January 23, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Comey was reportedly interviewed by special counsel investigators in 2017 (DEBRA CASSENS WEISS,  JANUARY 23, 2018, ABA Journal)

Special counsel investigators reportedly interviewed fired FBI director James Comey last year about the memos he wrote describing meetings with President Donald Trump. [...]

Comey has described the memos in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The memos said that Trump had asked Comey for his loyalty, had said former national security adviser Michael Flynn was a good guy, and had said he hoped Comey could see his way to letting go of the investigation into Flynn's contacts with Russians.

Special counsel reportedly seeks to interview Trump about Flynn and Comey ousters (DEBRA CASSENS WEISS, JANUARY 23, 2018, ABA Journal).

Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly seeking to interview President Donald Trump about his decisions to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey, according to a report by the Washington Post. [...]

According to the Post, the developments indicate that Mueller's investigation "is intensifying its focus on possible efforts by the president or others to obstruct or blunt the special counsel's probe."

Flynn is reportedly cooperating after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with Russia's then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Investigators who spoke with Comey reportedly asked about memos the then-FBI director wrote about his meetings with Trump, according to coverage on Tuesday by the New York Times. Comey has previously said his memos described Trump's request for his loyalty and the president's question about whether Comey could let go of the investigation into Flynn's contacts with Russians.

Not only has Donald previously admitted in public that he fired Comey to obstruct the investigation and knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he insisted Comey should drop the investigation, he's highly likely to perjure himself repeatedly in any interview.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


Russia Doesn't See Dark Humor In 'Death Of Stalin' (Tom Balmforth, 1/23/18, Radio Liberty)

Two days before a black comedy on Josef Stalin's demise was due to premiere in Russia, the country's Culture Ministry has barred it -- arguing that the British film about the power struggle that followed the Soviet dictator's death in 1953 was extremist, mendacious, and insulting to the Russian nation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Top Half of Taxpayers Paid More Than 97% of Individual Income Taxes Collected in 2015 (Ali Meyer, January 23, 2018, Washington Free Beacon)

The top half of taxpayers paid more than 97 percent of the total individual income taxes collected in 2015, according to a report from the Tax Foundation.

The foundation evaluated the most recent data on tax year 2015 from the Internal Revenue Service, which shows a progressive tax system with taxes paid by mostly high-income earners.

The study splits taxpayers in half, with the top 50 percent of taxpayers classified as those earning more than $39,275 in adjusted gross income and the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers earning less than that.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


The Pacific trade deal Trump quit is back on (Alanna Petroff, January 23, 2018, CNN Money)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal that Trump ditched in January 2017 has been revived by the remaining 11 nations, who will work towards signing it in early March.

Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and the other nations wrapped up negotiations on the deal after two days of talks in Tokyo.

"The agreement reached in Tokyo today is the right deal," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Today is a great day for Canada, but it's also a great day for progressive trade around the world."

If only we had the UR back, lifting restrictions on the US economy.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT (profanity alert):

St. Peters Company Sells Holocaust-Style Yellow Star for 'Gun Owners' (Danny Wicentowski, Jan 22, 2018, River Front Times)

The persecution of gun owners in America has an "uncanny" similarity to the abuses Jews suffered under Nazi rule -- at least, that's true according to a remarkable item description for a "morale patch" shaped like a yellow Star of David that's currently being sold by a St. Peters gun store.

The hysterical victimology of these guys is even more unappealing than most things about them.

Posted by orrinj at 11:59 AM


If You're a Centrist, Be Proud of It : Germany, like France, shows how centrism can be an effective governing platform. (Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg)

Judging by the policies they pursue together, however, they're natural allies. Union stands for fiscal conservatism (as in deficit-free budgets) and supporting Germany's traditional, export-oriented industries. The SPD is for using the proceeds of Union frugality to fund moderate improvements to Germany's already strong social safety net, the integration of immigrants, and fixing the fragmented, obsolete education system. It, too, is a champion of traditional German companies, which allow workers' councils to play a major part in management. The two parties' policy objectives are, to an outside observer, complementary parts of a sensible program that could be put forward by the same centrist, strongly pro-European Union political force. There's not enough contradiction between them to create real competition on an ideological level. 

