December 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


Police Officer Secretly Paints For 25 Years, Leaves Behind Incredible Collection (Masha Froliak, December 3, 2016, Heat Street)
Standing in front of a painting by Richard De Cosmis - in his studio, improvised from a garage of his house in Weehawken, NJ - was a revelation to me.

Broken turbulent lines depicted a figure of a man, his torso bent, placed against an abstract background. It was reminiscent of the contorted bodies in the work of Michelangelo and Francis Bacon. But the painting I was looking at had its own unique style and emotional intensity. Who is this artist? And why we haven't heard of him?

Richard De Cosmis was a police officer. He died last year, leaving behind a large collection of paintings and drawings, as well as a mystery yet to be solved, on the over 100 paintings he produced, in seclusion, over the last 25 years. [...]

A series of paintings in which figures are huddled together, positioned off balance, slumping over the other's shoulder, or even as if floating weightless in mid air, were particularly striking.

His family reveals, that De Cosmis began painting after retiring his 30 year service as a police officer and was a self taught painter, a total outsider in the art world.

However, a great amount of books, sketches, and notes scattered in the studio suggest that he was very conscious about what it was he was trying to achieve.

I look through some handwritten notes: "Traditional out. Paint: or quit!", "Essentials: mood, emotions, tension" , "Forget realism", "Reduce Definitions", "Negative space needs movement." [...]

I am stricken by the fact that such a profound collection was created without any academic training, any creative surrounding and no direct interaction with other artists.

And I am truly wondering if this man, a former police officer, and a father of five children, might at some point be recognized as a great American painter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


Job Retraining Won't Work. We'll Need Government Jobs, Then a Universal Basic Income (David Atkins, December 4, 2016, Washington Monthly)

For all the hoopla over china, trade and immigration, 85% of the manufacturing losses in the United States were due to automation, not trade. And it's not just manufacturing. Automation imperils huge swaths of employment, from the medical profession to the finance industry. Drivers of all kinds, from truckers to cabbies to worksite drivers, are all on the chopping block. Big data threatens to slash middle level managers and analysts of all kinds. Something will have to be done.

But most people aren't ready for a universal basic income. Wherever the public has had a chance to vote on it, it has failed-and usually dramatically. People aren't comfortable with the idea yet-they worry about creating a class of layabouts, and about removing the dignity that comes with a job, and about losing the leverage workers have had against capital since the dawn of the labor movement. Most of these are cultural fears that will dissipate over time, but they are very real.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


What It Will Take for Us to Trust AI (Guru Banavar, NOVEMBER 29, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

The early days of artificial intelligence have been met with some very public hand wringing. Well-respected technologists and business leaders have voiced their concerns over the (responsible) development of AI. And Hollywood's appetite for dystopian AI narratives appears to be bottomless.

This is not unusual, nor is it unreasonable. Change, technological or otherwise, always excites the imagination. And it often makes us a little uncomfortable.

But in my opinion, we have never known a technology with more potential to benefit society than artificial intelligence. We now have AI systems that learn from vast amounts of complex, unstructured information and turn it into actionable insight. It is not unreasonable to expect that within this growing body of digital data -- 2.5 exabytes every day -- lie the secrets to defeating cancer, reversing climate change, or managing the complexity of the global economy.

We also expect AI systems to pervasively support the decisions we make in our professional and personal lives in just a few years. In fact, this is already happening in many industries and governments. However, if we are ever to reap the full spectrum of societal and industrial benefits from artificial intelligence, we will first need to trust it.

Trust of AI systems will be earned over time, just as in any personal relationship. Put simply, we trust things that behave as we expect them to. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin (ALAN FEUER and ANDREW HIGGINS, DEC. 3, 2016, NY Times)

As the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, an American group that aims to preserve the privileged place of whiteness in Western civilization and fight "anti-Christian degeneracy," Matthew Heimbach knows whom he envisions as the ideal ruler: the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

"Russia is our biggest inspiration," Mr. Heimbach said. "I see President Putin as the leader of the free world."

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump mystified many on the left and in the foreign policy establishment with his praise for Mr. Putin and his criticism of the Obama administration's efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But what seemed inexplicable when Mr. Trump first expressed his admiration for the Russian leader seems, in retrospect, to have been a shrewd dog whistle to a small but highly motivated part of his base.

