby. As he meanders from table to table, Crosby is not so much performer as conductor -- an amiable, self-possessed orchestrator of happiness.

Typical of this biography, Giddins's account of Holiday Inn is laced with insight and detail. Astaire voiced nothing but admiration for Crosby, praising the effort he expended on a dance number in which they both appeared. "He rehearsed, he really rehearsed, and I don't think he rehearsed so much for almost anything that he did, just to get that darn dance number right," Astaire said. Other co-stars remembered a steelier side to Crosby, one of this book's ongoing themes. Walter Abel commented that "no matter how jolly or friendly he might seem, you knew there was that invisible line that you did not cross," while Reynolds -- such an affectionate on-screen partner -- was even more blunt: "To me, he was very much a man's man and later when we did Dixie he still wasn't friendly," she said. Maybe Nanette Fabray put it best: "He could kill with those steel-blue eyes."

At the same time, Crosby's coolness, both on- and off-screen, did not preclude him from serving as a repository of great warmth, as Giddins acknowledges in his superb analysis of the scene in Holiday Inn during which Crosby debuts what became one of his best-loved standards: Berlin's "White Christmas." Giddins pinpoints the scene as "a transitional moment for the Crosby persona" be­cause of its newfound tone of self-assured maturity. "In this film and especially in this scene," Giddins writes, "he personifies a hearth to which anyone might long to return."

Giddins never neglects Crosby's gift for wringing laughs from audiences -- most abundantly on view in the Road comedies with Bob Hope -- but he is at his best when tracking Crosby's cinematic maturation, which might have commenced with Holiday Inn but was certainly complete by McCarey's Going My Way, in which he played the kindly-yet-tough, devout-yet-urbane priest Father O'Malley. Best known for such thoroughly humane films as The Awful Truth and Make Way for Tomorrow (both 1937), McCarey prized spontaneity in his work to such an extent that he ran his sets more like a bar manager than a field general. "Actors might react with dread or anger when he told them to make up a line or an action as the cameras rolled, the lights blazed, and the crew looked on, fingers crossed," Giddins writes. Yet it turns out that McCarey's studied looseness was like mother's milk to Crosby, who, in a eulogy after McCarey's death in 1969, credited the filmmaker as the person most responsible for shaping his career. Elsewhere, Crosby recounted McCarey's meandering working methods. "We'd come in about nine just as we were at home -- nobody'd bother to make up -- and have coffee and doughnuts, and Leo would be playing the piano," Crosby recalled, adding that the company might break for lunch before a scene -- more often than not completely reimagined from the morning -- was shot quickly in the afternoon.

The process may have been scattershot, but in Crosby's case, the methods paid dividends: In Going My Way and its finely wrought sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's, Crosby's characterizations were richer and more complex than they had been previously. "In earlier roles he cherished the fantasy of a quiet isolation; now he is pledged to the human condition," Giddins writes of Crosby's Father O'Malley. "He is a benevolent übermensch, an infinitely resourceful Saint Fixit. You want miracles? O'Malley converts street toughs into choirboys, a cynical runaway into a loving wife, a shylock into a philanthropist, a petulant old cleric into Mother's baby boy."

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


A Sportscaster Was Arrested For Tearing The Word "Plantation" Off A Sign At His Gated Florida Community (Tom Namako, 2/09/19, BuzzFeed News)

Longtime sportscaster Warner Wolf was charged with a felony for allegedly ripping the letters for the word "Plantation" off the sign outside his gated Naples, Florida community, according to records from the Collier County sheriff's office.

One more reason to love him.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


America's policy on Europe takes a nationalist turn (Constanze Stelzenmüller JANUARY 30, 2019, Financial Times)

In Berlin, meanwhile, diplomats have been poring glumly over The Virtue of Nationalism, a book by the Israeli writer Yoram Hazony, which Mr Mitchell had told them was the key to the Trump administration's Europe policy.

Mr Hazony's book -- published in 2018 to fervent applause from conservative commentators in the US -- purports to provide the theoretical gloss on Mr Trump's tweets: nationalism as the cure to "liberal imperialism". The two main "empires" he has in mind are post-cold war, liberal-interventionist America and the EU.

Teutonic brows are furrowing presumably at passages from the book such as this: "The European Union is a German imperial state in all but name . . . Should the United States ever withdraw its protection . . . a strong European executive will be appointed by Germany." Mr Hazony goes on to write that a "German-dominated EU" is an "imperial order", that "will work to delegitimise and undermine the independence of all remaining national states".

Never mind that this is spectacularly misinformed about the status of nation states in Europe or Germany's power over them and the EU. Repress, if you can, the realisation that Mr Hazony thinks the EU could succeed where the Nazis failed. And try to ignore the question implied by both Messrs Pompeo and Hazony: to what imaginary golden age of nationalism exactly should Europe's clock be turned back? 1989? 1945? 1918?

Most Europeans could list a litany of genuine ills afflicting governance in Europe at all levels that this cod-philosophical take misses by a mile. Mr Hazony blithely disregards the complexity and depth of economic, social and technological integration across national boundaries. And, of course, disassembling the EU would not solve the problem of German preponderance -- it would exacerbate it.

But the real value of this and other prescriptions for a new divide-and-rule US policy for Europe lies in the piercing new light they throw on the Trumpian mindset. The nationalism it peddles is not the inclusive, civic kind practised by, say, Canada. On the contrary, this is an ethno-chauvinist nationalism premised on the rule of a majority nation "whose cultural dominance is plain and unquestioned, and against which resistance appears to be futile", as Mr Hazony puts it. That is a framing entirely compatible with the thinking of Hungary's Viktor Orban, the Kremlin or, for that matter, Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party.

...it's a defense of the Occupation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


Ferocity, Courage, and Grace -- Remembering the Great Frank Robinson (GEORGE WEIGEL, February 9, 2019, National Review)

When 20-year-old Jim Palmer heard the ball explode off Frank Robinson's bat on the first day of spring training in 1966, he turned to the others standing around the batting cage and said, "We just won the American League." Which the Orioles did, with the man everyone called, simply, "Frank" leading the charge from Opening Day on -- and punctuating the season by hitting the first and only home run ever driven completely out of old Memorial Stadium. (The point of its exit was subsequently marked by an orange-and-black flag with one word emblazoned on it: here.) Motivated in part, one suspects, by resentment over Bill DeWitt's geriatric putdown, but even more by his own innate and fierce competitiveness, Frank Robinson had his second MVP season in 1966, winning batting's triple crown (the league leadership in batting average [.316], home runs [49], and runs batted in [122]) and leading the Orioles to a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. [...]

The Baltimore of my youth was a segregated city, psychologically and emotionally as well as legally. The human barriers began to break down in the late 1950s when the great Baltimore Colts teams led by John Unitas and Gino Marchetti featured high-quality African-American players such as Lenny Moore, Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, and Jim Parker. I remain convinced, though, that the real breakthrough from the old shibboleths and prejudices began in 1966, when Frank Robinson arrived on a Baltimore team whose undisputed star was that other Robinson, Brooks, a white southerner who had grown up in Little Rock, Ark., in the days when the U.S. Army came to town to enforce the Supreme Court's desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

It could have been tense. It wasn't. Brooks, the classic gentleman who had been American League MVP in 1964, and Frank, the fiery rebel against convention who would later break a color line and become MLB's first African-American manager, quickly became friends and allies, even kidding each other and the press about then-standard racial stereotypes and taboos. (If memory serves, Frank once deflected an impertinent reporter's question about clubhouse etiquette by saying that Brooks could borrow his used shower towels whenever he wanted; Brooks howled in laughter.) Moreover, Brooks's acknowledgment of Frank's kangaroo-court leadership sent a signal to any malcontent or bigot tempted to resent the fact that the new team leader was a proudly black man: Insubordination was out of the question. These two men -- one a titanic Beethoven, the other a graceful Haydn -- set an example of unity in diversity in the pursuit of common goals from which Baltimore (and the rest of America, for that matter) is still trying to learn.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


The SDNY Investigation Is Real Peril for President Trump (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, February 9, 2019, National Review)

As Rich Lowry and I discussed in this week's episode of The McCarthy Report, Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D, Calif.) and the chairmen of the other relevant House committees are laying the groundwork for imminent battles over the scope and disclosure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's eventual report to the Justice Department. They are opening the front into the president's family-run real-estate empire -- investigations that will seek his tax returns, probe fraud allegations raised in an explosive October 2018 New York Times report on the Trump empire's accumulation of wealth, and explore the Trump Organization's dealings with Deutsche Bank, which has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for helping Russian oligarchs launder money.

Jousting simultaneously with at least five congressional committees will exhaust the administration. Yet the more immediate threat of criminal jeopardy for the president is posed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

The SDNY has already obtained a guilty plea from Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and self-described "fixer." Two of the eight felony counts involved campaign-finance violations arising out of hush-money payments to two women who claim to have had extramarital dalliances with the real-estate magnate a decade before he became president. In the guilty plea, prosecutors had Cohen name Trump as the superior who directed him in the transactions.

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


Virginia's Racist History Clashes With New South Image (Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

"We're going to have to have a greater understanding all-around of what Virginia was like, and I'm not sure today's standards should go back 30 to 40 years ago, when people were in college," said Jerry Kilgore, a former state attorney general.

In truth, the firestorm over blackface photos is only the latest example of Virginia suffering humiliations over racism that cause pain to its residents and tarnish its well-burnished reputation. The state's ample self-regard has suffered blow after blow, in part because of its unwillingness to fully reckon with a past that, while not as violent toward its black citizens, was no less ugly than its Deep South brethren.

In 2006, then-Senator George F. Allen, a Republican, stumbled into the national spotlight by pointing a finger at an Indian-American Democrat videotaping his campaign appearance and referring to the tracker as "macaca," a slur for dark-skinned Africans.

In 2017, a simmering local clash in Charlottesville over the city's Robert E. Lee statue became a worldwide story when a white supremacist rally turned deadly. A year later, for their 2018 nominee for Senate, Republicans backed Corey Stewart, a county official who ran an even balder version of President Trump's campaign, targeting immigrants and vowing to protect Virginia's emblems of the Confederacy. (This is to say nothing of the squalid scandal involving the last Republican governor, Robert F. McDonnell, whose term ended in disgrace after he was found to have taken more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from an access-seeking Richmond dietary supplement maker.)

But the cascade of revelations here since the racist images from Mr. Northam's yearbook surfaced last Friday has stung Virginians because the blackface imagery demonstrates how deeply embedded white supremacy is in the state's not-too-distant past.

Recounting Mr. Herring's tearful confession Wednesday morning to the legislative black caucus that he had once worn blackface, a longtime state senator, L. Louise Lucas, choked up for a moment as she recalled the meeting's emotions.

"I think I would have held it together until I saw the first brother cry," Ms. Lucas said Wednesday night, long after the gathering had broken up. "It was hard to get up from the table and walk away. He said he was sorry."

Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia professor who has practiced and studied politics in Charlottesville since he arrived as a college student in the early 1970s, said this week should awaken the state.

"This collection of scandals proves beyond a doubt that Virginia has not progressed as far as it thought it has -- and it has a past it still hasn't come to terms with," said Mr. Sabato.

Perhaps that is not a surprise for a state that is still littered with Confederate iconography -- the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington will sit hard by Jefferson Davis Highway -- and just last month celebrated Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday.

"Virginia, at least we're not Mississippi!"

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


The Least Pro-Life President Ever: From war crimes to executions to murdering dissidents, Trump treats human life with contempt. (WILLIAM SALETAN, FEB 08, 2019, Slate)

Trump says the United States should deliberately target family members of suspected terrorists. Sometimes he says he'd stop short of killing them; sometimes he says he'll "leave that to your imagination." In a drone strike, the distinction is moot. It doesn't matter to Trump whether these people have done anything wrong. What matters is that by hurting them, we might deter terrorists. "With the terrorists, you have to take out their families," Trump argued three years ago. The idea, he explained, was that terrorists "may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families' lives."

In comments about other governments, Trump explicitly condones murder. During the 2016 campaign, interviewers pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin had arranged the assassinations of dissidents and journalists. Trump said he didn't care. "Our country does plenty of killing also," he retorted. "At least he's a leader, you know, unlike we have in this country." Two weeks after Trump's inauguration, during a Fox News interview, when Bill O'Reilly reminded Trump that "Putin's a killer," the president batted the question away. "We got a lot of killers," he argued. "What, you think our country's so innocent?"

Last summer, Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as man who "loves his people." Again, a Fox News interviewer challenged Trump, citing Kim's atrocious record on human rights. "He is a killer. He's clearly executing people," Bret Baier told the president. Trump responded by defending Kim: "Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people. ... If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that's 1in 10,000 that could do that." Baier persisted: "But he's still done some really bad things." Trump shrugged, "Yeah, but so have a lot of other people."

Trump doesn't just excuse Kim's butchery. He glorifies him. In September, Trump bragged at a campaign rally that Kim "wrote me beautiful letters" and "we fell in love." In October, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl pressed Trump about that boast. She reminded Trump that Kim "had his half-brother assassinated" and "presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation ... slave labor, public executions. This is a guy you love?" Trump stood by his man. "I get along with him really well," he told Stahl. "I have a good chemistry with him."

Over the years, Trump has defended other mass killers: Saddam Hussein of Iraq ("Saddam Hussein throws a little gas. Everyone goes crazy. 'Oh, he's using gas!' "), Muammar Qaddafi of Libya ("We would be so much better off if Qaddafi were in charge"), and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines (who said he'd be "happy to slaughter" that country's "3 million drug addicts"). Lately, Trump has extolled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who's implicated in the October murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


White House hunts for 'executive time' schedule leaker (DANIEL LIPPMAN and ELIANA JOHNSON, 02/08/2019, Politico)

The White House is aggressively investigating several leaks of President Donald Trump's private schedules, a source of repeated embarrassment to the White House and the president himself. [...]

Axios on Sunday published Trump's private schedules for the past three months that showed how he spent 60 percent of his time in unscheduled "executive time." Aides say he uses those time blocks to watch TV, call people, read newspapers and do other work. Based on a week's worth of these same private schedules, POLITICO had also reported in October Trump's extensive amount of free time that's unprecedented for presidents, including nine hours of "executive time" in one day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Punishing the Crime vs. Blacklisting the Soul (Jonathan Kay, 2/09/19, Quillette)

I am not a Christian. But I always have admired its emphasis on forgiveness and absolution, which are the most attractive and useful aspects of that faith. In our own age, this tradition has been co-opted by progressive secularists, who (properly) urge that our criminal-justice systems accommodate the possibility that people can change, and that we aren't stamped "good" or "evil" at birth by God's hand.

And just as Christians of yore celebrated the lowly street criminal who shed his criminal ways so that he might wander urban alleyways and country roads humbly preaching the word of God, so, too, do modern leftists reserve a special form of mercy for ex-criminals whose travails have granted them perspective on society's bowels. Quillette author Zaid Jilani, for instance, recently described a sympathetic article in The Intercept about a murderer who, having paid his debt to society, was running for council in Austin, Texas. The author, Jilani noted, argued that Lewis Conway Jr.'s life experiences made him "an important candidate, able to connect with the thousands who have been isolated and defined by previous misdeeds of theirs or others--especially in the city's minority communities, which as elsewhere are disproportionately impacted by the system." In his article, Jilani contrasted the sympathy toward Conway with the treatment of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who, of course, did not kill anyone--or, in fact, commit any crime at all--but rather stands accused of gross insensitivity and racism because of a photo of a man in blackface, and another dressed as a KKK member, included in a 35-year-old university yearbook page.

Jilani intended for this juxtaposition to show up the extraordinary hypocrisy displayed by some leftists when it comes to the treatment of past sins. But I would take the analysis one step further--for when it comes to Northam, it is not really the man's sins that are at issue--since if that were the basis of judgment, he would be excused many times over thanks to the decades of professional excellence and public service that followed his university years. Rather, what is being impugned is Northam's very soul. For one of the dominant ersatz-religious conceits of our age is that, when it comes to race, we all are marked by either purity or corruption--that is, in the language of old-timey religion, we are either heretics or believers, asleep or woke, lost or saved. And every tweet we write, every word we utter, every yearbook photo we publish shall be taken as part of the evidentiary record by which we shall be judged.

While the new religion of anti-racism has borrowed this fundamentalist take on human nature, it has very much rejected the leavening Christian tradition of forgiveness and pity. Which is why militant anti-racism now carries such a brittle, mean-spirited aspect. The subtext of the campaign against Northam is that his actions mark his soul as irredeemably stained--no matter whether the yearbook photos were from 35 years ago or last week. In the way that anti-racism promotes the idea of bigotry as a form of original sin that, once revealed, cannot ever be expunged or denied, it essentially channels the idea of hell-bound pre-destination in a way that would have earned appreciative nods from Gottschalk of Orbais.

Any creed, religious or secular, that organizes humanity into categories of good or evil based not on actions, but on their mere thoughts or the presumed state of their soul, is disposed toward Inquisition and social panic--since our thoughts are invisible to others, evil can lurk in our unconscious minds, and all that matters is whether our cast of mind puts us on the right side of history. (Such attitude was on display, certainly, in the response to Irish actor Liam Neeson's recent confession that, almost 40 years ago, he once had roamed the streets looking to provoke a violent confrontation with a black man. The confession was rendered freely in the spirit of encouraging self-awareness of our dark emotions, and no real crime is alleged to have taken place. But promotional events associated with his new film were canceled anyway.) In a society that distinguishes the sin from the sinner, on the other hand, recitals of past misdeeds and impure thoughts are tolerated, and even encouraged--as with the Christian tradition of confession. For it is understood that we all share the same goal of preventing malign imaginings from being translated into action.

Liam Neeson started a vital debate. To condemn him is to end it: The actor's candid admission tells us a lot about racial bias. We should seize this moment to learn more  (John Barnes,  8 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

When I was asked in an interview yesterday whether I would forgive Neeson if he had actually killed an innocent black man I was stumped. Of course I couldn't? But then I considered how I would feel about a young black kid living in inner city London who gets caught up in the wrong crowd and ends up killing someone with a knife. A young man living in a society in which he feels that he has no opportunities? This is not an excuse for murder but maybe I can see how this young man's environment has pushed him towards this path.

Neeson went on to talk about the bigotry and racism still present in Northern Ireland when you scratch the surface. It shows that, 20 years after the end of the Troubles, there are still conversations that need to be had.

The commentary on Neeson so far reads as if he'd been clandestinely recorded glorying in a secret hatred of black people, not, as is the case, freely giving on-the-record comments. This is not Mel Gibson on a drunken antisemitic tirade. This was a story purposely told to a journalist in which he explicitly explained that he was horrified about thinking this way. He could have kept this whole story to himself and we would be none the wiser.

The fight against racial bias in society will not be won by hounding Liam Neeson or boycotting his films. It will be won by allowing honest discussions about why people hold biased views and exposing the flawed logic behind them.

One of the curious implications of these moral panics is that those of us who are judging others are ourselves without sin.  This is obviously inane. And just as we would like to forgiven our own, we ought to be able to forgive those who are ashamed of and seek forgiveness for their sins.

On the other hand, we ought punish vigorously those who are shameless.

Governor Northam, for instance, tried apologizing when he thought he was in the yearbook picture, but then decided to brazen things out when he determined that his episodes of blackface were not actually memorialized in the specific photo.  Brett Kavanaugh and his friends, meanwhile, acknowledge drinking so excessively that they can not possibly have remembered all their behaviors and treating young women like meat, yet he was incapable of accepting any responsibility for himself, even if a younger self. Elizabeth Warren has created a mess for herself by trying to defend the fact that she has Indian heritage when the question is whether she tried gaming the system by using such lineage to give herself an advantage over the people who affirmative action is designed to benefit (Hint: not middle-class white girls).  

What Mr. Neeson has admitted to is certainly worse than wearing blackface, but, because of his own behavior now, more forgivable.  He is genuinely ashamed, repentant and is sharing it unbidden because he knows it to be morally instructive.  He deserves our thanks, not our opprobrium.  And he represents a standard that we should apply generally as the hunt goes on for the sins of our youth: stand up, take responsibility, express some acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and you regret it, and describe what you have learned and what we all apply in our own lives from the lesson.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Trump cornered on border wall (ELIANA JOHNSON, BURGESS EVERETT and GABBY ORR 02/07/201, Politico)

Inside the White House, the Trump team is increasingly aware that the president is trapped.

Facing a Republican Party unwilling to back another government shutdown or a national emergency declaration to build his border wall, President Donald Trump is in an unfamiliar position, according to multiple White House officials and lawmakers: prepared, potentially, to accept a compromise foisted on him by Congress.

Only a few days ago, Trump called a committee tasked with hammering out a border-security deal "a waste of time."

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


'My whole town practically lived there': From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years (Joshua Partlow, Nick Miroff and David A. Fahrenthold February 8, 2019, Washington Post)

The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, including six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were employed at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. All of them said that they worked for Trump without legal status -- and that their managers knew.

The former employees who still live in New Jersey provided pay slips documenting their work at the Bedminster club. They identified friends and relatives in Costa Rica who also were employed at the course. In Costa Rica, The Post located former workers in two regions who provided detailed accounts of their time at the Bedminster property and shared memorabilia they had kept, such as Trump-branded golf tees, as well as photos of themselves at the club.

The brightly painted homes that line the road in Santa Teresa de Cajon, many paid for by wages earned 4,000 miles away, are the fruits of a long-running pipeline of illegal workers to the president's course, one that carried far more than a few unauthorized employees who slipped through the cracks.

Soon after Trump broke ground at Bedminster in 2002 with a golden shovel, this village emerged as a wellspring of low-paid labor for the private club, which charges tens of thousands of dollars to join. Over the years, dozens of workers from Costa Rica went north to fill jobs as groundskeepers, housekeepers and dishwashers at Bedminster, former employees said. The club hired others from El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala who spoke to The Post. Many ended up in the blue-collar borough of Bound Brook, N.J., piling into vans before dawn to head to the course each morning.

Their descriptions of Bedminster's long reliance on illegal workers are bolstered by a newly obtained police report showing that the club's head of security was told in 2011 about an employee suspected of using false identification papers -- the first known documentation of a warning to the Trump Organization about the legal status of a worker.