Perhaps the strongest reason Merkel's grouping and SPD aren't actually one party has to do with the parties' more radical wings. In Sunday's SPD vote, delegations from some former East German states and from Berlin were for an end to coalition talks and a new election. In the east, the SPD has a strong competitor in far-left Die Linke, and it has to fight for the leftist vote -- an effort an alliance with the center right can only undermine. For their part, the more conservative, anti-immigrant CDU-CSU members don't see the SPD as a desirable coalition partner -- they'd rather fight for their voters with the AfD.

One could argue, however, that politicians and activists on the centrist parties' fringes ought to decide what they want to do: beat the radicals on their flank or join them. If it's the former, it may make more sense to compete from a consciously, even defiantly moderate position. If it's the latter, the identity problem re-emerges. Today, the middle class is losing interest in traditional left-right distinctions because the traditionally defined blue-collar class is shrinking. It may be time for politicians who represent the middle class to admit the obvious: Centrism is an ideology in its own right. Even in the U.S., there's far more similarity between Hillary Clinton Democrats and Jeb Bush Republicans than between, say, the supporters of Clinton and Bernie Sanders, or those of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. One can see how centrists from both parties are reluctantly making common cause against Trumpism. 

It's why all Anglospheric elections are won by the most Third Way party.

Posted by orrinj at 11:44 AM


U.S. attorney general questioned in special counsel Russia probe (Sarah N. Lynch, 1/23/18, Reuters) 

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned last week by the special counsel's office investigating potential collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


Growth, Not Equality : American history shows that expanding the economy benefits everyone. (Amity Shlaes, Winter 2018, City Journal)

The modern American economic story starts with the 1920s, a decade worth dwelling on at some length because of the stunning evidence that it offers of growth's power. The winners of the 1920 election were two Republicans, Warren G. Harding of Ohio and his vice presidential candidate, Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts. Confronting these men and, indeed, Congress, was the same pressure to prioritize redistribution that weighs on us today. In the aftermath of World War I, commodity prices had plummeted; farmers could not pay the bills for equipment and land that they'd purchased in better years. The farmers demanded agricultural subsidies from Washington; veterans sought a federal pension, an early version of Social Security. Harding and Coolidge's 1920 opponent from the Socialist Party, Eugene Victor Debs, won only 3.5 percent of the popular vote. But the dignified Debs, in prison for noncompliance with the wartime draft, was becoming a national martyr to progressivism. An even greater force was the progressive wing within Harding and Coolidge's own party, the Republicans, led by Robert La Follette, senior senator from Wisconsin. La Follette advocated massive redistribution, including not only farm aid but also government seizure of national resources. Politically, La Follette was gaining in strength, looking to a 1924 presidential run. Dramatic moves by Woodrow Wilson's administration during the war, including the suspension of trading on the New York Stock Exchange and the nationalization of the chief means of transportation, the railroad, had strengthened the case for a big-spending government. Perhaps what had worked in war would also work in peacetime.

Meantime, however, business was slow--the early 1920s experienced a significant recession. At the end of World War I, the top income-tax rate stood at 77 percent. Business was accustomed to extraordinary burdens in war. But in autumn 1920, two years after the armistice, the top rate was still high, at 73 percent. The government's lack of clarity over the tax treatment of capital gains was also roiling markets. An official capital-gains tax rate had yet to be established. It was unclear whether, in the future, gains from the sale of equities would be taxed as income, or taxed at all. If capital gains were taxed as income, Americans would be trapped in an economy where it was almost impossible to make money legally.

In response, Wall Street and private companies mounted a "capital strike," dumping cash not into the most promising inventions but into humdrum municipal bonds. Bootlegging and any other illicit activity outside the purview of the Treasury's Bureau of Internal Revenue, the ancestor to our Internal Revenue Service, grew abnormally attractive. The high tax rates, designed to corral the resources of the rich, failed to achieve their purpose. In 1916, 206 families or individuals filed returns reporting income of $1 million or more; the next year, 1917, when Wilson's higher rates applied, only 141 families reported income of $1 million. By 1921, just 21 families reported to the Treasury that they had earned more than a million. This was ironic, for, as the financial titan Andrew Mellon would comment, the effect of tax progressivity was: "The idle man is relieved. The producer is penalized." The perverse situation contributed to public disillusionment, the kind captured by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, published in 1925--not, as commonly assumed today, after the crash of 1929.

