August 31, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 PM


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Farmers Reel After Sonny Perdue Mocks Them As 'Whiners' Amid Trade War Bankruptcies (Mary Papenfuss, 8/31/19, HuffPo)

At a Farmfest listening session with farmers in Minnesota, Perdue hit back at the complaints with his joke: "What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar."

As he pounded the table in mirth, some of the thousands of farmers at the event laughed nervously -- which was followed by boos.

"It was definitely not an appropriate thing to say," Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish told HuffPost. "It was very insensitive. It took everyone by surprise. He doesn't understand what farmers are dealing with, and he's the head of the Department of Agriculture. He's supposed to be working for farmers."

They finally got the protectionism they demanded and they hate it.

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Polanski film on Dreyfus divides critics, as director stays away from premiere (KELLY MACNAMARA, 8/31/19, Times of Israel)

"In the story, I sometimes find moments I have experienced myself, I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done. Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case," Polanski said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Trump's Personal Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, Shared Intimate Details of First Family (Katie Rogers, Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 30, 2019, NY Times)

Ms. Westerhout became an expert at reading his moods and translating them for other aides, according to those officials. She also became good at monitoring whom he was speaking with and, in some cases, alerting other White House officials if someone had called to try to rile the president up, as some of his outside advisers have been known to do.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Former Marine said he'd 'slaughter' antifa. The FBI, using Oregon's new red flag law, took his guns away (Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, 8/30/19, The Oregonian)

Shane Kohfield stood outside the home of Portland's mayor in July wearing body armor and a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap, a large knife strapped to one shoulder and a copy of his concealed weapons permit displayed on the other.

Using a loudspeaker, he warned the right-wing activists who turned out to condemn the city's handling of recent violent demonstrations that they needed to protect themselves against their anti-fascist, or antifa, rivals.

"If antifa gets to the point where they start killing us, I'm going to kill them next," Kohfield, 32, said. "I'd slaughter them and I have a detailed plan on how I would wipe out antifa."

An ex-Marine threatened to ‘slaughter’ antifa. The FBI, using Oregon’s new red flag law, took his guns away

That threat pushed the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task to take a series of extraordinary steps against Kohfield, including temporary seizure of a cache of his firearms under Oregon's new "red flag" law aimed at preventing gun violence, The Oregonian/OregonLive has learned.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Trump defends sharing failed Iran rocket launch photo (Times of Israel, 8/31/19)

Allison Puccioni, an imagery specialist at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, said on Twitter that such resolution is not available to people in the open-source, or public intelligence community.

"The dissemination of this image seems out-of-step with the US policy regarding its publication of such data. Not sure what the political objective of dissemination was," she said.

The problem is not what he shares but what he doesn't: Open Source everything.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Iran Issues Rare Criticism of India over Kashmir (FATEMEH AMAN, 8/30/19, Atlantic Council)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on May 23, 2016 (Narendra Modi Flickr)

Iran's Supreme Leader and a group of the country's grand ayatollahs have taken a rare position on Kashmir and condemned India's government for eliminating the area's special status. 

In the past, Tehran has been careful to avoid antagonizing the government in New Delhi and has sought instead to bolster Iran-India ties and to balance Iran's relations with India and Pakistan.

But India's decision to eliminate Kashmiri autonomy and impose what amounts to martial law on the Muslim-majority region has put the Islamic Republic in a quandary. Iran has called on both India and Pakistan to ease tensions, but put the blame for the new crisis on India.

Self-determination trumps mere alliances.

August 30, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


The Comey Circus Rolls On (Quinta Jurecic, Aug. 30, 2019, NY Times)

It turns out that, according to the inspector general, investigators "found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media." And, contrary to some speculation in right-wing media, the document includes no finding that Mr. Comey was untruthful or incomplete in his answers to investigators. But Inspector General Michael Horowitz is still not happy with Mr. Comey's conduct: the former director "violated F.B.I. policy and the requirements of his F.B.I. employment agreement" when he provided information contained in one memo to The New York Times through an intermediary. [...]

Meanwhile, attention has already shifted among the president's supporters: figures like the pro-Trump pundit Bill Mitchell and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida warned that Mr. Comey would soon find himself on the wrong end of another inspector general report, this time on the Russia investigation as a whole and involving supposed abuse of surveillance powers. By now, over two years after Mr. Comey publicly released the contents of the offending memo, everybody knows what role to play. The circus goes on. The true moment of victory and of reckoning is always just around the corner.

We just know the IG will get him next time....

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Departing the Shining City: Michael Anton's "Flight 93 Election" wasn't just a call to oppose Hillary Clinton; it was a full-throated rejection of Goldwater-Reagan conservatism. (THOMAS A. FIREY  AUGUST 29, 2019, The Bulwark)

What was Anton's primary policy interest? Judging from the essay's word count and rhetorical heat, it's immigration. Concerning the entry of foreigners (and "The Flight 93 Election" discussed immigration simpliciter; the term "illegal immigration" appeared nowhere), he wrote:

This is insane. This is the mark of a party, a society, a country, a people, a civilization that wants to die. Trump, alone among candidates for high office in this or in the last seven (at least) cycles, has stood up to say: I want to live. I want my party to live. I want my country to live. I want my people to live. I want to end the insanity.

Why does immigration upset Anton? Xenophobia probably is programmed into human DNA; it certainly would have provided a Darwinian advantage to our ancestors. But plenty of other things are programmed into our DNA--the raging desire to copulate and need to eat come to mind--that humans today are expected to control with reason. So, what reasons does Anton give for opposing immigration? 

He wrote of immigrants committing "yet another rape, shooting, bombing, or machete attack." He mentioned that they can hurt incumbent Americans' wages, though he didn't argue for that claim. But his chief concern was that--by his appraisal--immigrants are insufficiently committed to American values and they are likely to vote for Democrats. In "The Flight 93 Election," he wrote:

The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.


Do [conservative Trump critics] honestly believe that the right enterprise zone or charter school policy will arouse 50.01% of our newer voters to finally reveal their "natural conservatism" at the ballot box? It hasn't happened anywhere yet and shows no signs that it ever will. But that doesn't stop the Republican refrain: more, more, more! No matter how many elections they lose, how many districts tip forever blue, how rarely (if ever) their immigrant vote cracks 40%, the answer is always the same. 

The concern about immigrants voting for the "wrong" candidates is older than the U.S. Constitution. One of its early expressions in federal law was the Alien Acts of 1798. (Worth noting: those abhorrent laws and the likewise abhorrent Sedition Act were passed by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Party in part to weaken Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic Republican Party. Jefferson won the 1800 presidential election anyway, and the Federalist Party slowly withered away.) Seemingly every immigrant wave has brought similar claims of national doom: Frenchmen (who were the targets of the Alien Acts), Germans, Irish, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, European Jews, Southeast Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners. Yet somehow, after all of that immigration, Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Today, the purported immigrant threat comes from Latin Americans. They are predominantly Catholic and tend to identify on the center-right of the political spectrum. And they are entrepreneurial enough to leave their native societies and make the difficult and dangerous trek to join the American economy and provide a better life for themselves and their families. One would think such courage, family commitment, and industriousness would make them promising Americans (and conservatives!), but Anton believes otherwise. 

Are his fears of immigrants justified? Concerning public safety, the data broadly indicate that immigrants (both overall and illegal immigrants specifically) pose no more--and apparently less--risk of violent and property crime than incumbent American citizens. And legal immigrants, whose entry Anton opposes just like other immigrants--present substantially lower risk. Simple mathematics dictates that if he truly is worried about the risk of "rape, shooting, bombing, or machete attack," he should want more immigration: the inflow of people with lower propensity to commit violent and property crimes reduces overall risk. "The Flight 93 Election" lament about immigrant crime was irrational fearmongering, not reasoning.

What about the concern that immigration hurts incumbent Americans economically? "The Flight 93 Election" offered no argument for this concern, but a subsequent op-ed by Anton in the Washington Post did make a half-hearted attempt. In it, he claimed that immigrants would loosen "tight labor markets and the concomitant necessity to raise wages" for incumbent workers. He does have part of a point--to be precise, a 10th of a point, which is the fraction of Americans over age 25 who lack a high school education. Labor data indicate that immigrants--many of whom lack school certification and advanced English skills--do compete in the labor market with incumbents (in many cases, previous immigrants) who also lack those skills and credentials, dampening the incumbents' wages. But immigrants also appear to increase the wages of incumbents who have a high-school education. Apparently, immigrant workers act like tools for incumbent skilled workers, increasing the latter's productivity and making their labor more valuable and thus better paying. As a result, immigration has no statistically significant effect overall on incumbent Americans' wages. And higher-skilled immigrants appear to increase incumbents' wages and employment because these immigrants' skills stimulate the U.S. economy. 

Also, population data show that immigrants locate to U.S. areas with booming job markets that need workers of all skill levels, and stay away from economically depressed areas--think of Appalachia and the Rust Belt--where incumbent Americans struggle to find work. So, ironically, many of the places that were integral to Donald Trump's 2016 victory are places with some of the smallest immigrant flows. (Worth noting: If incumbents in these economically distressed areas relocated 100 miles or so to job-rich cities and suburbs, just as foreign immigrants relocate several hundreds or even thousands of miles to the United States, the incumbents likely would improve their lives far more than what nativist policies would.)

How can this be? Economics dictates that increased supply of a good like labor lowers the good's price, ceteris paribus. But immigration entails more than a simple increase in generic labor. For one thing, America has no shortage of work to be done, even by low-skill labor. The United States--and the rest of the developed world--is not caught in some Malthusian trap where resource supplies are fixed and increasing population means a decreasing standard of living. In fact, the correlation between population growth and resource availability is the exact opposite. Also, immigrants don't only represent an increase in labor supply, they also increase labor demanded; people work to earn money to fund consumption, after all. With baby boomers now retiring and the cost of each retiree's public entitlements falling on fewer and fewer workers, the United States needs more wage-earners, not fewer, and certainly would benefit from more labor, not less. 

But Anton's chief concern is that inflows from foreign cultures weaken U.S. social unity and commitment to the nation's founding principles. This is an odd concern given the immigrant experience: As previously noted, many immigrants take great risk in leaving their homelands to seek their fortunes in the United States. That risk-taking and willingness to work seem like very American characteristics.

This concern also conflicts with U.S. history. The nation has long had tightknit immigrant communities that speak different languages, practice different religions, and follow different cultural mores. Yet, despite the dire warnings of previous generations of nativists, the United States' Chinatowns, Little Italys, Jewish neighborhoods, and Amish enclaves are hardly "no-go zones" of anti-Americanism and crime. In fact, cultural diversity appears to enhance the American (and Goldwater-Reagan conservative) principles of limited government and private ordering: There is an empirical link between cultural heterogeneity and a smaller welfare state. 

Anton offers no explanation for why the latest wave of immigrants would yield a different outcome from previous waves, especially as these newcomers settle into a nation of 330 million people. U.S. culture is wonderfully corrupting. Besides, if he believes American greatness is rooted in incumbents' understanding of U.S. history and society, he should review the results of citizenship tests given to incumbent Americans.

If Donald and the Trumpbots cared about anything besides race he'd have done something with his presidency besides trying to stop immigration and trade.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. Appeals Court In Chicago Again Upholds Laws Banning Assault Weapons (Bobby Allyn, 8/29/19, NPR)

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Cook County, Ill., gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, affirming a lower court decision that found the regulations to be constitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that two gun owners, who sued over the gun control measures in the county where Chicago is located, "have not come forward with a compelling reason to revisit" since the last time the same court examined a similar challenge -- out of the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, which was also sued after passing an assault weapons ban.

In that case, the 7th Circuit said that the Second Amendment "does not imperil every law regulating firearms."

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the case. That meant the appeals court's decision that local governments have latitude in regulating firearms stayed in place, and on Thursday, the three-judge panel refused to revisit that decision.

Now, to be effective, they need to be federal bans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US spies say Trump's G7 performance suggests he's either a 'Russian asset' or a 'useful idiot' for Putin (Sonam Sheth, 8/30/19, BI)

"It's hard to see the bar anymore since it's been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump's behavior over the weekend was a new low."

That was the assessment an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence gave Insider of President Donald Trump's performance at this year's G7 summit in Biarritz, France. [...]

Trump repeatedly refused to hold Russia accountable for annexing Crimea in 2014, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia's move to annex it, expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and castigated other G7 members for not giving the country a seat at the table. [...]

Trump's advocacy for Russia is renewing concerns among intelligence veterans that Trump may be a Russian "asset" who can be manipulated or influenced to serve Russian interests, although some also speculate that Trump could just be currying favor for future business deals.

A former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, didn't mince words when reacting to Trump's performance at the G7 summit: "We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office."

"There is no fathomable explanation for why the president said these things," the former official said. "Letting Russia off the hook for bullying smaller countries and then blaming Obama for it? It's directly out of the Putin playbook."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What That Comey Email Report Really Says (Benjamin Wittes, August 29, 2019, LawFare)

For all that Horowitz spent two years on this investigation, there aren't a lot of new facts--at least not major ones--in this document. The reason is simple: Comey has never been anything but straightforward concerning why he wrote the seven memos in question, what he did with them, whom he shared them with and what his motives were in doing so. On all significant factual questions, the 62-page report merely fleshes out a story that has been known to the public for the better part of two years. [...]

Ironically, the main new thing to be learned from the inspector general's report on a factual level is merely the details of the process the FBI used to retroactively examine these memos for possibly classified material. As the report details, the supposed "Deep State" conspirators, who were out to conduct a treasonous "coup" against the president, took a break from coup plotting and busied themselves with carefully examining the work of their former leader to make sure that no words infringed upon the president's right to keep classified material secret. And Lisa Page, Peter Strzok and Jim Baker--along with some others--recommended that a few passages be classified at the Confidential level, the lowest level, because of diplomatic sensitivities.

In retroactively classifying this material, the FBI folks seem to have been been overly cautious. A recent court decision, as the inspector general notes in footnote 78, "upheld the FBI's classification of one of the words redacted in Memo 2 (the name of a country) but ruled that the FBI had not carried its burden to support the redaction of the remaining words."  So recall as you read further that the classified content here boils down ultimately to a single word, the name of a country. But never mind that. There is no doubt that Comey, as the FBI director, had the authority to make the initial judgment about what was classified, and that the FBI after he left had the authority to revisit the matter and make a different judgment. And there is no doubt that once the FBI made this judgment, Comey and his lawyers needed to return the material, which--in fact--is exactly what happened.

So what has Horowitz reaching for smelling salts? It's actually a little hard to tell once you strip away his table pounding.

The foundation of much of his distress is that the inspector general disagrees with Comey about whether these documents were personal notes or agency records. He thinks they are FBI documents, not Comey's personal memory aids. Fair enough. He may well even be right about that. The rules here are pretty sweeping. The government claims very broad rights over everything employees write, think or produce in the remotest connection to government service. These were, after all, memos about information to which Comey had access only because he was FBI director. And they do involve sensitive government information.

But as Comey would say, lordy! Keeping or retaining personal copies of unclassified government records is hardly a big deal. An enormous number of government officials make notes to themselves and retain them. Officials routinely leave office and write books about their government service. Writing a few notes to one's own files pales in comparison. So sure, if Horowitz wants to consider this a big deal, he's entitled to say whatever he likes. But that aspect seems kind of foolish as the basis for the kind of hand-waving that Horowitz engages in. [...]

What Comey's memo discloses is not that there was a Flynn investigation. That was already public. It was not anything about the Flynn investigation's contents or activities or subject matter. It was only that the president of the United States tried to stop the investigation.

August 29, 2019

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Kamala Harris out of running for progressive group's endorsement (Alex Seitz-Wald, 8/29/19, NBC News)

Kamala Harris is out of the running for the endorsement of a prominent progressive group after her campaign said she couldn't participate before its planned decision next month.

It would be the kiss of death. She's the alternative to Joe, not to Bernie.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Fox News Host Jeanine Pirro Accuses Democrats of Vast Plot to 'Replace American Citizens with Illegals' (Caleb Ecarma, Aug 29th, 2019, Mediate)

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro repeated a conspiracy theory held by some White Supremacists on Thursday while claiming that Democrats are waging a vast "plot" to "replace American citizens with illegals."

Pirro promoted the so-called "great replacement theory" during a Thursday radio appearance with Fox Nation host Todd Starnes, who recently compared Hispanic immigrants to "Nazi" invaders two weeks after a white supremacist mass shooter targeted people of color in an El Paso, Texas Walmart.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Red-light traffic deaths keep rising. Is distracted driving to blame? (MELISSA LOCKER, 8/29/19, Fast Company)

The rise of smartphones has led to easy, relentless connectivity, kids begging for Snapchat accounts, and Instagram influencers making real money. The rise of phones may also have helped drive up the number of people killed by drivers running through red lights. That tragic figured reached a 10-year high of 939 in 2017, the last full year numbers were available, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The number marked a 28% increase over 2012 levels and capped off five straight years of rising fatalities in red-light collisions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


Leaked Emails Show How White Nationalists Have Infiltrated Conservative Media (Hannah Gais, 8/29/19, Splinter)

As Paul Gottfried, a far-right political theorist, observed in the 2008 speech that is widely credited as birthing the term "alternative right," "we must try to do what is possible rather than what lies beyond our limited material resources." This new right, Gottfried said, could only win by conquering the institutions that neoconservatives then dominated. It needed the institutions it sought to annihilate to thrive. (Gottfried, who once told a journalist that he co-created the term "alt-right" with Richard Spencer, has since sought to distance himself from his former collaborator, though he has also mounted defenses of the overall movement on far-right websites.)

Trump has emboldened the "alt-right" to seize upon once ostensibly staid conservative institutions for its own purposes. (The term, which came to the attention of the mainstream around the 2016 presidential election, served as a means for internet-savvy white nationalists and white supremacists to downplay--or whitewash, you could say--their racist and antisemitic beliefs. It is used throughout this piece to refer largely to a specific clique with ties to the Washington, D.C. media and think tank scene.)

Campus conservative groups like Turning Point USA have been a target both of external coups and their own racist representatives who used them as a means to legitimize their beliefs. Figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, the once-beloved conservative commentator and far-right troll, found refuge in havens such as Breitbart. Despite their prevailing view that much of the GOP constituted "cuckservatives," numerous white nationalists have sought to use the party to propel them out of obscurity.

And then there's the Daily Caller, the conservative publication co-founded by Tucker Carlson, who stepped down from his role as editor-in-chief in 2016. Even since the "alt-right" rose to prominence during the 2016 election, the site has been sucked into its own game of "Who goes Nazi?" Since Trump's election, numerous Caller employees have come under fire for their semi-secret white nationalist affiliations. For instance, Andrew Kerr, an investigative reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation, was outed as having appeared on a number of programs with far-right conspiracy theorist Brittany Pettibone. (Pettibone--wife of European white nationalist leader Martin Sellner, a man who recently sparked outrage for corresponding and accepting thousands of dollars in donations from the perpetrator of the Christchurch massacre--has branded herself as one of the most prominent "experts" of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.)

In September 2018, The Atlantic exposed former Caller editor Scott Greer, who wrote under the pseudonym "Michael McGregor," as the managing editor to Richard Spencer's white nationalist Radix Journal, using emails provided by former Breitbart editor and "alt-right" member Katie McHugh. (McHugh also worked for the Caller but has since publicly left the "alt-right.") Still, the Caller has appeared to ignore what the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to in 2017 as its "white nationalist problem."

The website quietly prevented one of its investigative reporters from attending a conference at the H.L. Mencken Club--the same club associated with the birth of the term "alt-right"--in late September 2018 after being contacted for comment by the SPLC. Several months later, the Caller's managing editor, David Brooks (not that one), was fired in spring 2019 for bragging about his own connections to white nationalists.

The links between these current and former Caller employees and the white nationalist movement have mostly been unearthed in pieces. But a trove of emails from a private white nationalist group chat, which were recently obtained by Splinter, sheds new light on those links. Among other things, the emails show how a former Caller employee named Jonah Bennett repeatedly used his perch at the site to launder far-right viewpoints into an ostensibly mainstream publication. They also show that he is part of a wider network of white nationalists who have steadily increased their influence within the conservative media infrastructure--most prominently, a man named John Elliott.

These institutions that were already anti-immigrant and hysterically anti-Obama did not need taking over.
Posted by orrinj at 2:12 PM


There's No Such Thing as a 'Gay Gene,' Large Genome Study Finds (Ed Cara, 8/29/19, Gizmodo)

The international research team, which includes scientists from Sweden, Denmark, the UK, and the U.S., looked at genetic data collected from earlier studies and projects, including from the consumer DNA testing company 23andMe. In total, just over 470,000 people were included.

The researchers performed a type of analysis known as a genome-wide association study. These studies sweep through the genomes of people and look for any variations in genes--also called markers--that could be linked to whatever other variables they're testing for. In this study, that variable was whether a person had reported ever having sex with someone of the same sex.

"This study is the largest and most thorough investigation into the genetics of same sex sexual behavior to date," said study author Ben Neale, director of genetics in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, in a press conference on Tuesday.

All told, there were five markers that were "significantly" associated with same-sex behavior. That means that these genetic markers were found often enough in people with a history of same-sex behavior that they could be a relevant contributor. But if even someone had all these markers at birth, the authors estimated, they would be less than 1 percent more likely to someday report same-sex behavior than someone born without them.

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


Surgeon General Sounds Alarm On Risk Of Marijuana Addiction And Harm (Allison Aubrey, 8/29/19, NPR)

"While the perceived harm of marijuana is decreasing, the scary truth is that the actual potential for harm is increasing," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday during a press conference to announce the new advisory.

Dope is the next tobacco.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


A rattled Trump scrambles for victories ahead of election (Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, Jeremy Diamond and Dana Bash, 8/28/19, CNN)

Though Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted there had been "communication," aides privately conceded the phone calls Trump described didn't happen they way he said they did.

Instead, two officials said Trump was eager to project optimism that might boost markets, and conflated comments from China's vice premier with direct communication from the Chinese.

The charged language coming out of the White House in recent weeks largely boils down to this, people say: The economy is flashing warning signs Trump didn't expect, his trade war with China is dragging on months longer than expected yet he refuses to give in and his chief promise to supporters -- that he would build a wall along the southern border -- has gone unfulfilled.

Trump, sources say, is searching for an accomplishment to run on in 2020 -- and realizing time is running short to fulfill some of the key promises he made to voters in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 PM


AG James condemns 'deeply disturbing' video on Rockland County GOP FB page attacking proposed multi-family development for Hasidic Jewish community (CATHY BURKE, 8/28/19, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

New York state's top prosecutor Wednesday night issued a blistering rebuke of a "deeply disturbing" video posted on the Rockland County Republican Party's Facebook page that portrays proposed housing development for the Hasidic Jewish community as a "threat."

With throbbing, ominous music playing in the background, the video, titled "A storm is brewing in Rockland," warns that over-development threatens the area.

"Aron Wieder and his Ramapo bloc are plotting a takeover," the written message overlaying the video declares, referring to the Hasidic Jewish Rockland County legislator who supports multi-family development. "If they win, we lose."

Posted by orrinj at 11:47 AM


Trump Tweets 2020 Campaign Ad With Logo Used by White Nationalists (Haaretz, 8/29/19)

President Trump tweeted a new 2020 campaign video on Wednesday evening, which immediately sparked controversy for its purported use of a white nationalist logo at the end of the clip.

Posted by orrinj at 11:08 AM


After euphoria and anxiety, Germans turn pragmatic on immigration -study (Reuters, 8/29/19) 

Germans are broadly positive towards immigration and think it benefits the country, a survey showed, suggesting the often extreme reactions triggered by the arrival of a million-plus refugees there in 2015 have given way to a calmer view.

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 AM


BREAKING: DOJ Releases Report Concluding James Comey Violated FBI Policy By Disclosing Sensitive Information (ASHE SCHOW, August 29, 2019, Daily Wire)

[Comey] "violated Department and FBI policies, and the terms of his FBI Employment Agreement, by retaining copies of Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 after he was removed as Director, regardless of each Memo's classification level," the report continues. Comey was required to return all official FBI documents when he left office. Comey told the OIG that he considered the memos to be "personal records," but the OIG found no legal basis for him to consider them so.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


The Republican Party's White Women Problem (Julie Kohler, 8/29/19, The Nation)

The GOP has invested so heavily in white-male identity politics that the policies that have become its Trump-era signatures--family separation, draconian abortion bans--are widely unpopular with the American public and profoundly alienating to many of the white independent and moderate women who have historically voted Republican. Recent data from the Voter Study Group revealed that one in five Republicans has "economically left" policy preferences, with particular concern for Social Security and Medicare. Two-thirds of these voters are women.

The Republicans' white woman problem is also cultural, rooted in male tribalism. Much of the Republican primary electorate that remains is so pro-Trump that they don't trust women candidates to be sufficiently aligned with the president. In the North Carolina race, Murphy attacked Perry, who ran as a pro-life Christian, for her initial reluctance to support Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. Many North Carolina primary voters questioned whether Perry was sufficiently hard-core. A new poll by Supermajority/Perry Undem found that only 23 percent of voters who oppose abortion in most or all instances--the core Republican base--believe that the lack of women in political office affects women's equality.

The Republican base that has coalesced around Trump has been increasingly characterized by "hostile sexism"--antagonistic attitudes toward women that stem from a belief that women want to control men. Hostility toward women was a major factor predicting support for Trump in 2016--the first year it played a large and significant role in a presidential election--among Republican men and women alike. "I vote for brains, not boobs," Amy Kremer, the co-founder of Women for Trump said in discussing her endorsement of Murphy over Perry. Hostile sexism is not limited to Republicans. But its prominence within the Trump-aligned GOP base suggests that Republican women candidates will have a heavy lift for the foreseeable future.

She supports the Boob-in-Chief and his He-Man Woman Hater's Club.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Are Yemen's Houthis the Future of War?: Taking a page from T.E. Lawrence and excelling at primitive drone technology, these 'ragtag' insurgents are besting major powers in Yemen. (MICHAEL HORTON, August 26, 2019, American Conservative)
Houthi loyalists chant slogans during a rally held to mark the fourth anniversary of the war on March 26, 2019 in Sana'a, Yemen. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)
If you want to see the future of war, look closely at the fighting in Yemen. 

There, the Houthis, a rebel group based in the country's northwest, have fought the lavishly funded and equipped militaries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to a standstill. They have even proven capable of launching attacks deep inside Saudi Arabia. How did this poor, lightly equipped and armed rebel group do it? And what does it mean for the United States, which continues to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in complex, costly, and vulnerable weapons systems?  

First, the Houthis have grasped the algebra of insurgency. In an article penned in 1920, T.E. Lawrence argued that insurgents would be victorious if they understood and applied a set of "algebraical factors." He listed these as mobility, force security, and respect for the populace. The Houthis have refined and applied all three to varying degrees over the last decade. 

The Houthi forces are small and highly mobile, and this, combined with Yemen's mountainous terrain, provides them with force security. Most critically, they and their allies have respected the local populace by providing--at least relative to southern Yemen--high levels of security and predictability. 

Sana'a, the capital of Yemen and a city of at least five million, is relatively crime- and al-Qaeda-free, and some basic public services continue to be provided despite a four-year-long blockade, ongoing aerial bombardment, and no electricity. Sana'a is, by necessity, the first capital city to be almost entirely dependent on solar power. 

It's basically the Revolutionary War and they represent a people who consider themselves a nation.  All you need to know about any such war is what would happen if you held a referendum on the future of the country on that day.  The Houthi are inevitably going to govern themselves eventually. There is no Yemen.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


How to Partner With the Taliban: The Trump administration's peace deal for Afghanistan needs a plan for the country's most looming threat: international terrorists whom both sides oppose. (ROBERT PAPE, AUGUST 26, 2019, Foreign Policy)

The all-too-real risk with a complete withdrawal is that another international terrorist group bent on attacking the United States or its Western allies will use Afghanistan as a base to plan, organize, and execute future attacks. This has happened before. Although the Taliban have never tried to launch or inspire terrorist attacks against the United States or the West, they did allow, in the 1990s, al Qaeda to establish its main basis of operations in Afghanistan and plan 9/11 and other anti-American attacks.

Today, the Islamic State-Khorasan, IS-K for short, has already sought to establish a sanctuary for itself in Afghanistan, particularly in the southeastern province of Nangarhar and the northwestern province of Jowzjan.

IS-K uses suicide attacks--the most deadly form of terrorism--and in 2018 surpassed the Taliban in the use of this tactic in Afghanistan, according to data from the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which tracks suicide attacks around the world.

Unlike the Taliban, whose ambitions are limited to Afghanistan, IS-K, like its parent organization, harbors international ambitions. Khorasan, the historical territorial unit from which IS-K derives its name, encompasses not only Afghanistan but large segments of Central Asia and Persia as well. The group's stated goals include raising "the banner of al-Uqab above Jerusalem and the White House" and inspiring lone-wolf attacks in the West--both promoted in IS-K video propaganda. There is already evidence of IS-K's efforts to attack the West. In September 2018, then-U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson reported that IS-K fighters in Afghanistan were in direct communication and planning efforts with terrorist cells in the U.K. There have also been reports of IS-K efforts to mount attacks against the U.S. homeland.

In short, the rise of IS-K in Afghanistan presents a serious threat to the security of America, not only a problem in Afghanistan, and demonstrates the unacceptable risks associated with the "negotiated withdrawal" plan.

A realistic solution

Fortunately, there is a third option: over-the-horizon counterterrorism strategy. This approach would remove U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in the near term while countering threats from international terrorist groups by establishing long-term partners inside Afghanistan and relying on regional bases in U.S.-friendly neighboring countries from which to intervene with air power and special operations forces on a limited basis as necessary.

With an over-the-horizon strategy, America's aim is to work as partners with any legitimate Afghan authority, including the existing Afghan government but also the Taliban. In the near term, the role of U.S. forces at regional bases would be limited to providing air power, small numbers of special operations forces, and political, intelligence, and economic support to these Afghan partners. These regional bases could also serve as launching pads for future deployments of air, naval, and even ground forces, should the security of the United States call for it.

A lasting U.S. security strategy must be built around America's core national security interests and against threats that Americans will be ready to fight and die for. Since 9/11, Americans have demonstrated again and again--in routing al Qaeda's forces in Afghanistan, in eliminating the Islamic State as a territorial entity in Iraq and Syria--that they are prepared to defeat international terrorist groups that target the United States.

Vast majorities of Republicans and Democrats have persistently seen terrorism as a critical threat. The American public clearly has serious doubts about fighting an endless war to create a stable democracy, end all violence, or broker a new government in a country far from U.S. shores. But the United States has the stomach to defeat terrorists trying to attack it.

In Afghanistan, America's vital interest is thus to prevent international terrorists from gaining political and military control of any of the country's approximately 400 districts or uncontested control of a significant part of a district. Such control would allow small groups of international terrorists--even as small as 50 to 100 individuals--to prepare, plan, organize, and execute attacks effectively unimpeded by counterpressure.

No strategy in Afghanistan could stop all terrorism because it is virtually impossible to prevent an encrypted message from a single person in Afghanistan from inspiring or activating an operative in the West. However, denying terrorists sanctuary large enough for a cohesive contingent of operatives to train, plan, and orchestrate attacks does make protracted campaigns of terrorism vastly more difficult. Not surprisingly, al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from 2013 to 2018, and numerous groups waging campaigns of terrorism have relied on sanctuaries where hundreds (or thousands) of recruits, fighters, and leaders could operate in a protected environment.

Denying terrorists sanctuary involves more than leadership decapitation and killing identified members of the militant group. Militant leaders and operatives are often readily replaceable. The United States has killed the leader of IS-K with airstrikes four times--in July 2016, April 2017, July 2017, and August 2018. Each time, a new leader soon took over. Rather, effective denial of sanctuary requires rolling back territorial control. This involves U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and kinetic operations often in combination with reliable ground partners who also receive significant political, economic, logistic, and intelligence support. Most important, effective denial of sanctuary requires a persistent, protracted commitment--one that, for the United States, could be over-the-horizon strategy.

How ready are the Taliban to accept a working relationship with the United States, to cooperate tacitly or otherwise on a common purpose to deny sanctuary to international terrorists in Afghanistan with a U.S. over-the-horizon strategy? We cannot tell for sure because the over-the-horizon approach has not been widely discussed in public by the United States, the Taliban, or other parties. However, we can determine something about the Taliban's attitudes from their interests, past statements, and behavior.

The Taliban's strong interest has long been to protect their status as the top governing organization in Afghanistan. The group's appeal in February 2018 for the United States to start peace talks shows it is against the U.S. occupation--not against U.S. values as an existential threat that must be destroyed:

[T]he Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan undertakes legitimate efforts for the independence of our homeland. Having a sovereign country free from any foreign occupation is our natural and human right. ... [W]e have no agenda of playing any destructive role in any other country and we have practically proven over the past seventeen years that we have not interfered in any other country. Likewise we will not allow anyone else to use Afghan territory against any other country. ... Our preference is to solve the Afghan issue through peaceful dialogues. America must end her occupation and must accept all our legitimate rights including the right to form a government consistent with the beliefs of our people.

Since 2015--for four years--there has been a compelling reason to think that the Taliban have their own political motives for resisting and combating international terrorist groups.

Afghanistan, like Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, etc., can be an Islamist democracy and an ally against the Islamicists/Salafi/Wahhabi.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


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Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Quantum Physics and Mind (George Stanciu, August 28th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

One firm conclusion of quantum physics is that all elementary particles and atoms, exist as potentialities or possibilities rather than as ordinary objects like billiard balls. Physicist Werner Heisenberg notes that atoms and elementary particles are not fully actual, but "form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts."[14] The assumption that electrons possess full existence like tiny, steel BBs contradicts the double-slit experiment. An electron, of course, is not completely indeterminate in every respect. An electron's mass is 9.10938356×10-31 kilograms, and its charge is −1.6021766208×10-19 coulombs. These two properties are universal constants in every branch of physics and chemistry.

Atoms and elementary particles become actual only when an experimenter makes an observation. If an experimenter measures the location of an electron, he finds the electron at a particular place. If the experimenter measures the electron's velocity, he determines its speed. But in accord with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the experimenter cannot simultaneously determine both the location and the velocity of an electron. What potentialities of the electron are actualized depends upon the observations of the physicist and thus on his or her choice of measurement strategy. Here the term "observation" always entails actualizing some aspect of the particle. Heisenberg describes how the physicist and elementary particles are related: "We can no longer talk of the behavior of the particle apart from the process of observation . . . the laws of nature which we formulate mathematically in quantum theory deal no longer with the particles themselves but with our knowledge of the elementary particles."[15]

From the double-slit experiment, we conclude that the essential feature of quantum physics is undivided wholeness, in which the experimenter and the observing instrument is not separate from what is observed.[16] The knower and the known form an indivisible whole, as concretely seen in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, to speak of the universe in the absence of any knower is absurd.

Scientific Realism

That elementary particles exist in potentiality until actualized through measurement is in direct opposition to scientific realism, the prevailing outlook of modern science from its very beginning. Galileo, in 1623, argued that tastes, odors, and colors reside only in human consciousness, and all these qualities would be wiped away and annihilated "if the living creature were removed."[17] Reality is what is left behind when the human creature is removed. The goal of science, according to this Galilean view, is to understand nature in the absence of the scientist. The senses do not report reality; "the office of the sense shall be only to judge of the experiment, and the experiment itself shall judge of the thing."[18] For an example of how the experiment touches nature, and the scientist touches the experiment, see Figure 5, the control room of the Tevatron.

Isaac Newton added the final two elements of scientific realism when he published, in 1687, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica: 1) the universe is mechanical and 2) every whole is completely understandable in terms of its smallest parts and how they interact. For the next 300 years or so, physicists, biologists, and neuroscientists attempted to prove that "the universe, including all aspects of human life, is the result of the interactions of little bits of matter."[19]

The Revolution

In the double-slit experiment, the electrons, the measuring apparatus, and the experimenter form an undivided whole. Unlike scientific realism, in quantum mechanics the experimenter is a participant in nature as well as an observer; an understanding expressed by Bohr: "In the great drama of existence, we ourselves are both actors and spectators."[20] Physicists have expressed this fundamental aspect of quantum mechanics in various ways. Eugene Wigner: "It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness."[21] Max Born: "No description of any natural phenomenon in the atomic domain is possible without referring to the observer, not only to his velocity as in relativity, but to all his activities in performing the observation, setting up instruments, and so on."[22] Freeman Dyson: "The laws of subatomic physics cannot even be formulated without some reference to the observer. The laws leave a place for mind in the description of every molecule."[23]

The Universe is a product of the Observer, not vice versa.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Undercover Video Exposes Far-Right 'Journalist' Andy Ngo (Courtney Hagle, August 28, 2019, MediaMatters)

Far-right writer Andy Ngo has been presented as a credible authority on left-wing violence following an attack on him at a rally in late June. Now it's been revealed that Ngo has secretly been working alongside a violent far-right group to cherry-pick and misrepresent left-wing activism in an attempt to downplay right-wing violence.

On August 26, the Portland Mercury reported that Ngo was present during conversations in which far-right protesters planned violent attacks against left-wing activists; even though he calls himself a journalist, Ngo never reported on these conversations.

This story is particularly relevant because of how the media has treated Ngo. On June 29, members of antifa attacked Ngo at a Portland, OR, rally held by the Proud Boys, a far-right violent gang. (Antifa comprises anti-fascist activists who "believe the best way to deal with the rise of white supremacy and hate groups in the Trump era is by confronting them on the street.") The attack on Ngo predictably led to widespread condemnation of anti-fascists and left-wing violence from right-wing media outlets like Fox News and more mainstream media figures. Ngo emerged as an authority figure on attacks by anti-fascists.

Prior to the June attack, Ngo had just two appearances on Fox News in 2019, both on the network's prime-time opinion shows Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle. But the June 29 events transformed him into a regular. Since then, he has appeared on Fox News at least 12 times, making appearances on "news"-side programs such as The Story with Martha MacCallum, Fox & Friends First, and Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream. He also appeared on the July 2 edition of CNN's New Day to discuss his version of the attack and to condemn violence from the left. Many mainstream media outlets simply identified Ngo as an "independent journalist" or a "conservative journalist," lending legitimacy to his narrative while ignoring his long record of credibility issues.

The August 26 report described an undercover activist dubbed "Ben," who has been keeping his real identity a secret while posing as a right-wing protester with Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group with a history of violence. In the summer of 2018, some of its members were discovered with a cache of firearms on a rooftop in Portland.

In addition to reporting on Patriot Prayer's violence, Ben discussed Ngo's involvement with the group during demonstrations and his role in cherry-picking footage to avoid filming any violence from right-wing protesters. According to Ben, "Ngo doesn't film Patriot Prayer protesters discussing strategies or motives. He only turns his camera on when members of antifa enter the scene." He added, "There's an understanding that Patriot Prayer protects him and he protects them."

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Abolishing birthright citizenship would be 'frankly ridiculous' -- and profoundly un-American (Jeff Jacoby, 8/29/19, The Boston Globe)

[T]he great majority of scholars agree that the 14th Amendment means just what it says: Anyone born on American soil, regardless of ancestry, race, ethnicity, social standing, or parents' immigration status, is an American citizen. The relevant clause provides that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." The reference to "jurisdiction" excludes children born to diplomats or to enemy troops; until 1924 it also excluded American Indians born on self-governing tribal lands. There are no other exceptions to birthright citizenship -- just as the amendment's drafters intended.

A key goal of the Republican-dominated Congress that approved the amendment in 1866 was to overturn the Supreme Court's execrable Dred Scott decision, which nine years earlier had held that the Constitution denied citizenship to all black people, even those born in the United States. But the amendment's language wasn't limited to black Americans, as critics bitterly complained.

"Is the child of the Chinese immigrant in California a citizen?" demanded Senator Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania during the congressional debate. Nativist bigotry in the late 19th century was directed not at newcomers from Central America, but at immigrants from Asia. Cowan was appalled at the prospect that America could be "overrun by a flood of immigration of the Mongol race," and that citizenship would be bestowed automatically upon the children of "another people of a different race, of different religion, of different manners, of different traditions." Graft birthright citizenship onto the Constitution, he fumed, and you might as well invite "a flood of Australians or people from Borneo, man-eaters or cannibals if you please."

Cowan voted against the 14th Amendment, but it passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. Within six months it had been ratified by three-fourths of the states, cementing birthright citizenship in the highest law of the land.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Trump slow-walks Ukraine military aid meant to contain Russia (CAITLIN EMMA and CONNOR O'BRIEN, 08/28/2019, Politico)

The Trump administration is slow-walking $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine, annoying lawmakers and advocates who argue the funding is critical to keeping Russia at bay. [...]

[T]he delays come amid questions over Trump's approach to Russia, after a weekend in which the president repeatedly seemed to downplay Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine and pushed for Russia to be reinstated into the Group of Seven, an annual gathering of the world's largest advanced economies. The review is also occurring amid a broader internal debate over whether to try and halt or cut billions of dollars in foreign aid.

United States military aid to Ukraine has long been seen as a litmus test for how strongly the American government is pushing back against Moscow.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Today's 'rock-ribbed Republican' is white, didn't graduate college, earns more than $77,000 (The Week, 8/29/19)

[W]ho is Trump's base? White voters with less formal education, certainly -- that demographic now makes up 59 percent of GOP voters, from 50 percent in 2010, while whites with college degrees shrank from 40 percent of the GOP to 29 percent, the biggest shift happening from 2016 to 2018, Thomas Edsall writes in The New York Times. But according to research from political scientists Herbert Kitschelt (Duke) and Philipp Rehm (Ohio State), Trump's base isn't the "white working class," or lower-income white voters without college degrees, Edsall explains:

Instead, Kitschelt and Rehm find that the surge of whites into the Republican Party has been led by whites with relatively high incomes -- in the top two quintiles of the income distribution -- but without college degrees, a constituency that is now decisively committed to the Republican Party. According to the census, the top two income quintiles in 2017 were made up of those with household incomes above $77,552. ...

Low-income whites without college degrees have moved to the Republican Party, but because they frequently hold liberal economic views -- that is, they support redistributionist measures from which they benefit -- they are conflicted in their partisan allegiance. [Edsall, The New York Times]

Both groups of non-college white voters "tend to endorse authoritarian policies on the noneconomic dimension," Kitschelt and Rehm write, but the blue-collar non-college whites swung to Trump because they viewed him as "substantially more moderate than his party," mostly due to his pledge to protect Medicare and Social Security. 

They were always just afraid the the UR was going to give their welfare money to "the coloreds".

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Surge in young Republicans worried about the environment: survey (Anthony Deutsch, 8/29/19, Reuters)

The new report by Glocalities, which canvassed views worldwide, showed the number of U.S. Republicans who said they "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement "I worry about the damage humans cause the planet" rose by 11 percentage points to 58% between 2014 and 2019.

The number of Republican voters aged 18-34 who are worried about the issue rose by 18 percentage points to 67%, said the poll, which also showed a 10 percentage point increase among all U.S. Republicans who said they tried "to live eco-consciously".

"When looking deeper into the data it becomes clear that the highest rise in environmental concern (worldwide) is visible among younger Republicans," said Glocalities pollster Martijn Lampert, who predicted that shifting views on the environment would influence the next U.S. election in 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Deporting Harvard Students Was Always the Goal (NICK MARTIN, August 28, 2019, New Republic)

While there's room for debate over the amount of weight granted to certain "elite" higher education institutions in American culture, a student accepted to Harvard on scholarship that hails from overseas appears on all counts to classify as "their best," regardless of who "they" is meant to encompass. But then again, to read Trump's recent "merit-based" immigration proposal in good faith would be to ignore every other flashing sign he's offered, such as the 2018 crackdown on student visas that threatened three- and ten-year bans on reentering the country for those who overstayed their visas beyond six months. The deportation of people like Ajjawi is entirely the goal.

It was the goal when ICE established a fake university to trap and then deport over 600 immigrants. It was the goal for Ananya, a college student from wealthy India-born parents who was raised in America, who wrote in The Nation this April about being barred from holding a job and advancing in her field because of the archaic U.S. immigration system. It was the goal for the 18 unnamed University of Oklahoma international students who faced deportation when they couldn't afford their bursar fees. It was the goal for Evana Akter, a college student and nursing hopeful who was forced to abandon her promising career and return to Bangladesh when her father was deported last year.

To Harvard's credit, since being alerted to the situation, the university has committed itself to getting Ajjawi on campus by the start of classes on September 3, issuing a statement saying that the school is working to ensure Ajjawi "can join his classmates in the coming days." And because it's Harvard and because it's now a high-profile case, chances are that Ajjawi will be allowed back in the country and will join his classmates at some point this fall. But don't be fooled when the headline drops into your timeline announcing this victory. There are hundreds or likely thousands more just like him, and this administration still hopes to deport them all.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


China is blunting the blows of Trump's trade war and just grabbed an even bigger share of global exports (Yusuf Khan,  Aug. 29, 2019, Business Insider)

China's economy is holding up well during the trade war -- and the country has even managed to grab an even bigger share of global exports. 

That's according to Capital Economics, which analyzed data that show China exports have inched up despite the trade war to reach almost 12% of the world's total. Why? 

Two main factors are helping China blunt the impact of tariffs, Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

One is a weaker yuan. China has let its currency slide lower -- the renminbi has depreciated 5% in trade-weighted terms since June last year, the economists said.

"This has encouraged exporters to lower their US dollar export prices by 2%, boosting the competitiveness of all Chinese exports to the US, not just those affected by tariffs, as well as all exports to the rest of the world," says Evans-Pritchard. 
Another reason: China is shipping US-bound exports to other Asian countries to circumvent the tariffs. China's shipments to south-east Asian countries have increased during the trade war. That's helping. 

Always fun when Reluctant Trumpers say that at least he's doing something about the threat from China....

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


August 28, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


The media refuses to face the fact that Joe Biden isn't close to collapsing   (John Podhoretz, August 28, 2019, NY Post)

Look, I'm sorry you're bored. I'm sorry you want more drama. I know you want Elizabeth Warren to be surging because she has such wonderful policy papers. I know you want Bernie Sanders gaining symbolic force by starring in Twitter videos in which he hits punching bags.

I know you want Beto O'Rourke to be a moral beacon on guns after his hometown was the site of a mass shooting -- even though he sounds less like an Old Testament prophet and more like Kermit the Frog when he tries to speak with power.

I know you want Kamala Harris to soar on the basis of a controversial topic -- 1970s school busing -- most of you didn't even know had ever been a topic, much less controversial.

I know you want Pete Buttigieg to give voice to the soul of the Democratic Party even after Buttigieg told a guy his mother would have had a perfect right to abort him the day before his birth.

I know you want Cory Booker to be an eloquent spokesman for whatever position he's decided to take today that he didn't take a decade ago.

Mostly, I know you want Joe Biden to be collapsing.

I know you want Democrats to gasp when he talks about Vermont when he's in New Hampshire. I know you want Democrats to think "senile" when he says he was vice president during the Parkland shooting. You want it because the actual facts of the case are both boring and irritating.

PODCAST: David Byler on Polling and 2020 (Charlie Sykes, August 27th, 2019, The Bulwark Podcast)

On today's Bulwark Podcast, David Byler from the Washington Post joins host Charlie Sykes to break down the 2020 polling: Is Biden falling? How much movement will see? The durability of Trump's (low) numbers, and what Democrats might need to do to flip the Senate.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 PM


Ernie Barnes' 'Sugar Shack': Why museum-goers line up to see ex-NFL player's painting (Makeda Easter, Aug. 28th, 2019, LA Times)

At the California African American Museum's retrospective dedicated to late artist and former NFL player Ernie Barnes, "The Sugar Shack" is an undeniable star.

Visitors often form a line around the painting, said the show's curator, Bridget R. Cooks, associate professor in the departments of African American studies and art history at UC Irvine. They all wait for their moment with Barnes' work, a piece that entered pop-culture consciousness after appearing on the 1970s sitcom "Good Times" and as the cover art to Marvin Gaye's 1976 album, "I Want You."

"The Sugar Shack" transports viewers to a jubilant black club. Vibrant, dancing partygoers and musicians fill the 3-by-4-foot canvas. Most have their eyes closed, a signature in nearly all of Barnes' paintings, referring to his oft-stated belief that "we are blind to each other's humanity."

As a neo-mannerist who referenced the late Renaissance period of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, Barnes painted the figures in "The Sugar Shack" as exaggerated and elongated forms, one man's arms joyously nearly reaching the top of the canvas, another woman's curvy legs stretching halfway across the dance floor. Barnes' expressive style helps viewers identify with the rhythm and sensuality of the painting, Cooks said. [...]

After being drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1959, Barnes played professional football for teams including the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers until 1965, before pursuing his passion for art.

In the early 1970s, Barnes settled in L.A.'s Fairfax district. He became interested in Jewish culture and was impressed with how much the community knew of its history, Cooks said. "And he really wished that black people had the same type of cultural education." Inspired by the "Black Is Beautiful" movement, he premiered his exhibition "The Beauty of the Ghetto," 35 paintings depicting everyday scenes from black life, in 1972.

His work during the time, including "The Sugar Shack," was about "showing blackness as beautiful and even exaggerating form," Cooks said. "It's not about trying to hide the curves of your body or the facial features that you have. It's about showing them, even exaggerating them and making it not even just OK but something to really be celebrated."

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Salvete, discipuli: Duolingo is now offering Latin lessons (MELISSA LOCKER, 8/28/19, Fast Company)

If you have always felt that you're not as tweedy and snooty as you could be because your school didn't offer Latin, soon you'll be able to "veni vidi vici" with the best Etonians thanks to Duolingo. One of the internet's top three favorite language-learning apps is now offering Latin courses.

To create the course, Duolingo partnered with the Paideia Institute, a nonprofit educational organization, with the challenging mission to make speaking Latin and ancient Greek seem cool to teens. Duolingo and the team at the Paideia Institute developed the Latin course's curriculum and structure. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


US exports to lobster-loving China go off cliff amid tariffs (PATRICK WHITTLE, August 26, 2019, AP) 

U.S. lobster exports to China have fallen off a cliff this year as new retaliatory tariffs shift the seafood business farther north.

China, a huge and growing customer for lobster, placed heavy tariffs on U.S. lobsters -- and many other food products -- in July 2018 amid rising trade hostilities between the Chinese and the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, business is booming in Canada, where cargo planes are coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, to handle a growing bump in exports. Canadian fishermen catch the same species of lobster as American lobstermen, who are based mostly in Maine.

The loss of business has brought layoffs to some Maine businesses, such as The Lobster Co., of Arundel, where owner Stephanie Nadeau has laid off half the 14 people she once had working in wholesale.

"They picked winners, and they picked losers, and they picked me a loser," Nadeau said.

The electors did that.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Why outlier polls are a good thing (Harry Enten, 8/28/19, CNN)

With so many polls being conducted of the Democratic race nationally, we should see a decent amount of polls that fall outside the margin of error of the average. Monmouth was one of those cases. There should be many more "outliers" to follow.

Moreover, the margin of error for primary polls is going to be wider than you might expect. Because of the expense to poll a subset of the population, most national primary polls are going to have a margin of error of 5 points or greater. A pollster could have something that looks like an outlier that is still within the margin of error.

When a pollster continuously produces results close to the average, it means something funky is going on. It could mean a pollster is not reporting outlier polls or somehow weighting their polls to match the average. That's bad science. Pollsters must and should have faith in their methods, like Monmouth did with this poll, and as other, such as Ann Selzer of Iowa fame, did in the past when releasing outlier results. Selzer did so when she was one of the few pollsters to correctly pick up on Barack Obama's strength ahead of the 2008 Iowa caucuses. She did so again, when she published a national poll showing Obama up double-digits on Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

If pollsters suppress their surveys, they may actually be missing a real trend. There have been instances in the United States and abroad where pollsters admitted they withheld publishing results because they didn't match the average. Sometimes, those "outlier" polls actually turned out to be accurate, and the average was inaccurate.

So what is the media to do if a pollster puts out a poll that looks very different from the others? It's not to ignore the outlier. Doing that is not much better than pollsters not releasing outliers. In 2016, many outlets ignored supposed outliers showing Trump doing better in key battlegrounds than the average. On the other end, we shouldn't be hyping outliers, either -- like I fear many did with the Monmouth poll.

Rather, folks in the media, including myself, should give context to outlier polls.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Episode 129: Basement history (The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, 8/26/19)

From sunny California, Jonah brings Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Niall Ferguson onto the Remnant to discuss how the West grew rich, the problems with contemporary historical scholarship, and other weighty issues.

This is an especially good episode that reminds one of what conservatives sound like.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Joe Rogan: The Most Trusted Man in America: He's a refreshing contrast to a mainstream media corrupted by sound bites and entertainment. (HUNTER DERENSIS • August 27, 2019, American Conservative)

In 2009, the same year as Cronkite's death, Joe Rogan started his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. On it, Rogan interviews comedians, UFC fighters, scientists, philosophers, celebrities, journalists, and, increasingly, candidates for president of the United States. From the 2020 Democratic field, he's already spoken to Andrew Yang, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and, earlier this month, Senator Bernie Sanders.

Rogan's hour-long conversation with Sanders began with them commiserating about the format of the 2020 primary debates. "You shouldn't even call them a debate," intoned the second highest polling Democratic candidate. "What they are is a reality TV show in which you have to come up with a sound bite and all that stuff. And it's demeaning to the candidates, and its demeaning to the American people. You can't explain the complexity of health care in America in 45 seconds. Nobody can."

"But everyone is online today. I mean the entire country is essentially getting email and Facebook and all that jazz. Like, why bother doing it in this particular medium that has an inherent time constraint?" asked Rogan. "The ability to discuss things in long-form like you can do online, like you can do right here right now, you can't get that on television."

Rogan is right. Even long-form television interviews, given an hour time slot, are comprised of spliced together clips, all edited, with voiceovers interjecting commentary after the fact, featuring commercial interruptions every few minutes.

