November 29, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Billy Strayhorn In Five Songs (DAVID BRENT JOHNSON, 11/29/15, NPR)

This month marks Strayhorn's centennial. He was born in Dayton, Ohio on Nov. 29, 1915 and grew up in Pittsburgh, a jazz capital known for producing other pianists and composers. A musical prodigy, he began composing while in high school, writing a musical called Fantastic Rhythm that included the future standard "My Little Brown Book."

In late 1938, while Ellington was playing in Pittsburgh, a two-degrees-of-separation friendship resulted in the bandleader granting Strayhorn a private audience. Ellington was so impressed that he hired Strayhorn and moved him into Ellington's Harlem apartment, beginning a nearly 30-year collaboration that saw only one brief pause in the 1950s

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Republicans Must Save the Cities (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON November 29, 2015, National Review)

Non-whites, lower-income workers, and those whose economic condition has necessitated welfare dependency at some time do not much trust Republicans, because they believe that Republicans do not have their interests are heart. Republicans have over the years given them some reason to believe that, too. But it shouldn't be too hard to look at a place such as Chicago and ask: "Does Rahm Emanuel really act in your interest?" The answer is obviously not. Crime, corruption, dysfunctional schools, unsatisfactory public services from transit to sanitation: There's a great deal of fertile ground for Republicans and conservatives there. Rudy Giuliani won in New York on a single issue -- crime -- and delivered on it. On a smaller scale, Rick Baker had a very good run as mayor of St. Petersburg, and won 90 percent of the vote in the city's low-income black precincts on his second go-round. 

In the long run, conservatives need the cities. And the cities need conservatives right now.

If Republicans had their interests at heart we'd move them out of cities and to our own neighborhoods.  Cities are fine for the wealthier younger childless and as places for the rest of us to work and play.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Marco Rubio Straddles Line Between Insider, Outsider (PATRICK O'CONNOR And  BYRON TAU, Nov. 29, 2015, WSJ)

According to Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling, Mr. Rubio draws roughly similar support from the four main segments of the GOP primary electorate--centrists, religious conservatives, tea partiers and libertarians. In New Hampshire, he scored equally well among Republican primary voters who want the next president to be a political outsider and those who want someone with prior elected experience, according to a recent survey by WBUR. [...]

"Rubio shares a lot of support with Trump, Carson and [former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Carly] Fiorina and with establishment candidates, like Bush and Christie," said Mia Costa, one of the researchers on that poll. "He's well-positioned to pick up supporters from both camps."

November 28, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 10:05 PM


Americans are saving more than spending (Patrick Gillespie, 11/28/15, CNNMoney)

Americans are saving faster than they are spending.

It's a key shift in spending habits that started during the Great Recession. And the trend continues as we head into the holiday shopping season this weekend.

The savings rate in the United States rose to 5.6% in October -- its highest mark in nearly three years. In September, the savings rate was 5.3%. Put another way, Americans put aside an extra $40 billion in October rather than spend it.

The personal consumption expenditure, a measure of spending, only rose 0.1% between September and October.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 PM


The Trouble With Interest Rates (J. Bradford DeLong, NOV 28, 2015 , Project Syndicate)

Given real economic conditions, European and American monetary policy is not too loose; if anything, it is too restrictive. The "natural" interest - what would be ground out by the Walrasian system of general equilibrium equations - is actually lower than what current monetary policy is producing. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:32 PM


What Will the Nixon-Reagan-Bush Republicans Do? (WILLIAM KRISTOL, 11/27/15, Weekly Standard)

Consider this: Here's roster of the eleven men who've won Republican presidential nominations going back to 1944: Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Tom Dewey. Seven had previously run for the nomination before winning. Almost all were nominated after substantial time in public office or the public limelight; the two who might be considered exceptions (George W. Bush, who had only six years in office, and Mitt Romney, who had only four) were the sons of a former president and a former presidential candidate, respectively.

Or look at it this way: In the 18 presidential elections going back to 1944 and constituting the voting lifetime of all but the very oldest primary voters, a Bush has been on the general election ballot six times, Richard Nixon five times, and the voters have had a chance thrice to consider, in the primaries and/or the general election, Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan, and a Romney.

So this a deeply conservative party accustomed to the discipline of repetition and the comfort of familiarity. It always nominates a white male, usually middle-aged to elderly, who is well-credentialed, politically experienced and widely recognized by the Republican primary electorate.

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 PM


'Syria is dead, Israel must prepare,' top defense official warns (TIMES OF ISRAEL, November 28, 2015)

The nation state of Syria has collapsed, a fact that Israel must internalize about its northern neighbor, a senior Israeli defense official said Saturday.

"Syria is a dead state, and Israel must understand this and prepare accordingly," Amos Gilad, the director of the political-security division in the Defense Ministry and a former senior Military Intelligence official, told a cultural event in Beersheba.