Other supervisors received similar flags over the years. A worker from Ecuador said she told Bedminster's general manager several years ago that she entered the country illegally.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


TERRIFIED AIDES SAY AMY KLOBUCHAR IS JUST LIKE TRUMP: Rumors about the senator's alleged temper are exploding into public view just as she prepares to make a 2020 announcement. (TINA NGUYEN, FEBRUARY 8, 2019, Vanity Fair)

With less than 48 hours remaining until Amy Klobuchar is expected to announce a presidential run, the "Minnesota nice" senator is grappling with not one, but two deeply reported articles alleging that she is verbally abusive, creating a fraught office environment fueled by fear. "I've always been taught that your true character shows in how you treat those with less power than you, especially behind closed doors," one former staffer said in a BuzzFeed report published Friday. "The way Sen. Klobuchar behaves in private with her staff is very different than when she's in the public eye, and that kind of cruelty shouldn't be acceptable for anyone." Earlier in the week, the Huffington Post published a similar story, alleging that at least three people had turned down the opportunity to manage Klobuchar's campaign due to her reputation for cruelty and repeated emotional abuse.

Klobuchar's alleged temper was not unknown in Washington. Last year, The New York Times noted that, "On Capitol Hill, Ms. Klobuchar's reputation is not all sweetness and light." A March 2018 article in Politico described Klobuchar as among the "worst bosses in Congress," with the highest office turnover rate in the Senate. But the new details reported by BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, if true, are particularly damning.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM



The issue is that many see Trump himself as the problem. "Trump is hated by everyone inside the White House," a former West Wing official told me. His shambolic management style, paranoia, and pattern of blaming staff for problems of his own making have left senior White House officials burned out and resentful, sources said. "It's total misery. People feel trapped," a former official said. "Trump always needs someone to blame," a second former official said. Sources said the leak of Trump's private schedules to Axios--which revealed how little work Trump actually does--was a signal of how disaffected his staff has become.

White House Communications Director Bill Shine has told friends he's angry that Trump has singled him out for the bad press during the government shutdown. "Bill is like, 'you're the guy who steps on the message more than anyone,'" said a Republican who's spoken with Shine recently. Economic adviser Larry Kudlow has told people he's probably got six months left. "Larry's really tired of it all," a source close to Kudlow said.

Watch Now: Behind the Scenes of Vanity Fair's 2019 Hollywood Issue Cover Shoot

What's driving a lot of the frustration is that Trump, now more than ever, runs the West Wing as a family business.

The family business is used to catastrophic failure, but there's no one to bail them out.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Trump Defies Congressional Deadline on Khashoggi Report (Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt, Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump refused to provide Congress a report on Friday determining who killed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, defying a demand by lawmakers intent on establishing whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was behind the grisly assassination.

Mr. Trump effectively bypassed a deadline set by law as his administration argued that Congress could not impose its will on the president. Critics charged that he was seeking to cover up Saudi complicity in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for The Washington Post.

Even without cash changing hands, a white Nationalist has no interest in punishing someone for killing and oppressing Arabs/Muslims

February 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Her Title: Cryptologic Technician. Her Occupation: Warrior. (Richard A. Oppel Jr., Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

Given who she really was, military officials had little choice in how it described Shannon Kent. They said only that she was a "cryptologic technician," which anyone might assume meant that her most breakneck work was behind a desk.

In reality, she spent much of her professional life wearing body armor and toting an M4 rifle, a Sig Sauer pistol strapped to her thigh, on operations with Navy SEALs and other elite forces -- until a suicide bombing took her life last month in northeastern Syria. [...]

Cryptology is code breaking; sigint is signals intelligence, like intercepting and interpreting phone calls and other communications; humint is human intelligence, the art of persuading people, against their instincts, to provide information.

At 35, Shannon Kent was expert in all three. Her husband credits a knack for gleaning information picked up from her father, a lifelong police officer.

"She understood how all the pieces came together," he said. "She wasn't just relying on local informants. She knew how to fill in the gaps through her knowledge of different intelligence capabilities. She was kind of a one-stop-shop for finding bad guys."

Chief Kent spoke a half-dozen Arabic dialects and four other languages. She was one of the first women to complete the rigorous course required for other troops to accompany Navy SEALs on raids. She could run a 3:30 marathon, do a dozen full-arm-hang pull-ups and march for miles with a 50-pound rucksack.

She did this while raising two boys, now ages 3 and 18 months, and, for a time, battling cancer.

She used her five overseas combat deployments to master the collection of human intelligence, gaining the trust of tribal leaders, merchants, and local government officials who confided in her, often at great risk to themselves.

That is the kind of mission she had been on Jan. 16, when a bomber killed her and three other Americans at a restaurant in Manbij, Syria. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack. She became the first female service member to die in Syria since American forces arrived in 2015.

Chief Kent, whose memorial service will be Friday at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., enlisted for the same reasons and around the same time as many of her female peers, after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Her father, a New York State Police commander, and her uncle, a firefighter, both responded on 9/11.)

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


The National Enquirer Picked the Wrong Man to Bully (Timothy L. O'Brien, February 8, 2019, Bloomberg)

There's another important wrinkle here: Pecker is a longtime friend, political supporter and confidant of President Donald Trump, and Bezos, Amazon and the Washington Post have been repeated targets of the president's ire. Trump has complained that Amazon gets preferential tax and postal rates; in December the U.S. Postal Service proposed rate hikes on shipping services Amazon and other companies use after Trump ordered an audit of the agency's rates (the USPS has said the proposed hikes were not in response to Trump's criticisms of Amazon). The Washington Post, of course, has published seminal and award-winning coverage of Trump's political and business dealings as well as his shortcomings, legal perils, and personal life.

Pecker guided the Enquirer's coverage of Trump down a very different path than the Post. Back in the summer of 2015, shortly after Trump announced his presidential bid, Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, met with Pecker to talk about how best to bury negative news stories about Trump's extramarital relationships with women. Pecker, who entered into a cooperation agreement with authorities in 2018 that granted him immunity from prosecution, has told law enforcement officials that he agreed to purchase possibly damaging stories about Trump and never publish them in the Enquirer -- a practice known as "catch and kill." Among those stories were accounts of Trump's sexual encounters with a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal. Cohen's payments to McDougal (and to another woman, a former porn star named Stormy Daniels) triggered a federal investigation of possible campaign finance fraud.

Pecker may be sitting on years of Enquirer stories about Trump that were never published and would presumably be of interest to authorities. It's not clear if Bezos's revelations on Thursday night will complicate matters for Pecker.

Under AMI's own agreement to assist law enforcement, the company won't be prosecuted and must cooperate for three years. Signed last September, the agreement clearly states that if the company engages in any criminal acts after that date then it could be prosecuted for "any federal criminal violation" that authorities already know about. That fact, Trump's presence, and all of the other very obvious politics floating around this collision of money, power and gossip, may explain why AMI tried to wring a false statement out of Bezos in exchange for not publishing the new photos. Specifically, AMI demanded, per Bezos's Medium post, that he assert publicly that he has "no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces."

Ah, but AMI has tried to bully the wrong person. Bezos is the world's richest man, he has ample resources and a spine, and he's willing to put his own reputation in play before the Enquirer does -- in order to make a point and to discover how the publication got his texts and photos.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


NFL lessons to learn from Patriots' title run; a new hiring trend? (Bucky Brooks, 2/08/19, NFL.com)

3) Place greater value on intelligence than athleticism.

During my scouting days, the Patriots were one of the franchises that placed significant emphasis on acquiring college graduates and former team captains on draft day. The thought behind the strategy was to add as many smart, tough-minded players to the roster as possible, because it enabled the coaches to put more on their plate when it came to learning schemes and responsibilities.

Now, there isn't a documented correlation between book smarts and football intelligence, but it is sensible to believe great students in the classroom will be able to take information dispensed by coaches and routinely apply it to the field. That's why I wasn't surprised to read in Peter King's postgame column that the Patriots were able to execute plays on the game-winning drive that weren't included in the Super Bowl LIII game plan or practiced in the weeks leading up to the game. It takes a group of high-IQ players to process and flawlessly execute an in-game adjustment without having practice reps to commit it to memory. The Patriots' collective intelligence gave McDaniels enough confidence to make a radical change on the fly and it ultimately helped the team win another title.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots' individual and collective intelligence show up in their ability to execute complex schemes that change weekly. New England is one of the few teams that morphs its defensive fronts each week between a variety of 3-4 and 4-3 alignments which complicate things for the offense. In addition, the Patriots will combine their multi-faceted fronts with exotic pre-snap disguises and post-snap movements that require players to fully comprehend the coverage concepts. Not to mention, they have to understand the defensive coordinator's motives for using those tactics in games.

Against the Rams, the Patriots threw out a variety of pre-snap disguises and exotic looks to confuse Jared Goff and Sean McVay. The "AFC" (automatic front and coverage) calls and post-snap movement disrupted the flow of the Rams' offense and kept them guessing throughout the game. In addition, the Pats' utilization of more zone coverage -- as opposed to their traditional man-to-man tactics -- threw a wrench into L.A.'s plans. None of those tactics could be executed without a group of high IQ defenders with the capacity to process a vast amount of information without it affecting their individual and collective execution of their assignments.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Kagan in Supreme Court says condemned Jews and Muslims need choice of clergy (JTA, 8 February 2019)

"A Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites," Kagan, who is one of the court's three Jewish justices, wrote, according to The New York Times. "But if an inmate practices a different religion -- whether Islam, Judaism or any other -- he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side."

She called that "profoundly wrong" and said it violated the constitutional ban on establishing a state religion.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Free Money Didn't Help People Find Jobs, Finland Says (Kati Pohjanpalo, February 8, 2019, Bloomberg)

According to a preliminary assessment published on Friday by the social services agency Kela, the recipients of the monthly stipend spent on average about half a day more in employment per year than the control group.

"On the basis of an analysis of register data on an annual level, we can say that during the first year of the experiment the recipients of a basic income were no better or worse than the control group at finding employment in the open labor market," said Ohto Kanninen, Research Coordinator at the Labour Institute for Economic Research.

The recipients did however report "less stress symptoms as well as less difficulties to concentrate and less health problems than the control group," said Minna Ylikanno, lead researcher at Kela. "They were also more confident in their future and in their ability to influence societal issues."

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


Days After Its Disastrous British Launch, Turning Point Has Already Lost One Of Its Star Recruits (Alex Spence, Mark Di Stefano, 2/08/19, BuzzFeed News)

They were here to start a culture war, and Charlie Kirk was looking forward to the backlash.

"There will be retaliation, there will be protest," the 25-year-old founder of Turning Point USA, a right-wing student organisation with close links to Donald Trump, said in London recently as he described plans for an assault on British university campuses. "You will see that it takes individuals to go straight into the fire to start a movement."

But already some of the Tory activists Kirk recruited to launch Turning Point in the UK are having second thoughts about its war on "cultural marxism", according to several people familiar with their internal discussions. Within days of the launch, one of the "influencers" tapped to front the campaign has distanced himself from the group, BuzzFeed News has learned.

"There was a sense of people realising, 'Who are these cranks?'," one source said. [...]

Turning Point USA claims to be the biggest student organisation in America, with a presence on 1,400 college and high school campuses, around 120 staff, and an annual budget of $15 million. In Kirk's telling, he started the group in his parents garage as a teenager in Chicago and grew it to be a powerful political force through sheer grit and hard work. As it rapidly expanded, Kirk himself was portrayed as a conservative "boy wonder"; he is a favourite of Fox News and is close to the Trump family.

Owens joined Turning Point as head of communications in November 2017 and is now its joint public face with Kirk. The 29-year-old had previously run an anti-Trump website called Degree 180 but went through a profound political transformation and became a passionate advocate for the president, publishing stridently conservative videos on a YouTube channel called "Red Pill Black".

Her fame went mainstream when Kanye West tweeted: "I love the way Candace Owens thinks." Owens argues that the left has done nothing to help ethnic minorities and launched a "Blexit" campaign aimed at convincing African-Americans to join the Republican party. [...]

Asked by a member of the audience about nationalism in Western politics, Owens brought up Adolf Hitler. "I actually don't have any problems at all with the word 'nationalism'," Owens said. "I think that the definition gets poisoned by elitists that actually want globalism. Globalism is what I don't want... Whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler."

"He was a national socialist," she continued. "But if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalise."

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


New Trump Probe Looks a Lot Like a RICO Investigation (Barbara McQuade, 02.08.19, Daily Beast)

According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, a grand jury in the Southern District of New York recently issued a subpoena to the Trump inaugural committee, seeking documents relating to donors and spending. According to reports, the subpoena indicates that prosecutors are investigating conspiracy against the United States, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and violations of campaign finance and inaugural committee laws. In addition, CNN has reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan have expressed interest in interviewing executives from the Trump Organization.

It is impossible to know exactly what the federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating, but the wide array of crimes brings to mind a case that was prosecuted in Detroit when I served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and several of his associates were convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


'Death to America' aimed at Trump, not American nation, Iran leader says (Reuters) 

Iranians will chant "Death to America" as long as Washington continues its hostile policies, but the slogan is directed at President Donald Trump and U.S. leaders, not the American nation, Iran's supreme leader said on Friday.

Wall Street Journal: White House requested plans last year from Pentagon to attack Iran (Devan Cole,  January 13, 2019, CNN)

The White House's National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year for plans for launching a military attack against Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported early Sunday, citing current and former US officials.

Posted by orrinj at 10:34 AM


Justice Department decision to issue legal opinion long sought by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson draws criticism (Tom Hamburger February 7, 2019, Washington Post)

The Justice Department's decision last month to release a legal opinion that could further restrict Internet gambling is drawing fire from state attorneys general and former department officials amid questions about casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's long-standing push for the move.

The legal opinion, which was posted online during the partial government shutdown, reversed a 2011 Justice Department interpretation of the Wire Act that effectively gave the states a green light to authorize lotteries and other forms of online gambling.

The change was long sought by Adelson, a major Republican donor who spent more than $20 million to back Donald Trump's campaign in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Rosenstein did not want to write memo justifying Comey firing - new book (Jon Swaine,  8 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

McCabe recalls Rosenstein being "glassy-eyed", visibly upset and sounding emotional.

"He said it wasn't his idea. The president had ordered him to write the memo justifying the firing," McCabe writes. Rosenstein said he was having trouble sleeping, McCabe writes. "There's no one here that I can trust," he is quoted as saying.

McCabe's book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, is due on sale later this month. A copy was obtained by the Guardian prior to its release.

The account supports reports last year that Rosenstein was left "shaken" by his role in Comey's firing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


UN official lauds ongoing reform agenda in Somalia  (Xinhua, 1/31/19) 

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo wrapped up her two-day visit to Somalia on Thursday, praising the government's ongoing reform agenda.

DiCarlo expressed UN's strong support for implementation of the milestones set out in the government's roadmaps on inclusive politics, security and justice, economic recovery, and social development.

"Somalia has made significant progress and, despite the obstacles, there is a strong political will to build a stable future for the Somali people," DiCarlo said in a statement issued at the end of her visit to Somalia.

DiCarlo called on Somali leaders to prioritize good governance, human rights, and women's rights, and to complete the constitutional review.

"As we approach elections in 2020, the UN stands ready to continue to support Somalia and its people to achieve its goals," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


A 'Green New Deal' Is Far From Reality, but Climate Action Is Picking Up in the States (Brad Plumer, Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

In Maine, the new governor, Janet Mills, a Democrat, has vowed to restore incentives for rooftop solar and to boost wind power locally -- moves that had been stymied by her Republican predecessor.

In New Mexico, another Democrat, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is backing a bill requiring electric utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030, keeping pace with neighbors like Colorado and Nevada. (Nevada voters in November approved their own requirement for 50 percent renewables by 2030.)

The most striking development, though, has been the array of governors who are now floating plans for their states to get 100 percent of their electricity from zero-carbon sources. Legislators in California and Hawaii have already set deadlines for utilities to meet this target by 2045. In recent months, the governors of Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and New York have pledged to pursue similar goals.

These states are all venturing into uncharted territory, and there's no guarantee they will succeed. As states rely on ever-larger amounts of wind and solar power, it becomes more challenging to juggle these intermittent sources. Getting all the way to 100 percent zero-carbon electricity, experts say, could require extensive new nationwide transmission lines, novel energy storage techniques or help from untested technologies like advanced nuclear power.

For now, states are experimenting with varied approaches. Hawaii, for example, wants to meet its goal entirely through renewable energy. In New Jersey, by contrast, Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed legislation to keep his state's nuclear plants open as part of a broader low-carbon portfolio. And New York is soliciting bids for large new offshore wind farms.

Electricity is responsible for about one-third of America's carbon dioxide emissions. To go further, states will also have to clean up the cars and trucks on their roads, which account for another third.

In December, nine Eastern states and the District of Columbia announced they would work together to put a price on emissions from transportation fuels and invest the revenue in lower-carbon solutions, potentially including mass transit, electric buses or new charging stations to make it easier for people to own plug-in vehicles.

Some of the states involved, like Pennsylvania and Maryland, are in danger of missing their self-imposed climate goals unless they can halt the stubborn rise in driving emissions.

While the finer details of the policy will be hashed out this year, the states are modeling their efforts after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system in the Northeast that auctions a steadily dwindling supply of carbon pollution permits to power plants and uses the revenue to invest in efficiency and clean energy programs.

"Transportation is going to be even more complex than electricity -- there are so many moving parts," said Vicki Arroyo, the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, which has been working closely with the states on the initiative. But, she said, referring to Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont, "It's notable that we have three Republican governors here who are committed to stepping up on this."

Simple economics is driving the conversion of the world economy.  If Democrats want to speed it they should just raise taxes on consumption, which is less sexy, but more effective.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Trump furious after Schiff hires former NSC aides to help oversee his administration (Kaitlan Collins, Manu Raju and Kevin Liptak, February 7, 2019, CNN)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has hired officials with experience at the National Security Council to help with his panel's oversight of President Donald Trump's administration, according to a committee aide.

The aide declined to say how recently the newly hired officials worked at the council, whether they served under Trump or to identify the individuals. But the move appears to have enraged the President and some members of his senior staff, who view the move as an intrusion. It comes as Democrats prepare to wield new investigative power after winning a House majority in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Frank Robinson I knew: The proudest, orneriest, most competitive man in baseball (Thomas Boswell, February 7, 2019, Washington Post)

Frank always loved teaching, especially hitting. He kept his hands off Cal Ripken Jr.'s mechanics for years -- Gene Mauch once said, "Someday Cal will have the worst swing in the Hall of Fame" -- out of deference to Cal's lifelong batting teacher, his dad. In 1991, Ripken went to Robinson for help. He had the best offensive year of his life and won his second MVP award.

The flip side is that Robinson had teams that underperformed because, when it came to modern thinking, he was a defiant, "gut instinct" dinosaur. When his teams were out of the hunt, he lost some interest and held court in his office.

Perhaps the lesson should be: Analytics are great, but leadership is real, too. Ask the military academies whether they believe it's all just numbers.

Sometimes, when he managed the Nats, we had rambling talks. He despised the PED cheaters who broke the records of him and his friends, especially Hank Aaron, who had faced death threats while chasing Babe Ruth's homer mark.

Because he could be so cantankerous and didn't care what you thought, Robinson was exciting to cover. He grasped the concept of an "adversarial relationship" with the press. That didn't mean he liked it. Once, after I criticized his managing, he made a sweeping gesture of stabbing himself in the back as he passed me. And he wasn't smiling.

Put all those qualities together, and it may be easier to understand why teammates loved him, foes feared him, umpires and writers respected him but his colleagues in the sometimes-devious world of front-office politics did not.

Robinson and the Nats, for example, ended with a bitter split. The Nats weren't generous; Frank -- shock -- didn't leave quietly. "He's not a guy who endears himself," a Nats exec said, missing his own half-compliment.

Frank always evoked strong feelings. As a teen, I detested him. When I watched my Senators play the Orioles in D.C., he hit a three-run homer in the first inning to end the game before it began -- every time, it seemed. He was the ferocious five-tool superstar my team never had.

Then, as I grew up, all that flipped. Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics became the first African American coach in any major U.S. pro sport. Eight years later, Robinson, who was Russell's basketball teammate at McClymonds High in Oakland, broke the managerial color barrier in Major League Baseball. That two close friends could face challenges so similar with such dignity and honesty was impressive. But that they did it so uncompromisingly, never turning away from the firsthand hard truths they had learned about race in America, made them two of my heroes.

For me, Russell and Frank Robinson were the next step after Jackie Robinson. Because he had laid the groundwork, they didn't have to turn the other cheek. They could be their entire selves -- or close to it. Remembering what social progress looked like then is a reminder of why it's worth battling to keep and extend now.

Frank Robinson always had the severe comportment, the hard eye for enemies, the basic sense of right and wrong of a pioneer. He walked into a room, and others stood up straighter, heads higher. Now, we bow our heads in respect.

February 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM

60-40 NATION:

Kamala Harris, Frontrunner: She's got money, a good staff, and lots of TV time. She's also not bad at Twitter. (LIZ MAIR  FEBRUARY 7, 2019, The Bulwark)

Harris is also garnering the kinds of attacks already that suggest her opponents--within her party and outside of it--see her as a major threat. Most specifically, she has already become the target of new "birther" attacks. After the Obama and Ted Cruz birther experiences of 2008 and 2016, respectively, that feels like a solid indicator that opponents feel the need to discredit her straight out of the gate.

But the nature of the attacks also helps point back to her personal background, as the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants. To be clear, I don't believe the famed "black-brown coalition" that Obama assembled and which helped propel him to two presidential wins voted for him because of his mixed-race heritage or skin color. But I do believe his status as a younger, charismatic, non-white guy may have helped him get an extra look from minority voters, who then liked what they saw. A lot.

Harris can  replicate this, and in 2020, it may matter more than ever. African-American women have arguably been a deciding factor in swinging races in Alabama (where 98 percent of them voted for Sen. Doug Jones), Virginia (where 91 percent voted for Gov. Ralph Northam) and New Jersey (where 94 percent voted for Gov. Phil Murphy), all according to exit polls.

Harris' campaign slogan, "For the People" both strikes a populist tone (appropriate, given the current mood of the most die-hard Democratic voters) and taps into her record as a prosecutor, a job that naturally associates itself with toughness.

That, in turn, seems to be a personal quality that a lot of women, including African-American women, both empathize with and prioritize--but also one that voters disenchanted with Trump  (and God knows that's African-American women, of whom about 90 percent disapprove)--are likely to want in a Democratic nominee.