Meanwhile, episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience often run for two to three hours. These conversations are unedited, with ad reads only before and after they're conducted. Even if Rogan or a guest has to leave to use bathroom, the record button stays on. It's through this extended, personal interaction that Rogan is able to make guests comfortable and provide them with an opportunity to speak informally and at length.

Americans want more of what Rogan is offering, and the proof is in the pudding. For example, Bernie Sanders' debate performance in June was watched by 18 million people on three separate television networks. He spoke for 11 minutes. At the July debate, Sanders was able to speak for over 17 and a half minutes. But that one, carried only by CNN, had a paltry viewership of only 8.7 million.

Meanwhile, Sanders' 67-minute conversation with Rogan, where the senator spoke the vast majority of the time, has been viewed on YouTube over 9.3 million times. And that isn't including podcast downloads: The Joe Rogan Experience has been the second most downloaded podcast on Apple for the past two years. While official numbers are not made public, it's been hinted that Rogan gets over 100 million downloads a month. So where was Sanders' time better spent?

Given that more people downloaded the episode than watched the CNN debate, maybe you just need to accept that podcasts are the mainstream media. 

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'They're afraid': Suburban voters in red states threaten GOP's grip on power (Robert Costa, 8/09/19, Washington post)

Republicans face a reckoning in the red-state suburbs that have long been a bedrock for the party, propelled by the stormy confluence of President Trump's searing racial attacks, economic turbulence and frustration with government inaction after last weekend's deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The GOP lost its House majority in 2018 after it fared poorly with suburban voters, particularly women. Party leaders are increasingly alarmed that they have made little progress winning them back. Instead, Trump's incessant feuds, his hard-line position on immigration -- including federal raids that left children without their parents -- and the stock market's tumult amid his trade standoff with China threaten to further alienate suburban voters ahead of the 2020 campaign, even in states that have traditionally elected Republicans. [...]

Democrats, meanwhile, are making inroads in places such as Atlanta's northern suburbs, a longtime Republican enclave that once sent former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R) to Washington, by making targeted appeals on the economy, health care and gun control that address voters' mounting fears about violence and instability.

The scene in Brookhaven, Ga., this week overlaps with suburban battlegrounds nationwide in states that were carried by Trump in 2016. Unease among suburban voters in those states over Trump's conduct and the GOP's limited steps on gun control has at times overshadowed Trump's economic record, which most Republicans count on to lift them next year.

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), an African American gun-control advocate whose son was shot and killed in 2012, narrowly won Gingrich's former seat last year by building a diverse coalition that drew support from college-educated white Republicans who have drifted away from Trump -- a campaign that Democrats nationally have called a model for more suburban gains.

McBath won "because there was massive pushback among some of my Republican friends against Trump, even if it meant putting in an anti-gun person," Gordon Blitch, a 54-year-old independent, said this week outside a Lowe's home improvement store in nearby Chamblee, Ga. "They saw larger issues at stake, and she helped herself by running a pretty smart campaign."

Several suburban Republicans in Georgia's 6th Congressional District said this week that they are open to hearing out the Democrats on guns, raising the prospect that the issue could upend the dynamics in America's suburbs as Congress is pressured to act in the wake of the latest mass shootings.

"I've always supported the Second Amendment, and I grew up hunting with my dad, but you saw what happened over the weekend. It's scary," said aircraft worker Chad Staggs, a 52-year-old Republican, as he shopped at a Whole Foods Market. "I've got two daughters, and I don't want to see anything happen to them. It's simply out of control, and something has to be done on guns."

Liz Chase, a retired teacher and Democrat who was shopping nearby, said residents of this bustling suburb, which is full of young families and manicured lawns, are unsettled and seeking reassurance.

"They're afraid," Chase said. On Monday morning, she said -- the first day of classes at many of the district's elementary schools -- several parents stood "together in a circle at the bus stop, holding hands and praying that their kids would come home safely in the afternoon."

Besides the party's obviously problematic embrace of a racist leader, the GOP is stuck with an old playbook where you try to demonize Democrats on guns, taxes, the environment and health care, all issues where they are the 60% side.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


For Trump Defectors, the Apology Is Only the First Step (ROBERT TRACINSKI, AUGUST 28, 2019, The Bulwark)

[W]alsh is in some respects a worse case. It's not just that he used to back Trump or ride on his coattails. It's that he was Trump, for a long time, before Trump even ran for office.

Walsh's history includes promoting conspiracy theories--the "birther" and "secret Muslim" conspiracy theories against Barack Obama, the Seth Rich conspiracy theory against Hillary Clinton--as well as promoting his "friend," white nationalist Paul Nehlen, and dabbling in alt-right rhetoric about a "war on whites."

But what I really remember Walsh for was his apparent vow to stage a rebellion if Donald Trump wasn't elected: 

Joe Walsh
 On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump.

On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket.

You in?

4:02 PM - Oct 26, 2016

This was a classic example of the hyperbolic and dangerously irresponsible style of Trump's supporters.

If Trump doing this sort of thing makes him "unfit for office," as Walsh now assures us, then what does that say about Walsh's fitness? And if NeverTrump conservatives oppose President Trump on these grounds, then someone whose style and ideas have been substantially similar to Trump's is clearly not a genuine alternative.

Walsh has since apologized for his previous behavior, explaining, "The beauty of what President Trump has done is he's made me reflect on some of the things I've said in the past. I had strong policy disagreements with Barack Obama, and too often I've let those policy disagreements get personal." He also claimed, "I wouldn't call myself a racist, but I would say I've said racist things on Twitter." It's nice of him to let us know what a lenient judge he is in his own case.

I'm glad Walsh took a long look in the mirror and decided to reform himself, sort of. But there is pretty well-established path to moral redemption, and admitting your past sins is only the first step. The second step is a long process of compiling a record of good works to demonstrate that you have truly changed and can now be trusted. The second stepis not running for president. 

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Donald Trump Sends Legal Demand Over Comment From MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell  (Eriq Gardner, 8/28/19, Hollywood Reporter)

According to Harder's demand letter, "The Program and Tweet make the false and defamatory statements that 'Russian oligarchs' co-signed loans provided to Mr. Trump by Deutsche Bank, and described these 'co-signers' as 'Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin.'"

The defense of Donald is that he's not in the bag for Vlad because of improprieties but out of shared convictions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Trump Tells Aides 'Take the Land' as Impatience Grows on Border Wall (Katie Rogers and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Aug. 28, 2019, NY Times)

 President Trump's signature campaign promise to build a wall along the southwestern border is far behind schedule. So he has told his aides to get the job done by whatever means necessary, including by seizing land on the Mexican frontier.

The president has repeatedly suggested during meetings on immigration policy that aides "take the land" and "get it done," according to a person who has heard him say it. The Washington Post first reported that Mr. Trump had brought up the land seizures, and had floated the idea of offering pardons to aides willing to break the law, a suggestion he has made before when exploring ways to fulfill his campaign promises.

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The Public Shifts on the Economy (RAMESH PONNURU, August 28, 2019 , National Review)

And according to Quinnipiac, it's a rapid shift. "For the first time since President Trump was elected, more voters say that the national economy is getting worse than getting better, with 37 percent saying it is getting worse, 31 percent saying it is getting better, and 30 percent saying it is staying the same.

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Trump wants Jewish voters in Florida. He may be pushing them further away. (MICHAEL WILNER, AUGUST 28, 2019, Miami Herald)

"It's not a massive shift, but you see some pieces in the data suggesting it is possible that Trump is a particular phenomenon among Jewish voters that will push them even further to the Democrats," said Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein.

A private poll conducted during the 2016 election found that 68% of Jewish Floridians supported Hillary Clinton, just shy of the 71% of Jewish Americans who supported her nationwide. But polling in 2018 indicated that Jewish voters only increased their opposition to Trump's Republican Party: 79% of the community voted for Democrats in the midterms and 71% said they would not even consider voting for Trump in 2020.

Trump won Florida by less than 113,000 votes in 2016 without chipping away at Jewish support for Democrats: Clinton won the same percentage of the state's Jewish vote as Barack Obama did in 2012, according to exit poll data. But while Trump does not necessarily need to win over Jewish votes, strategists say that he cannot afford to lose any more of the constituency without risking the state itself.

A 10-point shift in Florida's Jewish vote - amounting to roughly 60-80,000 ballots, depending on turnout - could swing the race.

One of the problems with Trumpbot sycophancy is he gets no pushback on asinine notions like the idea that, despite his open racism, he will improve his performance among Jews, blacks and Latinos.

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


White House Press Secretary Relied on Non-Existent Written Statement to Suspend Playboy Reporter (Jerry Lambe, August 28th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Attorneys for the Justice Department on Wednesday filed documents informing the court that there is no written statement by the Secret Service agent who intervened during the Rose Garden spat between Playboy reporter Brian Karem and Sebastian Gorka. The absence of such a statement does not bode well for the administration, as White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said it was instrumental in the decision to suspend Karem's press credentials for 30 days.

Following Tuesday's hearing regarding the constitutionality of Karem's suspension, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered the government to turn over the agent's written statement.

"Defendants respectfully inform the Court that there is no written statement by the Secret Service agent who intervened and spoke to Mr. Karem during the July 11, 2019 incident," DOJ attorneys responded Wednesday....

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Trump is feuding with Fox News again (The Week, 8/28/19)

President Trump is hereby ordering his supporters to immediately start looking for an alternative to Fox News.

Trump launched into his latest angry Twitter thread about Fox News on Wednesday, having apparently been set off by an interview on the network with the Democratic National Committee's communications director. He claimed that Fox was "heavily promoting the Democrats" with this interview, going on to complain that the network is "HOPELESS & CLUELESS" and that it should "go all the way LEFT."

He went further by telling his followers that they must "start looking for a new News Outlet," as Fox "isn't working for us anymore!"

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Trump's Statements on Jews Align--Dangerously--With His Conspiracy Dabbling (BENJAMIN PARKER  AUGUST 28, 2019, The Bulwark)

In the Washington Post, the astute observer of anti-Semitism and bane of Twitter neo-Nazis Yair Rosenberg makes a good case that the president, the self-proclaimed "best President for Israel in the history of the world... the King of Israel," is better understood as a morally confused anti-Semite. "Trump believes all the anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews," Rosenberg argues, "But he sees those traits as admirable."

In short, Rosenberg's argument is that Trump thinks Jews are more loyal to each other than to their own countries -- conniving, cheap, money-grubbing Scrooges. But to Trump, these are traits worth emulating. "He prioritizes his needs ahead of the national interest, and so he sees the idea that Jews might do the same with themselves or with Israel as entirely natural," Rosenberg explains. But if his stereotype-fueled philo-Semitism ever becomes a liability, it could easily flip to become stereotype-fueled anti-Semitism.

Rosenberg should have gone further. If Trump does believe in anti-Semitic tropes as Rosenberg argues he does, Trump's relations with Jewish people are much less important than his relationship with facts, truth, and conspiracy theories.

As Batya Ungar-Sargon put it on an episode of the Bulwark podcast, "Anti-Semitism is a form of racism because it's hatred for Jews based on the fact that we're different. However, it's crucially different from racism because typical racism is a kind of punching down, whereas anti-Semitism is really a conspiracy theory. It's this idea that Jews have secret power..." If Trump believes that Jews have some sort of midi-chlorian bond that binds them more tightly and more inseparably together than other peoples, he's liable to believe any number of tall tales and conspiracy theories.

To the Right, Jews are just Nationalists par excellence--they can never be American but their treatment of Muslims/Arabs is justified.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is Stakeholder Capitalism Really Back? (JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, 8/27/19, Project Syndicate)

The first responsibility of corporations is to pay their taxes...

After all, what entrepreneur was not driven primarily by the desire to be taxed?
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Under Trump, the deficit has ballooned, exploding a GOP myth (Julian Zelizer, 8/27/19, CNN)

Tea Party Republicans once railed against President Barack Obama's spending habits. As the deficit has grown under Trump, however, they've suddenly changed their tune. Acting Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who was once known as a fiscal hawk, has admitted the Trump administration is "spending a bunch of money on stuff we're not supposed to."

As we approach the 2020 election, we will likely hear the familiar refrain from Republicans claiming their party will keep the government's books balanced while "socialist" Democrats will wreak havoc on the nation's financial stability.

They weren't upset about deficits, just fearful that their welfare money was being spent on blacks by a black president. It's why the Tea Party opposed any and all  entitlement reforms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Her Husband After He Left Her For Rep. Ilhan Omar (Tasneem Nashrulla, 8/27/19, BuzzFeed News)

A Washington, DC, woman said in a divorce filing Tuesday that her political consultant husband left her for Rep. Ilhan Omar -- after making a "shocking declaration of love" for the Minnesota congresswoman.

Dr. Beth Mynett, the medical director of the city's Department of Corrections, said she separated from Timothy Mynett in early April after he told her "that he was romantically involved with and in love with another woman, Ilhan Omar," according to the divorce filing in DC Superior Court, which was first reported by the New York Post.

August 27, 2019

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Accepting more refugees would boost economy by $38 billion, report says (SBS, 8/27/19)

Accepting more refugees into the country would boost Australia's economy by almost $38 billion over the next 50 years, an international charity has found.

The Oxfam report finds that if Australia lifted its humanitarian intake from 18,750 to 44,000 by 2020-23 the country's overall Gross Domestic Product would increase.

The charity's report finds the intake would add 35,000 full time equivalent jobs to the Australian economy every year, on average over 50 years.

The report's comprehensive modelling by Deloitte Access Economics shows that an increase in intake would also boost demand for Australian goods and services by $18.2 billion.

In all fairness, how could these impoverished criminals, unwanted in their own societies, ever hope to adapt to Australia's cultural heritage....

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Giving Up Darwin: There are many reasons to doubt whether Darwin can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture.  (DAVID GELERNTER, 8/27/19, Catholic Education Resource Center)

There are many other problems besides proteins.  One of the most basic, and the last I'll mention here, calls into question the whole idea of gene mutations driving macro-evolution -- the emergence of new forms of organism, versus mere variation on existing forms.

To help create a brand new form of organism, a mutation must affect a gene that does its job early and controls the expression of other genes that come into play later on as the organism grows.  But mutations to these early-acting "strategic" genes, which create the big body-plan changes required by macro-evolution, seem to be invariably fatal.  They kill off the organism long before it can reproduce.  This is common sense.  Severely deformed creatures don't ever seem fated to lead the way to glorious new forms of life.  Instead, they die young.

Evidently there are a total of no examples in the literature of mutations that affect early development and the body plan as a whole and are not fatal.  The German geneticists Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for the "Heidelberg screen," an exhaustive investigation of every observable or inducible mutation of Drosophila melanogaster (the same patient, long-suffering fruit fly I meddled with relentlessly in an undergraduate genetics lab in the 1970s).  "[W]e think we've hit all the genes required to specify the body plan of Drosophila," said Wieschaus in answering a question after a talk.  Not one, he continued, is "promising as raw materials for macroevolution" -- because mutations in them all killed off the fly long before it could mate.  If an exhaustive search rules out every last plausible gene as a candidate for large-scale Drosophila evolution, where does that leave Darwin?  Wieschaus continues: "What are -- or what would be -- the right mutations for major evolutionary change?  And we don't know the answer to that."

There is a general principle here, similar to the earlier principle that the number of useless polypeptides crushes the number of useful ones.  The Georgia Tech geneticist John F.  McDonald calls this one a "great Darwinian paradox."  Meyer explains: "genes that are obviously variable within natural populations seem to affect only minor aspects of form and function -- while those genes that govern major changes, the very stuff of macroevolution, apparently do not vary or vary only to the detriment of the organism."  The philosopher of biology Paul Nelson summarizes the body-plan problem:

Research on animal development and macroevolution over the last thirty years -- research done from within the neo-Darwinian framework -- has shown that the neo-Darwinian explanation for the origin of new body plans is overwhelmingly likely to be false -- and for reasons that Darwin himself would have understood.

Darwin would easily have understood that minor mutations are common but can't create significant evolutionary change; major mutations are rare and fatal.

It can hardly be surprising that the revolution in biological knowledge over the last half-century should call for a new understanding of the origin of species.

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Exclusive: Falwell steered Liberty University land deal benefiting his personal trainer (Aram Roston, Joshua Schneyer, 8/27/19, Reuters) 

Evangelical leader and prominent Donald Trump backer Jerry Falwell Jr personally approved real estate transactions by his nonprofit Christian university that helped his personal fitness trainer obtain valuable university property, according to real estate records, internal university emails and interviews.

Around 2011, Falwell, president of Liberty University in Virginia, and his wife, Rebecca, began personal fitness training sessions with Benjamin Crosswhite, then a 23-year-old recent Liberty graduate. Now, after a series of university real estate transactions signed by Falwell, Crosswhite owns a sprawling 18-acre racquet sports and fitness facility on former Liberty property. Last year, a local bank approved a line of credit allowing Crosswhite's business to borrow as much as $2 million against the property.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Dudley encourages the Fed to help sway the 2020 election against Trump (Jeff Cox, AUG 27 2019, CNBC)

Former New York Fed President Bill Dudley is calling on the central bank not to help President Donald Trump fight his trade war with China.

In a sharply worded commentary to his one-time colleagues, Dudley urged Fed officials not to lower interest rates simply as a backstop while the president continues his tit-for-tat tariff battle with the Chinese that has escalated in recent days.

"Central bank officials face a choice: enable the Trump administration to continue down a disastrous path of trade war escalation, or send a clear signal that if the administration does so, the president, not the Fed, will bear the risks -- including the risk of losing the next election," he wrote in a post on the Bloomberg News site.

Dudley went so far as to suggest the Fed could -- and should -- try to influence the next election against Trump.

"After all, Trump's reelection arguably presents a threat to the U.S. and global economy, to the Fed's independence and its ability to achieve its employment and inflation objectives," he wrote. "If the goal of monetary policy is to achieve the best long-term economic outcome, then Fed officials should consider how their decisions will affect the political outcome in 2020."

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America's poorest are richer than most average Europeans: Study (JAMES D. AGRESTI, AUGUST 27, 2019, Acton)
A groundbreaking study by Just Facts has discovered that - after accounting for all income, charity, and non-cash welfare benefits like subsidized housing and food stamps - the poorest 20 percent of Americans consume more goods and services than the national averages for all people in most affluent countries. This includes the majority of countries in the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), including its European members.

In other words, if the U.S. "poor" were a nation, it would be one of the world's richest.

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Russia denies visa to U.S. senator amid G7 tensions (Reuters, 8/27/19) 

Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said on Tuesday that Russia had denied him a visa, amid disagreement within Washington and among U.S. allies over whether the country should be readmitted to the Group of Seven.

If you don't share American values, such visits are destabilizing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Thoughts on the Impending Prosecution of Andrew McCabe (Benjamin Wittes, August 27, 2019, LawFare)

Even if one doesn't believe, as McCabe contends, that he was merely confused when he made the false statements, the intense pressure of the situation is mitigating. Moreover, McCabe did correct the record following his misstatements to the inspector general; a few days after the interview in question, he called up investigators and said he had been reflecting on his statement and believed he had erred.

There's another problem with prosecuting McCabe. Justice Department policy dictates that prosecutors should bring a case only if they believe not only that the person is guilty of an offense but that "the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction." Goldman's story makes clear that the case here faces some significant evidentiary problems. The main one is named Lisa Page:

Among the witnesses called before the grand jury was Lisa Page, who worked closely for Mr. McCabe at the F.B.I. as his special counsel and later gained notoriety for text messages she exchanged with another F.B.I. official disparaging Mr. Trump. Mr. McCabe had authorized Ms. Page to speak with the Wall Street Journal reporter, but he told investigators on two occasions that he did not remember doing so. He later corrected himself.

Ms. Page told the grand jury that Mr. McCabe had no motive to lie because he was authorized as the deputy F.B.I. director to share the information with the newspaper. Her assertion could be damaging for prosecutors, who would have to prove that Mr. McCabe knowingly and intentionally lied to investigators.

It is, of course, possible that there is evidence that is not public yet. But rereading the inspector general report this morning and thinking about McCabe's likely defense (that he was confused under the intense pressure of the circumstances), Page's likely testimony, and the mitigating factors he will surely present, I find it hard to imagine a probability of conviction. To prosecute a case under these circumstances, in fact, seems so bizarre that you have to at least entertain the possibility that the explanation for the decision lies in something other than the merits of the case against the man. shift Little Finger's ire to the courts,

Posted by orrinj at 12:16 PM


Trump Has a Vicious New Primary Challenger--and Drooping GOP Support (Michael Tomasky,  08.27.19, Daily Beast)

[L]et's say 28 percent of registered voters are Republican. Twenty-eight percent of 175 million is basically 50 million. Okay, now let's say by election time, Trump is at 80 percent among Republicans. Well, 20 percent of 50 million is 10 million. That means that 10 million Republicans can maybe be persuaded to vote against the man. Or to withhold their support from him and stay home.

Given how close the vote totals were in 2016 in a number of states, these 10 million could make an enormous difference. Florida, 110,000 out of 9 million cast; Pennsylvania, 44,000 out of nearly 6 million; Wisconsin, 22,000 out of 2.8 million; Michigan, 11,000 out of 4.5 million. If there are 10 million anti-Trump Republicans in November 2020, isn't there a decent chance that 11,000 of them live in Michigan?

Out of curiosity I went back and looked at the exit polls over the last 20-plus years' worth of elections. Trump got 88 percent of Republicans in 2016. Mitt Romney got 93 percent in 2012. John McCain got 90 percent in 2008. George W. Bush got 93 percent in 2004 and 91 percent in 2000.

Then we go back to 1996, when Bob Dole ran against Bill Clinton. Dole got...80 percent of Republicans. Yes, party loyalties were less metastasized then, but whatever the explanation, the fact is the fact. Dole won just 80 percent of Republicans, and he lost--by 8.5 percent, 8 million popular votes, and a whopping 220 Electoral College votes.

So 80-percent support in a president's own political party may sound high at first glance, but it's not. It's shaky territory. 

We're really just measuring the size of the blowout at this point.

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Newark Water Crisis: Racing to Replace Lead Pipes in Under 3 Years (Nick Corasaniti, Aug. 26, 2019, NY Times)

Weeks into an escalating public health crisis caused by elevated levels of lead in the water, officials announced on Monday a new $120 million plan to expedite the replacement of ancient service pipes in New Jersey's largest city.

The new financing will allow the city to replace the 18,000 buried lead service lines in the next 24 to 30 months, according to Mayor Ras Baraka, a significant change from what city officials had estimated would take 10 years to complete.

"We are going to do this as swiftly as humanly possible," Mr. Baraka said at a news conference in Newark, standing with the governor and about two dozen other New Jersey officials.

Years of neglect, mismanagement and denials have plunged Newark into one of the largest environmental crises in an American city in years, provoking anger, confusion and frustration among its 285,000 residents.

Though lead has long been an issue here, the situation escalated in October after a spate of tests led to the distribution of faucet water filters -- the same filters used in Flint, Mich. -- to remove lead that had been leaching into tap water.

But two weeks ago, more testing found that some of the filters were failing to adequately remove lead, and the city was forced to distribute bottled water. [...]

The city has thousands more lead service lines -- garden-hose size pipes that connect its water mains to individual properties -- to replace than did Flint, Mich., which has been grappling with its lead-tainted water since 2014.

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Trump Approval Slides to New Low In Virginia (Taegan Goddard, 8/26/19, Political Wire)

A new Roanoke College poll find found that 53% of potential Virginia voters said they disapproved of President Trump's job performance, while just 27% said they approved -- a new low.

"The president has been a drag on Republicans in statewide elections since 2016. This year is especially significant because all 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the Nov. 5 ballot. Democrats hope to take control of the legislature, with Republicans defending razor-thin majorities of 20 to 19 in the Senate and 51 to 48 in the House of Delegates, with one vacancy in each chamber."

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Let's Drop The Pretense: American And Israeli Jews Have Little In Common Share No Destiny And Don't Even Like Each Other (Baruch Pletner, August 25, 2019, Tsionizm)

The Reformed and Conservative denominations of Judaism that have risen in the American exile and to which most American Jews belong, are a writ of divorce between Israeli and American Jews. These "Judaism-lite" versions defang our common heritage and seek to falsify our history. They do so by downplaying the role of the Hebrew language in the liturgy and by removing form the prayer book passages that relate to the longing to return home from exile, longing for Zion, and longing for revenge against the Gentiles for all the unimaginable slaughter that they have perpetrated against our people. What remains is a new-agey mumbo-jumbo, a social justice compote of two-faced derision for the intellectual inferiority of the Gentiles (especially the colored ones) and the satisfaction derived from virtue signaling on their behalf.

A century ago, in 1919, my great-grandparents and those of the American Jews now living, were one people. They practiced the same religion, they married only within their own ethnic group, they spoke the same language, they knew Hebrew, and they used the same prayer books. Most of all they knew that no place except for Israel can ever be their forever home. They knew that America, just like Poland was a place of exile.

Today, none of this is true. American Jews know neither Yiddish nor Hebrew and cannot follow the prayer service in its original language, the only language that makes it worth following. They do not seek to marry other Jews and most of them have given up on at least two of the foundational aspects of being Jewish: the people of Israel as a distinct ethnic group and the Land of Israel as its one and only homeland. American Jews today mistakenly think that America is somehow fundamentally different from Poland or from Germany or from any other place of exile. They have lost the Jewish perspective on things, a perspective that illuminates the indisputable fact that the Jews far predate not only America, but even the empire of antiquity upon whose example America was founded: Rome. American Jews have lost their sense of belonging to the Chosen People, the Eternal People, people who will be here long after the Mall in Washington DC resembles the ruins of the Roman Forum.

American Jews and Israeli Jews have nothing in common. We are not the same people, we do not practice the same religion, we share no values that really matter. It may be sad, but it is simply a fact. The Jewish-American hyphen may have been heftier than other hyphens for a brief moment in time, but now it is as weightless as the rest of them. Pasta, kielbasa, latkes, this is the fluff, this is the stuff American hyphens are made of and the Jewish one is no different.

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US backs Iraqi action against 'external actors' after alleged Israeli strikes (Times of Israel, 8/27/19)

The US Defense Department appeared to distance itself from recent attacks against Shiite militia bases in Iraq attributed to Israel, backing Baghdad's sovereignty and promising to cooperate with Iraqi investigations.

Baghdad has fumed over a series of mysterious attacks on the Iran-backed Popular Mobilizations Forces recently, which have been attributed to Israel with tacit US support.

"We support Iraqi sovereignty and have repeatedly spoken out against any potential actions by external actors inciting violence in Iraq," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan R. Hoffman said in a statement late Monday.

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THE GAY FRENCH POET BEHIND THE ALT-RIGHT'S FAVORITE CATCH PHRASE: Renaud Camus, whose theory of a 'great replacement' is echoed by white nationalists and mass killers, was once a disciple of the literary theorist Roland Barthes (Bruno Chaouat, August 27, 2019, The Tablet)

In 2000 Renaud Camus, previously best known as a poet and novelist, became notorious for a couple of pages of his diary. A major French publisher had been putting out installments of the diary for many years at that point, at the pace of one volume a year. Then, in 2000 Camus wrote that Jews, with few exceptions, cannot enjoy an organic relation with the French language, culture, and literature. In order to really have an authentic connection with French culture, Camus wrote, one must have been French for several centuries at least. Those few sentences provoked an outrage in the French center-left press. This is the time when, as a Jew and literary scholar, I became interested in Camus, met him, lectured and wrote about him. And so I owe the reader this disclaimer: I was young, relatively, and spellbound by Camus' erudition, love of art and music, and old France manners. It was before he founded his political party, gave up literature, and became a full-fledged ideologue and propagandist.

Renaud Camus' diary proposed a contract of zero censorship with his readers. I say it all the way I think and then I confront my darkest thoughts and nuance them and even berate myself for daring to think such bad thoughts. Granted that the contract was sincere, let us say that the diarist could legitimately be defended, in the name of free speech, of literary license, in the name of that very French belief that literature has the right to say everything, and even in the name of a certain ethic of self-examination and soul searching. After all, we are prey to bad thoughts, and we keep them to ourselves--why not publish those dark thoughts and run the risk of ostracism? Such was the defensive strategy employed by Camus and his defenders including, for a time, me. 

A couple of years later, in 2002, however, Camus confirmed that the statements made in 2000 were not merely soul-searching and that his belief in an organic connection between ethnic origin and literary sensitivity was in fact rooted in a naturalistic conception of culture with clear implications for ideological dogmas. Indeed in the aftermath of the national outrage, Camus, feeling cornered, wrote a voluminous book titled Of Meaning, and in that book he laid out a bizarre theory loosely based on a dialogue by Plato titled Cratylus. 

Plato's Cratylus dialogue, if you remember your classics, bears on the nature of language. The question asked by Plato through his two interlocutors, Cratylus and Hermogenes, is the following: Is language connected organically to the essence of the things it describes, or is it the product of custom and social convention? Cratylus' view that language is natural rather than a form of convention is adopted by Camus who uses it as the conceptual basis for his own belief that culture is the product of a physical connection with the land and with ethnic origins. The analogy was far-fetched but it provided the foundation for an ideological claim: namely, that people (immigrants) who claim to be French just because they have a French passport are fakes even if they were born in France and even if their parents were born in France. They are paper French. Phony French. And so, that was how Renaud Camus started to elaborate his theory of the great replacement, a theory that has far outgrown its origins to attain the level of international influence that we are now witnessing. 

If there is a natural connection between culture, place, and ethnicity, then mass migrations threaten that natural connection. The immigrants from the Maghreb and Africa, like the Jews who inhabited France before them, will never be genuinely French, no matter how deeply they imbibe French literature and culture. There is something essentialist, and certainly romantic, in that conception. Ironically enough, Camus began as a disciple of Roland Barthes, the literary theorist who in fact wrote the foreword to a very early book by Camus, thus helping to launch his literary career. Camus is not only a reactionary, he is also an adept of postmodern theory and in his early career was very fond of experimental and avant-garde writing. 

Camus' evolving conception of meaning was once derived from Barthes' theory of degrees of discourse, or spiral of meaning. Barthes' idea was that an utterance has a meaning that can be entirely reversed, or understood totally differently in a different context. This spiral conception of meaning obviously undermines the essentialist belief in absolute truth. From a postmodern, relativistic conception of truth (one that is dynamic and nonfoundational), which Camus had held along with his left-wing politics through the 1970s and '80s, the author turned in the later part of the '90s toward an essentialist, quasi-romantic conception of culture and identity (one that is static and grounded in a soil). From the spiral of meaning, the Barthes playfulness with language, Camus had turned away, preferring something more "serious" and rigid as a basis of belief. 

This straightening out of the spiral was notable for another reason: It reflected not only the political evolution of the former French progressive now giving intellectual ammunition to the far right, but on his personal identity as well, as Camus was openly gay. He is not the first European ideologue or politician to argue that Islam's homophobia justifies Islamophobia. Think of Pim Fortuyn, one of Camus' heroes. To be sure, Camus did not have to make too much effort to capitalize on a major ambiguity of left-wing identity politics--the sacrifice of gay and women rights on the altar of anti-racism. Journalist and essayist Caroline Fourest has written eloquently on this ambiguity from a secularist feminist perspective--without falling into the trap of racism. 

Camus' essentialist conception of identity is reminiscent of the early 20th-century French literary right wing--the idea that Jews will never be able to relish Racine's poetry in the same way as a "real" Frenchman. This notion was based on the belief held by French monarchist and Catholic Charles Maurras that there is a real country and a legal one. Whereas the legal one is pure convention (Hermogenian), the real one is Cratylian. The legal one is institutional, the real one is a natural fact. Nation is not narration, it is nature.  

Replacement theory appeared as a logical extension of Camus' belief in an "organic" French culture, threatened by the presence of impostors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iran's Rouhani rules out talks with U.S. until sanctions lifted (Parisa Hafezi, 8/27/19, Reuters) 

Iran will not talk to the United States until all sanctions imposed on Tehran are lifted, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump said he would meet his Iranian counterpart to try to end a nuclear standoff.

China's foreign ministry reiterated on Tuesday that it had not heard of any recent telephone call between the United States and China on trade, and said it hopes Washington can stop its wrong actions and create conditions for talks.

With Donald folding in the face of his 2020 prospects tanking, there's no reason for his opponents to give an inch, except cosmetically.

August 26, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Undercover in Patriot Prayer: Insights From a Vancouver Democrat Who's Been Working Against the Far-Right Group from the Inside  (Alex Zielinski, Aug 26, 2019, Portland Mercury)

A self-described "everyday anti-fascist," Ben's two years of quietly documenting the inner-workings of the local far-right have come to a close. But his experience offers an unprecedented peek into how Portland's alt-right agitators function.

Ben's interest in local activism began in 2011, after a four-year stint with the US Navy ended during the height of the recession. While he didn't consider himself a staunch liberal at the time, Ben grew frustrated with the feds' response to the financial crisis and began participating in Occupy Portland rallies. While earning a psychology degree at Washington State University, Ben joined the Young Democrats of Clark County and began canvassing for local Democrats running for school boards or city council seats.

It was only after Donald Trump's election that Ben began hearing about Patriot Prayer's increasingly contentious events. Wanting to witness the Vancouver group's tactics firsthand, Ben decided to attend--and document--a Patriot Prayer rally in downtown Portland on June 4, 2017.

It was a mess. Patriot Prayer was joined by three left-wing protest groups and a pack of heavily armored police officers. Police used pepper spray on several anti-fascist (commonly shortened to "antifa") protesters, arrested 14 participants, and ended up detaining more than a hundred attendees--including several journalists--when the crowds didn't disperse.

Ben managed to avoid the police, and instead documented protesters on the periphery of the clashing rallies. That's when he encountered four people affiliated with Patriot Prayer beating up a left-wing protester on a sidewalk.

"I was shocked by the violence," Ben says. "I remember thinking, 'Patriot Prayer is only going to get more violent. And no one is going to stop them.'"

Ben, who calls veterans the "original" anti-fascists, says his time in the Navy inspired him to take action.

"When I joined the military, I made an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic," says Ben. "There's no expiration date on that oath. I want to live my ideals."

So Ben decided to fight back. But instead of joining local anti-fascist groups, Ben set his sights on weakening Patriot Prayer from the inside.

The idea: Get far-right activists on camera--to help others identify them--and act as an "early warning system" by leaking Patriot Prayer's plans to counter-protesters in real time.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Optimistic People Live Longer, a New Study Finds (Roni Dengler, August 26, 2019, Discover)

For the most part, research on exceptional longevity, commonly defined as living to 85 years or older, focused on the genetics of people who live for at least that long. But more recently, researchers have shown that some factors beyond health like having strong social relationships are important too.

Optimism has popped up in studies of this nature as well. Recent research suggests optimism may impact facets of aging-related health like the risk of having a heart attack. And researchers have established a link between optimism and a reduced risk of premature death, though whether optimism also helps you live longer was unknown.

In the new study, Lee and colleagues tracked optimism levels and mortality status in nearly 70,000 women and 1,500 men with questionnaires. They followed up with the women for 10 years and the men for 30. Then the researchers looked to see whether higher optimism levels were linked to longer lifespans. The analysis also accounted for behaviors that would likely impact longevity such as smoking, diet and physical activity.

Women in the study with the highest levels of optimism had nearly 9 percent longer lifespans than women with the lowest optimism levels. Men benefited similarly, the team reports Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Guys with the highest optimism levels lived about 10 percent longer than those with the lowest levels.

Hating America as much as the Left/Right is unhealthy physically, not just mentally.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


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Prosecutors Near Decision on Whether to Indict Andrew McCabe (Adam Goldman, 8/26/19, NY Times)

Among the witnesses called before the grand jury was Lisa Page, who worked closely for Mr. McCabe at the F.B.I. as his special counsel and later gained notoriety for text messages she exchanged with another F.B.I. official disparaging Mr. Trump. Mr. McCabe had authorized Ms. Page to speak with the Wall Street Journal reporter, but he told investigators on two occasions that he did not remember doing so. He later corrected himself.

Ms. Page told the grand jury that Mr. McCabe had no motive to lie because he was authorized as the deputy F.B.I. director to share the information with the newspaper. Her assertion could be damaging for prosecutors, who would have to prove that Mr. McCabe knowingly and intentionally lied to investigators. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM

RIGHT IDEA, WRONG TARGET (profanity alert):

Scoop: Trump suggested nuking hurricanes to stop them from hitting U.S. (Jonathan Swan, Margaret Talev, 8/26/19, Axios)

During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, "I got it. I got it. Why don't we nuke them?" according to one source who was there. "They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they're moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can't we do that?" the source added, paraphrasing the president's remarks.

Asked how the briefer reacted, the source recalled he said something to the effect of, "Sir, we'll look into that."

Trump replied by asking incredulously how many hurricanes the U.S. could handle and reiterating his suggestion that the government intervene before they make landfall. 

The briefer "was knocked back on his heels," the source in the room added. "You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, 'What the f---? What do we do with this?'"

Nuke Pyongyang, not the hurricane and reap the benefits of global winterization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


State Department Removes 'Palestinian Territories' From Website (JTA, 8/26/19) 

Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's secretary-general, said on Twitter that the change was about "advancing the agenda" of the settlement movement.

The Trump administration has defunded virtually all of the money -- about $400 million annually -- that the United States had relayed to the Palestinians. It has also moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem while rolling its Palestinian interests sections into the embassy's business. U.S. officials previously dealt with Palestinians out of a separate Jerusalem consulate.

Trump administration officials also have retreated from favoring a Palestinian state as an outcome of peace negotiations. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM

FAMILY TRADITION (self-reference alert):

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Ettore ZUCCA, also known as Mario Sarni, also known as Ettore Sarni Zucca, Defendant (125 F. Supp. 551, Nov. 16, 1954, United States District Court S. D. New York)

J. Edward Lumbard, U. S. Atty. for Southern Dist. of N. Y., New York City, George C. Mantzoros, Asst. U. S. Atty., New York City, of counsel, for United States.

Judd & Gurfein, New York City, Orrin Judd, New York City, of counsel, for defendant.

Harvard just made a ton of case law available on the Web.

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


The Sisters Who First Tried to Take Down Jeffrey Epstein (Mike Baker, Aug. 26, 2019, NY Times)

Ms. Farmer moved to New York in 1993, eager to pursue her passion for art, and enrolled at the New York Academy of Art.

She already had a specialty, exploring figures of nudes and adolescents, and had a chance to train under one of her idols, the painter and sculptor Eric Fischl. One of her paintings was done in a voyeuristic style, showing a man in the frame of a doorway looking at a woman on a sofa -- a painting she said was inspired by Edgar Degas' famous piece, "Interior," which is sometimes known as "The Rape."

At a gallery show for her graduation, Ms. Farmer said, the dean of the academy, Eileen Guggenheim, introduced her to Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell, and told her to sell them the painting with the man in the doorway at a discount. (Ms. Guggenheim said she did not recall such an interaction.)

Afterward, Ms. Farmer said, Mr. Epstein called her to offer her a job acquiring art on his behalf, and later managing the entrance to a townhouse he was renovating.

There, at the age of 25, she was introduced to Mr. Epstein's odd life, with girls and young women coming through for what she recalled Ms. Maxwell describing as modeling auditions for the lingerie retailer Victoria's Secret. The house at times bustled in anticipation of potential visits from Bill Clinton, although she never actually saw him there.

She said she met Donald Trump one day in Mr. Epstein's office, recalling Mr. Trump eyeing her before Mr. Epstein informed him that "she's not for you." Ms. Farmer's mother, Janice Swain, recalled her daughter detailing the interaction with Mr. Trump around the time it occurred.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM



It's probably self-evident that anyone claiming Trump is the Messiah is not right in the head, but just so it's on the record, Wayne Allyn Root--a self-described "Jew turned evangelical Christian"--is an unhinged conspiracy theorist who believes the 2017 Las Vegas shooting was a "coordinated Muslim terror attack" by ISIS and that George Soros paid actors to stage the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that included Nazi chants like "Jews will not replace us."

Posted by orrinj at 1:47 PM


'He was outsmarted': Trump mocks Obama on world stage (QUINT FORGEY, 08/26/2019, Politico)

"President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him, and he wanted Russia to be out of what was called the G-8," Trump said. "And that was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin. He was outsmarted."

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Why Trump's tweets on Omar and Tlaib go to the heart of American Jewish politics (Noam Pianko, 8/26/19, The Converstion) 

Zionism is the belief that Jews are a national group who have a right to a territorial homeland. This ideology presented a challenge to American Jews during the first half of the 20th century.

As an immigrant group struggling for acceptance in the U.S., Jews worried that embracing a national identity with ties to a foreign homeland would lead to accusations of disloyalty.

To address this concern, early Zionist leaders equated Jewish nationalism with the spread of American political ideals of equality, justice and ethno-religious tolerance.

For example, Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court justice and leader of the Zionist Organization of America from 1914 to 1916, argued that "Zionism is consistent with American patriotism" because "America's fundamental law seeks to make real the brotherhood of man."

Once the state of Israel was established, American Jewish leaders held it accountable to American liberal political and religious sensibilities. American Jewish Committee President Jacob Blaustein, for example, articulated a clear precondition for American Jewish support in 1950.

"Israel has a responsibility," Blaustein declared to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, "in terms of not affecting adversely the sensibilities of Jews who are citizens of other states by what it says or does."

A few years later, Joseph P. Sternstein, who served as president of the Zionist Organization of America from 1974 to 1978, put it more bluntly: "We will decide, and, if necessary, we shall have to tell them where they are wrong and where they are right."

In the decades following the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel, most American Jews embraced Zionism as an extension of American liberalism.

In the mid-1970s, a competing understanding of the relationship between American Jews and the State of Israel emerged. The competition came from the response to the liberal politics of the era.

Some Jews involved with anti-Vietnam War protests and civil rights activism in the U.S. believed that they should apply the same anti-imperial and anti-racist political values to Israel's role as an occupying force in the West Bank and Gaza, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Breira, the group they formed in 1973, argued that Jews should challenge Israeli policy publicly as Zionists committed to a Jewish and democratic state.

In 1977, a broad coalition of leading American Jewish communal organizations attacked Breira for their public criticism of Israeli policies and support for negotiations with Palestinian leadership. The tremendous communal pressure to silence Breira's efforts to change Israeli policy in the West Bank contributed to the dissolution of the group later that year.

The Breira incident marked an early example of a reorientation of American Jewish politics. Increasingly, some American Jewish leaders challenged the legitimacy of voicing dissenting opinions about Israel, especially those associated with progressive political movements.

The influential founder of the neo-Conservative movement and editor of Commentary magazine, Norman Podhoretz, used the Breira incident to question the alignment between American Jews, Zionism and liberalism.

In July 1976, Podhoretz wrote in Commentary,

"There is a reluctance among some of Israel's friends to describe the hostility to Israel in certain circles as anti-Semitic ... a reluctance based on the desire to see the Arab-Israeli conflict as a conventional international dispute amenable to resolution by conventional diplomatic means."

For Podhoretz, left-leaning American Jews failed to recognize that anti-Semitism energized global hostility toward Israel.

Podhoretz feared American Jewish criticism of Israel fueled by the political left could provide ammunition for prejudiced attacks on the Jewish State's legitimacy.

The safety of the American Jewish community thus rested on conservative defenders of the State of Israel against critics from the left side of the political spectrum attempting to "delegitimize Israel."

Observers starting in the late 1970s, such as scholar Jacob Neusner, named this approach "Israelism" to emphasize the shift toward elevating Israel as the "central interpretative principle by which American Jews view Jewish realities."

The essence of Nationalism is that, once you drain your "national group" of any ideas, there is obviously no basis for judging whether actions are right or wrong.  They are your group's actions and, therefore, should be endorsed, or, at least, accepted.  By this racial standard,  it is perfectly true that all criticism of Israel is illegitimate.  American Jews, being American and Jewish, however, believe that the nation of Israel must be held accountable to our ideals and morality.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ashes 2019: How Ben Stokes brought a country to a standstill and a series to life (Felix White, 8/26/19, The Independent)

Sometimes there just are not the words. Sometimes, all you can do is conclude that nowhere on this planet can there be another game in the world capable of doing what Test cricket can. It isn't often though, that there's a single person we can apportion the entire awestruck feeling to.

Sunday 25th August 2019 at Headingley will go down, if not as the greatest team run chase of all time, then certainly as the greatest Test match innings ever played by an Englishman. Ben Stokes, arrived at the crease on Saturday in doomed rescue mission (chasing 359 to keep England in the Ashes), with his customary collar up in a mood of contrary resilience and somehow conspired to find himself still there at 4pm the next day, moving through partnerships, screaming then bowed then screaming again, carving then ushering then carving again, imposing his will on an otherwise lost cause to end up 135 not out and levelling this deeply compelling, endlessly confounding series.

His innings, which will already be memorised and filed in the minds of all that witnessed it as mandatory cricketing syllabus, was an ever-evolving art form. It was an unnervingly clear minded assortment of physical instinct and emotional restraint, an expression of unthinkable alpha zen the likes of which has never been seen before.

It's closest rival, both for brute force, dexterity and, it must be said, luck, will be his own feature length film-worthy sibling of an innings in the World Cup final. One imagines, bar an emergency of the same proportions for which he and he alone is called, we will never see nothing like either ever again. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The alt-right manifesto that has Trumpworld talking (BEN SCHRECKINGER 08/23/2019, Politico)

The most important political book of the past year just might be a grammatically challenged manifesto in favor of nude sunbathing written under the pen name Bronze Age Pervert.

Where Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" inspired generations of libertarians to enter politics, and Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing" did the same for idealistic liberals, a cohort of young, right-wing men are today gravitating toward "Bronze Age Mindset." The self-published book urges them to join the armed forces in preparation for the onset of military rule.

Since its publication in June 2018, the book has gained a following online, and its author, known to his fans as BAP for short, has come to the attention of notable figures on the Trumpist right. Earlier this month, the book was the subject of a 5,000-word review by Michael Anton, a conservative intellectual who served as a spokesman for Donald Trump's National Security Council. Anton concludes by warning, "In the spiritual war for the hearts and minds of the disaffected youth on the right, conservatism is losing. BAP-ism is winning."

Anton is just one of the Trump world figures who has taken notice.

How can this still be Flight 93 unless Donald and his cohort are al Qaeda?  
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump administration can't say when first section of new wall will be built (Stef W. Kight, 8/26/19, Axios)

More than 2 1/2 years after President Trump took office with an ardent promise to build a wall along the southern border, his administration cannot tell us when it will add its 1st mile of new wall to a border area that doesn't have pre-existing barriers.

The wall has been Trump's most iconic and polarizing promise -- one he was willing to declare a national emergency and shut down the government for weeks over.

As long as he keeps attacking black female Muslims the wall-crowd will stay onside.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


WHY DO SO MANY ISRAELIS ONLY CONNECT WITH JUDAISM WHEN THEY COME TO AMERICA?: Making sense of a strange phenomenon (Zvika Klein, August 26, 2019, The Tablet)

Early in 2005, while serving as a shaliach, an Israeli educator, in a Jewish school in southern Florida, I started noticing a curious phenomenon. It was brought to my attention by the school's security guard, a fellow Israeli: Back home, he told me, he wasn't much of an observant Jew, having rarely visited a shul since his bar mitzvah. But as soon as he came to the United States, he confessed to me, he started to realize how important Judaism truly was to him, which led him to lay tefillin every morning. I asked him how he explained this change, and he said that he felt Israel was overrun by kfiya datit, Hebrew for religious coercion, a term secular Israelis use often to complain about too much religion in the public sphere. Under these circumstances, he said, it was hard for him to connect to being Jewish; America was a very different story.

At the time, I thought my colleague's story was an exception. But having reported on Israel-diaspora relations for a leading Israeli publication for years now, I know it to be the rule: Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, emigrating to the United States or elsewhere, are suddenly discovering their roots and coming out as Jews, lighting Shabbat candles, sending their kids to a Jewish school, and attending services every week.

To be frank, I find this phenomenon annoying.

As an American-born Jew who had made aliyah, it's hard for me to come to terms with the realization that the Jewish state is failing so miserably at being the one place in the world where Jews can go to freely practice their faith.

What accounts for this failure? I don't agree that the fault lies squarely with Orthodoxy, as my friend in Florida had once suggested. Sure, Israel has no separation of church and state, and having an official state-sponsored body meddle in intimate affairs like weddings and burials is far from ideal. But the problem is deeper, as I learned a few years back while attending a delegation designed to familiarize Israeli journalists with American Jewish life.

One of my fellow delegates, a senior Israeli TV anchorwoman, stood up and said she felt outraged that she was not able to become acquainted with other streams of Judaism while living in Israel. "All these years," she said emotionally, "I thought that if I wanted to be plugged in to Jewish life, I had to be Orthodox. Now I understand that there's a great wealth of ways to worship out there, including diverse denominations that I feel much better represent me." I waited for her to finish, and then, politely, told her that Israel, too, was blessed with Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist denominations galore; it's just that my colleague, intelligent and well informed as she is, had never heard of them. Why? That, as they say, is the $64,000 question.

Put simply, the question is this: How can it be that a young Israeli can undergo years of education in a state-run school, attend an Israeli youth movement and consume Israeli culture, and still not emerge feeling thoroughly rooted in Jewish peoplehood or the Jewish faith? Or, more bluntly, how can it be that so many of us hear basic prayers for the first time only when attending, say, a Reform summer camp in America, an experience that drives many more still to grow more observant?

It's not even a difficult question: American Jews believe in the religion not in the tribe.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Steve King Is Broke And Has Been Abandoned by His Colleagues as He Runs for Re-Election (Lachlan Markay, 08.25.19, Daily Beast)
Now, as he faces the toughest campaign since he was first elected in 2002, he is doing so with a potentially catastrophic lack of resources. The $18,365 that King's campaign had in the bank at the end of June was the least cash on hand he's ever reported after the first six months of a cycle.

King is dealing with that lack of resources as he faces very immediate threats to his incumbency. His 2018 Democratic opponent, former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten, lost by fewer than three points last year, and is making another run for the seat.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Macron Pulled a Fast One on G-7 Leaders With Gamble on Iran (Ian Wishart, Josh Wingrove and Arne Delfs. 8/26/19, Bloomberg) 

In a break in summit talks on Sunday afternoon, cameras caught British Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulating his French host on his handling of a tense dinner the night before.

"Well played," Johnson told Emmanuel Macron, breaking, momentarily, into French. Conversations between U.S. President Donald Trump and other Group of Seven leaders had grown heated around the issues of Iran and particularly Russia.

"You did very well last night," Johnson went on. "My God, that was a difficult one."

Macron's response: "I'm not finished..."

In fact, the 41-year-old president was just getting started. His shock tactics to reinvent the tired old G-7 format were beginning to wear on his colleagues, and that was even before they discovered what was headed their way (literally). But one, key actor had been let in on the secret.

As lunch was wrapping up, reporters and advisers in Biarritz began tracking a plane on the Flightradar app that was approaching the town's closed airport. Iran's green, white and red flag was emblazoned on the jet's blue tailwing.

Onboard, was Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Iran has divided the G-7 ever since Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal with the country in 2018. European countries want to salvage the agreement but the U.S. president is holding firm. Zarif himself is under U.S. sanctions and had his movements heavily restricted during a recent visit to New York.

Barack Obama's team choreographed his movements around the United Nations headquarters in 2009 to avoid a chance run-in with the Iranians. Bringing Zarif to the same beach resort as Trump looked like a highly provocative move given the U.S. administration's hostility to the Iranian regime.

August 25, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Israeli Right Resurrects 'Voluntary Transfer' of Palestinians, Despite 50 Years of Failure (Amira Hass, Aug 25, 2019, Ha'aretz)

On Monday, when a "senior government official" said Israel was willing to help Palestinians emigrate from the Gaza Strip, it sounded to many people like empty talk. But this statement follows a series of Israeli attempts at demographic manipulations, so what the official said shouldn't be played down. Still, Israel has a history of utter failure in getting Palestinians to respond to material enticements to emigrate.

The remarks and the speed with which the leader of the right-wing Yamina alliance, Ayelet Shaked, came out in support of the government official's philosophy shows the strength of the Israeli delusion that Palestinian demands and national aspirations will disappear, diminish or be defeated through emigration.

Immediately following the start of the occupation in 1967, the Israeli government's inclination was to annex Gaza to Israel while emptying it of most of its refugees. The assumption was that it would be easy to uproot the refugees once again. The proposed destinations for them thrown around by the cabinet were Sinai, the West Bank, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Iraq and South America.

In the book "1967: Israel, the War, and the Year that Transformed the Middle East," published in Hebrew in 2005 and in English in 2007, Tom Segev provides details on proposals such as these to uproot the refugees once again. Above all, the details and the way the initiatives were considered says something about their proponents, who maintained an arrogant colonial way of thinking, treating the Palestinians as subjects devoid of a connection to their homeland, like chess pieces that could be moved around the board.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Trump Justice Department Sent anti-Semitic, White Nationalist Blog Post to Immigration Judges (The Associated Press, Aug 25, 2019)

The Justice Department's immigration arm sent judges a morning news briefing that included a blog post from a virulently anti-immigration website that also publishes work by white nationalists.

The post by VDARE featured links that directly attacked immigration judges with racially tinged slurs and a specific anti-Semitic reference about Jews and power, according to a letter sent Thursday by judges' union president Ashley Tabbador to James McHenry, the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Justice Department.

It was distributed to all 440 immigration judges across the country earlier this week, along with other stories from The Washington Post and Connecticut Public Radio. The inclusion of the post was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


This Is How Trump Will Tank the Economy and His Presidency (Josh Barro, 8/25/19, New York)

The Fed chairman's remarks at the Jackson Hole Federal Reserve conference on Friday were in line with his comments after July's Fed meeting, and with the minutes from that meeting. There are increasingly worrying signs in the global economy, he said. Global trade tensions are one factor worsening the outlook. And the Fed stands ready to pursue appropriate policy adjustments to support the economy as needed.