Against this tide, Harding and Coolidge made their choice: markets first. Harding tapped the toughest free marketeer on the public landscape, Mellon himself, to head the Treasury. This was the 1920s equivalent of choosing a Warren Buffett, a hedge-fund star, or Peter Thiel of PayPal, rather than a more standard figure from, say, Goldman Sachs. From his railroad experience, Mellon had seen that high rail-freight charges drove businesses to find other means to transport their goods. To attract maximum business, a railroad could charge, Mellon said, only "what the traffic will bear." With a low enough freight rate, the railroad could even become popular, making up in volume what it lost when it lowered price. (Mellon spoke of railroads because that was what he knew; today we would use the Walmart example.) The Treasury secretary suggested applying the same theory to taxation: a lower rate, perhaps 25 percent, might foster more business activity, and so generate more revenue for federal coffers.

This figure drove Progressives wild. How could 25 percent for the rich be "good for the country as a whole?" demanded James Couzens, a maverick senator from Michigan. Couzens and others demanded that the amount of all taxpayers' payments be posted on the walls of town halls or post offices--the "Peeping Tom" provision, as it came to be known. Harding and Mellon got the top rate down to 58 percent. When Harding died suddenly in 1923, Coolidge promised to "bend all my energies" to pushing taxes down further. In a second round, stewarded by Coolidge, a bitter deal was cut: Mellon and conservatives would get a (somewhat) lower tax rate of 46 percent, and the Peeping Tom provision would become law--gossip for a thousand headlines.

But Coolidge was not satisfied. After winning election in his own right in 1924, Coolidge joined Mellon, and Congress, in yet another tax fight, eventually prevailing and cutting the top rate to the target 25 percent. Earlier, Mellon had managed to establish "his" capital-gains tax at a substantial but still reassuringly low 12.5 percent. Just in case there was any doubt about what he and Mellon were doing by putting business first, Coolidge underscored it in a 1925 speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors: "The chief business of the American people is business," Coolidge said, adding that "the chief ideal of the American people is idealism."

Several features of the 1920s events deserve note. The first is the unapologetic tone of the pro-markets campaign. The leaders ignored their own Pikettys, and prevailed: in the 1924 presidential campaign, the Progressive La Follette did take a disruptive 16.6 percent of the vote. But the "icy," pro-business Coolidge took an absolute majority, beating La Follette and the Democratic candidate combined. Second, the tax-cutters did not back down--though several rounds of legislation were necessary. Third, and most important, the tax cuts worked--the government did draw more revenue than predicted, as business, relieved, revived. The rich earned more than the rest--the Gini coefficient rose--but when it came to tax payments, something interesting happened. The Statistics of Income, the Treasury's database, showed that the rich now paid a greater share of all taxes. Tax cuts for the rich made the rich pay taxes.

There were other positive outcomes. Today, politicians speak of 4 percent growth, but that's a frankly aspirational number; 3 percent growth is the goal that most policymakers hope for. In the 1920s, though, the United States did average 4 percent real growth. What's more, the quality of growth improved: money flowed no longer to war or tax breaks but rather to products with the most economic potential. The great signal of economic hope is the patent: the investment by an individual or a team in the future profitability of an idea. In the 1920s, patent applications for inventions exploded, reaching 89,752 in 1929--a level that they wouldn't see again until 1965.

Patent data can seem obscure to everyday Americans, but all that innovation resulted in productivity increases, which meant that factory employees could work five days a week, not six. Thus did Americans receive something new to them: Saturday. Luxuries became cheaper to make as new equipment came on line, and therefore more affordable: homes got electricity, most homes got indoor plumbing, and people could afford automobiles. Mellon budgeted so well that he made wartime inflation a memory; consumers found that their dollar went further. Finally, the 1920s economy gave workers something far more important than notional wage equality: a job. Unemployment averaged 5 percent or lower. Putting markets before equality had done much to improve the lives of regular Americans. This may be one reason that no one appeared to notice when Congress, in 1926, repealed the Peeping Tom provision in the tax code. Prosperity tastes better than envy.