Yes, critics--particularly concern-trolling #MAGA-types--will say the Democratic Party shouldn't, and isn't going to bite on an Obama-redux: a Senate newbie, of mixed-race heritage and a darker skin tone, from a very liberal state.

But the fact is, Obama won the presidency twice, created a blueprint that can potentially be followed again, and Democrats want the White House back bad enough they may not want to get super-creative in forging a pathway to it.

Her politics guarantee hysteria from the Left and her ethnicity and gender from the Right.  It's the perfect place to be.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


'I Fell Short': Jill Abramson Responds To Charges Of Plagiarism, Inaccuracies (LAUREL WAMSLEY, 2/07/19, NPR)

Jill Abramson, former New York Times executive editor, finds herself embroiled in controversy over charges of inaccuracies and plagiarism in her new book Merchants of Truth, out this week.

The book was skewered by Vice correspondent Michael Moynihan in a series of tweets Wednesday that showed passages where Abramson's language strongly echoed that of articles penned by others.

In an interview Thursday with NPR's Michel Martin, Abramson admits she "fell short" in attributing her sources for some passages of the book.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


WHITE NATIONALISM IS DRIVEN BY A PERCEIVED LOSS OF STATUS: New research suggests that nationalism can be a psychological coping response. (TOM JACOBS, 2/07/19, Pacific Standard)

White populists complain they are losing ground to minorities in terms of status and power. At the same time, they assert with increasing belligerence that their country is the greatest in the world. On its face, this pair of claims is puzzling: Why would your allegiance grow to a society you feel is treating your people poorly?

According to a new study, it makes perfect sense from a psychological perspective. Researchers Nikhil Sengupta of the University of Oxford and Danny Osborne and Chris Sibley of the University of Auckland argue that the negative feelings arising from perceived group decline can be counteracted by the conviction that your country is strong and powerful.

In other words, if one group you identify with (whites) no longer provides the same comforting sense that you are a part of a powerful "we," you can latch onto the strength of a different group you identify with--Americans, or Poles, or, in the case of this study, New Zealanders. And when you do, it's more important than ever to proclaim the mightiness of that substitute entity.

The new findings "provide an explanation for the rise of nationalism," the researchers write in the journal Political Psychology. "Endorsing beliefs about national superiority is one way a nation's dominant ethnic group can cope with the negative psychological consequences of perceiving that their group is deprived."

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


PODCAST: Episode 84: Social Justice: It's a Put-On (HOSTED BY JONAH GOLDBERG, February 6, 2019, The Remnant)

Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary, joins The Remnant for some light punditry and some heavy nerdery on the misuses of social justice, apropos his new book, Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America.

The overlap between the Social Justice Left and the Trumpian Right is hilarious.  Seen one identitarian you've seen them all.

Even better was the Ocasio-Cortez interview on NPR this morning where she accidentally compared Donald and his useless but symbolic Wall with her and her own Green New Deal.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Wearing a Trump hat? That's not exactly pro-life (JOHN STOWE, JANUARY 23, 2019, Lexington Herald-Leader)

I am ashamed that the actions of Kentucky Catholic high school students have become a contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest. As such, I believe that U.S. Catholics must take a look at how our support of the fundamental right to life has become separated from the even more basic truth of the dignity of each human person.

Without engaging the discussion about the context of the viral video or placing the blame entirely on these adolescents, it astonishes me that any students participating in a pro-life activity on behalf of their school and their Catholic faith could be wearing apparel sporting the slogans of a president who denigrates the lives of immigrants, refugees and people from countries that he describes with indecent words and haphazardly endangers with life-threatening policies.

We cannot uncritically ally ourselves with someone with whom we share the policy goal of ending abortion.

Good discussion here of the damage Donald is doing to the pro-life movement and it is doing to itself by embracing him.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


Netanyahu whitewashing far-right activists (Shlomi Eldar, February 7, 2019, Al Monitor)

After former army chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz was named on Feb. 5 to head HaBayit HaYehudi, the Likud urged the party to join forces with Otzma Leyisrael, which consists of Kahane's disciples and fans, to prevent the weakening of the right. Netanyahu thus bleached the mark of shame that Israeli society had imprinted on Kahane's racist movement, granting his successors a political clemency that they probably never imagined was possible.

Otzma Leyisrael, Hebrew for "power to Israel," is a union of two parties formed by former Knesset members Michael Ben-Ari and Aryeh Eldad ahead of the 2013 elections to the 19th Knesset. However, the party did not win sufficient votes to get into the Knesset. Its campaign slogan was "We will wipe out a thousand terrorists and not a single hair on the heads of our soldiers will fall." Ahead of the 2015 elections to the 20th Knesset, one of its members, Baruch Marzel, a student of Kahane and chair of the Kach party, was named to fourth place on the Knesset slate of a party established by the former head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Eli Yishai. This party, too, did not garner sufficient votes to get into the Knesset.

Otzma Leyisrael is now headed by its founder, Michael Ben-Ari, who holds a Ph.D. in Israel studies and archaeology. While still in high school, he was active in the Kach movement. In the run-up to the 2009 Knesset elections, he laid out his philosophy in an interview with the Ynet website. "The saying, 'Kahane was right,' has already been used up. You can practically see how what Rabbi Kahane brought up 24 years ago has now become the central issue of this election campaign," he said. Ben-Ari espouses undermining the standing and rights of Israel's Arab minority. He calls for their transfer to other countries, as well as for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate Jewish settlements.

Another senior party figure is attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who gained notoriety over his role in the wild incitement against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s. Television reporter Hezi Mahlev documented him at the age of 19 participating in a demonstration of radical activists, most of them residents of the West Bank city of Hebron, against Rabin. In a particularly memorable photo, he is seen brandishing an emblem he took off Rabin's armored Cadillac, saying, "Just as we reached this emblem, we can reach Rabin." A few months later, in November 1995, a right-wing assassin killed Rabin.

Ben-Gvir, who was a parliamentary aide to Ben-Ari during his short term, carried out many of the provocations he engineered over the past 20 years with Marzel, the last chair of Kach before it was banned. In 2015, Ben-Gvir said he had been served with 53 indictments for disruption of public order, destroying property, inciting racism, supporting a terror organization and more. He was convicted in eight of the indictments.

After spending years as a radical activist, Ben-Gvir studied law at the Kiryat Ono Academy and was admitted to the bar. He has since represented radical right-wingers in courts, among them one of the suspects in the July 2015 murder of the Palestinian Dawabsheh family by Israeli Jewish terrorists, and the Israeli youth suspected of killing a Palestinian woman, Aisha Rabi, from the West Bank village of Bidya in October 2018. 

Yet another member of Otzma Leyisrael is Bentzi Gopstein, also a Kahane disciple and founder of Lehava, a movement dedicated to "preventing assimilation in the holy land," in other words, the coupling of Jews with Arabs. Gopstein has extended his party's activities over time to Jewish boycotts of Arab-owned businesses.

There is not enough time or space to describe the crimes and misdeeds of this party's members. Most did not do their mandatory military service, and the Shin Bet security agency monitors their activity, viewing them as dangerous individuals motivated by hatred of Arabs and xenophobia.

This week, the members of this radical group could not believe their luck when Netanyahu handed them a seal of approval. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Virginia (JV Last, 2/07/19, The Bulwark)

I will remind people that Virginia is also home to George "Macaca" Allen. It's a gathering place for people who want to take down statues . . . of Lincoln. The major state thoroughfare is named for a traitor. (Imagine Connecticut naming a highway for Benedict Arnold to honor the state's "heritage.") And let's be honest: There's a reason the neo-confederate, white nationalist rally was held in Charlottesville and not Worcester or Trenton or Cleveland.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Death and valor on a warship doomed by its own Navy. (T. Christian Miller, Megan Rose and Robert Faturechi, February 6, 2019, ProPublica)

The collision of the vessels was the Navy's worst accident at sea in four decades. Seven sailors drowned. Scores were physically and psychologically wounded. Two months later, a second destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, broke that grim mark when it collided with another cargo vessel, leaving 10 more sailors dead.

The successive incidents raised an unavoidable question: How could two $1.8 billion Navy destroyers, protected by one of the most advanced defense systems on the planet, fail to detect oncoming cargo ships broadcasting their locations to a worldwide navigational network?

The failures of basic seamanship deeply embarrassed the Navy. Both warships belonged to the vaunted 7th Fleet -- the most powerful armada in the world and one of the most important commands in the defense of the United States from nuclear attack.

ProPublica reconstructed the Fitzgerald's journey, relying on more than 13,000 pages of confidential Navy investigative records, public reports, and interviews with scores of Fitzgerald crew members, current and former senior Navy officers, and maritime experts.

The review revealed neglect by Navy leadership, serious mistakes by officers -- and extraordinary acts of valor and endurance by the crew.

The Fitzgerald's captain selected an untested team to steer the ship at night. He ordered the crew to speed through shipping lanes filled with cargo ships and fishing vessels to free up time to train his sailors the next day. At the time of the collision, he was asleep in his cabin.

The 26-year-old officer of the deck, who was in charge of the destroyer at the time of the crash, had navigated the route only once before in daylight. In a panic, she ordered the Fitzgerald to turn directly into the path of the Crystal.

The Fitzgerald's crew was exhausted and undertrained. The inexperience showed in a series of near misses in the weeks before the crash, when the destroyer maneuvered dangerously close to vessels on at least three occasions.

The warship's state of readiness was in question. The Navy required destroyers to pass 22 certification tests to prove themselves seaworthy and battle-ready before sailing. The Fitzgerald had passed just seven of these tests. It was not even qualified to conduct its chief mission, anti-ballistic missile defense.

A sailor's mistake sparked a fire causing the electrical system to fail and a shipwide blackout a week before the mission resulting in the crash. The ship's email system, for both classified and non-classified material, failed repeatedly. Officers used Gmail instead.

Its radars were in questionable shape, and it's not clear the crew knew how to operate them. One could not be made to automatically track nearby ships. To keep the screen updated, a sailor had to punch a button a thousand times an hour. The ship's primary navigation system was run by 17-year-old software.

The Navy declined to directly answer ProPublica's questions about its findings. Instead, a spokesman cited previous reports that the Navy published during its own months-long review of the collisions.

The Navy inquiries determined that there had been widespread problems with leaders regarding shortfalls in training, manning and equipment in the 7th Fleet. The Navy fired admirals, captains and commanders, punished sailors and criminally prosecuted officers for neglecting their duties.

Adm. John Richardson, head of the Navy, called the two collisions "avoidable tragedies." The ships' commanders and their superiors, he said in a written statement to ProPublica, were responsible for the results.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


CEOs Scramble to Avoid Trump's Tariffs to Survive His Trade War (Mark Niquette  and Andrew Mayeda, February 7, 2019, Bloomberg)

The president's duties on $250 billion of Chinese goods -- with an increase in tariffs to come unless a trade deal with Beijing is reached by March 1 -- have affected U.S. companies big and small. Apple Inc. lowered its first-quarter outlook after demand for the iPhone in China slowed more sharply than expected, and the company's suppliers in China are considering shifting production. [...]

For companies caught in the trade war, the options for mitigating exposure to tariffs range from a simple change in paperwork to creative "tariff engineering" and the overhaul of supply chains often developed over decades. It's forced some executives to consider how far they can push the legal boundaries to avoid paying tariffs of as much as 25 percent.

"It would almost be something that would be a firing offense if you're in charge of supply-chain management and you don't point out to someone that you could save 25 percent tariffs,'' said Amanda DeBusk, a former Commerce export enforcement official who now is chair of Dechert LLP's international trade practice.

Primex has already tried some first steps that companies often take to mitigate the tariffs: trying to pass on the added costs and checking if their products were properly classified under U.S. tariff codes. Some items incorrectly categorized in the past went unnoticed because no duties were applied, said Randy Rucker, a trade lawyer representing Primex.

The company also filed 79 requests with the Office of U.S. Trade Representative for exclusions from the tariffs. Decisions are based on whether a product is available only from China, if duties "would cause severe economic harm" to the company or U.S. interests, and whether the item is strategically important. All of Primex's requests were denied.

"We were like, 'You're about to put a 75 year-old company out of business?,''' Shekoski said. "Why would it not be economic harm?''

Taxes and regulations are a small price to pay for racial hygiene.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


Germany could miss even reduced NATO defense spending goal: document  (Reuters, 2/07/19) 

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has cast doubt over the government's already watered-down pledge to NATO allies of spending 1.5 percent of economic output on defense by 2024, a Finance Ministry document obtained by Reuters showed on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


House Intel Democrats Just Restarted and Supercharged the Trump-Russia Probe (Spencer Ackerman, 02.06.19, Daily Beast)

[A]n announcement from Schiff shortly after the Wednesday morning vote underscored the ginormous reach of the 2.0 version of the investigation.

The investigation will examine the "scope" of the Kremlin's influence campaigns on American politics, both in 2016 and afterwards, and "any links/and or coordination" between anyone in the Trump orbit--the campaign, transition, administration, or, critically, the president's businesses--and "furtherance of the Russian government's interests." It will also look at whether "any foreign actor," not only Russians, has any "leverage, financial or otherwise" over Trump, "his family, his business, or his associates"--and whether such actors actively "sought to compromise" any of those many, many people.

A related line of inquiry will examine whether Trump, his family, and his advisers "are or were at any time at heightened risk of" being suborned by foreign interests in any way. That includes a vulnerability to foreign "exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure or coercion." All that makes it very likely that the committee examines Trump administration policy--think the Syria pullout, or ex-national security adviser and admitted felon Mike Flynn's attempts to work with Russia's military in Syria, or Trump's infamous Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin--through that lens.

Schiff said that the committee will also probe whether anyone, "foreign or domestic," currently or formerly sought to "impede, obstruct and/or mislead" the intelligence committee's investigation or any others, meaning Mueller's or the Senate intelligence committee's own inquiries. And that raises the prospect of examining whether the aforementioned witnesses before the panel obstructed it. Fellow Democrats on the committee have told The Daily Beast their desire to get several witnesses back before the panel whose testimony they consider questionable. Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley said last month there were "nine or ten" such witnesses on his radar, including the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

And with questions swirling about how heavily Trump attorney general nominee Bill Barr will withhold Mueller's final investigative report, Schiff indicated that the committee will form a sort of backstop for the public. He also indicated he'll work with other House committees, likely the oversight and judiciary panels, "on matters of overlapping interest," Schiff said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


The exquisite shade of Nancy Pelosi's applause at the State of the Union (Monica Hesse, February 6, 2019, Washington Post)

The lasting visual image from Tuesday night's State of the Union address was captured by photographer Doug Mills. It featured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) applauding President Trump in a way that can only be described as . . . withering? Pitying? Lucille Bluth-like in its contemptuousness?

At his lectern, the president mentioned bipartisanship and turned to acknowledge Speaker Pelosi; she rewarded him by cocking her head, arching an eyebrow, and inventing, as comedian Patton Oswalt would put it online, a clap that somehow managed to be a profanity.

Its power was in its restraint. Pelosi was not booing the president. She was acknowledging his words. She was providing him, in the technical sense, with exactly what he was hoping for: approval. But this was a derogatory clap, make no mistake. This was mockery wearing a half-baked costume of politeness.

Even in her district, the way she abuses him is frowned upon.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Hillary Clinton Blackface Hoax Explodes After Virginia Scandals (Will Sommer, 02.06.19, Daily Beast)

Now right-wing internet hoaxers claim they've found something even bigger: a picture of Hillary Clinton purportedly wearing blackface, next to a smiling Bill Clinton dressed as a country bumpkin.

And you wonder that the Trumpbots are so detached from reality?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Leaders of this city on Southern border want wall's razor wire removed or they'll sue (AP, Feb 7, 2019)

The City Council in Nogales, which sits on the border with Nogales, Mexico, wants the federal government to remove all concertina wire installed within the city limits.

Otherwise, Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino said the city will sue.

City officials say Army troops installed more horizontal layers of the wire along the border wall last weekend.

The council's resolution says the razor wire would harm or kill anyone who scales the wall and "is only found in a war, prison or battle setting" and should not be in downtown Nogales.

February 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM



[T]he one thing that remains clear is just how much Mueller knows: He's uncovered "track changes" in individual Microsoft Word documents, he's referenced what specific words Russian military intelligence officers Googled three years ago, and even what the hired trolls inside the Internet Research Agency were wrote to family members. Long before the House Intelligence Committee today kicked over a few dozen transcripts, Mueller amassed some 290,000 documents from Michael Cohen, tons more from the Trump transition team, and what the White House says is 1.4 million documents it turned over voluntarily, among countless other files, documents, reports, and classified raw intelligence.

Given that foundation of knowledge, it's worth examining some of the "known unknowns," places where Mueller has been silent but where he presumably knows far more than he's chosen to say. To single out just five examples: [...]

Why the "first time"?

In last summer's GRU indictment, Mueller seemed to say more than he needed to--just like he did with "was directed" in the Stone indictment--in pointing out that "on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton's personal office." Mueller doesn't note in the document that this was the same day Trump invited Russia to hack Clinton's email, but in writing about the day Mueller adds two seemingly unnecessary details--first that the GRU did it "after hours," which accounting for the time difference would mean after Trump's campaign trail comments, and second, that the attack on Clinton's email directly was "for the first time," a fact that Mueller would have to prove in a trial, meaning that he has evidence that makes him confident that the action was new in Russia's strategy. 

Listen to David Priess describe Robert Mueller on this podcast and you can almost feel sorry for Donald and the Trumpbots, who have no idea what's coming.
Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Another Way to Universal Health Care (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, February 6, 2019, National Review)

For Republicans, 2009 was a tragedy founded on sins of omission. Barack Obama came triumphant into Washington followed by crowds of celebrities and admirers literally chanting his name as a hymn of praise, and his first order of business was doing something about health care -- or, more specifically, about health insurance. Republicans responded with something less than splendiferous wit and intelligence: "We have the best health-care system in the world!" they insisted, over and over, dozens of them, often using precisely the same words. Somehow, a political strategy based on the notion that Americans like health-insurance companies proved ineffective -- surprise.

The Democrats, for their part, couldn't quite decide what they wanted. They talked about "Europe," as though there were a single "European" model of health care. Some of them talked about the British and Canadian systems, rarely if ever giving serious consideration to the question of why so few of those admired European countries rely on such systems (Germany? No. Sweden? No? Switzerland? No!) or why these national monopolies produce so many complaints among citizenries that generally support them or so many documented failures when it comes to access and timely patient care. They thought they were being clever by taking as their starting point a model associated with Mitt Romney in Massachusetts -- "Call us irresponsible radicals, will they? Well, this is a Republican plan! Take that!"

Massachusetts had looked in part to the Swiss model of health care, which the legislative engineers behind the ACA had attempted to graft clumsily onto existing American practice. [...]

In Switzerland, health insurance and the delivery of health care are entirely private enterprises. There is no Swiss NHS, no single-payer, no "public option" -- none of that. Switzerland has health care that is by European standards 1) excellent and 2) expensive. Insurance coverage, though entirely private, is universal. It is also heavily regulated and sustained through various direct and indirect subsidies, and consumption is restrained not through the god-kings of political management but through substantial out-of-pocket costs. There is a great deal of consumer choice and competition across internal political jurisdictions -- as a result of which, Switzerland has one health-insurance company for every 100,000 residents. For comparison: In 2019, the United States is expected to have one insurance company on the ACA exchanges for every 1.7 million residents.

Switzerland has an individual mandate that has nearly 100 percent compliance, which is achieved through ruthless enforcement. That enforcement is made easier by Switzerland's extraordinary civic culture, but, still: If you fail to secure health insurance for yourself, you'll get a notice from the authorities reminding you of your obligations, and if you continue in noncompliance, they'll just sign you up for a policy and start charging you both forward-going premiums and retroactive premiums and penalties covering the period of your lapse.

There is a legally defined bare-bones insurance policy in Switzerland, rather like the ACA's statutory minimum coverage. Though there is no government-run insurance program in Switzerland, these programs sometimes are described as the country's "social insurance," and the insurance companies are obliged to offer them on a nonprofit basis. Premiums aren't fixed by law, though insurers must charge everybody the same rate; because Switzerland has had nearly 100 percent compliance with its mandates since 1996 (it had about 98 percent voluntary coverage before that!), "preexisting conditions" are not much of an issue. Practice varies from canton to canton, but Switzerland subsidizes its system in two main ways: by providing direct subsidies for the premiums of low-income citizens and by providing financial support to the hospital system in general.

Dr. Thomas Zeltner, Switzerland's former secretary of health, characterized the system this way in a 2010 interview with Tsung-Mei Cheng of Health Affairs:

In Switzerland, rich and poor share the same insurance plans, and physicians and hospitals are paid the same fees for rich and poor alike. But in the U.S., fees paid vary by type of insurance. Fees for the poor in your Medicaid are much lower than fees paid by commercial insurance.

I think that is an interesting difference. We don't want the poor to be stigmatized in associating them to a specific plan. So, indirectly, we come to the same result -- we help the poor -- but it makes a huge difference when it comes to personal dignity as a patient. In Switzerland, the doctor and hospital do not even know whether you're subsidized or not. They get the same fee, regardless of who you are.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Transcript Of Judge's Jail Visit Sheds Light On MDC Conditions: 'I Said The Man Is Suicidal. They Took It As A Joke' (JAKE OFFENHARTZ, FEB 6, 2019, The Gothamist)

[A] transcript of the visit published on Wednesday offers a disturbing look at life inside MDC, and suggests that mistreatment of detainees goes far beyond the recent electrical issues. While heat and electricity did return to most units earlier this week, those who met with the judge described immense suffering inflicted by corrections officers, and an "incredible fear of retaliation" among anyone who spoke up.

According to the transcript, which was recorded by a stenographer and released by the court, several detainees told Judge Torres that they had medical problems that had been ignored by jail staff--in some cases, life-threatening issues that were exacerbated by the dark and freezing conditions they were forced to endure during last week's bitter cold snap.

On the seventh floor, the judge described observing "abundant water" and "black, blotchy mold" on the ceiling of a jail cell. She spoke to the man incarcerated in that cell, relating that he was showing her "a very dingy yellowed blanket that is obviously water damaged" and also "his left arm that has a rash on it, and he says it's from the water dripping." Several others told Torres that they were not given adequate clothing or blankets during the heat outages, with one person saying it was like "sleeping under a waterfall."

