November 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


Who is Marcia Fudge, the Democrat considering challenging Nancy Pelosi for House speaker? (Clare Foran,  November 17, 2018, CNN)

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi continues to project confidence that she will be elected speaker of the US House of Representatives when the new Democratic-led Congress starts in January -- but she faces a potential challenger in Rep. Marcia Fudge.

Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, has publicly said she is considering jumping into the race for speaker, though she has yet to announce a final decision. She has represented Ohio's 11th Congressional District since 2008 and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of progressive Democrats in the House, and a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, an influential voting bloc in the lower chamber.

While it's fun to watch Ms Fudge and Ms Pelosi play the gender, race and sexuality cards against each other, you'd think someone might care that neither of them is even just a competent legislator, nevermind a good one. Meanwhile, the GOP picked a great one over one of the worst in Congress as their leader.  It would seem a minimum requirement for the jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Homelessness Is a Tragedy the U.S. Can Afford to Fix (Noah Smith, May 21, 2018, Bloomberg)

 In the mid-2000s, President George W. Bush's "housing first" program made substantial inroads against the problem. President Barack Obama continued the campaign with the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program in 2009 and a follow-up program in 2010. As a result of these efforts, the nationwide homeless population has continued to fall... [...]

About 3.5 million Americans will experience homelessness at some point in time, but only about a half-million are homeless at any given time, and roughly 87,000 of these are chronically homeless. By some estimates, housing a homeless person and providing them with a caseworker to see to their needs costs about $10,000 a year. That means for less than a billion dollars a year, chronic homelessness could be ended in the U.S. If temporarily homeless people were housed in temporary housing, and if each temporary residence were occupied half the time, homelessness of all kinds could be eliminated for about $10 billion a year. That's less than a seventh of what the government spends on food stamps.

The spending would be worth it. Homeless people are the country's most destitute and needy citizens, and every day they spend on the street is a human tragedy. It's hard to think of a better way to use a tax dollar than on housing a homeless person. What's more, a federal initiative to end homelessness would utterly transform many of the country's cities, making them more pleasant for all residents and raising productivity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:18 PM



In the short year and a half that Mueller has been investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's ties to it, he has indicted some of Trump's most senior campaign officials. In each of those court filings he has included far more information than he needed to, notes Graff. For example, when Mueller indicted officers of Russia's military intelligence GRU agency for hacking, he noted in the criminal filing that the night that Donald Trump went on live TV and invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton and find her missing emails, the GRU "returned to the office and attacked Hillary Clinton's personal email server for the first time," Graff says, emphasizing that last phrase.

"Mueller uses that phrase 'for the first time' in the indictment, which is totally unnecessary, unless Mueller wants us to know that further down the road," he says. "Mueller is making claims that I think point to breadcrumbs he is leaving us for where this is going to go."

Graff says that once you factor in the information hidden in plain sight in the indictments, as well as what is pointedly left out of them, you begin to see that Mueller is carving out the negative space where the heart of the investigation lies. "He is staying very, very focused," Graff explains, "and anything that he's finding that is not directly related to Russia he is handing off to other prosecutors in a really interesting way, because it gives us almost a negative relief of how to view Mueller's investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Dershowitz Received $120K From Anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute (Eli Clifton, 11/15/18, Lobelog)"

On cable news, Dershowitz has emerged as a go-to Trump-defender and critic of the left wing of the Democratic Party, all while self-identifying as a "liberal Democrat." Over the summer, Dershowitz loudly complained about being shunned by Martha's Vineyard's largely liberal residents.

But Dershowitz's shift to the right, and the frequent defense of the Trump administration, has coincided with a lucrative source of income for the retired professor.

Dershowitz's work for the anti-refugee and anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute paid him $120,000 in 2017, making him one of the group's highest paid contractors, according to tax disclosures reviewed by LobeLog.

They have a shared hatred of Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


RIP, California GOP: Republicans lash out after midterm election debacle: 'There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure,' says one top Republican. (CARLA MARINUCCI, 11/17/2018, Politico)

"I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die -- I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,'' says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. "There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure."

Republicans like Madrid also mourned another low point this week: the defeat of Southern California Assemblyman Dante Acosta, marking the demise of the last GOP Latino legislator -- in a state where Latinos comprise the fastest-growing electorate.

"The California Republican Party isn't salvageable at this time. The Grand Old Party is dead," wrote former state GOP Assembly leader Kristin Olsen, who startled fellow Republicans with a brutally frank op-ed this week saying Republicans must acknowledge their "serious problem" in California, particularly the effects of toxicity of President Trump.

GOP strategist John Weaver, who has worked California races and also has represented the presidential campaign of Ohio governor John Kasich, seconded Olsen's view, tweeting that the effects of the Trump presidency have doomed any chance of resurrection. "In one fell swoop Trump & Republicans who willingly handcuffed themselves to him have turned Orange County into a GOP wasteland,'' he tweeted this week. "You want to see the future? Look no further than the demographic death spiral in the place once considered a cornerstone of the party."

Madrid argues that many California Republican leaders remain in complete denial of the fact that their continued support of Trump presidency has sealed the fate of the GOP -- and last week's midterm elections revealed the true extent of the GOP's rot in California, where the state party has now shrunken to third party status.

"Now, it's just open warfare. The barbarians have broken through the gates. The army is in full retreat,'' said Madrid, who adds there's no hope left for a party that for years has been on a path toward destruction. "Burn it to the ground. I want to reconstitute.''

To the contrary, the message could hardly be clearer: we are the party of old white men and no one else is welcome.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


When the Scientific Consensus Is Corrected by a Skeptic (ABE GREENWALD, 11/16/18, Commentary)
A group of international scientists is walking back major claims they'd made in the journal Nature about the rate at which the earth's oceans are warming. A newly published note from the study's co-author, Ralph Keeting, makes it plain that these researchers still believe the oceans are warming at an alarming rate, but they now acknowledge that procedural mistakes "that came to our attention" created an unacceptably large margin of error in their results.

That "came to our attention" line conceals the most important aspect of the story. These scientists work out of Princeton University, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, and various international institutions that make up the much lionized "scientific consensus" on climate change. And they had their landmark study debunked by an independent global-warming skeptic of no institutional standing named Nicholas Lewis.