For Mr. Heimbach is far from alone in his esteem for Mr. Putin. Throughout the collection of white ethnocentrists, nationalists, populists and neo-Nazis that has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Putin is widely revered as a kind of white knight: a symbol of strength, racial purity and traditional Christian values in a world under threat from Islam, immigrants and rootless cosmopolitan elites.

By which they mean (((rootless cosmopolitan elites))).

December 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Donald Trump's Trade Policies: Blessing Or Curse? (Stuart Anderson, 12/03/16, Forbes)   

What do economists think of Donald Trump's proposed trade policies? To find out, I decided to ask two leading economists, Daniel Griswold, a Mercatus Center senior research fellow and co-director of the Program on the American Economy and Globalization, and Mark Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus and creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem.

Perry: One very important, but almost always overlooked point is that there really is no overall deficit (or surplus) for international transactions once we account for both: a) cash flows for goods and services (current account) and b) cash flows for financial assets (capital account). A full accounting for all cash inflows and cash outflows over a certain period for all international trade in goods, services and financial assets in known as a country's "balance of payments." And just like a corporate balance sheet for a company, our balance of payments as a country always has to balance once we consider our "current account" (which has been in deficit for many decades) and our "capital account" (which has been in surplus for many decades).

Beyond the fact that the discussion on the trade deficit is typically incomplete by focusing only on trade flows for goods and services while ignoring trade flows for financial assets, there is a larger issue with the obsession with America's trade deficit. And that's the fact that the trade deficit is almost always reported in the media as a sign of America's economic weakness, when that is not the case at all. After all, the flip-side of the "trade deficit" is an inflow of foreign capital that provides a vital source of financing that fuels capital creation and business expansion in America, which leads to increased future output and employment in the U.S., and a more dynamic and vibrant economy. George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux expressed it this way: "To lament America's trade deficit is to lament the fact that foreigners are investing in America. And that seems very odd."

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Is Trump's Deal With Carrier A Form Of Crony Capitalism? : interview with Donald Evans, commerce secretary during George W. Bush's first term, and Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University  (NPR,December 2, 2016)

Cowen: We're supposed to live under a republic of the rule of law, not the rule of men. This deal is completely nontransparent, and the notion that every major American company has to negotiate person-to-person with the president over Twitter is going to make all business decisions politicized.

We don't know exactly what the company is getting. There's plenty of talk that the reason Carrier went along with the deal was because they were afraid their parent company would lose a lot of defense contracts, so this now creates the specter of a president always being willing to punish or reward companies depending on whether or not they give him a good press release.

On whether there's a right or wrong way to interact with American corporations

Evans: Certainly over the long haul you can't get into the mode of picking winners and losers. The great hallmark of this country is we love to compete. And so what I think government's role needs to be, should be, will be under this president-elect, I'm confident, is create a playing field for our companies in America to compete not only here at home but around the world and provide that environment so that companies here in America are willing to stay here, employ more people and build their companies here in America instead of some other country in the world.

On United Technologies, Carrier's parent company

Cowen: They do a lot of defense contracting; it's at least 10 percent of their revenue. Carrier from the state of Indiana was already offered the tax break before the election. They turned it down. Now all of a sudden Trump is president, Bernie Sanders is telling Trump to threaten the defense contracts of the parent company. And now all of a sudden the company takes the deal, and Trump is known for being somewhat vindictive.

On crony capitalism

Cowen: Trump and Bernie Sanders, for all of their populist talk, their actual recipes in both case lead to crony capitalism ... a system where businesses who are in bed with the government and who give the president positive press releases are rewarded and where companies who oppose or speak out against the president are in some way punished.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Simmons vs. Gladwell: The Future of Football : Sagging ratings, national controversy, horrifying head injuries, shameless greed: The conversation about the NFL has officially changed. Is it too late to fix it? (Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell, 12/03/16, The Ringer)