Another detainee said that he didn't receive his medication for an entire week, causing him to pass out in his cell this past Sunday after attempting to call for help. He accused security officials of jamming the alert button, and purposefully ignoring his cries for assistance. "I still haven't been seen yet," he told the judge. "I am still in pain."

(During the hearing earlier in the day, a medical technician at MDC, Rhonda Barnwell, had seemed to admit that the jail was failing to provide adequate health care to its 1,600-person population. She added, "If the media didn't come, we'd still be in the same situation.")

The judge also met with a detainee who said his cellmate experienced a mental breakdown during the heat outages. "He asked for attention because when the power was off the emergency buttons were not working," the man said. "The officers were walking around only every hour or so. When we finally got the officers' attention...I said the man is suicidal, and I think they took it as a joke."

The man added that he "literally had to take the noose out of his cellmate's hand [as] he was trying to kill himself."

When the judge said that she was sorry to hear that, the man replied: "Thank you for being worried about us, ma'am, and treating us like human beings."

Judge Orrin G. Judd Dies; Cited Willowbrook Abuses (EDWARD HUDSON, JULY 8, 1976, The New York Times Archives)

United States District Judge Orrin G. Judd, who ordered the cleanup of the Willowbook State School for the Mentally Retarded, died yesterday, apparently of a heart attack, in Aspen, Colo., where he was attending a judicial seminar. He was 69 years old.

In his order affecting Willowbook, issued in 1973. Judge Judd had directed the state to remedy the "inhumane and shocking conditions" that he said prevailed at the Staten Island institution for the retarded.

In a more recent order reflecting his sense of compassion for those living in institutions, he ordered last January that the city's Houses of Detention in Queens and Brooklyn provide individual cells for detainees awaiting trial. [...]

An associate of the judge said last night that he had agonized over some of his recent cases.

"I know he found, just as all 'judges do that sentencing is the most difficult part of their duties," the associate said. "He was very mindful of the fact that people are cut off from normal living when they are sent to jail."

Judge Judd had developed a custom of visiting jails and detention facilities during Christmas recesses to familiarize himself with the institutions to which he was sometimes forced to send defendants.

Among the facilities the judge had visited during his career on the Federal bench was Willowbrook.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


George Allen shows a more cautious, humbler side (Marc Fisher, October 17, 2012, Washington Post)

Six years ago, then-U.S. Sen. Allen (R) -- now in a tight race with former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) to regain his seat -- found himself portrayed in news reports and voters' minds as a colossally insensitive brute, a senator who publicly slurred an Indian American man who was working for his opponent at a campaign event, calling him "macaca."

After that, a torrent of reports about Allen's past poisoned his campaign: As a young man in California, he wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school senior class photo; later, he displayed a Confederate flag in his home (part of a flag collection, he said) and a noose in his law office (Allen said it fit the room's Western motif); associates said he had used racial slurs about black people, which Allen resolutely denied.

Then, during a debate with Democrat James Webb, a TV reporter asked Allen whether it was true that his mother's family was Jewish. Allen reacted angrily, accusing the questioner of casting "aspersions."

"My mother is French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her," Allen responded. "I've been raised, and she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."

That was not true. Allen knew then (he'd learned it a month before) that his mother was indeed born and raised Jewish.

A few days later, after admitting that, Allen, feisty as ever, told an interviewer that despite his newfound Jewish heritage, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."

Allen, who was widely believed to be using the Senate race to launch a presidential run, lost by 9,000 votes among 2.4 million cast. It was his first defeat since his initial run, for Virginia's House, in 1979.

Now, six years later, Allen points out the shofar to a visitor. There is no more denial. No more jokes. He has studied his family history, learned about his roots.

Quietly, he tells about the day he asked his mother, now 89, whether the rumors were true that she really wasn't Anglican but had grown up Jewish in Tunisia. Henrietta "Etty" Allen wept as she agreed to tell him the truth, but only "if you swear on Pop-op's head that you won't tell anybody."

George Felix Allen blushes tomato red as he speaks about his Jewish grandfather, Felix Lumbroso. The former governor stares at the floor and recalls his mother's fear of exposing her children to the hatred and venom she had seen as a child in Nazi-occupied North Africa.

After Allen's mother revealed the secret she'd kept from her husband and children for six decades, Etty Allen asked her son, "Do you still love me?"

Of course he did, and he told her so. And then she asked whether her friends would still like her if they found out.

"Oh, Mom," he said. "Of course they love you. Why wouldn't they?"

"No," said his mother, "they tell Jewish jokes." She shook with fear.

"So I felt I had to keep it secret," Allen says. He acknowledged publicly what she'd told him only after a cascade of news reports made it clear that the truth would come out.

Now, Allen says, he regrets some things he said in that losing campaign. He says he has embraced his newfound heritage. He's proud of the shofar, a gift from a Hasidic Jewish group he addressed last year.

At that meeting, he tried to blow the horn, a difficult task even for some rabbis. "I couldn't get much of a sound out of it," Allen says, but that night, "I had the best dreams."

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


PODCAST: Gary Greenberg on the Placebo Effect (Russ Roberts, Feb 4 2019, EconTalk) 

Author and psychotherapist Gary Greenberg talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the placebo effect. Is it real? How does the placebo effect influence drug testing? If it's real, what is the underlying mechanism of why it works and how might it be harnessed to improve health care? The conversation concludes with a discussion of how knowledge of the placebo effect has influenced Greenberg's psychotherapy practice.

So here's an interesting thought experiment: given that patients respond to nothing more than the idea that someone cares enough to offer a treatment, even one they are told is bogus, maybe the reason nation's with National Health have so much better outcomes than us owes to nothing more than the existence of the system itself.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM



YOU KNOW THE story. Despite technologies, regulations, and policies to make humanity less of a strain on the earth, people just won't stop reproducing. By 2050 there will be 9 billion carbon-burning, plastic-polluting, calorie-consuming people on the planet. By 2100, that number will balloon to 11 billion, pushing society into a Soylent Green scenario. Such dire population predictions aren't the stuff of sci-fi; those numbers come from one of the most trusted world authorities, the United Nations.

But what if they're wrong? Not like, off by a rounding error, but like totally, completely goofed?

That's the conclusion Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrell Bricker come to in their newest book, Empty Planet, due out February 5th. After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. "In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline," they write. "Once that decline begins, it will never end."

There is no selfish gene.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


"I Suffered Deep Humiliation": Woman Accusing Virginia Lt. Governor of Sexual Assault Speaks Out: Vanessa Tyson is being represented by the same attorneys as Christine Blasey Ford. (INAE OH, FEBRUARY 6, 2019, Mother Jones)

Vanessa Tyson, the woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004, released a statement on Wednesday detailing her allegations.

"I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual," Tyson, who is now a professor at Scripps College, wrote as she outlined her encounter with Fairfax during the 2015 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

"After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame," she continued. "I did not speak about it for years, and I (like most survivors) suppressed those memories and emotions as necessary means to continue my studies, and to pursue my goal of building a successful career as an academic."

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


N.M. Governor Pulls National Guard From Border, Citing A 'Charade' At Federal Level (BILL CHAPPELL, 2/06/19, NPR)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered the majority of National Guard troops deployed at her state's Southern border to withdraw, condemning what she called a "charade of border fear-mongering" by President Trump, who has warned of an immigration emergency in the region.

"I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the Southern border," Lujan Grisham said, adding that the area has "some of the safest communities in the country."

The governor's order covers most of New Mexico's deployed troops, along with Guard members who have traveled from Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wisconsin. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


House Dems Are Going to Hand Robert Mueller Everything He'll Need for More False Statement Charges (Matt Naham, February 6th, 2019, Law & Crime)

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday held a vote on whether to send transcripts of some 50-plus interviews it has conducted over the course of its parallel investigation into all things Russia-Trump campaign-2016 election. [...]

Among the recognizable names who have testified before the House Intelligence Committee: President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Boris Epshteyn, Michael Cohen, Trump's body guard Keith Schiller, Hope Hicks, and Steve Bannon.

Mueller's go-to statute has been 18 USC § 1001, which makes "any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" a federal crime. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan have all pleaded guilty to making false statements. [...]

It's important the remember, however, what preceded the FBI raid on Stone's Florida home.

Recall that the Washington Post reported in December 2018 that Mueller asked the House Intelligence Committee for an "official transcript" of Roger Stone's testimony. Legal experts opined that this suggested Mueller was ready to bring a charge related to testimony, which in turn suggested that false statements may be the charge:

One justification offered in the report for a possible false statements charge was that "if prosecutors want to bring a charge of lying to investigators, they must obtain a certified 'clean' copy from the transcriber or clerk who took the statement to present as an exhibit to a grand jury."

Just over a month later, Stone was arrested and charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements, and one count of witness tampering.

Was planting Devin on Team Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


Stonewalling on Clinton Emails Continues Under Trump, Watchdog Says (Kevin Mooney, February 06, 2019, The Daily Signal)

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said Obama administration officials originally declined to assess the extent to which Clinton's email practices damaged national security.

But later, Fitton said, "President Trump's appointees got in the way of us doing it."

It's exactly the same with revealing the alien technology at Area 51.

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Virginia AG says he too wore blackface as leadership scandal deepens (Gary Robertson, 2/06/19, Reuters) 

Virginia Attorney General Mark] Herring said he now realized he showed poor judgment and caused pain to others by dressing as a rapper, donning a wig and brown makeup to perform a song with similarly attired friends.

"I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others," Herring said in his statement. "It was really a minimization of both people of color and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then."

Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Russia Starts to Worry Maduro's Grip May Slip in Venezuela (Henry Meyer  and Ilya Arkhipov, February 6, 2019, Bloomberg)

"Unfortunately, time isn't on Maduro's side,'' said Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament. "In a situation of worsening economic crisis, the mood in society can quickly turn against him.''

Moscow remains wary of Maduro's U.S.-backed opponents but is acutely aware how few levers it has to rescue a client who's too deep in financial distress for the Kremlin to bail him out and too far away for Russia to deploy significant military force to shore him up.

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 AM


Netanyahu election rival moots West Bank settlement removals (Dan Williams, 2/06/19, Reuters) 

Benny Gantz, a popular ex-general whose new Resilience party is gaining ground against Likud with as many as 24 projected seats, stepped into the settlements minefield on Wednesday.

"We need to find a way not to have dominion over other people," Gantz told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper when asked about prospects for accommodation with the Palestinians, whose negotiations with Netanyahu stalled in 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


Bet everything on electric: Inside Volkswagen's radical strategy shift (Edward Taylor, Jan Schwartz, 2/06/19, Reuters) 

If Volkswagen realizes its ambition of becoming the global leader in electric cars, it will be thanks to a radical and risky bet born out of the biggest calamity in its history.

The German giant has staked its future, to the tune of 80 billion euros ($91 billion), on being able to profitably mass-produce electric vehicles - a feat no carmaker has come close to achieving.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


U.S. supports 'dictators, butchers and extremists' in Middle East, says Iran (Reuters, 2/06/19)

"US hostility has led it to support dictators, butchers & extremists, who've only brought ruin to our region," Zarif wrote in the Twitter post. [...]

"Iranians--including our Jewish compatriots--are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us @ #SOTU2019" Zarif wrote on Twitter, referring to the State of the Union address.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


The speech of a president whose power is draining (Edward Luce, 2/06/19, Financial Times)

It was the speech of a president whose power is rapidly draining. It came barely a week after Mr Trump caved into Democratic pressure to reopen the US government following a record 35-day shutdown without having secured a dime of funding for the wall. It came just eight days before the US government is set to close again unless Mr Trump agrees to whatever budget deal a bipartisan committee sends to his desk. It will not include any funding for the wall. At which point, Mr Trump will sign because he cannot afford to be blamed for another shutdown. He is then likely to declare a national emergency -- one that his most loyal enforcers, most importantly Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, have declared in advance to be constitutionally unwise. In spite of this, Mr Trump insisted on Tuesday night that "I'll get it [the wall] built". He has backed himself into a corner from which there is no escape. Without a wall, Mr Trump's base will drift away. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Trump shown 'meeting with Russians in Moscow in 1995' over 'building project' in newly unearthed video (Chris Riotta, 2/06/19, The Independent US)

The former mayor of Moscow has confirmed Donald Trump met with officials in Russia in the 1990s to discuss a possible building project after archival footage of the meeting was posted online.

The video, allegedly aired by Russian state television in 1995, shows the US president meeting with members of the former mayor's administration. [...]

"I know nothing about Russia," Mr Trump said during the second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. "I don't deal there." 

He also previously told CBS4 in 2016, "I have nothing to do with Russia. I don't have any jobs in Russia. I'm all over the world but we're not involved in Russia." 

And again, in 2017, the president reiterated those claims in a tweet: "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'This isn't me': Gov. Northam's defiance caught advisers off guard (Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella February 5, 2019, Washington Post)

Never a natural politician, Northam, a pediatric neurologist, built his public career on the idea that he was honest. That identity was forged in college, where he enforced the ethics code as president of the Honor Court at Virginia Military Institute.

Northam laid the groundwork for his rise to governor by stumping for Democrats in every corner of the state. Instead of charisma, he had authenticity -- the warbly accent of an Eastern Shore waterman -- and that built a web of loyalty that paid off with his nine-point victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in 2017.

But his assumption that allies would give him the benefit of the doubt contributed to Northam's poor handling of the crisis over the photo, according to people close to the governor. And his shock at being so quickly discarded by the party has made it harder for Northam to accept the calls to resign, the people said.

Over the past several days, he has even toyed with the idea of leaving the Democratic Party and governing as an independent -- a sign of the degree that he is isolated from every political ally, from his state party and from the national party.

...after all, Virginia Republicans nominated Corey Stewart for the Senate and Ed Gillespie ran an openly racist campaign for governor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Elizabeth Warren apologizes for calling herself Native American (Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner,  February 5, Washington Post)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she was sorry that she identified herself as a Native American for almost two decades, reflecting her ongoing struggle to quiet a controversy that continues to haunt her as she prepares to formally announce a presidential bid.

The key to a political apology is that you need to be able to do it once, effectively, and then move on. Sister can't seem to master it.

February 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Pentagon walks back Trump idea of using Iraq base to counter Iran (Jack Detsch, February 5, 2019, Al Monitor)

Top Donald Trump administration officials indicated today that US bases in Iraq would have little role in monitoring Iran-backed proxies after the president vowed in a TV interview that American troops would stay in the country to "watch" Iranian forces.

Iraqi political figures roundly criticized Trump in the wake of a Sunday interview on CBS' "Face the Nation." President Barham Salih, a longstanding American ally, called the potential action "unacceptable" and insisted the United States hadn't been granted permission by Baghdad to snoop on Iran.

Testifying before Congress today, just hours before Trump's State of the Union address, US Central Command chief Joseph Votel said that the Pentagon's mission focusing on the defeat of the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) had not changed despite the administration's focus on curtailing Iran's use of Shiite proxy groups in the Middle East.

Even if he is a grotesquely incompetent and corrupt racist, it's at least mildly worrying that the military barely acknowledges that he's the commander-in-chief.  It's a constitutional crisis best solved by his removal.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Senate passes pro-Israel bill, measure also rebukes Trump (Patricia Zengerle, 2/05/19, Reuters) 

The U.S. Senate passed a Mideast policy bill on Tuesday including a measure that would allow states to penalize businesses that take part in boycotts of Israel and an amendment that breaks with President Donald Trump by opposing any plans for an abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria.

Hard to know which part to enjoy more, the attack on Donald or on the Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


David Duke Has a New Favorite Candidate for 2020: Tulsi Gabbard (DAN SPINELLIFEBRUARY 5, 2019, mOTHER jONES)

On Twitter, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard embraced Gabbard as a "candidate who will actually put America First rather than Israel First." [...]

During her six years in Congress, Gabbard has drawn criticism for defending unsavory figures like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who she defended against allegations that he had deployed chemical weapons against his own citizens in 2017. A year earlier, the congresswoman visited Assad in Syria during a trip that spawned a wide public backlash. As Mother Jones reported last month:

Gabbard was accompanied on the trip by two officials of a "political party and paramilitary organization founded in Lebanon in 1932, and currently actively engaged in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime," according to an investigation by the Daily Beast. Her office said the trip was sponsored by an Ohio-based group, but the funds came from one of the party officials who accompanied Gabbard, Bassam Khawam. Khawam, a longtime Assad ally in the United States, is an official in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which has a history of domestic violence at home in Lebanon, including the assassination of the country's first prime minister in 1951. More recently in Syria, the SSNP has sent between 6,000 and 8,000 fighters across the border, as the Daily Beast described it, "to help the Assad regime annihilate its opponents, to whom the SSNP officially refers as the 'Jews of the interior' and 'an essential arm of the racist Jewish enemy.'"

In case you were wondering about the oddly complimentary comments from the Right.
Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Customs And Border Protection Apologized After An Agent Questioned A BuzzFeed News Reporter About Trump Coverage (Ellie Hall, 2/05/19, BuzzFeed News)

A top official of the Customs and Border Protection apologized Tuesday to a BuzzFeed News reporter who was aggressively questioned by an agent about articles regarding President Donald Trump at a passport control checkpoint in a New York City airport.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM



BuzzFeed has posted the documents showing Michael Cohen and Felix Sater organizing a Trump Tower deal until June 14, literally as the news of the DNC hack broke. The documents show how closely those negotiations interacted with the June 9 meeting.

The Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr and Russians promising dirt was scheduled for 4PM (Rob Goldstone posted on Facebook that he was at Trump Tower at 3:57). Natalia Veselnitskaya ran a bit late, but they would have started the meeting by 4:10PM.

Four witnesses to the meeting (the four whose responses weren't coached by Trump Organization lawyers) said that the meeting ended with Don Jr saying that his father might or would revisit Magnitsky sanctions if he became President.

Natalia Veselnitskaya said Don Jr said they'd revisit the topic. [...]

The meeting lasted somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

At about that time, Trump tweeted out a reference to Hillary's emails, invoking 823 staffers, which was a good ballpark estimate for how many staffers (including unpaid advisors) she really had at the time.

At that same time, Felix Sater texted Michael Cohen to tell him he was working on setting up Cohen's trip to St. Petersburg.

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Holocaust scholars slam Netanyahu's deal with the devil (Akiva Eldar, February 5, 2019, Al Monitor)

Just over 18 months after starring at the leadership summit of the central European Visegrad Group in July 2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will host the leaders of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia Feb. 18-19 in Jerusalem. [...]

Yair Lapid, the chair of centrist Yesh Atid and a second-generation Holocaust survivor, was the only senior politician to speak out against the hosting of the summit in Israel. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had pushed through legislation degrading to victims of the Holocaust, he said. When this law was first debated in Poland in 2016, Yehuda Bauer, the pre-eminent Holocaust historian who serves as an academic adviser to Yad Vashem, told Haaretz that the legislation bordered on Holocaust denial. Lapid also pointed to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who had engaged last year in a campaign bordering on anti-Semitism. "This is a loss of all national pride and international damage," he tweeted Jan. 28. Lapid urged Netanyahu to curb his "lust" for campaign photo ops and forego hosting the summit. Nonetheless, let us not forget that Lapid himself was silent over reports of Israeli arms sales to despicable regimes accused of war crimes.

Retired Ambassador Colette Avital, the chair of the Israeli umbrella organization of Holocaust survivor groups, was less diplomatic. In an interview with Al-Monitor, she accused Netanyahu of providing a "seal of approval to leaders and regimes with neo-Nazi leanings, hurting Holocaust survivors and the memory of its victims." The former Labor Party Knesset member added, "Motivated by narrow interests, the prime minister is helping those rewriting history -- those who love Israel but hate the Jews."

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders' ex-ally converts to Islam (Al Jazeera, 2/05/19)

For years, Joram van Klaveren fought a relentless campaign in the Lower House against Islam in the Netherlands as a lawmaker for Wilders' party.

At the time, the "hardliner pleaded for banning the burqa and minarets, saying 'we don't want any Islam, or at least as little as possible in the Netherlands'," the daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad (AD) said.

But the 40-year-old Van Klaveren said he had changed his mind halfway through writing an anti-Islam book.

The work "became a refutation of objections non-Muslims have" against the religion, he told the respected NRC daily on Tuesday.

"If everything I wrote up to that point is true, and I believe that, then I am a de facto Muslim," he told the NRC. [...]

Van Klaveren split with Wilders in 2014 after the PVV leader's controversial comments that year when asking supporters whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and the Netherlands".

Bigotry depends on ignorance.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Neomi Rao Says She Regrets Controversial College Writing on Date Rape (STEPHANIE MENCIMER, FEBRUARY 5, 2019, Mother Jones)

On Tuesday, during her confirmation to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump nominee Neomi Rao distanced herself from college writing in which she suggested that women who drink too much bear responsibility for any ensuing sexual assault. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee,  "When I was in college it was a time of exploration," and called her early work "idealistic." Rao said that in college, she had enjoyed commenting on events then taking place on campus, but now looking back at some of the things she had written, "I cringe."

"In the intervening two decades, I like to think thatI've matured as a thinker and a person," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Vegans are beefing with Hyundai over a Super Bowl ad that made fun of vegan dinner parties (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. February 4, 2019, Washington Post)

Nevermind the food; who would choose to spend time in their company?

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


How Putin will fight back as his Russian political monopoly shows the strain (Evgeny Pudovkin, 2/05/19, Independent)

Democracy in Russia is supposed to legitimise the ruling elite, at most test it. Since 2001, the president and the United Russia party have had little trouble beating their handpicked sparring partners.

But that political monopoly is now showing cracks, as Russia scrambles to find money for new infrastructure and the replenishment of financial reserves. Since last summer the government has increased VAT, raised the pension age, and slapped new taxes on the self-employed.  

The hike in the retirement age proved particularly toxic. Following the reform, the government, the United Russia party and even the presidency saw their approval ratings collapse to the lowest level since 2011-13, when Russia had its largest protests since the fall of the USSR.

It's not just the polls. Last autumn United Russia candidates suffered setbacks at the local elections held in a third of the country's regions. The ruling party lost four governor races to candidates from the left-wing Communist Party and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR). Both act as nominal opposition yet demonstrate loyalty to Putin, who is officially an independent but maintains links to the United Russia.