Where did Lewis debunk the doomsayers? No, not in the esteemed pages of Nature but in a blog post at a website called Climate Etc., a small, dissenting dot in the vast universe of online science discussion. Lewis wrote: "The findings of the...paper were peer-reviewed and published in the world's premier scientific journal and were given wide coverage in the English-speaking media." He went on: "Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results. Just a few hours of analysis and calculations, based only on published information, was sufficient to uncover apparently serious (but surely inadvertent) errors in the underlying calculations."

Open Source everything.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Why Jim Acosta Got His Pass Back (Garrett Epps, 11/16/18, The Atlantic)

The judge's cryptic statement suggests that revoking a reporter's press pass may or may not violate the Constitution--but revoking it without providing a reason, and a chance for the reporter to contest that action, does. The judge said he was relying on precedent, though he added, "whether it's what I agree with, that's a different story, but I must apply precedent as I see it."

The case he is referring to is almost certainly Sherrill v. Knight, which concerned Robert Sherrill, the cantankerous Washington editor of The Nation, who was denied a press pass to the White House even though he had congressional press credentials. The Secret Service at first refused to explain the refusal, then finally alleged that the denial was based on reports of a couple of fistfights the cantankerous writer had gotten into during his days as a Southern newsman. (Disclosure: I was briefly a researcher for Sherrill, which got me chased out of Hollywood by the FBI, but that's a story for another time.)

Neither Sherrill nor anybody else, Circuit Judge Carl McGowan wrote, was entitled to White House access as a matter of First Amendment law. But the White House had "voluntarily decided to establish press facilities for correspondents who need to report therefrom." Once government made that choice, "the protection afforded newsgathering under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press ... requires that this access not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons." For that reason, the Secret Service could not deny Sherrill or anyone else a pass without making public its rules. And if the Service wanted to deny anyone a pass based on those rules, it had to give the rejected applicant "notice of the factual basis for denial, an opportunity ... to respond to these, and a final written statement of the reasons for denial."

Eventually the Service offered Sherrill his pass; having made his point, he declined.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Genetics Start-Up Wants to Sequence People's Genomes for Free (Karen Weintraub, November 17, 2018, Scientific American)

The quality of gene sequencing has improved so much and its price has fallen so far that a start-up now says it can offer the service for free.

Nebula Genomics aims to sequence a customer's entire genome, according to the company's chief scientific officer Dennis Grishin. In contrast, current commercial services offer genotyping, which focuses on the differences between the person's genome and a reference one. The new service, which was officially made available Thursday, will provide 2,000 times more data than existing services, but will still not be accurate enough to serve as a basis for medical advice, he says. [...]

The service will be particularly appealing to people who want to benefit science as well as themselves, says Laura Hercher, a professor of human genetics at Sarah Lawrence College in New York State who has no connection to Nebula Genomics. "If you're interested in helping genomic research, this whole picture makes sense. You can be helpful at no cost."

Free is obviously just the intermediary step, as consumers should be charging companies for the value of the data we provide.  Indeed, data is becoming more valuable than labor.

The Box That AI Lives In: How could an 18th-century robot win at chess? By using a trick that big tech firms still pull on us today. (TOM STANDAGE and SETH STEVENSON, SEPT 05, 2018, Secret History of the Future)

In the new podcast The Secret History of the Future, from Slate and the Economist: Examine the history of tech to uncover stories that help us illuminate the present and predict the future. From the world's first cyberattack in 1834 to 19th-century virtual reality, the Economist's Tom Standage and Slate's Seth Stevenson find the ancient ingenuity that our modern digital technology can learn from and expose age-old weaknesses we are already on a course to repeat.

In the first episode: An 18th-century device called the Mechanical Turk convinced Europeans that a robot could play winning chess. But there was a trick. It's a trick that companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook still pull on us today. Guests include futurist Jaron Lanier and Luis von Ahn, founder of CAPTCHA and Duolingo.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


What we really know about China's Reform and Opening Up (Joshua Eisenman, November 15, 2018, Washington Post)

China's national amnesia regarding the sources of its own material success means that those who came of age during or after the 1980s generally regard their elders as part of the "lost" Cultural Revolution generation and thus undervalue their contributions and sacrifices.

At the highest level, this means that nationwide rural reforms advanced by Deng and his supporters 40 years ago have received too much credit for China's rapid economic growth, while extensive investments made under his predecessors (e.g., Zhou Enlai and Hua Guofeng) have received too little. But there's a far bigger problem at the grass-roots level. In 2013, China had 50 million "left behind" elderly -- an aging rural population largely abandoned as their children left to work in cities.

A study by Liu Yanwu at Wuhan University examined this population in 40 villages in 11 provinces and found the suicide rate among the rural elderly had risen from 100 per 100,000 to 500 per 100,000 over the past two decades. The suicide rate for elderly rural residents is now 50 times higher than the general population -- a phenomenon Liu associates with a lack of social security.

There are consequences for China's foreign relations as well. Every day the country welcomes more foreign students eager to learn about China's development experience, and in September more than 50 African presidents were feted at the development-driven Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Dispelling the myths of China's development story means acknowledging that China's success was born out of painstaking investments in agricultural modernization, and a nationwide commitment to vocational education and basic health care.

An economy that can top $30 billion in a single day of online sales is not the product of a "China miracle," or a unique "Chinese model," as Zhang Weiying at Peking University expertly observed. Rather, China in 2018 is the result of a national development saga that began -- as it did in Britain, the United States and other developed countries -- with a green revolution in agriculture. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


A Saudi Murder Becomes a Gift to Iran: The assassination of a journalist has further hurt the Trump administration's frail strategy of buddying with Saudi Arabia to restrain Iran's expanding influence. (Vali R. Nasr, Nov. 12, 2018, NY Times)

The Trump administration is not ready to admit it, but its Middle East strategy is in deep trouble, now compounded by the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month. The administration's recent pressure on the Saudis to seek a truce in their war in Yemen is a clear signal of just how much the credibility of Saudi Arabia, which is at the heart of that strategy, has shrunk, perhaps even in President Trump's eyes.

The strategy's goal was to work with the Saudis to contain Iran's influence in the Middle East. Instead, we can now expect a growing sense of ease in Tehran about exerting its influence, even as it adjusts to the tough economic sanctions that were reimposed last week. That freedom is more likely to be used through maneuvering and deal-making, rather than through aggressions.

It's not as if Iran expects a change in American policy toward it in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair. Instead, the weakening of confidence in Saudi Arabia throughout the region is more likely to confirm to Iran's leaders the wisdom of their own current strategy -- manage pressure from America by mobilizing domestic resources; rely on Europe, China and Russia to keep economic channels with Iran open; and consolidate Iran's alliances and positions of influence politically.