The 1930s tell the opposite story. When the market crashed in 1929, Coolidge's successor, Herbert Hoover, was caught off-guard. So was everyone else, including Corrado Gini, who concluded that the worldwide slump that ensued was due to workaholic Americans--the American worker, the New York Times reported Gini saying, "does not know when to stop," resulting in the oversupply of goods and the ensuing slowdown. We don't know what Hoover made of Gini himself, but we do know that Hoover responded differently from the way predecessors had responded to previous crashes: he intervened. The monetary nature of the initial collapse would have been hard for him to address, though Hoover did recognize it. In every other area, Hoover changed policy to focus on social equality: "a chicken in every pot." Key was Hoover's emphasis (new for those times) on raising the labor price. Rather than allow prices to find their own level--in particular, wages--as presidents had in the past, Hoover hauled business leaders to Washington and bullied them into sustaining high wages, and he cajoled Congress into passing laws that pushed up compensation as well, the best-known being the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which boosted pay for all employment under government contract. The Norris-La Guardia Act likewise institutionalized higher wages by limiting recourse to the courts of employers who could not afford what unions demanded. In addition, Hoover bullied a rueful Mellon into undoing the tax cuts, raising the top rate to 63 percent. Finally, Hoover thoroughly intimidated business and markets, blaming them for hogging too much of the money.

He gets blame he doesn't deserve, for the Crash, but not "credit," for the New Deal.  Of course, the reality is that his massive interventions were no more successful than FDR's.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


A Year of Successes in Global Health: Progress on a number of human development indicators exceeded expectations in 2017, with global health benefiting from 18 major successes.  (Melvin Sanicas, Jan. 23rd, 2018, Project Syndicate)

India's elimination of active trachoma was another milestone, as it marked an important turning point in the global fight against a leading infectious cause of blindness. Last year, trachoma was also eradicated in Oman, Morocco, and Mexico.

A third key health trend in 2017 was further progress toward the elimination of human onchocerciasis, which causes blindness, impaired vision, and skin infections.

Fourth on my list is a dramatic drop in the number of guinea-worm disease infections. A mere 26 cases were recorded worldwide in 2017, down from 3.5 million cases in 1986.

Efforts to eradicate leprosy earned the fifth spot on my list, while vaccine advances in general were sixth. Highlights included a new typhoid vaccine, shown to improve protection for infants and young children, and a new shingles vaccine.

Number seven is the dramatic progress made in eliminating measles. Four countries - Bhutan, the Maldives, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom - were all declared measles-free last year.

The war on Zika is number eight on my list of health achievements in 2017. Thanks to coordinated global efforts, most people in Latin America and the Caribbean are now immune to the mosquito-borne virus, and experts believe transmission will continue to slow.

Number nine is polio eradication. Fewer than 20 new cases were reported globally, a 99% reduction since 1988. Although the year ended with reports of cases in Pakistan, health experts remain optimistic that polio can be fully eradicated in 2018.

Rounding out my top ten was the creation of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which was established to develop vaccines for infectious disease threats. Launched with nearly $600 million in funding from Germany, Japan, Norway, the UK charity Wellcome Trust, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI aims to reduce sharply the time it takes to develop and produce vaccines.

Huge gains in disease control and prevention were made last year, and the next few items on my list (11 through 16) reflect progress on specific illnesses. 

Of course, the greatest gain is just the decline in extreme poverty, as health is generally a function of nutrition and sanitation as much as vaccines and antibiotics. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Roe v. Wade at 45: Most Americans Support Abortion Restrictions : Technology enabling parents to see and doctors to treat unborn children collides with the decades-old Supreme Court decision. (Alexandra DeSanctis, January 22, 2018, National Review)

The majority justices -- seven in all, and led by opinion author Harry Blackmun -- knew exactly what outcome they wanted before the case even began. They wished to resolve the issue quickly in the highest court, putting it to bed before it could spiral out of control in the court of public opinion.

They considered, then, not the text of the Constitution but rather how they could best justify what they viewed as a necessary pro-abortion decision to prevent a vicious public and legislative battle. This political motivation led them to provide a thin legal and constitutional basis for the amorphous right to abortion -- a fact that has been acknowledged by scholars on both sides of the issue.

If, as Blackmun's writings later revealed, their goal was to entrench abortion rights as publicly acceptable, the past 45 years have proven their grand strategy a complete failure. Almost half a century later, the abortion question has grown to take up immense space in public debate. While the percentage of Americans who say they support abortion rights has stayed largely the same since 1973, the percentage of those who describe themselves as "pro-life" has risen.

Today, rising numbers of Americans report that a candidate's abortion views are highly important in determining their vote. Abortion-rights and pro-life groups alike spend millions annually to elect candidates who will push their preferred abortion legislation. Over the last decade, the Left has demanded not only the unlimited right to an abortion but also government funding and the participation of anti-abortion health-care providers.

And none of these issues shows any sign of impending resolution.