But while voters back the Communists or LDPR to punish United Russia, many of them don't see those parties as trustworthy mediators. Some 42% of Russians say no party speaks for their interests; 41% declared their wish for a new socialist party. More than a half opted for establishing a new centrist (28%) or a liberal (34%) party.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


STAY AT 17 INCHES. A GAME OF CATCH.THE NAME ON THE BACK.  (Chris Sperry , 12/09/19,  Baseball Thoughts)

[W]hen I returned to the convention hall thirty minutes before the lunch break ended, not only was my seat not available, barely any seats were available! I managed to find one between two high school coaches, both proudly adorned in their respective team caps and jackets. Disappointed in myself for losing my seat up front, I wondered what had pried all these coaches from their barstools. I found the clinic schedule in my bag: "1 PM John Scolinos, Cal Poly Pomona." It was the man whose name I had heard buzzing around the lobby two days earlier. Could he be the reason that all 4,000 coaches had returned, early, to the convention hall? Wow, I thought, this guy must really be good.

I had no idea.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung -- a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he'd gotten on stage.

Then, finally ...

"You're probably all wondering why I'm wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital," he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. "No," he continued, "I may be old, but I'm not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I've learned in my life, what I've learned about home plate in my 78 years."

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. "Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?" After a pause, someone offered, "Seventeen inches," more question than answer.

"That's right," he said. "How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?"

Another long pause.

"Seventeen inches?"came a guess from another reluctant coach.

"That's right," said Scolinos. "Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?" Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. "How wide is home plate in high school baseball?"

"Seventeen inches," they said, sounding more confident.

"You're right!" Scolinos barked. "And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?"

"Seventeen inches!" we said, in unison.

"Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?"

"Seventeen inches!"

"RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?"

"Seventeen inches!"

"SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!" he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. "And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can't throw the ball over seventeen inches?" Pause. "They send him to Pocatello!" he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

"What they don't do is this: they don't say, 'Ah, that's okay, Jimmy. You can't hit a seventeen-inch target? We'll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We'll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can't hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'"


"Coaches ..."


" ... what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach's message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. "This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don't teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!"

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

"This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?"

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.

"And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!"

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck...

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Trump's Options for Wall Shrink as Republicans Balk at National Emergency Declaration (Glenn Thrush and Emily Cochrane, Feb. 4, 2019, NY Times)

On Monday, the Senate formally adopted an amendment to a broader Middle East policy bill, 70 to 26, that rebuked the president for what Republicans saw as a precipitous withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Syria.

In December, Republican senators broke with him to call for the withdrawal of American support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, as they recoiled from his inaction in the face of the kingdom's murder of a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

[T]he most important critic of the declaration is Mr. McConnell. "I don't think much of that idea," Mr. McConnell said last month when asked about the declaration. "I hope he doesn't go down that path."

Mr. McConnell, according to three people familiar with his thinking, has grown increasingly frustrated with the White House in recent days, telling associates that he thinks members of the president's staff have failed to adequately brief him on the legislative and political perils of moving ahead with a disaster declaration.

During his White House meeting, disclosed by The Washington Post, Mr. McConnell predicted that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have the House immediately pass a "resolution of disapproval" attempting to block him from using existing funding for the wall.

Any senator from either party could then demand a vote, because the resolution would be deemed "privileged." Mr. McConnell told Mr. Trump that he would have no choice but to schedule a floor vote on the measure within 15 days, and Republican aides have estimated that between three and 10 Republicans would side with the chamber's Democrats against Mr. Trump.

That would force the president into a politically costly effort to keep the Senate from overriding his veto of the resolution, even as Democrats moved to block him in the courts.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Personal incomes grow in NH (MICHAEL COUSINEAU, 2/04/19,  New Hampshire Union Leader)

A new report said New Hampshire enjoyed the seventh-highest per-capita personal income among the states in 2017 at $59,668, compared to the national average of $51,640.

The state saw a 13 percent gain between 2007 to 2017 after adjusting for inflation and during a time in which it recovered from the Great Recession, according to the report.

"I think most importantly it speaks to the dynamic nature and vibrancy of New Hampshire's economy," economist Brian Gottlob of Dover said Monday. "The state continues to develop and attract new and innovative companies and industries. That is really the key.

"Technologies change, business and even entire industries can come and go and any state that consistently is able to develop and/or attract new and innovative companies and industries is going to have an economy that continually adapts and reinvents itself even after recessions," Gottlob said.

What happens when you don't keep trying to mine coal.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How Russia Hid Death Toll From Disastrous Syria Battle Until After Putin's Reelection (Reuters, Feb 05, 2019)

Gancherov's account is one of half a dozen instances Reuters has identified where the Kremlin-linked private military organization that recruited the fighters returned bodies more than seven weeks after the battle and with official documents bearing details that people who knew them say were incorrect.

According to relatives and a battlefield witness, the fighters all died in the clash in Syria's Deir al-Zor region, which took place overnight on Feb. 7.

Such practices, an unusual pattern for Russian fighters killed in Syria, would have helped conceal heavy casualties until after President Vladimir Putin's reelection in mid-March.

Moscow's message at the time was that the military campaign in Syria was a success with only modest human cost.

That details are emerging nearly a year after the Deir al-Zor battle indicates that Moscow may struggle to control its message about casualties abroad at a time when it is expanding its military activities in the Middle East and Africa.

About 100 Russian military contractors were killed in the Deir al-Zor battle, sources have said. The Russian foreign ministry has said that only a handful of Russian citizens were killed there and dismissed reports of heavy losses.

One misses having a president who was the pee-er rather than the pee-ed on.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Trump Shouldn't Declare Emergency to Build Border Wall: CBS Poll (Mark Niquette, February 3, 2019, Bloomberg)

Two-thirds of Americans oppose President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency if Congress doesn't offer up the funds he wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, a CBS News poll released Sunday shows.

Posted by orrinj at 12:12 AM


Al-Azhar's Imam calls on Muslims in the Middle East to 'embrace' Christians (MEM, 
February 4, 2019)

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque and university, called on Muslims in the Middle East to "embrace" local Christian communities, says Reuters. [...]

Sheikh Tayeb also called on Muslims in the west to integrate into their host nations and respect local laws.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


Don Jr. and Jared Kushner's congressional testimonies are finally going to Mueller (Greg Walters Feb 4, 2019, Vice News)

The handover could put President Trump's eldest son, Don Jr., in the hot seat. Democrats have signaled suspicions that Don Jr. may have been untruthful. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has said she thinks Don Jr. lied to the committee "on at least two occasions."

Mueller has already slapped criminal charges on two people for making false statements to the committee in the course of its Russia investigation: President Trump's longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, and former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone. [...]

Other members of Trump's inner circle who've appeared before the committee include:

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law
Brad Parscale, digital media director of the 2016 campaign
Keith Schiller, Trump's former bodyguard
Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater
Hope Hicks, former White House communications director
Felix Sater, a former Trump real estate associate
Steve Bannon, Trump's former White House chief strategist
Alexander Nix, former CEO of the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica
A total of 73 witnesses appeared before the committee, according to a report released this year by its former Republican leadership.

House intel committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has said for weeks that turning over transcripts to the special counsel's office would be one of his first moves after Democrats took control of the committee following November's midterm election.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


Dems Prefer Electability in 2020 (Monmouth University, February 04, 2019)

The poll also asked registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents about their party's nomination process.  In considering who should be their party's standard bearer, a majority of 56% prefer someone who would be a strong candidate against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues.  Just 33% say they would prefer a nominee who they are aligned with on the issues even if that person would have a hard time beating Trump.  Democratic women (61%) are more likely than men (45%) to say they would put their policy positions aside in order to get a nominee who could beat Trump.

"In prior elections, voters from both parties consistently prioritized shared values over electability when selecting a nominee. It looks like Democrats may be willing to flip that equation in 2020 because of their desire to defeat Trump. This is something to pay close attention to when primary voters really start tuning into the campaign," said Murray.

...is almost as useful as her gender and ethnicity

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Graham: There could be GOP 'war' over border wall (JORDAIN CARNEY, 02/04/19, The Hill)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on Monday that there could be a "war" among Republicans if President Trump declared a national emergency to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall. 

A party founded on fighting racism should welcome such a war.

Poll finds 43 percent of Republicans want a primary opponent for Trump (OWEN DAUGHERTY, 02/04/19, The Hill)

Forty-three percent of Republicans in the poll conducted by Monmouth University said they want to see a contested primary. Forty-nine percent of Republican respondents said they hope Trump will run unopposed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Lobbyist At The Trump Tower Meeting Received Half A Million Dollars In Suspicious Payments (Emma Loop, Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold, Tanya Kozyreva, John Templon, February 4, 2019, Buzz Feed News)

A Russian-born lobbyist who attended the controversial Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received a series of suspicious payments totaling half a million dollars before and after the encounter.

Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The lobbyist also received a large payment that bank investigators deemed suspicious from Denis Katsyv, whose company Prevezon Holdings was accused by the US Justice Department of laundering the proceeds of a $230 million Russian tax fraud.

February 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 PM


Soviet Spy Morton Sobell, History, and Betting on the Wrong Horse (Mark Tooley, February 4, 2019, pROVIDENCE)

"I bet on the wrong horse," an elderly Sobell avuncularly admitted to a reporter in 2011. He was recruited by Julius Rosenberg to spy for the Soviets during WWII when they both worked in the defense industry. Although he later claimed they only intended to help an ally against the Axis, his espionage for the Soviets continued after the war.

The Rosenberg and other collaborators were arrested in 1950, prompting Sobell to flee with his family to Mexico, only to be returned by Mexican police. He was sentenced to 30 years but was released early in 1969. Although denying guilt for espionage, he joyfully visited the Soviet Union, East Germany, Vietnam, and Cuba. The global left championed his cause as martyr wrongfully imprisoned for his politics, and he insistently wrote and spoke about his innocence.

Not until 2008 at age 91 did Sobell admit his espionage for the Soviets, acknowledging the Rosenbergs' guilt also, though minimizing the documents he shared as mostly unimportant and not threatening U.S. security. In fact, the secrets he stole likely helped shoot down U.S. pilots in Korea and Vietnam. His memoir described America as the guilty party in the Cold War.

Sobell was raised by Russian emigre Communist parents and was himself apparently a believer from his boyhood in Marxism as an inevitable historical force. The Rosenbergs also were youthful Communist zealots. They saw themselves as servants of history. Not even Stalinist mass murder discouraged their ardor. "That comes with the territory," Sobell explained.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 PM


Prosecutors subpoena Trump inaugural committee for documents: media reports (Reuters2/04/19)

The investigation is examining whether some of the committee's donors gave money in exchange for policy concessions, influencing administration positions or access to the incoming administration, the Journal reported.

Prosecutors also showed interest in whether any foreigners illegally donated to the committee, the New York Times reported. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to inaugural funds.

A spokeswoman for the committee told the Journal in a statement: "We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry."

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


There's a chance that Trump has altered California politics for years to come, political watchers say (JOHN MYERS, FEB 03, 2019m LA Times)

A long-term Trump effect could be a fatal blow to the state's atrophied Republican Party. Half of the GOP seats in California's congressional delegation were lost in November. Its standard bearer, gubernatorial candidate John Cox, received only 38% of the vote against Gov. Gavin Newsom. Republican caucuses in the state Senate and Assembly are now at their lowest levels since the 19th century. And this was only the midterm election.

What happens when the president is on the ballot next year?

"It's time to look at another path," former Assembly GOP leader Kristin Olsen said to those who believe in traditional Republican principles. She told the Berkeley audience that it's unclear "if the [state] party can outlast Donald Trump's presidency."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Howard Schultz and the Ghosts of 1992: Ross Perot took 20 percent of the vote from George H.W. Bush, the incumbent Republican president. Could Howard Schultz do the same thing? (MARY HARRIS, FEB 02, 2019, Slate)

"If you look at the third-party candidacies that have gotten some traction, I think the best one, the most encouraging modern example for somebody like Howard Schultz who might be thinking about running third-party, would be Ross Perot in 1992," Kornacki says.

That guy heckling Howard Schultz at a New York City bookstore, and all the people roasting him on Twitter--they're haunted by the ghosts of that 1992 election. Like Howard Schultz, Ross Perot ran as a billionaire and a Washington outsider. He actually got nearly 20 percent of the vote. It wasn't enough to win, but some say it was enough to change the outcome.

To understand how Schultz could change things in 2020, I asked Kornacki to take me back to the '90s. Even though what happened back in 1992 is not the perfect analogy for today--no story would be--there are still many similarities.

Like Schultz, Ross Perot was a well-known businessman when he decided to run for office in the early '90s. Like today, the sitting president, George H.W. Bush, was in trouble. The economy was faltering. He was worried about being implicated in the Iran-Contra affair.

"What you saw in the start of 1992 was that Bush's approval rating was plummeting," says Kornacki. "A year earlier, he'd led the country to victory in a war--the first Gulf War--to get Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. In February 1992, Bush's approval rating falls to 39 percent. It's in that climate that Ross Perot goes on the CNN program Larry King Live and is pressed about a presidential run.

"King asks him a bunch of times, Hey, you know what people are looking for? Would you run for president?" says Kornacki.

Eventually, Perot sort of relents, hinting that he would run if people were willing to organize and get him on the ballot.

"You don't have social media in the way we know it today, and yet it's this sort of viral moment," Kornacki says. "The word of that moment, the clip of that moment, spreads. It spreads slower than it would now, but over the course of days, weeks, and months, this massive--truly, truly massive--grassroots movement emerges that starts getting Perot on the ballot."

By June of 1992, Ross Perot is running in first place in the national polls. He's ahead of President George H.W. Bush, and Gov. Bill Clinton is far behind. People begin to believe that it may actually be possible--that Ross Perot might actually win the presidential election, become an independent president, and blow up the two-party system.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Even Sean McVay isn't immune to getting outcoached by Bill Belichick (Stephen Holder, 2/04/19, The Athletic)

"There's no other way to say it: I got outcoached tonight," McVay said after his explosive offense sputtered to a halt in a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. "Coach (Bill) Belichick did an outstanding job...I'm pretty numb right now, but definitely, I got outcoached. I didn't do nearly good enough for our football team." [...]

"We knew we couldn't come out here and just play one thing," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "We couldn't just come out and play zone. We couldn't just come out and play man. We knew McVay is too good. (Jared) Goff is too good. They got too many good skill players out there, but we also knew from a defensive standpoint we were good enough to do multiple things. It's something we worked on all year. You guys have been seeing it.

"Whether it's been two high safeties, one safety, we've done so many different things this year. And I think that goes a lot to the guys studying and coaches coming up with things that might be tough, but knowing that we can take it on and accept the challenge."

In the end, that expectation of heavy man-to-man coverage never materialized.

"This is probably the most zone we've played," McCourty said.

Much to McVay's surprise.

"They mixed it up," he said. "They had played almost exclusively man coverage principles and decided who they can take away... They had a great game plan."

He continued, "They definitely changed it up with what they had done over the past couple of weeks, especially when you look at some of the things that enabled them to have success against the Chargers and against the Chiefs. They still played some front structures that we anticipated and they did an excellent job with it... Their coverage principles were definitely mixed compared to what they put on tape. They did a great job, and it is something that I'm disappointed that I didn't do a better job of adjusting in the framework of the game. That is one of the things that makes them great."

This was a game that once again highlighted the Patriots' pliability. This is what they do: Everything is week to week with New England. They are, perhaps, the most difficult team in the league to prepare for because of the range of possibilities you must take into account.

All the Pats teams have been a function of coaching, but this was pretty much '85 Bears level out there.

How Belichick's Master Plan Unfolded (Andy Benoit, 2/04/19, SI)

[T]he Patriots defense presented Goff with a gameplan few quarterbacks could swallow. It was perhaps the most masterful strategizing seen from Bill Belichick since the last time he bested a juggernaut Rams offense, in Super Bowl XXXVI. In that Super Bowl, Belichick unveiled the totally unexpected tactic of hitting running back Marshall Faulk every time he released into a route. In this Super Bowl, Belichick unveiled another unexpected tactic: Quarters coverage, a matchup zone concept where the two outside corners and two deep safeties each cover one-fourth of the field.

"We anticipated that we would see some unscouted stuff," said Sullivan. "Playing Cover-4 was unscouted. Or it was different from them, let's put it that way." The Rams had struggled against Quarters earlier in the season, most notably in Week 13 at the Lions, who deployed it for the first time under head coach Matt Patricia, the recent Patriots defensive coordinator who runs a Belichick-style man-to-man scheme.

"The gameplan tonight kind of unfolded the way we wanted it to unfold," said one Patriots defensive assistant. "We didn't execute it perfectly, but our players did a really good job of marrying the rush with the coverage and handling this scheme."

Quarters is usually seen on passing downs, but the Patriots, just like the Lions, employed it on first and second down. That's when L.A.'s passing game, predicated heavily on play-action, is at its most dangerous. In Quarters, the two inside safeties can take away the slant and post routes that Goff throws with such great anticipation. For good measure, the Patriots beefed up their coverage prowess by replacing free safety Duron Harmon with cornerback Jonathan Jones, a third-year slot corner who had not played safety until this game. "I knew it was in the gameplan from the beginning," Jones said. "Just something we adjusted. That's the name of the game."

Because it puts both safeties back, it's dicey to play Quarters against a strong running team like Los Angeles, which is why Belichick featured a second schematic wrinkle: 6-1 fronts. New England's outside linebackers aligned up on the line of scrimmage, taking away the edges that L.A.'s foundational outside-zone runs aim to exploit. With those edges secure, New England's interior defensive linemen were more inclined to penetrate gaps, as opposed to just clogging them. That disrupted L.A.'s run-blocking cohesion. Even better, it disrupted parts of the Rams' passing game, which has been praised all season for being so well married to that run game. That marriage begins with the Rams placing receivers in tight splits, just a few yards off the ball, as opposed to out wide. It's an unconventional approach that presents more route running opportunities, especially on play-action.

Of course, all you really need to know about why Bill is so successful is that the NFL's next genius did not prepare for the defense that a Patriot's assistant used against him effectively earlier in the season.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Pelosi: 'There's Not Going to Be Any Wall Money' in Spending Bill (Jack Crowe, 1/30/19,The National Review)

Pelosi's comments echo those made by members of her caucus 0n the committee following its initial meeting Wednesday, in which they reportedly expressed willingness to consider funding a number of technology-based border-security measures but did not offer to provide any of the $5.7 billion Trump has long demanded for the construction of additional physical barriers.

"If you're asking if there is any money for the border wall? No, there is not," Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D., Calif.) said at a press conference following the meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


How the Foxconn Boondoggle Resembles the Fyre Festival (ANDREW EGGER,  FEBRUARY 4, 2019, The Bulwark)

Foxconn! During Donald Trump's first year in office, the mere name of the tech giant was synonymous with the president's bold promises to reinvigorate America's sagging manufacturing sector. The Taiwanese megacorporation, which assembles approximately 40 percent of the world's consumer electronics, had agreed to open a mammoth, state-of-the-art plant near Milwaukee--thanks to a king's ransom from then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had promised the company an eye-popping $4 billion in tax breaks and subsidies. (An independent analysis found that the state would recoup their losses on the deal by 2043.) But even that came cheaply as far as Trump was concerned: He was bringing American jobs back, and everything else was fine print. At the groundbreaking ceremony in June 2018, Trump described the soon-to-be factory as the "eighth wonder of the world."

That was then. Now, the whole thing has devolved into chaos. Last year, Foxconn started telling everyone to lower their factory expectations, suggesting that the new plant would not be the cutting-edge "Generation 10.5" factory they'd promised, but a smaller, cheaper "Generation 6" plant. Then, this week, the tech giant abruptly announced that it wouldn't be "building a factory" after all, but a campus that would hire mostly white-collar workers for positions in areas like research and development.

"In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.," Foxconn representative Louis Woo told Reuters this week, citing the comparatively high cost of employing U.S. workers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Picture clue: cops turn to amateur web sleuths to help crack cases (Senay Boztas, 4 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

It looks like a normal bathroom tile. But when amateur internet sleuths managed to locate it, they found the missing piece in an international child abuse investigation.

This was one of the clues that led to the arrest of a suspect and the identification of nine child abuse victims.

There's nothing new about the police asking for tips - think missing person posters or episodes of Crimewatch. But the Trace an Object crowdsourcing effort launched by Europol in 2017 asks individuals and collectives to find clues for unsolved child abuse investigations by identifying parts of digital images.

It could be a slice of cheese that someone recognises as Belgian, a crumpled shopping bag or a brightly coloured child's duvet cover: it just needs a moment of recognition - human or digital - to fill in the gaps that lead police to a suspect or a victim.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kremlin calls European moves to recognise Venezuela's Guaido foreign meddling (Reuters,  02.04.19)

The Kremlin said on Monday that moves by some European countries to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela amounted to foreign meddling and that Venezuelans, not foreign countries, should resolve their own domestic political issues.

Of course, it's meddling.  Maduro knows what he needs to do to make it stop.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"We feel like second-class citizens" (Arutz Sheva, 04/02/19 )

A kohen and divorcee, a Jewess and a non-Jew, a convert and a kohen. These couples are the first voices in a new campaign by the Ne'emanei Torah v'Avodah campaign to raise awareness of couples who cannot marry in Israel, according to halakha, and find a civil solution their problem.

The Ne'emanei Torah v'Avodah (Loyal to Torah and Labor), is a religious Zionist movement that seeks to restore religious Zionism to its roots by integrating Torah with science, Zionism and modern life. Its purpose is to strengthen the integration of religious society into the general society in Israel to promote tolerance, equality and justice and to shape the Jewish-democratic character of Israeli society. The movement is committed to Halacha-Jewish Law, creating an open and critical religious culture and addressing the halachic challenges of time.

In the campaign launched today, couples in Israel are calling for the State of Israel to find a solution for them and to allow a civil registration for these couples.

"The truth is that I never thought about it, because it seems natural that if a couple wants to, they marry. But when the moment came, we had to deal with it. I come from a home that had a lot of education in Judaism and tradition and we wanted to get married," says Rinat Mezritz, a divorcee who lives in a relationship with Gilad Cohen. They have three children but are unable to register as a partner in Israel.

"You feel like a second-class citizen. It takes the wind out of the sails, and makes you a bit anti," says Gilad, her partner.

February 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


The TPP is up and running without us, and we're losing out on its opportunities (Doug McCullough, February 01, 2019, Washington Examiner)

The TPP is a free trade agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that would have allowed the United States to participate in a free-trade zone with several countries, including Canada, Japan, Mexico, and several others. TPP had critics on both sides of the aisle, but it offered an extended free-trade zone and was part of an Obama administration effort to counter Chinese economic influence.