...but the entirety of the WoT consists of working with our democratic allies--the Shi'a and the Brotherhood--against the Salafi and the secular dictators.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Rep. Mia Love pulls ahead of Democrat Ben McAdams as judge dismisses her lawsuit (Felicia Sonmez November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Rep. Mia Love (R) pulled ahead of Democrat Ben McAdams in the vote count Friday in Utah's 4th Congressional District, a positive twist for the GOP lawmaker's campaign hours after a judge separately dismissed her lawsuit seeking to halt the counting of ballots in Salt Lake County.

As of Friday evening, Love was leading McAdams by 419 votes, or 0.16 percentage point. [...]

President Trump had called out Love by name at a combative White House news conference the day after Election Day, arguing that she and other lawmakers had been defeated because they had not been sufficiently supportive of him. McAdams was ahead in the vote count when Trump made his remarks, although the race had not been called.

"Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost," Trump said. "Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia."

Utah's shift in approval for Trump is the highest in the nation, new poll says (Herb Scribner, October 8, 2018, Deseret News)

In Utah, about 58 percent of residents approved of the president when he was inaugurated in January 2017, according to Morning Consult, while 31 percent disapproved of him.

Fast forward to now and you'll see Utah's approval rating sits at 45 percent and his disapproval rating hovering around 50 percent, showing a switch from a majority approval to majority disapproval, according to the poll.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


I'm a Patriot, Not a Nationalist (Rhett Jenkins, 11/16/18, Splice Today)

In our present political climate, with public discourse dominated by ideologues and demagogues, the concept of nationalism has been largely absorbed into a cultural war between angry racists clinging to a hateful past and avenging progressives assaulting every aspect of a culture that offers ordinary human beings greater scope for fulfillment--as they define it--than almost any other in history. Americans are right to reject and oppose the ignorant, naive, and doomed social dream of white nationalists, and right to call out the racist basis of the movement. Likewise Americans are right to reject and oppose the impracticable demands and intellectually embarrassing fulminations of the extreme Left. Yet the bickering of these enemies, while contemned and ignored by the majority of Americans, obscures a more fundamental and corrosive element creeping back into domestic and global politics.  The resurgence of nationalism as such poses a far broader and more tenacious threat to shared social values and the political structures erected to embody and protect them.

Nationalism enjoins upon the mob (revolving around a monolithic unifying principle, nationalist movements are powerfully popular and emotional) a rejection of other ways of life and political orientations. National identity is not only threatened from within and without, it must be purified to achieve some transcendent ideal that'll confirm the whole shabby edifice of belief. [...]

While there are nations, there will always be nationalists. Unilateral value systems appeal to the intellectually lazy, as they provide an efficient and self-exonerating explanation for personal and social problems and resentments, a clear guide to action, and a sense of moral purpose. These and similar factors have always endangered the health of society; the need to impose ideological compliance by authority signals decadence in the civil order and prefigures the radicalization of public rhetoric, the institutions of government, and the citizenry.

There's need to differentiate patriotism from nationalism, as America and the world face a choice between the two. Tariffs, immigration law, and other issues merely form the foam upon the tidal forces of history, and our collective decisions now will shape the human experience forever. The primal social elements of cooperation, organization, and conflict play out in terms of our human relationships, not our official policies.

Patriotism invites critical engagement with the political, social, and moral context of our national and personal interests. Nationalism demands adherence to a single idea, an article of faith, a totem. Patriotism, like any love, entails responsibility. One must discharge these responsibilities consciously, willingly, and generously, or the relationship is sick. Like any tribal mentality sprung from fear, nationalism pragmatically regulates behavior and belief, so far as it can. Nationalist movements require force, coercion, and intimidation to impress their agenda upon the unwilling, as they lack the power to inspire sacrifice as love of country does.

Eric Hoffer had their number.

Authorities find a rocket launcher and pipe bombs during massive Florida white supremacist sting (Noor Al-Sibai, 16 NOV 2018, Raw Story)

Thirty-nine members of the United Aryan Brotherhood and Unforgiven neo-Nazi groups were arrested in a Florida drug trafficking sting -- and one had functional pipe bombs in his home.

Tampa's WFTS-TV reported that the multi-agency sting codenamed "Operation Blackjack," a three-year-long investigation, led to the seizure of more than 110 illegal firearms, a rocket launcher and two pipe bombs from the individuals mostly based in Pasco County, Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Along southern border, numerous Army barricades, no sign of migrant 'invasion' (Julia Ainsley, 11/16/18, NBC News)

In another sign of the rushed deployment, the soldiers had to spend their first few nights at the border in Nogales sleeping inside a warehouse used to store cold food during cargo inspections, but with the freon turned off, until CBP could provide them with sleeping quarters inside their offices at the border crossing.

The rush to deploy soldiers to the border, 1,500 of whom are in Arizona, has been criticized even by anonymous military officials, who have described it as a political ploy that drew on voters' fears of illegal immigration ahead of the midterms and resulted in an ill-defined mission without proper planning.

Here in Nogales, commanders are reluctant to criticize the mission, but offer few answers about what doomsday scenario they seem to be preparing for.

...but Donald won't visit active war zones...

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Pence vows US will hold Khashoggi murderers to account (AFP, 11/17/18)

United States Vice President Mike Pence vowed Saturday the US would hold the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi to account, following media reports that the CIA had concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the journalist's killing.

"The United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder," Pence said on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Rouhani sees Iran, Iraq expanding trade despite U.S. sanctions (Reuters, 11/17/18)  

Iran and Iraq could raise their annual bilateral trade to $20 billion from the current level of $12 billion, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, amid concerns in Tehran over the economic impact of renewed U.S. sanctions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Black Jew Swarmed By Hasidic Mob -- For Carrying A Torah While Not White (Ari Feldman, November 16, 2018, The Forward)

Yehuda Webster has a routine when it comes to Torahs.

Just about every month, he picks up a rented Torah in a plastic sleeve from J. Levine Books and Judaica in Manhattan. He uses the Torahs for the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies he arranges through an organization he founded, for families that don't belong to a synagogue. Then he gets in a Lyft and returns the Torah to J. Levine.

On Monday, that routine was ruptured.

That morning, he walked out of his apartment in the heart of the heavily Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood Crown Heights, Torah in hand. Almost immediately, Webster, who is black, was confronted by a Hasidic man who Webster says demanded to know where he was going with the Torah. Webster shrugged him off, telling the man it wasn't his business.