The financial markets took Powell's statement as mildly dovish. Bond yields fell a little, stocks rose a little, the dollar fell a little -- all signs the speech gave market participants a little more confidence the Fed would pursue at least a couple more interest rate cuts. But mostly, the speech seemed to contain what people expected it to contain.

In response, the president attacked Powell on Twitter, asking who's the bigger enemy: him, or Chinese president Xi Jinping. [...]

[A]s the economy shows signs of weakening (in part for reasons unrelated to the president's actions) he seems panicked. He wants the Fed to clean up his mess but -- despite public perception -- his public jawboning of the Fed appears to be having little effect on monetary policy. The main way the president has been affecting monetary policy has been by taking concrete policy actions that hurt the economic outlook, which changes the parameters the Fed considers as it decides how to set interest rates. The bigger a mess Trump makes, the more rate cuts he can get, but not enough rate cuts to actually offset the mess. And this is making him angry.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


What Republicans Really Mean When They Call Jews Disloyal (JORDAN WEISSMANN, AUG 22, 2019, Slate)

Conservatives have actually inverted the old libel. Instead of accusing Jews of being overly loyal to a foreign nation, Trump has turned centuries of anti-Semitism on its head by accusing them of not being loyal enough to one--and his followers are happy to echo the charge.

How has this come to pass?

One obvious part of the answer is that Trump and other conservatives are just parroting the sorts of things they hear from Jewish Republicans, who--let's be blunt--tend to see Israel's Jewish critics as a bunch of self-hating secularists who've bought in to leftist anti-Semitism. Not all of them are quite as forthright about their feelings as Shapiro, who charmingly likes to dismiss his opponents as "Jews In Name Only." But the sentiment that liberal Jews are bad Jews is real. And Republicans outside the tribe have clearly picked up on it. [...]

What we're seeing now is also the result of a recent shift in America's political alignment. While there have almost always been critics of Israel on the left, there used to be a rock solid bipartisan consensus on the Jewish state among mainstream Washington politicians, so that accusing Jewish Democrats of "disloyalty" for merely voting for Democrats wouldn't have made a drop of sense. (Those 71 percent of Jews who voted for Hillary were voting for a very pro-Israel candidate.) But in recent years, that consensus has begun to crack, in part because of tensions between Netanyahu and the Obama administration that turned supporting Bibi, at the very least, into a more partisan issue. Plenty of Democrats, like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are still old-line liberal Zionists. But outside of its top leadership in Congress, the party and its voters as a whole have become less unconditionally supportive of Israel, and more tolerant of radically critical voices like Omar and Tlaib.

Republicans, on the other hand, have become monomaniacally obsessed with Israel and its security. To many conservatives today, the Jewish state is not just an important ally--it is our most important ally. National defense hawks, rightly or wrongly, see it as our bulwark against Iranian aggression in the Middle East. Islamophobes see it as part of a struggle over civilization itself. And an entire generation of evangelical Christian Zionists--like Locke--believe that Israel is part of a divine plan, God's instrument on earth. And to almost all of them, supporting Israel in practice means supporting Netanyahu's conservative Likud government. The devotion is so strong that in a 2015 Bloomberg poll, 67 percent percent of Republicans said they believed that "Israel is an important ally, the only democracy in the region, and we should support it even if our interests diverge." Nobody would say that last part about, like, Great Britain.

When you mix in Trump's personal affinity for the Jewish state--Israel literally named a settlement after him--you reach the absurd yet logical conclusion of contemporary U.S.-Israel politics: Prominent, non-Jewish Republicans now feel free to censure American Jews for being insufficiently supportive of another country. 

Nation, not country.
Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM

60-40 NATION:

Six polls and more than 6,000 interviews show Trump's approval dropping (Harry Enten, CNN)

Adding in the CNN poll, Trump has an average decline of 2 points in his approval rating. That may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind these polls put together have a sample size of more than 6,000 people. The chances that all of these polls have Trump's approval down, even by a mere 2 points, is tiny.

Normally, a 2-point drop in a president's approval rating would not be a big deal. For this president, however, a 2-point movement is a bigger deal than usual.

Trump's approval rating has been unusually stable. Any sort of movement is noteworthy with him. According to Gallup, no president has had as narrow a range (35%-46%) of approval ratings than Trump. Trump's still within that range, though now more toward the middle than the upper part of that range as he had been earlier in the year.

Trump needs to be able to break out of the narrow range in order to make himself a favorite for reelection. No president has won an additional term with an approval rating as low as Trump's is currently.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


This Innocent-Seeming Group Is Actually A Major White Nationalist Organization (Benjamin Gladstone, 8/25/19, The Forward)

"Hundreds of illegal immigrants from the Congo are showing up on the streets of Texas. Jewish organizations have instructed them on how to fly to Ecuador & how to travel to the U.S. and how to claim asylum."

Those words appeared in an online chat room for members of the "American Identity Movement." That's the new name of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group that co-organized the "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville.

Despite the rebranding efforts of its president, Patrick Casey, and its new innocuous-sounding name, American Identity Movement is still a hate group rife with anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 AM


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Can a fleabag clean up her act?: The sarcastic and sacrilegious two-season show has a moral center. (Kathryn Reklis, July 12, 2019, Christian Century)

It doesn't take long to realize that behind the snarky asides, Fleabag is suffering profoundly. Her mother has re­cently died and her father, who is so awkward he has trouble finishing a complete sentence with his two daughters, has taken up with his late wife's best friend, who is a magnificent incarnation of the wicked stepmother dressed up as a self-involved artist. Fleabag has a strained relationship with her sister, Claire, who represses all her emotions and is married to a narcissistic Ameri­can. And floating in and out of Fleabag's nearly every thought are flashbacks of her lifelong best friend, Boo, who died in a freak accident.

Grief runs through her life like a current she cannot control, unleashing chaos she cannot easily narrate away. Inside that grief are darker emotions of shame and guilt, whose source is gradually revealed. When it is, Fleabag cannot spin her past into an episode of wacky adventure. But by then, we realize how much she is paralyzed by her own guilt and feel no need to shame her. The final moment of the first season could have come straight out of a Flannery O'Con­nor story: a moment of grace in the guise of a loan officer which could easily be mistaken for an ordinary encounter, except that Fleabag seizes on it and begins to change her life.

The second season picks up a little over a year after this moment, and we see how far Fleabag has come--no more random sex and lots more responsibility. This season raises the stakes of her quest beyond "not destroying her life"; she is asking what it means to be fully present to her own life, committed to someone or something.

It is still Fleabag though, so the vehicle for these explorations come in the form of a foul-mouthed, almost-alcoholic Roman Catholic priest (played by Andrew Scott). He can match Fleabag's sarcasm and sacrilege beat for beat, pouring gin and tonics out of aluminum cans in the vestry. She is intrigued by his sexual unavailability (that celibacy thing), but what really puzzles her is his commitment to a life that demands something from him. If Flannery O'Con­nor haunts the first season's finale, season two is like a much raunchier Graham Greene novel. (Waller-Bridge went to a private Catholic school in England, so I might not be making up these influences entirely.)

The priest's relationship with God is both the butt of a lot of jokes and taken seriously enough to withstand the humor. It becomes a foil for Fleabag's own uncertainty about what, if anything, makes a life meaningful. To this point, not being a total fleabag has been her only goal. The priest suggests there might more to aspire to, like peace, or joy, or even love.

How one wishes Peter Augustine Lawler were still around to watch it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


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Bluegrass Gospel: Devotion, Virtuosity, and Beauty (Crispin Sartwell, 7/20/19, Splice Today)

Gospel has been part of bluegrass music since Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys invented the form in that late 1940s. In Monroe's shows and festivals, he usually performed a section of religious music--"hymn time"--in which the music slowed down and the emphasis shifted from the instruments (mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and upright bass) to quartet vocal harmonies. As the genre developed, almost every bluegrass act included gospel on every album and show, and many artists specialized in the repertoire, which includes traditional hymns, African-American gospel songs, and original material.

Bluegrass music in general is a rich and wholesome American tradition, not widely-enough appreciated, and even as pop and country shift gears, bluegrass ticks on as a vital and traditional form, with a devoted if relatively small audience. It's a scene of virtuosity, and if you compared Earl Scruggs to Segovia, or Scotty Stoneman to Joshua Bell, you'd be in the right ballpark. Indeed, I've got a challenge for Bell: let's hear you play "Orange Blossom Special" at the same pace and with the same complexity, propulsion and joy as Stoneman.

Bluegrass also has some of the best singers working in any form: like Jamie Dailey, Russell Moore, Alison Krauss (who came from bluegrass), Junior Sisk, and Dale Ann Bradley. They've made the "high lonesome" Appalachian sound into something at once perfectly-performed and emotionally intense, both traditional and contemporary. Those harmonies will kill you. And redeem you.

Bluegrass has never stopped developing, and from a propulsive, somewhat rough, partly improvised form originating in Appalachia, it has become something perfectly crafted and ravishing, even as it maintains its continuity with the founding figures and material. It's less rough-hewn and rural than it once was, but it's even lovelier. Artists such as Junior Sisk and Rambler's Choice, IIIrd Tyme Out, Audie Blaylock and Redline, and Cody Shuler and Pine Mountain Railroad make beautiful traditional American music that's also fresh.

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 AM


Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? Let's Not Find Out (Preston Greene, Aug. 10, 2019, NY Times)

[W]hat if computers one day were to become so powerful, and these simulations so sophisticated, that each simulated "person" in the computer code were as complicated an individual as you or me, to such a degree that these people believed they were actually alive? And what if this has already happened?

In 2003, the philosopher Nick Bostrom made an ingenious argument that we might be living in a computer simulation created by a more advanced civilization. He argued that if you believe that our civilization will one day run many sophisticated simulations concerning its ancestors, then you should believe that we're probably in an ancestor simulation right now. His reasoning? If people eventually develop simulation technology -- no matter how long that takes -- and if they're interested in creating simulations of their ancestors, then simulated people with experiences just like ours will vastly outnumber unsimulated people.

If most people are simulations, Professor Bostrom concluded, the odds are good that we ourselves are simulations.

In the beginning was the Word...:

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Does God command genocide in the book of Joshua? (Shai Held, July 23, 2019, Christian Century)

How can a good God command--and engage in--unspeakable horrors? To take perhaps the most salient example from the Bible, readers both ancient and modern have been perplexed by the notion that God commands the Israelites "not to let a soul remain alive" among the indigenous inhabitants of Canaan (Deut. 20:16). How does a God who is "good to all" and "whose mercy is upon all his works" (Ps. 145:9) command killing on such a massive scale?

The same God exterminates life on Earth in the Flood and starts over.  But, horrified by His own action, enters into a Covenant to never do so again and sets Himself a sign as a reminder.  God learns to be good throughout the text.

August 24, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Art in Residence: Dartmouth Recalls the Work of Visiting Artists - (Alex Hanson, 2/20/14, Valley News)

There's a question hanging over "In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth," the otherwise illuminating and wide-ranging exhibition that sprawls across Dartmouth College's visual arts infrastructure.

The question is this: Dartmouth was founded in 1769, so what made visual art so much more important in 1931 that the artist-in-residence program got started?

It seems like a big cultural shift. There had always been artists at Dartmouth and in the college's orbit, but apparently none had been thought of as "in residence" for the college's first 160 years. After the Armory Show, the 1913 New York exhibit that introduced modernism to America, art had become a wide-open field. The federal government began paying artists during the Great Depression, not long after Dartmouth's residency program started, and after World War II, artistic expression boomed along with the economy. [...]

Paul Sample, who became a legendary figure at Dartmouth and in the Upper Valley, stayed from 1938 to 1962. Not surprisingly, "In Residence" is particularly strong in Sample's work.


PAUL SAMPLE (1896-1974): AMERICAN REGIONALIST (Tim Abraham and Nicole Salin, Sullivan Goss Gallery)

Born September 14, 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky, Paul Starrett Sample was as active in moving with his family from State to State as he was active in participating in basketball, football, and boxing. After living in Montana, Virginia and California among other places, Sample would enroll in Dartmouth College and become a boxing champion. It wouldn't be until the year of his graduation in 1921 when Sample would take up painting. Diagnosed with tuberculosis and debilitated from an active lifestyle, he needed something to avert his boredom. At Saranac Lake hospital in New York, Sample would meet the Norwegian-American neo-impressionist painter Jonas Lie. Lie encouraged Sample, who was already a proficient drawer, to start painting. Lie would have a significant impact on Sample, who spent four years at Saranac undergoing treatment. Lie devoted most of his work to harbor and marine scenes and pastoral landscapes, and was vocal about his aversion to modern art. This would greatly influence Sample, who had no previous artistic training. By the time Paul Sample was cured from tuberculosis, he was ready to begin a career in art.

After leaving Saranac hospital in 1925, Sample enrolled in art classes at Greenleaf Art School in the later part of the year moved to Monrovia, California. Living in Monrovia he enrolled in the Otis Art Institute. Sample would attend classes and lectures from modern artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright. Macdonald-Wright was well known as an abstractionist, and while Sample respected him as an artist and lecturer, his aversion to modern art learned from Jonas Lie would keep him from being directly influenced by modernism. His talent in drawing would land him a job teaching architectural drawing at University of Southern California where he would teach for the next ten years. At that same time he would join a small group of California Watercolorists that painted cityscapes with local people in their everyday environment. He married Silvia Howland in 1928, at the beginning of the great depression.

During the depression, his paintings reflected his sentiment towards the economic crisis affecting people. This style was known as "Social Realism". His painting Unemployment in 1931 was his first major canvas and received the Isador Gold Medal at the National Academy of Design in 1932. In December of 1934, Time magazine ranked Sample as one of America's most important living painters. He would start traveling in the summers to Vermont, the home state of his wife, where his style shifted from urban social situations to rural scenes. This style of Regionalism, along with Social Realism, would be the main styles associated with Paul Sample and reflect his most poignant work.

After his employment at USC, Paul Sample traveled in Europe where he was able to see works from the masters he admired. He returned to the US in 1938 and assumed a position as artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College as well as serving on jury panels for institutions at the Corcoran Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When WWII began, Paul Sample took a job working as an artist-in-correspondent for Time-Life and focused on watercolors.

Post-WWII art in America saw more abstracted forms come into style with the New York School and Abstract Expressionism. Sample's conservative style and aversion to abstraction excluded him from mainstream American art. By 1960 his work was only followed in New England, where he was painting at the time.

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 AM



But while it's easy to see where thermalization leads (to tepid coffee and eventual heat death), it's less obvious how the process begins. "If you start far from equilibrium, like in the early universe, how does the arrow of time emerge, starting from first principles?" said Jürgen Berges, a theoretical physicist at Heidelberg University in Germany who has studied this problem for more than a decade.

Over the last few years, Berges and a network of colleagues have uncovered a surprising answer. The researchers have discovered simple, so-called "universal" laws governing the initial stages of change in a variety of systems consisting of many particles that are far from thermal equilibrium. Their calculations indicate that these systems--examples include the hottest plasma ever produced on Earth and the coldest gas, and perhaps also the field of energy that theoretically filled the universe in its first split second--begin to evolve in time in a way described by the same handful of universal numbers, no matter what the systems consist of.

The findings suggest that the initial stages of thermalization play out in a way that's very different from what comes later. In particular, far-from-equilibrium systems exhibit fractal-like behavior, which means they look very much the same at different spatial and temporal scales. Their properties are shifted only by a so-called "scaling exponent"--and scientists are discovering that these exponents are often simple numbers like ½ and -⅓. For example, particles' speeds at one instant can be rescaled, according to the scaling exponent, to give the distribution of speeds at any time later or earlier. All kinds of quantum systems in various extreme starting conditions seem to fall into this fractal-like pattern, exhibiting universal scaling for a period of time before transitioning to standard thermalization.

"I find this work exciting because it pulls out a unifying principle that we can use to understand large classes of far-from-equilibrium systems," said Nicole Yunger Halpern, a quantum physicist at Harvard University who is not involved in the work. "These studies offer hope that we can describe even these very messy, complicated systems with simple patterns."

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


This is the most innovative financial literacy program in the U.S. -- it gives students paychecks and helps them open bank accounts (STEVEN KUTZ, 5/09/19, MarketWatch)
To enter the five-story red brick building that houses the Olney Charter School, you have to walk through a metal detector. Once inside, you can't go many feet without encountering yet another security guard. But also inside? You'll find one of the most innovative financial literacy programs in any high school in the country.

In a north Philadelphia neighborhood where many parents don't have a bank account, a teacher started a personal-finance program that not only teaches students the importance of budgeting, saving and investing, but also gives them the opportunity to get paid up to $5,000 a year, and to put that money into a bank account of their own.

The program was started in the fall of 2015 by Dan LaSalle, who was an English teacher at the time, and is now the school's assistant principal. The first year, 30 students were enrolled; this year there are 81. Olney, which became a charter school in 2011, has just over 2,000 students. The high school is made up of 60% Hispanic, 32% black and 1% white students. In 2012, it had a 50% graduation rate, and this year it's on track to have a 70% rate.

"We're a low-income school. Some kids don't get allowances. Some are on food stamps and 100% get free lunches. With this program, kids can leave school with a few thousand dollars," LaSalle says. The median household income in Olney's zip code is about $33,000 -- compared with roughly $61,000 in the U.S. as a whole.

Not many students in the U.S. learn about personal finance in school, regardless of the income-level where they live. Tim Ranzetta, co-founder of the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance, which creates free high school personal-finance curricula, says only five states require high-school students to take a personal-finance class: Virginia, Alabama, Utah, Missouri and Tennessee. In other states, personal finance classes are often offered as an elective -- as they are at Olney.

LaSalle says the finance program, as he likes to call it, is unique because it's the only one in the country that pays students, and helps them open checking and savings accounts. Ranzetta, who knows as much about high school personal-finance courses as anyone, says he can't think of another that does those things.

Tie such education in to universal O'Neill/Booker accounts.

August 23, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 AM

THE rIGHT VS THE FOUNDING (profanity alert)

America's Exclusionary Past and Present and the Judgment of History (Michael Luo, 8/16/19, The New Yorker)

The Trump Administration's immigration policies are part of the shameful legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which ushered in a new, discriminatory governing framework for U.S. borders.Photograph by Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone / Getty
On February 28, 1882, Senator John Franklin Miller, a Republican from California, introduced a bill to bar Chinese laborers from entering the United States. Miller had been a brigadier general in the Union Army. After the Civil War, he moved his family to San Francisco and later made his fortune as the president of a seal-hunting company. By the time he was elected to the Senate, in 1881, Chinese migrants in the U.S., who had mostly settled in California and other Western states, numbered over a hundred thousand. A movement to expel them from the country, fanned by racial animosity and the anxieties of white workers, had drawn widespread support. "If we continue to permit the introduction of this strange people, with their peculiar civilization, until they form a considerable part of our population, what is to be the effect upon the American people and Anglo-Saxon civilization?" Miller said. "Can these two civilizations endure, side by side, as two distinct and hostile forces? Is American civilization as unimpressible as Chinese civilization? When the end comes for one or the other, which will be found to have survived? Can they meet halfway, and so merge in a mongrel race, half Chinese and half Caucasian, as to produce a civilization half-pagan, half-Christian, semi-Oriental, altogether mixed, and very bad?"

The following day, Senator George Frisbie Hoar, a Massachusetts Republican, delivered a stirring rebuke. Hoar was the grandson of the Founding Father Roger Sherman and a committed abolitionist who also fought on behalf of women's suffrage. In response to Miller, he pointed out that, in 1881, more than seven hundred and twenty thousand immigrants arrived in the United States. Of these, fewer than twenty-one thousand were Chinese. "What an insult to American intelligence to ask leave of China to keep out her people, because this little handful of almond-eyed Asiatics threaten to destroy our boasted civilization," he said. "We go boasting of our democracy, and our superiority, and our strength. The flag bears the stars of hope to all nations. A hundred thousand Chinese land in California and everything is changed. God has not made of one blood all the nations any longer. The self-evident truth becomes a self-evident lie. The golden rule does not apply to the natives of the continent where it was first uttered."

Despite Hoar's eloquent oration, Miller's bill passed, with the support of Southern Democrats and senators from both parties in Western states. Several months later, President Chester Arthur signed an amended version into law. Although the measure had an innocuous-sounding description--"an act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese"--it banned new Chinese workers from entering the United States for ten years and prohibited Chinese immigrants already here from becoming citizens. The law, which later became known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, was renewed in 1892 and made permanent in 1904, until its repeal, in 1943. It marked the first time in American history that federal law restricted a group from entering the country on the basis of race and class. More importantly, as the historian Erika Lee argues, the law fundamentally altered America's relationship to immigration and ushered in a new governing framework for the country's borders, premised around the need to keep certain types of foreigners out. "Beginning in 1882, the United States stopped being a nation of immigrants that welcomed foreigners without restrictions, borders, or gates," Lee writes, in her book "At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943." "Instead, it became a new type of nation, a gatekeeping nation."

This week, the Trump Administration announced new regulations that deny permanent legal status, or green cards, to immigrants who are likely to need government services, such as Medicaid, public housing, and food stamps. The policy, which is set to take effect in October, is expected to disproportionately penalize immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean; immigrants from Europe and Canada are less likely to be affected. During an interview for National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," Rachel Martin, one of the show's hosts, pressed Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to defend the policy in light of the ideals expressed in the Emma Lazarus poem "The New Colossus," which appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Cuccinelli suggested a twist to the cherished sonnet. "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," he said. He later added that, in his opinion, the poem referred to "people coming from Europe."

The new regulation is part of a comprehensive effort by the Trump Administration to restrict immigration, which includes steps to reduce refugee admissions, bar entry from certain Muslim-majority countries, deter asylum seekers, and apply greater scrutiny to all immigrant visa applications. Trump's diatribes have offered an unmistakably racist backdrop to these measures. 

That's all opposition to immigrants ever is.

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 AM


THE CATHOLIC WHO KNEW ORWELL (John P. Rossi,  Spring 2019, Modern Age)

An overarching theme of Hollis's estimate of Orwell is that, despite his atheism, he was essentially a moralist, and there was a religious sensibility to him and his writings, the same kind of meaning that Hollis himself was searching for when he became a Catholic. Hollis believed that Orwell's thought rested on a subconscious Christian foundation. What makes Hollis's study unusual is that despite his own deep Catholic belief, he is able to look beyond Orwell's anti-Catholicism and find what he called "a naturally Christian soul." Some commentators on Orwell have argued that Hollis is responsible for trying to press-gang the author of The Clergyman's Daughter into the Catholic camp, what Christopher Hitchens called "the body snatching of Orwell." In a review of Hollis's book, Kingsley Amis observed that Hollis "cannot resist drawing Orwell in his own image." Indeed, the book at times reads as a dual biography, as Hollis carries on an argument with Orwell about religious and spiritual matters, explaining away his atheism and translating their differences into agreement.

Hollis's portrait of Orwell as some kind of crypto-Christian has outraged scholars, but it contributed to the posthumous canonization of Orwell as a kind of secular "St. George." What gave this view some validity was Orwell's belief that religion might be without value but its collapse left a gap to be filled. Hollis noted that Orwell had written that one of "the major problems of our time is the decay of the belief in personal immortality." As the latest scholar on Orwell's religious sensibility, Michael Brennan, has written in George Orwell and Religion, he "simply could not leave religion alone, not only in his private correspondence and notebooks but also in his published fiction, journalism and reviews."

Seeing Orwell in his own image, Hollis argues that Orwell resembled the kind of old-fashioned conservative for whom tradition, decency, patriotism, and love of nature were important. Hollis believes Orwell shared his own view that despaired of modern "Conservatives because they despaired of Conservatism." Hollis was on to something. Orwell, while a political radical, was a traditionalist in cultural matters. His idols Dickens, Poe, and Swift were hardly avant-garde.

To think otherwise one has to have not read him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


Albert Camus: Unfashionable Anti-Totalitarian (Craig DeLancey, Mar. 26th, 2019, Quillette)

From his universalist humanism and skepticism about utopian ideologies, Camus developed an ethics in Man in Revolt that rejected revolution. Instead, Camus argued that moral progress arises from a rejection of injustice by people united in their recognition of that injustice. This kind of "revolt" is more restrained than the revolutionary impulse and shows mesure--it recognizes and respects human nature, attempts to improve things now, and accepts no limits on free speech and expression. When revolt is combined with the misguided belief that history has some unifying purpose and that human beings can be reshaped in the manner of wet clay, it declines into revolution. Revolution is unrestrained, it is démesure, and it leads inevitably to violence and cruelty.

Sartre and Beauvoir edited the leading French intellectual journal of their day, Les Temps Moderne, and they invited the activist and philosopher Francis Jeanson to review The Man in Revolt. The result was scathing. Jeanson's article was mostly a series of ad hominem attacks which made no attempt to interpret Camus's text charitably. Camus's sins were clear: he had attacked Marxism, he had attacked revolution, and he had attacked the idea that human beings were infinitely malleable. For this, he was denounced as a counter-revolutionary.

Sartre then published an open letter addressed to Camus, that began, "Our friendship was not easy, but I will miss it." Most of Sartre's letter ignores the arguments in The Man in Revolt, and concentrates instead on itemizing Camus's alleged personal failings, including the accusation that he was bourgeois. Camus did not respond to this criticism, because he did not see it as important. After all, it was the Marxists, not him, who believed that class determines what one may say. But it was a petty and laughable accusation even so: Sartre grew up in privilege, and he let other people manage his domestic matters all his life. Camus grew up in Algeria in poverty, where as a child he lived in a two-room apartment with his brother, uncle, grandmother, and deaf widowed mother who worked as a cleaning woman to support all of them.

Beauvoir's attack on Camus was perhaps the most vicious of all. Her 1954 Goncourt Prize-winning novel The Mandarins is a fictionalized account of her life in post-war Paris, populated by characters closely based upon the intellectuals in her political and literary circles. A long section describing her alter-ego's travels with an American lover is simply lifted by Beauvoir from her diary of her travels with the novelist Nelson Algren. But the novel contains one very important deviation from real life: the character based on Camus has an affair with a young and insipid Nazi sympathizer. To prevent this lover from being prosecuted for her treasonous beliefs and activities, he lies under oath in a court of law in order to have her released from prison.

It is hard to imagine a more craven and defamatory insult, directed at a man who had been active in the Resistance and by someone who was politically inactive during the Nazi occupation. It is an example of what we now call "swiftboating": a political attack on a person's strengths and virtues, combined with an assertion that those strengths and virtues are illusory or fraudulent. That Beauvoir's shameful treatment of her former friend elicited no outrage is evidence of how unfashionable Camus has become. I have been unable to find a single critical mention of his mistreatment in the academic literature about Beauvoir's novel.

The criticisms of Camus grew more heated as the insurgent war in Algeria intensified. Camus's position on the war seemed impossibly naïve to Sartre and his followers. Camus hoped that some kind of peaceful solution would be possible, and that both the descendants of colonists and the various indigenous people of Algeria could continue to live together. He put his life at risk by visiting Algeria and attempting to foster talks between the two sides. When he organized a public discussion, he had to flee because extremists among the colons nearly rioted. The situation in Algeria soon grew too violent and divisive for Camus's hopes for a peace to remain realistic. However, history would prove Sartre's revolutionary romanticism to be even more reckless. Sartre publicly endorsed the work of Frantz Fanon, a psychologist from Martinique who also identified as an Existentialist, and he wrote a lengthy preface to Fanon's most famous book, The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon lived in Algeria and promoted the necessity of violent revolution, which he believed would unite the people in an anti-colonial struggle. "Violence," he wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, "is a cleansing force. It rids the colonized of their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude." To realize their own freedom and create a new identity, the colonized must first kill the colonists. Afterwards, he predicted, the people would work together in peace to forge their new nation, because "nation building is facilitated by the existence of this mortar kneaded with blood and rage." This is what Camus called "crimes of logic," or the use of philosophy and sophistical theory to justify widespread killing.

But such arguments from Sartre and Fanon, it turned out, were considerably more titillating to the intelligentsia than Camus's earnest pleas for moderation, peace, and solidarity. As a thinker, he now seemed to be out of step with the age. Many years later, Susan Sontag would describe Camus as a "literary husband," boring but dependable, unlike "literary lovers," who are exciting even if selfish and brutal. But, exciting as Sartre and Fanon may have been, history proved them wrong: killing Frenchmen and colons did not transform the Algerian people, nor did it unite them into a peaceful nation. Once the French withdrew, the violence just continued, only now it was turned inward.

The vitriolic attacks on Camus reached their crescendo after an angry Algerian student denounced him at a public talk, and Camus was misquoted--perhaps intentionally--by Le Monde as saying, "I will choose my mother over justice." Sartre and Beauvoir and the intellectuals of their circle gloated that this confirmed Camus as a sentimental reactionary.  But what Camus actually said was something like, "People are now planting bombs in the tramways of Algiers. My mother might be on one of those tramways. If that is justice, then I prefer my mother." Camus recognized that indifference to individual human suffering is essential to all forms of political extremism, and his statement was nothing more scandalous than a rejection of the idea that terrorism is justice.

Some of the animosity Camus inspired--and the eagerness to misinterpret, misrepresent, and denounce him--was personal. But French intellectuals who sided with Sartre and Beauvoir often did so for theoretical reasons, and many continue to do so. France's contemporary leftist group, the Invisible Committee, singled Camus out for denunciation as "that idiot" (ce con) in their widely read 2014 call for revolution, To Our Friends. Camus's rejection of Marxism, and his doubts about the likely outcome of post-colonial revolutionary movements, were unpopular, principled, and lonely positions. The Left demanded allegiance to their belief that human nature could be reshaped through revolution, and that even the Stalinist enemies of their enemy remain their friends.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


The Reinvention of America (James Fallows, Apr. 23rd, 2018, The Atlantic)

But suppose you accept the idea that America is remaking itself except at the national level. What difference would that make? Here are three areas in which our reporting has changed my mind about what really matters.

First is improving connections, both conceptual and operational. Across the country, millions of people in thousands of organizations are working toward common goals, generally without being aware of how many other people and organizations are striving toward the same end.

The more we traveled, the more parallels and resonances we saw. This public-art project in southern Arizona was like that other one in Maine. This library program in Oregon was like that one in Ohio. This creative public school in California was like that one in Georgia. This conservation effort in Montana resembled others in California, and Louisiana, and Idaho. This "civic tech" project we heard about in Massachusetts was like the ones we learned about in Indiana and in Southern California. Every place had its local features, but together those efforts formed a pattern whose sweep and power can be hard to discern from any single instance.

Recognizing that these emerging networks exist in parallel is important in practical terms, so that people can share examples of success, plus increase the networks' collective leverage. It matters at least as much in outlook. It's one thing to work in what you imagine to be a lonely outpost, defending yourself against decline all around. It's different and more exhilarating to know that you are part of something bigger, and that you are going down a path others have helped blaze.

Second is emphasizing engagement, of almost any kind. I'd always known about this as a platitude, or as the academic concept of "social capital." Now I understand it as a tangible thing. Early in our travels I received a note from a young man who had moved from a big coastal city to a town in North Texas. "If you want to consume a fabulous community, you could move to some place like Brooklyn," he said--or San Francisco, or Seattle, or Paris, or Amsterdam, or any other glittering site with restaurants, parks, vistas, and public spaces to enjoy. "If you want to create a great community, you move someplace that needs your help," like his new hometown. Creating in this sense means taking responsibility for the invention and sustenance of the community in which you'd like to live. The idea of engagement, then, boils down to sharing responsibility for the world outside one's individual household. Any step in that direction--as modest as voting or attending PTA meetings, as dramatic as running for office or leading a group to deal with local problems--is a step that encourages civic creation, not just consumption. And the evidence of past waves of reform, from the labor-rights and women's-suffrage movements of the early 1900s through the civil-rights and environmental movements of mid-century, suggests that national transformations must start from local roots.

Third is correcting perceptions and dealing with what is already recognized as a national emergency: the distorted picture of events beyond our immediate experience that comes through the media, professional and informal alike. The strain on local media, whose effects we saw everywhere, is an important part of this distortion. One to-do step for citizens: Subscribe to local publications while they still exist. A to-do step for plutocrats and philanthropists: View news-gathering as a crucial part of the public infrastructure of this era, just as Carnegies, Rockefellers, and Mellons viewed libraries, museums, and universities as part of the necessary infrastructure of their time. The most urgent place to start would be with local and state-capital newspapers, which have been even harder hit than national publications by the evaporation of journalism's late-20th-century economic base.

The challenge of journalism is always to make what's important interesting. This is hard enough in the best of circumstances. It's harder when the reality you're conveying involves a mixture of developments both encouraging and alarming, rather than a stark exposé or a success story. It's harder still when the reality involves TV and video. And it is nearly impossible in the case of cable-news channels, above all politically driven ones like Fox. What 24-hour cable news introduced and Fox perfected in the modern news consciousness is an unending stream of horrors from ... somewhere else. The natural result of well-meaning liberal media is thus a kind of pity for the heartland, and of conservative media, a survivalist fear about what people Out There are trying to get away with.

The problems of journalistic proportion hardly began with the last presidential campaign. You name a decade from the 1700s onward, and I can show you an essay on the failings and pernicious effects of the contemporary press. But those defects crest in certain eras, and Americans' inability to see clearly the state of their nation represents one of those dangerous peaks now.

A clear view of the America of this era contains serious perils, like always, but also more promise than at many other times. Through the long saga of American reinvention, the background question has been the one Benjamin Franklin is said to have pondered at the Constitutional Convention when looking at a painting of the sun on the back of George Washington's chair. Franklin said that he had "often and often" looked at that sun "without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting." As the Constitution was being signed, Franklin declared that he had "the happiness to know" the sun was rising. It can rise again, and across the country we have seen rays of its new light.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Gin, Sex, Malaria, and the Hunt for Academic Prestige: How the misadventures of Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson shaped anthropology. (CHARLES KING, 7/28/19, The Chronicle Review)

The slights and betrayals, the underground flings and seething animosities, the granite friendships as well as the roiling rivalries were as much a part of the seminar evenings in Grantwood as Dakota verbs and New Guinean masks. But whether they were discussing rituals, religion, sexuality, or any other aspect of social life, Boas had taught his students to resist making grand schemas or big conclusions. He had long been clear on what he called "the most difficult problem of anthropology": Were there universal laws to human societies, and if so, how might one go about discovering them? 

Anthropology should be a conversational science, Boas felt. It ought to be a dialogue between one's own way of seeing things and someone else's. Where it led was toward specific histories and unique experiences, toward a particular community -- this one here -- and its most precious ways of understanding its place in the world. To be an anthropologist was to be committed to the critical refinement of your own experience. That was the whole point of purposefully throwing yourself into the most foreign and remote of places. You had to gather things up before you refined them down. Anthropologists should be innately skeptical about jumping too quickly from their own culture-bound schemas to pontificating about the Nature of Man. 

But Mead was feeling the tug toward a more ambitious, all-encompassing science. She could claim no theoretical advance as her own, no broad finding that people would recognize as a signature contribution. "I find I am growing more and more cynical all the time about good work winning through," she complained to Benedict.

Since finishing her doctorate, she had failed to land a professorial position. Her annual salary as an assistant curator at the American Museum of Natural History was a little under $2,400. Benedict at least had an academic job; she had recently been elevated from a lectureship to an assistant professorship in Boas's department, earning about $3,600 a year -- although this was still far less than the salary of a male visiting scholar. Mead worried that she herself was fated to be little more than a popularizer or, as she had once complained, "that awful animal a 'lady scientist.'"

By her 30th birthday, Mead had become one of the most recognizable names in anthropology -- at least to non-anthropologists. Newspapers and magazines quoted her as an authority on marriage, child-rearing, adolescence, and other subjects. Coming of Age in Samoa was one of the very few books in the field that people outside academia could name. But she wondered what you had to sacrifice to make sure that your work mattered in the world. "I don't think having the worst paid job in the Museum, and never having been offered another job, and having been panned or damned with faint praise in all the journals of my own science, is wonderful recognition," she said to Benedict. You needed academic prestige to make your ideas stick, and so far that was very much lacking.

As the Grantwood evenings showed, it was hard to separate your scholarly work from the swirl of relationships -- academic, professional, social, romantic -- that developed as you tried both to write your books and to live your life. Can what you produce ever really be divorced from your own biography....?


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PRELUDE TO CIVIL WAR: FRANCIS GRAHAM WILSON ON SPAIN (Richard J. Bishirjian, Spring 2019,  Modern Age)

[P]erhaps the most forceful advocate of Spanish traditionalism was the political theorist Ramiro de Maeztu. Maeztu was a member of the "Generation of '98" that faced the reality of Spain's decline after the Spanish-American War.

He lamented the acceptance of "humanism" that by the end of the sixteenth century had dominated Europe, which led to a loss of consciousness of man's living in sin. That in turn shaped the idea of the "state" as supreme.

Maeztu traces the idea of the state from Hobbes, who argued that the state was founded on necessity, through Rousseau, who asserted man's natural goodness and gave to the state, in Maeztu's words, "supreme, unique, and absolute power."

The unity of the power of the state, which all the political theories of the modern age affirm, worked against the principle of subsidiarity. In Spain, stability had been given to political order by socially corporate institutions--the family, Church, guilds--which were dissolved by the discovery of human personality in the Renaissance. There were consequences: "the clergyman left the Church to become a humanist, a heretic, or the minister of a king." The landlords neglected their duties and saw in their properties only a source of income, which they needed in order to live at the royal court.

In Germany the state eventually became an ethical ideal, and German children were taught that "goodness is immanent in the State." The "hedonistic ideology" of France also came under Maeztu's critical eye, as did laissez-faire economics.

Maeztu lamented a lost opportunity to reshape Spanish university education: he felt that General Primo de Rivera, as prime minister of Spain from 1923 to 1930, was too busy "to engage in any popular education that might touch the people. The general had permitted all of the key positions in Spain, especially the professorships in the universities, to remain in the control of the liberal and socialist enemies of the Spanish tradition."

Maeztu's enemies were not too busy that they forgot him. He was murdered by Republican soldiers in 1936 after the Nationalist uprising against the Second Republic.

Dynastic turmoil that included the murder of Catholic priests, and the dominance of L'esprit revolutionnaire among the intellectuals, had contributed to the departure of King Alfonso XIII in 1931 and the proclamation of the Second Republic. The brutal Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was fought between Spanish leftists defending "the Republic" and traditionalists who joined forces with the Spanish military led by Francisco Franco, who subsequently established an authoritarian regime that satisfied few except Franco sympathizers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Conversation with Jazz Legend Ron Carter (Frank Prosnitz - July 22, 2019, What's Up Newp)

Listen to legendary jazz bass player Ron Carter, his words or his music, and you get a sense of humanity and fairness, of an individual who has defined his craft through decency, an incredible work ethic, and a quest for excellence, a quest for the right notes.

At 82, he continues to record, earning his way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recorded jazz bassist in history, with more than 2,200 individual recording credits. He's busy touring, spanning the globe, playing with his trio, quartet, and 16-piece big-band that he refers to as a "16 piece quartet." 

This is a remarkable musician, and he'll be on the venue with his trio at the Newport Jazz Festival on Saturday, August 3.

Carter, perhaps the most influential bassists in jazz history, was a member of the Miles Davis Quintet for five years. He was named Outstanding Bassist of the Decade by the Detroit News, Jazz Bassist of the Year by Downbeat magazine, has earned two Grammy awards, and received five honorary doctorates. Winner of numerous other awards, he's composed music for the classic films A Gathering of Old Men, The Passion of Beatrice and Blind Faith, and is a best-selling author. His books include Building Jazz Bass Lines and his autobiography, Finding The Right Notes.

We recently had an opportunity to talk with Ron. Here's what he had to say:

Question:  You're in the Guinness Book of World Records for recording more than 2,200 albums (over 2,500 now), 18 as a leader. How does that happen?

Carter: "I was available man."

August 22, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 AM


Watching a baseball game taught me more about leadership presence than any self-help book (ANETT GRANT, 8/12/19, Fast Company)

I recently asked one of my clients, a leader of the Minnesota Twins organization, who the greatest player is in baseball today. Without even a second of hesitation, my client responded, "Mike Trout."

"What makes him so great?" I asked.

"Just watch him," he said. "You'll see."

So when Mike Trout came to town with the L.A. Angels, I got tickets--front row, on my left. The more I watched him, the more I realized how much he could teach us all about building leadership presence. Here are the lessons that I took away.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


Protests in Russia Show How the Political Environment Has Changed: Nikolai Petrov speaks to Jason Naselli about a new wave of protests against Vladimir Putin's government and what it means for the future of the Russian system. (Jason Naselli, 2019-08-16, Chatham House)

And to you, the key moment that has led to this was the furore over the pensions reform last year.

Yes, absolutely.

In 2011, there was general disappointment about Putin's announcement that he would try to move back into the presidency, and elections in December 2011 served the role of a trigger for the protests that followed. What went wrong for the authorities in 2011 was the fact that thousands of Muscovites were election observers and were confronted first hand by cheating and negligence.

This time is similar, in that there were thousands of Muscovites gathering and giving signatures who now feel personally humiliated by the actions of the government.

How does this situation play out in the run-up to the elections on 8 September and beyond?

If it's right to say that this is not about the Moscow city duma elections but is a more important trend, then 8 September will not be the end of the story. To say nothing of the fact that in September, there will be elections in almost half of Russia's regions, including 16 gubernatorial elections. Moscow was not considered to be the most important battlefield - the city duma does not play any real role. In St Petersburg, there is a gubernatorial election that is much more important.

I think the biggest problem is that the government did not learn lessons from its failures in elections last year. In 2018, for the first time under Putin, Kremlin-backed candidates failed in several regions. This should have pushed the Kremlin into changing their attitude towards elections. This didn't happen, and what is going on now in Moscow is just one sign of this. We will see many more serious problems in other regions, as government losses on 8 September have the potential to create again a new political atmosphere. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is blaming the West.

This is not about any particular politicians coming to power. This is about the government failing to keep its system afloat. It could be similar to a certain extent to the recent Ukrainian presidential elections, where somebody from outside could come and change the political system, step by step. And the Kremlin, being aware of this, is tightening the screws.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?: For a century, we've loved our cars. They haven't loved us back. (Nathan HellerJuly 22, 2019, The New Yorker)

 In America today, there are more cars than drivers. Yet our investment in these vehicles has yielded dubious returns. Since 1899, more than 3.6 million people have died in traffic accidents in the United States, and more than eighty million have been injured; pedestrian fatalities have risen in the past few years. The road has emerged as the setting for our most violent illustrations of systemic racism, combustion engines have helped create a climate crisis, and the quest for oil has led our soldiers into war.

Every technology has costs, but lately we've had reason to question even cars' putative benefits. Free men and women on the open road have turned out to be such disastrous drivers that carmakers are developing computers to replace them. When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that, a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have taken?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pirates, Not Puritans (TITUS TECHERA, 8/02/19, Law & Liberty)
David Milch's Deadwood is a rarity among our prestigious TV series for reviving questions about the American founding. The series places it not in 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, but instead with the foundations of American wealth and commerce in 1876. The setting of Deadwood, South Dakota matters because it depicts the bloody borders of American civilization, and seeks to demystify how Americans really conquered the West. On HBO, Milch shared this vision of American life in a show that ran for three seasons (2004-6) before getting canceled. Now, Milch returns to HBO to conclude his story with Deadwood: The Movie.

To understand Milch, we should start from Tocqueville's contrast between the egalitarian Puritans who founded communities on the doctrine of Christian equality, where freedom meant self-government, and the other, more unprincipled foundations in the American South and elsewhere in the New World. These were colonies based on slavery or love of gold and silver, where freedom meant having one's own way. Like these earlier colonies, the town of Deadwood is decidedly piratical. Whereas the Declaration talks about self-evident truths, our shared human nature, Milch presents instead "a lie agreed upon," and he shows us a community built upon violence and wickedness, as well as the ways people must conceal that truth from themselves in order to go on with life.

Since we can say the Puritans were primarily about equality as a natural and divine gift to all human beings, we see immediately that the pirates are about freedom without equality. 

One of the most difficult truths for Left and Right to wrestle with is that the End of History had occurred by 1776 and was then imposed both within and without the Anglosphere.  Our Imperialism was directed inwards before it ever was directed outwards.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Most Democrats Are Excited by 'Several' 2020 Candidates - Not Just Their Top Choice (Pew Research, 8/16/19)

Most Democratic voters feel excited by several of the party's 2020 contendersWith more than five months to go before the first votes are cast in the 2020 presidential election, a majority of Democratic voters who express a preference for one of the candidates (63%) say they feel excited about several of the candidates currently vying for the party's nomination. Far fewer (35%) say they are enthused only by their first choice for the nomination.

A new survey finds that, in an open-ended question about their preferences for the party's presidential nomination, 26% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters name Joe Biden as their first choice, 16% name Elizabeth Warren, 12% favor Bernie Sanders, while 11% back Kamala Harris and 5% favor Buttigieg.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case That Made an Ex-ICE Attorney Realize the Government Was Relying on False "Evidence" Against Migrants: Years after quitting her job as an attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Laura Peña returned to the fight -- defending migrants she'd once prosecuted. Then, a perplexing family separation case forced her to call upon everything she'd learned. (Melissa del Bosque Aug. 13, 2019, ProPublica)

Laura Peña could see that her 36-year-old client was wasting away. Gaunt and haggard after nearly two months in jail, he ran his fingers through his hair and opened his hands to show her the clumps that were falling out. He was so distraught that his two young children had been taken from him at the border, he could barely speak without weeping.

After Carlos requested political asylum, border and immigration agents had accused him of being a member of the notorious MS-13 gang in El Salvador -- a criminal not fit to enter the United States. But as Peña looked at him, she saw none of the typical hallmarks of gang membership: the garish MS-13 tattoos or a criminal record back home. He was the sole caregiver for his 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. He'd even brought an official letter from El Salvador's Justice Ministry certifying that he'd never been in jail. Something else about his case bothered her, too: She'd been peppering the government's lawyers with phone calls and emails for weeks and they'd yet to reveal any evidence to back up their accusation.

Unlike most attorneys working pro bono to reunite families, Peña was familiar with MS-13, because she'd pursued the deportation of gang members as a trial attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She understood how the system worked, because she'd been a part of it. Her long tumble of curly hair, which makes her look younger than her 37 years, is paired with a forthright-bordering-on-blunt manner of speaking forged from her years as a prosecutor on the front line of the immigration debate. She was empathetic toward the plight of clients like Carlos, whose last name is not being used for his protection. But she was also unwilling to give any of them false hope. If Carlos was a gang member, his chance for asylum was zero.

"There has to be a mistake," Carlos insisted that December day from behind the scratched plexiglass wall in the visitor's room at the jail. "Please help me." Looking at him, Peña wanted to help. But the system she'd once known, as flawed as it was, had turned into a black box she no longer understood, with an ever-shifting array of rules and policies that granted untold discretion to the government. She couldn't even get ICE attorneys to comply with a fundamental tenet of a fair system: providing proof of their case, evidence they could fight against.

To Peña and her colleagues, cases like Carlos' signaled a troubling new era. Years of legal precedent had been swept away by Trump administration efforts to push through evermore harsh immigration policies like family separation. Then, when the courts pushed back and the policies were publicly rescinded, the administration discovered new ways to quietly continue them. She and her colleagues were counting hundreds of new cases of family separation along the border that occurred after the "zero tolerance" policy supposedly ended in June 2018. But no one could track what the government was doing with every case.

Now here was Carlos, who simply looked like a grief-stricken dad. Peña had been skeptical of him at first. When they'd met in November 2018, all she knew was that he was considered such a threat that ICE and Customs and Border Protection had put him in the wing of the Laredo, Texas, jail designated for violent offenders. She'd used her ICE training to poke at his story, searching for inconsistencies, signs he was lying. "Trust but verify" was her guiding principle. She'd gone over his background with him multiple times, his story about why he'd fled El Salvador and his former life as a warehouse manager for an architectural design company. She'd made him retrace his story over and over until she was satisfied.

As a pro bono attorney working for the nonprofit legal group Texas Civil Rights Project, Peña had a growing stack of cases on her desk. She'd spent the last six months monitoring "zero tolerance" prosecutions at the courthouse, searching for unlawful separations. Her mandate was simply to reunify Carlos with his children. He was luckier than most; he had her asking questions on his behalf. The majority of migrants who are arrested at the border never see a lawyer, let alone understand how to fight the allegations against them. Carlos was one drop in a river of cases.

But something about his case made her want to dig deeper. What wasn't the government telling them?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Study: People behave better when they think they're being watched (Yuan Ju and Jiawen Li, 7/25/19, THE CONVERSATION)

As the saying goes, one good turn deserves another, and in our experiment, it seemed this was true. Those people who followed the golden rule earned more from the negotiations, compared to the people who chose to go against the golden rule.

But while the figure of 93% indicates that most people followed the golden rule, which sounds encouraging, we found that if people knew their behavior was not being observed by their opponents, then the percentage of golden rule behavior dropped by nearly 20%, and only 73% of participants stuck to the rule.

This finding echoes observations from social psychology that show people behave in a nicer way when they know they are being watched. Indeed, even a poster with eyes on it changes how people behave. And it seems when the chance of being observed is low, people are more prone to evade a moral code.

August 21, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 AM


The Towering Statesmanship of George Washington (MATTHEW J. FRANCK, 7/30/19, Law & Liberty)

[P]erhaps Marshall's relative neglect of the writing and ratification of the Constitution can be chalked up to his evident belief that it was the use of those new federal powers, not the theoretical debates over their creation, that really mattered for righting the listing ship of state in the new nation. Hence his description of Washington's eight years as President is granular in detail, a rich account of executive-legislative relations, of fiscal policy, of conflicts with Indians on the frontiers, and of foreign affairs in the era of the French Revolution. It was one thing to establish a Constitution that gave a new government the capacity to tackle the young country's many problems. It was quite another to employ that new capacity, to solve those problems, keeping the country united, solvent, and safe. These achievements Marshall credits chiefly to Washington's statesmanship. Even the best constitution will fail to launch and stay afloat if its maiden voyage is not captained by someone in fundamental sympathy with its principles and its potencies.

Thomas Jefferson, who had served as Washington's secretary of state--but at the same time fostered the emergence of the Republican Party opposed to the administration's policies--always considered Marshall's history of the period to be a strictly partisan project, calling it a "five volumed libel" of his party. But as Faulkner writes in his foreword, "Even if the Life were partisan history, it helps us understand a great party, perhaps the indispensable party in American history. We are given an authentic account of the party that made enduring popular government possible."

This judgment is fundamentally sound. Each of our first political parties was prone to exaggerate the threat to constitutional republicanism of its opposite number. The Federalists saw a "mobocratic spirit" in the Republican Party of Jefferson and Madison, bestowing the nickname "Democratic" that eventually stuck as the name of the reconstituted party in Andrew Jackson's day. The Republicans for their part were convinced that the new government would be (in Jefferson's words years later) "administered into a monarchy" by the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton.

At the extremes in their perceptions, each party was wrong about the other, but each one's conviction was nevertheless grounded in something real. The Federalists did advocate a more vigorous national government, fiscal policies that appealed to business and financial interests, a restoration of commercial relations with Britain, and an arm's-length approach to revolutionary France. The Republicans--in many respects heirs of the hesitant party that had opposed the Constitution itself--were suspicious of financial elites, advocates of "state sovereignty" and of agrarian interests, and passionately attached to France, even as that nation descended into a bloodbath.

Marshall's assessment--seconded by Faulkner in the quotation above--was that Washington's presidency, consciously "above" partisanship but inclining to the policies of Hamilton and the Federalists, had made good on the promises of the Constitution. Inviting his reader to contrast the United States of 1797 with that of 1788, Marshall tallies up "sound credit," a system for paying the nation's debts, refreshed prosperity in both agriculture and commerce, real progress in Indian relations, access to both the Mississippi and the Mediterranean, and the evacuation of the British military from posts on American soil. "This bright prospect was indeed shaded by the discontents of France," Marshall concedes; but Washington's pursuit of neutrality between France and Britain had been essential to the "real independence of the nation" and to "the right of self-government."

It is difficult to imagine such an auspicious beginning to the life of the new constitutional republic if, say, Thomas Jefferson had been the first chief executive. Even the continuity that John Adams provided to Washington's policies--notwithstanding the ghastly blunder of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which converted a political strength into a weakness--may be said to have contributed to the long-run stability of the constitutional order (not least in Adams's final gift to the nation, the chief justiceship of Marshall himself). The precedents set by the Federalists in fiscal policy, foreign policy, and administration were invaluable for the future of effective government in the United States, and for years to come represented a polestar for navigating clear of a return to the doldrums of political imbecility.

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 AM


Study: Too Many People Think Satirical News Is Real (THE CONVERSATION,  16 AUGUST 2019)

In July, the website Snopes published a piece fact-checking a story posted on The Babylon Bee, a popular satirical news site with a conservative bent.

Conservative columnist David French criticized Snopes for debunking what was, in his view, "obvious satire. Obvious." A few days later, Fox News ran a segment featuring The Bee's incredulous CEO.

But does everyone recognize satire as readily as French seems to?

Our team of communication researchers has spent years studying misinformation, satire and social media. Over the last several months, we've surveyed Americans' beliefs about dozens of high-profile political issues. We identified news stories - both true and false - that were being shared widely on social media.

We discovered that many of the false stories weren't the kind that were trying to intentionally deceive their readers; they actually came from satirical sites, and many people seemed to believe them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


America the Frenemy: How Hollywood Just Can't Quit Loving the Country It Wants to Hate (John Podhoretz, July 2019, American Consequences)

Even more striking, the year Apocalypse Now was released, Hollywood gave the best picture Oscar to The Deer Hunter, a movie about Vietnam and its effect on people who would, four decades later, hand the presidency to Donald Trump. Its characters go through hell in the course of its three hours, and yet the film concludes with them sitting at a bar mourning the loss of a friend to the madness of Vietnam. Slowly and quietly, then not so quietly, they break into "God Bless America."