As it stands, the TPP features 11 countries that make up nearly 13.5 percent of the global GDP. That figure would have been 38 percent with the inclusion of the United States. The Wall Street Journal editorial board recently described the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP as the greatest "own goal" in recent economic history.

American manufacturers, exporters, and farmers all stood to gain from access to the TPP trade zone. With America on the outside looking in, US producers will be missing out on those opportunities. The Peterson Institute for International Economics has estimated that: "U.S. real income under the original TPP would have increased by $131 billion annually, or 0.5 percent of GDP."

Other countries, like Canada, are actively taking advantage of this opportunity. Jim Carr, Canada's Minister of International Trade Diversification, is busily promoting the concept of "diversification" of Canadian trade away from reliance on trade with the United States. For instance, Carr has recently been in Japan (a party to the TPP) promoting Canadian goods and services, and specifically Canadian beef.

Pulling out of TPP has put U.S. producers at a competitive disadvantage compared to Canada and other parties to the trade pact.

There's a high cost to hating Asians.
Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Who Is Justin Fairfax, Virginia's Lieutenant Governor? (Mitch Smith and Sandra E. Garcia, Feb. 2, 2019, NY Times)

When he was sworn in last year as Virginia's lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax kept in his pocket the document that freed his great-great-great-grandfather from slavery. When state legislators moved to honor the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Mr. Fairfax left the Senate dais as a form of quiet protest. And after a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Mr. Fairfax offered his support for efforts to remove a statue of Lee. [...]

Mr. Fairfax, a married father of two, grew up in Washington, D.C., in a neighborhood that he described on his campaign website as having shifted "from a close-knit middle-class community to one ravaged by a growing drug epidemic, increasing violence, and dwindling economic opportunities." He attended Duke University on a scholarship, graduated with a degree in public policy and got a low-level job on Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, compiling briefing books for Mr. Gore's wife, Tipper.

"There was just sort of a dynamism and kind of an ebullience to him," said Bruce Jentleson, a Duke professor who worked in the State Department during Bill Clinton's presidency and who helped Mr. Fairfax get the job on the Gore campaign.

From there, Mr. Fairfax's career moved fast. He graduated in 2005 from Columbia Law School, where he worked on the Law Review, and served as an intern and clerk for a federal judge in Virginia, Gerald Bruce Lee.

Judge Lee, who later officiated at Mr. Fairfax's wedding and administered his oath of office as lieutenant governor, recalled one occasion when he granted a prisoner's handwritten habeas corpus petition because of an advanced legal analysis that Mr. Fairfax had performed as an intern.

"I knew that he wanted to be engaged in impactful work as a lawyer, and I detected early on that he was also interested in public service," said Judge Lee, who is now retired.

Zuberi Williams, who worked as a clerk for Judge Lee alongside Mr. Fairfax, recalled staying up late at night with him talking through legal issues in the case against Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an American citizen who was charged and ultimately convicted of training with Al Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush.

"When you're thrown into the fire like that at age 24, 25," said Mr. Williams, now a state court judge in Maryland, "it's like baptism by fire."

When the clerkship ended, others picked up on Mr. Fairfax's political potential. He worked for a time for John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina and vice-presidential candidate, who described his ex-aide in an email on Saturday as "bright, idealistic and a natural leader." When Mr. Fairfax returned a few years later to work as an assistant federal prosecutor in Virginia, Judge Lee said, some in the courthouse referred to him as "Senator Fairfax."

"If he becomes governor, he'll combine the sunny, inclusive style of President Reagan and the hope and inspiration of President Obama," Neil H. MacBride, the former United States attorney who hired Mr. Fairfax and assigned him to help lead a sex trafficking task force, said in an email on Saturday.

Having been John Edwards's body man in 2004, he's basically already run in a national campaign.
Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Further positive signs of life in Chernobyl: Scavenger activity verifies movement of nutritional resources, study suggests. Nick Carne, 2/03/19, Cosmos)

There's further evidence that wildlife is once again abundant in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) in the Ukraine, three decades after the world's most famous nuclear disaster.

A one-month study by a team from the University of Georgia, US, sighted 10 mammal and five bird species, including the rarely seen Eurasian otter.

Hiroshima has a population of 1.2 million.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Locana, Italy Is Paying Families $10,000 to Move There (MICHELE DEBCZAK, JANUARY 31, 2019, Mental Floss)

Not long after Sambuca, Italy enticed people to move there with $1 houses, a different quaint Italian village is offering an even better deal. People reports that Locana, a town located in the Italian Alps, will pay you $10,300 over three years to move there--but the catch is that you have to have at least one child.

Locana is one of many towns in rural Italy that has seen its population age and decline in recent decades. There are roughly 1500 residents in Locana today compared to the 7000 that lived there a century ago, and with 40 deaths and only 10 births per year, the downward trend isn't stopping.

By paying people, specifically families, to move to town, Locana mayor Giovanni Bruno Mattiet hopes to rebuild the community and renew hope for its future.

The bidding wars will only get more generous.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Venezuela: European Union nations set to recognize opposition leader Guaido as Maduro deadline runs out (Deutsche-Welle, 2/03/19)

The deadline set by seven EU nations for Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro to call new elections is set to run out Sunday. Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium have said they will recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if Maduro fails to announce a second vote before the eight-day ultimatum expires.

France's European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, told LCI television on Sunday that "if by tonight [President] Maduro does not commit to organizing presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaido as legitimate to organize them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place]."

In the absence of W, no one even questions that we have redefined sovereignty to mean compliance with Anglospheric norms of democracy, capitalism and protestantism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


A Hope Beyond Our Sight: a review of The Fall of Gondolin  by J. R. R. Tolkien,  edited by Christopher Tolkien.  (Reviewed by Ben Reinhard, 2/03/19, Kirk Center)

Some of the defects in this early "Tale" are, however, a net benefit for our understanding of Tolkien's legendarium. The comparatively artless composition of the story leaves many seams showing--a disappointment to the aesthetician, maybe, but a treat for the student. It is common knowledge that Tolkien's imagination was formed throughout his career by his academic study and by his Catholic faith, but in his mature works his artistry is often so skillful that its roots are concealed. This is not yet the case in the "Tale," however, and as a result Tolkien's imaginative debts are obvious. So for instance the Lord of the Waters, Ulmo, is in this version heavily indebted to the classical Neptune--complete with an undersea palace, the music of horns, and a ride in a chariot drawn by sea creatures (compare, for instance, Gondolin 45 with Aeneid I.124-56). The debate between Tuor and Turgon on pp. 56-7 owes much--up to and including its chiastic structure--to council scenes from Greek and Roman epic. Most importantly, the fall of Gondolin itself is a transparent re-presentation of the fall of Troy as anticipated in the Iliad and recounted in the Aeneid. The connection between Gondolin and Troy is encouraged, indeed demanded, by the text itself: as the narrator Littleheart says, the fall of Gondolin "was the most dread of all the sacks of cities upon the face of Earth. Nor Bablon, nor Ninwi, nor the towers of Trui ... saw such terror as fell that day" (Gondolin 111).

Once the relationship is recognized, endless similarities can be supplied. Each work (Iliad, Aeneid, the "Tale") gives a hero (Hector, Aeneas, Tuor) who must balance his duty to protect his wife (Andromache, Creusa, Idril) and son (Astyanax, Iulus, Eärendel) with his desire to heroically protect his city; each city has a lord (Priam, Turgon) who refuses divine counsel and stubbornly trusts to the pride of his city; each assault features crashing towers and animals bearing enemy soldiers in their bellies--the Trojan horse for the Aeneid, and orc-bearing dragons for the "Tale" (see Gondolin 69ff). As the city falls, the survivors escape by a secret way to the sea.

For all this, the "Tale" is not a straightforward retelling of the fall of Troy--and the differences give us a valuable glimpse at Tolkien's moral imagination and visionary creativity. So, for instance, the tale of the fall of Troy is dominated by three villains: the liar Sinon, who betrays the Trojans; the brutal warrior Pyrrhus, who slays Priam and takes Andromache as his sex slave; and the amoral and calculating Ulysses, who casts Astyanax from the battlements of Troy. In the "Tale" these three villains coalesce into one--the dark elf Meglin--who betrays Gondolin to Morgoth, attempts to carry off Idril, and intends "to take Eärendel and cast him into the fire beneath the walls" (Gondolin 80). But unlike the classical Hector--or even pius Aeneas--Tuor never wavers in his duty, putting the safety of his family over the prospect of a glorious death in a doomed defense. As a result, the traitor Meglin fares in Gondolin as Ulysses ought to have fared in Troy: the new Hector catches him in the act, and Meglin is thrown from the ramparts himself. His family secured, the new Aeneas leads child and wife safely from the sack of the city to a dim and distant new hope.

The rescue of Eärendel brings us to what is, perhaps, the central animating idea of all of Tolkien's works: the hope "beyond the walls of the world," as "On Fairy Stories" has it. Eärendel is simply Tolkien's most transparent Christ figure. His name and basic character are drawn from an Old English paraphrase of the fifth O Antiphon, and his literary descent is borne out in his role in the Silmarillion. Both man and immortal, he intercedes with the gods to win mercy for his exiled and sinful people; in the apocalyptic War of Wrath, he defeats the great dragon and secures the eucatastrophic victory. Some version of the tale dispense with any typological subtlety whatsoever: in the 1951 version, Eärendel has become "a hope beyond thy sight, and a light that shall pierce the darkness" (Gondolin 166).

The hope embodied in Eärendel marks a significant departure from Tolkien's classical models: for all their differences, both the Iliad and the Aeneid root their hopes, such as they are, firmly in this world. It also introduces the central moral conflict of the story: a distant hope from outside the world can be hard to credit; Turgon and his people prefer, as he says, "to trust to ourselves and our city" (Gondolin 57). The exiles mistake the land of their sojourn for the promised home. The conflict between the great otherworldly hope and its counterfeit in this-worldly satisfaction is the great unifying theme in the tale's development, and remains consistent through the successive versions (see, for instance, Gondolin 77, 124, 133, 138).

The central Anglospheric insight being that humanity is insufficient to the task of perfecting the world and hope lies beyond Man. It's how we managed to avoid every utopianism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


JVP just declared itself anti-Zionist and it's already shifting the conversation (Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man,  January 30, 2019, +972)

In many ways, JVP's decision to declare and formalize its position on Zionism is reflective of the political moment in the United States at large, but also specifically regarding Israel-Palestine. After years in which its supporters took great pains to try and prevent Israel from becoming a divisive, partisan issue, it seems all sides are drawing lines around each other -- and just like a growing number of issues, both sides seem to be embracing those divisions, hardening their positions, and demanding litmus tests of varying degrees from their supporters.

The decision to adopt those lines, however, is not always just about standing on a particular side but also creating space for others to fit within them. While much of the demand to make the change came from within the organization, Vilkomerson says in a telephone interview last week, another part had a lot to do with JVP's Palestinian partners, helping frustrate attempts to label Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic, and making it easier for JVP chapters to enter into explicitly anti-Zionist coalitions.

'There's no doubt some people will leave JVP because of it. I hope it will be very few people and that a lot of people will stay even if they feel uncomfortable with it right now,' says Rebecca Vilkomerson, Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, seen at the organization's offices in Brooklyn on January 23, 2019. (Photo: Kevin Hagen for +972 Magazine)

At least temporarily, the result has been advancing a small shift in the discourse about Zionism. This week, J Street, one of the only other progressive Jewish political outfits on the national scene, came to the defense of JVP and the Workmen's Circle, the organization that was threatened with banishment from the Boston Jewish community over its ties to JVP.

"We reject the contention that Jewish identity itself or inclusion in the organized Jewish community demands support for Israel or Zionism," J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote, while reaffirming that his organization is Zionist and proudly pro-Israel. "We do not accept the contention that all anti-Zionism should be automatically defined as anti-Semitism."

A change is clearly happening in the way that American Jews talk -- and think about -- Israel and its ruling ideology. +972 Magazine spoke with Rebecca Vilkomerson about why and what it means that JVP has declared itself to be "unequivocally opposed" to Zionism, but perhaps more interestingly, the broader political moment for the question of Israel-Palestine. [...]

How do you address that question beyond your supporters?

"Obviously there are people who are anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist and there are people who mask their anti-Semitism with anti-Zionist language. That's a given, but that doesn't paint anti-Zionism as concept."

"Ever since [the advent of] Zionism there has been anti-Zionism within Jewish communities. One of the things we're most interested and excited about talking about is Jewishness beyond Zionism, decoupling Zionism from Jewishness, and exploring what Jewishness is like beyond Zionism."

"The other piece is how important it is for people other than Palestinians [to be] talking about anti-Zionism not being anti-Semitism. When anti-Zionism is defined as anti-Semitism, that means that Palestinians can't speak of their own oppression without being called anti-Semitic, which is obviously an exceptionally damaging and dangerous thing for someone to say. What it does is silence Palestinian voices from being able to talk about their lived experiences. It's really important as part of a broader movement to be able to stake out a position that says thoroughly that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism."

The important thing to recognize is that Zionism is anti-Semitic.

Ilhan Omar Says U.S. Should Call Out Israel Like Iran, 'Chuckles' When Israel 'Upheld as a Democracy' (Haaretz, Feb 03, 2019)

"I want to talk about Israel because it has been a point of contention," Salbi began. "How can America work productively towards a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians in your opinion?"

"By having an equal approach to dealing with both. Most of the things that have been aggravating to me is that we have had a policy that makes one superior to the other," Omar responded. "And we mask it with a conversation about justice and a two-state solution. When you have policies that clearly prioritize one over the other."

When Omar was pushed to clarify, she added, "I mean just our relationship with the Israeli government and the Israeli state. And so when I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it  and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle because I know that if, you know, we [...] see that in any other society we would criticize it."

"We would call it out," Omar continued. "We do that to Iran, to any other place that sort of upholds its religion. And I see that now in Saudi Arabia and so I am aggravated truly in those contradictions."

Forcing the contradictions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


El Salvador votes for new president, with anti-corruption outsider in lead (Nelson Renteria, Noe Torres, 2/03/19, Reuters)

Bukele, who was mayor of San Salvador between 2015 to 2018, has said he wants to create an international anti-corruption commission with the support of the United Nations, following similar schemes in Guatemala and Honduras.

"We'll create a (commission) ... so that the corrupt can't hide where they always hide, instead they'll have to give back what they stole," Bukele said in January.

The country of 6 million people ranked 105 in Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, alongside Brazil, which elected far-right Jair Bolsonaro last year on a similar anti-corruption platform.

Bukele, who slicks back his hair and often sports a backwards baseball cap, has a large social media following, uses Facebook Live for official announcements, and challenges opponents on Twitter.

Growing up, Bukele's relatively wealthy family were sympathetic to the FMLN, the former leftist guerrilla army that became a political party at the end of El Salvador's civil war in 1992.

But Bukele has turned away from Latin America's traditional left, branding Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega as well as conservative Honduran Juan Orlando Hernandez dictators.

"A dictator is a dictator, on the "right" or the "left"," Bukele wrote in a tweet last week.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Judge Orders Pentagon To Stop Discriminating Against Naturalized Citizen Soldiers (Richard Gonzales, 2/02/19, NPR)

A federal judge in Seattle has ordered the Defense Department to stop discriminating against naturalized citizens who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army under a program to attract certain immigrants with specialized skills.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly ruled Thursday that the Pentagon may not require soldiers who are naturalized citizens to undergo "continuous monitoring," or security checks every two years, when such scrutiny is not applied to U.S.-born soldiers.

The plaintiffs are 17 naturalized citizens who enlisted through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. Begun in 2009, the program recruits immigrants with critical foreign language or medical skills in exchange for a fast track to citizenship. More than 10,000 soldiers have served in the U.S. military through the MAVNI program. The program was frozen in 2016 due to security concerns.

The Defense Department "has provided no explanation for engaging in flagrant profiling, i.e., equating MAVNI status with national security risk, rather than justifying on a case-by-case basis the heightened monitoring or screening that the DoD wishes to conduct," Zilly wrote in a 32-page ruling that followed five days of testimony in November 2018.

The willingness of generals to serve Donald was a troubling sign, not a reassuring one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Yes, I'm Rooting for Brady Sunday. Because He's Old. (Matt Lewis, 02.03.17, Daily Beast)

At some point in your life, you will wake up and something horrible will have happened: Every professional athlete in America will be younger than you are. Nobody informs you of this. Nobody asks you about it, but it happens. When it does happen, so goes the pretense--and I'm not suggesting it's anything other than a pretense (although it is a powerful one)--that you could suit up and play, too.

This is a ridiculous conceit, but it's in everyone's interest to perpetuate this myth for as long as possible. At some point, however, it becomes untenable. Eventually, even some of the head coaches are younger than you are. This is a turning point--a rite of passage, of sorts.

That is exactly why I'm rooting for Tom Brady to win his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday. And if you're pushing 40 (and don't live in Atlanta), you should be, too.

At 39 years old, Brady is competing against guys half his age. He was playing football at the University of Michigan during the Bill Clinton administration, for crying out loud. He was scoring touchdowns while Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

If he can continue performing (and, let's be honest, all he does is win--just like his friend Donald Trump), then I can surely compete against those kids at BuzzFeed. Not to make too big a deal out of this, but at the end of the day, Brady's success is really all about our own mortality. As long as he keeps scoring, we keep living--we get at least one more season.

Is it time for an 88-year-old manager? Jack McKeon is ready if baseball is (Jayson Stark, Feb 1, 2019, The Athletic)

In case you missed it, the Washington Nationals hired one of those energetic, whiz-kid front-office guys the other day. Some kid named Jack McKeon.

That makes him the first 88-year-old front-office whiz kid ever, best we can tell.

"I don't look at myself as old," the distinguished whiz kid himself told us, when we tracked him down at an Atlantic City slot-machine emporium. "Heck, sometimes we'll go out to eat and I'll say to my wife, 'Look at that old guy.' And she'll say, 'You're older than he is.'"

Oh, technically maybe. But age, the whiz kid says, "is just a number." Nevertheless, nobody we've surveyed can remember any team hiring an 88-year-old executive in this or any sport.

But you should know that front-office history isn't the only kind of history Jack McKeon would be interested in making. Just when you thought everything that could possibly happen in baseball has already happened, here's a thing that has never, ever happened:

An 88-year-old manager. That's what.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Taxing the Wealthy Sounds Easy. It's Not. (Paul Sullivan, Feb. 1, 2019, NY Times)

A third issue is logistical. A wealth tax would be like an estate tax levied every year. Figuring out the tax owed on large estates is complicated, costly and time-consuming. The Internal Revenue Service gives estates a year to file a return, but even then, executors often have to file extensions. And on the other end, auditors go through the returns, which can take years before an estate is settled.

The process requires not just lawyers and accountants but valuation experts who assess the worth of assets like closely held family businesses.

"It would be a highly cumbersome tax return to prepare on an annual basis," said Jeff Moes, executive vice president and chief fiduciary officer at FineMark National Bank & Trust, which serves high-net-worth clients. "Every federal estate tax goes through an audit, and presumably this would go through an audit as well. They'd have to figure out if the valuation methodology is correct."

"A billionaire would have a return that would be literally three feet high," he added. "Our $100 million clients own multiple closely held businesses. All of them would require an expert valuation and five-year financials."

And then the government would need to have enough auditors to verify everything that was submitted. In 2018, for example, an estimated 4,000 estate tax returns will be filed, with tax owed on 1,900 of them. That's a tenth the number of tax returns that would be filed under Ms. Warren's wealth tax plan.

Tax the wealth when we consume it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


'Willful Ignorance.' Inside President Trump's Troubled Intelligence Briefings (JOHN WALCOTT, February 2, 2019, TIME)

Citing multiple in-person episodes, these intelligence officials say Trump displays what one called "willful ignorance" when presented with analyses generated by America's $81 billion-a-year intelligence services. The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trump's briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible.

What is most troubling, say these officials and others in government and on Capitol Hill who have been briefed on the episodes, are Trump's angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts positions he has taken or beliefs he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.

In fairness, a president would be better served by consuming open sources than by secret bureaucratic briefings.  Unfortunately, Donalds maintains a wall of ignorance from journalism as well.

February 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM


Joe Biden embraced segregation in 1975, claiming it was a matter of 'black pride' (Alana Goodman, January 31, 2019, Washington Examiner)

[4]4 years ago, facing a backlash against busing from white voters, the future vice president voiced concerns not just about the policy of busing, which he had supported when first seeking election in 1972, but about the impact of desegregation on American society. He argued that segregation was good for blacks and was what they wanted.

"I think the concept of busing ... that we are going to integrate people so that they all have the same access and they learn to grow up with one another and all the rest, is a rejection of the whole movement of black pride," said Biden. Desegregation, he argued, was "a rejection of the entire black awareness concept, where black is beautiful, black culture should be studied; and the cultural awareness of the importance of their own identity, their own individuality."

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Naturalized citizens suing over Texas voter citizenship review, calling it conspiracy to single out foreign-born Texans (ALEXA URA, FEB. 2, 2019, Texas Tribune)

A group of Latino voters is suing top state officials who they allege unlawfully conspired to violate their constitutional rights by singling them out for investigation and removal from the voter rolls because they are foreign-born.

Filed in a Corpus Christi-based federal court on Friday night, the suit alleges that the decision by state officials to advise counties to review the citizenship status of tens of thousands of registered voters it flagged using flawed data runs contrary to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act because it imposes additional requirements to register to vote on naturalized citizens.

Joined in the suit by several organizations that advocate for Latinos in Texas, the seven voters suing the state all obtained their driver's license before becoming naturalized citizens and subsequently registered to vote.

Their lawsuit -- which names Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas secretary of state David Whitley, attorney general Ken Paxton and one local official as defendants -- asks the court to halt the state's review and block officials from taking any action against them based on their national origin. It also asks Whitley to refrain from targeting new citizens for voter purges and to withdraw his current list "unless and until it acquires information that the voters are currently ineligible to vote."

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


In the Pale of Winter, Trump's Tan Remains a State Secret (Katie Rogers, Feb. 2, 2019, Washington Post)

Certainly Mr. Trump, who has long taken antibiotics to treat rosacea, a condition that can make the skin appear rosy and ruddy, is attentive to how he looks on television. He has complained that his skin and hair appear too yellow or orange on the screen, according to one person familiar with his views.