"[Syrian President Bashar] Assad's grip on the country is faltering, it is a land without rule," Gilad said, according to Army Radio.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


The Opportunist : Marco Rubio's political dexterity. (EVAN OSNOS, 11_30_15, The New Yorker)

If the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the Party will be offering the oldest candidate that it has ever run in a general election, and Rubio has taken to saying, "Never in the modern history of this country has the political class in both parties been more out of touch with our country than it is right now." But in policy terms Rubio can appear older than his years. His opposition to same-sex marriage, to raising the minimum wage, and to restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba puts him out of step with most American Latinos. In the Spanish-language media, he is sometimes described as un joven viejo--a young fogey.

After a summer submerged in a raucous primary field, Rubio had recently climbed into third place. He was ahead of Jeb Bush, his former mentor, and far behind Trump and Ben Carson. Trump's campaign marched to the sound of a dirge--"The American Dream is dead," he told crowds--and Rubio presented himself as a sunny alternative, a way out of Trump's sulfurous moment. "We're very blessed to have so many good people running for President," he said earnestly to the crowd in Boulder City.

I had seen Rubio at half a dozen events--in Iowa, New York, Nevada--and his speeches were blemished only by a tic: he occasionally slips into a singsong cadence, turning his story into a breathy schoolboy lullaby about the "new American century." On the whole, he is impressively consistent. Rubio in Dubuque in October was nearly indistinguishable from Rubio in Miami in April, the political equivalent of a well-managed restaurant chain: "Repeal and replace Obamacare," scrap President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran "on Day One," create the "most affordable business taxes in the world"--all the while heeding the populist frustrations of the moment. Vowing to remake higher education, he said, "When I'm President, before you take on student loans you're going to know how much people make when they graduate from that school with that degree. You're going to know that the market for philosophers has tightened over the last two thousand years." In 2012, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, spoke worshipfully of "job creators." Rubio rarely mentions them. He returns, over and over, to his central task: how to make helping the poor and the middle class a Republican issue. He tells crowds, "We can no longer allow big government to be used as a tool of crony capitalism."

But, at bottom, his campaign is only partly about policy. In a contest against a real-estate tycoon and the son and brother of former Presidents, Rubio is campaigning on the vision of a country where "the son of a bartender and a maid" can reach the White House. "It's not just my story--it is literally our story," he told the Boulder City crowd. "In this nation, we are all but a generation or two removed from someone who made our future the very purpose of their lives. Whether or not we remain a special country will be determined by whether or not that journey is still possible for the people trying to make it now."

The applause was long and loud, and as Rubio climbed down from the stage to pose for selfies I asked the first couple I saw what they made of him. Cornelia Wallace, a retired nurse from the Chicago suburbs, said, "Well, I've got tears welled up in my eyes." She laughed at her own reaction. "It touched my heart," she said, and shrugged. "I get a passion from him that I don't get from the others." [...]

For Republican strategists, the loss of the 2012 Presidential election contained signals that spoke to the Party's future. Latinos are the largest minority group in America, but in 2012 "there was more talk about electrified fences than there was about higher education and tuition," Peter Wehner, a Republican speechwriter and strategist who served in the past three Republican Administrations, told me. "You can't win elections when you do that." Romney, who had called for the "self-deportation" of immigrants, received just twenty-seven per cent of the Latino vote--seventeen points less than what George W. Bush received in 2004. For years, Republicans have believed that they should be faring better with Hispanic voters. Ronald Reagan liked to say that Latinos are Republicans but "just don't know it yet." Lionel Sosa, a Texas adman who was hired to run Reagan's outreach program to Latinos, recalled, "Ronald Reagan told me, back in the 1980 race, 'Latinos are conservative people. As Republicans, we share the same basic conservative values. We believe in hard work. We believe in family.' "

For Wehner and other reform-minded conservatives, the lessons of 2012 were also economic. "The middle class felt vulnerable and nervous, because of stagnant wages for twenty-five years and skyrocketing costs in health care and higher education," Wehner told me. "The Party needed an agenda, and it was out of touch with middle-class concerns." The reformers urged the Party to get over same-sex marriage (a "losing battle"), focus on economic anxiety, and, above all, identify a leader who could articulate a vision that reached beyond Party orthodoxy. As Wehner put it, "You need a figure like a Bill Clinton or a Tony Blair, who can reassure the base and inspire them, but also to signal to people who are not voting for you, 'We get it.' "

Whit Ayres, a leading Republican analyst who has been Rubio's pollster for the past five years, drew a somewhat different lesson. He agreed about the demographic reality. "Unfortunately for Republicans, the math is only going to get worse," he wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. "Groups that form the core of G.O.P. support--older whites, blue-collar whites, married people and rural residents--are declining as a proportion of the electorate. Groups that lean Democratic--minorities, young people and single women--are growing." He calculated that, in order to win, a Republican Presidential candidate would need at least forty per cent of the Latino vote. But in "2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America," published earlier this year, Ayres made a subtle distinction between style and substance. He wrote that polls have found "no evidence that America has shifted to the left." In his view, America remains a center-right country, the Party's core ideas are sound, and the problem lies in finding "the right candidate, the right message, and the right tone." He tested a range of ways of presenting core Republican ideas and composed a list of dos and don'ts. Don't say we have to reform entitlements or "we will never balance the budget." Do say that entitlement reform is "the only way to save popular programs."