Because it improperly plucked the issue out of the democratic process, Roe embroiled the judicial system in an endless struggle to demarcate the nebulous lines of the fabricated right to an abortion. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Israel's Hamas dilemma (Shlomi Eldar, January 22, 2018, Al Monitor)

An additional indicator of how dire things have become is the declining number of supply trucks entering the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Two years ago, some 2,000 trucks entered each day. Last year the number was down to 1,000, and last month it barely reached 400. The explanation lies in the sharply reduced purchasing power of Gaza's 2 million besieged residents, and the number of trucks reflects the bare minimum required to keep them alive.

"You're talking about purchasing power and I'm telling you that we're talking about dying and death," says a Gaza journalist who spoke with Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity given the ban by Hamas on Palestinian contacts with Israelis. The journalist is in his 50s. He has been through two Palestinian uprisings against Israel and numerous military clashes between Gaza and Israel, and he has covered the distressing circumstances of Gaza's residents before the closure and since. His descriptions of recent days are a painful outcry to the world. "It doesn't get any worse than this; there's nowhere lower to go. It's worse than life in the Middle Ages," he says. "People are hoping to die because death is preferable to the life they are leading in Gaza."

Like all Gaza Palestinians, he blames Israel for the situation. Israel, on the other hand, blames the Islamist Hamas movement that has ruled Gaza since ousting Fatah in 2007. It ignores the findings of the state comptroller, who wrote in 2017 that Israel had never seriously examined the implications of its siege on Gaza and never made serious attempts to resolve the dangerous standoff.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has been trying for more than two years to advance a grandiose plan to build a port for Gaza on an artificial island across from its coast. The port could be used to bring food and other vital supplies into the Strip, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have consistently rejected the idea. Absent a fundamental, inherent solution to the problem, the Israel Defense Forces civil administration (for the West Bank and Gaza) keeps offering panaceas that are about as useful as an aspirin to a terminally ill patient.

For the past few months, as reported here, the professional echelons in Israel's military have been suggesting that Gaza residents be allowed to work in agricultural communities in Israel's south, but Liberman nixed this initiative too. They are now proposing that Israel ease the passage of Gaza merchants into Israel in light of the declining number of those coming to Israel for trade purposes.

A recent report by Gisha, an Israeli nongovernmental organization dedicated to freedom of movement for Palestinians, indicates that Israel tightened its closure in 2017 and the situation of Gaza residents had deteriorated. The report claims that the decision on tougher measures against Gaza was adopted without any public discourse and implemented without advance warning.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


A step closer to long-needed relief for Dreamers (Boston Globe, JANUARY 23, 2018)

Crucially, McConnell signaled a willingness to hold a vote even without sign-off from President Trump, whose shifting positions on immigration have made him a completely unreliable negotiating partner. "For the first time, we have the majority leader move off of 'we can only move something if the president agrees,' " said Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who backs the immigration proposal and switched to a "yes" vote after McConnell made his promise.

The clarity of seeing who sides with Donald's 10% is useful.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Tensions swell between Sessions and FBI over senior personnel from Comey era (Devlin Barrett, Philip Rucker, January 22, 2018, Washington Post)

The tension over McCabe and other high-level FBI officials who served during James B. Comey's tenure has reached the White House, where counsel Donald McGahn has sought to mediate the issue, these people said.

As Sessions tried to push Wray to make personnel changes, Wray conveyed his frustration to the attorney general, these people said. Sessions then discussed the matter with McGahn, who advised him to ease off, which he did, these people said. [...]

On Monday night, Comey appeared to cheer the news that Wray was standing up to the administration, tweeting: "Good to read reports of people standing up for what they believe in."

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


Feds: Man threatened to kill CNN employees (Jonathan Carlson, 1/23/18,CBS46) 

A Michigan man was arrested after an FBI investigation, accused of threatening to travel to Atlanta to commit mass murder at CNN headquarters. 

According to federal court documents, 19 year-old Brandon Griesemer made 22 calls to CNN about a week ago. 

It began with claims of "fake news" and ended with threats of violence. 

Griesemer told a CNN operator, among other things, "Fake news. I'm coming to gun you all down." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Yes, Your Ancestors Probably Did Come Here Legally -- Because 'Illegal' Immigration Is Less Than a Century Old (Kevin Jennings, 1/22/18,  Los Angeles Times)

When people say "my ancestors came here legally," they're probably right. For the first century of the country's existence, anyone could land here and walk right off the boat with no papers of any kind, just as Gumpertz did. Coming here "illegally" did not even exist as a concept.