As a result, events in the White House are now more dimly lit than in previous administrations.

Posted by orrinj at 10:43 AM


Howard Schultz Derangement Syndrome (Bret Stephens, Feb. 1, 2019, NY Times)

Schultz's politics are to the left of mine, but I would vote for someone like him in a heartbeat if the other names on the ballot are Trump and, say, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Isn't candidate diversity supposed to be something liberals believe in?

I'm not alone. Tens of millions of Americans were defined as the "Exhausted Majority" by last year's pathbreaking "Hidden Tribes" report from the More In Common research group. It found that two-thirds of Americans are neither conservatives nor progressives. They are moderates, liberals and the disengaged, defined by their ideological flexibility, support for compromise, fatigue with the political debate -- and the sense that they're being ignored and forgotten.

"America's Exhausted Majority wants to see the opposing tribes move beyond constant conflict," the report notes. "Many who have disengaged from politics (especially in the Passive Liberal and Politically Disengaged groups) cite the tribal behavior of political combatants as a reason."

An independent candidacy like Schultz's exists to appeal to this silent majority. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:27 AM


Gantz and Lapid in talks to unite, decision 'within 2 weeks,' says Yesh Atid MK (Times of Israel, 2/02/19)

A leading member of the centrist opposition party, Yesh Atid, said Saturday his party was holding talks with Benny Gantz's Israel Resilience party on the possibility of joining forces in the April 9 election. [...]

Gantz formally launched his Israel Resilience party's election campaign last Tuesday, when he also announced an electoral alliance with fellow former IDF chief and ex-Likud defense minister Moshe Ya'alon.

Polls released the day after showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud leading with around 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, followed by Israel Resilience with 21-24 seats. One survey indicated Gantz was polling neck-and-neck with Netanyahu as the public's preferred choice of prime minister.

That same poll also said Gantz could defeat Netanyahu if he led an alliance with Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid -- with 35 seats to Likud's 30 --  though Lapid has not indicated he would be willing to be second in such a tie-up.

Also on Saturday, a lawmaker from Likud said the party had made a mistake in going after Gantz.

Posted by orrinj at 10:25 AM


David Axelrod on Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and the 2020 Field (Isaac Chotiner, 2/02/19, The New Yorker)

Trump is at around thirty-nine per cent in the polls. That's all adults. When you make that registered voters or likely voters, it's probably forty-three per cent or so. We know he may only need to get forty-six, forty-seven per cent to win, thanks to the Electoral College. Given that he's just had a horrific couple months, it doesn't seem to me like he's actually that far off from once again stitching together a winning coalition.

I think it's hard for him. He drew an inside straight in the last [Presidential] election and squeaked through in the upper Midwest, which showed real resistance to him in the midterm elections. If he were to lose Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all of which had strong Democratic showings in 2018, he would lose the Presidency, and there's not one state I can think of that Trump could add. [...]

Are you worried about Democrats possibly moving too far left on cultural or economic issues?

I think that what is most important is to not send the signals that were sent in 2016, which is, "We've got young people, we've got minorities, we've got women, so, you white working-class guys, we don't really need you." They believed it. They voted for Trump. And that is something that you can affect at the margins by addressing your message broadly, and I think Democrats should do that.

I think the country as a whole is restless on the issue of health care, whether it's Medicare-for-all or some other prescription, as it were. I think people are eager for another round of health-care reform. I do think people think that there's something wrong with our system right now, with this tremendous aggregation of wealth at the top while the majority of people are pedalling faster and faster to keep up. So I don't think those issues are particularly radical. How you address them is another question.

What's your biggest fear about how they're addressed politically?

I don't have that much of a concern. I mean, obviously, Democrats made big gains in the suburbs. One could make the argument that talk of a wealth tax or taxing people who make more than ten million dollars a year and so on is somehow radical. I don't think most Americans, broadly, feel that way. So, on the economic issues, I have less concerns.

We are a very diverse country, culturally, and how you approach those issues is important. I think about what made Beto O'Rourke, for example, a successful candidate in Texas. He had a progressive platform. But the thing that made him successful, to the extent he was successful there, was this sense that he was going out, he was having honest dialogue with people, he was listening to them, he was respectful of who they were, he was trying to work through some of these issues. And I think that's the tone that the Democrats should set.

Posted by orrinj at 10:19 AM


Russia Is Attacking the U.S. System From Within: A new filing by Special Counsel Robert Mueller shows how Russia uses the federal courts to go after its adversaries. (NATASHA BERTRAND, 2/01/19, The Atlantic)

According to the filing, the special counsel's office turned over one million pages of evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting as part of the discovery process. The firm is accused of funding the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency. But someone connected to Concord allegedly manipulated and leaked those documents to reporters, hoping the documents would make people think that Mueller's evidence against the troll farm and its owners was flimsy. The tactic didn't seem to convince anyone, but it appeared to mark yet another example of Russia exploiting the U.S. justice system to undercut its rivals abroad.

Last year, I detailed how Russia has figured out how to use the U.S. immigration courts and so-called "Red Notices" issued by Interpol to harrass and even detain its enemies. But it doesn't end there. Experts say Kremlin proxies have targeted their rivals and other disfavored individuals by exploiting U.S. courts to pursue bogus claims via "superficially legitimate lawsuits," Anders Aslund, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said in a recent report. He worked as an economic adviser to the Russian government from 1991 to 1994. The Kremlin proxies have done so not only to perpetuate global harassment campaigns against their perceived enemies, Anders argued, but also to "enrich themselves through bad faith claims made possible by the Russian state's abuse of disfavored individuals and their businesses."  

When Mueller indicted Concord Management and Consulting in February 2018, along with two other corporate entities and 13 Russian nationals allegedly connected to the Internet Research Agency, it seemed highly unlikely that the indictment would result in a trial because Russians cannot be extradited to the United States. But Concord unexpectedly hired the well-connected American law firm, Reed Smith, to fight Mueller, arguing that the charges should be dropped because the special counsel was illegally appointed. The judge in the case, Dabney Friedrich, has twice refused to dismiss the case and recently lambasted Concord's American  lawyers for submitting "unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective" court filings, and the legal battle has raged on.

Now, according to the Mueller filing this week, unidentified actors working out of Russia appear to have weaponize the U.S. discovery process to Concord's benefit. 

Note that the Concord case has been a main Trumpbot talking point as they were used to supply information to Vlad, exactly as Devin Nunes was. It's just one way in which the Right is objectively pro-Putin.

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


The $300 Million Paydays Eluding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (Brandon Kochkodin, February 1, 2019, Bloomberg)

[U]nlike in the free-wheeling days of A-Rod, the Moneyball principles made famous by Billy Beane's Oakland Athletics have taken over the game. The theoretical value of huge talents like Harper and Machado -- who hit a combined 359 home runs over the past seven seasons -- are determined by stats fed through algorithms in the front office.

Those algos are often similar, leading most teams to come to a like-minded valuation of every player, wrenching all life from the free agent market.

"I wonder if the front offices have finally figured out that they have for years systematically overpaid older free agents, and that the money is better spent on piles of younger ones, who they don't have to pay much," Michael Lewis, whose book "Moneyball" traced the evolution of baseball analytics, said in an email.

While not giving money to older free agents makes perfect sense in the post-PED era, not giving it to these young guys makes less.  Machado's best comp is Adrian Beltre and, if you measure by WAR (wins above replacement player) with each WAR currently costing under $8 million, even a $300 million contract only needs to buy you 37.5 wins, which Beltre basically did in just his next 7 years at the same stage of his career.   Of course, Beltre was a world-class teammate and clubs are reportedly less interested in signing Manny after meeting with him....
Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


The keys to the brilliant Brady-Belichick partnership can be found in the Patriots' Wednesday morning meetings (Michael Lombardi Feb 1, 2019, The Athletic)

Former Knicks coach and current ESPN announcer Jeff Van Gundy has a quote that perfectly describes Tom Brady: "Your best player has to set a tone of intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning." Brady sets that tone. He has been the best player on the Patriots since 2001, and his eagerness to always put the team first, his willingness to work the hardest, prepare the longest and, most of all, never find satisfaction in any individual honor or single Super Bowl victory sets him apart from most great players. Both Brady and Belichick have an insatiable appetite for winning and share the philosophy that legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi displayed when he said: "The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more." The drive to always do more regardless of what they've already achieved is the secret sauce to Brady and Belichick's success.

Many NFL fans believe that without Brady under center for all these years, Belichick would be an average coach. That is misguided. Of course Brady is hugely responsible for the success of the Patriots, but no player can dominate any sport without the supporting cast, the right scheme, the right coaches and, most of all, the right culture that the coach sets. Just ask Lakers star LeBron James or any frustrated Packers fans who have watched two of the greatest quarterbacks of our generation, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, and yet have only seen two Super Bowl victories between them. Part of what makes Brady so great is his willingness to develop and accept Belichick's culture. The partnership of Brady and Belichick makes the team strong; it makes the organization consistent and allows the culture to nourish.

In those 8 a.m. team meetings, Brady is not immune from being criticized. Belichick shows no favoritism when making his point. The coach is chasing perfection. And since Brady is often the driving force toward that perfection, he will make mistakes and then deal with Belichick's mild-mannered but harsh assessment. Never raising his voice, Belichick is evident with his analysis. And by being able to disparage Brady, he gains the attention of the other players. There were so many times when I've overheard a new player leaving his first team meeting express to a new teammate: "Man. If he gets on Brady, no one is safe."

No matter how well Brady plays on the field, no matter how many touchdown passes he throws or comeback drives he leads, allowing Belichick to coach him hard is his most beautiful trait and one that has allowed the Patriots' dynasty to continue.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


The President Said No Site Was Picked For Trump Moscow -- But Documents Show His Fixers Were Scoping A Prime Location (Emma Loop, 2/01/19, BuzzFeed News)

 President Donald Trump said Thursday that his company had not selected a location to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 presidential election.

"That deal was not important. It was essentially a letter of intent or an option. I'm not even sure that they had a site," Trump told the New York Times in a wide-ranging interview, excerpts of which the paper published online.

"I don't think they had a location," he said later in the interview. "I'm not even sure if they had a location."

In fact, hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans obtained by BuzzFeed News show that the Trump Organization was scoping at least one prime location for the luxury glass skyscraper. The signed letter of intent includes a proposal to build the tower in Moscow City, a former industrial complex near the edge of the Moscow River that has since been converted into an ambitious commercial district clustered with several of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


One Of The Biggest At-Home DNA Testing Companies Is Working With The FBI (Salvador Hernandez, 1/31/19, BuzzFeed News)

Family Tree DNA, one of the largest private genetic testing companies whose home-testing kits enable people to trace their ancestry and locate relatives, is working with the FBI and allowing agents to search its vast genealogy database in an effort to solve violent crime cases, BuzzFeed News has learned.

Federal and local law enforcement have used public genealogy databases for more than two years to solve cold cases, including the landmark capture of the suspected Golden State Killer, but the cooperation with Family Tree DNA and the FBI marks the first time a private firm has agreed to voluntarily allow law enforcement access to its database.

While the FBI does not have the ability to freely browse genetic profiles in the library, the move is sure to raise privacy concerns about law enforcement gaining the ability to look for DNA matches, or more likely, relatives linked by uploaded user data.

For law enforcement officials, the access could be the key to unlocking murders and rapes that have gone cold for years, opening up what many argue is the greatest investigative tactic since the advent of DNA identification. For privacy advocates, the FBI's new ability to match the genetic profiles from a private company could set a dangerous precedent in a world where DNA test kits have become as common as a Christmas stocking stuffer.

The Houston-based company, which touts itself as a pioneer in the genetic testing industry and the first to offer a direct-to-consumer test kit, disclosed its relationship with the FBI to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, saying in a statement that allowing access "would help law enforcement agencies solve violent crimes faster than ever."

People should be paid to provide their DNA, perhaps via a tax rebate with the feds then making the data universally available.

Bear Brook Podcast (NHPR)


IT WAS THE last Saturday of June and CeCe Moore had been working on her couch, hunched over her laptop for 16 hours straight. The month before, the genetic genealogist had been hired by a forensic DNA company in Virginia called Parabon, to lead its new division devoted to long-range familial searching. She was immersed in a case out of Fort Wayne, Indiana; In the spring of 1998, eight-year-old April Tinsley went missing from her home. Three days later, a jogger discovered her body in a ditch on DeKalb County Road 68, about 20 miles outside of town. She had been raped and strangled to death.

For years, Tinsley's killer haunted that northeastern corner of Indiana, leaving messages scrawled on a barn bragging of his crime. In 2004, four threatening notes appeared on bicycles owned by young girls that had been left in their yards. The notes, which were claimed to be written by the same person that killed Tinsley, were placed inside baggies alongside used condoms. The semen matched DNA found in Tinsley's underwear.

This summer, Indiana investigators extracted DNA from the original crime scene and sent it to Parabon. There, the company reverse-engineered the information into a DNA data profile similar to what you would get back from consumer genetics companies like 23andMe or Ancestry. Then they uploaded it to GEDMatch and waited for a match. They got 12. Twelve relatives, ranging from fifth to third cousins.

So that's where Moore started, that weekend in June. The cousins represented four different family trees containing thousands of people, all of which somehow had to tie into the Fort Wayne killer. The first thing she did was work backward in time to locate ancestors from whom the suspect and the 12 matches were both descended. Eventually she found four couples, born between 1809 and 1849. Once she had them, she could move forward in history, building out family trees of every generation until the present. She did this by tracking names and faces through census records, newspaper archives, school yearbooks, and social media.

By the time night fell over her home in San Diego, she had begun to close in on a single branch, into which the four genetic tributaries all ran. From there things moved quickly. As the clock ticked past midnight, she found the relatives that had struck out for Indiana. It didn't take much longer to circle in on two brothers who lived in the area where Tinsley was murdered. Full siblings are as close as genetic genealogy can get. But Moore had a hunch. One brother struck her as a recluse; he had no wife or kids, he lived in a trailer, there were no pictures of him anywhere, and his family never mentioned him on Facebook.

Moore laid this all out for the Indiana investigators. A few days later they came back to her with a photo of one of the two brothers, with a hand-written note underneath. She gasped. "I thought it was him, but I wasn't sure until I saw his writing," Moore says. "It was the same as those notes and that barn."

Indiana authorities staked out the trailer the first week of July and collected a piece of trash with the suspect's DNA on it. Lab tests confirmed that the DNA recovered from the condoms in 2004, and the crime scene in 1988, belonged to the same man: 59-year-old John Dale Miller. Police arrested him July 15th. According to local reports, when the police asked him why they were at his home, Miller replied, "April Tinsley." On Friday, December 7, Miller pled guilty in the Allen County Courthouse to murder and child molestation, as part of a plea agreement. On December 21, a judge sentenced him to 80 years in prison.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


In the Future, Senior Citizens Will Play Video Games All Day: How gaming could help treat many of the worst symptoms of old age (Jack Crosbie, Jan 31, 2019, Medium)

Super Mario 64 is not an easy game to navigate. In it, the player works through a labyrinth of different levels accessed through portal-paintings in a central hub of Peach's castle. Its mechanics and layout are complex enough that groups of players have spent years competing with one another to find the quickest way through the game's mazes and challenges. To beat it, players have to use their spatial memory to remember how to navigate through the game's stages levels.

What they found was that people in the groups that played Super Mario 64, in both studies, had an increase in grey matter in their hippocampus. The results, West was careful to point out, don't mean that Super Mario 64 is a cure for Alzheimer's but rather that there's a realistic chance that playing games that test our spatial memory could help preserve or even restore grey matter in healthy adults as they age, helping cut down their risks of neurological decay later in life, something he calls a "cognitive intervention."

"At this point, we simply have a proof of concept," West said. "We don't really have the data to show that this is the case yet." [...]

In clinical settings, advances in video game technology could also make researching and applying these techniques much easier. Roger Anguera is the director of interactive media at Neuroscape, a neuroscience center at the University of California, San Francisco, that focuses on using "cutting edge technologies" to assess people's brains. Anguera's specialty is virtual reality, which is widely seen as the future of video games. One of the most practical applications of VR, Anguera says, is in simulations and games that precisely target and train the parts of the brain that West's Super Mario 64 studies focused on. In one simulator, Anguera uses VR and motion-tracking to create an immersive VR "neighborhood" that patients can walk around in and observe. The subject is given 10 minutes to explore the neighborhood, taking note of landmarks and "errand" locations, like a coffee shop or post office. Then, Anguera spawns their digital avatar in a different location and asks them to complete a task, like picking up a coffee or delivering a letter, and then tracks how efficient their path is around the environment, adjusting the complexity of assignments and neighborhoods to test the subject's recollection.

"The game will constantly adapt its difficulty to how well you're doing, so that it's always pushing you," Anguera said, but unlike Super Mario 64, it allows researchers to control every variable and tailor the subject's experiences, keeping them challenged but not overtaxed in order to improve the brain's plasticity and vigor. Neuroscape works with patients and participants of all ages, but the core idea behind its therapies could have dramatic effects on how we deal with age. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Neuroscape's founder and executive director, said that he sees interactive experiences like Anguera's closed-loop, adaptable video games as a way to change our brains for the better without relying on molecular-based therapies like drugs.

"We think it's going to be an entirely new type of medicine," Gazzaley said. Experiential treatments, he said, are ideally preventative care rather than cures but, if applied correctly as we age, could drastically increase our quality of life.

"All of it is on the table as far as I'm concerned," Gazzaley said. "Depression, dementia, the host of cognitive impairments that are associated with aging as well as the other factors of purpose and loneliness also have potential for solutions with this approach."

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Russia's propaganda machine discovers 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard (Robert Windrem and Ben Popken, 2/02/19, NBC News)

The Russian propaganda machine that tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election is now promoting the presidential aspirations of a controversial Hawaii Democrat who earlier this month declared her intention to run for president in 2020.

An NBC News analysis of the main English-language news sites employed by Russia in its 2016 election meddling shows Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is set to make her formal announcement Saturday, has become a favorite of the sites Moscow used when it interfered in 2016.

All Nationalists are the same. Which is why you only hear the Right defending her.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


If you're still working for Trump, his stink won't ever wash off (Rick Wilson, February 1, 2019, Washington Post)

There was a window of time during which giving Trump a chance was justifiable out of a sense of duty to country. You might have been vindicated for doing so if Trump had surprised us all and made good on his boast that, "with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office." But that window closed. You had ample opportunity to see, up close, the capriciousness, vainglory and allergic reaction to facts that the rest of us saw from afar. If you're just now disavowing Trump, or explaining away your support for him, don't bother. You own it. Leaving 2016 to 2019 blank on your LinkedIn page won't save you from disgrace.

Nothing so becomes Donald's opponents as their charitableness about the raison d'etre for supporting him.

Ann Coulter: 'Lunatic' Trump could be challenged in 2020 -- from the right (Michael Isikoff, February 1, 2019, Yahoo! News)

Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter called President Trump "lazy and incompetent" and a "lunatic" and warned that he could face a Republican primary challenger from the right if he doesn't fulfill his promise to build a wall across the Mexican border.

"We put this lunatic in the White House for one reason," said Coulter in an interview on the Yahoo News podcast Skullduggery.

Coulter even suggested a possible "terrific" primary challenger to the president -- Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.,  who recently charged that Democratic leaders in Congress have "American blood" on their hands for refusing to fund the wall.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Marshall, the Dartmouth College Case, and Originalism (CARSON HOLLOWAY, 1/31/19, Law & Liberty)

Long before Bork or Meese appeared, John Marshall sought the original meaning of the Constitution. Not only that, his quest, as recorded in his opinion for the Court written back in 1819, prefigures the intellectual development of originalism two centuries later. That is, Marshall began with an examination of the intentions of the authors of the Contracts Clause, but then dispensed with that inquiry in favor of a more justifiable quest for the original public meaning of that clause.

Those who defended what the state of New Hampshire had done held that Dartmouth's charter should not be understood as a contract within the meaning of the Constitution's provision forbidding state laws that "impair the obligation of contracts." In support of their view, they appealed to the intentions of "the Framers of the Constitution." When the Contracts Clause was written, they contended, its authors were not thinking about institutions like Dartmouth College or the corporate charters by which such institutions are created. Rather, the Framers were responding to a specific abuse that had arisen, in the various states, in the period following the Revolution. State legislatures were attacking the rights of property by passing laws that diminished, or even cancelled outright, what debtors owed to their creditors.

Thus the Contracts Clause, as Marshall summarized this argument, "must be understood as intended to guard against" only such abuses, and application of the clause  "ought to be confined to cases of this description; to cases within the mischief" that "it was intended to remedy."

Although Marshall's opinion recounted this argument, he and the other members of the Court were not persuaded by it. Marshall admitted that those who argued this way were probably correct in their presentation of the Framers' intentions. "It is more than possible," he wrote, that the protection of corporate charters like the one at issue in the Dartmouth case "was not particularly in the view of the framers of the Constitution, when the clause under consideration was introduced into that instrument." It was even "probable," he conceded, that other, more frequent kinds of interference with contracts "constituted the great motive for imposing this restriction on the state legislatures."

Nevertheless, Marshall continued, those who sought the intentions of the Framers were not asking the most important question. The key consideration, he suggested, was the words of the Constitution itself, understood according to their ordinary meaning. While "a particular and a rare case may not, in itself, be of sufficient magnitude to induce a rule, yet it must be governed by the rule, when established, unless some strong reason for excluding it can be given." Put another way: "The case being within the words of the rule, must be within its operation likewise, unless there be something in the literal construction so obviously absurd, or mischievous, or repugnant to the general spirit of the instrument, as to justify those who expound the Constitution in making it an exception."

This is to say that, for Marshall and for the Court, the immediate intentions of the Framers of the Constitution mattered less than the original meaning of the words they chose to employ in writing the document's particular provisions. And, Marshall added, those words clearly embraced and therefore protected Dartmouth's charter of incorporation. For a lawyer, he suggested, it was so obvious as to "require no argument to prove" that a corporate charter is a kind of contract. Moreover, Marshall noted, in being guided by the original meaning of the words used in the Constitution, the Court was simply following "the ordinary rules of construction."