By the time Webster got into his Lyft at a nearby intersection, several more men were accosting him. When the Lyft driver tried to leave, a car swerved in front of the car, trapping them.

"And that's when things got really scary," Webster told the Forward.

November 16, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Betsy DeVos Strikes a Blow for the Constitution (DAVID FRENCH, November 16, 2018, National Review)

First and perhaps most important, the rules will not only require colleges to permit cross-examination of witnesses (including the accuser), but will also prohibit universities from relying on the statements of any witness who refuses to submit to cross-examination.

Cross-examination is so fundamental to adversary proceedings that it's is simply incredible that some universities have been prosecuting and expelling students without permitting the accused's representative to question his accuser. Prohibiting cross-examination irrevocably stacks the deck against the accused. The Supreme Court has rightly called cross-examination "the greatest legal engine ever invented for discovery of the truth."

But you don't have to trust SCOTUS; the importance of cross-examination is among the most ancient of legal principles. Consider Proverbs 18:17: "In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward to cross-examine."

Interestingly, however, the proposed rules prohibit the accused himself from cross-examining the accuser -- instead requiring that questioning come from an "advisor." While some complain this limits the rights of the accused, as a practical matter advisers (attorneys, for example) are far better equipped to cross-examine witnesses than are undergraduates or young graduate students.

In addition to mandating cross-examination, the proposed rules grant both parties "equal opportunity to inspect and review evidence obtained as part of the investigation that is directly related to the allegations raised in a formal complaint."

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Is Mike Pence Loyal? (Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers, Nov. 16, 2018, NY Times)

In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Mr. Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal?

Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Judge hands CNN victory in its bid to restore Jim Acosta's White House press pass (Paul Farhi, November 16, 2018, Washington Post)

A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of CNN and reporter Jim Acosta in a dispute with President Trump, ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials that the Trump administration had taken away from Acosta last week.

In a victory for the cable network and for press access generally, Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN's motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. Donald and his enablers just made him a legend in reality?


Posted by orrinj at 10:22 AM


The Defeat of Reason: a review of What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker (TIM MAUDLIN, Boston Review)

Becker does not discuss the earliest signs that something was amiss in the theory of light and matter, but the fundamentals are well known. The first hints of particle-like behavior in electromagnetic waves were dropped by Max Planck in his treatment of blackbody radiation, the light given off as a body heats up. In 1905 Albert Einstein took a decisive step with his analysis of the photoelectric effect, the current that flows in certain metals exposed to light. Einstein postulated that the light wave delivers its energy to the metal in small packets or quanta. The energy per packet varies with the color (frequency) of the light, and the number of packets with the brightness (amplitude). Below a critical frequency, no current flows, no matter how bright the light. Above that frequency, some flows no matter how dim.

Light is not just absorbed by matter; it is also emitted. The emission from atoms occurs at only certain precise frequencies. These constitute atomic spectra, which permit us to determine how much of each element there is in a distant star.

In 1913 Niels Bohr devised the Bohr atom. Electrons orbit the nucleus just like planets orbiting the sun. Only certain orbits--which Bohr gave rules for--are available to the electron, and when an electron jumps from a higher orbit to a lower one, it emits light of a frequency determined by the energies of the orbits. The challenge was figuring out how these quantum jumps happen. Over the next decade, Bohr failed to find any precise electron motions. The spectra and intensities of emitted light never came out right. This is the period of the "old" quantum theory.

Becker's main historical narrative begins dramatically at the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference in Brussels. In 1925 Werner Heisenberg had invented matrix mechanics. Heisenberg's mathematical formalism got the predictions that Bohr had been seeking. But the central mathematical objects used in his theory were matrices, rectangular arrays of numbers. The predictions came out with wonderful accuracy, but that still left the old puzzle in place: how does the electron get from one orbit to another? You can stare at a matrix from morning to night, but you will not get a clue.

Bohr took an unexpected approach to this question: instead of asking if the theory was too young to be fully understood, he declared that the theory was complete; you cannot visualize what the electron is doing because the microworld of the electron is not, in principle, visualizable (anschaulich). It is unvisualizable (unanschaulich). In other words, the fault lay not in the theory, it lay in us. Bohr took to calling any visualizable object classical. Quantum theory had passed beyond the bounds of classical physics: there is no further classical story to tell. This became a central tenet of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory.

Imagine Bohr's motivation to adopt this extreme conclusion. For over a decade, he had been seeking exact, visualizable electron trajectories and failed. He concluded that his failure was rooted in the impossibility of the task.

But in 1926 Erwin Schrödinger produced a mathematically different theory, wave mechanics. Schrödinger's mathematics was essentially just the classical mathematics of waves. The atomic system was not designated by a matrix, it was described by a wavefunction. And waves may not be particles, but they are certainly visualizable objects from everyday life.

What is Real? and The Ashtray are spellbinding intellectual adventures into the limits, fragility, and infirmity of human reason.

Schrödinger's theory proved easier to use than Heisenberg's, in part because it is more intuitive. Furthermore, first Schrödinger and then Paul Dirac proved that the two theories are equivalent. In physics any two theories that make precisely the same observable predictions are observably equivalent. And one of the predominant philosophical views of the age--logical positivism--held that any two observably equivalent theories are really one and the same theory. That is, although the two theories may seem to be giving completely different accounts of the world, they are not. The total content of an empirical theory consists in the predictions it makes about the observable. No more and no less.

Logical positivism is a very attractive view for people who do not want to worry about what they cannot observe. It is ultimately a theory about meaning, about the content of a theory. According to the positivists, a theory says no more than its observable consequences.

Logical positivism has been killed many times over by philosophers. But no matter how many stakes are driven through its heart, it arises unbidden in the minds of scientists. For if the content of a theory goes beyond what you can observe, then you can never, in principle, be sure that any theory is right. And that means there can be interminable arguments about which theory is right that cannot be settled by observation.

So the situation in 1926 was rather confused. Matrix mechanics and wave mechanics were, in some sense, thought to be the same theory, differently expressed. But if you use the mathematics to derive a certain matrix yet have no notion of how the physical situation associated with the matrix would appear, how do you get a prediction about what you will observe? And wave mechanics is not much better off. Waves are certainly visualizable, but the world we live in, the world of laboratory experiments, does not present itself as made of waves. It presents itself, if anything, as made of particles. How do we get from waves to recognizable everyday stuff?