The first federal general immigration law was enacted in 1882. It prohibited from entering the U.S. "any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge." In other words, unless you were physically or mentally incapable of taking care of yourself, you were in -- unless you were Chinese.

That's because the first sweeping federal restriction on immigration also came in 1882, in the form of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Troubled by the influx of Chinese workers -- who helped build the transcontinental railroads, among other things -- Congress enacted a wholesale ban on their further immigration that year. To enforce the ban, a bureaucracy had to be created, leading in 1891 to the establishment of the federal Bureau of Immigration, the first body charged with enforcing federal immigration law.

Beyond these restrictions, however, federal immigration laws remained relatively lax: If you were an able-bodied, non-Chinese person, you could come "legally" for several more decades. You didn't have to speak a word of English or be literate in any language at all. In fact, it was not until 1917 that Congress required that immigrants pass a literacy test, and even then they could pass in any language, not just English.

When a massive influx of new immigrant groups came at the turn of the 20th century -- Italians from Southern Europe and Jews from Eastern Europe, largely -- a backlash began to build. In 1924, President Coolidge signed into law the National Origins Act, the primary aim of which was to severely restrict the flow of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. The new law required for the first time that immigrants to the U.S. have visas, introducing the concept of "having papers" to American immigration policy.

The concept of being an "illegal" immigrant pretty much dates back to 1924 -- less than a century ago.

It's always and only been about race.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 AM


U.S. funding deal keep stocks bulls on the charge (Marc Jones, 1/23/18, Reuters)

The International Monetary Fund revised up its global growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 to 3.9 percent, which would be the highest since 2011. There was also a lift from Japan as its central bank said it would keep its stimulus flowing.

"We should not confuse a mature bull market with a decrepit one," Goldman Sachs said in its 2018 outlook to clients.

"For the first time in a decade, the major economies of the world are all expanding at the same time, providing a foundation for global profits that fundamentally support risk assets."

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 AM


Common Cause: Feds Should Investigate Trump Payoff To Porn Star (Greg Price, 1/23/18, Newsweek)

The group, Common Cause, said the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission should investigate the $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in October 2016 by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. It said the payment  may have been an in-kind contribution, which would violate several campaign finance laws.

Because the payment reportedly was made about a month before voters headed to the polls, it could be seen as a campaign "expenditure" that affected the election's outcome in Trump's favor, according to the complaint.

January 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM


Rouhani moves to leverage unrest to loosen IRGC grip on economy (Mohammad Ali Shabani, January 22, 2018, Al Monitor)

In the aftermath of the recent protests in Iran, public announcements about a concerted effort to get the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian army (Artesh) to divest from the economy seem to signal that President Hassan Rouhani remains firmly committed to his agenda.

Indeed, unlike the past -- when civil unrest was quickly assumed by default to weaken moderates as the security state stepped in -- elite responses to the protests have this time acknowledged grievances. Believed to have initially been instigated by hard-line foes who sought to undermine him, Rouhani is now using the protests to leverage his efforts to restrict the influence of unaccountable centers of power.

The endeavor is not new; rather, it has been on Rouhani's agenda since he first took office. To achieve this objective, the administration has avoided confrontation aimed at wholly emptying the pockets of its rivals. Instead, the president's approach has been one of co-optation via the gradual opening of the books of his opponents, with the aim of one day demanding full accountability. His engagement with the IRGC is a case in point.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 PM


George Papadopoulos is the 'John Dean' of the Russia investigation, his fiancee says (Rosalind S. Helderman, January 22, 2018, Washington Post)

"I believe history will remember him like John Dean," said Italian-born Simona Mangiante, referring to the former White House counsel who pleaded guilty to his role in the Watergate coverup and then became a key witness against other aides to President Richard Nixon.

Dean told Nixon in 1973 that Watergate was a "cancer on the presidency," warning him that it was an existential crisis that could imperil his term in office. [...]

Without offering specifics, Mangiante said there is much more that has not yet been told publicly about Papadopoulos' 10 months as an informal national security adviser to Trump and his interactions with a London-based professor who told Papadopoulos, according to court filings, that the Russians had "dirt" on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

"There's a lot to come," she said. "He was the first one to break a hole on all of this."