...words have meaning.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Islam, Blasphemy, and the East-West Divide (MUSTAFA AKYOL, 2/01/19, Law & Liberty)

The reformist argument has a two key components. The first and the most important is to go back to the most fundamental source of Islam, the Qur'an. Much of what later became established as Islamic law is absent from the Qur'an, and that is true for earthly punishments for blasphemy (or apostasy) as well. The Qur'an, on the contrary,  has verses that command peaceful responses to blasphemy such as refusing to "sit together" with those who "ridicule [God's] revelations" (as, again, I have explained elsewhere).

The second component of reform is to revisit the Sunna--the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that is written down in "hadith" collections, or sayings, that were canonized almost two centuries after the Prophet's death in 632 AD. These hadith collections, on which much of the Sharia is based, do include stories of the Prophet Muhammad's ordering the execution of some blasphemers during the formative years of Islam. In particular, the story of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, a Jewish poet in Medina, whose execution by Muslims is narrated in the most authoritative hadith collection, has been taken by jurists as a precedent to execute blasphemers.

The reformist argument here is to reason that Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf was not killed for insulting the Prophet or Islam, but rather for "inciting people to go to war [against Muslims]," as Ismail Royer notes in an important article that criticizes Pakistan's blasphemy laws from an Islamic perspective. Royer refers to traditional Hanafi scholars who had a more liberal take on the matter, including the 15th century jurist Badr al-Din al-Ayni, who insisted that Ka'b and a few other like him "were not killed merely for their insults [of the Prophet], but rather it was surely because they aided [the enemy] against him, and joined with those who fought wars against him."

There is another kind of reformist argument as well, which is called "historicism." It suggests that whatever one may find in the Qur'an or the prophetic tradition in terms of jurisprudence constitutes a body of historical  facts that are bounded by their context, and are not necessarily normative for all Muslims at all times. The fact that the Qur'an legislates slavery, for example, doesn't mean that slavery is a justified institution. One of the pioneers of this "historicist" reading of the Qur'an and the broader Islamic tradition was the Pakistani-born scholar Fazlur Rahman Malik (1919-1988), who spent his later life in the United States, teaching at the University of Chicago. Today there are "Fazlur Rahmanist" theologians in Turkey, Indonesia, and elsewhere who are trying to advance his approach.

Such reformist arguments can be heard all over the Muslim world--along with the conservative reactions to them. Comparatively speaking, the Muslim world, on average, is at the very same period when John Locke wrote A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) or John Stuart Mill wrote On Liberty (1859). There are liberals pushing for change, in other words, against conservatives who think the heretics and the infidels must be punished and all subversive ideas must be banned.

There is no straight path along which this reform may proceed, given that Islam, unlike Catholicism, has no central authority that can change the religious doctrine of its 1.5 billion followers. In this sense it is more like Protestantism, where authority is diffused into countless numbers of national institutions, traditional centers of learning, charismatic leaders, televangelists, modern theologians, moderates, radicals, and many perplexed individuals.

Progress--towards liberalism--may take place only as more and more Muslims find reformist arguments convincing. And that can take place only as more and more Muslims feel themselves at home in the modern world, rather than being "otherized" by that world--let alone being threatened, invaded, or bombed by it.

On blasphemy, in particular, Muslims will come to accept liberal norms when they understand that they are not helping their religion by meeting criticism, or even mockery, with violence and fury. They are only proving to be immature, and are only provoking more insults against the faith.

This may be hard to understand for the militant Islamists in the slums of Pakistan, but Muslims living in the West seem to be finally getting how things work here. This was evident in the remarkably mild stance that Dutch Muslims took when Wilders tried to organize his "Muhammad Cartoon Contest" in Holland. Anger waxed in Pakistan, but not in the streets of Dutch cities or towns, as the Guardian reported. "It's easy to spread hate," said one Dutch Muslim, Usman Firdausi, "but the best response is dignity."

Dignity, indeed, is the right response to the Muhammad cartoons or The Satanic Verses. And 30 years after the Ayatollah's death fatwa, not all Muslims but at least some Muslims seem to be getting this right.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


Only Democrats can save this president (George F. Will, February 1, 2019, Washington Post)

For the separation of powers to function properly, producing constitutional equilibrium, there must be rivalry between the legislative and executive branches. As James Madison said, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place." Or, today, the interest of the woman.

Greg Weiner, author of the best book about Madison's thought ("Madison's Metronome"), rightly celebrates the way the 35-day government shutdown ended: The House "stared down the presidency and won." In losing, Donald Trump behaved (reluctantly) as a president should, as "a constitutional actor subservient in policymaking matters to the will of Congress." Pelosi "acted like a speaker of the House laying a claim to primacy in policymaking." Says Weiner, "This was institutional hardball between branches not just with respect to policy but, more important, with respect to authority. Madisonians should rejoice." [...]

Jeffries understands intra-branch rivalry: Much that this Democratic-controlled House will send to the Republican-controlled Senate will be euthanized there. But the Democratic Party will thereby define itself and its opponent regarding such matters as curbing health-care costs, particularly (this was the most surprisingly salient issue of the 2018 elections) the cost of prescription drugs, by using the government's bulk-purchasing power. Furthermore, having participated in last year's bipartisan criminal-justice reform, Jeffries thinks a big bipartisan infrastructure measure is possible.

His district is five miles from that of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the left's enfant terrible du jour, who provides sophomores of all ages with daily frissons from socialist daring ("We [millennials] never experienced, really, a time of true economic prosperity in the United States"; zero carbon emissions in 12 years). For her, politics is performance art; for Jeffries, it is a continuation of his life of adult seriousness.

After New York University Law School, Jeffries spent seven years at a premier law firm (Paul, Weiss), then was at Viacom and CBS, then spent six years in New York's state legislature. Last week, while he was enjoying an almost abstemious breakfast (yogurt and cereal with berries, but also bacon), the morning paper was reporting Sen. Kamala D. Harris's (D-Calif.) intriguing plan to win the presidency while promising to take away 177 million Americans' private health insurance. That morning's paper also reported that 56 percent of Americans -- including majorities of women, Hispanics, blacks, urban residents, suburban residents, those under 65, college-educated whites -- say they will "definitely not" vote to reelect the incumbent president.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


How Republicans Erased Trumpism (Matthew Glassman, Feb. 1, 2019, NY Times)

Political power is not simply the ability to influence the positions citizens or lawmakers take on issues, but also the ability to control what issues are discussed and voted on.

Throughout the last Congress, Republican leaders simply declined to take up legislation that reflected the priority of the president but not their own. There were no votes on immigration restrictions or funding for a border wall, protectionist trade legislation or infrastructure.

The Trump budget proposals for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years requested deep cuts in nondefense discretionary spending. Congressional Republicans quietly buried them and delivered bills both years that increased nondefense spending.

Such "negative" agenda-setting leaves little trace; without a vote, it becomes difficult for opponents or voters to identify or understand what happened. President Trump's priorities weren't voted down in the House or the Senate; they were just never considered.

Agenda-setting also provides congressional leaders "positive" power to set legislative priorities. Mr. Trump has famously shown little interest in the details of policy, and Republican leaders in Washington easily convinced him to accept as his priorities the party's orthodox issues of Affordable Care Act repeal and tax cuts during his first year in office.

By setting the agenda and having the president sign on, Republican legislators controlled policy while sharing the position of the president. When Republicans held a White House celebration after passing tax legislation, Mr. Trump claimed credit, and legislators publicly praised the "Trump" tax bill, and the president himself.

This trade-off, in which orthodox Republicans get policy control and Mr. Trump gets the glory, is also apparent in the nominations of judges and executive branch officials. The president was quite successful in having judicial nominees confirmed. But virtually all of his confirmed judges have been standard conservatives; likewise, his successful executive branch appointments much more reflect Republican priorities than his own.

By privately influencing Mr. Trump to nominate people who reflect Republican priorities, congressional leaders not only win substantively, but the president gets to show off a perfect record of confirmations on the Senate floor, and a high rate of Republican support for his nominees.

Despite this, Mr. Trump has had an unusually large number of nominees rejected by the Senate, many of whom were put forth without previous input from congressional leaders. 

At Donald's presidential Museum, the pee tape may be the only evidence that he existed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Belarusian model: I gave info on Trump to Russian tycoon (NATALIYA VASILYEVA, 1 February 2019, AP)

Vashukevich, 28, told the AP in an interview Friday that, contrary to earlier reports that she had destroyed the recordings, she had given them to Deripaska because it "relates to him" and that she "did not want any more trouble."

Vashukevich rose to prominence in February last year when Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny published an investigation detailing dealings between Deripaska and Sergei Prikhodko, then-Russian deputy prime minister who played a prominent role in shaping Russia's foreign policy.

Navalny drew on Vashukevich's video from summer 2016 when Deripaska was hosting Prikhodko on his yacht and was caught on tape saying that relations between Russia and the US were bad because of then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

Deripaska is close to Putin and also had a working relationship with Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager. Manafort was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the probe into the 2016 election and was convicted last year of tax and bank fraud. [...]

Vashukevich later told reporters outside a Thai courtroom that she had promised Deripaska not to speak about the US election interference anymore.

Vashukevich and Kirillov were briefly detained upon their arrival in Moscow late last month on suspicion of soliciting sex in Russia but were promptly released.

When pressed Friday by the AP about her previous claims, Vashukevich said she had emailed "everything I had" to Deripaska and dodged a question of whether she kept a copy for herself.

"Oleg (Deripaska) has it all. If he wants to make any of it public, if he thinks that it's a good idea, he can do it himself," she said. [...]

Russian publications The Bell and Proyekt last year pointed to another high-profile visitor who Vashukevich caught on tape spending time with Deripaska.

One video posted on her YouTube account showed a meeting between Deripaska and Adam Waldman, a US lobbyist who has been working for Deripaska and who has had repeated meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The reported January 2017 meeting was several days before Waldman's visit to Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Trump lifts sanctions on firms linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (Reuters, 27 Jan 2019)

The Trump administration has lifted sanctions on three companies, including the aluminum giant Rusal, linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Democrats had led a push in Congress to continue the restrictions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Venezuela's Guaido extends olive branch to China (SBS News, 2/02/19)

Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido has promised China he will honour bilateral agreements and said he was ready to start a dialogue with Beijing "as soon as possible".

Guaido's comments to the South China Morning Post, published Saturday, appear aimed at laying to rest questions over whether his political challenge to President Nicolas Maduro would disrupt ties with Venezuela's main creditor.

It's odious debt; repudiate it. Honoring it recognizes the legitimacy of the regime.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


US Democratic governor under fire for racist yearbook photo  (Deutsche-Welle, 2/02/19)

[I]n the event of a resignation, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who is African-American, would assume the governor's office. [...]

The growth of a diverse population surrounding Washington, DC, in the northern part of the state, helped Democrats make gains in Virginia. But as a historically Southern state that was the seat of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Virginia has been an epicenter in the battle between progressives and conservatives over identity issues.

In 2017, the city of Charlottesville was the scene of the Unite the Right rally that saw neo-Nazis march through the city and led to counterprotests, in which a 32-year-old woman was intentionally run over and killed by a white nationalist. 

The governor's race that Northam won was fraught with racial animosity, with Republican candidates courting Donald Trump's voting base through hard-line immigration stances. Northam, conversely, ran as a champion of the state's burgeoning Central American immigrant community and supporter of multiculturalism.

Fairfax is only the second African-American to be elected statewide and would immediately become at least a top vp pick.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


The two-sided jobs picture (Steve LeVine, 2/02/9, Axios)

That was the 100th straight month of job growth -- by far the longest streak since the number has been tracked in the 1930s.

And the economic expansion is now just five months shy of a record. As one example, factory production picked up steam last month, rising to 56.6 on the Institute for Supply Management Index (above 50 means expansion), up from 54.2 in December.

"Usually, as expansions go on, they slow down a little bit. But it's really unclear when that is going to happen," said Martha Gimbel, research director at Indeed's Hiring Lab.

"Job seekers are still in the driver seat," said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, the jobs site.

But, but, but: Though wages grew by 3.2%, or 1.3% after accounting for inflation, that is about half what it should be, said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM.

"At this point in the business cycle, we traditionally have 4% to 5% nominal wage gains," he said, and about 2.5% after inflation.

"It was another month of anemic gains in hourly wages," Brusuelas said.

Barring any more damage from Donald, this stands to be the strongest recovery in history.  If the recent limitations on the free movement of goods and people are removed there's no reason in sight for it to end.  If Donald's successor joins the TPP it will be a huge help too.

February 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


Virginia governor apologizes for racist 1984 yearbook photo (Reuters, 2/01/19) 

"I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now," Northam said in the statement.

  "This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians' faith in that commitment."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Planning for Detention: How 2 States Help Immigrant Children Stay Out of Foster Care: The parents of at least a quarter of a million kids are at risk of deportation. In case that happens, lawmakers are adding protections -- with bipartisan support -- for the children left behind. (MATTIE QUINN, JANUARY 31, 2019, Governing)
Since Donald Trump became president, immigration arrests have quadrupled, placing hundreds of thousands of immigrants at risk of deportation and separating tens of thousands of children from their parents. On an average day, there are 44,000 immigrants being held in federal custody, which Vox reports is an all-time high up from the pre-Trump record of 34,000.

As of November, 14,000 immigrant kids were in government custody without their parents -- another record high. To keep more of these kids from falling into federal care or foster care, lawmakers in two states have expanded emergency guardianship laws. And despite the divisive nature of immigration policy, the legislation has attracted bipartisan support.

"Right now, there are so many unknowns for Dreamers, DACA recipients, people with TPS," says Carlo Sanchez, a son of El Salvadoran immigrants who co-sponsored the bill in Maryland. "We have a responsibility to talk about what happens when those people go away."

The legislation allows immigrants who fear they are at risk of deportation to assign a "standby guardian" for their children or dependents. If a parent is deported or arrested, their children can legally stay with that person. [...]

Sanchez says the potential Temporary Protected Status (TPS) rollbacks deepened deportation fears in his community of Prince George's County, which has a sizable El Salvadoran population. Depending on the outcome of a lawsuit, the Trump administration could end TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. TPS provides legal protections for immigrants from countries and regions suffering from political violence or natural disaster. More than a quarter of a million U.S. citizen children -- 273,000 -- have a parent whose TPS standing could be revoked in the next year.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


How Kamala Harris Won the Rollout Primary: And Kirsten Gillibrand lost it. (BILL SCHER January 31, 2019, Politico)

[B]ecause of early voting and changes to the still-unsettled primary calendar, candidates can't just camp out on the cheap in bucolic Iowa throughout 2019, shaking the most hands and hoping for a late break. Well before the first Iowa caucus-goer stands in a high school gymnasium corner, candidates will need enough coin to bankroll an ad campaign in megastates like California and Texas. A campaign that cannot get sufficient media attention is likely to dry up and close down before we even get to 2020.

That's why the presidential campaign rollout matters more than ever. Without a good first impression, candidates may fail to achieve liftoff.

So who's winning the 2020 rollout primary so far, and who is in danger? And what should the candidates who have yet to announce learn from the early jumpers? First, it helps to start with a big crowd. If you can't assemble a big crowd right away, then you better have a big idea. If you are getting criticized, whether it's from the left or the right, treat it as an opportunity to stand your ground, and show your strength.

The Champ: Kamala Harris

Harris didn't have just a great rollout day, but a great rollout week. She made her announcement to the viewers of ABC's "Good Morning America" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and made clear the link to civil rights history was no coincidence.

The following Wednesday, after finishing an interview on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," the host offered, "I think there's a good chance that you are going to win the nomination."

On Sunday, Harris assembled the biggest crowd of the January rollout season, an estimated 20,000 in her hometown of Oakland, California, for her first major address of the campaign. One day later, she gave a polished performance at a CNN televised town hall, goosing the network's ratings in that time slot by 75 percent. She even picked up some of the first congressional endorsements of the campaign, earning the backing of California Reps. Nanette Barragán, Ted Lieu and Katie Hill.

Beyond her poise at the lectern and on screen, she also deflected, for now, the first attacks on her progressive bona fides. While several other announced and probable candidates have begun their endeavors with mea culpas, Harris gave no quarter in the face of criticism that she was too punitive a prosecutor as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general. She insisted her approach to criminal justice was progressive, and painted her critics as a fringe element of "people who just believe that prosecutors shouldn't exist, and I don't think I'm ever going to satisfy them."

Nothing will put paid to the Donald aberration better than a match-up between two women of color.

Booker is running. I've watched him for 20 years. Here's what I've learned (Tom Moran, 2/01/19,  Star-Ledger)

He's a rich target in crazy times like this, because he's not a normal guy. He's a vegan and a Rhodes Scholar, and he never touches alcohol or tobacco. He meditates daily, and Tweets quotes from Jewish scholars and Buddhist priests. He once supported vouchers for private schools, and he attends prayer meetings with a Republican senator who thinks climate change is a hoax.

I like all that, myself. We'll see how it goes over with factory workers in Toledo.

But put that aside. The core criticism of Booker is that he is a showboat with a silver tongue, a man whose real talent is promoting himself, not getting stuff done.

That last part -- about not getting stuff done -- is wildly unfair. He may be famous for that silver tongue, but he carries an iron hammer to work.

In Newark, Booker beat the corrupt old guard and became the first mayor in 45 years to leave office without being indicted. He cut the city's workforce by 25 percent, a record of austerity unmatched in the state. He doubled the supply of affordable housing. He drove down crime sharply, at least until a cut in state aid forced police layoffs. He was a key figure in expanding charter schools that now educate one-third of city students, and are rated as among the best in the country by outside experts.

Showboat? The man likes a camera, granted. But there's a lot more to him than that.

In the Senate, Booker had cringe-worthy moment on national TV in September during the confirmation hearings from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he threatened to break ethics rules by releasing confidential records on Kavanaugh's attitudes towards racial profiling. "This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an 'I am Spartacus' moment," he said.

Ouch. It was self-aggrandizing, and it turned out the documents had been released several hours earlier by the committee itself. "That was a little over the top," says Rutgers professor Ross Baker, one of the nation's leading experts on the U.S. Senate.

But, again, look at the larger record. Booker was a leading negotiator of the most important bipartisan effort since President Trump was elected, the criminal justice reform signed in December that shortened sentences and reformed prison practices. It was a chief goal of Booker's since his election in 2013, and he nailed it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Hydrogen trains are coming - can they get rid of diesel for good? (Brian Scott-Quinn, 1/31/19, Cap-X)

Hydrogen trains have already replaced more polluting diesel engines on a line in Germany, and some train companies think the vehicles could be running in Britain as early as 2022. Introducing them would still require substantial investment and wouldn't be without challenges. But they could be an important step towards reducing the carbon footprint of railways.

Only around a third of the UK rail network has been electrified, with little extra track converted in the last few years. Without continuing to electrify the network, the government is faced with the dilemma of how to eliminate diesel trains that produce carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants.

The current strategy is to purchase bimodal trains that can switch to using diesel when they reach parts of the track without electricity. But this is fudging the issue of dealing with climate change and air pollution and still leaves the UK well behind most other European networks.

The hydrogen gas would need to be compressed into tanks that would usually be stored on the train's roof. But adding a regenerative braking system to charge an additional small battery would reduce the amount of hydrogen needed to power the train.If electrifying the rest of the network is deemed too expensive, one potential alternative is to generate electricity on board the train. One way to do this is to use fuel cells that combine hydrogen gas with oxygen from the air to produce electricity and water. Hydrogen can carry more energy than the same weight of batteries, meaning fuel cell systems could be lighter. They also take less time to refuel than batteries take to recharge and don't have the same high environmental costs from manufacturing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


The Bolivarian God That Failed (Clifton Ross, 2/01/19, Quillette)

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted--at first gradually, but then definitively--into the camp of my former "enemies," persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I'd published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated "new" ideas for which I'd previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer's quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance--that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold's book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I'd previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I'd visited Cuba twice--in 1994 and again in 2010--and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I'd seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn't--and doesn't--work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding--and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I've seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek's writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The "synoptic delusion"--the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy--Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to "correct" these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for "saboteurs" and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion--compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism--is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, "with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless." Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people's hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy's many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism's foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


A Hillbilly and a Survivalist Show the Way Out of Trump Country (Timothy Egan, Feb. 1, 2019, NY Times)

Vance's ragged Middletown, Ohio, went for Trump two to one. And Franklin County, Idaho, where Westover grew up, gave Hillary Clinton just 7 percent of its vote. Trump got 10 times as much. The people we meet in both places are poor, white, undereducated, violent and evangelical in the extreme.

But as much as these folks were all-in for the oft-bankrupt developer, Trump's presidency has been a kick in the teeth for them. A con man in business turned out to be an even greater con man in office. The policies he has promoted -- taking health care from the poor, trying to slash aid for people unable to afford college, gutting regulations that save lives in mills and scrapyards -- have made life more hazardous in Trump-won ZIP codes.

Beyond that, the surprise takeaway from these books is that we have the tools at hand to ensure that demography is not destiny in Forgotten America. One common thread of both memoirs is distrust of institutions. And yet it was institutions -- the military in Vance's case, college in Westover's life -- that saved them.

That, and a handful of people who showed them enough love and an escape route from places where "family dysfunction" is too kind a euphemism.

Their cultures are toxic and intransigent. As Vance writes, "poverty is in the family tradition," as is "learned helplessness." In other words, the hillbillies of his book have no one but themselves to blame for being hillbillies. Many of his neighbors are painted as lazy dependents of opioids and government handouts. There's plenty of fighting, fornicating and fact-denying.

He is scornful of government help programs. "I am a conservative," he writes in a new afterword, "one who doubts that the 1960s approach to welfare has made it easier for our country's poor children to achieve their dreams."

But it was a government hand up -- the great meritocracy of the Marine Corps and federal aid to get through college -- that sent Vance on his way. To his credit, he has recently helped raise more than $150 million in venture capital to encourage new businesses in overlooked communities.

Tara Westover's story is more harrowing. It's not just the dark cave of ignorance in which she was raised. She says she was beaten senseless by her brother, in a family that enabled domestic abuse. Her father believed that doctors were "minions of Satan," and public school was a plot of the Illuminati.

College was her lifeline. Between battering from her brother and serious injuries at the old man's junkyard, she taught herself enough to get into Brigham Young University. There she first heard about the Holocaust and bipolar disorder, among many revelations.

While much of Trumpism is morally repellant, one part that's simply hilarious is the notion that business offers salvation to these folks.  It represents a misapprehension of the value of labor that we usually associate with Marxism.