This, in a nutshell, is the central conundrum of quantum mechanics: how does the mathematical formalism used to represent a quantum system make contact with the world as given in experience? This is commonly called the measurement problem, although the name is misleading. It might better be called the where-in-the-theory-is-the-world-we-live-in problem.

For Bohr and Heisenberg, the measurement problem is how the unvisualizable can influence the observable (and hence visualizable). For Schrödinger it is how waves can constitute solid objects such as cats. In wave mechanics, the little planetary electron of the old quantum theory gets smeared out into a cloud surrounding the nucleus. If quantum mechanics provides a complete description of the electron--as Bohr insisted--this diffuseness is not merely a reflection of our ignorance about where the electron is, it is a characteristic of the electron itself. As Schrödinger memorably wrote to Albert Einstein, "There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks." This unexpected (but perfectly visualizable) mistiness of the electron was fine by Schrödinger: after all, we have no direct experience of electrons to contradict it. But the dynamics of the theory could not confine the smeariness to microscopic scale. In certain experimental situations, the haziness of the electron would get amplified up to everyday scales. The electron that is nowhere-in-particular gives birth to a cat that is no-state-of-health-in-particular. Schrödinger found this result manifestly absurd: something must have gone wrong somewhere in the physics.

For his part, Bohr insisted--as he had to--that the description of an experimental procedure and its outcome be classical, which is to say visualizable. Otherwise, you could not tell what experiment was done and how it came out. But at some point, if we are probing the microscopic realm, we must reach the unvisualizable. And the interaction between the two must itself be unvisualizable, since one part is. So all one can ask for is a mathematical rule: if an interaction occurs, what are the probabilities of the various possible classical outcomes? There is no more to be sought from quantum theory than these numbers. And matrix mechanics typically does not provide a precise prediction but a set of probabilities for different outcomes. The deterministic world of classical physics has been lost.

Which is all well and good, so long as you know what counts as the point of interaction between a quantum system and a classical one. But this Bohr could never nail down. We are left with the question: under what conditions does such an interaction (a measurement of the quantum state) occur? Do we need a human observer? Some conscious detection device, even if not human? Will a mouse do? Some detection device, even if not conscious? The Copenhagen interpretation never answered.

For Schrödinger, we get a different problem. We can visualize the microworld: it is a wave. But at some point, waves must manage to appear as particles, things located at definite positions in space. And just as the Copenhagenists advert to measurement here, so too does Schrödinger. The sudden change from an electron wavefunction being spread all over space to being located at a point is called "the collapse of the wavefunction." So for wave mechanics, the measurement problem becomes: When and how does the wavefunction collapse? And the tentative answer is, upon measurement.

We are all Designist now; the Anglosphere was fortunate to never stray from that truth.
Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Whitaker abandoned taxpayer-funded project in Iowa in 2016  (RYAN J. FOLEY and DAVID PITT, November 13, 2018, AP)

While in private business, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker walked away from a taxpayer-subsidized apartment-rehabilitation project in Iowa after years of cost overruns, delays and other problems, public records show.

The city of Des Moines ultimately yanked an affordable housing loan that Whitaker's company had been awarded, and another lender began foreclosure proceedings after Whitaker defaulted on a separate loan for nearly $700,000. Several contractors complained they were not paid, and a process server for one could not even find Whitaker or his company to serve him with a lawsuit.

As Charlie Sykes notes, the competition for Donald's worst appointment is ferocious, but this guy is at least a medallist.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


There Is Only One Superpower (Gordon G. Chang, November 15, 2018, Strategika)

We start with the conventional wisdom. "No one denies that in the long term, things look good for the People's Republic," writes Kerry Brown, a professor at King's College in a recent opinion piece.

Actually, the situation is not good. The economy, the engine of China's extraordinary four-decade advance, is clearly exhausted.

Juiced by debt--especially since the end of 2008--the country now cannot grow without gobs of it. When the so-called "hidden debt" is taken into account, the economy is incurring one-and-a-half times as much indebtedness as it is producing nominal gross domestic product if official GDP figures are accurate.

They're not. China is not growing at the 6.7 percent pace claimed for the first three quarters of this year. In reality, it's less than half that. The combination of slow growth and unprecedented accumulation of debt suggests the country is heading to a systemic crisis.

While China moves toward its debt crisis, Xi Jinping, its ruler, is reversing the "reform and opening up" policies that fueled China's rise. It is ironic that as the country approaches the 40th anniversary of the start of its era of economic liberalization, Xi is reembracing not only state-dominated economics but also totalitarian-style politics.

The embrace of Maoism leaves China ill-prepared to meet the critical challenges of the eroding environment, crumbling demographics, and emerging societal modernity. Xi can coerce but not persuade. His ideological campaigns are leaving the Chinese people, for the most part, cold.

Externally, Xi is showing a face of China that most abhor. Beijing is grabbing territory from neighbors, closing off the global commons, and proliferating nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. It makes common cause with a host of bad actors, such as genocide-committing generals in Burma and misery-creating autocrats in Latin America. Even Beijing's friends recognize it has chosen the wrong path. For instance, Brown, the King's College professor, is the author of "How China Is Losing the World."

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Hating Sin (ANTHONY ESOLEN, 11/14/18, Crisis)

It is Passover, and Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem with his disciples. He has come to the Temple, where he finds people "selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the moneychangers at their business." It is interesting to note what he does then, and what he does not do.

He does not engage the moneychangers in a discussion about what profits are licit and what are not in the sale of sacrificial animals. He does not bid the salesmen good day. He makes a whip of cords, which must have taken some deliberation and time. We can imagine the intense anger of our Lord as he did this, and it is hardly likely that any of the disciples knew what he would do next before he began to do it: he "drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple." Jesus, remember, was a construction worker. The man whose image is imprinted miraculously upon the Shroud of Turin is tall, broad shouldered, and barrel-chested. He was not singing falsetto in the Galilee glee club.