November 27, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Despite governors' resistance, Syrian refugees find support in US (Henry Gass, NOVEMBER 27, 2015, CS Monitor)

"The negative publicity and the horrendous things these governors are saying, it does effect public opinion," says Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), a nonprofit organization in New Haven, Conn., that helped Mahmoud and his family settle in the city. "We are worried there could be individuals who make life unpleasant for refugees."

Yet despite the concerns, US organizations like IRIS that are working to resettle Syrian refugees are confident that America's welcoming disposition will prevail in the coming months. Already, in fact, some organizations say they're getting a level of support from communities that may mean that opposition from some governors won't matter.

It appears, at least anecdotally, that so far a broad public backlash against Syrian refugees simply isn't happening.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Hilary Benn tells Corbyn: I'm doing my job in supporting Syria airstrikes (Rowena Mason and Daniel Boffey, 27 November 2015, The Guardian)

The shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, has said he will not resign over his backing of airstrikes on Isis in Syria, despite his party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, writing to all Labour MPs setting out his opposition to military action. [...]

Benn's stance effectively challenges Corbyn to allow members of the shadow cabinet to vote with their conscience or sack him and other rebels.

At a difficult meeting on Thursday, around half of the shadow cabinet, including Benn, the deputy leader, Tom Watson, the shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell, the shadow lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, and others made it clear they were minded to back the government's case for extending airstrikes when it is put to a vote in the Commons next week.

November 26, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 10:50 AM


Not that there's ever a bad time to be an American, but in this time of particular prosperity and general peace it's an easy day to give Thanks.  

We'd also like the thank all of your for reading Brothersjudd and participating in the community.

May you and yours be healthy, happy and thankful today and always.

The Brothers 

Posted by orrinj at 10:27 AM


Let's Talk Turkey (MARIAN L. TUPY SHARE, 11/19/15, Cato)

[L]et us see what happens when we adjust the nominal cost of Thanksgiving dinners by the rise in nominal wages.

In October 2014, FRED tells us, the average hourly wage of production and nonsupervisory employees in the private sector (i.e., blue collar workers) was $20.72. In October 2015, it was $21.18.

That means that in 2014, an average worker had to work 2 hours 23 minutes and 5 seconds to procure all the items needed to buy a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people. In 2015, s/he had to work 2 hours 21 minutes and 57 seconds to do the same. So, in terms of actual work, the price of a Thanksgiving dinner has decreased by 1 minute and 8 seconds between 2014 and 2015.

That may seem like small beans, but consider what happened to the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner since 1986, which was the first year in which the AFBF collected the pertinent data. In 1986, Thanksgiving dinner cost $28.74. In October 1986, an average worker made $8.96 an hour. That means that s/he had to work 3 hours 12 minutes and 27 seconds, or 50 minutes and 30 seconds longer than worker today.

We radically underestimate the deflationary epoch.
Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM


Russian deployment of S-400 in Syria unlikely, expert says (Judah Ari Gross, 11/25/15, The Times of Israel)

Its placement in Latakia would grant Russia aerial oversight over practically all of Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus, over half of Turkey, parts of Iraq and Jordan -- and, of course, Israel: Planes flying in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport -- approximately 395 kilometers (245 miles) from Latakia -- would be within Russian sights.

"Do we have something to fear? The answer is: yes and no," Russia expert Zvi Magen told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

"If [the S-400] is indeed deployed," Magen explained, "it will be a game-changer."

However, that is a big "if," according to Magen, who served as Israel's ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia in the 1990s. "I don't see it actually reaching Syria," the former Israeli ambassador to Moscow and Kiev explained.

B-52 BOMBERS TO GET LONGER-RANGE CRUISE MISSILES (Kelsey D. Atherton  Posted November 24, 2015, Popular Science)

The 2,000-pound JASSM uses infrared and a jam-resistant GPS receiver to find its way to targets. Half of the missile is a 1,000-pound payload, designed to penetrate fortified targets, and the JASSM cruises to its targets with its own jet engine. The original missile could travel about 200 miles, but the extended-range version (JASSM-ER) can hit targets at least 500 miles away. That range is what makes them so attractive for the B-52; while the plane still flies fine, it's not in the least bit stealthy and anti-air defenses have improved dramatically since the Stratofortress was designed in the 1950s. Hitting targets an extra 300 miles further away than previously available keeps the B-52 in the fight, making the aging fleet a valuable Pentagon tool for years to come.

Few things in life are more amusing than the neocons' fear of Russian might.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


'I was tossed out of the tribe': climate scientist Judith Curry interviewed : For engaging with sceptics, and discussing uncertainties in projections frankly, this Georgia professor is branded a heretic (David Rose, 28 November 2015, Standpoint)

In the run-up to the Paris conference, said Curry, much ink has been spilled over whether the individual emissions pledges made so far by more than 150 countries -- their 'intentional nationally determined contributions', to borrow the jargon -- will be enough to stop the planet from crossing the 'dangerous' threshold of becoming 2°C hotter than in pre-industrial times. Much of the conference will consist of attempts to make these targets legally binding. This debate will be conducted on the basis that there is a known, mechanistic relationship between the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and how world average temperatures will rise.