Gladwell: [...] Football has a problem. I thought of this the other day when I had the fun job of interviewing Astros GM Jeff Luhnow at a RAND conference in Santa Monica. He talked entirely about analytics, and what all the data they now collect mean for the decisions they make -- how they didn't bid on a major free agent after doing a micro-analysis of his swing, or what can be learned, in real time, by precisely measuring the rotation on a pitcher's slider. That kind of stuff. The audience found him fascinating. Here's the thing, though: I'm guessing that less than half of the people in the room were actually baseball fans. But it didn't matter: There is now a second conversation about baseball -- the Moneyball conversation -- that is interesting even to people who don't follow the first conversation, the one that takes place on the field. Same thing for basketball. There's an obsessive first conversation about a beautiful game, and a great second conversation about how basketball has become a mixed-up culture of personality and celebrity. Boxing had a wonderful second conversation in its glory years: It was a metaphor of social mobility. Jack Dempsey, one of the most popular boxers of all time, dropped out of school before he even got to high school; Joe Louis's family got chased out of Alabama by the Ku Klux Klan. That underlying narrative made what happened in the ring matter. When the second conversation about boxing became about people like Don King and the financial and physical exploitation of athletes, the sport became a circus.

So what's the second conversation about football? It's concussions. There's the game on the field and then there's a conversation off the field about why nobody wants their kids to play the game on the field. How does a sport survive in the long run when the second conversation contradicts the first? I thought you were going to mention the other excruciating Panthers game this season: the league-opening-night Super Bowl rematch with the Broncos, where one Denver defender after another made a run at Cam Newton's head. After that happened a second time, a few weeks later, remember what Newton said? He doesn't "feel safe on the field" anymore. Newton is one of the league's biggest young stars, and the most memorable thing he has said all year is that playing football now scares him. Good lord.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


The General Who Should Lead the Pentagon (THOMAS E. RICKS, DEC. 2, 2016, NY Times)

Usually, I'd oppose having a general as secretary of defense, because it could undermine our tradition of civilian control of the military.

But these are not normal times. The incoming president appears to be a profoundly ignorant man who often seems to act on gut impulse or on what pleases the crowd. That is a dangerous combination to have in the White House. Having known General Mattis for many years, I am confident that he will be a restraint on Mr. Trump's impulsiveness. I also think he will provide a strong counterweight to some of those around Mr. Trump who hold isolationist or pro-Putin views.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


What the Alt-Right Really Means (CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, DEC. 2, 2016, NY Times)

[M]ost of all there is sex. The alt-right has a lot of young men in it, young men whose ideology can be assumed to confront them with obstacles to meeting people and dating. Sex-cynicism and race-pessimism, of course, often travel in tandem. At the National Policy Institute conference, the writer F. Roger Devlin gave a talk on why young Norwegian women in Groruddalen, outside Oslo, preferred dating Somali and Pakistani gang members to ethnic Norwegian boys-next-door. "The female instinct is to mate with socially dominant men," he explained, "and it does not matter how such dominance is achieved." [...]

The internet liberates us to be our worst selves. Where other movements have orators and activists, the alt-right also has ruthless trolls and "doxers." The trolls bombard Twitter and email accounts with slur-filled letters and Photoshopped art. Doxing is the releasing of personal information onto the internet. Last month, several alt-right writers, including Mr. Spencer, had their accounts suspended by Twitter. Mr. Spencer says he appreciates the "frenetic energy" of trolling but doesn't do it himself.

The alt-right did not invent these tactics. But during this election the trolling reached a sadistic pitch. Journalists who opposed Mr. Trump received photos of themselves -- and in some cases their children -- dead, or in gas chambers. Jewish and Jewish-surnamed journalists were particular targets, especially those seen to be thwarting Mr. Trump's rise: Jonah Goldberg, Julia Ioffe and Ben Shapiro, among others. The Daily Stormer has been particularly aggressive in deploying its "troll army" against those with whom it disagrees. A signature punctuation of the alt-right is to mark Jewish names with "echoes," or triple parentheses, like (((this))).

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Iran's Game in Aleppo (Ahmed Rashid, 12/01/16, NY Review of Books)

This could be a turning point in the conflict. The fall of East Aleppo would give the regime control of the country's five largest cities and the critical western part of Syria where the regime has its major popular support, now assisted by Russian air power and Iranian militias. Rebel groups would be reduced to a few strongholds in the north of the country and a few other remaining pockets--some around the capital Damascus. [...]

Yet one of the real victors in a post-Aleppo peace deal would also be Iran, which has been supporting the Syrian regime for the past five years and has been recruiting a series of militias from Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Arab states to fight alongside the Syrian army. In doing so, Iran has enforced a sectarian divide, with its Shia forces allying with Syria's Alawite regime against the rebels, who are predominantly Sunni but also include other groups. 