Nor does Jesus spare the instruments of their trade. For "he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables," and told the men to get lost, because they had turned his Father's house "into a house of trade," and, in another account, "a den of thieves." His disciples later applied to the scene a verse from the Psalms: "Zeal for thy house will consume me." This zeal is a powerful word for a powerful emotion: it is related to the word that is translated as jealous in the commandment: "For I the Lord your God am a jealous God," who would have his people devoted to him entirely, and not to any other gods, or to any graven image of some creature on earth, under the earth, or in the skies above.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Man of Tomorrow (ALAN GREENBLATT | NOVEMBER 2018, Governing)

Because he is unusual, Brown has always been caricatured. But he returned to the governorship in 2011 not just older, but also more grounded. Politicians in Sacramento can tell you what books he's been reading lately, which may include histories of the Weimar Republic or the treatment of American Indians, but they insist he is not some ephemeral, abstract thinker. He explores ideas not for their own sake but for how they might be put into practice. He's had the discipline in his later terms to promote his big ideas in small batches, setting clear priorities each year. He's gotten better both as an executive overseeing the government and as a policymaker able to win legislators over to his point of view. He may quote Latin in his spare time, but on the job he does his homework. "He's this combination of a cigar-chomping politician and a philosopher king," says Leonor Ehling, director of the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State University.

Thad Kousser, who chairs the political science department at the University of California, San Diego, describes Brown's uniqueness a little differently: "I can't see anyone patterning themselves on his persona." Kousser describes that persona as "be grouchy and supercheap, quote obscure philosophers, avoid social media and never make a public presentation without a doomsday-predicting graph."

Perhaps the most telling example of Brown's forward-looking stewardship has been his handling of the state budget. Throughout his last eight years in office, he's worked with a legislature thoroughly dominated by his fellow Democrats. But he's never given them everything they wanted. He signaled his intention to act as a brake on the legislature right away, vetoing the first budget it sent him in 2011 because it didn't include enough spending cuts. As the state's economy has boomed during his tenure, he has resisted his party's impulse to spend whatever was available. "In the last four or five years, there were plenty of chances for him to spend, and he chose to save," says state Sen. Steve Glazer, who once served as a political adviser to Brown. "This is the key to good executive leadership, thinking not only about what it will cost this year but the projection of the out-years going forward."

While exercising restraint on the spending side, Brown has helped increase the state's revenue intake. California has a highly progressive tax code that relies heavily on taxing income and capital gains earned in more affluent places like Palo Alto and Beverly Hills. But Brown showed no hesitation in asking voters in 2012 to further raise taxes on those with personal incomes over $250,000 as part of a package that also raised the sales tax. In 2016, voters gave him a 12-year extension of the income tax increase.

All these factors together -- Brown's fiscal constraints, his willingness to raise taxes and the overall health of the state's economy -- have turned California's finances around. Before he took office, it was common to hear that California, which faced chronic budget shortfalls larger than most other states' budgets, was going to be the next Greece. The state was unable to pay its bills, often resorting to IOUs. California led the nation in municipal bankruptcies. Kevin Starr, a celebrated California historian, wrote that it was on the verge of becoming America's "first failed state."

You don't hear that kind of talk anymore. Brown inherited a shortfall of $27 billion, but he's leaving with $18 billion stashed away in the state's rainy day fund. He paid down much of the short-term debt his predecessors had taken on, as they dug their way temporarily out of holes while leaving bigger messes behind. Now, the state has its highest bond rating in two decades. At one point this year, it was sitting on $31 billion worth of voter-approved but unsold bonds.

Every American governor elected in the large Class of 2010 is leaving his or her state in better financial shape in 2018, thanks to the long recovery that followed the last recession. But none has accomplished as dramatic a turnaround as Brown, who is leaving plenty of money in the bank for his successor (almost certainly Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom) to play with. "He held the line single-handedly," says state Sen. Bob Hertzberg. "He made a lot of tough choices. The credit goes to him 100 percent. Not 96 percent, 100 percent."

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Trump's conservative media comfort trap (Jonathan Swan, 11/16/18, Axios)

Trump fell into the conservative media trap again this week while speaking with The Daily Caller, a conservative site that generally gives him glowing coverage.

A Daily Caller reporter threw Trump a seemingly harmless open-ended question, saying the president seemed happy with his acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. After saying a few nice things about Whitaker, Trump launched into an anti-Mueller diatribe: "I'm concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. ... It's an illegal investigation."

According to the transcript, the Daily Caller had not brought up the special counsel.

The bottom line: The president clearly makes a strong connection between Whitaker's installation at the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 AM


LUST FOR DESTRUCTION: a review of  Victor Sebestyen's Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror  (Waller R. Newell, Fall 2018, Claremont Review of Books)

Sebestyen's biography comes closer to the mark in his exhaustive exploration of Lenin's ideological writings before and after the Revolution, which have only become available in recent years. Nevertheless, I don't think they add anything fundamental to what we already knew. Lenin was no more a "theorist" than was the Führer, his dreary tracts mainly vicious diatribes against rivals. Among his epithets for anyone who disagreed with him, Sebestyen observes, were "filthy scum," "whores," "class traitors," and "scoundrels." Ransacked bits of Karl Marx served his purpose of seizing absolute power and crushing society, just as Hitler would later invoke Friedrich Nietzsche.

In Lenin's version of Marxism before the revolution, tactical compromise with other political groups was possible, but there could be no compromise on the strategic goal of a collectivized society without private property. Like Robespierre during the Jacobin Terror, Lenin aimed to impose a geometrical purity on corrupt human fodder. This cold-blooded lust for destruction was born primarily of his outrage over his brother Aleksandr's execution in 1887 for treason and the family's resulting disgrace, for which he sought revenge on the whole world. Decades after it happened, Sebestyen writes, Lenin confided to Nadya that he was still "bitter...about Sasha's execution and how much he hated the regime that sentenced him to death."

Lenin never believed that socialism could triumph in Russia alone and would never have been content with such small stakes. ("I spit on Russia," he once said. "This is merely one phase through which we must pass on the way to a world revolution.") He thought the Russian Revolution would spur a proletarian uprising in Europe, which would then, with its far more advanced industrial means of production, help Russia's backward agrarian society.

When World War I shook Czarist Russia to its foundations--millions of casualties in the trenches and a collapsing economy sparking unrest at home--Leon Trotsky egged Lenin on to seize control amidst the chaos. Despite his later pose in exile in the West as a sensitive intellectual, Trotsky was another revolutionary nihilist and mass murderer, an armed bohemian seeking revenge against his exclusion from prominence. "Whatever moral eunuchs and Pharisees might say," he enthused, "the feeling of revenge has its right.... We [must] direct all our strengths toward a collective struggle against this class structure. That is the method by which the burning desire for revenge can achieve its greatest moral satisfaction."

Seizing power in a coup d'état, the Bolsheviks used the empty husk of the Czars' now vacant absolute state to impose Communism by force. It was a one-party state from the start: the "first freely elected government" in 1917, Sebestyen observes, "survived for about twelve hours. There would not be another for nearly seventy-five years."