Unfortunately, as Curry has shown, there isn't. Any such projection is meaningless, unless it accounts for natural variability and gives a value for 'climate sensitivity' --i.e., how much hotter the world will get if the level of CO2 doubles. Until 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave a 'best estimate' of 3°C. But in its latest, 2013 report, the IPCC abandoned this, because the uncertainties are so great. Its 'likely' range is now vast -- 1.5°C to 4.5°C.

This isn't all. According to Curry, the claims being made by policymakers suggest they are still making new policy from the old, now discarded assumptions. Recent research suggests the climate sensitivity is significantly less than 3˚C. 'There's growing evidence that climate sensitivity is at the lower end of the spectrum, yet this has been totally ignored in the policy debate,' Curry told me. 'Even if the sensitivity is 2.5˚C, not 3˚C, that makes a substantial difference as to how fast we might get to a world that's 2˚C warmer. A sensitivity of 2.5˚C makes it much less likely we will see 2˚C warming during the 21st century. There are so many uncertainties, but the policy people say the target is fixed. And if you question this, you will be slagged off as a denier.'

Curry added that her own work, conducted with the British independent scientist Nic Lewis, suggests that the sensitivity value may still lower, in which case the date when the world would be 2˚C warmer would be even further into the future. On the other hand, the inherent uncertainties of climate projection mean that values of 4˚C cannot be ruled out -- but if that turns out to be the case, then the measures discussed at Paris and all the previous 20 UN climate conferences would be futile. In any event, 'the economists and policymakers seem unaware of the large uncertainties in climate sensitivity', despite its enormous implications.

Meanwhile, the obsessive focus on CO2 as the driver of climate change means other research on natural climate variability is being neglected. For example, solar experts believe we could be heading towards a 'grand solar minimum' -- a reduction in solar output (and, ergo, a period of global cooling) similar to that which once saw ice fairs on the Thames. 'The work to establish the solar-climate connection is lagging.'

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


The Battle Of Wills That The Soviet Union Lost (EDWARD LUCAS, December 2015, Standpoint)

The United States did not quite realise how weak the Soviet Union had become. For their part the Soviet leadership was only beginning to discover the true failure of the planned economy.

Professor Service meticulously documents the ins and outs of the diplomatic story. For those of us who have forgotten the intricacies and significance of the Pershing and Cruise missile deployment in Europe, or the importance of "Star Wars" -- President Reagan's visionary, costly and impractical idea of creating a missile-defence shield for the United States -- this book is a powerful reminder. It is well worth remembering too that Reagan's optimism about sweeping nuclear disarmament horrified his European allies: without America's nuclear shield, they would be left facing the overwhelming conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact. 

Some of the mysteries remain unanswered. What was Gorbachev really up to in the last disastrous year of his rule? Shevardnadze resigned in December 1990, warning that dictatorship was round the corner. How much did Gorbachev know about the August putsch in 1991? Was he really the plotters' victim, or also their accomplice? What happened to the Communist Party's money, and the KGB's slush funds, which were funnelled out of the Soviet Union towards the end, and played an important role in helping the old regime reinvent itself in capitalist clothes? On the American side, what was the role of Saudi Arabia in driving down the oil price in order deliberately to destroy the Soviet economy? The book devotes only two sentences to this vital question.

A bigger flaw in its high-level narrative is that it broadly treats the Soviet Union and the West as equals. In a sense that is true. Each had the capacity to obliterate the other. But it would be a mistake to ascribe equal moral weight to both. Reagan was right when he called the Soviet Union an "evil empire": it was evil, and it was an empire. America was neither. France was able to leave Nato's command structure. There was no Western equivalent of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, the crushing of the Hungarian uprising, or martial law in Poland. Western Europe was part of the West because it wanted to be. Eastern Europe was under Kremlin rule because the Red Army had conquered it in 1945. That is a big difference. Might becomes right eventually (think of the Sioux, or the ancient Britons). But not that quickly. 

The fundamental illegitimacy of the Soviet system is not just a detail. It is at the heart of the story of the Soviet collapse. American negotiators were in a position of strength not just because their economy was bigger and their military stronger, but because they represented a free society and were negotiating with slave-masters. Shultz, Weinberger and the other denizens of the Reagan White House were not perfect, but they had not risen to the heights of power by sucking up to mass murderers, denouncing colleagues, and bending their brains to fit the party line. Their counterparts in the Soviet Union had done all that and more. The shadow of Stalinism, and its millions of victims, hung heavy over the Soviet Union to the day it died. For all America's flaws, there was no commensurate moral baggage. 

This is particularly important because of the role of the captive nations in bringing down the Soviet Union. The USSR is best understood as an empire, not a state. It covered up its imperialism in the language of internationalism, but that should not deceive us. This book would have benefited from its author paying more attention to the struggle for freedom in the captive nations, and less to the politicking of their jailers.

With his heavy focus on Washington, DC and Moscow, Service treats the independence of the Baltic states, and the struggle for freedom in Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries as abstract items on the diplomatic agenda. They were not. People risked and even sacrificed their lives for a freedom that they fully realised they might never see. The Soviet Union collapsed from the bottom up, as well as (and perhaps more than) from the top down. That perspective, and the voices of the brave people involved, are largely missing.