The Deer Hunter also beat out Coming Home, a movie about a California housewife with a martinet military husband who does not fulfill her sexually. She only finds satisfaction with an anti-war Vietnam vet in a wheelchair. Her husband intends to kill them but instead drowns himself in the Pacific Ocean in a happy ending that could only have warmed the heart of its star and producer, Jane Fonda. But Coming Home did not go away empty-handed. Fonda won the Oscar, as did Jon Voight for playing the paraplegic. (Decades later, Voight would proclaim Donald Trump the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln, suggesting there will be no reboot of Coming Home anytime soon.)

Nothing, save Trump-hatred, has ever united the American cultural left the way hatred of the Vietnam conflict did. But even Hollywood could not resist the siren song of a bunch of wounded steelworkers intoning "God Bless America," an anthem written by an immigrant boy named Izzy Baline who spoke only Yiddish for the first six years of his life before growing up to become Irving Berlin. And so it would be over the next 40 years, as the anti-Americanism of Oliver Stone and Michael Moore was garlanded by Oscars upon movies more or less forgotten today, while more populist fare like Stripes starring Bill Murray turned into cable classics with every single line of dialogue memorized by millions.

"This is America," Murray says as he rallies the troops to a dazzling performance at their graduation from basic training. "We're 10 and 1!" Later, Murray and his fellows will kind of win the Cold War by invading and then exiting Czechoslovakia in an RV. Harold Ramis, who co-wrote and starred in the movie and fancied himself an anti-establishment type, scoffed at the third-act turn and blamed it on director Ivan Reitman. "That was just Ivan grinding his anti-Communist ax," Ramis told GQ. "His family were Czech refugees." Yeah, an anti-Communist ax. Could you imagine such a thing from a refugee from, you know, Communism?

Stripes is about a rudderless man afflicted by a horrible problem with authority who finds manhood by becoming part of something larger and greater - the United States Army.

After he mouths off one too many times, Murray's drill sergeant says, "You think you know something about everything, don'cha, but you don't know nothing about soldiering... I'm talking about something important, like discipline and duty and honor and courage. And you ain't got none of it!" The sergeant then invites Murray to take a swing at him. Murray does, and misses, and the sergeant knocks the wind out of Murray with a punch to the midsection. The post-'60s jerk gets his.

At the end of the movie, both men salute each other with admiration. No wonder everybody loves Stripes and no reasonable human being on Earth would watch Stone's Platoon a second time.

The most hilarious part of the dustup over The Hunt, even funnier than the Right not getting satire, is that there is not a single counter-cultural movie among the box office leaders.  Popular American movies are, almost exclusively,  about good guys/gals defeating evil.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


1970S NOIR: THE CULT CLASSICS: Time to revisit some of the most criminally underappreciated neo-noir of the 70s. (HOWARD MICHAEL GOULD, 8/14/19, Crime Reads)

The Late Show (1977)

The comedy is more deliberate in this charmer written and directed by Robert Benton (whose resplendent resume includes Bonnie and Clyde and KRAMER VS. KRAMER).  Ira is an old-time gumshoe who calls women "dollies" and low-level criminals "gumballs."  It's the Robert Mitchum role, only it's not Mitchum, it's Art Carney, and Margo, the dolly, is Lily Tomlin, hippie-dippy and talking way too much for the old guy about karma and her period.  Though it's built, and mostly plays, like old school noir, when these three legends swing for a laugh, they hit the ball clean.  "I feel like I just dropped acid," Tomlin says to Carney at one point.  "Have you ever dropped acid?"  "Well," he deadpans, "not in the last ten minutes."  In time they warm to each other, of course, and Tomlin even begins to conjure a future as a private eye duo, but Carney knows this is his last ride.  When it looks she's about to meet her end, too, she warns one of the baddies, meaning it: "If you lay a hand on me, I'm telling you, you're going to pay for it in your next life."  Screenwriting doesn't get more elegant than that. [...]

Across 110th Street (1972)

This one, on the other hand--also about indie thieves ripping off the wrong guys and getting more than they bargained for--ages like wine, thanks to its subject and stylistic grit.  (Barry Shear directed a script by Luther Davis, from a novel by Wally Ferris.)  A heist goes wrong for a black crew and turns them into equal-opportunity killers, gunning down Italian mobsters, black gangsters working for them, and a couple of cops, too.  It sets off a battle for Harlem on both sides of the thin blue line: the Mafia tries to hold onto increasingly hostile turf, while the NYPD tries to control the racial tinderbox by assigning a black lieutenant to oversee the white captain who's ridden herd over the precinct for years.  The movie never flinches, the bleakness of the world driving the story and infusing a host of great performances.  Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto, those two earthy giants, smolder and surprise as the officers in charge; Ed Bernard and Paul Benjamin break your heart as decent men driven to a desperate crime and more a desperate escape; and, as the local boss beholden to white overbosses, Richard Ward--talk about criminally underappreciated--is galvanizing, equal parts greed, compromise, and pride.

The theme from 110th Street alone is worth the price of admission.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stop Being Reasonable by Eleanor Gordon-Smith review - why we can't get people to act rationally  (Jonnie Wolf, 23 Jul 2019, the Guardian)

In an essay from 2003 - The Problem of Thinking Too Much - the statistician Persi Diaconis recounts being unable to make his mind up about a move from Stanford University to Harvard. After much discussion, a colleague says: "You're one of our leading decision theorists - maybe you should make a list of the costs and benefits and calculate your expected utility." To which Diaconis replies: "Come on, Sandy, this is serious." Even statistical decision theorists do not make serious choices by consulting cold, textbook models. Like the rest of us, they resort to a knottier combination of deliberation, gut feel and blind hope. For choices, so too for beliefs, which, when met with evidence, are pushed and pulled by processes that are equally mysterious.

The Australian philosopher Eleanor Gordon-Smith's first book, Stop Being Reasonable, explores how we really go about changing our minds. Her approach is to probe six real-life stories of people who have had to radically rethink in high-stakes situations. Like Dylan, who, in a flash of insight, realises the apocalyptic cult that he was born into is bogus. Or upper-crust Alex, who appears on a reality TV show in which he has to fake it as a London bouncer and ends up with an unrecognisably new identity. Each story functions as "a miniature of a much larger complex sprawl", and collectively they give a sense of the richness and strangeness of human reason.

The book came out of an item that Gordon-Smith produced for the radio programme This American Life. Her idea was to wander around a nightlife district of Sydney, wait for the predictable catcalls to start and then try to dissuade her catcallers from engaging in this type of behaviour again. But despite her orderly arguments, the catcallers left the conversations still convinced that it was "OK to grab, yell at, or follow women". Gordon-Smith's takeaway from the experience was that people are often unmoved by dispassionate logic, peer-reviewed research and statistics, but in fact are swayed by ego, emotion, self-interest and identity. 

August 20, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 AM


Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity: Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity. (PAUL RATNER, 14 August, 2019, Big Think)

In Verlinde's view, based on string theory, quantum information theory and the physics of black holes, gravity is an "entropic" force that comes into existence as a result of "information associated with the positions of material bodies," as he wrote in his 2011 paper. What drives gravity is the quantum entanglement of tiny bits of spacetime information.

Posted by orrinj at 12:13 AM


Virtual reality and robotic tackling dummies -- how Dartmouth is shaping the future of football: Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens hopes his vision for football, including using this virtual reality headset, will trickle up to coaches like Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban and down to youth leagues everywhere. (Hallie Grossman, 8/15/19, ESPN)

What football might be -- what the future of this game might look like one day soon; what it might have to look like -- could be shaped here, in this tiny hamlet, at this Ivy League institution, with this non-tackling, woman-hiring, next-big-idea-having troupe of insurgents.

"Either we change the way we coach the game or we're not gonna have a game to coach," says Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens. Mike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP
Just about eight years ago, in the spring of 2011, Buddy Teevens walked into his team meeting room and announced, without so much as poll-testing it with his staff, that Dartmouth players would no longer tackle one another in practice.

One assistant coach thought Teevens was kidding. Another seemed unable to process what he had done in life to deserve such a fate. "God, this is idiotic," the assistant told Teevens. "We're all going to get fired."

Teevens weathered his staff's righteous outrage:

How will these guys know how to tackle safely!? Answer: He wasn't abandoning practicing the fundamentals. He just didn't want players practicing those fundamentals on one another.

How will these guys know how to tackle well come game time!? Truth: That much was a little more wait-and-see.

How will, how will, how will!?

Their protests, however, weren't as loud as the clash of helmets from the collision that took place a few months before this meeting, in the middle of a blitz drill. One young running back vs. one prized linebacker. One play, two concussions.

Teevens knew he couldn't make football risk-free. But he also knew the most pernicious damage wasn't always suffered via one devastating in-game blow but from repeated knocks, the onslaught of subconcussive hits suffered again and again in practice. He ran the rough math in his head. If he did away with player-on-player tackling in practice, if there were 1,000, 2,000 or 8,000 fewer hits over the course of a career, wouldn't that help? Wasn't that a start?

Nearly a decade later, Teevens laughs at the coach he was, cowed by what he had set in motion. ("Well, s---," he remembers thinking before the first game that season. "Hope this works.") Settling back into a black wooden chair in his office, he concedes he knew how most folks felt about him, and his plan. "I was the village idiot," he says.

He didn't have to do all this. But he was scared for the sport then, like he's scared for it now. He's alarmed enough that he repeats himself again and again, his worry spilling out like a prayer.

Don't live under a rock. Look at the science. Have you seen the science? CTE is real. Concussion science is real. Have you seen the science? Do you live under a rock?

"Either we change the way we coach the game," he says, "or we're not gonna have a game to coach."

Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the organization he co-founded to research CTE and concussions, wishes more coaches saw Teevens' urgency. Nowinski wants to transition all youth to flag football until high school because minimizing exposure to subconcussive hits is the "No. 1 thing we can do to help football players." And because he thinks Teevens is exactly right: If coaches don't change the game, the game will change on them.

The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that boys' participation in 11-player football fell 6.5 percent from 2007 to 2017, dropping from 1.11 million to 1.04 million -- even while the total population of boys participating in sports overall rose 4.4 percent. That still leaves more than 1 million high school football players in the United States. Football isn't dead in this country. It isn't even on life support. But the warning signs are there, and Nowinski thinks there's a way forward. "Buddy Teevens is showing that you can restrict tackling to an extreme place and succeed on the field," he says.

Indeed, in Year 1 post-tackling, Teevens says, the team's overall injury rate fell 80 percent. By Year 2, the concussion rate had plummeted 58 percent. And the Big Green's football? It was just fine. Their missed tackles were cut in half, and since 2014, Dartmouth has won 76 percent of its games -- the Ivy League's best clip and proof that the elimination of tackling in practice did not metastasize into endemic losing.

That, in the end, won Teevens' guys over. Five or six years passed, with no tackling and plenty of winning, before his players and staff truly bought in. Even now, freshmen walk onto Memorial Field desperate to impress their new coaches, so they'll do what impressed their old coaches. They'll wallop a teammate.

How many times did the Dartmouth staff rail against Nigel Alexander? The senior linebacker lost count.

"Oh, man," he says, conjuring up his troublemaking days. "Three? Four, five, six?"

He's standing in the end zone of Memorial Field, eyeing a new generation of young players. Some of these high schoolers might wind up at Dartmouth. They might get tossed from practice because they're still learning to rewire their football muscle memory. Don't tackle, don't tackle, don't tackle.

They'll come around. Jalen Mackie moved all the way from Miami to play linebacker in Hanover. He was a freshman last year when he collided with a teammate in practice.

"Hey, man," another teammate jumped in. "We don't do that around here."

In spring 2013, Teevens stood in his office and gazed out the window, with a researcher friend from Dartmouth's engineering school by his side. The players already hadn't been tackling one another for a few seasons by that point, but the team was still perfecting a practice regimen without live tackling. The staff installed 10-minute tackling circuits, the players hunting down pop-up dummies and half-moon dummies. They chased after and tackled a device that looked like a snowman as coaches pulled it on a rope, doing their best to make that snowman simulate an opponent on the move.

"Wouldn't it be neat," Teevens began, "if we could make one of those move?" He waved to a tackling dummy on the field below.

"You know, Buddy," said John Currier, the researcher friend, "I think we can."

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


Activist emerges as new leader of Moscow election protests (NATALIYA VASILYEVA, 8/17/19, AP) 

After a monthlong hunger strike, it's a struggle for Lyubov Sobol to even raise her hands. Every gesture is difficult for the frail 31-year-old political activist.

This summer's wave of anti-government protests in Moscow propelled her to the forefront of Russia's opposition movement. Her name rang out on the streets of the capital, packed with demonstrators angered by the refusal of election authorities to allow independent candidates, including Sobol, on the ballot for the Moscow Duma, or city council.

Sobol has been the prime target of attacks by both the Kremlin-friendly media and election officials.

"The attitude to me is different because I work harder than others and I don't let people get away with lies," Sobol told The Associated Press. "I'm not afraid of telling people to their face what I think of them."

Moscow has been gripped by weekly protests for more than a month over the nearly two dozen candidates from across the political spectrum who have been excluded from the Sept. 8 election.

The numbers continue to grow: the Aug. 10 rally was Russia's biggest in eight years, and heavy-handed police tactics against peaceful protesters illustrates just how jittery the Kremlin is about the movement. More than 2,000 people were detained, and videos of riot police beating protesters were widely circulated.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Texas Is Bracing for a Blue Wave in 2020. Yes, Texas.: Why Republicans are getting very nervous about maintaining their stranglehold on the Lone Star State. (BOB MOSER, August 12, 2019, New Republic)

Although Republicans have continued to routinely swat away Democrats in statewide races (they haven't lost one since 1990), while sending legions of unhinged conservatives to gum up the works in Washington, Democrats have taken control of every big city in the state over the past decade--a process that began in Dallas in 2006, when Democrats swept into power. More important, and more worrying for Republicans, that trend spilled over last year into the sprawling suburbs, long the bedrock of Texas Republicanism. Cruz was only able to beat O'Rourke by trouncing him two-to-one in rural Texas, where just a quarter of the state's voters live; meanwhile, Democrats captured six Republican-held state House seats in the outskirts of Dallas alone (and six others statewide), while giving Republicans heartburn in some of the suburban U.S. House districts where the party was routinely winning, not long ago, by 20-plus points.

Suddenly, Texas Republicans are on the defensive in their national fortress--and they're both talking and acting like it. "The tectonic plates shifted in Texas in 2018," Senator John Cornyn, the powerful Republican who's facing reelection in 2020 (with just a 37 percent approval rating) said earlier this year. Cornyn has been sounding the alarms ever since November, warning national Republicans against complacency and spelling out the dire consequences for his party if they can't stave off the Democratic surge: "If Texas turns back to a Democratic state, which it used to be, then we'll never elect another Republican [president] in my lifetime," said Cornyn.

A confluence of events over the past couple of weeks has reinforced Cornyn's message. In what giddy Democrats are calling "the Texodus," four Republican members of Congress announced, in short order, that they won't be running for reelection in 2020; three of their seats, all in the suburbs, will likely go Democratic, adding to the two they took from Republicans in 2018. "We could see other representatives step away too," said Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. "Why would you go into a knockdown, drag-out fight when you're either going to lose next time, or soon afterward?"

The Right won't rest until it turns TX into CA.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Militant Neo-Nazi Group Actively Recruiting Ahead of Alleged Training Camp (Mack Lamoureux and Ben Makuch, Aug 16 2019, Vice News)

The group is reportedly planning a "hate camp," a paramilitary-style training camp among militant neo-Nazis in Washington state, according to an anti-fascist group in Eugene, Oregon that has been investigating The Base. Coined by Atomwaffen Division, hate camps are intended to unify online fascists and provide them with information and skills to carry out violent attacks.

Spokane police spokesperson Officer John O'Brien told VICE that while police are aware of the event and are investigating, they do not believe it will take place within the city or county of Spokane.

"The location has not been shared with me," said O'Brien. "The only connection to Spokane is the possibility that members of that group may fly into our airport to travel to their destination."

O'Brien told VICE that if the group is conducting paramilitary-style training on private property with firearms, "they are within their rights to train."

For Joshua Fisher-Birch, a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, a U.S.-based terrorism watchdog, The Base presents a "significant threat" because it is attempting to build a network with "individuals in different groups, or those with slight ideological differences." According to Fisher-Birch, the group has "combined online recruitment efforts with real-world efforts" including supporiting "lone-actor violence" and "shared terrorist tactics."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Navajos Love Their Country Music (KRISTINA JACOBSEN / 23 JUL 2019, Sapiens)

When I was 17, I worked as a summer park ranger at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a park on tribal trust land on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona. One evening, my supervisor invited me to a dance. Excited to be included in an outing with my Diné (Navajo) co-workers, I climbed into her truck, and we cruised to the community center gymnasium in Chinle.

High on a stage, singing tight harmonies in English spiced with Navajo, was a Diné country-western band. Around 200 people wearing Stetson hats and jeans were twirling one another counterclockwise, scooting their boots along the floor, then picking them up high on the quick steps. The dancers seemed to know the words to every song, singing along as the band crooned, "Oh shí baby hold me tight/ Won't you stay with me tonight?"

After each song, the crowd whistled, called out "nááná" (encore), or--the most important sign of approval--stayed on the dance floor to kick up their boots to the next song. The sense of shared community and connection to the music was palpable. I'd entered a world that was completely unknown to me.

In many ways, my anthropology work since that night has been a long-term attempt to unpack the riddle of what I witnessed. How did Navajo cowboys and country musicians turn the stereotype of "cowboys and Indians" on its head? When did Indians become cowboys? What does country music performed by Navajo bands mean to Diné listeners? And what might this tell us about contemporary identities on the Navajo Nation? [...]

Several years ago, I was sitting at a bar in the Navajo reservation town of Gallup, New Mexico, talking with Chucki Begay, the lead singer for a Navajo blues, rock, and soul band. She recalled the day she and her bandmate/partner, Richi Anderson Jr., dropped off their CD at KTNN, the radio station where I used to work. The Navajo deejay listened to the music but refused their request to play it on air. "You guys don't sound Navajo enough," he told them. "You should play country!"

The incident made Begay and her bandmates--all raised on the rez and fluent in Navajo--think about what it means to "sound Navajo." As Begay sees it, the deejay's idea of sounding Navajo harkens back to the original Diné country bands in the 1960s and '70s.

In those days, up to 500 people filled the chapter houses (similar to town halls), dancing to groups like The Fenders and The Wingate Valley Boys. Outlaw country singer Waylon Jennings was on the radio, influencing a generation of musicians. (I met a number of middle-aged Navajo men named Waylon, along with a Garth Brooks Yazzie and a Shelby Lynne Henry.)

Jennings' music still forms an emotional backbeat that reverberates through the reservation. Native Country drummer Arlondo Bia recalls when Jennings passed away in 2002. Arlondo Bia's father, Native Country bandleader Tommy Bia, "got quiet" and withdrew from the family for four days (the standard Diné mourning period) to grieve and properly pay his respects to the artist who so profoundly inspired his musical path.

In listening to the lyrics of Jennings, Brooks, and others, it's easy to see why country music resonates with Diné people. Navajo communities were ranching in the U.S. Southwest long before Anglo cowboys came onto the scene. "We're the real cowboys," many Navajo Nation citizens told me. The Diné have deep ties to their land, a rich and bittersweet past pierced by separation and loss but also resilience and a strong working-class identity. Country music is about love, loss, nostalgia for the past, and connections to land, family, and rural places. These themes are central to what it means to be Diné. What could be more Navajo?

So Diné musicians do not see country music as music belonging to outsiders. They don't see Navajo country as an imitation of a style associated with whiteness and the rural American South. Rather, Diné citizens see country as a fundamentally Diné genre of music. In fact, Diné people have been listening to and performing country music for so long, country music in Navajo spaces can even be seen as "traditional" Navajo music. As one friend--a rancher, photographer, and social studies teacher--said to me, "Country music has always been Diné music."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Mysterious Beauty of Robert Frost's New England (Jay Parini, July 2019, Smithsonian)

It was reading Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" when I was 15 that set me on the path that led to my adult life--I eventually became his biographer. I'll never forget being stunned by these lines in that poem, which features a lonely man, a horse-drawn sled, and the dark and deep woods that surround him: "The only other sound's the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake." I fell in love with that voice, so lyrical and centered, and begged my parents to take a vacation in Frost country, and they generously agreed. We packed up the car in Pennsylvania and drove to New Hampshire and Vermont to have a look around. Needless to say, the landscape spoke to me, and it still does. In fact, it has become a conversation of sorts: I speak back to it as well, writing poems that reflect the world around me. [...]

My life mirrors Frost in so many ways. I live in a farmhouse that dates to 1850, a house where the hired hands from the nearby farm lived in the late 19th century. Along the way this became a family house. What's strange is that so little has changed here. The imagery of my life is the imagery of Frost's poetry, and--like Frost himself, who lived nearby--I like walking in the woods in every season. A clarity is found in the silence and beauty of these woods, when one drinks in the surroundings. "Here are your waters and your watering place," he writes in the last lines of "Directive," saying: "Drink and be whole again beyond confusion."

August 19, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


MLB 1994 strike anniversary: Montreal Expos' greatest season vanished overnight (MIKE DIGIOVANNA, AUG. 11, 2019, LA Times)

It was a feel-good story with no ending, a 4½-month joy ride with no destination. Baseball's last work stoppage robbed the Montreal Expos of their best chance of winning a World Series in 1994, and the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens haunt Kevin Malone to this day.

"When I think about it, I can really feel that twinge in my stomach, that emptiness, that kind of sick feeling," Malone said as he recalled the 1994 season, his first as Montreal's general manager.

"It's obviously not as intense as it was 25 years ago, but it's still there. It's almost like a scar that won't go away, and by touching it, I can remember certain things about the season."

The Expos, despite a $19-million payroll that ranked 27th out of 28 teams, had a 74-40 record -- the best mark in baseball -- and a six-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East when players walked off the job Aug. 12, 1994.

Montreal won 20 of its last 23 games before the strike. A dynamic team composed mostly of stars in their prime and promising youngsters, the Felipe Alou-managed Expos seemed poised not only for a deep October run in 1994, but also for a lengthy run as pennant contenders.

A balanced lineup featured power and speed, with Marquis Grissom (.288, 96 runs, 36 stolen bases) setting the table for Moises Alou (.339, .989 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 22 homers, 78 RBIs), Larry Walker (.322, .981 OPS, 19 homers, 44 doubles, 86 RBIs) and Wil Cordero (.294, .853 OPS, 15 homers, 30 doubles, 63 RBIs).

A stout rotation was led by veteran right-hander Ken Hill (16-5, 3.32 ERA), 22-year-old right-hander and budding Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez (11-5, 3.42 ERA) and veteran left-hander Jeff Fassero (8-6, 2.99 ERA).
A lock-down bullpen featured closer John Wetteland (2.83 ERA, 25 saves) and setup men Mel Rojas and Jeff Shaw, with Gil Heredia and Tim Scott providing solid middle relief.

"We could hit home runs and manufacture runs, we were athletic, we played good defense and had good pitching," Malone said. "We had so many different weapons and could win in so many different ways.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Life And Death Of An Instafish: What one funny-looking fish taught us about evolution, the internet, and the monsters we create (MIRANDA COLLINGE, 19/07/2019, Esquire)

It is not known exactly when humans started inventing animals, but the origins of the practice are certainly ancient. A painting on the tomb of the wealthy Egyptian official Nebamun, dating from 1350BC, once in Thebes and now in The British Museum, seems to show a chariot drawn by two mules: a cross between a male donkey and a female horse (although they might also be examples of the unsurprisingly lesser-known hinny: a female donkey mated with a male horse). In 1548, the Ming dynasty scholar Lang Ying described the people of Hangzhou exploiting a natural colour mutation in the crucian carp to breed dazzling "fire fish", or goldfish, for profit. Charles Darwin, in On the Origin of Species, quotes an historian from the court of Akbar the Great in India in the 17th century, where the pigeon-fancying monarch, "by crossing the breeds, which method was never practised before, has improved them astonishingly."

Later in his book, Darwin makes a pointed note. "One of the most remarkable features in our domesticated races," he writes, "is that we see in them adaptation, not indeed to the animal's or plant's own good, but to man's use or fancy". Fish in particular have a history of being tinkered with for our viewing pleasure. Koi carp are descended from the black carp that were originally brought from China to Japan in 200BC, where by the 19th century rice farmers were selectively breeding and cross-breeding specimens with particularly colourful scales. The Siamese fighting fish, which appears in the wild as dull greenish-brown with short fins, has been selectively bred in captivity in astonishing varieties of purple, red, blue, orange and green, with tails that billow around them like matadors' capes.

August 18, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


An Anti-Trump Landslide? (ROD DREHER, August 17, 2019, American Conservative)

The real concern is the US Senate. Currently, the GOP holds a six-seat majority (if you count the two Independent senators, who caucus with Democrats, as Democrats). Thirty-four seats are up in 2020. According to this analysis, at this point, 18 of them are in play, and four of those 18 are toss-ups. Only one of those four toss-ups -- Doug Jones in Alabama -- is a Democrat. Jones will probably lose no matter what -- Alabama went for Trump by 30 points, and Jones only won because his GOP opponent was creepy Roy Moore.

An anti-Trump landslide at the top of the ticket could wash the GOP Senate majority away. We would then have a Democratic president and Congress -- and they would be in a score-settling mood.

One more time: anything could happen between now and Election Day 2020. But a recession, which is growing more likely by the day, would be something extremely hard for Trump to overcome. The new Fox poll has Trump at 56 percent unfavorable, with only 42 percent favorable -- and this is in good economic times.

Easy to forget, because it's been so long, but in a blowout the GOP will lose safe Senate seats too, no matter who's running for them: see under Reagan babies.

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 AM


Posted by orrinj at 2:04 AM


Israel's 'PR Masada' over Omar and Tlaib violates Zionism (Jeffrey K. Salkin, 8/17/19, RNS) 

Their visit could help destroy Israel? Seriously? Are we living in a comic book universe, in which these women have previously unknown superpowers that would allow them to destroy a sovereign state?

Rather, let us ask ourselves: how would classic Zionism deal with this issue?

Whatever else Zionism is, it is about a historically disempowered people who have empowered themselves to make their own decisions, to build their land, and to defend themselves.

At the first Zionist Congress in 1897, Max Nordau, the prophet of "muscular Judaism," proclaimed:

"The emancipated Jew is insecure in his relations with his fellow man, timid with strangers, and suspicious even of the secret feelings of his friends. His best powers are dissipated in suppressing and destroying, or at least in the difficult task of concealing his true character...He has become a cripple within, and a counterfeit person without, so that like everything unreal, he is ridiculous and hateful to all men of high standards.

This was Nordau's critique of exile.

The Jew was emancipated, yes - socially and culturally.

But galut, the diaspora, had created within us a timidity, a suspicion of the other, a suppression of our true identity.

Nordau is turning over in his grave.

How timid Israel looks. How (uselessly) suspicious Israel looks. How cringing and hapless and hopeless we look - like shtetl Jews waiting for the next (diplomatic) pogrom.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 AM


Trump's large union crowd at Shell was given the option of not showing up -- and not getting paid (Anya Litvak, 8/18/19, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell's petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

"Your attendance is not mandatory," said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours -- through lunch but without lunch -- would be paid.

"NO SCAN, NO PAY," a supervisor for that contractor wrote. [...]

The contractor's talking points, preparing his workers for the event read:

"No yelling, shouting, protesting or anything viewed as resistance will be tolerated at the event. An underlying theme of the event is to promote good will from the unions. Your building trades leaders and jobs stewards have agreed to this."

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 AM


Listening to "Four Quartets" (Dwight Longenecker, August 17th, 2019, Imaginative Quartets)

The quartets are highly personal, uniquely fashioned religious poetry. Therefore, there are three main keys to unlock Four Quartets: Eliot's biography, his poetic technique, and his spirituality.

To take them in reverse order, Eliot was, at heart, a contemplative. Highly introverted and with a mystical bent, he was a hermit in a three-piece suit. In her definitive biographies of Eliot, Lyndall Gordon noted that even in his undergraduate years at Harvard he was reading the great spiritual authorities: the Bhagavad Gita, St. John of the Cross, the metaphysical poets, Julian of Norwich, and the desert fathers.

Once when he was living a reclusive life with John Hayward, someone asked the cleaning lady what the great man was like. She thought they meant Hayward, but when the inquirer specified Eliot she said, "Oh! You mean the holy one!"

Eliot's contemplative spirituality is therefore the first key to understanding the poems. He works hard to put into words the dynamic and charge of the contemplative life--something which is all the more difficult because contemplation is, by definition, an experience beyond words. Once one understands that Eliot is wrestling with the challenge of expressing the experience of the wordless with words, one will begin to move toward the solution of the puzzle.

This wordless realm into which Eliot takes us is the region of dreams, the numinous, the collective unconscious; it is the experience of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, to use the famous phrase of Rudolph Otto. The contemplative moves beyond the physical world, consciousness, the words, and concepts used to order and make sense of that world. He moves into a realm that is not less sensate, logical, and conscious but more sensate, logical, and conscious.

This process has been outlined by the spiritual masters, but the greatest study was by the English theologian Evelyn Underhill in her great book, Mysticism. Her work was an important influence on Eliot as was The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James--a powerful voice during Eliot's time at Harvard.

Once we understand that Eliot is taking us into the realm of the contemplative, his puzzling language can be forgiven. If we are not clear on the exact meaning of every word, that is the poet's intention. We are on the threshold of a realm where images and symbols prevail, and images and symbols are, by their nature, imprecise, multi-layered, mobile, and ambiguous.

Eliot would like us to experience the emotional bewilderment we might have when waking and being puzzled and disoriented by a disturbing dream. He wishes us to plunge into the experience instead of simply pondering the meaning. He takes us to the "edge of grimpen where there is no foothold," and if we cannot specifically define what a "grimpen" is, we know by the chill in our heart and the tremor of bewilderment and fear what he is talking about.

It is the edge of a grimpen where there is no foothold.

Posted by orrinj at 12:38 AM


I'm a rabbi, and I understand Israel is not a democracy (Rabbi Alissa Wise, 8/16/19, (RNS)

It's tempting to see these denials as yet another sign that Israeli democracy is worsening, that the Netanyahu administration is pulling the country ever more to the right. This would be a mistake. The truth is that before Trump, and before Netanyahu, Israel banned Palestinians from travel, putting a true stranglehold on their freedom of movement.

No matter what we might have been told, Israel is not a democracy. The fact is, Israel rules over both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, but only Jews are given full rights.

Since 1967, Israel has imposed severe and debilitating restrictions on the movement of Palestinians inside the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Since 2006, Israel has imposed a suffocating and illegal siege and naval blockade of Gaza, amounting to collective punishment of the territory's population of 1.8 million people, which is a war crime.

The Israeli separation wall near the West Bank town of Bethlehem on June 15, 2016. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum

Beginning in 2002, Israel built a wall around and within the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a move that has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice. The wall prevents Palestinians from traveling freely. In many cases, the wall cuts Palestinians off from their farmland and separates them from schools, houses of worship, workplaces and family and friends. In this way, Israel controls Palestinians' access to the world and to their families.

Palestinians are routinely forced to beg for permission to access their homeland and families -- just as Rep. Tlaib was forced to do, before ultimately deciding that, "Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart. Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me -- it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice."

Those who insist that Israel is a democracy -- "the only democracy in the Middle East" has been a foundational and ubiquitous mantra for its supporters -- willfully ignore the rights of Palestinians. The myth of Israeli democracy is an essential part of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship: No self-respecting American would allow themselves or their country to be associated with a nation that is authoritarian, discriminatory, or oppressive, right? But if we believe in democracy, we must believe in it for everyone.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


My Fellow Republicans Must Stand Against the Alt-Right Virus Infecting America (DAVID FRENCH, AUGUST 8, 2019, TIME)

The so-called alt-right seeks to fundamentally alter the American view of immigration, ethnicity and nationality. White nationalists view ethnicity as inseparable from culture, to such an extent that they claim immigrants from Latin America, Africa and Asia are simply incapable of assimilating into Western civilization, and that their inclusion will ultimately destroy America itself.

They argue that America is facing a "white genocide," that a "great replacement" is under way. In their view, white Western culture faces extinction at the hands of black and brown immigrants, a class of people who are typically cast as sick, dirty and violent, compared to the white guardians of Western civilization.

So, yes, the "alt-right" was thrilled by Trump's campaign rhetoric, and it barraged Trump critics with threats and harassment. But its influence extended well beyond online trolling and real-world intimidation. Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign CEO, called the website he ran, Breitbart .com, the "platform for the alt right." At its height in 2016 and early 2017, Breitbart was one of the most influential websites on the right, frequently ranking second in web traffic only to Fox News.

Breitbart relentlessly pushed "alt-right" themes into the national discourse. At one point, it had a "black crime" tag on its site, and it published an extensive "guide" to the so-called alt-right that miscast it as "young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies." "Alt-right" words like cuckservative or cuck entered the lexicon. The term refers to pornography in which white men watch black men have sex with their wives.

As Breitbart's traffic declined following the departure of Bannon, other right-wing sites picked up the torch. Even now, you'll find constant attacks on the "cucks" who dissent from Trump's presidency or policies. Just last month, a Trumpist website called American Greatness published a poem called a "Cuck Elegy," aimed at me, that refers to immigrants as "parasites." Influential and respected conservatives write for that site.

Over the past few years, "alt-right" themes have also spread to Fox News, which has hosted guests who've spread hysterical falsehoods about immigrants, including the pure fiction that they could introduce smallpox-a disease that was eradicated decades ago-into the U.S. Another guest discussed an extraordinarily racist book called The Camp of the Saints, which depicts Indian immigrants in the most vicious ways, as having "predicted what's happening."

And we cannot forget that Trump's repeated claim that illegal immigrants represent an "invasion" also echoes "alt-right" themes, even if unwittingly.

These are but a few examples of the injection of white nationalist ideas and themes into our political and cultural discourse. To be clear, the vast majority of conservative or right-leaning Americans are not racist, hate racism, and utterly reject the ideology and language of white nationalism. Still, the "alt-right" has achieved remarkable success in influencing our national debate. And they do it, in part, by casting themselves as fearless warriors against political correctness, telling the truths that only "the left" won't like. This perception of influence gives radicals a sense of momentum and energy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In U2's 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For,' A Restless Search For Meaning (Elizabeth Blair , 7/26/19. NPR: All Things Considered)

Three of the members of U2 -- Bono, guitarist The Edge and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. -- were members of a Christian fellowship called Shalom. For The Edge and Bono, their faith seemed at odds with rock 'n' roll: They felt they should be doing something more meaningful with their lives than playing music. In an interview with presenter Gay Byrne for the Irish broadcaster RTE, Bono said that just as the band was on the brink of major success, they went to tell their manager they wanted to quit. He was a no-nonsense type named Paul McGuinness.

"And we say, 'Paul, we're done. We actually want to do something useful with our life, and maybe rock 'n' roll isn't it,' " Bono recounted. "And he's like, 'Oh, so God tells you to do this?' And we said, 'No, not exactly, but it's very deeply convicted here.' He said, 'Would you mind speaking to God about the commitments I've made on your behalf to do another tour?' "

They stayed. Bono went on to say their songs are "prayers of a kind."

Theologian Sarah Dylan Breuer agrees. In the early 2000s, she founded a worship service called the U2charist -- as in U2 plus Eucharist -- that incorporates the band's songs, played by local musicians. Breuer says "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" works because it's an expression of both spiritual joy and disappointment.

"A lot of the contemporary music that's written for worship in Christian circles can be this kind of relentlessly 'I totally love God with all my being, and everything's going to be great.' And that's really not most people's lived experience day to day," she says. But Breuer adds that some members of the clergy believed a few of the verses were inappropriate for the service. For example:

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
And it burned like fire

"Some people said, basically, that human desire that's obviously sexual has no place in the service," she explains. "Some people were OK with it, but wanted to allegorize it, and said it's completely not about human beings at all -- it's only desire for God."

Bono told Rolling Stone "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is "an anthem of doubt more than faith." Joshua Rothman, a writer for The New Yorker, hears something else: "It's a song that celebrates wanting."

In a 2014 piece called "The Church of U2," Rothman outlined the case for this song as a potent contemporary hymn, partly because of the uncertainty expressed in Bono's lyrics. "It's a song about searching for meaning or transcendence," he says. "And to me, the most interesting thing about it is that you don't find it. It's about the search."

Meanwhile, Jon Pareles, chief pop critic for The New York Times, believes much of the song's power comes from the way Bono lingers on one word: "still."

"The genius of the chorus is in its first two words," Pareles says. "There's the leap from 'I still' and 'haven't found.' That 'still' emphasized in the melody tells you he's been looking for a long time. It's a simple thing. But it's a profound thing."

August 17, 2019

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Taiwan's 'Silk Road of Democracy' :A DPP meeting with the Dalai Lama signals new regional cooperation among groups threatened by Chinese Communist Party. (Wen Lii, August 16, 2019, The Diplomat)
Last month, Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sent a delegation to visit His Holiness the Dalai Lama and officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamshala, India. Led by DPP Secretary-General Luo Wen-jia, the meetings not only signified closer bilateral cooperation between Taiwan and Tibetans, but also displayed Taiwan's growing commitment to strengthening multilateral ties among groups threatened by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Systematic acts of state violence toward Uyghurs and Hong Kongers also highlight the importance of international support.

The notion of multilateral cooperation is embodied by emerging concepts proposed by the DPP following the trip to Dharamshala, including the "Silk Road of Democracy" (SRD) and "Democratic Arc," which seek to forge stronger connections among Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, Tibetans, Uyghurs, as well as Chinese supporters of democracy within the country and overseas.

...Donald stands with Xi against one.
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Sudanese protesters sign final power-sharing deal with army (Samy Magdy, 8/17/19, Associated Press)

The signing capped weeks of tortuous negotiations between the military and protest leaders. Earlier this month, the two sides initialed a constitutional document in the wake of international pressure and amid growing concerns the political crisis could ignite civil war.

Ethiopia and the African Union co-led mediation efforts between the military and protesters, and many regional leaders and international envoys attended Saturday's ceremony, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Attendees in the Friendship Hall where the ceremony took place received Ahmed with cheering chants.

Sudanese celebrated in Khartoum and elsewhere across the country. Videos posted online showed people celebrating in the streets in Darfur and the eastern province of Kassala.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


Signs of recession worry Trump ahead of 2020 (JOSH BOAK and JONATHAN LEMIRE, 8/16/19, AP) 

Trump has taken to blaming others for the recession fears, mostly the Federal Reserve, which he is pushing for further interest rate cuts. Yet much of the uncertainty in the markets stems from his own escalation of a trade war with China, as well as weakened economies in key countries around the world.

President Donald Trump on Thursday sought to reassure his supporters about the state of the US economy despite stock market volatility and told rallygoers in New Hampshire that their financial security depends on his reelection. (Aug. 16)
Some of Trump's closest advisers have urged him to lower the temperature of the trade dispute, fearing that further tariffs would only hurt American consumers and rattle the markets further. The president blinked once this week, delaying a set of tariffs in an effort to save Christmas sales.

Aides acknowledge it is unclear what steps the White House could take to stop a downturn. 

Immigration amnesty and reform, drop all US tariffs, beg to get back into TPP.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM

THE 4TH "R":

Nation-state law to be included in Israeli high school curriculum - report (Times of Israel, 16 August 2019)

"Students will internalize the vision for the country, which includes Israel being the state of the Jewish people," the Education Ministry said in its directive, according to the TV report.

The passage of the quasi-constitutional nation-state law last year enshrined Israel as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people, drawing protests from Druze and Arab minorities who said the legislation created official discrimination between Jews and non-Jews.

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


Scaramucci says Trump 'has declining mental faculties.' Trump's latest rally bolsters that case. (Peter Weber, August 16, 2019, The Week)

This is how The New York Times summarized President Trump's campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday night: "Typically rambling, veering on and off script seemingly at random over an hour and a half, he repeated points he had already made earlier in the evening as if he did not remember already making them." And this is how Anthony Scaramucci, Trump's short-lived communications director and newly minted critic, described Trump to Vanity Fair's William Cohan in an interview published early Friday:

I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he's becoming more petulant; he's becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he's sweating, his body's not doing well. It's obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? ... This is an observational objective thing: the guy's nuts. We've gotta defeat him. Everybody in the Republican Party knows it. They don't want to lose their mantle of power and their mantle of leadership, so let's primary the guy. [Anthony Scaramucci to Vanity Fair]

The Mooch has some nice things to say about Trump's policies, and some sharply negative thoughts on Trump's tariffs and tweets. But the issue that finally pushed him off the "Trump train," Scaramucci said, "was the racism -- full-blown racism." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


The day Netanyahu helped anti-Israel Democrats gain resonance and credibility (Eric Cortellessa, 8/17/19, Times of Israel)

As a consequence, pro-Israel activists in Washington say, the case for traditionally supportive postures on the Jewish state will henceforth be more difficult to make. In other words, Netanyahu just gave anti-Israel activists in America one of the biggest boosts they could possibly imagine.

"The political debate over Israel in this country is going to get more robust and more wide open," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads the influential left-wing advocacy group J Street. "People who have serious criticism of what the [Israeli] government is doing are going to have the freedom to say what they want. There will be less fear of saying these things."

"The unintended consequences of Netanyahu's decision," he went on, "is that he has opened it up for critics to push for ideas in the policy space that they couldn't before."

Indeed, on Friday, one of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates amplified an idea that has long been discussed in progressive circles but has generally been a taboo subject for elected political leaders.

"If Israel doesn't want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a firsthand look at what's going on," said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, "maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel."

Tweeted Omar on Friday: "As many of my colleagues have stated in the last 24 hours, we give Israel more than $3 billion in aid every year. This is predicated on their being an important ally in the region, and the 'only democracy' in the Middle East.

"Denying visits to duly elected Members of Congress is not consistent with being either an ally or a democracy. We should be leveraging that aid to stop the settlements and ensure full rights for Palestinians." [...]

Amanda Berman, who heads the Zioness movement, argued that most progressive Americans won't totally give up on Israel, despite Netanyahu's premiership, the same way they won't totally give up on America, despite Trump's leadership.

"We support America, which has taken an authoritarian direction that is decidedly undemocratic right now," she said. "The problem with Israel is, criticism often becomes a referendum on Israel's right to exist. And that's not the direction the conversation takes with any other country when we criticize its policies.

"But one of the few upsides this week is that the entire community, with a couple of notable outliers, came down with the same message: We don't support this policy [of banning critical, would-be visiting legislators], but we still support the state of Israel."

That said, there will now be more oxygen for policy ideas to be advanced that rethink the nature of the US-Israel relationship, including by exerting more pressure on Israel to change its behavior if it wants to enjoy the same level of friendship from Washington.

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 AM


The Second-Amendment Case for Gun Control (Saul Cornell, Aug. 4th, 2019, New Republic)

[J]efferson's guns were at the ready when hunting on his lands, but he was equally adamant that his firearm needed to be firmly secured when traveling on the public roads. A popular eighteenth-century American legal text likewise made it clear that armed travel in places where large numbers of people congregated was a crime under common law. What modern Republicans and most gun rights advocates have forgotten is that the right to bear arms was always weighed against another right the Founders esteemed highly: the peace.

The concept of the peace has been all but lost to modern Americans, who typically think about liberty almost exclusively in negative terms. It is relatively easy to conceptualize liberty as a limit on government overreach, but it is much harder for contemporary Americans to understand the importance of positive conceptions of liberty, including the right to enjoy the peace. Here is how one early American law book from the era of the Second Amendment described this concept: "the term peace, denotes the condition of the body politic in which no person suffers, or has just cause to fear any injury." The primary enforcers and conservators of the peace in both England and early America were local justices of the peace. These individuals, typically prominent and respected men in the local community, had broad and far-reaching powers that included the ability to preemptively disarm anyone who posed a potential threat to the peace--a type of power that reformers are now trying to revive, in vastly diluted form, by adopting red-flag gun legislation.

So seen in the broader sweep of America's social and legal history, today's stilted gun debate reflects an impoverishment of our moral and political imagination. We have maintained and valorized the negative freedom at the core of the gun lobby's version of the Second Amendment, but lost the countervailing positive vision of freedom and the related ideas of local and communal responsibility that were essential to the preservation of the peace. The world that gave us the Second Amendment was populated by people who lived in a largely rural society in small communities. For them, keeping the peace meant forms of policing anchored in their face-to-face local communities. Modern notions of privacy, including a right to acquire guns and stockpile weapons, free from government's prying eyes, were nonexistent. In fact, the opposite was typically the case: government kept very close tabs on citizens who had guns and fined them if they were not kept properly stored and in good working order. The great irony that modern champions of the Second Amendment have never appreciated is that adhering to the Founders' actual vision of the Second Amendment would mean much more extensive and intrusive regulation of guns, not less. If we wanted to honor the true understanding of the Second Amendment, we would begin by requiring gun registration and mandatory firearms training for all gun owners.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


El Paso, the President, and the "Invaders" (ASHLEEN MENCHACA-BAGNULO, 8/11/19, Public Discourse)

[T]rump and his supporters have more in common with Crusius than many would like to admit. They can only see the Latino as the foreign, and the dangerous. The president has relied on the language of onslaughts and invasions in his own speech, and he laughed at a public rally when supporters joked about shooting illegal immigrants. His campaign has run more than 2,000 ads that use the word "invasion" in the last year alone. He also stated that, in the wake of the weekend's shootings, "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!"

The El Paso shooting only has something to do with immigration reform if Crusius was right that there is a Latino invasion of Texas, the former territory of Mexico filled with citizen-descendants of Mexicans for more than 150 years. (Never mind that it was impossible for Crusius to know which Latinos he shot were citizens and which were illegal immigrants.) Is it any surprise that Patrick Crusius called his attack "a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas" when the president himself seems to grant the depiction legitimacy?

Understanding the ethno-nationalist logic shared by the president, some of his supporters, and Crusius is essential if we want to stop a tragedy like El Paso from happening again. To do this, we must cultivate citizen friendship that transcends the ethno-nationalist narrative. We must strongly and actively repudiate the racial and ethnic characterizations that many on the right have failed to adequately oppose thus far.

August 16, 2019

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Trump ties US success to 2nd term: 'You have to vote for me' (KEVIN FREKING, 8/16/19, AP)

The rally was interrupted about a half an hour in by a handful of protesters near the rafters of the arena. As the protesters were being led out, a Trump supporter wearing a "Trump 2020" shirt near them began enthusiastically shaking his fist in a sign of support for the president.

But Trump mistook him for one of the protesters and said to the crowd: "That guy's got a serious weight problem. Go home. Start exercising. Get him out of here, please."

After a pause, he added, "Got a bigger problem than I do."

He thought a fat white guy threatening violence was an opponent?

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM



Amid talk of a U.S. recession, President Donald Trump is reportedly paranoid that economists are biasing their data against him to prevent his re-election in 2020, a downturn that his administration has not prepared for.

According to The Washington Post, Trump is anxious and has been calling business leaders from his New Jersey golf course this week for their views as administration officials try to soothe him with optimistic briefings about the underlying strength of America's economy.

"He's rattled," one unnamed Republican with knowledge of the conversations told the Post. "He thinks that all the people that do this economic forecasting are a bunch of establishment weenies--elites who don't know anything about the real economy and they're against Trump."

The real genius here is that we got to his Wharton profs so he was never taught basic economics.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Inside the Hong Kong protesters' anarchic campaign against China : Young protesters in Hong Kong are directly challenging China's communist rulers. Inspired by kung fu legend Bruce Lee, their leaderless structure is frustrating efforts by the authorities to stymie them. It could also undermine their movement. ((JAMES POMFRET, GREG TORODE, CLARE JIM and ANNE MARIE ROANTREE, Aug. 16, 2019, Reuters)

Ah Lung spends his days working as a clerk for a Hong Kong shipping firm. At night, he dons a mask, black helmet and body armor, and heads out into the streets to face off against the city's riot police.

The 25-year-old activist has been a constant presence at the often violent protests that have rocked Hong Kong this summer, rallying comrades, building barricades and rushing from district to district in a frantic game of cat-and-mouse with police.

Ah Lung, who would only identify himself by his nickname, which means "dragon" in Cantonese, is representative of a growing number of discontented young Hong Kongers who are fueling a protest movement that, unlike its predecessors, is taking aim directly at Beijing.

It is a movement without clearly discernible leaders or structure, making it difficult for the authorities to effectively target-- and increasingly hard for the protestors themselves to manage. While it has the support of established pro-democracy groups, the amorphous movement is fueled by activists like Ah Lung - young Hong Kongers who operate independently or in small groups and adapt their tactics on the run.

"We're not so organized," Ah Lung said. "Every day changes, and we see what the police and the government do, then we take action."

"My dream is to revive Hong Kong, to bring a revolution in our time," Ah Lung said. "This is the meaning of my life now."

Through interviews with dozens of protesters like Ah Lung and reporting from dozens of protests, Reuters has pieced together a picture of how this movement functions and the mindset driving it.

The protests, which started as a peaceful rebuke of the Hong Kong government back in April, have evolved into a direct challenge to Communist Party rule over this former British colony. With slogans such as "Free Hong Kong" and "Hong Kong is not China," Ah Lung and his fellow protesters have made clear they reject a future in which Hong Kong is inexorably absorbed into the mainland giant, eventually becoming just another Chinese city.

Protesters are provocatively calling the demonstrations an "era of revolution," a formulation that has infuriated a ruling Chinese Communist Party determined to crush any challenge to its monopoly on power.

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U.S. 30-year yields drop to record low; 10-year yields sink (Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss, 8/16/19, Reuters)

U.S. 30-year Treasury yields fell to a record low below 2% and benchmark 10-year notes dropped to a three-year trough on Thursday amid persistent worries about global trade tensions and economic slowdowns around the world.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Spurning lawmakers, Netanyahu loses the Democrats he never thought he had (Raphael Ahren, 8/16/19, Times of Israel)

The Israeli government's decision to bar two Democratic members of Congress from entering the country may one day be considered one of the final nails in the coffin of bipartisan support for Israel.

Elevating Nationalism above democracy meant the split between the West and Israel was coming.  Bibi is just hastening it.

August 15, 2019

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Gavin McInnes, founder of the white nationalist Proud Boys, was allowed to visited Israel in 2017. He described his personal animus toward Jewish people in a video shot in Tel Aviv that was originally titled "10 Things I Hate About Jews."

"I'm becoming anti-Semitic," McInnes said during his visit, before reiterating common talking points used by Holocaust deniers. "I felt myself defending the super far-right Nazis just because I was sick of so much brainwashing and I felt like going, 'Well, they never said it didn't happen. What they're saying is it was much less than six million and that they starved to death and weren't gassed.'"

McInnes is far from the only far-right nationalist welcomed by Israel: Former Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopolous--who sang "America the Beautiful" for American neo-Nazi Richard Spencer--was also allowed into the country, as was former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who appeared on Fox News on the night of Trump's inauguration reportedly wearing the badge of the Order of Vitéz, a defunct Hungarian group "under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany," according to the State Department.

Those are favors to Donald too.

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AIPAC splits with Trump and Netanyahu, backs visit by Omar and Tlaib to Israel (Kate Sullivan,  August 15, 2019, CNN)

The prominent pro-Israel group American Israel Public Affairs Committee suggested Thursday it opposed a move by Israel -- and supported by President Donald Trump -- to bar Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country.

AIPAC, which advocates for a staunch alliance between the US and Israel, has frequently sided with Trump administration policies that have supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, making its opposition especially notable.

"We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib's support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib's calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand," AIPAC tweeted early Thursday afternoon.

Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, have frequently criticized Israel's treatment of Palestinians and expressed support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, which aims to end international support for Israel because of its policies toward Palestinians. 

AIPAC, like the Congressmen, supports a Palestinian state.  Donald and Bibi don't.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


After Philly Shooting, Trump U.S. Attorney says 'Soros-Funded Prosecutors' Responsible for Uptick in Violence (Matt Clibanoff, August 15th, 2019, Law & Crime)

McSwain also went on Fox News' Tucker Carlson's show to air his grievances, claiming that "Philadelphia is the laboratory where this experiment of Soros-funded prosecutors is playing out," echoing right-wing conspiracy theories that George Soros is a leading member of the New World Order.

"What Mr. Soros wants to do is to implement his radical agenda and he realizes he can't do that through the normal democratic process," McSwain said, claiming Soros is using the DA office as a means of circumventing legislative procedure.

It's not about guns, just Jews!
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Why this Never Trump ex-Republican will vote for almost any 2020 Democratic nominee (Tom Nichols, Aug. 15, 2019, USA Today)

I don't care if Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a mendacious Massachusetts liberal. She could tell me that she's going to make me wear waffles as underpants and I'll vote for her. I don't care if Sen. Kamala Harris is an opportunistic California prosecutor who wants to relitigate busing. She could tell me that I have to drive to work in a go-cart covered with Barbie decals and I'll vote for her. I don't care if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is a muddle-headed socialist from a rural class-warfare state (where I once lived as one of his constituents). He could tell me he's going to tax used kitty litter and I'll vote for him. [...]

Compulsive lying, fantastic and easily refuted claims, base insults and bizarre public meltdowns, however, are indeed signs of serious emotional problems. Trump has never been a reasonable man, but for two years, he has gotten worse. He literally cannot tell the truth from a lie, he often seems completely unable to comprehend even basic information, and he flies off the handle in ways that would make most of us take our children to a pediatrician for evaluation.

This is why policy doesn't matter. I have only two requirements from the Democratic nominee. First, he or she must not be obviously mentally unstable. Second, the nominee must not be in any way sympathetic -- or worse, potentially beholden -- to a hostile foreign power. This rules out Gabbard, Williamson and maybe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, although in de Blasio's case it's hard to tell whether he is unstable or just a terrible person.