From the outset, Bolshevik savagery surpassed the Czars at their most autocratic. During the final years of Czarism in Russia, 1,144 political prisoners were executed following the failed 1905 revolution. Immediately following the 1917 coup, Lenin had upwards of 100,000 "enemies of the revolution" liquidated, and by the time of his incapacitation in 1922 from a stroke, an estimated 5 million had lost their lives due to starvation. As Lenin put it, "a revolution without firing squads is meaningless.... The purpose of terror is to terrorize."

 Although he claimed to be an orthodox Marxist (and may even have believed it), he was really a putschist and would-be dictator. The Bolsheviks' real predecessors in Russia included a Nietzschean sect called the "God-builders," who envisioned creating a new world on the rubble of the old, as well as the "People's Will" movement, driven by Rousseauian nostalgia for an allegedly lost golden age of peasant wholeness. As the late Robert Conquest observed, the Communist Party leadership contained no genuine economists. They were pledged to a millenarian doctrine, and their justification for holding power was to create by force a new, superior society in which the individual was submerged in the collective. As Sebestyen correctly observes, "the first major 'deviationist'" from Marxist theory was Lenin himself. He set about to create a socialist state by force, despite the absence of the socio-economic conditions Marx had decreed as necessary for its success according to the laws of "scientific socialism."

Lenin and his henchmen were devoid of patriotism, since their revolution was but the first stage in a coming international Communist order. Any illusions people might have had that Lenin stood for electoral democracy were dashed when the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion against emerging Soviet dictatorship was ruthlessly put down.

The USSR's spasms of reform depended on the notion of good Lenin and bad Stalin.  But when dissidents were given any freedom they buried the Revolution at its birth.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 AM


The Kinks discuss their masterpiece about societal decline (Andrew Dansby Nov. 14, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

The music of "The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society" laments societal change in England as an empire heads toward autumn. And as social tumult consumed the States, such understated and melancholy thematic fare simply wasn't at the forefront of hotter discussions.

But as author and sometimes music critic Jonathan Lethem told me earlier this month while talking about "Village Green," "One of the things the English have on us is that they're way out ahead on the empire-in-decline curve."

Admittedly, empires decline in different manners, dependent on their culture and economic and social structures. Fitting, then, that the Kinks' album was more melancholy with a British stiff upper lip, compared to the petulant and angry pouting that engulfs a culture across an ocean decades later.

A pastoral folksiness runs through the record, which runs contrary to the Kinks' reputation as a tightly wound progenitor of the British Invasion.

Ray's meditations on people and structures gone was mirrored by the guitar parts played by his brother, whose visceral, serrated work just a few years earlier helped define the sound of rock 'n' roll on songs such as "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night." They were no longer singing three-minute garage-rock songs about girls. They were summoning ghosts.

"Everything was psychedelic," Dave says. "That wasn't what we were going for. We wanted it more mystical. Something that captured this feeling of lost innocence. This idea of embracing the new but missing the old."

"Ray was never one to follow a trend," says Avory, the Kinks drummer. "He always tried to set one. When you got a trend, something in fashion, at that time, it was very difficult to break it. ... But he was more interested in telling a story with some quality. Not a throwaway. I think that's why it had a different sound and feel, all part and parcel, from what we did before."

There were indications before 1968 that the Kinks were headed in a different direction.

The band formed around its sibling core in 1964 in Muswell Hill, in the northern part of London. By October that year, the Kinks were rock stars thanks to those singles, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," which played well in Britain as well as the States, where each broke into the Top 10.

The turgidity of the music hung like a gray cloud around the band, even after the songs finished. The Kinks were famously among the most internally pugnacious bands in rock history. Their reputation likely played a part in being banned from touring the States just as the group found its groove. So from 1965-69, the Kinks were a nonpresence in the U.S., which explains a four-year blackout from the charts.

Which doesn't mean the Kinks stopped making music. And perhaps the insularity back in England helped them. Because the band found itself distanced from trends of the day.

The 1966 single "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" may have been written as a swipe to trend-following British listeners, but the Kinks in the late-'60s found themselves freed of connection to what was in vogue in North America.

Albums "Face to Face" in 1966 and the aptly titled "Something Else" a year later showed a group uninterested in hitching its wagon to any pre-existing trend.

The sound on the album is interesting. Though the Beatles' White Album -- also released in November 1968 -- was informed by a ramshackle looseness, likely a response to the every-hair-in-place quality of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" a year earlier -- the Kinks played songs that sounded loose.

I brought up Al Bowlly, the popular '30s British vocalist, and Dave Davies' came alive. "Yeah!" he said. "We wanted people to know the influences from the past were important and that we were reintegrating them. We had vast influences as kids. It was a big family. My sisters all played piano and sang. My dad played the banjo. Obviously, the blues and Chuck Berry were a big influence, but so was skiffle and all this stuff we heard growing up. It was a wealth of influence."

Avory pointed out that Davies was a fan of American vaudeville, which can also be heard on the record, as well as old musical theater. "Imagine a bar band," he says, "but rehearsing a bit more. Because all these great ideas needed to come out."

That instrumental approach was inviting and engaging, giving the record an almost informal vibe, which gently obscured just how specific the themes in the songs were.

"There's something particular about English nostalgia," Avory says. "That's what Ray was writing about. We were very English people, interested in our culture. And there are things that change and they're good, and there are things that change and they're not for the better. Buildings become boxes. Ray looked at the idea of a Village Green and all these things that went with it. It was quaint. But it also made you think about change. Things move on, but it's not always a progression, is it?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Houston Republican Dan Crenshaw's next mission: 'Make conservatism cool.' So far, so good (Kevin Diaz, Nov. 14, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

In a Weekly Standard interview in February, Crenshaw, now 34, warned Republicans about their white-haired image and affluent demographic. "You keep electing old, rich, white people to the seat -- you can expect the Republican party to be gone in 50 years," Crenshaw said. "We can't keep doing that. We have to make conservatism cool and exciting again." [...]

With little money at the start, his campaign relied heavily on social media like Facebook Live, Twitter and email blasts. He also sought out a younger audience than traditional Republican candidates, echoing the youth outreach of Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, an ideological opposite who is credited with mobilizing young progressive voters across Texas, including the Second District.

"One thing he did consistently was not just the traditional political events, but gatherings of young people at bars, restaurants, brew pubs, sporting events," Steinhauser said of Crenshaw. "He really got outside of the normal political gatherings and went to social gatherings and civic spaces."