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 PM


She Confronts Trump's Immigration Advisers With Their Own Immigrant Histories (Ben Sales, January 22, 2018, JTA)

[I]f English proficiency had been an immigration requirement a century ago, Miller's own great-grandmother may not have been allowed into the country.

That's what journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn discovered that same day while working on a new project she calls Resistance Genealogy. Using public records and genealogical websites like Ancestry.com, Mendelsohn wants to show immigration hard-liners their own immigrant family trees.

"When you do genealogy, you're constantly confronted with the reality of our immigrant past," Mendelsohn told JTA. "It appears from some of the attitudes and stances that people are taking publicly that they're forgetting that."

In Miller's case, Mendelsohn tracked down his great-grandmother's line item in the 1910 census. The entry noted that four years after arriving in the United States, she spoke only Yiddish, not English.

Mendelsohn has performed similar searches for the immigrant forbears of a handful of President Donald Trump's advisers and supporters, seeking hard data to support the idea that America is a nation of immigrants. She's found out about Fox News host Tucker Carlson's great-great-grandfather, conservative pundit Tomi Lahren's great-great-grandfather (who forged his immigration papers, no less) and U.S. Rep. Steve King's grandmother, who arrived in the United States from Germany at age 4. ("We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," the Iowa Republican tweeted in March.)

On Jan. 9, Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, called for an end to "chain migration," which refers to immigrants bringing their relatives to live in the United States. But Mendelsohn discovered that the practice had brought Scavino's great-grandfather, Gildo, to the country.

"So Dan. Let's say Victor Scavino arrives from Canelli, Italy, in 1904, then brother Hector in 1905, brother Gildo in 1912, sister Esther in 1913, & sister Clotilde and their father Giuseppe in 1916, and they live together in NY," Mendelsohn tweeted, listing his family members. "Do you think that would count as chain migration?"

Indeed, the big change from then to now is how much more quickly immigrants assimilate, mostly due to mass media and globalization.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 PM


Scoop: FBI director threatened to resign amid Trump, Sessions pressure (Jonathan Swan, 1/22/18, Axios)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- at the public urging of President Donald Trump -- has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost  (EMMA GREEN  JAN 18, 2018, The Atlantic)

The first time Ashley McGuire had a baby, she and her husband had to wait 20 weeks to learn its sex. By her third, they found out at 10 weeks with a blood test. Technology has defined her pregnancies, she told me, from the apps that track weekly development to the ultrasounds that show the growing child. "My generation has grown up under an entirely different world of science and technology than the Roe generation," she said. "We're in a culture that is science-obsessed."

Activists like McGuire believe it makes perfect sense to be pro-science and pro-life. While she opposes abortion on moral grounds, she believes studies of fetal development, improved medical techniques, and other advances anchor the movement's arguments in scientific fact. "The pro-life message has been, for the last 40-something years, that the fetus ... is a life, and it is a human life worthy of all the rights the rest of us have," she said. "That's been more of an abstract concept until the last decade or so." But, she added, "when you're seeing a baby sucking its thumb at 18 weeks, smiling, clapping," it becomes "harder to square the idea that that 20-week-old, that unborn baby or fetus, is discardable."

Scientific progress is remaking the debate around abortion. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the case that led the way to legal abortion, it pegged most fetuses' chance of viable life outside the womb at 28 weeks; after that point, it ruled, states could reasonably restrict women's access to the procedure. Now, with new medical techniques, doctors are debating whether that threshold should be closer to 22 weeks. Like McGuire, today's prospective moms and dads can learn more about their baby earlier into a pregnancy than their parents or grandparents. And like McGuire, when they see their fetus on an ultrasound, they may see humanizing qualities like smiles or claps, even if most scientists see random muscle movements.

These advances fundamentally shift the moral intuition around abortion. New technology makes it easier to apprehend the humanity of a growing child and imagine a fetus as a creature with moral status. Over the last several decades, pro-life leaders have increasingly recognized this and rallied the power of scientific evidence to promote their cause. They have built new institutions to produce, track, and distribute scientifically crafted information on abortion. They hungrily follow new research in embryology. They celebrate progress in neonatology as a means to save young lives. New science is "instilling a sense of awe that we never really had before at any point in human history," McGuire said. "We didn't know any of this."

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Trump voting commission bought Texas election data flagging Hispanic voters (Spencer S. Hsu and John Wagner January 22, 2018, Washington post)

President Trump's voting commission asked every state and the District for detailed voter registration data, but in Texas's case it took an additional step: It asked to see Texas records that identify all voters with Hispanic surnames, newly released documents show.