As for the rest of them, I am willing to live with whoever wins the Democratic primary process. I will likely hate the nominee's policies, but at least I will not be concerned that he or she is incapable of understanding "the nuclear" or "the cyber." I will feel like I have a shot at trying to convince my elected representatives that they should listen to the policy preferences of normal human beings instead of two old men wearing shirts that say they'd "rather be a Russian than a Democrat," or a woman in a shirt indicating that she is willing to have the president grab her genitalia.

The Democratic candidate will promise to nominate people into Cabinet posts who will make me tear my hair out. But at least I will be confident that they are in charge of their own inner circle, instead of surrounded by unprincipled cronies who keep their own boss in the dark while taking a hatchet to the Constitution. Is there anyone that Warren or former Vice President Joe Biden could bring to, say, the Justice Department, whom I would fear more than an odious and sinister courtier like William Barr?

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


U.S. failed to stop release of oil tanker, says Iran envoy in London (Reuters, 8/15/19) 

The Iranian ambassador in London accused the United States of desperately trying to stop the authorities in Gibraltar from releasing the Grace 1 Iranian oil tanker, saying the American effort had been defeated.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Israel bars visit by U.S. Democratic lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (Rami Ayyub, Jeffrey Heller, 8/15/19, Reuters) 

Israel will bar a visit by two of its sharpest critics in the U.S. Congress, Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who planned to tour the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the country's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.

as Israel recedes from the West there is no reason it should honor free speech nor religious belief nor American leaders, but fellow American leaders do have obligations when it chooses not to.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Trump's New Hampshire struggle: Voters feeling 'Trumpgret' (HUNTER WOODALL, 8/15/19, AP)

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- When Chad Johansen voted for Donald Trump in 2016, he hoped he was picking someone who could help small-business owners compete with bigger companies. But that hasn't happened, and now the 26-year-old owner of NH iPhone Repair feels what he calls "Trumpgret."

The Republican president has done little to address health care issues for a small employer, he said, and the Manchester man remains on edge about how Trump's tariffs could affect his business, which employs fewer than 10 people. Beyond that, he said, unrelenting news about bigotry and racism in the Trump administration is "a turnoff."

"The president's supposed to be the face of the United States of America," said Johansen, who voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012. "And supposed to make everyone be proud to be an American and stand up for everyone who is an American. And I don't feel that President Trump's doing that. I feel like it's chaos."

That sentiment is concerning for Trump as he travels to New Hampshire on Thursday for a reelection rally. [...]

An August University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found that 42% of New Hampshire adults approve of Trump while 53% disapprove.

Unfortunately, having such a weak top of the ticket cost us a Senate seat and the legislature.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Report: John Hickenlooper to drop out of Democratic presidential primary Thursday (Catherine Garcia, August 14, 2019, The week)

[A] poll released earlier this week of 600 Democratic primary voters in Colorado showed that if Hickenlooper decides to shift gears and run for Senate next year, he would have a huge lead over the Democrats now in the race -- 61 percent of respondents said they preferred Hickenlooper, with only 10 percent supporting Mike Johnston and 8 percent backing Andrew Romanoff.

The Democrat who wins the primary will face off against Sen. Cory Gardner (R), considered the most vulnerable GOP senator up for re-election next year. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Several US Jewish protesters hurt as truck rams crowd at immigration center (JTA, 8/15/19, Times of Israel)

A US correctional officer drove into a row of Jewish protesters demonstrating at the street entrance to an ICE detention center in Rhode Island on Wednesday night, injuring several people, activists said.

Protesters were then pepper-sprayed, according to people present at the protest.

Hundreds of Jewish protesters had gathered at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and dozens blocked the entrance to the center's parking lot. The protest was the latest demonstration by Never Again Action, a new Jewish group protesting ICE and United States immigration policy by getting arrested at ICE detention facilities.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Trump will have a harder time turning things around as the China trade war drags on (John Harwood, 8/14/19, CNBC)

The business community and its campaign donations represent vital Republican assets. The top priority of corporate executives -- the December 2017 tax-cut -- stands as the only major legislative accomplishment Trump and the GOP Congress delivered.

But for its votes, the 21st century GOP increasingly depends on working-class whites without big stock portfolios or high tax liabilities. Instead of material benefits, Trump offers those voters the emotional satisfaction of giving voice to their fears and frustrations.

His bombast on an immigrant "invasion," and harsh border policies in the name of stopping it, serve that purpose. So does his bluster on trade.

In 2016, Trump won Rust Belt battlegrounds by promising to fight the scourge of unfair competition from China and other countries. "This American carnage stops right here," he declared in his 2017 inaugural.

It has not stopped. But tariffs, which Trump can impose without the consent of Congress, let him portray himself as punching back toward that goal.

Tariff punches have hurt China by dampening demand for its exports. They have also hurt Trump's own supporters, especially in agricultural states whose farm exports China has stopped buying.

Those losses have been so acute that Trump has offset them with direct government payouts to farmers. He has pretended other losses -- from dampened business investment and increased consumer prices -- don't exist at all.

In backing down from the next round on Tuesday, however, Trump surrendered the pretense that only China bears the costs. He did it, Trump acknowledged, to protect American Christmas shoppers.

Welcome as it was to business leaders, that retreat underscored the political weak link of Trump's approach. It's hard to campaign simultaneously as a business-friendly dealmaker and a bare-knuckled battler for the working class.

"Trump caved," Fox News personality Laura Ingraham tweeted about the tariff delay.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


BlackRock's Hildebrand Tells Europe Cash Handouts Should Be Next (Carolynn Look  and Francine Lacqua, August 15, 2019, Bloomberg)

The world's largest asset manager says European authorities should consider funneling money straight to households and businesses if the current economic slowdown worsens.

As global central banks exhaust the impact of more traditional tools -- interest rates and asset purchases -- "the next step needs to be more than just more of the same," BlackRock Vice Chairman Philipp Hildebrand said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

He added that the euro area would likely be the first major economy to see radical measures such as "putting money directly in the pockets of consumers or corporates."

That's a concept often referred to as "helicopter money," which Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman came up with in the late 1960s. Hildebrand shrugged the term off as "sort of a catch phrase," arguing that central banks simply need to pick a different approach.

"The obvious one is the European Central Bank because they are closest at the point where more of the same simply won't work anymore," said Hildebrand, who was president of the Swiss National Bank from 2010 to 2012.

Just don't call it UBI.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Congress defends two-state resolution after Knesset critique (Jacob Kornbluh & Amy Spiro, August 15, 2019, Jewish Insider)

Democratic and Republican House members are pushing back against Israeli criticism of a recent bipartisan resolution that included support for a two-state solution. 

Twenty-one Knesset members -- including Avi Dichter and four other senior Likud lawmakers -- sent a letter to members of Congress on Monday criticizing the language in support of a two-state solution included in the recently passed H. Res. 246. The Israeli legislators claimed the resolution, which opposes the BDS movement, was a "grave error" because the creation of a Palestinian state would be "far more dangerous for Israel" than the BDS campaign.

Congress, with the best intentions, sought to defend an Israel that no longer exists.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Schindler's List author compares Australia's asylum seeker policy to Holocaust lead-up (NICK BAKER, 8/15/19, SBS)

The 83-year-old criticised the government's border protection policies, specifically "punitive" offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru.

He said Australia was punishing asylum seekers on the islands like they were criminals, even though "they have committed no criminal acts".

While Mr Keneally was very clear he wasn't saying the situation mirrored the Holocaust itself, he said Australia's language and policies toward asylum seekers were similar to the lead-up to what became the Holocaust.

"The rhetoric [around asylum seekers] is all negative ... There's stereotyping ... This idea of locking away people for their own good," he said, "these are early stops on the road to Auschwitz". 

"This idea that these people must be punished for their own good, or for the good of people contemplating this journey in Indonesia is something that I don't accept."  [...]

His appearance at Sydney Jewish Museum started with a quote from Mr Keneally projected on a screen reading, "this is the greatest test of our national honour - the way we welcome or punish the asylum seeker".

"The regime of punishment must end and the era of fraternity must begin, and if I can in any way help the transition, I would be honoured."

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Allies worry Trump is "running out of tools" to boost the economy (Jonathan Swan, 8/15/19, Axios)

His team is worried about polling data from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, amid the economic signals.

That's why Trump is getting even more agitated about the Federal Reserve. As one former senior White House official put it: "He's running out of tools" to juice the economy.

Tax reform is in the rear view mirror. Infrastructure isn't happening. What else has he got besides a possible China trade deal?

Drop all US tariffs, sign TPP, immigration amnesty.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Democrats descend on Iowa -- with renewed anxiety (Matt Viser August 10, 2019, The Washington Post)

"Joe Biden can resonate with the working-class voters that Trump fooled in the last go-round. And that's what we need: He's close to the middle. He's a known quantity. He appeals to middle-class voters," said Alan Feirer, the party chairman in Madison County.

"But boy, he's old," Feirer added. "That shouldn't be a problem, and you don't like to say it, but he isn't as compelling verbally. . . . There is starting to be a real fear that he cannot hold his own in the debate against Donald Trump."

Tracy Freese, the county chairwoman in Grundy County, said she, like many, has conflicted emotions about Biden.

"I wish he'd get his mojo back. I know he has it; I just haven't seen it," Freese said. She longs for the Biden who took on Paul D. Ryan in the 2012 vice presidential debate. "Where did that guy go?" she said. "I'm not seeing him right now."

At the same time, Freese understands, intellectually at least, the argument that Biden may have the best chance of attracting GOP voters. "I'm done falling in love. I'm falling in line," she said. "I do struggle with it, but I just want Republicans to be able to feel comfortable and vote for him."

It still seems like they're best off ending up at Kamala.

PODCAST: Bill Scher on Bernie and Warren (Matt Lewis, 8/14/19)

Bill Scher discusses his column, "Not Enough Room in 2020 Primary for Sanders and Warren," as well as why the Iowa caucuses could get weird.

August 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Trump resists aides' pressure to back Hong Kong protesters (ELIANA JOHNSON, NAHAL TOOSI and BEN WHITE, 08/14/2019, Politico)

Donald Trump's top aides are urging him to back Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, but the president isn't interested, multiple people familiar with the administration's internal debates say. [...]

When the two spoke by phone ahead of the international gathering, Trump surprised his aides when he told Xi that he would not condemn the Chinese government over a crackdown in Hong Kong. He understood it was an internal issue in which the U.S. would not interfere, he said.

"Who cares what happens to them, they're Asian."

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Fox News Poll: Most back gun restrictions after shootings, Trump ratings down (Dana Blanton, 8/14/19,  Fox News)

Overall, 56 percent of voters disapprove of Trump's performance, up from 51 percent in July. Record numbers of men (53 percent), white men (46 percent), and independents (64 percent) disapprove. His disapproval rating has only been higher once: 57 percent in October 2017.

Currently, 43 percent of voters approve of Trump, down from 46 percent last month.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


'Absolute Amateur Hour': Team Trump Mangles Messages to Iran (Erin Banco & Asawin Suebsaeng, 08.14.19, Daily Beast)

The Trump administration keeps sending conflicting and contradictory messages to Iran about its terms for new negotiations, multiple U.S and European officials tell The Daily Beast. And the ensuing chaos has vexed the president, complicated diplomatic efforts for American allies abroad, and utterly baffled policymakers at home. 

"Absolute amateur hour," said one former senior administration official, who was involved with the internal squabbles.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


EXCLUSIVE: Did Jeffrey Epstein have painting of Bill Clinton wearing a blue DRESS and red heels and lounging in the Oval Office inside his Manhattan mansion?  (ISOLDE WALTERS FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and CHEYENNE ROUNDTREE, 14 August 2019, daily Mail)

Jeffrey Epstein had a bizarre portrait which appeared to be of Bill Clinton in a dress hanging in his Manhattan mansion, DailyMailTV can reveal.

The picture depicting the former president apparently lounging on a chair in the Oval Office, wearing red heels and posing suggestively in a blue dress redolent of Monica Lewinsky was in a room off the stairway of the Upper East Side townhouse. [...]

She told DailyMailTV: 'It was absolutely Bill Clinton. It was shocking - it was definitely a painting of him. It was a very provocative, sexual picture. He was wearing heels, a blue dress and his hand was in a weird position.'

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


NYPD Police Union Boss: Sorry For Sharing Racist Video, 'I Have Black Friends' (JAKE OFFENHARTZ, AUG. 14, 2019, The Gothamist)

The president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, New York City's second-largest police union, says he should not face consequences for circulating an explicitly racist video--in which black people are referred to as "monsters" and public housing as a "war zone"--because it was an "honest mistake."

On Tuesday, the NY Post reported that the hate-filled video was emailed to thousands of police sergeants over the weekend, along with a message from SBA President Ed Mullins, reading: "Pay close attention to every word. You will hear what goes through the mind of real policemen every single day on the job. This is the best video I've ever seen telling the public the absolute truth."

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


Major Banks Warn Against Trump Recession (Dan Desai Martin, August 14, 2019, National Memo)

In the last week, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and UBS have all warned that Trump's actions with China are hurting the U.S. economy and pushing the country, and even the entire globe, into a recession.

Morgan Stanley on Aug. 5 predicted that a recession will start in just nine months if Trump follows through on his pledge to add a 25 percent tariff (tax) on all goods from China.

"Trade tensions have pushed corporate confidence and global growth to multi-year lows," Chetan Ahya, Morgan Stanley's chief economist, said.

In an analysis published Friday, Aug. 9, Bank of America raised their odds of a recession in the next year from a 1-in-5 chance to a 1-in-3, and stated their model "likely does not fully capture the threat of US-China trade tensions spiraling into a more severe trade war, which we view as the biggest downside risk for the US economy."

"Fears that the trade war will trigger a recession are growing," Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs' chief economist, announced on Sunday. He also predicted that Trump's economic battle with China will cause America's economic growth to falter at the end of 2019.

On Tuesday morning, UBS said it anticipates both a slowdown in job growth as well as an increase in unemployment. In June, UBS warned that if trade tensions between the U.S. and China did not cool, "the contours would resemble a mild 'global recession.'"

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


U.S. Rep. Steve King: If not for rape and incest, 'would there be any population left?' (Robin Opsahl, 8/14/19, Des Moines Register)

U.S. Rep. Steve King told the Westside Conservative Club Wednesday that humanity might not exist if not for rape and incest throughout human history.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" he said in Urbandale, Iowa.

On the other hand:

Rep. Steve King: I've never heard of a pregnancy from rape or incest (Daniel DeFraia, 8/22/12, AFP)

Rep. Steve King speaks at a news conference on the first day of Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act March 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. Credit: Chip Somodevilla
Two days after Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy, Rep. King (R-Iowa) told a reporter he had never heard of a child becoming pregnant from rape or incest.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


U.S. Businesses Are Stuck in Trade War Uncertainty (Michael R. Strain, August 14, 2019, Bloomberg)

Their paralyzing uncertainty is driven by the president's veering from one position to another. Businesses seem increasingly convinced that he doesn't understand the basics of international economics. Trump bemoans the relative strength of the dollar one day, declaring China a currency manipulator, and the next he praises dollar-strengthening inflows of foreign investment. With such a tenuous grasp on the facts of the situation, how can he make predictable policy? How can businesses anticipate what he'll do?

At the same time, events are making the post hoc rationalizations about Trump's trade regime -- that he is actually a radical free trader using tariffs to make trade even more free in the future -- increasingly unpersuasive. There's growing acceptance that the president really is a protectionist to his core.

Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM


The Hutchins Center Explains: The yield curve - what it is, and why it matters (Michael Ng and David Wessel, December 5, 2018, Brookings)

The yield curve is a visual representation of how much it costs to borrow money for different periods of time; it shows interest rates on U.S. Treasury debt at different maturities at a given point in time.

Lenders and bond investors who commit to tying up their money for longer periods of time take on more risk because it's harder to forecast economic conditions - inflation, Federal Reserve policy, the global economy - over a decade than over the next week or month. The compensation that lenders and investors demand for making long-term loans is known as the term premium. With a positive term premium, the yield curve usually slopes upwards.

The Federal Reserve influences short-term interest rates across the economy by targeting the federal funds rate, the interest rate at which banks lend to each other overnight and a benchmark for other interest rates in the economy. Longer-term interest rates reflect, among other things, market expectations about how the Fed will move short-term rates in the future.

Inflation erodes the value of any promise to pay a fixed sum in the future, including interest payments on a bond or loan. Investors and lenders demand compensation for this by building an "inflation premium" into the interest rate on a loan or bond.

The current inversion is entirely a function of Trumponomics. The only source of upwards pressure on prices is Donald's trade wars and tariffs, as the White House admitted yesterday.  As soon as we are rid of Trumponomics even that pressure will be removed.  So it is completely rational to anticipate greater "inflation" in the short term than the long.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


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Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM



U.S. Attorney General William Barr lashed out at progressive prosecutors in a speech yesterday at the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police's conference in New Orleans, calling them "anti-law enforcement" and "'social justice' reformers" who will send the cities where they serve back "back to the days of revolving door justice" with the result of "more crime, more victims."

Given that earlier this year Barr stood by "The Case for More Incarceration," a 1992 report released by the Department of Justice when he first was attorney general, his disdain for progressive prosecutors is unsurprising.

Barr's speech was standard tough-on-crime fare: He argued that anything that scaled back mass incarceration would inevitably lead to more crime. It cannot be stressed enough that a wealth of data disproves that. Longer prison sentences provide little to no additional deterrence, often incapacitate beyond what public safety requires, and can actually increase the risk of reoffending upon release. Rehabilitation efforts are consistently more effective outside prisons than inside them, and victims increasingly indicate that they prefer a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration instead of punitiveness.

While most progressive prosecutors have not been in office long enough to measure their impact on crime (or punishment), it's worth noting that violent crime fell by over 5 percent in Philadelphia during District Attorney Larry Krasner's first year on the job, and by 4 percent during Kim Foxx's first two years in Chicago. None of this is dispositive proof that the policies of progressive prosecutors can lead to reductions in crime, but it pushes back strongly against Barr's fearmongering.

And as top law enforcement official at the Department of Justice, Barr can reduce victimization in the violent, dysfunctional DOJ-controlled Bureau of Prisons in a far more direct way than Krasner or Foxx are able to on the streets of Philadelphia or Chicago.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


As Putin's Popularity and the Economy Dip, Protests Pop Up Across Russia (Irina Reznick & ilya Arkhipov, August 13, 2019, Bloomberg)

The demonstrations represent the biggest public challenge to Vladimir Putin's two-decade rule since protests interrupted his campaign for a third term in 2012. Then, his decision to return to the presidency combined with allegations of widespread fraud in parliamentary elections the previous December set off a wave of anti-Kremlin actions that brought tens of thousands into the streets. The six-month opposition drive eventually wilted under pressure similar to that now being applied to demonstrators.

Not long afterward, Putin's approval ratings surged amid a patriotic wave inspired by the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, reaching highs of almost 90%. Last year, however, his popularity plummeted to 64% after he pushed legislation through the State Duma that increased the retirement age by five years, to 60 for women and 65 for men, which will cost the average Russian 900,000 rubles ($13,800) in lost benefits.

Incomes in Russia have fallen for five straight years because of the persistently low price of oil, Russia's main export, and the grinding impact of U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed over Crimea. Simmering discontent has periodically boiled over into protests-- in the heartland, as well as in the politically energized capital. The complaints tend to be about local issues such as plans to build a trash dump or low salaries for state workers, but anti-Kremlin slogans aren't uncommon.

"It's all part of the reaction to the overall sense of injustice: the lies on television, the unfulfilled past promises," says Sergei Belanovsky, a Moscow sociologist who was among the few to predict major protests in the 2011-12 political cycle. "The repressions will help [the government] in the short term," he says, "but there will be more flare-ups all over."

In a few cases, the authorities have given in. Spontaneous demonstrations against plans to build a church on a popular park in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg this spring attracted the attention of Putin, who called for a local referendum on the idea. After the plan for the church was rejected, authorities dropped the idea.

The stakes are higher for big national issues in the capital. While the Moscow City Council has limited power, the election is seen as a warm-up for parliamentary voting in 2021. Controlling that vote is critical for the Kremlin as it looks for ways to ensure Putin's rule extends beyond the end of his current term in 2024. Term limits prevent him from running for re-election. Top officials are already talking about possible constitutional changes as the deadline looms.

Thanks, UR!  Vlad pimped so hard for Donald out of desperation to lift sanctions, but neither understood the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


U.S. Farmers Stung by Tariffs Now Face a $3.5 Billion Corn Loss (Isis Almeida , Mike Dorning , and Mario Parker, August 13, 2019, Bloomberg)

American farmers already stung by President Donald Trump's trade wars now face billions of dollars in potential losses as controversial data from the U.S. government snuffs out a rally in corn.

The Agriculture Department on Monday said farmers planted a bigger corn area than analysts estimated and pegged crop yields that also exceeded expectations, sparking the biggest rout in futures since 2013. That was a blow to growers who were holding back supplies, hoping a rally that started in May due to delayed sowing would extend through the fall.

The decline represents a potential loss of almost $3.5 billion for U.S. farmers, according to the American Farm Bureau, and is another setback for them after prices fell following the USDA's previous acreage report, which was widely criticized for containing outdated data.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


Trump official doubles down, says Statue of Liberty poem refers to Europeans (ZEKE MILLER and ASHLEY THOMAS, 8/13/19, Times of Israel)

Cuccinelli said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday night that the Emma Lazarus poem emblazoned on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty referred to "people coming from Europe where they had class based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class."

One benefit of Donald's open racism is the Trumpbots joining in revealing what they truly are.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 AM


The Battle for Hong Kong (NIKOLAI G. WENZEL|, 8/13/19, Law & Liberty)

The demonstrators now have five demands:  (1) withdrawal of the extradition bill; (2) retraction of all references to the protests as riots; (3) release of all arrested protesters; (4) an independent inquiry into police brutality; and (5) true democracy.

US President Donald Trump calls protests 'riots' and an issue between Hong Kong and Beijing (Sarah Zheng  & Jun Mai, 2 Aug, 2019, SCMP)

He said the city had experienced "riots for a long period of time".

"And I don't know what China's attitude is. Somebody said that at some point they're going to want to stop that. But that's between Hong Kong and that's between China," he said. "Hong Kong is a part of China, they'll have to deal with that themselves."

'Hong Kong Thing' Is 'Very Tough,' but Trump Doesn't Criticize China (Michael Crowley, Aug. 13, 2019, NY Times)

"The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation. Very tough," Mr. Trump told reporters as he left New Jersey for an official event in Pennsylvania. "We'll see what happens. But I'm sure it'll work out." He added: "I hope it works out for everybody, including China.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos Are Scheduled to Speak at a Conference Organized by a QAnon Supporter (DAN FRIEDMAN & ALI BRELAND, 8/13/19, MoJo)

He and Papadopoulos are listed as speakers at the upcoming "Digital Soldiers Conference," a one-day event scheduled for September 14 in Atlanta that promises to ready "[p]atriotic social media warriors" for a coming "digital civil war" against "censorship and suppression."

Other featured speakers include Bill Mitchell, an online broadcaster and conspiracy theorist; singer and Trump backer Joy Villa; and a "mystery guest." The event is being organized by Rich Granville, the CEO of Yippy, Inc, who has a Twitter feed littered with references to QAnon, a conspiracy theory centered around the notion that Trump is secretly taking down an international ring of pedophiles that includes high-ranking Democrats. QAnon supporters believe that an anonymous person known as Q is dropping online clues about this supposed clandestine operation. The web page for Granville's conference prominently features an American flag festooned with a Q.  [...]

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his contact during the presidential transition period with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn admitted in his plea that he had lied by denying they had discussed sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia for interfering in the 2016 election. [...]

Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr., a frequent purveyor of right-wing conspiracy theories, espoused QAnon views when he tweeted in late 2016 about "PizzaGate," a conspiracy theory that a DC pizzeria was part of a child sex ring involving senior Democratic officials. Flynn Jr. lost a job on the Trump transition team due to those tweets. Flynn Jr. has since renounced QAnon. But General Flynn's brother, Joseph Flynn, and sister, Barbara Redgate, have signaled support to QAnon supporters, according to the Daily Beast. Joseph Flynn delighted believers last March by tweeting the letter Q. He later deleted the tweet but suggested his account had been hacked by "the team." Some QAnon followers interpreted his tweet to be a reference to their theory that a "Q Team" of hackers is working to help Trump. [...]

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with a mysterious Maltese professor and suspected Russian agent named Joseph Mifsud, who disclosed to Papadopoulos that Russian intelligence had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 AM


The cost of the "strong" U.S. economy  (Dion Rabouin, 8/13/19)

Despite massive amounts of money being pumped into the economy by both fiscal and monetary policy, U.S. growth is slowing, not accelerating.

Why it matters: Last year Congress signed a 2-year agreement to increase spending $300 billion, in part to pull the economy out of its slow-growth malaise following the financial crisis and put the U.S. back on track for 3% annual growth or higher.

But 2019's slowdown in GDP growth has shown that even hundreds of billions in deficit spending combined with trillions in tax cuts and bond buying aren't enough.

August 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


In suburban Texas, 'it feels like there's no place for lifelong Republicans like me' (MELANIE MASON, AUG. 13, 2019, LA Times)\

COLLEYVILLE, Texas --  Vanessa Steinkamp is the kind of voter that Texas Republicans counted on. She's a devoted conservative who volunteered for Bob Dole's presidential campaign, interned for former GOP Sen. Bill Frist and lives in an affluent suburb between Fort Worth and Dallas that is the reddest pocket of a reliably Republican district.
These days, though, Steinkamp feels alienated, not energized, by her party. The thought of voting in 2020 brings on a weary sigh.

"It feels like there's no place for lifelong Republicans like me," she said.

Her unease underscores a larger problem for Texas Republicans: Female suburban voters like Steinkamp are no longer a sure bet for the party, injecting new competitiveness into the Lone Star State's politics. [...]

The suburbs have become increasingly purple thanks to an influx of new residents. Some are coming from the state's big cities in search of larger, more affordable houses and better school districts. Others are coming from out of state, and around the world, as the healthy economy attracts more workers.

Republican woes have been compounded by a flagging performance among white women in suburban areas. GOP operatives around Dallas-Fort Worth acknowledge this constituency was a glaring weakness in 2018.

Jill Tate, a Colleyville resident who is active in Republican Party groups, said she consistently heard other suburban women express qualms about the GOP over healthcare and immigration.

"They saw the kiddo being separated from their mom at the border, and it's sad," said Tate, 45. "We had a lot of [women] voting with their heart."

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Police Keep Arresting Young White Men For Trying to Copycat El Paso (Tess Owen, Aug 12 2019, Vice News)

Brian Levin, who leads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said it's not unusual for crimes to "manifest in clusters around publicity." However, Levin said, there's another element to what we're currently seeing in response to the shootings.

"What makes these different is that many of these offenders consider themselves as part of an allied chain of so-called 'lone' warriors who combine their violence with a memorialization on social media, with references to past terrorists and bigoted folkloric texts."

Experts also say that the string of arrests serves as a reminder of the increasing pervasiveness of far-right terror in America.

"Obviously, there's a lot of focus on the attacks that occur when there are bodies in the street," said Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism. "But what these arrests serve as a reminder of is that the threat is broader than any one attack. It's an ongoing, consistent threat, and this underscores the role of law enforcement in tracking it."

At a recent hearing, FBI director Christopher Wray said that they'd arrested 100 subjects of domestic terror investigations over a 10-month period, a significant number of whom adhered to white supremacist ideology.

Last week's arrests offer a glimpse into a world of violent threats and plots that consume law enforcement on a regular basis...

..these would all be white men who love guns and hate minorities...

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Moscow court reverses Sergei Mitrokhin election ban (Deutsche Welle, 8/13/19)

A Moscow court on Tuesday canceled a decision by the election commission to bar opposition candidate Sergei Mitrokhin from running in Moscow's upcoming city council vote.

The Moscow city court ruled that the electoral commission should immediately register Mitrokhin of the centrist Yabloko party as a candidate, according to Russian state news agencies.

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'Never seen anything like this': Devin Nunes lawsuits are confusing fellow Republicans (KATE IRBY, AUGUST 08, 2019, McClatchy)

The new case names four California residents, one of whom is Paul Buxman, a retired farmer who says he voted for Nunes in the past. [...]

Even some of those within Nunes' own party are unwilling to defend his latest move. Half a dozen California Republicans -- most of whom have defended Nunes in the past -- contacted by McClatchy either did not return a request for comment or outright said they would not comment on the issue.

Two Republican consultants who have managed political campaigns in the San Joaquin Valley, Kevin Spillane and Carl Fogliani, were willing to speak on the record, both saying they were confused by Nunes' tactics.

"There seems to be no strategy other than to attack his enemies," Spillane said. "He should focus on working his district and stay out of the politics of Washington, D.C."

Asked if these lawsuits helped further the perception that Nunes had become less concerned with his district -- a frequent criticism of Nunes by Democrats -- Spillane said, "Well, I don't think it helps him."

...for electing him.  Although it is fun watching Adam Schiff pummel him routinely.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 PM


Cuccinelli rewrites Statue of Liberty poem to make case for limiting immigration (Devan Cole, 8/13/19, CNN)

"Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus's words etched on the Statue of Liberty, 'Give me your tired, give me your poor,' are also a part of the American ethos?" NPR's Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli on "Morning Edition" in an interview published Tuesday.

"They certainly are: 'Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,'" he replied.

One further tweak: insert "whites"

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


How an unarmed 65-year-old stopped a gunman from attacking a Norwegian mosque (Rick Noack August 12, 2019, Washington Post)

A 65-year-old former Pakistani military officer is being credited with thwarting an attack at a mosque in Norway after he tackled a heavily armed gunman who allegedly stormed into the house of worship with the intent of carrying out a mass shooting motivated by hatred of Muslims.

Mohammad Rafiq said he threw the gunman to the ground after the man entered the al-Noor Islamic Center in Baerum near the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Saturday, before the two other men inside the mosque rushed to help him pin down the gunman.

Rafiq's quick action helped avert an attack that brought back painful memories of the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand this year, when a gunman attacked two mosques and killed 51 people during Friday prayers.

"There is no doubt that the swift and firm response from the persons inside the mosque stopped the aggressor," acting police station chief Rune Skjold said in a statement. "These persons showed great courage."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's (Almost) All-White GOP Emerges (Dean Obeidallah, 08.12.19, Daily Beast)

After the 2014 midterm election, there was a sense the GOP was becoming a more racially diverse party when African-American Tim Scott won a seat to the U.S. Senate from South Carolina and Will Hurd and Mia Love were both elected to the House. Even NPR noted then about these historic victories that the Republican Party seemed to be "building momentum for diversifying the GOP ranks."

Those days are long gone. There are currently five times as many Republicans in the House named Jim as there are black Republicans in that chamber. And it's about to get worse. Will Hurd, the only black Republican currently in the House, announced last week he was retiring. Before that, in 2018, Mia Love was defeated and then mocked by Donald Trump, "Mia Love gave me no love and she lost," adding tauntingly, "Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Uneasiness Of Joe Biden's Presidential Campaign Is About More Than The Gaffes (Henry J. Gomez, 8/13/19, BuzzFeed News)

 Joe Biden's fight for the soul of America often feels like a fight for the soul of Joe Biden.

His four-day swing through Iowa began with a confident rebuke of President Donald Trump's racist rhetoric. The Wednesday speech in Burlington was timely, given the domestic terrorism days earlier in El Paso, Texas, but also consistent with the themes Biden has campaigned on for months.

The next night, Biden's gravitas gave way to rambling. At an Asian & Latino Coalition event in Des Moines, the former vice president twice ignored a fearless moderator's requests that he shorten his answers. When a teen asked how he would protect her generation from school shootings, Biden alternated between empathetic and defensive. He talked at her: hunched over, palms down flat on the table in front of her as they locked eyes. He wanted her to know that the survivors of last year's school shooting in Parkland, Florida, had come to visit him -- and, in Biden's telling, only him.

"Me," he said. "Nobody else. Me. I met with them. I met with their families."

It can be easy to miss and hard to put your finger on, especially when Biden leads the Democratic presidential field in polling and puts on his aviator-clad frontrunner's face. But Biden presents with a vibe of doubt. He can come across as a candidate who's worried that he's running out of time -- and that he's wasting yours. And he's not always sure how to make the most of it.

Pick a great governor for VP and step down immediately, having saved the Republic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Serial Hoaxers Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Swear They'll Solve Epstein's Death (Will Sommer, 08.12.19, Daily Beast)

On Monday, lobbyist Jack Burkman and conservative operative Jacob Wohl--the hapless serial hoaxers behind several earlier failed schemes--announced that they were going to "enter the fray" and investigate Epstein's death. 

"We're hardly alone in the belief, but we strongly feel that this was a murder," Burkman said in a press release. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump is impeaching himself (Julian Zelizer,  August 13, 2019, CNN)

It turns out Speaker Nancy Pelosi might have been onto something when she talked about Trump being "almost self-impeaching" several months ago. This August, Trump seems to be on a path of impeaching himself.

Despite the continued skepticism from Democratic leaders, the drive toward impeachment has accelerated. Over 50% of House Democrats, including some legislators from moderate swing districts, have announced their support for impeachment proceedings.

Even House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, the emerging moral conscience of the party, said that he favors an impeachment inquiry, and contended that formal impeachment proceedings are already underway. He told CNN's Erin Burnett: "This is formal impeachment proceedings. We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence. And we will (at the) conclusion of this -- hopefully by the end of the year -- vote to (send) articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now."

Nadler has done more than any other senior Democrat in talking about the "I" word and making the case to the public for moving forward with hearings -- the job of opposition leaders in these historic moments.

It is not clear that Robert Mueller's testimony before the House is the reason the impeachment process has accelerated. While the substance of Mueller's presentation was devastating, just like the written report, Trump himself has been the driving force in energizing Democrats to take a stand.

Even the Trumpbots seem exhausted by having to drop the pretense and defend open racism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The strongmen vs. the streets (Dave Lawler, 8/13/19, Axios)

The world's two most powerful authoritarian states have been unable to quell pro-democracy demonstrations that have now spanned several weeks and drawn global attention.

The latest: Flights out of Hong Kong were canceled today after protesters flooded into the airport, while Moscow witnessed its largest protests in seven years over the weekend. Video of police battering demonstrators has emerged from both cities. Broader crackdowns now seem likely, particularly in Hong Kong.

While neoliberal fascism--as the Left now calls protestantism/capitalism/democracy--just keeps rolling along.

The Promise of Liberalism Is Alive in the Streets of Hong Kong (NOAH ROTHMAN, 8/12/19, Commentary)

Thirty years ago, defying Mao Zedong's invasive gaze, pro-democracy demonstrators armed with foam and paper-mâché cobbled together an icon. Combining the aesthetics of Soviet statuary with Western classicism, the 33-foot Goddess of Democracy was not intended to evoke the Statue of Liberty. Indeed, the student protesters who designed it were self-conscious about the comparison between their idol and the colossus in New York's harbor, but the ideals and emotions the two sculptures invoke are so universal that their distinguishing cosmetic features were inconsequential. It could not be allowed to stand, and it was destroyed after just five days, along with China's student-led democracy movement, by the People's Liberation Army.

The Goddess of Democracy was born again in Hong Kong by a new generation of democratic activists who are far less concerned with offending the sensibilities of Beijing's elite. Replicas of the famous statue have become objects of renewed veneration and antipathy as anti-government protests enter their 10th week. But the citizens who have taken to the streets to protest Beijing's encroachment into China's bastion of political liberalism are far less shy about conveying pro-American sentiments. Demonstrators have been seen flying U.S. flags, singing the American national anthem, and demanding civil liberties akin to those enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Sadly, the affection the people of Hong Kong have shown Americans is not entirely reciprocal.

Trump says it's up to China to deal with Hong Kong 'riots'  (Reuters, 8/27/19) 

U.S. President Donald Trump has described protests in Hong Kong as "riots" that China will have to deal with itself, signaling a hands-off approach to the biggest political crisis gripping the former British colony in decades.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Gun safety is actually a consensus issue (MARK PENN, 08/12/19, THE HILL)

The politics of gun safety has confounded the country for decades. Poll after poll finds solid support for background checks, banning assault rifles, and even licensing. And yet, since the 1994 congressional elections, most in Congress have been wary of passing tough legislation.

Measures to improve background checks for gun ownership are backed by almost the entire public. The last time we polled it in the Harvard-Harris Poll in March 2018, 90 percent favored it. Closing loopholes in background checks is not a controversial issue -- it is an issue of national consensus. [...]

Americans do not want guns banned; 68 percent in the June Harvard-Harris poll rejected restricting gun ownership to only the police and the military. They do want gun ownership to come under the same kind of prudent legislation as for any dangerous product, like a car, a medicine or anything else that can easily threaten lives. Consequently, it's not a surprise that 69 percent support licensing guns just like autos.

And all the shooters are gun nuts.

August 12, 2019

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Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile blows up, creating "mini-Chernobyl" (SEAN GALLAGHER - 8/12/2019, Ars Technica)

On August 8, during testing aboard a barge in the White Sea near Nyonoksa, Russia, the nuclear engine of an experimental nuclear-armed cruise missile exploded, killing two technicians and injuring six others. On August 11, officials of the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom acknowledged that five employees had died in the explosion of what they described as "an isotopic power source for a liquid engine installation." The head of the nuclear research center, Valentin Kostyukov, called the five "national heroes."

As of today, it is believed that the death toll has risen to seven. The victims were described as suffering from burns, and most were thrown into the sea by the explosion; they all likely suffered from radiation burns.

The nuclear-powered cruise-missile program was announced by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2018, during an address to the Federal Assembly. Putin described the weapon as a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with essentially unlimited range, intended to defeat any ballistic missile defenses deployed by the United States.

They are a threat only to themselves.

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Charlottesville Victim Heather Heyer Was Not Included in FBI's Hate Crime Registry (Matt Clibanoff, August 12th, 2019, Law & Crime)

On August 12, 2017, neo-Nazi James Fields, 22 drove his car through a group of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one and injuring more than two dozen. Strangely, however, despite the fact that Fields was convicted on 29 federal hate crime charges, Heather Heyer, 32, the woman he killed, was not included in the FBI's registry of hate crime victims for 2017.

Opposing the racists is the real crime.

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


Did a Far-Right Star Recruit Jacob Wohl to Terrorize Women? (Will Sommer,  08.12.19, Daily Beast)

A perennial House candidate's alleged harassment of his ex-girlfriend has gone so far that he apparently hired notorious conservative operative Jacob Wohl to pressure her and a former campaign worker, according to text messages and a recording reviewed by The Daily Beast.

Wohl is best known for his blundering, often comical attempts at political trickery, including failed schemes to concoct bogus sexual-assault allegations against former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. But text messages from a phone number belonging to Wohl suggest that the 21-year-old hoaxer has branched out into making death threats on behalf of his political allies, telling one woman he would "torture you so much that you end up killing yourself."

Posted by orrinj at 12:21 PM


The Shame and Disgrace Will Linger (David Frum, 8/10/19,  The Atlantic)

Reactions to actions by Trump are always filtered through the prism of the ever more widely accepted view--within his administration, within Congress, within the United States, and around the world--that the 45th president is a reckless buffoon; a conspiratorial, racist moron, whose weird comments should be disregarded by sensible people.

By now, Trump's party in Congress, the members of his Cabinet, and even his White House entourage all tacitly agree that Trump's occupancy of the office held by Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and Eisenhower must be a bizarre cosmic joke, not to be taken seriously. CNN's Jake Tapper on August 2 quoted a "senior national security official" as saying: "Everyone at this point ignores what the president says and just does their job. The American people should take some measure of confidence in that."

So even though Trump just retweeted the comedian Terrence K. Williams accusing the Clinton family of murder, the people who work for Trump may ignore that, too. They know that the president punching the retweet button like an addled retiree playing the slots through a fog of painkillers means nothing. The days of "taking Trump seriously, not literally" have long since passed. By this point, Trump is taken neither seriously nor literally. His words are as worthless as Trump Organization IOUs.

But cosmic joke or no cosmic joke, Donald Trump is the president of the United States. You may not like it. I don't like it. Mike Pompeo doesn't like it. Mitch McConnell doesn't like it. Kevin McCarthy doesn't like it. But it's still a fact, and each succeeding outrage makes it no less a fact. Grinning and flashing a thumbs-up over an orphaned baby? Yes, still president. Tweeting that a third-tier dictator has threatened him with more missile tests unless he halts military exercises with a U.S. ally----and that he has surrendered to that blackmail? Shamefully, still president. Accusing a former U.S. president of murder? It's incredible, it's appalling, it's humiliating ... but, yes, he is the president all the same.

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Right-wing MKs to congresspeople: 2-state solution 'far more dangerous' than BDS (RAPHAEL AHREN, 8/12/19, Times of Israel)

A group of right-wing lawmakers, including two deputy ministers, sent a letter on Monday to four US lawmakers warning that calls for a two-state solution are "far more dangerous to Israel" than efforts to boycott the Jewish state and urging them to refrain from such appeals in the future.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Texas Republicans brace for 2020 drubbing: 'Republicans need to be very concerned,' says a GOP member of the state's congressional delegation of next year's elections. (MELANIE ZANONA and LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ, 08/12/2019, Politico)

As bad as it's been for Texas Republicans lately, some members of the party are warning that 2020 could be even worse.

The rash of recent House GOP retirements is just the latest sign of a state party in distress: In last year's midterms, Democrats flipped a pair of longtime GOP districts, a Democrat came within striking distance of a Senate seat, and more than 50 elected Republican judges lost their jobs. Democrats also gained ground in state legislative races.

Changing demographics and a suburban revolt against President Donald Trump have turned Texas from a conservative bedrock to a major political battleground, especially for House seats. Once-safe congressional Republicans are facing competitive races for the first time in their careers -- a potential harbinger of the GOP's future in the state if they don't adapt quickly.

"If the Republican Party in Texas doesn't start looking like Texas, there won't be a Republican Party in Texas," retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who represents a key swing district, told POLITICO. Texas' Latinos are on pace to become the largest population group in the state by 2022.

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Liberal Zionists, Face the Facts: There's Already Only One State From the River to the Sea (Joshua Shanes, Aug 12, 2019, Ha'aretz)

Israel last week advanced plans to build over 2,000 more homes for Jews throughout the West Bank, many well beyond the current settlement blocks. Some of them will be in outposts even Israel considered illegal, which - in a familiar pattern - will now be rendered retroactively "legal."

The government has reaffirmed that every settlement scattered throughout the entire occupied West Bank are part of Israel. "We will deepen our roots in our homeland, in all of its parts," Netanyahu recently stated. "No settlement or settler will be uprooted...That is over...What you're doing here is forever." 

In short, the West Bank is effectively annexed for Jews, even as there remains a military occupation for Palestinians.

The government has openly disavowed any two-state solution, declared its ever-growing settlements to be an integrated part of Israel, allowed polling stations throughout the West Bank (for decades), appropriated public and private Palestinian land for access roads that effectively erase the Green Line for Jews, and much more.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Global Machine Behind the Rise of Far-Right Nationalism (Jo Becker, Aug. 10th, 2019, NY Times)

A New York Times examination of its content, personnel and traffic patterns illustrates how foreign state and nonstate actors have helped to give viral momentum to a clutch of Swedish far-right websites.

Russian and Western entities that traffic in disinformation, including an Islamaphobic think tank whose former chairman is now Mr. Trump's national security adviser, have been crucial linkers to the Swedish sites, helping to spread their message to susceptible Swedes.

At least six Swedish sites have received financial backing through advertising revenue from a Russian- and Ukrainian-owned auto-parts business based in Berlin, whose online sales network oddly contains buried digital links to a range of far-right and other socially divisive content.

Writers and editors for the Swedish sites have been befriended by the Kremlin. And in one strange Rube Goldbergian chain of events, a frequent German contributor to one Swedish site has been implicated in the financing of a bombing in Ukraine, in a suspected Russian false-flag operation.

The distorted view of Sweden pumped out by this disinformation machine has been used, in turn, by anti-immigrant parties in Britain, Germany, Italy and elsewhere to stir xenophobia and gin up votes, according to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based nonprofit that tracks the online spread of far-right extremism.

"I'd put Sweden up there with the anti-Soros campaign," said Chloe Colliver, a researcher for the institute, referring to anti-Semitic attacks on George Soros, the billionaire benefactor of liberal causes. "It's become an enduring centerpiece of the far-right conversation." [...]

There is another curious Russian common denominator: Six of Sweden's alt-right sites have drawn advertising revenue from a network of online auto-parts stores based in Germany and owned by four businessmen from Russia and Ukraine, three of whom have adopted German-sounding surnames.

The ads were first noticed by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which discovered that while they appeared to be for a variety of outlets, all traced back to the same Berlin address and were owned by a parent company, Autodoc GmbH.

The Times found that the company had also placed ads on anti-Semitic and other extremist sites in Germany, Hungary, Austria and elsewhere in Europe.

Which raised a question: Was the auto-parts dealer simply trying to drum up business, or was it also trying to support the far-right cause?

Rikard Lindholm, co-founder of a data-driven marketing firm who has worked with Swedish authorities to combat disinformation, dug deeper into the Autodoc network.

Hidden beneath the user-friendly interface of some of the earliest Autodoc sites lay what Mr. Lindholm, an expert in the forensic analysis of online traffic, described as "icebergs" of blog-like content completely unrelated to auto parts, translated into a variety of languages. A visitor to one of the car-parts sites could not simply access this content from the home page; instead, one had to know and type in the full URL.

"It's like they have a back door and it's open and you can have a look around, but to do that you have to know that the door is there," Mr. Lindholm said.

Much of the content was not political. But there were links to posts about a range of divisive social issues, some of them translated into other languages. One hidden link -- about female genital mutilation in Muslim countries -- had been translated from English to Polish before being posted. Yet another post, from a site called, concluded, "Islam hates you."

Thomas Casper, a spokesman for Autodoc, said the company had no "interest at all in supporting alt-right media," and added, "We vehemently oppose racism and far-right principles."

He said the company's digital advertising team worked with third parties to place ads on "trusted websites with substantial traffic." Autodoc, he said, had instituted controls to try to ensure that it no longer advertised on far-right sites.

Autodocs has advertised on far-right sites in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, including this Hungarian site which has a section devoted to Holocaust denialism.

As for the icebergs, after receiving The Times's inquiry, the company removed what Mr. Casper called the "obviously dubious and outdated content." It had originally been placed there, he said, to improve search engine optimization.

But Mr. Lindholm said that made no sense. "By linking to irrelevant content, it actually hurts their business because Google frowns on that," he said.

Another way to look inside the explosive growth of Sweden's alt-right outlets is to see who is linking to them. The more links, especially from well-trafficked outlets, the more likely Google is to rank the sites as authoritative. That, in turn, means that Swedes are more likely to see them when they search for, say, immigration and crime.

The Times analyzed more than 12 million available links from over 18,000 domains to four prominent far-right sites -- Nyheter Idag, Samhallsnytt, Fria Tider and Nya Tider. The data was culled by Mr. Lindholm from two search engine optimization tools and represents a snapshot of all known links through July 2.

As expected, given the relative paucity of Swedish speakers worldwide, most of the links came from Swedish-language sites.

But the analysis turned up a surprising number of links from well-trafficked foreign-language sites -- which suggests that the Swedish sites' rapid growth has been driven to a significant degree from abroad.

"It has the makings, the characteristics, of an operation whose purpose or goal is to help these sites become relevant by getting them to be seen as widely as possible," Mr. Lindholm said.

Over all, more than one in five links were from non-Swedish language sites. English-language sites, along with Norwegian ones, linked the most, nearly a million times. But other European-language far-right sites -- Russian but also Czech, Danish, German, Finnish and Polish -- were also frequent linkers.

The Times identified 356 domains that linked to all four Swedish sites.

Many are well known in American far-right circles. Among them is the Gatestone Institute, a think tank whose site regularly stokes fears about Muslims in the United States and Europe. Its chairman until last year was John R. Bolton, now Mr. Trump's national security adviser, and its funders have included Rebekah Mercer, a prominent wealthy Trump supporter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the El Paso Killer Echoed the Incendiary Words of Conservative Media Stars (Jeremy W. Peters, Michael M. Grynbaum, Keith Collins, Rich Harris and Rumsey Taylor, Aug. 11, 2019, NY Times)

Tucker Carlson went on his prime-time Fox News show in April last year and told his viewers not to be fooled. The thousands of Central Americans on their way to the United States were "border jumpers," not refugees, he said. "Will anyone in power do anything to protect America this time," he asked, "or will leaders sit passively back as the invasion continues?"

When another group approached the border six months later, Ann Coulter, appearing as a guest on Jeanine Pirro's Fox News show, offered a dispassionately violent suggestion about what could be done to stem the flow of migrants: "You can shoot invaders."

A few days after, Rush Limbaugh issued a grim prognosis to his millions of radio listeners: If the immigrants from Central America weren't stopped, the United States would lose its identity. "The objective is to dilute and eventually eliminate or erase what is known as the distinct or unique American culture," Mr. Limbaugh said, adding: "This is why people call this an invasion."

There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso this month. In a 2,300-word screed posted on the website 8chan, the killer wrote that he was "simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion."

If the Right's rhetoric is true then the shooters are National heroes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US athletes protest Trump on medals stand at Pan American Games (LUIS ANDRES HENAO, 8/12/19, AP)

Two US athletes have used their medal-winning moments at the Pan American Games to draw attention to social issues in their country that they feel are spiraling out of control.

During their medals ceremonies at the multi-sport event in Lima, fencer Race Imboden took a knee and hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fist. Both athletes could represent the US less than a year from now at the Tokyo Olympics, where similar protests would be seen by a much wider audience.

"Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list" of America's problems, Imboden said in a tweet sent after his team's foil medals ceremony. "I chose to sacrifice my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed.

August 11, 2019

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Versace apologises for T-shirt mislabelling Hong Kong, Macau as countries (CASSANDRA BAIN, 8/11/19, SBS)

Italian luxury label Versace and its artistic director Donatella Versace apologised after one of the company's T-shirts was widely criticised on social media for labelling the Chinese-controlled territories of Hong Kong and Macau as countries.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Bernie Sanders staffers manhandle press at Iowa State Fair (Joseph Simonson, August 11, 2019, wAHINGTON eXAMINER)

The confrontation erupted after members of the campaign relentlessly pushed the local journalists to make room for Sanders as he made his way to various attractions at the fair on Sunday.

At MoJo this reads "Rightwing press tries to prevent sanders from campaigning."  At least no one had their elbow grabbed....

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


What Changed in Charlottesville (Karen L. Cox, Aug. 11, 2019, ny tIMES)

Two years ago this week, hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Va., under the pretense of protesting the city's decision to remove a monument to Robert E. Lee from a public park.

They were joined by old-guard white supremacists like David Duke, and before they were through, a young man, inspired by this gathering and the white supremacist ideology, drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counterdemonstrators, injuring several dozen and killing a young woman, Heather Heyer.

Until Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate monuments was mostly about history, pitting claims about the preservation of Southern heritage against the monuments' historical ties to slavery and Jim Crow. What has become crystal clear in the last two years is that these monuments are no longer relics of a horrendous past -- they have been resurrected as symbols of white nationalism.

The people who showed up in Charlottesville were not there because of their nostalgia for the Confederacy. Many had no Confederate ancestry, nor were they Southern. They arrived angry about being displaced, or perhaps replaced, by immigrants; by women; by African-Americans; by anyone who, in effect, challenged white male patriarchy. They saw the potential removal of the Lee monument, a statue with historical links to white supremacy, as a siren call for their movement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Trade and the division of labor (Michael Hicks, Aug. 11, 2019, Star Press)

 Tariffs are taxes on trade. For much of the world's history, tariffs were popular because there was no other easy way to collect taxes. As technology permitted governments to collect sales, income and property taxes, tariffs began to disappear. The average tariff rate has dropped by fivefold worldwide since 1900. Tariffs became less popular as more nations came to appreciate the benefits of specialization of labor and more aware that tariffs are mostly used to prop up unproductive domestic businesses.

It is worth noting that maintaining unproductive businesses makes us much worse off over the long run. But, over the short run it does benefit those who own or work in that business. The process of unproductive firms closing, whether through trade with China or Kentucky, or through automation can be difficult. It often displaces workers and disrupts families and communities. This may well call upon the resources of government to better train and educate workers and insulate families from these events. That we single out trade with a foreign nation, but not automation or trade with Kentucky, is an comical side note to our understanding of labor market disruption.

Today we have embarked on a Trade War, whose primary benefit is reminding us of the immense benefits trade brings. The cost of this trade war is simply the suspension of the benefits of trade. By raising taxes on products by 10 to 30 percent, the trade war is forcing firms to pay rising prices or move their suppliers to different, more expensive places. Alone, none of these things is sufficient to cause a recession. However, the uncertainty surrounding new tariffs and the shift of thousands of product lines from one nation to another, combined with wholly predictable retaliation by our trading partners is enough to slow economic growth. Whether it is sufficient to cause a recession is a question time will shortly answer.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM



American and Mexican law enforcement officials say nearly all of the gun violence in Mexico is fueled by the illicit import and sale of U.S. firearms.

The underground trade of weapons to Mexico is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually--with American guns used to kill tens of thousands of Mexicans each year.

In addition to weapons from the States working better, Mexico cartels view firearms as status symbols, retired DEA agent Jack Riley told The San Diego Union-Tribune: "It is really important to these criminal organizations, who stay in business by the threat of violence and through the use of violence; and the tools that they prefer to do that with are American-made guns."

Tijuana's Director of Public Safety, Marco Antonio Sotomayor, says most of the guns flowing into his city come from north of the border.

"There's no way for people to buy guns like these in Mexico. They're American-made guns," Sotomayor told the Union-Tribune. "We know they're being illegally trafficked through California into Tijuana."