In a bid for recognition - and to add youth and vitality to his campaign - Crenshaw embarked on a five-day, 100-mile run in February across his district, which snakes around Houston from Bellaire in the south to Sherwood Trails in the north.

It was a quintessentially millennial act - one more commonly associated with young Democrats like O'Rourke, an avid runner.

"I have seen the face of the future of the Republican Party and the leadership of America," conservative radio host Michael Berry told Crenshaw's supporters at a primary election night party at the Cadillac Bar in May. "And it's wearing an eye patch."

His supporters give Crenshaw props for deep policy knowledge. He graduated from Tufts University and has a masters degree from Harvard University. Growing up in Ecuador and Colombia, he played soccer and speaks good Spanish.

Jacob Monty, a Houston attorney and GOP Latino activist who broke with Trump over his hard-line immigration rhetoric, credits Crenshaw with an equally conservative but more nuanced understanding of the border and immigration.

"He's not for open borders, he's not for amnesty, but his tone is very positive," Monty said. "He understands you can have a very conservative position, but you don't have to be mean-spirited. You don't have to demonize immigrants."

Monty cited an essay Crenshaw wrote for the National Review in July calling for more U.S. engagement south of the border: "Rebuilding the civic fabric of Central American countries is the only long-term solution to stemming the flow of illegal migration," Crenshaw wrote. "And without Mexico as a willing partner, the U.S. will continue to fight an impossibly uphill battle."

For Monty, who resigned last year from Trump's Hispanic Advisory Council, the essay was a departure from the current GOP's predominant tone on immigration. "When's the last time we had a congressman who wrote for the National Review?" he said. "Instead of just calling in to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Berry?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 AM


'Preparing for the worst': Mueller anxiety pervades Trump world (DARREN SAMUELSOHN 11/15/2018, Politico)

[H]alf a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in that Mueller is about to pounce after his self-imposed quiet period, and that any number of Trump's allies and family members may soon be staring down the barrel of an indictment.

Then there are the president's own tweets, which have turned back to attacking Mueller after a near two-month break. Thursday morning, Trump launched an oddly detailed condemnation of the special counsel and his team: "They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want," adding that the investigators "don't ... care how many lives the[sic] ruin." [...]

"You can see it in Trump's body language all week long. There's something troubling him. It's not just a couple staff screw-ups with Melania," said a senior Republican official in touch with the White House. "It led me to believe the walls are closing in and they've been notified by counsel of some actions about to happen. Folks are preparing for the worst."

Adding to the unease is a spate of anonymously sourced media reports suggesting Mueller's self-imposed quiet period that started about two months before 2018 Election Day is about to transition into a Category 5 hurricane.

Mueller, as has been his custom throughout the investigation, hasn't said a word about what's next for his probe into the Trump 2016 campaign and whether it conspired with Russian hackers to win the White House. Instead, the special counsel has let his legal filings do the talking. On Wednesday, Mueller stirred the speculation pot yet again, delivering a one-page motion to a federal judge in Washington, D.C., confirming that former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates "continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations" and still isn't ready to be sentenced. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy against the U.S. and making a false statement in a federal investigation.

Late Thursday, Mueller and attorneys for Paul Manafort confirmed in a joint motion that they've been meeting since the former Trump campaign chairman's mid-September guilty plea and requested a 10-day extension until Nov. 26 to file a status report that will help set the stage for the longtime GOP operative's sentencing.

In and around Trump world, the pressure is tangible.

After the Midterms, Robert Mueller's Got a New Wingman on Capitol Hill: President Trump is back to threatening the special counsel's "witch hunt," but he hasn't reckoned with Adam Schiff and the Democratic House. (Susan B. Glasser, 11/15/18, The New Yorker)

In an interview, Representative Adam Schiff, of California, described to me his evolving plan to act as Mueller's congressional backstop, insuring that, even if Trump and Whitaker attempt to shut down the investigation, Mueller's investigatory work and conclusions will not be covered up. Schiff, who is widely expected to be elected the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also made it clear that he will revive and expand the committee's investigation of the Russia allegations that Republicans on the panel abruptly shut down earlier this year, telling me he would like to recall Steve Bannon, Trump's former strategist, and Michael Cohen, the President's estranged former lawyer and fixer, among others, to get answers that the G.O.P. majority wouldn't or couldn't extract.

Most urgent is the crisis Trump has provoked in firing Sessions and installing Whitaker. Before our interview, Schiff had published a Washington Post op-ed, on Monday, promising, "Matthew Whitaker, we're watching you." In our conversation Schiff expanded on that, saying he was determined to "discover and expose any kind of wrongdoing" regarding the Mueller investigation. "If he takes any action adverse to the investigation or communicates any facts of the investigation to the President or his legal counsel, we're going to find out about it," Schiff told me. "There was a strong norm established after Watergate that the White House doesn't intervene in specific cases. Now this is a specific case that involves the President, and this would go well beyond intervening. This would be affirmatively appointing someone to hinder the investigation."

Schiff, a former federal prosecutor in California, said that he believes the Justice Department under Trump has set a precedent by turning over internal documents to the House Republicans in the Mueller probe and the investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails that it would have to follow if Schiff demanded information regarding Whitaker's actions involving Mueller. "They established a precedent, and I told them, 'You are going to have to live with this,' " Schiff said. " 'Someone is going to be briefed at the end of the Mueller investigation, and how are you going to say that the Democratic majority is not entitled to the same access to the materials that you have provided in the Clinton investigation or even in the Mueller investigation?' "

As for resurrecting the Intelligence Committee's own Russia investigation, Schiff said the first step involves pushing to immediately release the transcripts from the panel's interviews with key figures in the Mueller investigation; the committee has already voted to do so but never followed through. Schiff suggested that some of those who testified--he named the rogue Republican consultant and sometime Trump friend Roger Stone as one example--may have lied under oath in ways that would be relevant to Mueller and could subject them to possible perjury charges. "Our first order of business is to make sure that Mueller has the benefit of the work that we've done," Schiff said, "so that he can view that evidence in the context of what he knows, which is far more than we do. But also so that he can determine whether people committed perjury before our committee." Schiff said he wanted to recall Bannon because he simply refused to answer key questions when Republicans controlled the panel, not even bothering to cite a valid legal reason for his refusal beyond the White House's request. And Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen could have valuable additional information, given that his first testimony to the Hill panel occurred before he broke with the President and agreed to coöperate with Mueller. "We'd be very interested in talking to him again," Schiff said.

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