For his part, Gorbachev completely failed to appreciate either the way in which the Soviet Union was founded on a failed economic and political system, or its role as the jailer and despoiler of neighbouring counties. That was one of the many reasons why his haphazard and ill-thought-out reform efforts failed.

The final tragedy of the USSR was that Yuri Andropov, the first leader to realize that it had no future, died before he could negotiate its end.  He was their Ariel Sharon.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


My Republican Brother Breaks Down the 2016 Race (Maureen Dowd, 11/26/15, New York Times)

It's always amusing when Ms Dowd uses her "brother" to reveal her own thoughts. He's her Colbert.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


This Pro-Life Group Targets Planned Parenthood's Corporate Funding (Kate Scanlon,  November 25, 2015, Daily Signal)

A pro-life group say it has convinced more than 300 companies to stop donating to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.

The organization, Life Decisions International, tracks corporate sponsors of Planned Parenthood in an effort to encourage them to stop donating. [...]

Using Planned Parenthood's own annual reports, newsletters and IRS documents, Life Decisions International determines which companies contribute funds. It adds the findings to a list of such donors, and encourages pro-lifers to use the list to boycott them.

Discussions with each company are "kept completely confidential to spare them the backlash from pro-abortion people," Scott said.

Tom Strobhar, chairman of Life Decisions International, told The Daily Signal that more than 300 companies "no longer give to Planned Parenthood" because of his organization.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Europe and Islam: A clash of failures  (Michael Brendan Dougherty, November 24, 2015, )

[F]rance and Islam each hold out a universal promise for the world. And in each other, they see that promise revealed as a lie.

As I wrote last week, for some Muslims, the modern world presents a crisis for Islam. If Allah grants victories to the faithful community of believers, then Islam's current situation is a problem. The Islamic world has been in retreat for decades, if not centuries. The exit of colonial powers has left the Middle East and surrounding regions to corrupt governments, seduced by foreign intrigue or foreign aid. Globalization sends constant reminders of the economic superiority of the West into the Muslim world, along with messages preaching the superiority of Western hedonism, human rights, and feminism. For certain Muslims, this is not an unfortunate turn in history, but a sign of the Muslim world's defection from Allah. Islam must be purified to restore the ummah to the conditions of the early centuries of the faith. Islam's failure to conquer, or even to produce workable, livable arrangements with its own domain, becomes an invitation to fundamentalism and conflict.

Something similar is happening to French society. After World War II, France devoted itself evermore fully to its conceptions of universal values. France disavowed political nationalism, and joined the European project with enthusiasm. France was to show that if French men were to become Nietzsche's last men, well, what's wrong with that? Every man wants to be free, prosperous, leisured. History has a direction, away from religion, prejudice, divisive nationalism, and toward reason. History was a march toward universally applicable and universally appealing human rights. In a few years, the sons of Algerian and Iraqi immigrants will drink coffee, a little Bordeaux too. They will pretend to be existentialists, and organize to keep French working hours distinctively French. Everyone in their heart wants this, no?

It turns out not. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Uh-oh!: bemused Chinese react to John McDonnell's Chairman Mao speech (Tom Phillips, 26 November 2015, The Guardian)

Mao Zedong's homeland reacted with a mixture of scorn, jubilation and amusement after the shadow chancellor gave the Great Helmsman's teachings their parliamentary debut.

Chinese news outlets were quick to pick up on reports of John McDonnell's controversial speech to parliament on Wednesday after which he tossed a copy of Mao's crimson tome across the dispatch box towards George Osborne. [...]

Others were less amused that the Chinese despot had been resuscitated at the very heart of British democracy.

"Uh-oh! Mao's leftwing ideologies are rising up again!" wrote one.

Another comment read: "[Laugh cry] [laugh cry] [laugh cry] [laugh cry] [laugh cry] [laugh cry] [laugh cry] [laugh cry]."

[Laugh Laugh]

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Austrian ISIS 'poster girl' reportedly beaten to death after trying to escape Syria (, 11/25/15)

One of two Austrian teenagers dubbed "poster girls" for ISIS was beaten to death after she was caught trying to escape the terror group's de facto capital in Syria, according to published reports.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Iran offers huge economic potential. Can it deliver? (John Defterios, 11/25/15, CNNMoney)

Jewelry designer Anahita Ostadi has also struggled with the banking restrictions, as well as high taxes and daunting bureaucracy.

"I hope in the future we have a country that is open to everyone, especially the U.S. and the others," Anahita told CNN.

That view is shared by many of Iran's younger generation. (Some 60% of the population is under 30.)

But it's at odds with the country's hardliners. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said recently that he wanted to "seriously avoid importing consumer goods from the United States."

Still, businesses are preparing to cater for that demand. Opened just 15 months ago, The Kourash Complex is the first ultra modern mall in Tehran. It has more than 500 stores, and attracts 40,000 shoppers a day.

"In my opinion, yes they want U.S. products," said Ali Rezaei, owner of "Ave est" -- one of the first men's retailers to open up in the complex.

Amir Rizai, the mall's manager, says "Iran's Golden Times" are just two to five years away.