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Norway Mosque Gunman Expressed Far-Right Views, Admiration for El Paso Shooter (DANIEL POLITI, AUG 11, 2019, Slate)

Hours before the attack a user of the same name as the alleged gunman posted on the 4chan messaging board expressing admiration for the gunman who killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques earlier this year. The post included a meme that described that gunman as a "saint" and praised the alleged El Paso shooter for "reclaiming his country." The post was made on a new messaging board called Endchan and the older site 4chan.

Trumpbots all the way down...
Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Pro-Trump Movie Cancelled, Thanks to Trump (KYLE SMITH, August 11, 2019, National Review)

For once, a genre movie was built around an anti-progressive premise. The Hunt, which was due for release on September 27, at least sounded contrarian. But our film-critic-in-chief got it cancelled. President Trump doesn't have the most finely tuned irony gauge; he seemed unable to understand that the globalists in the film are plainly the bad guys and that the trailer was satirizing rather than saluting the hunters it portrays. We weren't meant to see events from their point of view, but were to put ourselves in Deplorable shoes. For once, a major Hollywood film studio was about to release a movie sympathetic to Trump voters.

Yet after Fox News and Trump egged each other into a frenzy about the film, Trump went on Twitter to blast The Hunt (without mentioning its title), saying, "The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!"

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


The brand label that stokes Trump's fury: 'Racist, racist, racist.' (Philip Rucker and Ashley ParkerAugust 11, 2019, Washington Post)

President Trump considers himself a branding wizard, but he is vexed by a branding crisis of his own: how to shed the label of "racist."

As the campaign takes shape about 15 months before voters render a verdict on his presidency, Trump's Democratic challengers are marking him a racist, and a few have gone so far as to designate the president a white supremacist.

Throughout his career as a real estate magnate, a celebrity provocateur and a politician, Trump has recoiled from being called the r-word, even though some of his actions and words have been plainly racist.

Following a month in which he leveled racist attacks on four congresswomen of color, maligned majority-black Baltimore as a "rat and rodent infested mess" and saw his anti-immigrant rhetoric parroted in an alleged mass shooter's statement, the risk for Trump is that the pejorative that has long dogged him becomes defining.

Being called a racist has infuriated Trump, gnawing at him in recent days as he lashes out -- in tweets and in public comments -- over the moniker...

A majority of voters say President Donald Trump is a racist, Quinnipiac University poll finds (William Cummings, 7/31/19, USA TODAY)

A narrow majority of Americans voters say President Donald Trump is a racist, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. 

Fifty-one percent of voters say they think Trump is a racist. Forty-five percent say they do not think so, and 5% don't know. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Barrington Pheloung obituary (Paul Loewenthal, 11 Aug 2019, The Guardian)

In 1987, the Australian composer Barrington Pheloung, who has died aged 65 of respiratory failure, provided the haunting theme and incidental music to the ITV crime drama series Inspector Morse. The combination of the complex, grumpy detective, played by John Thaw, the Oxford setting of the underlying novels by Colin Dexter and the 100-minute length of each episode created scope for a very distinctive approach.

As Bazz (or Barry, or Bazza) recalled: "Morse is a very melancholic character, so the tune had to be melancholic, and he was a lover of classical music, so it should be an orchestral score and not a synthesiser. He has a very cryptic mind, he loves doing crosswords; we came up with the obvious idea - his name is Morse and we use Morse code in the music." The spelling out of his name fitted into a rhythm that suggested a harmonic structure: "I picked up my guitar and there was the tune."

Over the course of 13 years, 33 episodes of Morse were broadcast, and Bazz also provided the music for a sequel, Lewis, later Inspector Lewis (2006-15), with Morse's sergeant (Kevin Whately) moving centre stage. He did the same for a prequel, Endeavour (2012-17), with Shaun Evans as the young Morse.

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM


Democrats' 2020 Problem: How to Be Tougher on Trade Than Trump (Ana Swanson, Aug. 10, 2019, NY Times)

For years, Democrats in Congress have been warning that China is an economic aggressor bent on undermining American industry. They have denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement for outsourcing jobs and criticized China for manipulating its currency to make Chinese products cheaper. They have vowed to use federal procurement, tariffs and other tools to help American workers.

Mr. Trump has stolen that playbook and gone further. On Monday, his administration formally designated China a currency manipulator, a step some Democrats have demanded for years. Last week, the president moved forward with plans to tax nearly every toy, laptop and sneaker that China sends to the United States. Mr. Trump has also renegotiated NAFTA, imposed tariffs on foreign metals and strengthened "buy American" rules so that federal projects use more materials from the United States.

So far, many of these efforts have not produced the kind of change Mr. Trump promised. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


Fed remains a target as economy falls short of Trump's ambitious goals (Howard Schneider, Ginger Gibson, 8/11/19, Reuters)

"Reasonably good" is not what Trump promised to deliver during his 2016 campaign, and at this point he heads into a reelection year short of the key economic goals he set and worried a recession could undermine his bid for a second term.

Growth is ebbing and well below the 3% annual rate he said his administration would hit; the trade deficit has widened and there is no sign of the "easy" victory he said would come in a trade war with China; far from the surge in investment he promised would follow a corporate tax cut, business capital spending of late has been a drag on growth overall.

Each month there are more jobs. But that has been true for nearly nine years, and as on many fronts the best days of "Trumponomics" may be in the past as the economy's performance reverts to an Obama-era trend of around 2% annual growth.

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM



President Donald Trump would endure a resounding defeat against potential 2020 contenders Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, according to a new SurveyUSA poll that surveyed registered voters about their preferred choices in hypothetical, head-to-head matchups.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and independent Senator Bernie Sanders, both currently competing for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, would trounce Trump by eight points in the popular vote, according to the poll.

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:14 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:01 AM


'Trump is ruining our markets': Struggling farmers are losing a huge customer to the trade war -- China (Emma Newburger, 8/10/19, CNBC)

U.S. farmers lost one of their biggest customers this week after China officially cancelled all purchases of U.S. agricultural products, a retaliatory move following President Donald Trump's pledge to slap 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports.

China's exit piles on to a devastating year for farmers, who have struggled through record flooding and an extreme heat wave that destroyed crop yields, and trade war escalations that have lowered prices and profits this year.

"It's really, really getting bad out here," said Bob Kuylen, who's farmed for 35 years in North Dakota.

"Trump is ruining our markets. No one is buying our product no more, and we have no markets no more."

Ain't gonna work on MAGA farm no more.
Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


Feds Indict Trump Supporter For Threatening Ocasio-Cortez (Oliver Willis, August 11, 2019, National Memo)

"A screen shot was provided to USCP of a news story related to the member of Congress with linked comments that stated: 'She should be shot. Can't fire me, my employer would load the gun for me,'" the department noted.

Charging documents reveal that when Ireland was questioned about the post by Lawrence Anyaso, a special agent with the Capitol Police, he said he was "very proud" of the post he had made.

A search warrant was executed on Ireland's home on Aug. 2. They found .32-caliber and .45-caliber ammunition.

The day before Ireland posted his threat, Trump tweeted his attack on Ocasio-Cortez.

"The 'Squad' is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border...And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!" he wrote.

That was part of a campaign that started several days before, when Trump told Ocasio-Cortez -- along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar -- to "go back" where they came from.

Ireland's Facebook page, which is still online, shows several pro-Trump, anti-Democratic posts. One meme he posted reads, "We hated Obama like you hate Trump." Another referred to President Barack Obama as the leader of ISIS.

He also praised Trump for declaring a national emergency at the southern border "to aid America," and claimed that Obama had declared national emergencies to aid several foreign countries.

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 AM


MSNBC Host: Banning Semi-Automatic Weapons Is the 'Most Pro-Police Thing You Can Do' (Cameron Cawthorne, AUGUST 11, 2019, Free Beacon)

MSNBC 's PoliticsNation host Al Sharpton on Saturday claimed banning semi-automatic weapons would be the "most pro-police" proposal Congress could come up with.

"This president has always attacked those of us that questioned some police when there are things that we consider police going over the line," Sharpton said. "Banning automatic weapons, banning semi-automatic weapons, banning these kinds of military-style weapons is the most pro-police thing you can do because they are the first responders."

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


The Completely Predictable Death of Jeffrey Epstein (ANDREW COHEN, August 11, 2019, New Republic)

[I]nmate suicides are such a regular part of life in American prisons and jails that none of us should be surprised whenever they occur. They are the leading cause of death behind bars, and have been for many years, and the problem seems to be getting worse. The latest statistics, from 2014, tell us the rate of suicides in jails was the highest it's been since at least 2000. This even though there is more public awareness surrounding the phenomenon and a cry for better records (and details) about the number of suicides that take place each year.

Inmates suicides are an epidemic corrections officials won't talk about. The deaths transcend race and geography. They occur, as we saw with Epstein, in federal jails in a big city and they occur in lonely rural prisons. They occur where a pretrial detainee has been jailed just days earlier, as was the case with Sandra Bland in Texas, and they occur where a convicted prisoner has been left to languish for months or years in solitary confinement. Not every suicide can be prevented, of course, but scores of inmates could be saved every year if corrections officials would just earnestly protect those in their custody and control.

These deaths occur not just because guards are poorly trained and jails understaffed, or because often the procedures in place to protect suicidal inmates are woefully outdated and inadequate. The biggest problem is one of attitude. Inmates are able to commit suicide because their guards have dehumanized them to the point where they don't care enough whether they live or die. Epstein's death reminded me of the remorseless, cruel attitude that allows inmates to be kept shackled even in death, when they leave for the local morgue.

Why are suicide rates so high among corrections officers? (Associated Press, January 9, 2018)

The annual suicide rate among union members exceeded California's overall suicide rate of 10.3 per 100,000 people in 13 of those 17 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of union data. The number peaked at 13 in 2012, a rate more than four times that of the state's general population.

Now, a first-in-the-nation study coordinated among the union, California's corrections agency and University of California, Berkeley researchers is trying to figure out why and what to do about it.

Inmate suicides have been intensively studied, but until now there has been limited research on how the job affects correctional employees, Berkeley researcher Amy Lerman said -- and virtually none on programs that might help officers cope.

"I think it reflects a growing recognition across the country that correctional staff and law enforcement are experiencing these types of issues and it needs to be taken seriously," Lerman said.

About 10 percent of prison guards say they have considered or attempted suicide, a rate nearly three times that of the general U.S. population, according to data provided to the AP from a survey completed by 8,300 of California's 30,000 correctional and parole officers.

It's even higher among retired guards -- about 14 percent, similar to the suicide risk among military veterans.

Half of correctional officers expressed at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers cited officers' frequent exposure to violence and injury, their perception of constant danger, and their reluctance to share traumatic experiences with family members or counselors.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Lack of G7, IMF support seen dimming impact of U.S. move on China's yuan (Andrea Shalal, David Lawder, 8/11/19, Reuters) 

China is unlikely to face serious consequences from the Trump administration's decision to label it a currency manipulator given the apparent lack of G7 and IMF support for the move, former and current U.S. and G7 officials said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


'National conservatism' is 'Elizabeth Warren conservatism'  (George F. Will, 8/11/19, The Washington Post)

Their agenda is much more ambitious than President Nixon's 1971 imposition of wage and price controls, which were temporary fiascos. Their agenda is even more ambitious than the New Deal's cartelization of industries, which had the temporary (and unachieved) purpose of curing unemployment. What national conservatives propose is government fine-tuning the economy's composition and making sure resources are "well" distributed, as the government (i.e., the political class) decides, forever.

What socialists are so fond of saying, national conservatives are now saying: This time will be different. It never is, because government's economic planning always involves the fatal conceit that government can aggregate, and act on, information more intelligently and nimbly than markets can.

National conservatives preen as defenders of the dignity of the rural and small-town -- mostly white and non-college educated -- working class. However, these defenders nullify the members' dignity by discounting their agency. National conservatives regard the objects of their compassion as inert victims, who are as passive as brown paper parcels, awaiting government rescue from circumstances. In contrast, there was dignity in the Joad family (of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"), who, when the Depression and Dust Bowl battered Oklahoma, went west seeking work.

Right-wing anti-capitalism has a long pedigree as a largely aristocratic regret, symbolized by railroads -- the noise, the soot, the lower orders not staying where they belong -- that despoiled the Edenic tranquility of Europe's landed aristocracy. The aristocrats were not wrong in seeing their supremacy going up in the smoke from industrialism's smokestacks: Market forces powered by mass preferences do not defer to inherited status.

Although the national conservatives' anti-capitalism purports to be populist, it would further empower the administrative state's faux aristocracy of administrators who would decide which communities and economic sectors should receive "well"-allocated resources. Furthermore, national conservatism is paternalistic populism. This might seem oxymoronic, but so did "Elizabeth Warren conservatives" until national conservatives emerged as such. The paternalists say to today's Joads: Stay put. We know what is best for you and will give it to you through government.

Populism is driven by the entirely justified terror that competition will leave you and your cohort behind.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Trump cracks jokes about Equinox scandal, kamikaze pilots at Hamptons fundraiser (Jennifer Gould Keil and Emily Smith, August 9, 2019, NY Post)

Talking about South Korea, Trump said it makes great TVs and has a thriving economy, "So why are we paying for their defense. They've got to pay." He then mimicked the accent of the leader Moon Jae-in while describing how he caved in to Trump's tough negotiations.

On his remarkable friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, "I just got a beautiful letter from him this week. We are friends. People say he only smiles when he sees me. [...]

Trump also made fun of US allies South Korea, Japan and the European Union -- mimicking Japanese and Korean accents -- and talked about his love of dictators Kim Jong Un and the current ruler of Saudi Arabia. [...]

Turning to Japan, Trump then put on a fake Japanese accent to recount his conversations with Shinzo Abe over their conversations over trade tariffs.

Trump spoke about his friendship with Abe and how fascinated he was with Abe's father, who had been a kamikaze pilot. Trump asked Abe if the kamikaze pilots were drunk or on drugs. Abe said no, they just loved their country. Trump remarked, "Imagine they get in a plane with a half a tank of gas and fly into steel ships just for the love of their country!"

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Trump Retweets Conspiracy Theory Tying Clintons to Jeffrey Epstein's Death (DANIEL POLITI, AUG 10, 2019, Slate)

As soon as media outlets began reporting that Jeffrey Epstein had died of an apparent suicide, commentators on social media started touting conspiracy theories about his death. On Saturday evening, Donald Trump joined the bandwagon.

The president first retweeted a message that claimed "documents were unsealed yesterday revealing that top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein's 'pedophilia island'." A bit later, he went full-on conspiracy theorist, retweeting a message from conservative comedian Terrence K. Williams that pretty much accuses the Clintons of killing Epstein. [...]

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, a devoted Trump ally, tweeted that "Epstein should have been at least on Arkanside Watch," referring to Clinton's home state of Arkansas. A Florida Republican official also asked on Twitter if it was "even debatable at this point" that Clinton had something to do with Epstein's death. And an editor at conservative news website the Blaze said that it looked like the "Clintons got another person to 'commit suicide'."

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Relative of Norway mosque shooter found dead after attack (AFP, 8/11/19)

The post seemingly praised the attacker who opened fire at a New Zealand mosque in March and ended with the words "Valhall awaits," a reference to Norse mythology.

Norway was the scene of one of the worst-ever attacks by a right-wing extremist in July 2011, when 77 people were killed by Anders Behring Breivik.

"One of our members has been shot by a white man with a helmet and uniform," Irfan Mushtaq, head of the mosque, told local media.

Mushtaq said that the man had carried multiple weapons, but that he had been subdued by a member of the mosque.

Mushtaq himself had arrived at the scene shortly after being alerted about the gunman, and had gone to the back of the building while waiting for police to arrive.

"Then I see that there are cartridges scattered and blood on the carpets, and I see one of our members is sitting on the perpetrator, covered in blood," Mushtaq told Norwegian newspaper VG.

He said the man who apparently overpowered the shooter was 75 years old and had been reading the Koran after a prayer session.

According to Mushtaq, the mosque had not received any threats ahead of the shooting.

The attack took place on the eve of the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Adha, marking the end of the Muslim pilgrimage Hajj.

Police said Saturday they would be sending out more officers so that those celebrating would "be as safe as possible".

There has been a recent spate of white nationalist attacks in the West, including in the United States and in New Zealand where 51 Muslim worshipers were killed in March in shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

The Wall Street Journal ran a cowardly, race-baiting article on 'Islamic England': I live there. They're dead wrong (Alex Lockie Aug. 31, 2018, Business Insider)

Ngo visits pockets of Muslims living in London to paint a picture of a terrifying and restrictive land governed by religious law, which is an absolute fabrication that must have required him to willfully ignore facts.

I should know, because I've lived on the exact streets discussed by Ngo for a year.

"Muslims walked in one direction for jumu'ah, Friday prayer, while non-Muslims went the opposite way. Each group kept its distance and avoided eye contact with the other. A sign was posted on a pole: 'Alcohol restricted zone.'"

Looking past Ngo's eye contact judgement for now, mentioning the alcohol restricted zone in connection to the mosque represents the first of many attempts to portray Islam as dominating parts of London.

In fact, the alcohol free zone outside the mosque is one of many all around the UK imposed by the elected government, not zealous Muslim overlords, to prevent "anti-social behavior," such as drunkenness and public urination.

Honestly, I live around the corner from this zone and it took me months to realize it was alcohol-restricted. Before I read the sign on the pole highlighted by Ngo, I first noticed a large mosaic depicting the Jewish star of David on a planter directly outside the Mosque.

86 Times Donald Trump Displayed or Promoted Islamophobia: Just in case SCOTUS needs any more evidence of the xenophobic, bigoted intent behind Trump's Muslim Ban (Medium, 4/19/18)

A Long History of Islamophobia

9/4/2010 -- Trump Suggests the U.S. is at War with Muslims
Five years before announcing his candidacy, Trump discusses the Park51 Islamic Community Center in Manhattan on The Late Show. Host David Letterman asks, "Does this, in fact, suggest that we are officially at war with Muslims?" to which Trump responds, "Well somebody knocked down the World Trade Center... somebody's blowing us up. Somebody's blowing up buildings, and somebody's doing lots of bad stuff."

3/30/2011 -- Trump States there is a "Muslim Problem"
In an interview with Fox News, Bill O'Reilly asks Trump if there is a "Muslim problem" in the world. Trump responds, "Absolutely. I mean, I don't notice Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center. There is a Muslim problem in the world, and you know it and I know it."

4/12/2011 -- Trump Doubles Down on Claim that there is a "Muslim Problem"
In an interview with CBN, Trump took remarks he made in his interview with Bill O'Reilly a step further, saying that the Quran "teaches some very negative vibe [sic] ... when you look at people blowing up in the street in some countries in the Middle East ... when you look at 250 people who die in a supermarket while shopping .... there's a lot of hatred there someplace."

3/13/2012 -- Trump Supports Surveillance of Muslims
Trump tweets, "NYC's top cop acted wisely and legally to monitor activities of some in the Muslim community. Vigilance keeps us safe."

More CVE for White People: The Radicalization Process Revisited (Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes, August 6, 2019, Lawfare)

And at the end of the piece, we offered a simple test of our theory:

There's a simple measure for whether our basic theory here is, in a general sense, right: If it is, we will see a significant spike in white supremacist violence over the next few years. The Trump campaign has provided a baseline undemocratic ideation to hundreds of millions of people and also provided a platform through which extremists, both violent and non-violent, can recruit and cultivate. If our collective understanding of the process of violent radicalization is correct, the result will be blood.

The past few years have unfortunately provided a dramatic test of this theory; more unfortunately still, the theory has held up well. By nearly any metric, white supremacist violence is up significantly, the lethality of attacks has risen dramatically, and the link between the ideation and action has become particularly clear. President Trump plays a key role in this ideational cauldron--though pinning down the precise role of his rhetoric in any one incident is a mug's game.

Consider first the raw data. According to FBI data, 2017--the most recent year for which data are available--saw a sharp jump in hate crimes over 2016. Crimes motivated by race, ethnicity or national origin leapt from 3,489 in 2016 to 4,131 in 2017. Crimes based on religion jumped from 1,273 in 2016 to 1,564 in 2017. Data for 2015 are roughly consistent with the data for 2016 and follow a gentler rise from 2012, 2013 and 2014, when levels fluctuated. While these numbers don't specify the particular political valence of the attack, around 70 percent of crimes motivated by religion are consistently directed against Jews and Muslims, and around 60 percent of crimes motivated by race, ethnicity or national origin are consistently directed against Black and Latino victims.

2017 FBI Hate Crimes Statistics

Hate crimes are a crude measure. They include lots of offenses well short of violence against people. Thirty-seven percent of all 2017 offenses, for example, involved what the FBI terms "crimes against property"--which includes vandalism and the like. 

That said, what the FBI terms "crimes against persons" rose in 2017 as well. In 2016, the FBI reported 3,765 incidents, affecting 4,720 victims, and committed by 4,353 offenders. By contrast, in 2017, there were 4,090 incidents of crimes against persons, affecting 5,084 victims, and committed by 4,442 offenders. (These numbers include all hate crimes, not just those motivated by race and religion.)

Then there are the most violent attacks--the ones that blur the lines between hate crimes and terrorism.

An April 2019 analysis by the New York Times, relying on data from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, reported a "surge" in "white extremist" attacks in the U.S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand dating back to a spurt of anti-immigrant violence in Europe in 2015 and possibly sparked by the 2011 attack in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik. While the raw numbers for 2017 and 2018 remain below that of 2015, the numbers of white extremist attacks are still high. Most of this surge is the result of anti-immigrant violence in Europe and has little to do with conditions in the United States. But it's also clear that an international ecosystem of far-right racism has emerged that has contributed as well.

In the United States alone, "attacks jumped" in 2017, the Times writes, with nine deadly acts of violence that year; preliminary data for 2018 show five deadly attacks. The data presented by the Times suggest that the deadliness of white extremist attacks may be rising, too, particularly in North America. Until 2018, the deadliest white extremist attacks in the U.S. included a 2012 shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple that killed six people and the 2015 shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church that killed nine. Compare this to the El Paso shooting this past weekend, which killed 22 people.

Certainly, there is no body of attacks in the recent pre-Trump era like the current period--in which we have multiple mass shootings in a compressed period of time conducted on the express basis of hatred of foreigners, immigrants, or religious minorities. According to the database cited by the Times, far-right extremists perpetrated three deadly attacks in 2015 (in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; in Charleston, South Carolina; and at Umpqua Community College in Oregon). No deadly attacks took place in 2016.

The list of attacks in the years since Trump's election is quite striking. Before El Paso was the March 2019 shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 50 people. Then there was the April 2019 shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, in which one person died; in that case, the letter posted by the shooter blamed Jews for "white genocide." Before that was the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, before which the shooter posted about Central American immigrants as "invaders" assisted in entering the country by Jews. Eleven people died in that attack.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


DONALD DOSSIER: THE WAY OF THE GUN (Daniel Malloy, 8/11/19, Ozy)

You can trace certain pillars of Donald Trump's presidency back decades. He's long been a trade protectionist and advocate of tougher immigration policy. On other issues, though, he's shown a ballerina's dexterity.

Such as guns.

In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Trump wrote: "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons, and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."

At the time, so-called assault weapons -- certain types of semiautomatic rifles similar to the kinds used in the Dayton and El Paso massacres -- were banned for sale (though with ample loopholes), along with high-capacity magazines. Last weekend's mass shootings have revived calls to bring back the ban.

But in Trump's evolution into right-wing hero and wildly successful first-time politician, he's embraced the National Rifle Association and waxed poetic again and again about the Second Amendment. Gun rights are a core value in rural America, for individual liberty or protection against feral hogs.

It's similar to his approach to abortion and other religious conservative tenets, in which Trump showed little interest before running for president but has proven powerful in bringing together and maintaining his coalition. (Or as another president once said, rural Americans "cling to guns or religion.")

If he weren't doing genuine damage to immigrants, the economy, the social fabric, the rule of law, etc., the contempt he has for Republicans would be more enjoyable as would be the eagerness with which they lap it up and call it holy water.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 AM


A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women (Julie Bosman, Kate Taylor and Tim Arango, Aug. 10, 2019, NY Times)

The man who shot nine people to death last weekend in Dayton, Ohio, seethed at female classmates and threatened them with violence.

The man who massacred 49 people in an Orlando nightclub in 2016 beat his wife while she was pregnant, she told authorities.

The man who killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., in 2017 had been convicted of domestic violence. His ex-wife said he once told her that he could bury her body where no one would ever find it.

The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them -- other than access to powerful firearms -- is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online, researchers say.

As the nation grapples with last weekend's mass shootings and debates new red-flag laws and tighter background checks, some gun control advocates say the role of misogyny in these attacks should be considered in efforts to prevent them.

The fact that mass shootings are almost exclusively perpetrated by men is "missing from the national conversation," said Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Monday. "Why does it have to be, why is it men, dominantly, always?"

All the assault allegations against Donald Trump, recapped (PBS, Jun 21, 2019)

Sixteen women have come forward with allegations against President Donald Trump, each accusing him of inappropriate conduct. The most recent, from writer and columnist E. Jean Carroll, appeared in NY Magazine on Friday.

The women's charges range from unwanted touches and aggressive, sudden kissing to the latest accusation against Trump -- that he attacked a woman in a dressing room and forced his penis inside her. Donald Trump, his campaign and the Trump White House have insisted all of the stories are fabricated and politically motivated.

So far:

Tea Party Supporters: Who They Are and What They Believe (BRIAN MONTOPOLI, DECEMBER 14, 2012, CBS News)

They're white. They're older. And they're angry.

CBS News and the New York Times surveyed 1,580 adults, including 881 self-identified Tea Party supporters, to get a snapshot of the Tea Party movement. There is a lot of information to unpack; let's begin with the demographics.

Eighteen percent of Americans identify as Tea Party supporters. The vast majority of them -- 89 percent -- are white. Just one percent is black.

They tend to skew older: Three in four are 45 years old or older, including 29 percent who are 65 plus. They are also more likely to be men (59 percent) than women (41 percent). [...]

They are better educated than most Americans: 37 percent are college graduates, compared to 25 percent of Americans overall. They also have a higher-than-average household income, with 56 percent making more than $50,000 per year.

More than half (54 percent) identify as Republicans, and another 41 percent say they are independents. Just five percent call themselves Democrats, compared to 31 percent of adults nationwide.

August 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


A Lesson from a Ballgame (JAY NORDLINGER, August 10, 2019, National review)

I was reading the sports pages, or their modern equivalent. Apparently, a man at a Texas Rangers game was taunting an Hispanic family, in a racist way. He has now been banned from the stadium. You can read about the episode here.

By the way, if you take Hispanics out of baseball -- you're not going to have baseball. Almost by themselves, they seem to be keeping our pastime alive, at least at the MLB level. I'm reminded of Asians -- East Asians -- in classical music. Have you walked the halls of a conservatory lately?

"Thank God for China," said the late maestro Lorin Maazel, when I asked him about the future of classical music.

Anyway, back to the ballgame. "This is America," people might say. "The racist taunter? Yup, that's America, all right." Well, it is and it isn't. America is big (in more than one sense).

The Rangers offered the harassed family free tickets to another game. Moreover, a season-ticket holder offered his front-row seats to them, for another game. "I wanted to affirmatively do something and take some form of action," he said. "I didn't want to just read the story and think, 'Ah, that's terrible, I can't believe someone did that.'"

Word of all this got around on Facebook. The mom in the family, Jessica Romero, reported, "I've gotten messages from Washington, D.C., Ohio, Louisiana, California, all over" -- positive messages. "I've tried to respond, but there are so many. It's kind of amazing to me how kind people are and the words they're sending."

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


CVE for White People: The Trumpist Movement and the Radicalization Process (Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes, November 4, 2016, Lawfare)

[T]rumpism is very likely a kind of gateway drug for some people for violent extremism. It offers an ideational set of preconditions off of which the radicalizing individual can spring.

But Trumpism doesn't simply provide--like certain Islamisms--an ideational platform on which radicalization can take place. It also provides key aspects of the crucial social networks for very large numbers of people. Nazis and white supremacists have always been able to find each other online, but unless you visited their particular corners of the web, they had very little way to reach you. They were a relatively small group of people speaking almost entirely to themselves.

Trump has changed that. Now white supremacists and alt-righters are a small group of people in a giant stadium, doing the wave in the bleachers with Sieg Heils. Everyone in the stadium gets to see them, particularly because the Trump campaign often puts them on the Jumbotron by retweeting them or refusing to repudiate them. Notoriously, in January, Trump retweeted a message from a user with the Twitter handle "@WhiteGenocideTM," a reference to a widespread white supremacist meme. Later in the campaign, Trump also refused for days to conclusively repudiate David Duke's endorsement of his candidacy.

What's more, if you follow Donald Trump's own Twitter feed, you inevitably get exposed to a steady diet of the hardest-core white supremacists as they fawningly reply to him. Even if you don't follow Trump, you see those people attacking the journalists and commentators you do follow. And if you attend Trump's rallies or watch clips of them online, you can find other Trump supporters chanting slogans like "Jew-S-A." A recent video shows one rally attendee in Cleveland coaching another through calling reporters members of the "Lügenpresse"--a Nazi phrase meaning "lying press."

So all of a sudden, huge numbers of people are potentially subject to the influence of peer groups they didn't even know they had. More perniciously still, the radicals get to approach this very large new audience through the cleansing lens of an apparently mainstream political candidacy and party. That Trump supporter taught to shout "Lügenpresse" presumably didn't know that he was screaming a Nazi slur; he was just following Trump's lead, and the lead of those around him, in jeering at the "dishonest media."

How big is the amplifying effect of Trumpism for white supremacy? This week, the name David Duke was trending on Twitter as a result of Duke's appearance at a debate for a Louisana seat in the U.S. Senate. When he announced his Senate bid in July, Duke explicitly linked his candidacy to the Trump campaign, saying that he had been inspired to run by Trump and was "overjoyed" to see Trump "embrace most of the issues that I've championed for years." As of December 2015, the white supremacist website Stormfront was upgrading its servers in response to its "steady increase" in traffic driven by Trump's then-new prominence on the national stage. Its traffic, we regret to report, currently outperforms that of Lawfare by a factor of several times.

There's a simple measure for whether our basic theory here is, in a general sense, right: If it is, we will see a significant spike in white supremacist violence over the next few years. The Trump campaign has provided a baseline undemocratic ideation to hundreds of millions of people and also provided a platform through which extremists, both violent and non-violent, can recruit and cultivate. If our collective understanding of the process of violent radicalization is correct, the result will be blood.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Biden: The Second Amendment Isn't 'Absolute' (Cameron Cawthorne, AUGUST 10, 2019, Free Becon)

"The Second Amendment -- no amendment is in fact absolute," Biden said. "You cannot stand up in this hall and yell fire. That's not freedom of speech because they know the consequence of yelling fire: There'll be a stampede, and someone will get hurt."

Even Heller, which got legislated a right that is contratextual, stated not only that the 2nd is not absolute but that assault weapons can legitimately be banned, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., PETITIONERS v. DICK ANTHONY HELLER (Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, 6/26/08, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES)

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152-153; Abbott333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489-490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students' Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment , nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.26

    We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


The Human Events revolving door (Cockburn, August 10, 2019, Spectator USA)

If you can't take the heat, don't spend a summer at the self-styled 'flagship conservative outlet of populist and nationalist thought.'

Raheem Kassam, the notorious, now-former global editor-in-chief (not to be confused with their national editor-in-chief) of the recently relaunched Human Events is out.

Or is he? Kassam 'will be leaving that role,' the outlet said in a press release. But the scarf-wearing svengali says it's just a reshuffle: 'There's [nothing] to write I'm not leaving it's a role change,' he said in a text to Cockburn's burner. His Instagram bio still describes him as the 'Editor in chief of @HumanEvents.'

Like Stalin after Lenin's stroke, lawyer-financier Will Chamberlain now heads the party and the state, apparently taking over from Kassam as editor.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


Scoop: Trump tells advisers Israel should bar entry to Reps. Omar and Tlaib (Jonathan Swan, Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13, 8/10/19, Axios)

Trump told confidants he disagreed with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer's rationale for Israel to overlook the law to let Omar and Tlaib visit Israel. Dermer said last month: "Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel."

Trump said that if Omar and Tlaib wanted to boycott Israel, "then Israel should boycott them," according to a source with direct knowledge.

Israeli officials say congressional Democratic leadership pushed Dermer to allow the congresswomen into the country. Their advocacy, per those officials, is a major reason why Netanyahu will allow the two women in. 

The Democrats had argued that if the Israeli government blocked Omar and Tlaib's entry, then other Democratic members would cancel a planned, AIPAC-sponsored Israel trip in solidarity, these officials said. figure out how banning Congressional critics would help Israel make its case for the Occupation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


'A Number the Authorities Can't Ignore': Moscow Opposition Sees Record Protest Turnout Despite Crackdowns (Moscow Times, 8/10/19)

"50,000 is a number that the authorities simply can't ignore," said Konstantin Gaaze, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank. "This sends out a very strong signal and shows that there is real solidarity among protesters."

This week's event was largely held in support of those who have been detained and arrested -- sometimes violently -- over previous protests. Chants calling on Russia to free its political prisoners could be heard along with chants in support of the rejected candidates.

Attendants wore shirts and held up signs in support of Yegor Zhukov, a 21-year-old student who faces up to eight years in prison on "mass unrest" charges, as well as the students who had been detained while picketing Zhukov's arrest.

The solidarity has spread outside the capital, with several other Russian cities staging their own protests in solidarity this weekend.

The Moscow event, held the day after the 20-year anniversary of President Vladimir Putin first coming to power, "showed that there are many more non-loyal people than the Kremlin hoped for," said political analyst and former Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlovsky. "These people aren't the traditional opposition, but a much wider group."

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


Woman awarded $725,000 in lawsuit against neo-Nazi website founder (AP, 8/10/11)

The first black woman to serve as American University's student government president won a lawsuit Friday against a neo-Nazi website operator who orchestrated an online harassment campaign against her.

Andrew Anglin runs the anti-Semitic Daily Stormer website. (Wikimedia Commons via JTA)
Andrew Anglin runs the anti-Semitic Daily Stormer website. (Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

A federal judge granted default judgment to Taylor Dumpson and awarded her more than $725,000 after The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin and a follower failed to respond to her lawsuit.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


The Denialists: It takes a lot of work to try to exonerate the president's fomenting of racist violence, but Trump fans are giving it their all. (CHARLES SYKES  AUGUST 9, 2019, The Bulwark)

While most conservatives continue to maintain a cringing silence at the president's behavior, York and Thiessen form a vanguard of denialism. Others are sure to follow and amplify the message, because we know how this works.  An entire cottage industry has arisen on the right denying, for example, that Trump called neo-Nazi's in Charlottesville "very fine people." So expect the gaslighting to continue until morale improves.

York really wants us to know that the El Paso shooter had lots of things going on besides racism. The killer decided to murder Hispanics because he thought they were "invaders" who wanted to "replace" us. But other than that ...

 Crusius worried about many things, if the manifesto is any indication. He certainly worried about immigration, but also about automation. About job losses. About a universal basic income. Oil drilling. Urban sprawl. Watersheds. Plastic waste. Paper waste. A blue Texas. College debt. Recycling. Healthcare. Sustainability. And more. Large portions of the manifesto simply could not be more un-Trumpian.

Water sheds. Plastic waste. Recycling. And, so you see, not Trumpian at all. This assumes, of course, that we know what constitutes Trumpism, that protean mess that adapts so easily to different agendas and impulses. It's almost as if York hasn't been reading our friends at American Greatness, or the other populist illiberal rethinkers who also seem to be worried about many things other than immigration. Tucker Carlson, for example, has staked out a notably nationalist and anti-immigrant position, but often sounds a lot like Elizabeth Warren. 

In any case, the argument is silly on its face:  a Nazi who worries about transportation policy and recycling is still ... a Nazi. A racist who supports a basic income is still... a racist. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM

60-40 NATION:

Americans Largely Support Gun Restrictions To 'Do Something' About Gun Violence (Domenico Montanaro, 8/10/19, NPR)

A solid majority of Americans say they are in favor of stricter gun laws in the United States -- 61% said so in a May Quinnipiac poll. But the breakdown by party is illuminating - 91% of Democrats think gun laws should be stricter, as do 59% of independents, but just 32% of Republicans.

Almost three-quarters (73%) in the poll also said more needs to be done to address gun violence.

All of the "crazy" stuff Republicans want Democrats to run on is supported by massive majorities of Americans. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Top intel official interrupted meeting to urge his deputy to resign (Zachary Cohen, 8/09/19, CNN)

The circumstances surrounding Gordon's resignation, including the role Coats appears to have played in the timing of her announcement, seem to indicate she was forced out for political reasons.

"I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference. You should have your team," she wrote in a handwritten note to the President that was released by the White House.

Gordon's abrupt departure, with only one week's notice, and Trump's longstanding hostility toward the intelligence community -- which he has publicly derided, likened to Nazis and disagreed with -- is likely to heighten concerns that the President may be trying to politicize agencies that are meant to stand apart from partisanship or politicking.
Intelligence professionals emphasize the need to keep politics out of their work in order to offer policy makers the clearest assessment they can of threats and opportunities.

Yet, Trump has made clear his desire to bring to heel US intelligence agencies, which have produced evidence he disagrees with on Iran, North Korea, Russia's interference in US elections and other issues.

Where's Admiral Poindexter when we need him.
Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Las Vegas Security Guard Linked to White Supremacist Group Arrested for Possession of Bomb Parts (BRIAN DAY, 8/09/19, KTLA5)

As laid out in a criminal complaint filed Friday,"Climo was communicating with individuals who identified with a white supremacist extremist organization using the National Socialist movement to promote their ideology," according to the DOJ statement. " The organization encourages attacks on the federal government, including critical infrastructure, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community."

Throughout 2019, authorities alleged Climo took part in encrypted online conversations in which he would regularly use slurs against minorities, Jews and the LGBTQ community.

"He discussed attacking a Las Vegas synagogue and making Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices, and he also discussed conducting surveillance on a bar he believed catered to the LGBTQ community located on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas," the DOJ statement said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Jewish comic Andy Kindler says Donald Trump is the joke that keeps on giving (STEVE NORTH, 8/10/19, JTA) 

Known for his countless appearances on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and his recurring role as sportswriter Andy on "Everybody Loves Raymond," Kindler has also established a niche as an ombudsman of sorts for the business of comedy. Since 1996, he's given a "State of the Industry" speech, which he describes as "part rant, part roast," at the annual Just for Laughs festival, which is in the midst of its final and busiest week in Montreal.

Kindler, standing before fellow comics, journalists and Hollywood insiders, unabashedly bashes comedians he feels have lost the funny. In his often controversial opinions, that includes everyone from Jay Leno to Ricky Gervais, with whom he's had a years-long feud.

And he looks at developments beyond the comedians, which in recent years include the shadow that US President Donald Trump has cast on the comedy business. Kindler believes Trump's influence is surprisingly positive.

"When he first got elected, everyone was depressed. But now that he's so overtly a racist, it's actually great for comedy," Kindler said.


Trump's Trip to Dayton and El Paso: The Back Story (Katie Rogers, Maggie Haberman and Rick Rojas, Aug. 9, 2019, NY Times)

By the time President Trump arrived in El Paso on Wednesday, on the second leg of a trip to meet with people affected by mass shootings in two cities, he was frustrated that his attacks on his political adversaries had resulted in more coverage than the cheery reception he received at a hospital in Dayton, Ohio, the first stop on his trip. So he screamed at his aides to begin producing proof that in El Paso people were happy to see him.

One of those people was Tito Anchondo, who had lost his brother and sister-in-law, Andre and Jordan Anchondo, when a gunman opened fire on a Walmart last Saturday and killed 22 people. Mr. Anchondo traveled to the University Medical Center of El Paso on Wednesday to meet Mr. Trump, and as the president stood by and flashed a thumbs-up during a White House photo opportunity, the first lady, Melania Trump, cradled Mr. Anchondo's 2-month-old nephew, whose parents had both been gunned down. [...]

The episode was one result of Mr. Trump's frustration over his news coverage and of the angry reaction that by the end of the trip had led to a mishmash of White House-distributed photographs, tweets and videos that focused on the president instead of people affected by the shootings.

Mr. Trump first became aware of the negative headlines watching television aboard Air Force One, and bellowed at the small coterie of advisers traveling with him, including Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff. He was especially upset after he saw footage of a news conference held by Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, and Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, a Democrat, but no positive images of himself while visiting Dayton's Miami Valley Hospital.  [...]

Part of the concern that some of Mr. Trump's advisers had heading into Wednesday was that the president would veer off script, and they wanted to make the visits as brief as possible, said those familiar with what took place.

Their concerns were given weight when raw video posted by someone at University Medical Center circulated on Twitter, showing Mr. Trump talking up his rally crowds and comparing himself to Beto O'Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from El Paso who is running for president.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


How 2016 coup attempt led Turkey to buy Russian air defenses (Kadri Gursel August 10, 2019, Al Monitor)

First, the delivery began July 12, three days ahead of the third anniversary of the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which was led by followers of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen within the Turkish military. [...]

The most important sign was the choice of the Murted air base as the place of landing for Russian planes carrying the pieces of a system designed to shoot down NATO warplanes. It was the ultimate cue decoding the symbolism in terms of Turkey's relations with the United States. 

Murted had served as the headquarters of the botched attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. The F-16 jets that bombed the parliament and the police special operations center in Golbasi in the capital's outskirts had taken off from that base, which was called "Akinci" at the time. It is a Turkish tradition to rename places where bad events have happened. So did the air force. Two months after the coup attempt, it did away with "Akinci" and renamed the base "Murted," the name that had been used until 1995.

The landing of the S-400-carrying Russian planes at the same base from which putschist pilots had taken off exactly three years ago to bomb their "targets" in Ankara was a manifestation of the grave stage the crisis between Turkey and the United States has reached.

There is no excuse for failing to secure your democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM

JOHN 2:15:

In Defense of Political Hypocrisy (Christian Barnard, 8/09/19, Quillette)

Bernie Sanders' campaign has come under fire for not paying staffers the $15 minimum wage he promotes--and for using the private health-care system he often criticizes as immoral. Similar scorn is being hurled at environmentalist-minded celebrities who recently traveled to a Google climate-change conference via private jets, and even yachts. I am far from being ideologically aligned with Sanders or most Hollywood stars. But I will use the occasion to make a broader point about those who insist we all practice what we preach politically. Simply put: It's petty to weaponize the spectacle of political hypocrisy to score points and avoid taking the other side seriously. As George Orwell put it in his essay about Rudyard Kipling, "a humanitarian is always a hypocrite"--since his or her standard of living is dependent on practices that he or she deems criminal. But that doesn't mean we can simply ignore their arguments.

The first and most obvious problem with targeting a political opponent's hypocrisy is that the practice always is applied selectively. Libertarians--and I'm including myself--sometimes scoff casually at the upper-class socialist who condemns capitalism while benefiting from the many innovations and luxuries that capitalism made possible. But those same libertarians often will fail to acknowledge that they benefit from public education, subsidies and infrastructure whose scope (or even, in some cases, very existence) they oppose. In his 2016 bestseller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance pointed out a species of this phenomenon he observed in poor Appalachian communities, where strident conservatives preached against the vices of government reliance while collecting welfare benefits and remaining perpetually unemployed.

If this kind of hypocrisy can be taken as a fatal flaw in regard to any argument, then surely all have sinned and none can judge. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


The false choice between liberty and security (John Ashmore, 8/09/19, CapX)

While the methodology and conclusions of the project have been scrutinised - and criticised - in some detail, the biggest problem here is the idea that liberalism and security are mutually exclusive, or even antithetical.

Take policing, for example. One does not lose liberty by the government employing more police officers. The same is true of the security services, whose often unheralded work underpins our freedom to go about our daily business without fear of attack.

Equally, how are we to construe 'economic security'? A reasonable definition might be a decent regular wage combined with a good standard of living. And no system produces those outcomes - that security - better than liberal free market capitalism.

If you look at the Heritage Foundation's list of the world's freest economies, all enjoy high living standards, high average wages and low unemployment. That the UK comes in 7th on that list should be a source of pride and confidence, even with the current uncertainty over Brexit.

What the top countries also share, with the exception of the oil- rich United Arab Emirates, is an economic system based on the rule of law - a key component of prosperity and one which may yet hinder the world's rising power, China, from escaping the so-called Middle Income Trap.

The poles are Freedom and Security. The optimal point on the spectrum is provided by republican liberty. We don't lose liberty to the police, we trade freedom for greater security, which is the essence of liberty.

August 9, 2019

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Posted by orrinj at 9:10 PM


Ohio man charged with threatening to shoot Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, illegally stockpiling ammunition (CHRIS SOMMERFELDT, AUG 09, 2019, New York Daily News)

An Ohio man was slammed with criminal charges Friday for threatening New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and stockpiling illegal ammunition in his home, according to prosecutors.

Federal agents raided Tim Ireland's Toledo home on Thursday and arrested him after learning he had posted on Facebook that Ocasio-Cortez "should be shot," prosecutors said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Open Borders Made America Great: For most of U.S. history, all immigrants were undocumented. It's a fact Democrats should embrace. (AARON FREEDMAN, August 9, 2019, New Republic)

For the first century of its existence, the United States had completely open borders. Though it is now derided as a far-left fantasy, in the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century, the idea of someone simply coming into a new country and starting a life there, without any papers whatsoever, was eminently normal.

In fact, it was desirable. While early American politicians hotly debated how and when immigrants could become U.S. citizens, there were no serious attempts to limit migration itself for decades. Even George Mason, a supporter of greater restrictions on naturalization, declared that he was "for opening a wide door for emigrants." 

And wide that door was. In 1850, the first year that information on native birth was collected by the U.S. Census, America had 2.2 million immigrants--roughly 10 percent of the overall population. These undocumented immigrants, taking advantage of an open border, became essential to the fabric of American society, and even the presidency--among them was the English, immigrant mother of Woodrow Wilson.

Open borders for people of color came to an end in 1875, with the passage of the Page Act, effectively prohibiting the entry of Chinese women, followed by 1882's Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned men as well. Passed amid racist fearmongering, the limits on Chinese immigration set the precedent for the restrictive, abusive, and dehumanizing way all nonwhite immigrants have be treated by the U.S. ever since.

But for white men, open borders remained very much real. While the U.S. did pass laws affecting white immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, they were fairly limited: Collecting a small tax from migrants upon arrival, banning "lunatics" and carriers of infectious disease, and stopping anyone "unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge." Even when a literacy test was introduced in 1917, it could be administered in the migrant's native language.

Effectively, U.S. immigration policy into the 1920s said that if you were a white, able-bodied man, the border was open.

And through that border came record numbers of migrants. In 1890, immigrants as a share of the population peaked at 14.8 percent. And this era--from the 1870s to the 1920s--was not just one of rising undocumented immigration, but of a skyrocketing standard of living, as well. Life expectancy shot up, infant mortality declined, cities got electricity and plumbing, and workers began to win 40-hour hour work weeks and weekends off.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Why Moscow is ready to fight for independent politicians: In the Russian capital, administrative wrangling by the Moscow authorities has provoked mobilisation from below - capitalising on long-held discontent by city residents. (Alexander Zamyatin, 9 August 2019, OpenDemocracy)

In defiance of expectations, this year's elections to the Moscow City Council have turned into a chain of political scandals and street protests. And in response, large-scale protest actions have been held in the city centre since mid-July. Public meetings with independent candidates running for the council on 27 July and 3 August ended in protesters being detained en masse (1,373 people on 27 July and 1,001 people on 3 August, according to OVD-Info), paralysing police stations and district courts.

The authorities are calling these events "mass riots", accusing the opposition of attempting a "state coup" and trying to scare Muscovites with chaotic arrests, interrogations and searches. For many city residents, this counter-campaign doesn't look particularly convincing: the contradictions of the Russian regime lie at the core of these protests, and exceed the ambitions of individual candidates.

The protesters' principal demand is to allow candidates, who aren't aligned with either the Moscow Mayor's Office or political parties, to participate in the city council elections. At the beginning of July, the city's district election commissions refused to register two dozen independent candidates according to a series of absurd reasons. This provoked disbelief from Muscovites. According to the commissions, some registration documents were missing signatures from handwriting analyses. Other commissions made intentional mistakes when checking the personal information of supporting signatories against Interior Ministry databases. And others simply made new, incorrect documents.

Appeals at higher election commissions has only made supporters more angry. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


JPMorgan Chase has an AI copywriter that writes better ads than humans can (Michelle Cheng, August 7, 2019, Quartz)

In another sign that the future of work is already here, JPMorgan Chase has signed a five-year deal with a software startup that uses artificial intelligence to write marketing copy, following a successful pilot with the technology.

In tests, JPMorgan Chase found that Persado's machine-learning tool crafted better ad copy than its own writers could muster, as measured by the higher click rates--more than double in some case--on digital ads for Chase cards and mortgages. In one such matchup, an ad written by a human read, "Access cash from the equity in your home." The more successful version, from Persado, read, "It's true--You can unlock cash from the equity in your home." 

When a machine takes his job it's good economics; when it takes yours it's time for UBI:

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Names Powerful Men in Alleged Sex Ring (Kate Briquelet, Katie Baker, Justin Miller, Pilar Melendez, Tracy Connor, 08.09.19, Daily Beast)

Virginia Giuffre, who says that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her to powerful people for erotic massages and sex, claimed in depositions in 2016 that Maxwell directed her to have sex with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Britain's Prince Andrew (whom she has accused before), wealthy financier Glenn Dubin, former senator George Mitchell, now-deceased MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, and modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, as well as "another prince," a "foreign president," a well-known prime minsiter" and the owner of a "large hotel chain" in France.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


Armed Trump supporter detained and released at El Paso immigrant center (Brandy Zadrozny, 9/08/19, NBC News)

An armed Trump supporter was detained and released by police Wednesday outside a community space for immigrants in El Paso, Texas, days after a mass shooting that killed 22 people at a Walmart in the border town.

Witnesses said they called police after Thomas Bartram, 21, made threatening comments to people and brandished a knife while sitting in his truck outside the community center Casa Carmelita. His truck was emblazoned with pro-Trump banners and bumper stickers promoting InfoWars, a far-right conspiracy website and radio show. [...]

Reached by phone, Bartram said he often went to Trump rallies, but said he tried to be respectful of the high tensions in El Paso following the shootings -- though he said he could not rule out the possibility that the massacre had been a "false flag" perpetrated by the government.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Walmart removing violent video game displays from stores and reviewing gun sale policies (Kelly Tyko, 9/08/19, USA TODAY)

Following two shootings inside its stores, Walmart is removing violent video game displays and signs from stores, the retailer confirmed Thursday.

It's the damnedest thing, studies show there's no link between games and shooting--except maybe the former being associated with a reduction in the latter--but a 100% link between guns and shootings.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Pro-Doxxing Cyberbully Joaquin Castro Once Praised Passage Of A Texas Law Aimed At Preventing... Cyberbulling (Sister Toldjah, 8/09/19, Red State)

Earlier this week, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) sparked outrage and backlash among Republicans after doxxing private citizens in his Congressional district who made the maximum donation to President Trump's reelection campaign. 

We can all agree with the Right that this public information the donors are and should be ashamed of.  If you don't want to be associated with a racist don't fund him

Posted by orrinj at 2:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Trump is drafting an order to regulate Facebook and Twitter for bias (Russell Brandom,  Aug 9, 2019, The Verge)

The White House has drafted an ambitious new proposal to regulate social media platforms, with the aim of combating perceived bias against conservatives, according to a new report from CNN. The proposal, some details of which were previously reported by Politico, would call on the FCC to develop new regulations concerning how social media platforms are allowed to moderate their users.

The FTC, which typically focuses on consumer protection issues, would also be required to maintain a public complaint docket for users who believe their rights have been infringed by online moderation. Those complaints could be used as grounds for an FTC lawsuit against a platform like Facebook, if the platform's behavior was found to injure consumers.

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM


As With Trump, Ocasio-Cortez's Bid to Block Twitter Users Is Likely to Lose in Court (GianCarlo Canaparo & Christina Eastman, 8/09/19, Daily Signal)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday laid out her defense to a lawsuit aimed at stopping her from blocking Twitter users from her personal Twitter account. 

The lawsuit arises out a similar one that President Donald Trump lost last month.

In the case against the president, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals held that "the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees." 

Because Trump uses his personal account "as a channel for communicating and interacting with the public about his administration," blocking users violates the users' First Amendment right to participate in the "interactive space" created by the president's Twitter account.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Why Mass Murderers May Not Be Very Different From You or Me: Most of them are not mentally ill. They are just filled with hate -- and well armed. (Richard A. Friedman, Aug. 8, 2019, NY Times)

One of the largest studies of mass killers, conducted by Dr. Michael Stone and involving 350 people, found that only 20 percent had a psychotic illness; the other 80 percent had no diagnosable mental illness -- just the everyday stress, anger, jealousy and unhappiness the rest of us have.

Likewise, an F.B.I. study of active shooters between 2000 and 2013 found that only 25 percent had ever received a psychiatric diagnosis and just 5 percent had a psychotic illness.

(Some of my psychiatric colleagues like to point out that mass killers commonly have histories of being physically and sexually abused. Sure, but given the prevalence of such abuse in America, it seems obvious that a vast majority of traumatized people do not turn into mass killers.)

Still, the clear implication of these findings is that people in the grip of ordinary emotion are capable of carrying out heinous acts of violence; you don't need to have a mental illness to be a "monster." [...]

The scary truth is that ordinary human hatred and aggression are far more dangerous than any psychiatric illness. Just think of the many people driven to mass murder because they were fired by employers or dumped by girlfriends. In all likelihood, they were not mentally ill but simply full of rage -- and well armed.

...than our hope that Donald and his followers are just crazy.
Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


DOJ: Child Porn Suspect Also Shared 'Hunting Guide' Targeting Jews, Muslims (Alberto Luperon, August 8th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Federal records show that Wesley David Gilreath, 29, is only charged with possession of child pornography as of Thursday afternoon, but officials detailed other allegations against him. The FBI was investigating information that the defendant posted a "Montana Hunting Guide," authorities said. They had received a tip that someone was posting "hunting guides" regarding Jewish and Muslim people, as well as a refugee center, facilities for the Bureau of Land Management, and the Montana National Guard, according to the complaint (h/t KDVR).