In buying nearly 50 million records from the state with the nation's second-largest Hispanic population, a researcher for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity checked a box on two Texas public voter data request forms explicitly asking for the "Hispanic surname flag notation," to be included in information sent to the voting commission, according to copies of the signed and notarized state forms.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Trump Slaps Steep Tariffs on Imported Washing Machines and Solar Products (ANA SWANSON, JAN. 22, 2018, NY Times)

President Trump has imposed steep tariffs on both washing machines and solar products, responding to two separate trade cases that sought to protect American industry from a flood of cheap imports, including from China, the United States trade representative said Monday.

Oh, for the days of the UR, removing restrictions on the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Chelsea Manning Went To A Far-Right Party Celebrating Trump (Aiden Pink, 1/22/18, The Forward)

BuzzFeed News reported that Manning was hobnobbing at a New York nightclub with Cassandra Fairbanks, who writes for the conspiracist website The Gateway Pundit.

Hundreds of other figures of the far-right were at the party, including many whom the the Anti-Defamation League placed on a "hate speech" watchlist, such as conspiracy theorists Mike Cernovich, Gateway Pundit reporter Lucian Wintrich, and Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, who once made a video titled "10 Things I Hate About Jews." [...]

Manning is running in a Democratic primary in Maryland to unseat incumbent senator Ben Cardin, who is Jewish.

Julian sent his regrets.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Donald Trump's relationship with John Kelly, his chief of staff, fraught from the beginning, may finally have gone past the point of no return. Two prominent Republicans in frequent contact with the White House told me that Trump has discussed choosing Kelly's successor in recent days, asking a close friend what he thought about David Urban, a veteran Washington lobbyist and political operative who helped engineer Trump's victory in Pennsylvania. Ivanka is also playing a central role in the search, quietly field-testing ideas with people. "Ivanka is the most worried about it. She's trying to figure who replaces Kelly," a person who's spoken with her said.

Kelly's departure likely isn't imminent, sources said. "He wants to stay longer than Reince [Priebus]," an outside adviser said.

Perhaps the smallest ambition ever.

Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


Women and independents drive advantage for Democrats ahead of midterm elections, Post-ABC poll finds (Scott Clement, January 22, 2018, Washington Post)

By 51 percent to 39 percent, more registered voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their congressional district over the Republican. Democrats' 12 percentage-point advantage on this "generic ballot" question is the largest in Post-ABC polling since 2006, although it is slightly larger than other polls this month. [...]

The Post-ABC poll found more Americans saying they think Trump and Republicans were responsible for the shutdown, although Republican leaders have expressed confidence that Democrats will be blamed for insisting on concessions for young undocumented immigrants before backing a funding bill.

The Post-ABC poll finds Democrats holding a 57 percent to 31 percent advantage among female voters, double the size of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's margin in the 2016 election. Nonwhite women favor Democrats by a 53-point margin, somewhat smaller than Clinton's 63-point advantage over Trump in 2016. But white women have moved sharply in Democrats' direction, favoring them over Republicans by 12 points after supporting Trump by nine points in 2016 and Republican candidates by 14 points in the 2014 midterm election, according to network exit polls.

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


Trump administration's immigrant-crime hotline releases victims' personal information (Daniel González, 1/21/18, The Republic)

The same week the Trump administration opened a hotline last April to support victims of crimes by immigrants, Elena Maria Lopez called to report a complaint against her ex-husband.

At first, Lopez kept getting a busy signal.

But finally someone answered. For the next 20 minutes, Lopez provided a detailed account, accusing the Dutch immigrant of marrying her to get a green card and then threatening to harm her if she contacted immigration officials.

What happened next shocked Lopez.

Not only did Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that operates the hotline, decline to take action, but immigration authorities also released much of the private information she provided. This includes a confidential internet phone number she fears will now make it easier for anyone to locate her in New Jersey, where she has a protected address set up for domestic-violence victims.

Lopez is one of hundreds of people whose private information was inappropriately released by ICE when the agency posted call logs to the hotline on its website, a clear violation of the agency's own policies against divulging private information, as well as privacy laws intended to protect individuals who provide sensitive information to the government.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Up to 1,000 more U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring (Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan, January 21, 2018, Washington Post)

Senior administration officials said that the president has been known to affect an Indian accent and imitate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi...

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