If all goes well, Iran could see economic growth of nearly 6% in 2016, and 6.7% the following year, according to the Institute of International Finance. That compares with less than 1% projected by the IMF this year.

The upbeat forecasts assume that the government of President Hassan Rouhani manages to navigate change successfully. Iran is on the cusp of ending years of economic isolation; a younger generation is yearning to open up, but the hardliners are pushing back, unwilling to give up the way they have done business for decades.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Donald Trump mocks reporter's disability (Mark Mooney, 11/25/15, CNNMoney)

Trump waved his arms in an awkward manner to lampoon Serge Kovaleski at a rally in South Carolina Tuesday night. Kovaleski has a chronic condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his arms. [...]

Trump's performance was prompted by a story Kovaleski had written in 2001 that refuted claims that thousands of Muslims in Jersey City cheered the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Trump is insisting that he saw "thousands" of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City, N.J., as the twin towers burned fell on the other side of the Hudson River.

November 25, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


The Near-Impossibility of Assimilation in Belgium (CHIKA UNIGWE, NOV. 25, 2015, NY Times)

Some years ago, I was invited to sit on a panel in Antwerp -- "together with other distinguished foreigners," in the words of the panel organizer -- to discuss language and culture in Flanders. I had, by then, become a naturalized Belgian, but I had never felt accepted enough to claim that identity; when people asked where I was from, I still said Nigeria. I had come to Belgium as an adult. Neither my Dutch nor my French was as fluent as the average Belgian's. Perhaps, I reasoned, people had every right to deny me access to that identity.

When the biographies of my co-panelists were read, though, I was stunned to learn that all three of them had been born and raised in Belgium. One was a newscaster whose Dutch might even have been considered posh, whose only relationship with his parents' country was as a visiting tourist. Yet he had shown up at the panel as an immigrant! When I asked the moderator what made my co-panelists "foreign," his answer used the Flemish word "allochtonen" -- the opposite of indigenous, a word that means, literally, "originating from another country." My co-panelists were of North African and Turkish origins; their names and their skin ensured that they would always be classified as allochtonen. Growing up in Belgium, they had internalized the label: once an allochtoon, always an allochtoon.

Or almost always. Another writer once told me the word was simply a way of identifying one's cultural roots. But when someone else waded into the conversation to ask if her son, who was half-British, should be considered allochtoon, the writer said no: "He's Caucasian. How is anyone going to know he's half anything?"

I thought of this when I ran into Toon two years later. Toon had been in my oldest's second-grade class, except he was not called Toon then, and his Dutch was heavily accented and hesitant; he and his mother had just arrived from Poland. As far as his teacher was concerned, this made him one of two foreigners in the class -- the other being my son, whose father is Flemish, whose last name is Flemish, who had only ever vacationed in Nigeria for a few weeks. (When she spoke of Africans, she made sure to point him out as one.) The day I ran into Toon, I called him by his Polish name, but he smiled and said, "Ma'am. I am now called Toon" -- a very Flemish name. His accent was gone. A change of name and accent were all Toon needed to bridge a gap that the Belgian-born children of "other-colored" immigrants will never be able to.

Assimilation, for a Belgian with non-European roots, is a near-impossible task.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM

GHWB '88 OR GORE '00?:

Republicans Hold the Edge in the 2016 Presidential Race : If the party doesn't split in two, the eventual GOP nominee should be favored to defeat Hillary Clinton. (Josh Kraushaar, 11/24/15, National Journal)

Nearly every fun­da­ment­al meas­ure--with the not­able ex­cep­tion of the coun­try's demo­graph­ic shifts--fa­vors the Re­pub­lic­ans in 2016. The pub­lic over­whelm­ingly be­lieves the coun­try is headed in the wrong dir­ec­tion (23/69, a his­tor­ic low in Bloomberg's na­tion­al poll). Pres­id­ent Obama's job-ap­prov­al rat­ing has been con­sist­ently un­der­wa­ter, with the op­pos­i­tion in­tensely re­ject­ing his policies. Any eco­nom­ic growth has been un­even, with more Amer­ic­ans pess­im­ist­ic than op­tim­ist­ic about the fu­ture. The pub­lic's nat­ur­al de­sire for change after eight years of Demo­crats in the White House be­ne­fits the op­pos­i­tion. Mean­while, the party's likely stand­ard-bear­er has been saddled with weak fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ings of her own, with her email scan­dal drag­ging down her trust­wor­thi­ness in the minds of voters. This is not the en­vir­on­ment in which the party in power typ­ic­ally pre­vails.

That was all true even be­fore the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Par­is rat­cheted up na­tion­al se­cur­ity as a dom­in­ant is­sue head­ing in­to the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. Obama, who dis­missed IS­IS ter­ror­ists this week as "a bunch of killers with good so­cial me­dia," is badly out of step with Amer­ic­an pub­lic opin­ion on the cru­cial is­sue. This week's ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post sur­vey showed 59 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans be­lieve the U.S. is "at war with rad­ic­al Is­lam"--a phrase most Demo­crats res­ist us­ing. A siz­able 60 per­cent ma­jor­ity sup­ports send­ing ground troops in­to Syr­ia and Ir­aq to fight IS­IS. Even on the is­sue of hous­ing Syr­i­an refugees, on which lead­ing Demo­crats have ral­lied be­hind the pres­id­ent, polls show a clear ma­jor­ity of voters--along with about one-third of the House Demo­crat­ic caucus--now op­pose such meas­ures.

For Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents, na­tion­al se­cur­ity has been a first-tier is­sue since the IS­IS be­head­ings of Amer­ic­an journ­al­ists in Syr­ia last sum­mer. But for Demo­crats, the is­sue lagged as a sec­ond­ary one, even be­hind cli­mate change--a point Bernie Sanders con­tin­ued to make after the Par­is at­tacks. Hil­lary Clin­ton's ex­per­i­ence in for­eign policy is an as­set, and she show­cased her smarts--and dif­fer­ences with the pres­id­ent's view of IS­IS and ur­gency of the ter­ror­ist threat--at a Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions speech last week. But she'll be saddled by the re­cord of the ad­min­is­tra­tion she served, un­der which IS­IS meta­stas­ized as a threat. If ex­per­i­ence was the most im­port­ant factor in today's polit­ics, Clin­ton might have a life­line. Re­pub­lic­ans, however, will have loads of ma­ter­i­al with which to ques­tion her for­eign policy judg­ment.

The Demo­crats' hopes of hold­ing the White House rest on: a) re­mo­bil­iz­ing the Obama co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als, single wo­men, and non­white voters; and b) hop­ing that Re­pub­lic­ans nom­in­ate someone out­side the main­stream, like Don­ald Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Netanyahu said to rebuff IDF pitch to arm PA, release prisoners (TIMES OF ISRAEL, November 25, 2015)

A senior Israeli official said the government would not approve the transfer of more arms to the Palestinians or approve the release of more security prisoners, Wednesday night, rebuffing a reported IDF proposal to implement the measures as a way to ease tensions.

The comment, by an unnamed source in the Prime Minister's Office close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came quickly on the heels of a briefing by a senior IDF official that suggested a series of goodwill gestures to curb a recent wave of terror attacks.

...especially now that there is none with Iran.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


How to Counter Violent Extremism : Heavy-handed tactics don't stop terrorism. Good policing and public trials do. (PHILIP GIRALDI,  November 16, 2015, American Conservative)

I recently attended a very interesting conference in Washington that considered how to analyze the problem that has been called "violent extremism" and questioned what should be done about it, if anything. Several expert panels quickly made clear that the label violent extremism is meaningless, an expression of convenience that actually serves to obscure the broad range of motives that can push someone to become part of a terrorist attack. Several speakers noted that the problem itself has clearly been exaggerated for political reasons, to create a wedge issue to attack the administration. Participants observed that of the thousands of mostly Muslim Americans who have sympathy for the fate of their coreligionists overseas and peruse what are too often loosely described as radical websites, few accept that violence is an appropriate response--and still fewer are willing to do something about it.

So law enforcement and intelligence agencies are actually dealing with a tiny subset within a small minority of the American population. I would add that this marked lack of genuine "homegrown" militants explains the frequency of arrests in terrorism cases where the accused have actually done nothing whatsoever and sometimes appear to have been motivated largely by the ubiquitous FBI informants that are often inserted into such investigations at an early stage. Most cases are consequently resolved with either a plea bargain or with a reduced charge relating to "material support" of terrorism. [...]

One thing that was largely missing from the discussion was a sense of history, not particularly surprising given the age and background of most of the participants. I began my career in the CIA working against the largely European terrorist groups that were active in the 1970s and 1980s. To be sure, there were Middle Eastern groups like Abu Nidal also prominent at the time, but the best known and most lethal terrorists were Germans, Italians, and Irishmen. They were just as ruthless as anything we are seeing today and, interestingly enough, the same questions that are being raised currently regarding the radicalization of young Muslims were raised back then regarding middle class Europeans, with a similar lack of any kind of satisfactory explanation. This is largely due to the fact that no simple answer exists because the road to radicalization, as the panels noted, can be quite complicated. Any attempt to create a model can result in erroneous conclusions that inevitably lead to the simple expedient of increasing police and governmental powers.

The defeat of terrorist groups in the 1980s and 1990s should be the starting point for any discussion of potential domestic terrorism. That era tells us what works and what doesn't. Heavy-handed military style approaches, employed initially by the British in Northern Ireland, do not succeed. Terrorist groups come in all shapes, colors, and sizes but at the end of the day they constitute political movements, seeking to replace what they see as an unlawful government with something that corresponds to their own sense of legitimacy. Identifying them as fanatics of one kind or another or as "mentally ill" obscures what they really represent--even if it is clearly useful from a propaganda point of view to energize public support for government initiatives.