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM

60-40 NATION:

Poll: Even Republicans Want McConnell To Pass Gun Safety In Senate (Dan Desai Martin August 8, 2019, National Memo)

A solid 67 percent of Americans want the Senate to pass the universal background check bill passed by the House of Representatives. That figure includes a majority of Republicans (59 percent), Democrats (79 percent), and independents (53 percent).

All of the most extreme proposals that Republicans believe will sink the Democrats are supported by 60-80% of Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Trump and his aides apparently view his post-shootings visit to Dayton and El Paso as 'something of a debacle' (The Week, 8/09/19)

The perception got worse as video emerged of Trump bragging falsely about his crowd sizes while visiting victims in the El Paso hospital. "White House officials blocked reporters and their cameras from entering the two hospitals," fearing "a moment like the one that is now going viral," CNN reports, but Trump's social media team released glowing photos and a campaign-style video of the hospital visits afterward, after Trump "lashed out at his staff for keeping the cameras away from him, complaining that he wasn't receiving enough credit."

And on Thursday, reporters confirmed that some of the recovering victims -- including an infant whose parents died saving him at the El Paso Walmart -- were brought back after being discharged so they could be photographed with Trump, after other patients said they didn't want to meet with the president.

"Multiple staffers agreed behind the scenes that [the trip] wasn't successful from the administration's viewpoint," CNN reports. But "Trump was also unhappy with the visit. He fumed about the coverage on the long flight back to Washington, one person said." Trump "was particularly upset by excerpts from a news conference in Ohio" in which Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), while taking "a mostly respectful tone toward the president," had also said "some people at the hospital had privately said they do not support Mr. Trump," the Times reports. "Trump reacted with fury. As his plane soared toward a restive El Paso, he shouted at aides that no one was defending him."

Had W simply revealed his own DWI, he would have won handily in 2000.  Had Jim Comey not indulged himself, Hillary would be president.  Suppose for a moment that the Obamaconomy remains strong enough to keep Donald competitive in October/November 2020.  An October surprise that involved another one of his followers going on a killing spree could be determinative.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Here's the data on white supremacist terrorism the Trump administration has been 'unable or unwilling' to give to Congress (Jana Winter and Hunter Walker, 8/09/19, Yahoo News)

Alleged white supremacists were responsible for all race-based domestic terrorism incidents in 2018, according to a government document distributed earlier this year to state, local and federal law enforcement.

The document, which has not been previously reported on, becomes public as the Trump administration's Justice Department has been unable or unwilling to provide data to Congress on white supremacist domestic terrorism.

The data in this document, titled "Domestic Terrorism in 2018," appears to be what Congress has been asking for -- and didn't get.

The document, dated April 15, 2019, shows 25 of the 46 individuals allegedly involved in 32 different domestic terrorism incidents were identified as white supremacists. It was prepared by New Jersey's Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, one of the main arteries of information-sharing, and sent throughout the DHS fusion center network as well as federal agencies, including the FBI.

"This map reflects 32 domestic terrorist attacks, disrupted plots, threats of violence, and weapons stockpiling by individuals with a radical political or social agenda who lack direction or influence from foreign terrorist organizations in 2018," the document says.

The map and data was circulated throughout the Department of Justice and around the country in April just as members of the Senate pushed the DOJ to provide them with precise information about the number of white supremacists involved in domestic terrorism. While the document shows this information clearly had been compiled, some of the senators say the Justice Department would not give them the figures.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


South Korea picks new envoy to US who called Trump 'treacherous' (Al Jazeera, 8/09/19)

[O]nly last year the South's Chosun Ilbo newspaper cited him as criticising Trump.

Lee had been asked about an incident at the White House when the US president declined to have Moon's answer to a reporter's question translated, saying "I'm sure I've heard it before."

"That's Trump's style. I don't think he's only done that to Moon. He's treacherous," Lee told the paper, adding that as a former businessman, the US leader had a tendency to say insincere things.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


The Kremlin under siege: The Russian political leadership is feeling increasingly cornered by growing public anger. (Roman Dobrokhotov, 8/09/19, Al Jazeera)

Just a few weeks ago, no one would have guessed that the rather banal electoral procedure of choosing deputies for the Moscow city council, which has very few powers, would lead to a near-revolutionary moment.

In mid-July, local authorities disqualified all independent candidates who tried to register for the elections scheduled for September 8. The reasons varied: Some were refused registration because they supposedly made mistakes on the official forms when they were collecting signatures and others because they allegedly submitted fake signatures - this despite the fact that some citizens came in person to the authorities and confirmed that their signatures were genuine.

If the Kremlin had allowed a few opposition candidates into the Moscow council, they would not have posed such a large threat. Instead, it not only blocked them from contesting the election but also escalated the situation. The local authorities refused to grant permission to opposition leaders to hold a protest in the city centre, which further provoked the public.

As a result, on July 27, tens of thousands of Moscow residents took to the streets to demand that independent candidates be allowed to run in the local election.

The Kremlin, perhaps, did not expect such public uproar. Independent candidates have, for years, been barred from running in city elections without it causing any public protests. The situation was the same in other cities, including St Petersburg, where independent candidates have also been disqualified.

After July 27, it became clear that local elections have become a way for Russians to express their growing dissatisfaction with those in power, which was reflected in some of the slogans protesters were chanting that day, including: "Russia will be free!", and "Down with the secret police!".

Vlad deserves as much credit as the UR for this, having stumbled at nearly every step--Ukraine, Syria, and colluding with Donald--has made it easy to impose, maintain and tighten the sanctions regime. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM



Looking ahead to 2036, the report projects that both parties will experience generational change and will become more diverse. As far as the Republican Party is concerned, the report foresees that in sixteen years, white Millennial and Generation Z voters will have developed a large presence in the GOP, while white noncollege voters will have shrunk to just over half (51 percent) of Republican voters. The report's authors run various scenarios incorporating alternative assumptions about rates of turnout and party support for different groups, but they conclude that none would make a real difference to the emerging makeup of the electorate and the parties' coalitions. This indicates, in their view, "that most of the effect of demographic change on future party coalitions is already baked in and will reshape party coalitions -- in a sense, whether these parties like it or not."

The report's most startling conclusion is that the Republican Party by 2036, almost regardless of the policies it pursues, will be one-fifth minority -- 10 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian American and other races, and 3 percent black -- simply because of the growth of minority groups and the continuing diminution of white noncollege voters. But will this projection become reality? At a time when Trump is whipping up racist and xenophobic bigotry against four congresswomen of color, it seems exceedingly unlikely. But two papers accompanying the report make the case that the Republican Party's racial composition, and larger electoral fortunes, will depend on whether the national party will follow the path of the California or Texas state Republican parties. 

Matt A. Barreto and Angela Gutierrez, in the first of these papers, point out that California has been a majority-minority state since the 2000 census, and in 2014 Hispanics surpassed whites to become the largest racial group in the state. If the rest of the country follows California's political-demographic trajectory, the future will be dire indeed for the Republican Party. 

California voted Republican in presidential elections for much of the 20th century, and produced the Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But the GOP has now been relegated to third-party status in the state: Republican registration ranks beneath both Democratic registration and "no party preference." The party collapse didn't happen solely because of demographic change. Rather, it took a combination of expanding numbers of Hispanic and Asian-American voters plus what Barreto and Gutierrez refer to as "reactionary politics." 

In 1994, the California Republican Party and its incumbent governor, Pete Wilson, backed Proposition 187, an initiative to deny all public services to immigrants in the state without legal permission and force state employees to report individuals suspected of illegal residence or entry to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation. California Hispanics, who previously had split their votes between the two parties, recoiled from the GOP. Forty-six percent of Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate for governor in 1986, and 47 percent in 1990. But starting in 1994, Hispanics voted heavily for Democrats and (with the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaigns) have continued to do so ever since. Proposition 187 also galvanized greater numbers of Hispanics to become naturalized, to get engaged in politics, and to vote than had been the case before. The GOP's continuing turn toward reactionary politics also alienated Asian American and younger white voters. In a 2016 paper for the Cato Institute, Alex Nowrasteh reviewed the California Republican Party's turn toward nativism in the 1990s and concluded that its decision to represent the anti-immigration wing of the electorate had "destroyed that state's GOP for at least a generation."

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Deconstructing Clarence Thomas: The justice's reactionary legal philosophy rests on faith in the power of adversity to fuel black progress. (MICHAEL O'DONNELL, SEPTEMBER 2019, The Atlantic)

The first thing to know about Clarence Thomas is that everybody at the Supreme Court loves him. Surprisingly, given his uncompromising public persona and his near-total silence during oral arguments, Thomas cultivates a jovial presence in the building's austere marble hallways. Unlike most of his colleagues, he learns everyone's name, from the janitors to each justice's law clerks. He makes fast friends at work, at ball games, and at car races, and invites people to his chambers, where the conversations last for hours. Thomas's booming laugh fills the corridors. He passes silly notes on the bench. As the legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote in 2007, with his "effusive good nature," Thomas is "universally adored."

This buoyancy marks a man whose career as a judge is a study in brutalism. Thomas is by far the most conservative justice on a very conservative Court. He advances a reactionary legal philosophy that would take America back to the 1930s. That won't happen: Unwilling to compromise and often unable to attract the vote of a single colleague, Thomas frequently writes only for himself.

Justices who write for themselves, like Thomas and Alito, are useless.

August 8, 2019

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Attorney: Trump Rhetoric Caused Client to Attack Boy During National Anthem (Alberto Luperon, August 8th, 2019, Law & Crime)

The lawyer for a man charged with attacking and seriously injuring a 13-year-old boy during the national anthem at a Montana county fair is coming forward with a striking defense: the alleged assault happened because of a combination of his client's brain damage and incendiary rhetoric from President Donald Trump.

"His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished," attorney Lance Jasper told The Missoulian. "He certainly didn't understand [the attack] was a crime."

He can expect a pardon anyway.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


Wildfire smoke 'supports nuclear winter theory' : Plume from intense Canadian fires kept rising, researchers report. (Richard A Lovett , 8/08/19, Cosmos)

Scientists studying wildfire-triggered thunderstorms have confirmed an important element of a nuclear winter theory championed by Carl Sagan all the way back in the early 1980s.

Sagan and a team of atmospheric scientists proposed that along with radiation and blast damage, a nuclear war would create enormous firestorms in cities struck by large bombs. 

These would be so intense that they would inject smoke not just into the lower atmosphere, where it would eventually be removed by rainfall, but all the way into the stratosphere, where it would linger for years, block sunlight, and plunge much of the world into an extended, deadly cold snap.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


Americans' support for immigration is at record highs - but the government is out of sync with their views (Mariano Sana, 8/08/19, The Conversation)

Since its start, the Trump administration has implemented policies to step up immigration enforcement and reduce the number of immigrants admitted into the U.S.

Many of these efforts - like the border wall, the travel ban, family separations, DACA termination and detention centers - have received wide media attention. In addition, the White House slashed refugee admissions, ended a number of special programs and changed rules used to adjudicate visa applications.

As a result of these and myriad lesser-known administrative changes, legally immigrating to the U.S. has become a lot harder, as evidenced by the sharp increase in the number of visa denials in 2018. President Donald Trump heads the most immigration-restrictive administration since the 1920s.

Yet decades of public opinion polls show that Americans have never felt warmer toward immigrants, nor have they ever been more supportive of immigration.

Trumpism is literally unAmerican.

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Trump attacks Ohio politicians, Biden, Fox News after visiting shooting victims (Orion Rummler, 8/08/19, Axios)

In a series of tweets after visiting victims of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Trump accused Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley of lying in a press conference, insulted 2020 candidate Joe Biden as "boring," and called Fox News' Shep Smith worse than "Fake News CNN."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Researchers in Wisconsin are astonished to find loons raising a duckling as their own (The Week, 8/08/19)

When Dr. Walter Piper saw a pair of loons taking care of an orphaned duckling, he was "flabbergasted."

Piper runs The Loon Project, which studies the species in northern Wisconsin. He's been researching loons for nearly three decades, and told Good Morning America that mallards and loons are "usually enemies," and a loon couple raising a duckling has "never been reported before."

What Swims Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck Could Be a Hybrid of Two Duck Species (Joanna Klein, Sept. 11, 2017, NY Times)

A duck is a duck, right? Well, yes, but when one duck mates with a duck of another species, there's the risk that one of the original species could cease to exist. And then that duck is a duck no more.

But who cares? A new, hybrid duck will emerge, and that duck is a duck, right? Maybe over geological time that would be true. But in a natural world affected by human activity, ecologists and conservationists worry that hybridization can upset ecological balances and undermine the survival of species involved in such a blend. Although not a problem yet, a study published Thursday in The Condor: Ornithological Applications suggests the riddling possibility that two duck species forming a hybrid species could one day leave us with less diversity among North American ducks.

This study is the first to assess the rate at which mallard and Mottled Ducks are combining into hybrids in the western Gulf of Mexico region of the United States.

August 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Exclusive: White House rebuffed attempts by DHS to make combating domestic terrorism a higher priority (Jake Tapper,  August 7, 2019, CNN)

White House officials rebuffed efforts by their colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security for more than a year to make combating domestic terror threats, such as those from white supremacists, a greater priority as specifically spelled out in the National Counterterrorism Strategy, current and former senior administration officials as well as other sources close to the Trump administration tell CNN.

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Trump Faces Pressure on Gun Control in Secretive Dayton Visit (Josh Wingrove, August 6, 2019, Bloomberg)

Donald Trump sought to console the grief-stricken residents of El Paso and Dayton on Wednesday, a trip that has so far been conducted largely out of public view following Democratic criticism of the president's rhetoric on race and immigration and his positions on gun safety.

Journalists were not allowed to accompany Trump... [...]

[T]rump was greeted by protests in the city, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley confronted the president as soon as he arrived to demand he press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on House legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Farm Discontent Spills Over as Ag Secretary Is Confronted in Minnesota (Mike Dorning  and Erik Wasson, August 7, 2019, Bloomberg)

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, drew applause as he leveled criticism of the administration's trade policy at a forum with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in front of thousands of farmers gathered in a metal barn for a panel discussion.

American farmers took a fresh financial hit from Trump's trade war over the weekend as China announced a halt to all U.S. agricultural imports after the president threatened Beijing with another tariff increase.

Wertish criticized Trump's "go-it-alone approach" and the trade dispute's "devastating damage not only to rural communities." He expressed fears Trump's $28 billion in trade aid will undermine public support for federal farm subsidies, saying the assistance is already being pilloried "as a welfare program, as bailouts."

Others joined in. Brian Thalmann, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, complained about Trump statements that farmers are doing "great" again. "We are not starting to do great again," he said. "We are starting to go down very quickly."

Joel Schreurs of the American Soybean Association warned American producers are in danger of long-term losses in market share in China, the world's largest importer of soybeans.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


To Learn About the Far Right, Start With the 'Manosphere': The sexist world has become a recruiting ground for potential mass shooters. (HELEN LEWIS, 8/07/19, The Atlantic)

 It is therefore not surprising that anti-feminism is an entry point to the online far right. "Misogyny is used predominantly as the first outreach mechanism," Ashley Mattheis, a researcher at the University of North Carolina who studies the far right online, told me. "You were owed something, or your life should have been X, but because of the ridiculous things feminists are doing, you can't access them."

One recruiting ground is the collection of sites known as the "manosphere," which the British anti-extremism charity Hope not Hate considered a serious enough force to include in its most recent "State of Hate" report. "It's a very difficult movement to get to grips with," says the Hope not Hate researcher Simon Murdoch. "It's a very loose movement. And because it's online, people are usually anonymous."

The manosphere stretches from the kind of lukewarm anti-feminism that would pass virtually unremarked in a newspaper column through to glorifications of extreme misogyny. Although the manosphere's leading figures have appeared at far-right events, and vice versa, the links between the two are more about an exchange of ideas than shared personnel.

As young men are drawn deeper into these online communities, the anti-feminist message transforms into one with racial overtones, Mattheis said. "Once you engage with the idea that a social-justice-warrior club and the feminist movement have increased the precarity of men," she said, "that moves over time into the increased precarity and endangerment of 'the West.'"

These ideas circulate through YouTube videos, anonymous message boards such as 8Chan, Facebook groups, and Twitter accounts. The online ecosystem allows dense, rambling conspiracist tracts to be chopped up and recirculated in more palatable forms. Camus' book-length version of The Great Replacement, for example, was condensed by the Canadian far right activist Lauren Southern in a YouTube video that now has more than 600,000 views. Southern is no fringe figure: She is verified on YouTube, and she was retweeted by Donald Trump in May.

Anti-feminism and the far right overlap because both weave narratives around real, observable phenomena surrounding race and reproduction. 

Ohio gunman's ex-classmates decry missed chances to stop him (MICHAEL BIESECKER and JULIE CARR SMYTH, 8/06/19, AP) 

High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, say he was suspended years ago for compiling a "hit list" and a "rape list," and questioned how he could have been allowed to buy the military-style weapon used in this weekend's attack. [...]

The former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to two of the classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.

"There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list," said the female classmate.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


How the El Paso Shooting Exposes the Rifts in Texas Politics (Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer, Aug. 6, 2019, ny tIMES)

SUGAR LAND, Tex. -- Nearly 700 miles from the El Paso Walmart where the suspect in the killing of 22 people on Saturday denounced a "Hispanic invasion," Rish Oberoi, a candidate for state representative, gestured toward a bustling dining room in a popular Vietnamese restaurant and marveled at the diversity of this Houston suburb.

"You've got every ethnicity," Mr. Oberoi, the son of Indian immigrants, said of the lunchtime rush on Monday. "And that's standard for Sugar Land." He was not overstating the case.

The residents in this county speak at least 118 languages, elected an Indian immigrant as their leader in 2018 and elevated the first Muslim to the Sugar Land City Council this year. Once represented by Tom DeLay, the hard-line House majority leader known as the Hammer for his ability to keep fellow Republicans in line, the county supported a Democrat for president in 2016 for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson led the ticket.

The much-anticipated future of Texas politics may not have arrived statewide yet, but it is hard to miss in the booming, polyglot metropolitan areas that are changing the face of the state.

The El Paso massacre has brought into devastating relief the clashing ideologies and demographics that have placed a solidly conservative rural Texas in tension with the two forces powering Democratic gains: soaring immigrant populations and affluent white suburbanites who recoil from President Trump's race-baiting.

In recent days, both before and after the gunman opened fire on summer shoppers and the manifesto spouting hate was published, a handful of Republican lawmakers decided to retire rather than seek re-election to House seats in districts like this one, where the electorate includes both multiethnic voters and the kinds of disaffected moderates -- even longtime Republicans -- who have drifted from Mr. Trump's party.

Last year, Democrats swept out two incumbent Republicans from similar districts and nearly unseated Senator Ted Cruz. Now, the party is poised to make additional gains in the House, threaten Republican hegemony in the State Capitol and perhaps even put Texas into play as a presidential state for the first time in over 40 years.

"The 2018 election should have been a wake-up call for a Republican Party in Texas that has become too complacent," said Karl Rove, the former adviser to George W. Bush, who built a multiracial coalition in his time as Texas governor. Mr. Rove urged Republicans to recognize that the state and country "are becoming more diverse and we need to reflect that."

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


We Are All Originalists Now, Sort of (David McDonaldAugust 07, 2019, Real Clear Politics)

Take, for instance, the Supreme Court's June decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The case asks whether a 40-foot-tall cross-shaped war memorial in Prince George's County, Md., violates the First Amendment's command that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Ultimately, the court ruled 7-2 that the cross does not violate the First Amendment.

At first glance, the opinions handed down look much like the high court's other Establishment Clause cases from the past half-century. With no justice capable of assembling a majority coalition, this case has nearly as many separate opinions as the court has members. It appeared that, once again, the court succeeded only in further muddying the waters with competing tests and conflicting theories, with none gaining a majority. 

Or maybe not. Hidden underneath a pile of concurring and dissenting opinions, a careful observer might detect the outlines of a consensus. For all its seeming divisiveness, a clear majority of the court now endorses something akin to what Justice Brett Kavanaugh referred to as a "history and tradition" test, wherein the historical context of the challenged government action, and how it fits into the tradition of religious liberty in America, takes center stage. 

Kagan and Stephen Breyer, generally considered members of the court's left wing, at least tepidly acknowledge the importance of tradition and historical context in analyzing challenges made to government action under the Establishment Clause. Both justices joined the majority in the Prince George's cross case, remarking in the process that they agree that courts should "look to history for guidance" in these types of cases, while writing separately to express concern about Samuel Alito's meticulous originalist approach.

While significant disagreements remain among the justices, history and tradition are now central to the discussion in a way that would have been unthinkable only 20 years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


No Relief in Sight for the Casualties of Trump's Trade War: Pssssst: It's not the Chinese. (ANDREW EGGER  AUGUST 6, 2019, The Bulwark)

The story of how this all came about, which the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, is as fascinating as it is infuriating. After yet another series of talks between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives last Wednesday proved unproductive in extracting concessions from the Chinese, Trump, angered that his negotiators had been unable to extract a win he could trumpet at a campaign rally that day, made a snap decision that went against the advice of nearly all his advisers:

"Tariffs," Mr. Trump said to his team, one of the people said. Those present included his national-security adviser John Bolton, top economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow, China adviser Peter Navarro and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

All of them, save Mr. Navarro, a China hawk, adamantly objected to the tariffs, the people said. That spurred a debate lasting nearly two hours, one of the people said. Beijing insists that tariffs must be dropped in return for concessions demanded by the U.S.

The president said his patience had worn thin and stood by his argument that tariffs were the best form of leverage, the person said.

His advisers eventually conceded, one of these people said, and then helped the president draft the tweet announcing an extension of tariffs to essentially all Chinese imports.

As the trade war has dragged on, American farmers have clung to the increasingly desperate hope that Trump is operating according to some great strategy--that President Deals has an ace up his sleeve that will soon bring China to its knees. Last summer, they were still optimistic--although many were rattled even then that there was no end in sight. When the dispute dragged on into the winter, they were partially placated by a round of emergency farm aid. As long as the thing wrapped up by spring planting, some hoped, they could weather the damage.

But now it's summer again, and things are still getting worse. All farmers can look to for comfort is the fact that things could be about $25 billion worse--the amount the White House has dispensed or pledged to dispense to hurting farmers. Meanwhile, all the Trump administration can do to reassure them is to say they'll keep pouring federal money on them to make up for the Chinese business they themselves bungled away, as President Trump did in yet another tweet Tuesday...

...and he's giving it to them....with the bark on.

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This Brazilian State Seems to Have Turned a Corner on Violence. But Can It Last?(RICHARD LAPPER | AUGUST 7, 2019, Americas Quarterly)

Outside the prison system, violent crime has been falling across Brazil in recent months, partly as a result of more aggressive policing methods. But nowhere has the improvement been more apparent than in Ceará. When I visited in May 2018, the state was the third most violent in the country, as rival gangs fought a vicious battle for control of a booming drugs market.

Renato Roseno, a 47-year-old state congressman and left-wing activist, had shown me how gangs were using social media to broadcast the results of the violence. I remember in particular a WhatsApp image of a young man's tortured and dismembered body reassembled on a wheelbarrow. "It's madness," Roseno told me.

Fifteen months on, Ceará's poorer districts are still dangerous but the death rate has been cut in half, an improvement twice as great as the national average. From third place, Ceará is now only the 14th most dangerous of Brazil's 27 states.

Most surprising is that this progress is the work of an administration controlled by the left-wing Workers' Party (PT), that has often been at odds with the iron hand instincts of Bolsonaro and the far right. The PT has tended to advocate a softer approach, putting much more emphasis on prevention and development.

But late in 2017, ahead of last year's elections and amid popular clamor for a crackdown, party leaders in Ceará opted to take a different path. The shift has proved popular. Camilo Santana was elected for a second term as governor with a thumping majority in October.

"People were demanding a hard line against crime and the governor listened," André Costa, the state's security secretary, told AQ. "The demand (transcended any ideological consideration). It's not a question of being right wing or left wing. People were saying that the police had to act with greater firmness."

The state stepped up with increased spending in security. Thousands of new police officers have been recruited - there are now 6,000 more military police officers than there were in 2015. An additional 2,000 officers have been recruited to the civil police, effectively the state's investigative force. And there are more than 1,000 new prison guards. Police officers are also better armed than they were: The state bought 15,000 Sig Sauer 320s pistols, the model deployed by the U.S. military.

Money has also been spent on security cameras. More than 3,300 have been installed across the state. The same goes for investment in computing and information technology, with law enforcement agents now able to summon up crucial data about suspects at the touch of a button on their mobile phones. Costa said that increased spending in the most dangerous neighborhoods, on things like street lighting and cleaning up buildings defaced by gang graffiti, has also helped the security drive.

But the biggest improvements have come since Luis Mauro Albuquerque, a no-nonsense disciplinarian, was put in charge of the prison system in December. 

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A grimly compelling study of the psychology of fanaticism: a review of Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself. By Florian Huber (The Economist, Jul 11th 2019)

In the second half of his book, Mr Huber switches tack to give a broad sweep of the Nazi era, tracing the dark exhilaration that overtook previously sane individuals as they came to feel that Hitler could solve all their problems. He describes the denial or glib justifications with which people reacted to the persecution of Jews; some readers may feel he should have dwelled more on that subject. Closer to his main theme, he pinpoints reactions to the assault on the Soviet Union in June 1941. Some had a bleak sense the invasion might fail, others still believed devoutly in the military and moral superiority of the Reich. As news emerged of the atrocities the invaders were committing, and the titanic reverses they began to suffer, some Germans experienced cognitive dissonance. Their faith in Nazism's ultimate triumph grew all the more fervent.

Thus the book hints at a deep truth about war at its dirtiest. When people sense crimes are being committed in their name, they can become even more fanatical in their devotion to the cause, so that an all-out drive for victory, or else martyrdom, seem the only ways these sins can be redeemed.

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Trump Campaign Ad Features QAnon Signs (Will Sommer, 08.07.19, Daily Beast)

Two signs promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory are visible in a video from Donald Trump's presidential campaign, marking the latest link between the president and followers of the fringe movement that the FBI recently described as a potential source of domestic terror. 

IG Horowitz will expose this as a Strzok/McCabe/Comey/Brennan plot!

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Students for Trump founder pleads guilty to posing as lawyer in $46K scam (STEPHEN REX BROWN, AUG 06, 2019, New York Daily News)

The founder of Students for Trump pleaded guilty Tuesday to running a $46,000 scam in which he posed as a lawyer and gave legal advice.

John Lambert, 23, created a website for a fake law firm called Pope & Dunn and claimed to be Eric Pope, a graduate of NYU Law School with a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania and 15 years of experience in corporate and patent law, prosecutors said.

Choose better role models, kid.

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Dayton's GOP congressman now supports 'restricting military-style weapon sales, magazine limits' (The Week, August 6, 2019)

On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) announced his support for "restricting military-style weapon sales, magazine limits, and red flag legislation." Turner is a former mayor of Dayton, where a 24-year-old gunman murdered nine people early Sunday, and represents the city in Congress. "I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential," he wrote in a statement. The Dayton shooter, who was killed by police, carried an AR-15 style rifle and a 100-round magazine, and may have had 250 rounds on him. When he started firing, Turner's daughter was at a bar across the street.

It's a democracy and voters want restrictions.

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No going back to Taliban repression, Afghan businesswomen say (Orooj Hakimi, 8/07/19, Reuters)

[T]he women who have blazed a trial in business since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 say they have come too far to be robbed of their achievements.

"I don't think Afghan women will ever go back," Kamila Seddiqi, 41, said an entrepreneur involved in businesses that include Afghanistan's first taxi app, Kaweyan Cabs.

Seddiqi, who was 18 when the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, knows all too well how ambition can be smothered.

"It was a time when we all thought of studying and learning, and education was the most important thing for us, but our lives changed," she said.

The Taliban banned women from education and work and only let them leave their homes in the company of a male relative. Overnight, women disappeared behind the all-enveloping burqa, their activities restricted to their homes.

Seddiqi and her sisters started a small tailoring business that thrived. After the Taliban were ousted, she worked with international organizations before launching her own businesses.

The international aid effort that arrived with foreign forces put girls' education and the empowering of women at its core but there are fears a final withdrawal of U.S. troops, the winding down of international engagement and the re-emergence of the Taliban in politics will see the progress snuffed out.

But women's strides in business will not be reversed, Seddiqi said. "These are not women who will go back."

August 6, 2019

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Peter Strzok sues over firing for anti-Trump texts (NATASHA BERTRAND, 08/06/2019 , Politico)

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Strzok excoriates the Justice Department and FBI for their handling of his dismissal over a trove of text messages he wrote to a colleague that were critical of Trump. Strzok accuses the president of inappropriately bullying law enforcement officials deciding his fate, raises questions about why his texts were leaked to the media and lambastes the administration for only defending its employees' free speech rights when they are praising Trump.

Specifically, Strzok's lawsuit accuses the agencies of violating his First and Fifth Amendment rights by firing him over the texts and then depriving him of due process to challenge his expulsion. [...]

Many of the texts were overtly critical of Trump, and Strzok and Page, who were having an affair, mocked him at various points throughout the campaign, calling him an "idiot." [...]

In the texts, Strzok and Page disparaged other political leaders, like Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and former Attorney General Eric Holder. But Mueller's most vehement critics quickly weaponized the texts about Trump, seeking to portray Strzok as a symbol of an agency hopelessly tainted by bias against Trump. [...]

Trump has tweeted about Strzok nearly two-dozen times since January 2018, calling him a "sick loser," "a fraud," "incompetent," "corrupt," and praising his firing from the FBI. Trump even accused Strzok of "treason" and told reporters in June 2018 that he was "amazed" Strzok was still employed at the FBI. "Peter Strzok should have been fired a long time ago," Trump said.

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Loving Us, Hating Them: How Trump Uses Jews to Divide a Nation (Moshe Kornfeld | August 6, 2019, Religion & Ethics)

Trump is leveraging Jewish tropes in order to bolster his claim that powerful women of color should "go back" to those places "from which they came." As Trump and his surrogates defend their attack on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, they have repeatedly characterized the group as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism, in this context, is defined primarily as critique of Israel and is used strategically to obscure key differences between those who single out Israel as illegitimate and those who oppose particular Israeli government policies such as the expansion of Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Trump's rhetoric yokes political legitimacy to unquestioning support for Israel, concern with anti-Semitism, and the rejection of women of color. This leaves little room for the majority of Jews who support the Democratic Party, for Jews who are critical of the Occupation and West Bank settlement expansion, and for Jews who are further left on the political spectrum when it comes to Israel. While "the squad," and by extension the Democratic Party, is the primary target of these attacks, this troubling strain of political rhetoric "others" the majority of American Jews. Trump's attempts to frame support for Israel in partisan terms also confound a longstanding American Jewish institutional agenda that promotes bipartisan support for the state of Israel even when the U.S. opposes specific Israeli government policies. The Obama administration's ongoing military support for Israel even in the face of an openly antagonistic relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a case in point. In other words, this rhetoric is ultimately damaging for pro-Israel interests, as well. Asserting that full citizenship relies on uncritical support for the state of Israel and attempting to portray the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic are rhetorical flourishes that are dangerous for American Jews.

This political strategy, in which anti-Semitism is used to create division in the Democratic Party, has taken concrete form in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting of Oct. 27, 2018. 

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THE NEW WAR ON TERROR -- ARAB STYLE: Repressive Arab regimes are increasingly borrowing America's war on terror slogan to crush local opponents while retaining the West's support.   (Mat Nashed, AUG 06 2019, Ozy)

Now, a new clique of Arab dictators are launching their own war on terror, using America's terminology to target their domestic and regional rivals while portraying themselves as indispensable to Western efforts at countering terrorism. This approach marks a sharp break from the past and is finding traction at a time when many Western nations -- and in particular the U.S. -- increasingly lack the appetite for overseas wars and instead seek local allies to fight their battles. Remember the images of President Donald Trump and Saudi's King Salman clutching a glowing orb in 2017, after a summit where Riyadh and its regional partners promised to lead the battle against extremist Islam, never mind their track record? Yet behind the cover of the war on terror, these regimes -- from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates to Egypt -- are focusing on domestic and regional rivals, not global threats, argue many experts.

Hating Muslims, Donald loves their oppressors.

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Ex-FBI Official Says Bureau Feared Pursuing Extremists Who Support Trump (Alex Henderson,  August 5, 2019, Alternet)

[A]ccording to former FBI counterterrorism expert Dave Gomez, the FBI is worried about being seen as targeting President Donald Trump's base.

Gomez told the Washington Post, "There's some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base. It's a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor."

The former FBI agent told the Post that although he believes FBI Director Christopher Wray "is an honorable man," the FBI is in many ways "hamstrung in trying to investigate the white supremacist movement like the old FBI would."

Part of the problem, Gomez told the Post, is Trump's criticisms of the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly described former FBI Director James Comey and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller as tools of Democratic partisans -- although Comey was a Republican until 2016, and Mueller is still a Republican.

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I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren't So Different. (Ali H. Soufan, Aug. 5, 2019, NY Times)

White supremacists, like their Islamist counterparts, explicitly seek to use violence to create a climate of fear and chaos that can then be exploited to reshape society in their own image. Their recruitment videos share an emphasis on the lifestyle they purport to offer recruits -- one of "purity," militancy and physical fitness. While jihadis share beheading videos, right-wing extremists glory in the live streaming of the deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. While Islamic State supporters communicate through an online platform called Telegram, white supremacists tend to do so through another platform, 8chan.

One group for neo-Nazis, founded by a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has taken the analogy to its logical conclusion, calling itself "The Base" -- a direct translation of the meaning of the word Al Qaeda. The organization also uses similar black flag imagery. The Base maintains an online library of terrorist manuals; the Al Qaeda publication Inspire taught the Boston bombers how to build pressure-cooker explosives.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, both groups have real-world war zones in which to learn combat. Jihadis had Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s and Syria today. White supremacists have the war in eastern Ukraine, in which they are fighting on both sides. Dr. Kacper Rekawek, a scholar who has studied the matter, estimates that 17,000 people from 50 countries, including the United States and many of its allies, have traveled to fight in Ukraine. Those with ties to far-right militias in Ukraine include at least one of four Americans indicted on a charge of promoting the deadly violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. The New Zealand mosque attacker claimed in his manifesto that he had traveled to Ukraine. What we know for sure is that during his attack he wore a flak jacket bearing a symbol of one of the country's main ultranationalist groups.

Against this backdrop, it is hardly surprising to see the white-supremacist threat growing inside the United States. A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that, in 2018, right-wing extremists were responsible for three times as many deaths in the United States as were Islamists. The same study showed that 2018 was the deadliest year of right-wing extremist violence since 1995 -- when the Oklahoma City bombing took place. Because of massacres like the one on Saturday in El Paso, the year 2019 may yet prove worse.

Our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies are not blind to the threat. In May, a senior F.B.I. official testified to Congress that the bureau is pursuing about 850 domestic terrorism investigations. But our current counterterrorism framework was set up, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to deal exclusively with foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. For example, the law allows for the monitoring of communications between people connected with foreign terrorist groups -- even if they are United States citizens operating on American soil -- and the sharing of the resulting intelligence among American agencies and with our allies. But those monitoring and intelligence-sharing tools cannot be used against those connected with terrorist groups based in the United States -- no matter how dangerous -- because domestic terror supporters are protected by free speech laws in ways that jihadis (including those who are United States citizens) are not.

As Robert Bork explained, textual construction requires that the Constitution not be read so as to protect speech advocating its own overthrow.

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Swedish town launches controversial £21 begging permit (Jon Henley, 5 Aug 2019, The Guardian)

A Swedish town has become the first in the country to introduce an official begging permit, requiring anyone who asks for money in the street to pay SEK 250 (£21) upfront for a licence.

Valid for three months, the permit can be obtained by filling in a form online or at a police station and requires a valid ID. Anyone found begging for money in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, without one faces a fine of up to SEK 4,000 (£342).

Jimmy Jansson, a Social Democrat local councillor, said the scheme, which came into force on 1 August after nearly a year of legal delays, was aimed at "bureaucratising" begging to "make it more difficult" for people to ask for money.

"We'll see where this goes," Jansson told local media, adding that the permit system should help bring homeless and other vulnerable people in contact with the local authority, in particular social services.

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How the Trump Campaign Used Facebook Ads to Amplify His 'Invasion' Claim (Thomas Kaplan, Aug. 5, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump's re-election campaign has harnessed Facebook advertising to push the idea of an "invasion" at the southern border, amplifying the fear-inducing language about immigrants that he has also voiced at campaign rallies and on Twitter.

Since January, Mr. Trump's re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word "invasion" -- part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging. A review of Mr. Trump's tweets also found repeated references to an "invasion," while his 2016 campaign advertising heavily featured dark warnings about immigrants breaching America's borders.

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Ex-Google Engineer Made Troubling Posts On Listservs About Richard Spencer, Golden State Skinheads (J. ARTHUR BLOOM, August 05, 2019, Google)

The most recent ex-Google engineer who claims to have been fired for his conservative views also suggested raising money under the auspices of the company's free speech listserv for a bounty to identify Richard Spencer's assailant, the Daily Caller has learned.

Kevin Cernekee, who was profiled in the Wall Street Journal last week, has made several complaints to the National Labor Relations Board alleging bias against right-wing employees, one of which is moving forward. [...]

In another set of postings from June 2016, Cernekee responded to a CNN article about a brawl in Sacramento between the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Golden State Skinheads, and antifa.

"Wait, were these actual neo­-Nazis or something else? From what I can tell TWP is more of a separatist organization and they openly reject racial supremacy," Cernekee wrote on June 27, 2016.

This is the mast Donald and the Senator have lashed themselves to.

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U.S. farmers are exasperated by latest trade war moves: 'Another nail in the coffin' (Adriana Belmonte, 8/05/19, Yahoo Finance)

"This is just another nail in the coffin," Tyler Stafslien, a North Dakota-based soybean farmer, told Yahoo Finance. "To see this thing only seems to be getting worse rather than better is very concerning, and the American taxpayers may have to foot another round of funding if this keeps up -- or we could see a ton of farmers' loss throughout this nation."

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said that the pain extended across the country.

"China's announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by," Duvall stated.

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Against the Republican Daddy State (DAVID FRENCH, August 1, 2019, National Review)

I fully agree that social-media platforms should reform their speech policies. I also agree that too many Americans spend too much time on their phones. But there is a dramatic difference between declaring that something is a problem and believing that government should act to solve that problem. In fact, the very determination that government should act -- rather than relying on a free citizenry to exercise its liberty responsibly -- can be harmful to a nation and to a culture.

The SMART Act is a remarkable attempt at micromanaging the design of popular online products. It would ban, for example, "infinite scroll" (the feature that allows you to thumb rapidly through a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed), the "autoplay" of a new video after the user finishes the one he initially selected (on sites like YouTube, but not on the ultimate autoplay device in American homes, your television), and certain gaming features on social-media apps, such as Snapchat's "streaks" (which record how many consecutive days you've communicated with friends).

Welcome to the Republican Daddy state. It responds to a social challenge with a blunt instrument that hurts responsible users of popular applications -- which is to say, the overwhelming majority of all users -- while not providing any concrete evidence that it will cure the extraordinarily complicated underlying problem it's attempting to address: the rise of anxiety, depression, and polarization that correlates with the rise of social media and the smartphone but is caused by a multiplicity of factors.

Senator Hawley ios anxious and depressed because he realizes America rejects his politics.
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Neo Nazis boast 'We got Tulsi in the debates' (Jewish Insider, Aug. 5th, 2019)

A neo-Nazi website took credit for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's (D-HI) qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates. The Daily Stormer, a notorious white supremacist and antisemitic website, proclaimed in April "we did it" -- after the Hawaii congresswoman reached the 65,000 donor threshold needed to participate in the first two debates.

Andrew Anglin, the website's founder, wrote in April, "We got Tulsi in the debates." He added: "I kind of didn't really want to do the whole big push on this site and have her linked to us if she was going to make it without us (both because I don't want the media attention and I doubt she wants to be considered a nazi candidate)....

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IT WAS JUST before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the moon shortly thereafter.

Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet's mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create "a backup of planet Earth," Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation's first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic "water bears" that can survive pretty much any environment--including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

August 5, 2019

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JUST ANOTHER PROUD BOY (profanity/depravity alert):

The Dayton Shooter Was The Lead Singer Of A "Pornogrind" Metal Band (Ellie Hall, 8/05/19, BuzzFeed News)

The man who killed nine and injured 27 in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, was the lead singer of a "pornogrind" metal band, a genre defined by its explicit subject matter and themes of gore and violence, specifically sexual violence and necrophilia, BuzzFeed News has learned. [...]

A former classmate from Bellbrook High School told BuzzFeed News that in 2011 or 2012, Betts made a "hit list" that included mostly girls at the school. When teachers found the list, the school went into lockdown and Betts was later suspended, the classmate said. He tended to play threats off as a joke, the classmate added, and no one seemed to take them very seriously.

The list, one classmate told the Washington Post, included "girls and all of these really pretty vile things that he was going to do to them." She added, "All the girls were really freaked out. He got kicked out of school for it."

And woman who attended high school with Betts told the Daily Beast she got text messages from him, saying she was on his "rape list."

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The Incredible Shrinking GOP: Trump is turning the Republican Party even whiter and more male than before, with profound consequences for party and country alike. (MATT FORD, August 5, 2019, New Republic)

Hurd's departure leaves a largely monochromatic party even less racially diverse than it already was. He and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott are the only black Republican members of Congress. A Washington Post analysis last week noted that there were only 14 nonwhite Republicans among the party's 273 members who serve as federal lawmakers or state governors. Among 302 Democrats who serve in those positions, by comparison, one-third are nonwhite. Those figures, the Post noted, largely reflect the racial composition of the Republican Party itself.

Two of the House's 13 Republican women--Roby and Indiana's Susan Brooks--have also already said that they would not run again in 2020. Brooks's decision to retire was particularly ominous: She had been tapped to serve as the House Republicans' recruitment chair. While neither party is close to gender parity in Congress, their decision will likely amplify a deep gender imbalance among Republican lawmakers. Just over a third of House Democrats are women, compared to 6 percent of House Republicans. Last fall, the Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican members hired an outside woman lawyer to question Christine Blasey Ford, apparently cognizant of the bad optics of eleven Republican men interrogating her. Politico's Playbook newsletter noted on Friday that the House Republican caucus includes more members named Jim than women running for reelection.

Congressional retirements only tell part of the story. Since Trump took office two years ago, a small but notable number of state and local GOP elected officials have also switched parties. Four Kansas women lawmakers made the jump last December, pointing both to state-level dynamics as well as the president. California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein cited Trump and the party's overall right-wing drift as factors when he joined the Democrats in January. So did Andy McKean, the longest-serving Republican in the Iowa legislature, when he defected in April. "Some would excuse this behavior as 'telling it like it is' and the new normal," McKean told reporters when he announced his decision. "If this is the new normal, I want no part of it."

Some departures partially reflect the shift in suburban districts away from Trump's GOP. Others symbolize what the party is losing along the way. In 2017, Hawaii Republicans ousted their House minority leader, Beth Fukumoto, after she criticized Trump's sexism and racism at a local Women's March; Fukumoto left the party shortly thereafter. Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of California, told reporters she switched her registration from Republican to no party after watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. And former Texas judge Elsa Alcala cited Trump's attacks on four women lawmakers of color when she left the GOP last month.

"At his core, his ideology is racism," she wrote. "To me, nothing positive about him could absolve him of his rotten core."

Meanwhile, Democrats are left to struggle with the fact that co-opting entire demographic groups, based just on Republican hatred of them, means that you get the conservatives and moderates too.  It means, no matter how hip and happening the Progressives are among your elites, the moderates have the advantage for the nomination.

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60-40 NATION:

Walmart faces pressure to stop gun sales after latest U.S. mass shootings (Nandita Bose, Melissa Fares, 8/04/19, Reuters)

Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest U.S arms retailer, to end assault rifle sales in 2015 and in 2018 to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. Some gun control activists and Walmart customers now want the retailer to drop sales of guns and ammunition altogether.

The weekend shooting in Texas unfolded at a popular Walmart store in the border city of El Paso, killing 22 people. In the other weekend mass shooting, in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman killed nine people.

Many people took to social media to post about the deadly shooting using the hashtags #walmartshooting," "#boycottwalmart," and "#guncontrolnow."

Guns Down America, an advocacy group that runs campaigns for gun control, began a petition to urge more change at Walmart late on Monday.

The petition calls on Walmart to stop selling firearms, pledge it will no longer make contributions to lawmakers who take money from gun rights lobby the National Rifle Association, and fund gun buybacks. It also pushes Walmart to use its political influence to advocate for legislative changes to raise the standards for gun ownership in America.

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Housing prices are the easiest thing to prop up because you can just admit immigrants to replace your population decline.
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All the Disturbing Parallels Between Radical Islam and White Nationalism (JONATHAN V. LAST  AUGUST 5, 2019 , The Bulwark)

White nationalism is a thing in America, again. This is not new, exactly. We had the KKK and very real, very dangerous white nationalists in operation--with all of the attendant layers of support in the culture--60 or 70 years ago.

It has now re-emerged. And while this growth is still in its early stages, the reemergence is real. Anyone who will not concede that point is either foolish or operating in very bad faith.

You can see all of the analogs to the Islamic terror food chain, in miniature. White nationalists have their terrorist actors, such as Patrick Crusius. They have their ideological theorists, such as Richard Spencer, who provide the intellectual framework for terrorism without getting their hands dirty. Russia is not exactly a state sponsor, but more like a state-sympathizer.

If you look around what has become mainstream American conservatism over the last four years, you see some people who look like Anjem Choudary, insisting that there is no such thing as white nationalism. (See Dennis Prager twist himself into a logic pretzel here, for example.) And then a larger number of people who mouth de minimis condemnations of the actual terror acts and then turn around and continue to stoke the fires of racial grievance with abject nonsense. Like Amy Wax.

And while it should go without saying, it does not help to have, as the president of the United States, a man who claims that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists.

White Nationalist Does Massacre. Now the Gaslighting Begins. (ADELE M. STAN AUGUST 5, 2019, The American Prospect)

The attack was actually a deep-state "false flag" operation, tweeted conspiracy theorist Mark Taylor, the self-described "firefighter prophet." Brendan Dilley, who hosts a MAGA-themed YouTube program, took to Twitter to ascribe the El Paso massacre to antifa, the often pugilistic anti-fascist movement. Two days later, the president of the United States, he of the alpha Twitter feed, blamed the media for both the attack in El Paso, Texas, and a subsequent massacre at a bar in Dayton, Ohio. For the small-time gaslighters like Dilley and Taylor, it was an epic assist from the Big Guy.

Taylor and Dilley are but two of the right-wing social media personalities who traffic in outlandish theories involving the so-called "deep state" or advancing the cryptic comments of an anonymous commenter who goes by the moniker "Q" in what has become known as the QAnon movement, which works on a premise that is an outgrowth of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. That phantasmagorical theory nearly got a family restaurant shot up in December 2016 when a man with a gun drove from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., with the aim of liberating children who were said to be held in the restaurant for the alleged pleasure of top figures in the Democratic Party. Thankfully, the round he shot lodged in the restaurant's door, and the gunman was apprehended by police.

Last week, Yahoo News reported that an internal document from the Federal Bureau of Investigation designated the spread of such conspiracy theories as a violent threat to the population at large. From the leaked document: "The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts."

As Juliet Kayyem, a former official in the Department of Homeland Security, notes in the Washington Post, acts of violence committed in the name of white nationalism or white supremacy are often cast as the work of a "lone wolf." But in reality, she says, "there are no lone wolves." While Kayyem primarily focuses her attention on message boards 4chan and 8chan (the latter has been disabled since it was used to disseminate the El Paso killer's racist screed), there's a whole cottage industry of right-wing talkers, preachers and pontificators whose utterances seem designed to prompt the unhinged to unleash mayhem upon unsuspecting people.

Wiktionary defines the term "stochastic terrorism" this way: "The use of mass public communication, usually against a particular individual or group, which incites or inspires acts of terrorism which are statistically probable but happen seemingly at random."

Kayyem describes the 8chan and 4chan internet spaces, where anonymous commenters often post misogynistic, racist and other hateful messages, as places where stochastic terrorism is stoked. 

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The Only Thing Trump Should Say Right Now Is "I'm Sorry" (TIM MILLER  AUGUST 5, 2019, The Bulwark)

I'm sorry for my role in stoking racial divisions in this country. 

I'm sorry for re-entering the political arena on a fraudulent racist platform where I knowingly lied about my belief that the first black president was actually born in Africa. 

I'm sorry for launching my presidential campaign on the backs of Mexican immigrants, claiming that many are rapists and murderers. 

I'm sorry that I made the head of an anti-immigrant hate site my campaign's chief strategist. 

I'm sorry for leading rage-filled rallies that stir up animus against my political foes and people of color. 

I'm sorry to Khizr and Ghazala Khan. I'm sorry to Judge Gonzalo Curiel. 

I'm sorry to all the minority students who have been told on the playground that the president will deport them. 

I'm sorry to the American green-card holders who we detained in airports just because of their country of origin. 

I'm sorry I spent a week winking and nodding at white nationalists after they killed an innocent woman in Charlottesville. 

I'm sorry that I said that we should have fewer immigrants from "shithole countries" and more from Norway. 

I'm sorry to everyone who received a bomb from Cesar Sayoc, a person who said my rallies were a "new found drug." 

I'm sorry for telling four minority women duly elected to serve in Congress that they should go back to where they came from.

I'm sorry that we caged citizen Francisco Galicia in a disgusting human kennel without due process just because of the color of his skin. 

I'm sorry to the asylees and refugees who I have treated as subhuman because they came from Muslim countries, or countries in Central America. I'm sorry to all the aspiring refugees who have not been welcomed to the land of the free because the bigots I put in positions of power have ensured we accepted the fewest number of refugees in decades.  

I'm sorry to Shaima Swileh who spent a year away from her dying American toddler because she had a Yemeni passport. I'm sorry to all the Americans whose family members couldn't come to see them because we put a ban on travel from Muslim countries. 

I'm sorry about the lies I told about Middle Easterners and people with Ebola coming into our country through a southern border caravan. And sharing a dubious story about a "prayer rug" found miles from the border. 

I'm sorry that I lied about the number of white people murdered by blacks. 

I'm sorry that I can't help myself but make barely coded racist attacks against "the blacks" generally and black athletes, congress members, and urban communities in specific. 

I'm sorry that I made a joke in Pensacola about people in the panhandle murdering immigrants. 

...all you have left are a couple Merrick Garland clones.

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


America Should Talk to the Houthis (Robert Malley, Aug. 5, 2019, NY Times)

The residents of Sana seem stunned and angry at what they view as the wildly disproportionate international attention garnered by every single Houthi missile or drone attack on Saudi Arabia, compared to the regular, destructive Saudi-led coalition bombings Yemenis have endured since March 2015.

It is hard to know how freely locals can speak. Many perhaps privately fault the Houthis for recklessly taking on their northern neighbor. If so, the sentiment is well hidden. Even the leaders of a party traditionally close to the Saudis and at odds with the Houthis expressed heartfelt fury at Saudi Arabia.

A quip doing the rounds in Sana: If the Saudis just handed me the price of a missile, I would destroy my house for them. Sana residents are exasperated at the bombing of a cemetery: even our dead are unsafe, they tell you.

Houthi supporters are also puzzled as to why their attacks on Saudi Arabia are attributed to Iranian dictates, as if their being at war with the kingdom wasn't explanation enough. The world's focus on their cross-border operations has only further convinced them that this is what it will take to attract global interest and get the Saudis to change course. Saudi Arabia has too much to lose to risk it; Yemenis have too little to lose to care.

A visitor in Sana also notices a surprising sense of internal stability. The Houthis are building something akin to a police state -- the lack of checkpoints or other markers of security in the capital announcing their effective stranglehold.

Most people in Sana, rightly, consider the United States to be complicit in the war, an enabler of the Saudi-led coalition that wages it. Americans, understandably, would recoil at the Houthis embracing "Death to America" and "Curse the Jews" as their slogans, scrawled as graffiti on the city's walls. But Sana's residents warmly welcome the rare American visitor.

The Houthi leadership knows all this -- the popular hostility toward the Saudi-led coalition; the remarkable control the movement has achieved -- and finds other justifications for self-confidence. Time, they feel, is on their side. Despite formidable military disparities, they have stood up to a coalition of wealthy, powerful states backed and armed by the West.

As in all the direct Shi'a v. Wahhabi conflicts, America is on the wrong side of this one.

Posted by orrinj at 11:59 AM


El Paso Shooting Suspect's Manifesto Echoes Trump's Language (Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, Aug. 4, 2019, NY Times)

At campaign rallies before last year's midterm elections, President Trump repeatedly warned that America was under attack by immigrants heading for the border. "You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!" he declared at one rally. "That is an invasion!"

Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more after writing a manifesto railing against immigration and announcing that "this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas."

The suspect wrote that his views "predate Trump," as if anticipating the political debate that would follow the blood bath. But if Mr. Trump did not originally inspire the gunman, he has brought into the mainstream polarizing ideas and people once consigned to the fringes of American society.

While other leaders have expressed concern about border security and the costs of illegal immigration, Mr. Trump has filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with sometimes false, fear-stoking language even as he welcomed to the White House a corps of hard-liners, demonizers and conspiracy theorists shunned by past presidents of both parties. Because of this, Mr. Trump is ill equipped to provide the kind of unifying, healing force that other presidents projected in times of national tragedy. [...]

"The people who carry out these attacks are already violent and hateful people," said Nathan P. Kalmoe, an assistant professor at Louisiana State University who has studied hate speech. "But top political leaders and partisan media figures encourage extremism when they endorse white supremacist ideas and play with violent language. Having the most powerful person on Earth echo their hateful views may even give extremists a sense of impunity."

This has come up repeatedly during Mr. Trump's presidency, whether it be the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., or the bomber who sent explosives to Mr. Trump's political adversaries and prominent news media figures or the gunman who stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue after ranting online about "invaders" to the United States.

David Livingstone Smith, a philosophy professor at the University of New England and the author of a book on dehumanization of whole categories of people, said Mr. Trump had emboldened Americans whose views were seen as unacceptable in everyday society not long ago.

"This has always been part of American life," he said. "But Trump has given people permission to say what they think. And that's crack cocaine. That's powerful. When someone allows you to be authentic, that's a very, very potent thing. People have come out of the shadows."

...the point of society/culture is to stop Fallen Man from authentic behavior.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Trump's combination gun-immigration reform 'reminds me of the 1930s in Germany,' Rep. Jerrold Nadler says (The Week, 8/04/19)

"What's the connection between background checks and immigration reform?" he asked on Morning Joe. "That we have to keep guns out of the hands out of the invading hordes of less-than human people coming across our border? That's the implication." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


George P. Bush: 'White Terrorism' Is 'Real And Present Threat' (PETER HASSON, August 04, 2019, Daily Caller)

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said "white terrorism" is a "real and present threat" following the mass shooting in El Paso Saturday that left 20 people dead and dozens of others wounded.

Bush cited his service as a naval officer in Afghanistan in calling for greater vigilance against violent white supremacists.

"I believe fighting terrorism remains a national priority. And that should include standing firm against white terrorism here in the US," Bush said in a statement released Saturday evening. "There have now been multiple attacks from self-declared white terrorists here in the US in the last several months. This is a real and present threat that we must all denounce and defeat."

The Next George Bush Bet Everything on Trump (ELAINA PLOTT, MAY 2019, The Atlantic)

Before the last presidential election, few people were giving much thought to George P. Bush's existence. That changed in August 2016. At the time, the Bush family was resolutely #NeverTrump. But at a Texas GOP gathering, Bush broke ranks. He told activists that, although it was a "bitter pill to swallow," the time had come to get behind Donald Trump in order to "stop Hillary Clinton."

As the Texas GOP's victory chair--the person leading the state party's election efforts--he said he didn't have much of a choice. "I couldn't look grassroots activists in the face and say, 'Well, Trump is good enough for you, but not for me,' " he told me at CrossFit. He said his father understood. "To be honest with you, I think he took it a little easier than the rest of my family ... My uncle, though--that did require a sit-down." He delivered the news in the library of the 43rd president's home in Dallas, whereupon his uncle expressed concern that the endorsement could be "a short-term gain for a long-term cost." As for George W. Bush's relationship with Trump today: He "is not going to be the one to engage in a war of words on Twitter." If he were asked for advice, Bush continued, the former president would sit down with the current one and provide it. But that advice hasn't been requested, so what Bush describes as a "contentious relationship" continues.

Bush's endorsement may have made for awkward conversations with his family, but it served him well with other Texas Republicans. He constantly fields questions from voters about just how aligned his politics are with his family's. The biggest misconception, he said, is "that I'm in lockstep with them on everything." He cited public funding of Planned Parenthood as one point of disagreement. He said other members of his family were "pretty much in support of that," but he's been against abortion rights his whole political career. It's an issue that Bush, who is Catholic, says is "core to my values."

For Bush, endorsing Trump, however tepidly, was a chance to add another bullet point to his I'm-my-own-man list. Yes, he had the same concerns about the real-estate mogul as many other traditional Republicans did, the biggest one being whether he could defend Trump's character to his children. Bush told me it's a reservation "that I still have, honestly." But he managed to express his concerns about Trump without the holier-than-thou tenor that helped tank the careers of so many other Republicans, including his father.

In the lead-up to Bush's 2018 reelection campaign for land commissioner, this was smart politics: Texas favored Trump over Clinton by a 9 percent margin. His endorsement also opened the door to a friendship with Trump's eldest son, Don Jr., who agreed to headline a fundraiser for Bush in New York last summer, only to pull out at the last minute, after Jeb Bush condemned Trump's family-separation policy as "heartless" on Twitter. "Don called me and said, 'Look, I'm in an awkward position. I can't do this.' And I said I understood," Bush told me. (He says his father responded "So what?" to the fallout.) Thereafter, he tried to reassure voters that he still had his "own message," distinct from his family's. "I also have my own friendships," he added.

Some in Texas--including those Democrats who understood Bush's political need to endorse Trump--wondered whether, in his general silence on presidential positions important to Texas, such as immigration, Bush was now sliding too far in Trump's direction. They were also beginning to wonder whether the young Hispanic Republican's potential to unite Texas voters might go unrealized.

"Eight years ago, he was kind of this rising star," says James Aldrete, a Democratic strategist in Texas. "But Trump has taken the party," and Bush has decided, to his father's embarrassment, to go along. To stay relevant at this point, Aldrete thinks that Bush would have to commit to "reshaping and saving" his party. "You haven't seen that courage from him so far."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China and the Difficulties of Dissent (Simon Leitch, 8/05/19, Quillette)

China is an ethnonationalist, corporatist, authoritarian state. The government harasses, imprisons, or murders those who demand the right to vote. It engages in cultural genocide and seeks to make the Chinese dictatorship ideologically inseparable from the self-image of the Chinese people. It protects its domestic economy from foreign competition, subsidises all its important industries, mandates that government officials sit on the boards of all large companies, and does not allow independent labour unions. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

60-40 NATION:

How Gun Control Groups Are Catching Up to the N.R.A.  (Reid J. Epstein, Maggie Astor and Danny Hakim, Aug. 4, 2019, NY Times)

The political momentum in the gun control debate has shifted in the year leading up to this weekend's mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, with gun control advocates taking a more empowered stance and the National Rifle Association consumed by internal power struggles.

The major gun control organizations, propelled by funding from supporters like Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, and grass-roots networks across the country, have helped enact new laws -- mostly in Democratic-controlled states -- and, for the first time in 25 years, passed a significant gun control bill in the House.

But the gun lobby's structural advantages, built over decades and defended by President Trump and congressional Republicans, remain in place: an N.R.A. budget that dwarfs what even Mr. Bloomberg has spent, a Republican Senate majority disinclined to consider gun-control legislation, and a base of primary voters for whom the N.R.A.'s endorsement is a critical seal of approval.

The net effect is a playing field on gun issues that is far more level than it has been since N.R.A.-backed Republicans took over Congress in 1994, sparking one of the country's most bitter, partisan culture wars.

Lobbies are all well and good, but it's the fact that voters, especially younger ones, want restrictions that will shape gun policy going forward--to the extent the Court allows us to follow the Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Post says: Ban assault weapons now (Post Editorial Board, August 4, 2019, NY Post)

Crush This Evil (THE EDITORS, August 4, 2019, National Review)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump tweets, stays out of sight for hours after shootings (JONATHAN LEM, 8/05/19, AP)

As the American nation reeled from two mass shootings in less than a day, US President Donald Trump spent the first hours after the tragedies out of sight at his New Jersey golf course, sending out tweets of support awkwardly mixed in with those promoting a celebrity fight and attacking his political foes.

Even the bubble was calling him to account, so he needs a day to find someone else to blame.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Charles Darwin's Two Faulty Metaphors (George Stanciu, August 4th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Charles Darwin's notion of the survival of the fittest remains a sacred idea in science--no indeed, in modern Western culture. The imagined war of every organism against every other represents a profound enculturation of science, prejudicing theories and obscuring the facts. The evidence, however, clearly shows that nature is not competitive but cooperative.

"Charles Darwin was a master of metaphor, and much of his success may be attributed to his uncanny feel for timely comparisons that virtually compel understanding," according to Stephen Jay Gould, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist. The principal metaphors used by Darwin were the struggle for existence and natural selection. Gould finds these "wonderfully apt and poetic."

The metaphor problem is far bigger than that, because his ur-metaphor is that Nature functions like the farm breeding with which he was familiar.  He begins from intelligent design.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Darkest day in Indian democracy': India revokes special status for Kashmir amid crackdown
 (SBS, 8/05/19)

India's government revoked the special status of Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate its only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country, the most far-reaching move on the troubled Himalayan territory in nearly seven decades.

Interior Minister Amit Shah told parliament the federal government would scrap Article 370, a constitutional provision that grants special status for disputed Kashmir and allows the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to make its own laws.

They can't keep the main parts of the country together in the long term, nevermind an ersatz portion.

August 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


In Ukraine, a Rival to Putin Rises (Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 4th, 2019, NY Times)

[A] rivalry is already apparent. Ukraine's relationship with Russia, which seized part of its territory in 2014 and has continued to back a wider separatist uprising, is the pivot around which many of Europe's most pressing security problems revolve. Mr. Zelensky has approached it with a combination of calculated assertiveness and strategic generosity, reaching out to Russian speakers whom his nationalist predecessor could not hope to win over.

"One of the reasons for this conflict is the two countries have chosen different ways of development," said Bogdan Yaremenko, a newly elected member of Parliament in Mr. Zelensky's political party who is focused on foreign policy and relations with Russia.

"And now this actor who is perceived very positively by most of his viewers is representing his country," Mr. Yaremenko said. "So the positive attitude toward Zelensky might be transferred to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian way of government."

Western sanctions are creating a long-term drag on the Russian economy, denting Mr. Putin's still-high popularity at home and creating pressure for the Kremlin to find a resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky campaigned on promises to seek an end to the conflict, giving rise to cautious optimism among Western diplomats over Europe's only active war, simmering now for five years. Mr. Zelensky telephoned Mr. Putin on July 11, suggesting that both sides were ready to engage.

Like two boxers in a ring, however, Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelensky have spent two months now circling, dancing around and jabbing each other.

Mr. Putin appears to have engineered a series of small crises to test the new president. But where the previous Ukrainian leader, Petro O. Poroshenko, was constrained by Ukrainian nationalist sentiment in Parliament, Mr. Zelensky has seized chances to appeal to eastern Ukraine's Russian-speaking miners and steel workers -- and even to those tiring of Mr. Putin in Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


The Death Rattle of White Supremacy: Americans need to stand together against the forces of hate. (Wajahat Ali, 8/04/19, The Atlantic)

The manifesto expresses extreme versions of a fear that has also been expressed by prominent political figures. President Donald Trump used invasion to describe a caravan of immigrants trying to cross the border. The Fox News host Tucker Carlson has called immigrants "invaders" who "pollute" the country and make it dirtier. In the past few weeks, President Trump told four congresswomen of color, all U.S. citizens, to go back to where they came from. He stood onstage at a campaign rally while the crowd chanted "Send her back!" for 13 seconds. He retweeted Katie Hopkins, a British extremist who has called migrants "cockroaches" and called for a "final solution" for Muslims. Some Trump supporters now openly flash white-power signs in front of cameras.

Hate that was once hidden has now been given permission to come out of the closet and drop its white robes and masks. This has real-life consequences for communities of color, Jews, and immigrants. Robert Bowers, the terrorist who shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, wanted to punish Jews for allegedly helping to bring "invaders"--immigrants and Muslims--into the country.

My father, a Muslim immigrant born in Pakistan who has lived in this country for more than 50 years, called me last week, worried about his grandchildren's future. He fears that more white rage will be unleashed if Trump is reelected. My children are innocent, lovely, caramel-mocha-skinned babies born and raised in America, but my father feels that the country he's called home for half a century will no longer welcome them. My local mosque now has an armed guard with a bulletproof vest standing outside our weekly Friday prayers. My Jewish friends say their synagogues have amped up security in the past year. We no longer feel safe in our houses of worship.

And so, I feel compelled to ask Trump supporters: Is it worth it? How many have to suffer for you to feel great again?

Even Republicans are starting to call out Trumpism as deplorable.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


US struggles to build willing coalition amid Strait of Hormuz tensions (SYLVIE LANTEAUME, 8/04/19, FP) 

The United States is struggling to piece together an international coalition to protect cargo ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, with allies concerned about being dragged into conflict with Iran.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf since the United States decided in May 2018 to withdraw from a landmark accord to limit Iran's nuclear program and began to reintroduce sanctions.

But even as a series of ships have been seized in the narrow maritime thoroughfare -- vital for the world's supply of crude -- European countries have been reticent about a US plan to send in military escorts.

On Sunday, Australia became the latest ally seeming to give the plan a wide berth.

The allies were co-operating until Donald betrayed them.

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Trump's America unravels in one bloody nightmare weekend. Now it's time to clean house (Will Bunch, 8/04/19,

It was at that moment, in the predawn blackness of a hot August night, that you could see that the center of Donald Trump's America is not holding. You had already watched the fear and loathing spiraling out of control -- the immigrants afraid to leave their homes to take their kids out to a playground or an ice cream shop, the gulag of squalid concentration camps, the increasingly racist rants from a president desperate to cling to his job. And now these twin eruptions -- body bags and hastily abandoned shoes stacked up on blood-stained American asphalt.

When things fall apart, they shatter into a million pieces. I can't tell you yet exactly how the bloodshed in El Paso is related to a mass murder in Dayton, or to the social dysfunction right here in Philadelphia that caused someone to spray bullets into a crowd of people shooting a hip-hop video, or into a crowded block party in Brooklyn the night before that. I can't explain why people tweeting about El Paso couldn't use the hashtag #WalmartShooting because it was already in use for a man who'd just murdered two employees at an outlet in Mississippi.

All I know is that it's all starting to feel like the same event -- a Great Unraveling of America. The feeling only grew worse when I read that the authorities in El Paso believe some of the wounded may not go to local hospitals ... because they're so afraid of our immigration cops. It seemed like one more sign that conditions in this country -- the violence, the fear, the embrace of racism and xenophobia from the highest levels, and the long slide into neo-fascism -- have become intolerable. And yet -- with the blood of El Paso and Dayton not yet dry -- far too many are still tolerating this.

None more so than America's so-called Republican leaders -- the Mitch McConnells, Mitt Romneys, the Greg Abbotts -- who seemed to share the same pathetic and cowardly playbook of quickly taking to Twitter, praying for the victims and their families, praising the first responders, and quickly logging off without one word about the scourge of white supremacy, their president who helps promote it, or the gun culture that makes it all so lethal.

The few GOP bigwigs who were pressed for more fell back on familiar tropes. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reached all the way to back to the 1990s to blame violent video games, while Abbott, the governor of Texas who once famously lamented the fact that Texans weren't buying as many guns as Californians, said "the bottom line is that mental health is a large contributor."

No doubt, mental health -- and the lack of care -- is a crisis in this country. But linking it to the El Paso murders seems like an evasion. From what we know so far, the killer embraced a sick ideology but knew exactly what he was doing -- driving 600 miles to a carefully selected kill zone and writing a hate-filled but consistent manifesto. His mass murder seemed less a statement about his own mental health and more a statement about the moral health of a nation where so many are opening embracing racist and xenophobic rhetoric. Including the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

...and their fellow citizens were appalled instead of enraptured by it?

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Cruz Goes on the Air in New Hampshire With "Invasion" Ad (PATRICK SVITEK JAN. 5, 2016, Texas Tribune)

Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is launching its first major TV ad in New Hampshire, a dramatic commercial that seeks to shore up his border security credentials in a Republican primary race that has been dominated by the issue for months. 

Titled "Invasion," the 60-second ad draws on remarks the U.S. senator from Texas made during the fourth GOP debate, when he discussed what he described as the overlooked impact of illegal immigration on American jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 11:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


The El Paso Shooting and the Gamification of Terror (Robert Evans, 8/04/19, bellingcat)

The three 8chan massacres do represent an evolution in far-right violence, but they are very much tied to a decades-long tradition of murder. We can see this even in the obsession with "high scores".

On April 19, 1995, right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb outside the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Four years later, in 1999, Erik Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen of their classmates in Columbine High School in Colorado. Prior to masterminding the attack Erik Harris wrote constantly of his dedication to Hitler and Nazi ideology. Dave Cullen, a journalist who studied the attacks and combed through Harris's journals, noted that the young killer was also obsessed with Timothy McVeigh. Cullen writes: 

"In his journal, Eric would brag about topping McVeigh. Oklahoma City was a one-note performance. McVeigh set his timer and walked away. He didn't even see his spectacle unfold."

Harris and Klebold did not beat McVeigh's "high score" in their lifetimes. But to date the Columbine attacks have inspired at least 74 copy-cat attacks, which have killed 89 people and injured 126 more. This is the way far right terrorism works: it is foolish, bordering on suicidal, to attribute attacks like the El Paso shooting or the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting to "lone wolves". Both shooters were radicalized in an ecosystem of right-wing terror that deliberately seeks to inspire such massacres.

The Gilroy shooter specifically referenced "Might is Right", a white supremacist text by "Ragnar Redbeard". PDFs of this book have been deliberately spread on 8chan and 4chan for years, and it has become even more popular in the wake of the Gilroy shooting. 

8chan's /pol board is regularly host to threads filled with right wing extremist literature. This thread, posted fewer than two weeks after the Christchurch massacre, includes a copy of an audiobook of The Turner Diaries, a work of fascist speculative fiction that lays out how a right-wing insurgency based around seemingly random acts of terror could bring down the United States government. 

The Turner Diaries was the favorite book of Timothy McVeigh. He cited passages from it directly in the manifesto he carried with him after bombing the Murrah building.

In the wake of the Christchurch shooting I published my first Bellingcat article about 8chan. I was interviewed by numerous media agencies about the website, and I warned all of them that additional attacks would follow - every month or two - until something was done. This prediction has proven accurate. Until law enforcement, and the media, treat these shooters as part of a terrorist movement no less organized, or deadly, than ISIS or Al Qaeda, the violence will continue. There will be more killers, more gleeful celebration of body counts on 8chan, and more bloody attempts to beat the last killer's "high score".

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 AM


Presidential hopeful O'Rourke ties Trump 'racism' to Texas shooting (AFP, 8/04/19)

"He is a racist and he stokes racism in this country. And it does not just offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence," said O'Rourke, who represented El Paso in the US Congress until recently.

"We've had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years during an administration where you have a president who's called Mexicans rapists and criminals."

O'Rourke was responding to questions about a manifesto purportedly written by the gunman which railed against the Hispanic "invasion" of Texas which borders Mexico.

More than 80 percent of El Paso's population is Hispanic, according to US census figures.

Manifesto linked to El Paso gunman rails against 'Hispanic invasion' of Texas (Times of Israel, 8/04/19)

Crusius wrote that the attack "is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," and made references to the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, where a white gunman killed 51 mosque worshipers in March.

Crusius claimed that he was "defending" his country "from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion."

He added: "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable."

Here's What Amy Wax Really Said About Immigration: Here's the transcript of what University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax said at the National Conservatism Conference on July 15, 2019. (Amy Wax, JULY 26, 2019, The Federalist)

Some creedal nationalists maintain that because it is open to anyone, at least in principle, to believe and support these ideas, there is no reason to favor immigrants from one background or another. I don't think that conclusion necessarily follows. Many, indeed most, inhabitants of the Third World, don't necessarily share our ideas and beliefs; others pay lip service, but don't really comprehend them. There are exceptions of course, but most people are not exceptional. Thus, creedal nationalism could support a low and slow approach to immigration.

But the second type of nationalism is what I want to concentrate on. I term it cultural distance nationalism, and it goes further. It is based on the insight and understanding that people's background culture can affect their ability to fit into a modern advanced society and to perform the roles needed to support and maintain it - civic, occupational, economic, technical, and the like.

According to this view, we are better off if our country is dominated numerically, demographically, politically, at least in fact if not formally, by people from the First World, from the West, than by people from countries that had failed to advance.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 AM


August 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 PM


Investigators 'reasonably confident' Texas suspect left anti-immigrant screed (Ben Collins, 8/03/19, NBC News)

The screed railed against immigrants in Texas and pushed talking points about preserving European identity in America. The attack left at least 20 dead and 40 injured.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Defying U.S. Sanctions, China and Others Take Oil From 12 Iranian Tankers (Anjali Singhvi, Edward Wong and Denise Lu, Aug 3, 2019, NY Times)

The Times examined the movements of more than 70 Iranian tankers since May 2, when the American sanctions took full effect.

Twelve of the tankers loaded oil after May 2 and delivered it to China or the Eastern Mediterranean, where the buyers may have included Syria or Turkey. Only some of those 12 tankers were previously known to have recently delivered Iranian oil, and an analyst said the scale of the shipments documented by The Times investigation is greater than what had been publicly known.

The continued flow of oil underscores the difficulty the Trump administration has had in using sanctions to bring Iranian oil exports to zero after breaking with allies and partners on Iran policy. The Obama administration had worked with China, Russia and three European allies on the 2015 agreement intended to restrict Iran's ability to pursue a nuclear program. President Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal and to impose sanctions was opposed by those countries.

"You can't make these kinds of threats if you can't operationalize it," said Richard Nephew, a scholar at Columbia University and a former White House and State Department official who helped enforce Iran sanctions during the Obama administration. President Barack Obama did not have a goal of bringing Iran's oil exports to zero while pressuring Tehran to negotiate.

"It adds up to a decision that makes them look weak and feckless," he added. 


Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Deadly violence heightens concerns about domestic terrorism and white supremacists (SUHAUNA HUSSAINWRITER  , AUG. 3, 2019, LA Times)

In July, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that a majority of domestic terrorism cases the bureau has investigated are motivated by white supremacy. Wray assured the panel that the FBI was "aggressively" pursuing domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

"Our focus is on the violence," he said. "We, the FBI, don't investigate the ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence."

Deadly mass shootings have prompted Congress to scrutinize how resources are allocated for investigating groups that post domestic terrorist threats.

Michael McGarrity, head of the FBI's counter-terrorism unit, in May testified during a congressional hearing that the bureau was investigating about 850 cases of domestic terrorism.

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said it can be difficult to classify attacks. For example, the gunman in the Parkland, Fla., shooting in February 2018 that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fixated on racist imagery, but authorities did not designate the attack as a hate crime, and Levin's center did not include it in a recent report, Levin said.

Levin said political polarization and a rise of far-right nationalism is contributing to hate crime around the globe.

"We're seeing a coalescence of traditional hate crime with political violence," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Yes, Trump Tweeted Something Racist This Morning (Dan Friedman, 8/03/19, MoJo)

President Donald Trump on Saturday resumed his promotion of a far right commentator who called for a "final solution" after a terrorist attack in the United Kingdom and blamed Jewish support for immigration for provoking the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year.

On Saturday morning, Trump twice retweeted British pundit Katie Hopkins, who first gained prominence as a contestant on the BBC TV series The Apprentice and has since drawn attention through what are widely seen as bigoted attacks on Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 PM


Protests sweep through Hong Kong and Moscow yet again (The Week, 8/03/19)

In Hong Kong, demonstrators took to the streets for the ninth consecutive week for a pro-democracy march as they decry Beijing for encroaching on the city's autonomy. The marchers gathered in the city's Mong Kok district -- where violent clashes took place during pro-democracy protests in 2014 -- one day after thousands of supposedly politically neutral civil servants urged authorities to give into protesters' demands. Police initially denied permission for the march amid warnings from Beijing and the Chinese army, but they eventually relented.

During the demonstration, protesters reportedly removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and hurled it into Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor. They also blocked a tunnel and surrounded police stations where non-emergency services were suspended. Police reportedly fired tear gas to quell the crowd. Opposition groups are reportedly planning for more demonstrations on Sunday and a city-wide strike on Monday.

Meanwhile in Moscow, police have reportedly detained nearly 600 people following an unsanctioned rally, including prominent opposition activist Lyubov Sobol.

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"I think those tweets are racist and xenophobic," Hurd told CNN of Trump's attacks on the Squad, in which the president called on the lawmakers to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Hurd noted at the time that the tweets about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar were "inaccurate" and drive minorities away from the G.O.P. "This makes it harder in order to take our ideas, and our platform, to communities that don't necessarily identify with the Republican party," he said. Those July remarks echoed the conclusions of an election post-mortem the G.O.P commissioned after losing again to Barack Obama in 2012, which found Republicans would have to broaden their appeal to women and minorities if they hoped to be viable in the future. "Public perception of our party is at record lows," Sally Bradshaw, the former Republican strategist who co-chaired the study, wrote in 2013. "When someone rolls their eyes at us they aren't likely to open their ears to us."

But rather than widening the scope of their appeal, Republicans since then have dramatically narrowed it -- lining up behind Trump and his destructive policies and racist, sexist rhetoric. The fact that the party will soon have just one black lawmaker in congress -- Sen. Tim Scott -- both reflects that reality and could likely exacerbate it. 

Donald, Amy Wax and the rest of the Nationalists have made it pretty clear that they can't even be American.

American Immigrant: Two forms of nationalism were contrasted at the first annual National Conservatism conference. Let's trace their historical roots. (Joshua Tait, Aug 1, 2019,

[I]n her article, published in the Georgetown Law Review, Wax questioned whether immigrants can assimilate at all. She pursues her inquiry with respect to two models of nationalism.

The first, Creedal Nationalism, maintains that the essence of Americanness is "mainly comprised of abstract political ideals and beliefs." These include "equality before the law, fundamental human and Constitutional rights" and "commitment to democratic governance and institutions." Although this model demands assimilation, it is basically universalist: anyone, regardless of their background or race, can become an American by embracing these fundamentals.

Wax's second model, however, questions this universality. In what she calls Cultural Difference Nationalism, Wax cites right-wing thinkers who hold that America's "Anglo-Protestant heritage" was key to its political development. Building on this argument, some argue immigrants from cultures far from this "Anglo-Protestant" background will struggle to assimilate. They might even corrode the communities they enter.

Because this cultural argument often correlates with race, Wax notes, elites have been squeamish about engaging it.

In the Georgetown Law Review, Wax calls for a frank conversation and highlights taboo but, she argues, necessary viewpoints. However, at the National Conservatism Conference last week she committed herself to Cultural Difference Nationalism.

"According to this view," Wax told her audience, "we are better off if our country is dominated numerically, demographically, politically -- at least in fact, if not formally -- by people from the First World, from the West, than by people from countries that have failed to advance."

She didn't balk at the implications of this argument. Embracing Cultural Distance Nationalism means "taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites."

Wax and the conference organizers insist this isn't a racist argument but rather a cultural one with racial correlations. Conservatives would be wise, Wax insisted, to resist politically correct attacks that would paint Cultural Difference Nationalism as racist.

To their credit, Trumpbots are increasingly open about their racism, thus the argument that, "no matter how we express our ideas, other people will say they are racist.".

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


QAnon Says FBI Labeling Them a Terror Threat Just Proves There's a Deep-State Conspiracy Against Them: Other followers of the far-right conspiracy theory say the FBI memo is actually part of a wink-and-nod plot to bring more attention to QAnon. (Kelly Weill, 08.02.19, Daily Beast)

But QAnon followers have stuck with their conspiracy theory through other rough patches. The theory's followers have gone on to commit violence, including a follower who led an armed standoff at the Hoover Dam last summer, inspired by his frustration that one of Q's clues never materialized. Months later, a vlogger who made QAnon videos was arrested for allegedly threatening a massacre at YouTube, which he believed was censoring him. In January, a Q believer allegedly murdered his brother with a sword over a conspiratorial idea. Leaders of multiple heavily armed groups on the southern border were led by QAnon believers, who were later arrested for various counts of trespassing and weapons violations. A man accused of murdering a New York mob boss scribbled a Q on his hand in court and claimed to have been motivated by his belief in the conspiracy theory.

Despite those incidents, major figures in Trump World have still flirted with the conspiracy theory. "Now do #ANTIFA," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted after the FBI memo was revealed, in reference to the anti-fascist movement. (In fact, federal agencies have already released memos about anti-fascists, some of them based on right-wing hoaxes, The Daily Beast previously reported. Figures on the right are currently trying to have the FBI classify the anti-fascist movement as a domestic terror group, something it cannot do because anti-fascism is not a group, and the FBI makes no such domestic classifications. The same holds true for QAnon believers.)

At Trump's rally in Cincinnati hours after the memo was revealed, warm-up speaker Brandon Straka invoked one of the movement's slogans. The crowd around him was full of Q shirts and signs.

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The DOJ Will Not Prosecute James Comey over Trump Memos (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, August 3, 2019, National Review)

The existence of the memos became known shortly after Comey was fired on May 9, 2017. It is only natural that they raised alarm. One would expect that if a president and an FBI director met several times, memos documenting those conversations would contain at least some classified information. Comey, moreover, brazenly acknowledged that he had orchestrated the leak of at least a portion of one memo to the New York Times. That is not normal.

Nevertheless, Comey is very smart. And you don't have to agree with his politics or like his style to realize that he has spent much of his career protecting national security. By definition, when information is classified, that means its unauthorized disclosure could damage American national security. Might Comey mishandle classified information? Sure, it's possible -- plenty of smart, patriotic public officials have done that. But to me, it is implausible that Comey would knowingly do that, much less intentionally transmit classified intelligence to the media.

That said, the classified-information facet of this episode has been exaggerated. There were seven memos in all, totaling 15 pages. Our understanding is that Comey tried to avoid putting classified information in them, and believed he had succeeded. Yet after obtaining and accounting for all of them, the FBI designated two of them as "confidential," the lowest level of classification. We do not know at this point (or, at least, I don't know) whether the memo leaked to the Times -- regarding the February 2017 Trump-Comey discussion of the investigation of former national-security adviser Michael Flynn -- was one of the classified ones. But we can easily deduce that Comey neither intended it to be classified nor thought it was. At one point in the memo, Comey wrote, "NOTE: Because this is an unclassified document, I will be limited in how I describe what I said next."

We know that Comey shared this memo with a friend (who is also a friend of mine, and who was his intermediary with the Times), and that he shared at least some of the memos with his lawyers (who are also friends of mine). From a classified-information standpoint, however, we are talking about a small number of documents, and it is unclear that Comey knew anything in them was classified. Even if he turned out to be wrong about that, it is highly unlikely that prosecutors could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was grossly negligent in mishandling them, much less that he willfully mishandled them.

Substitute Hillary for Comey and Mr. McCarthy has indeed depoliticized the investigative process.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Trump administration suspends press pass for journalist who sparred with far-right activist (Michael Brice-Saddler, 8/03/19, The Independent US)

Mr Karem, who is also a CNN contributor, has frequently criticised the administration and served as a foil during White House press scrums.

He achieved notoriety on 11 July when he engaged in a boisterous verbal altercation with Salem Radio Network host Sebastian Gorka at the "Social Media Summit" ...

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


The Who-Can-Beat Trump Test Leads to Kamala Harris: Bringing the energy and hope to stare down Trump and his movement. (Roger Cohen, Aug. 2, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump, in the name of making American great again, has trampled on America's essence. He is angry, a stranger to happiness, angrier still for not knowing the source of his rage. He is less interested in liberty than the cash of his autocratic cronies. As for life, he views it as a selective right, to which the white Christian male has priority access, with women, people of color and the rest of humanity trailing along behind for scraps.

Adherents to an agenda of "national conservatism" held a conference last month in Washington dedicated, as my colleague Jennifer Schuessler put it, "to wresting a coherent ideology out of the chaos of the Trumpist moment."

Good luck with that. One of the meeting's leading lights was Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. Lowry's forthcoming book is called "The Case for Nationalism." Enough said. The endpoint of that "case" is on display at military cemeteries across Europe.

Nationalism, self-pitying and aggressive, seeks to change the present in the name of an illusory past in order to create a future vague in all respects except its glory. Trump is a self-styled nationalist. The "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" chants at his rallies have chilling echoes.

Lowry holds that "America is not an idea" and to call it so is a "lazy cliché." This argument denies the essence of the country -- an essence palpable at every naturalization ceremony across the United States. Becoming American is a process that involves the inner absorption of the nation's founding idea.

The gravest thing Trump has done is to empty this idea of meaning. His has been an assault on honesty, decency, dignity, tolerance and civility. On this president's wish list, every right is alienable. He leads a movement more than he does a nation, and so depends on fear to mobilize people. Any victorious Democratic Party candidate in 2020 has to counter that negative energy with a positive energy that lifts Americans from Trump's web.

Kamala is best positioned to take over after a Biden collapse and--in terms of turnout--is the better candidate.  The problem for the Bernie/Warren wing of the party is that the Left hates America as much as the Right. The problem for the Republican wing is that they are leaving moral arguments to Marianne Williamson, thus her boomlet.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Marijuana during pregnancy might be as dangerous as alcohol (Donavyn Coffey, August 2, 2019, Popular Science)

Two recent studies by the Teratology Society suggest there may be a reason to worry. Exposure to marijuana during pregnancy looks a lot like alcohol exposure, the studies argue, and can even present with symptoms similar to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Jennifer Thomas, a psychologist at San Diego State University, administered alcohol, cannabinoids (the active chemicals in marijuana like THC and CBD), or both to rats during their equivalent of a human's third trimester of pregnancy. This is a key period of development, so once the resulting offspring reached adolescence Thomas evaluated some of their behaviors to see if the substances had any effect. She measured how the rats moved when kept in an open space to test for hyperactivity, one of the potential symptoms of prenatal alcohol exposure. Thomas and her colleagues found that both cannabis and alcohol increased activity of the adolescent rats, and symptoms were even more severe when the two substances were combined.

Greg Cole, a neurobiologist at North Carolina Central University, dug a little deeper in his own study, where he gave very low does of alcohol, cannabinoids, or a combination thereof to zebrafish. He found that cannabinoids changed gene expression and altered cell communication in the zebrafish embryo in a way that looked very similar to alcohol. And like Thomas, he found that the one-two punch of alcohol and cannabinoids made things worse. When the two substances are combined, he says, "it's like doing either in larger amounts."

Drugs are just the next tobacco.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


After Missile Tests, Trump Praises Kim Jong Un's 'Beautiful Vision' (Oliver Willis August 2, 2019, National Memo)

"There may be a United Nations violation, but Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust, there is far too much for North Korea to gain," Trump wrote.

"Chariman [sic] Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as President, can make that vision come true," Trump added. "He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!"

North Korea is a closed dictatorship that brutally suppresses and controls its citizens. It has repeatedly been shunned on the international stage, and harshly criticized and ostracized for its human rights abuses.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American college student, was detained and abused by the regime run by Trump's "friend."

"The 22-year-old was blind and deaf, his arms were curled and mangled and he was jerking violently and howling, completely unresponsive to his family's attempts to comfort him. His once straight teeth were misaligned, and he had an unexplained scarred wound on his foot. An expert said in court papers that the injuries suggested he had been tortured with electrocution," the Associated Press reported last year.

"A neurologist later concluded that the college student suffered brain damage, likely from a loss of blood flow to the brain for five to 20 minutes."

Warmbier died in 2017.

The Right takes plenty of well-deserved criticism for its domestic racism, but nearly enough for the fact it supports foreign dictators--the more brutal the better--precisely because they oppress their people.

August 2, 2019

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Conservatives Are Hiding Their 'Loathing' Behind Our Flag (Will Wilkinson, Aug. 2, 2019, NY Times)

Barack Obama claimed resounding victory in two presidential elections on the strength of a genuinely conservative conception of pluralistic American identity that embraced and celebrated America as it exists. Yet this unifying vision, from the mouth of a black president, primed the ethnonationalist backlash that put Mr. Trump in the White House.

The molten core of right-wing nationalism is the furious denial of America's unalterably multiracial, multicultural national character. This denialism is the crux of the new nationalism's disloyal contempt for the United States of America. The struggle to make good on the founding promise of equal freedom is the dark but hopeful thread that runs through our national story and defines our national character. It's a noble, inspiring story, but the conservative nationalist rejects it, because it casts Robert E. Lee, and the modern defenders of his monuments, as the bad guys -- the obstacles we must overcome to make our nation more fully, more truly American.

Without obstacles, there is no story. The rise of Trumpist ethnonationalism opened a new chapter, a new variation on the primal American theme, and its outcome will again define us. We must remember that it's our story, that we write it -- with our bodies, our money, our voices, our votes. And we must never lose the thread.

To reject pluralism and liberalizing progress is to reject the United States of America as it is, to heap contempt upon American heroes who shed blood and tears fighting for the liberty and equality of their compatriots. The nationalist's nostalgic whitewashed fantasy vision of American national identity cannot be restored, because it never existed. What they seek to impose is fundamentally hostile to a nation forged in the defining American struggle for equal freedom, and we become who we are as we struggle against them.

...when your slogan insists that America isn't great?

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Justice Department Will Not Prosecute Former FBI Director Comey Over Leaked Memos (Alex Henderson August 2, 2019, National Memo)

At issue was a memo Comey allegedly leaked that was classified as "confidential." The memo dealt with a conversation Comey had with Trump after being fired in May 2017 during the Russia investigation. But according to Solomon's sources, that memo wasn't classified as "confidential" until after Comey allegedly leaked it.

Pretty exquisite that he did nothing wrong for the same reason that Hillary didn't, after all his preening.

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Will Hurd and the Hollowing Out of the Republican Party (ANDREW EGGER  AUGUST 2, 2019 , The Bulwark)

[F]or years Hurd has been considered a politician with a near-limitless future, the kind of politician Republicans have long sought: a Republican from a 71 percent Hispanic district on the southern border with a preternatural ability to connect with constituents on both sides of our widening partisan divide. A less capable Republican would almost certainly have been swept out of Texas's 23 district in 2016--the district went for Hillary Clinton by four points--or if not then, than in the blue wave election of 2018. Rumors have swirled for years that when John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas and one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate, finally retires, Hurd would be a likely candidate for his preferred successor.

But in another sense, Hurd's decision not to seek reelection is entirely predictable: It's what all the other Trump-skeptical Republicans are doing. Hurd is no dyed-in-the-wool Never-Trumper: He's already pledged to vote for the president if he's the Republican nominee in 2020. But the Texas lawmaker has opposed some of Trump's signature policies, most notably the coast-to-coast wall on the Southern border that was one of the president's signature issues during the 2016 campaign. But as Trump has made clear time and again, he considers loyalty to himself and his agenda to be an all-or-nothing prospect. There's no room for the Will Hurds of the world in today's GOP.

The impact this shift is having on the Republican party isn't just ideological. It's generational. The Obama years weren't great for conservatives, but they did launch the careers of a whole swath of young GOP leaders: lawmakers like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Hurd. Trump has diminished or destroyed them all, trading away decades worth of the party's future prospects to go on a mammoth bender today.

This is the primary strategic problem with the take-what-you-can-get-from-Trump most Republicans have taken. The GOP has reasoned that if it can just weather the Trump storm, bank a bunch of judges, roll back regulations, and grow the economy, then things can more or less return to normal in 2024. The problem is that these gains come at a price. And the cost isn't just the spiritual drag of having to pretend that they don't mind "send her back" and "very fine people" and the love affairs with Putin and Kim Jong-un. There is actual, ongoing damage being done to the future of the party that's happening below the surface, at the electoral and leadership levels. And every day the rot grows worse. Trump will leave eventually and maybe the SCOTUS majority stays in place and maybe it doesn't. But what will the GOP have left to build on?

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Nikki Haley rolls her eyes at Trump's tweet mocking Elijah Cummings' home burglary (The Week, 8/02/19)

Trump's tweet prompted a response from Haley, who served in the Trump administration as U.N. ambassador until 2018. "This is so unnecessary," she wrote, adding the eye-roll emoji.

Nikki will defeat Kamala in November 2020.
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Joe Biden Is Already Running Against Trump As the Democratic Nominee (JONATHAN V. LAST  JULY 31, 2019, The Bulwark)

[H]e has decided that you cannot beat Donald Trump with a program of open borders and killing private health insurance. And he is going to risk losing the primaries in order to win the general. Which, by the by, will strengthen his hand if he faces Trump, because he'll be able to point to the real fight he had with the progressive wing of his party on this issue. He'll say that he faced them down and won. "Open borders" would come off the table as a serious Republican weapon.

Look at the polling: Biden basically beating the second and third place candidates--Sanders and Warren--combined. He's the only Democrat leading Trump by double-digits.

And he's got a rationale for his campaign: "I'm running for president to restore the soul of this country."

I believed that Biden was in the strongest position going into the Detroit debates. After this performance, I'd say that his position is stronger still.

Two strong points from the Bulwark Podcast yesterday: (1) both the UR and Donald had taken permanent leads by this point in 2008 and 2016; and, (2) Joe's percentage is especially impressive given that there are still 20 candidates dividing support. 

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On a momentous day for Tribal Nations, Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), the House Republican Conference Chairwoman, stated that the successful litigation by tribes and environmentalists to return the grizzly bear in Greater Yellowstone to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) "was not based on science or facts" but motivated by plaintiffs "intent on destroying our Western way of life."

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Texas Rep. Will Hurd, House's Only Black Republican, Won't Seek Reelection In 2020 (Jessica Taylor , 8/01/19, NPR)

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, the lone black Republican in the House, announced Thursday evening he won't run for reelection in 2020.

Hurd's surprise decision is not only a setback for a party in need of diversity, but it also means there will be one less rare member of the GOP caucus who's willing to speak out against President Trump. The 41-year-old's exit makes it tougher for Republicans to hold onto his swing district near year and is also an ominous sign for his party's chances of winning back the House as retirements continue to mount.

He's not an old white man so he doesn't belong.

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Trump's Encouraging QAnon May Result in Violence--Just ask the FBI (Justin Hendrix, August 1, 2019, Just Security)

On Thursday, Yahoo! News published an exclusive story detailing a May 2019 FBI assessment that online conspiracy theories "very likely" result in domestic extremists committing violent crimes. The report notes that it is "the first FBI product examining the threat from conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists and provides a baseline for future intelligence products," and predicts an increased risk of violent outcomes as the United States enters "major election cycles such as the 2020 presidential election."

If that happens, it may be in no small part due to President Donald Trump's endorsement and amplification of conspiracy theories and theorists such as QAnon. A few hours after the FBI assessment leaked, the President held a campaign rally in Cincinnati, where the pre-rally speaker Brandon Straka called out the phrase, "Where we go one, we go all," a rallying cry of QAnon believers. That's just the tip of the iceberg. 

But t, but, but....Antifa!

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Late one night in 1987, Moroccan policemen arrived at a house in the occupied city of Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara, and demanded to speak to Aminatou Haidar. It would only take 10 minutes, they told her panic-stricken family; but those minutes stretched into days, weeks, months and then years. The 20-year-old was disappeared without trial to a secret facility not far from her home, where guards tortured her, subjecting her to starvation and threats of rape -- the price for painting graffiti and circulating leaflets calling for a free Western Sahara.

The day she was released, more than three years later, she was unable to stand, her body almost broken from the ordeal. But Haidar was not deterred from activism and since has become a leading voice of resistance to Moroccan repression in the territory, regarded as Africa's final colony. "It made me stronger and more determined, and I was even more conscious of the necessity to lead a struggle for self-determination," she says.

To Sahrawis, the formerly nomadic peoples native to the region, Haidar is the "Gandhi of Western Sahara," a tireless advocate for peaceful resistance who brings international attention to their much-forgotten plight; to the Moroccan government in Rabat, she's a dangerous agitator and separatist who continues to defy what the kingdom calls its "southern provinces," though no other country recognizes this claim.

Now, at age 53, she's become a voice of restraint -- pitted against a new generation of pro-independence activists who Haidar fears are too eager to launch a full-scale war, with tensions rising along the world's longest militarized border.

August 1, 2019

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Reagan and Race (JAY NORDLINGER, August 1, 2019, National Review)

I also went to Lou's book President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. He spends several pages on Reagan and race, treating the subject with nuance and depth. Cannon begins as follows, speaking personally:

I do not believe that Reagan was racially prejudiced in the normal meaning of the term. He had been taught by his parents that racial intolerance was abhorrent, and the many people I interviewed who knew him as a young man were unanimous in believing that he absorbed these lessons. In his autobiography Reagan tells how he volunteered to take Eureka College's two black football players into his home in Dixon after they were refused admission at a hotel. . . . The players were welcomed by Reagan's parents, as Reagan had known they would be. One of these players was William Franklin Burghardt, who had played center on the line next to Reagan. The two became friends and corresponded regularly until Burghardt's death in 1981.

Yes. I next went to a collection of correspondence: Reagan: A Life in Letters. "Dear Burgie," Reagan would begin his letters to his old teammate, and he would sign himself "Dutch."

Throughout his career, or careers, Reagan corresponded with movie fans, constituents, et al. Here is a note to Mr. Freddie Washington of Moss Point, Miss., published in A Life in Letters. The date of the note is November 23, 1983 (during Reagan's first term as president).

I've been frustrated and angered by the attempts to paint me as a racist and as lacking in compassion for the poor. On the one subject I was raised by a mother and father who instilled in me and my brother a hatred for bigotry and prejudice, long before there was such a thing as a civil rights movement. As for the poor, we were poor in an era when there were no government programs to turn to. I'm well aware of how lucky I've been since and how good the Lord has been to me.

In many of his letters, Reagan defends his record as governor of California -- this is particularly true of letters written between his governorship and his presidency. In August 1979, he sent a long, detailed letter to Mr. Lennie Pickard. Here is just a taste:

I realize there is a great lack of information about what I did as governor of California and it increases the farther east you go. As a result of this, I know that the minority community has an impression that I have little or no interest in their problems. When I became governor I discovered that after eight years of liberal Democratic rule in Sacramento, very little outside of rhetoric had been done for the minorities. The civil service regulations were such that it was virtually impossible for a black employee of state government to rise above the very lowest job levels. We got those rules changed.

Etc., etc. One more taste, from this letter:

My first few years as governor were during the period when people talked of long hot summers to come. We had had the Watts riots just prior to my taking office and racial tensions were very high. Without informing the press, I traveled up and down the state meeting with minority groups and leaders, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in headquarters they had in various community projects. I wanted to know firsthand what their problems were, what was on their minds, and what we could do to change things.

In quoting these things, am I excusing Reagan's remark to Nixon in 1971? No, no. I am saying: For chrissakes, there is a bigger picture. Life is often messy, and Reagan had a long one, not without messiness -- personal, professional, political, and so on. He was a man.

No one wants their heroes to be as human as we are.
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Democrats Rebuke Obama's Legacy at Their Own Peril (Josh Kraushaar,  Aug. 1, 2019, National Journal)

Any Democrat watching the last two nights of presidential debates would be struck by the absence of praise for the party's most popular president in memory: Barack Obama. Aside from Joe Biden, none of the 20 candidates on the debate stage had many fond memories of the legacy of the man that no Democrats dared criticize during his eight years in office.

That's political malpractice. The day that Obama has become too conservative for the Democratic Party is the day that the Democratic Party has lost touch with mainstream America. And it's why Biden, one of the few candidates to proudly tout his associations with the former president, came out on top Wednesday night.

Joe is the frontrunner because he's not out of touch with the mainstream Party.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Tarantino's Most Transgressive Film: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood celebrates values that have been repeatedly dismissed as dangerous and outdated. (Caitlin Flanagan, 8/01/19,  The Atlantic)

The movie is about Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Rick Dalton. But this is Brad Pitt's picture, and he carries it so easily that you don't realize it until the end. Rick is the washed-up star of a TV Western, whose career has wound down to guest-star appearances on other actors' Westerns (in the career-killing role of villain), heavy drinking, and indulging in fits of crying. He's weak. Pitt is Cliff Booth, Rick's stunt double, the one who does all the dangerous things and who--literally--takes no credit. Rick is so dependent on Cliff that he has hired him as driver and houseman, a role that should diminish Cliff in our eyes--1968's Kato Kaelin--but doesn't. Cliff is cool, funny, laconic, and tough. His competence and emotional reserve make us more aware of Rick's weakness. So it's a depth charge of misgiving to learn that he's not welcome on some television sets. He brings a bad energy, apparently, because many people believe he killed his wife. It's an anvil dropping: Is he a threat? Did he do it? In the one flashback, the truth is never revealed. For most of the picture, we know we can't trust him, and Pitt plays with us throughout, one moment charming, the next lost in something inward.

At the end of the movie, after he's redeemed tenfold, we realize who he was all along and why we couldn't help falling for him--a hero. Rick spent the movie trying to portray a hero; Cliff spent it being one--and like all heroes, he didn't spend any time bringing attention to the fact. The beautiful teenager who keeps trying to get him to give her a ride finally succeeds, but when she tries to seduce him, she doesn't have a chance. He spares her feelings by telling her that it's because she doesn't have a photo ID to prove she's over 18, but that's not the reason. He doesn't need "affirmative consent." He has a code: A man doesn't sleep with teenagers.

Cliff faces great danger at the Manson compound to make sure an elderly man of his slight acquaintance is safe. He doesn't start fights, but if he gets into one, he'll lay out the challenger. His dog loves him, he doesn't like to see a man crying, and he's got his passions under control. One afternoon, he climbs to Rick's roof to fix his television antenna, a potent symbol of Rick's failing television career, but also one more reminder of their relationship: Rick's things are broken, and Cliff repairs them. In the bright sun, he takes off his shirt (heaven help us) and then he hears music from the house next door. It's Tate, alone in her room. He glances over--does he see her? Maybe. But he's not a man who climbs on roofs for a peep show, and he turns back to his work. Most of all, he's loyal--even when Rick might not deserve that loyalty. In the end, he's Gary Cooper facing Frank Miller all by himself.

We can't have a movie like this. It affirms things the culture wants killed. If men aren't encouraged to cry in public, where will we end up? And the bottom line is the bottom line: Audiences don't want to see this kind of thing anymore. The audience wants the kind of movies the justice critics want. But the audience gave Once Upon a Time in Hollywood the biggest opening of Tarantino's career. The critics may not get it, but the public does. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


The Gun Industry Is Not As Untouchable As Everyone Thinks (NICOLE ALLAN, AUG 01, 2019, Slate)

 PLCAA does shield gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from liability in many situations where, say, an auto company might be on the hook, it allows for suits against those who break the law when selling a gun that's later used in a crime. These types of suits have been brought against irresponsible solo gun dealers since PLCAA was passed, but recently, they are being used to target the gun industry titans: Remington, Colt, Smith & Wesson. Plaintiffs' lawyers with no prior experience suing the gun industry have been mobilized by mass shootings in their communities--last weekend's in Gilroy, California, being just the latest--and are thinking up new kinds of claims. In looking at PLCAA afresh, they see not a blanket ban but one that makes key exceptions for egregious conduct. A few courts have been receptive to these tactics so far, sparking new hope that it is possible to hold the gun industry accountable.

In March, the Connecticut Supreme Court shocked the legal world by ruling in favor of the families of children killed in the Newtown shooting. These families focused in part on Remington's advertising of the AR-15 used in the massacre--ads that extolled its military style and suitability for combat, brandishing the slogan, "Forces of opposition, bow down." In knowingly marketing the weapon to civilians for use in military-style combat, the plaintiffs argued, Remington violated Connecticut's law against unfair trade practices.

Josh Koskoff, lead lawyer for the Newtown families, had never heard of PLCAA until he started researching this case. "I can see why people look at it and just give up," Koskoff says. "We almost did. It's like looking at Mount Everest and you're wearing sandals and you're supposed to climb." But he thinks that his lack of experience suing the gun industry--his expertise is medical malpractice--was helpful insofar as it allowed him to approach the law without assumptions. "We were able to look at it with a wider view. I think that was a real advantage to our ability to see causes of action that maybe others couldn't see or felt would be too much of a burden to overcome."

Koskoff's decision to use Connecticut's consumer protection law paid off in two ways. First, the state Supreme Court held that the Newtown families' claims were exempt from PLCAA because they fell under the law's "predicate exception," which permits lawsuits where a manufacturer or seller of a firearm used in a subsequent crime "knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing" of that firearm. Second, the court found that regulation of "advertising that threatens the public's health, safety, and morals" was such a core state power that even PLCAA's most ardent congressional supporters did not intend to take it away. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:38 PM


U.S. manufacturing struggling as tariffs bite; job market healthy (Lucia Mutikani, 8/01/19, Reuters) 

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to a near three-year low in July and hiring at factories shifted into lower gear, suggesting a further loss of momentum in economic growth early in the third quarter as trade tensions between Washington and Beijing persist.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Will Netanyahu's Putin connection backfire in his hunt for votes? (Ksenia Svetlova, July 31, 2019, Al Monitor)

On July 28, Tel Aviv residents were surprised to find a huge poster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin smiling at each other on the outer wall of Metzudat Zeev, Likud's headquarters in the city. "Netanyahu, a different league," the poster read. Similar posters showing Netanyahu with US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also been displayed. These images, distributed via social networks and WhatsApp as well, are part of the Likud's new campaign, which also includes footage from Netanyahu's meetings with the three leaders.

As fate would have it, a day before the campaign launched, Russian authorities arrested more than 900 people in Moscow during an opposition protest that the police violently dispersed. The juxtaposition of events generated a lively debate in the media and via social networks in Hebrew and Russian, where many noted the anomaly in the height of Netanyahu and Putin as depicted on the poster: Putin, at a height of 170 centimeters (close to 5 feet 7 inches), looks a little taller than Netanyahu, who is 184 centimeters tall (6 feet tall). Other commenters remarked that they have no problem with contacts between Israel and Putin-led Russia, but what does bother them is using the image of a leader of an undemocratic nation in an election campaign. 

"It was strange for me to see this photo [of Netanyahu and Putin], when a moment ago I saw my friends getting clobbered on the streets of Moscow," Roman Goldshteyn, who immigrated to Israel from Moscow three and a half years ago, told Al-Monitor. Goldshteyn, who participated in opposition protests while living in the Russian capital, called on his friends to come to Likud headquarters to join a protest under the banner "Israel Without Putin."

"I see how Netanyahu and his coalition are trying to change the nature of the government so that he can continue serving as prime minister," Goldshteyn told Detaly, a Russian-language news website, on July 29. "In my opinion, we, Russian speakers who emigrated from there recently, especially know how dangerous this is for all Israelis, regardless of their political outlook. Our role is to show this to them."