Avoiding heavy-handed attempts to penetrate and control identifiable communities that the terrorists operate within has failed since the French tried it in Algeria. Relying on the existing courts and law enforcement does work because the justice system has an inherent legitimacy. Identifying terrorists as criminals and dealing with them as such openly and transparently through the criminal justice system provides a guarantee of at least a modicum of due process, particularly when honest efforts are also made to obtain the support and cooperation of the moderates in the local community. That is how the Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof, ETA, and the IRA were eventually brought to heel. It also led to the dismantling of radical groups including the Weathermen in the United States as well as the Tupamaros and Dev Sol in South America.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


A Frenchman's appreciation of Thanksgiving (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, November 25, 2015, tHE wEEK)

[W]hile I could get aggrieved about the triteness of "giving thanks," I'm not. Yes, it's such a hallmark of America's public religiosity, a bland spirituality that doesn't actually say anything specific, but tries to give you warm fuzzy feelings. But it's worked pretty well for you as a social glue. And, more importantly, when life gives us opportunities, we should seize them. Yes, Valentine's Day is a made-up, schmaltzy, commercialized holiday -- but it can also be an occasion for celebrating and strengthening bonds with your loved one. Similarly, gratitude really is good for the soul; we should appreciate a holiday dedicated to it.

So, America: This Thanksgiving, when you ask yourself what to be thankful for, start by being thankful for Thanksgiving itself.

...even the BLMers and Trumpets will be sensibly Thankful tomorrow.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


McDonnell's great leap forward puts Osborne one step ahead (John Crace, 11/25/15, The Guardian)

Replying to a budget speech that you haven't seen is one of the more thankless tasks, and the faces on the Labour benches were looking increasingly grim as John McDonnell bumbled, fumbled and stumbled his way through his first effort. But John didn't care, because John knew he had his own very special rabbit up his sleeve. His eyes sparkled as the moment when he would unite his party and sweep the Tories away came nearer. "Timing, John, timing," he told himself, his hand foraged inside his jacket pocket. Out came a well-thumbed copy of Mao Zedong's Little Red Book.

"We learn to do economic work from all who know how, no matter who they are," he said beatifically. "We must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously, but we must not pretend to know what we do not know." Having made his point, he threw the Little Red Book across the dispatch box towards the chancellor.

John could already hear the Labour MPs behind him rise to their feet, cheering, as the Tories raised their white handkerchiefs in surrender while voluntarily asking to be sent to the pig farms for re-education. Let three hundred and thirty flowers bloom. The long march was over and his time had come. They think it's all over ... It is Mao.

It only gradually dawned on John that it was the government benches who were doing all the shouting and laughing. Behind him, only the sound of one door slamming. The blood drained from the faces of dozens of Labour MPs, who had been looking to the chancellor's statement for a glimmer of light after weeks of being wrongfooted on security. Some upped and left. Shots rang out from the Commons chamber. Better to self-purge than to be purged.

John was bewildered. When he'd tried out that gag the night before at the secretariat of his local politburo, everyone had fallen about laughing. "The Commons will love it," Chairman Jez Cor-Bao had said. "No one will imagine for a minute that this will merely confirm many people's view that the Labour party has been taken over by a load of old commies who admire a man now remembered mainly in the west for killing 45 million of his own people during the great leap forward. Why not go the whole hog and quote from Marx and Lenin, too?"

Tumbleweed began to roll through the Labour benches as false consciousness won the day. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Godfather of terror: Saudi Arabia and 'IS' (Deutsche-Welle, 11/25/15)

Hatred against those of a different faith. A bizarre world view that sees Islam threatened in many kinds of ways. Mistrust against everyone who doesn't think and believe like oneself: these are central ideological elements of the terror organization "Islamic State" (IS). It didn't invent this world view, at least not alone. When 'IS' agitates against Shiites, Yazidis, Christians and Jews, it shows close parallels to the world view of Wahhabism, the radical-conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam, which is the state religion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In actual fact there are unmistakable parallels between IS and Wahhabism.[...]

Saudi Arabia exports its version of Sunni Islam with the utmost consequence. In the last 25 years a former US ambassador estimated in a published study in 2007 that the kingdom had invested at least 87 billion dollars in religious propaganda worldwide. This sum, he thinks, may even have increased further due to the high price of oil over an extended period. The funds went towards the construction of mosques, Madrassa Koran schools and religious institutions, and helped finance the training of Imams, publishing houses and Wahhabi text books.

A large part of the funds go to economically weak, but populous Islamic countries in south and southeast Asia, such as Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, or Malaysia. Proselytizing for Wahhabism is also done in parts of Africa. For many people in these parts of the world it is the only possibility of getting a school education. There they learn how to read and write and are also given access to the Wahhabi teachings. But there are also Saudi Arabian financed institutions in the West.

The ideological closeness to "Islamic State" (IS) is reflected in concrete economic aid. It's hard to say how money is channeled to IS: The funds are transferred in the so-called Hawala System, an informal transfer system, where the money is not transferred in official bank notes, but via trusted third parties. Also here it's not clear, how far the Saudi state supports the IS directly or indirectly.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Is Donald Trump really a 'fascist?' (Peter Grier, Staff writer NOVEMBER 25, 2015, CS Monitor)

Is Donald Trump really "fascist"?

That's the (loaded) word some in the GOP are beginning to use to describe the billionaire presidential hopeful. It seems his recent nativist statements - including his apparent endorsement of a national registry for Muslims in the US, and support for the surveillance of mosques - have pushed Republicans who think Trump is unelectable over the edge.

Fascists seek to conserve their culture and institutions in the face of nihilistic revolutionaries, like Trump.

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