Iranian forces have become a critical element in Assad's dramatic recent successes in the war. In late November, an Iranian official acknowledged that large numbers of Iranian fighters have been killed in Syria. "Now the number of Iran's martyrs as defenders of [the] shrine has exceeded 1,000," Mohammadali Shahidi Mahallati, head of Iran's Foundation of Martyrs, which offers financial support to the relatives of those killed fighting in Syria, told an Iranian news agency.

Iran labels its Shia fighters in Syria "defenders of the shrine," referring to Sayyida Zainab, a mosque near Damascus where a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad is said to be buried. The new Iranian death toll was much higher than the four hundred reported at the beginning of the summer--a clear sign of Iran's stepped-up involvement and also that the Syrian regime is chronically short of manpower. And showing the extent to which Iran has created a broader Shia front in Syria, Mahallati also admitted that the largest number of foreign fighters killed in August were Afghan Shias whom Iran had enlisted--although he did not refer to any number.

A US-Russia deal on Syria would be seen by many Syrians and by the Arab countries in the region as a surrender to Tehran, allowing the Islamic Republic to consolidate its influence across the Levant.

Leaving the Alawites with their rump state and elections to choose who they want to lead them. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Will Total deal pave way for other oil majors' return to Iran? (Al-Monitor, 12/01/16)

French energy giant Total SA is back in Iran, six years after it was forced to halt its operations due to nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran. Leading a consortium with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and Petropars, the company signed a heads of agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) worth $4.8 billion to develop phase 11 of the giant South Pars natural gas field. The project is expected to produce 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The preliminary agreement, due to be finalized by early 2017, gives Total a 50.1% stake. Other consortium members CNPC and NIOC subsidiary Petropars will take 30% and 19.9%, respectively.

The gas field, which is divided into 29 development phases on the Iranian side, is the world's largest.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Inventor of General Tso's Chicken, Chef Peng Chang-Kuei, is dead at 98  (CONSTANCE GIBBS, 12/02/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Peng spent most of his life in the kitchen, first as a banquet chef for the Nationalists before they were ousted by Mao's Communists in 1949.

Peng fled the revolution and ended up in Taiwan, where he continued as a top government cook. His date with destiny came in 1952 when he was assigned to prepare a meal for visiting U.S. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, who had been a guest of Peng on prior visits.

The master chef wanted to create an entirely new item for the dignitary and the resulting battered chicken in a spicy sweet sauce was dubbed "General Tso's Chicken" in honor of the legendary Qing Dynasty military and political leader Zuo Zongtang, who died in glory in 1885.

Peng moved to New York in 1973 and opened his own restaurant, Peng Garden, on E. 44th St. near the United Nations -- where then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger raved about the General Tso's chicken, which Peng once admitted in an interview he had reformulated to be sweeter in deference to the American palate.

December 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 PM


Republicans are suddenly confronted with the notion of responsibility. And they're terrified. (Paul Waldman, December 2, 2016, The Week)

The truth Republicans are confronting is that while this thing called "ObamaCare" is unpopular in the abstract, most of the things ObamaCare does are quite popular. Just look at these results from the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest tracking poll on the law:

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

Even Republicans like most of the law, which may be why only 26 percent of respondents in that poll said that it should be repealed. And if you take all those popular provisions away, people aren't going to be too pleased. Remember what a big deal Republicans made out of the fact that a small number of people getting coverage on the individual market had to change plans after the ACA went into effect? Now imagine 20 million people losing their coverage all at once, while the rest of us lose the security we've enjoyed for the last few years.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Report: Iran owns 4.5% share in German company building Israeli subs (TIMES OF ISRAEL, December 2, 2016)

An Iranian government company owns 4.5 percent of the German shipbuilding company at the center of a scandal over its provision of submarines and other services to the Israel Navy, the Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Hillary Clinton's "Corrupt Establishment" Is Now Advising Donald Trump (Zaid Jilani, December 2 2016, The Intercept)

Now, less than four weeks after riding that line to victory, he formally invited the establishment into his administration.

On Friday, Trump announced the creation of a "Strategic and Policy Forum" that will serve to advise him on domestic economic matters. The list of advisers is a who's-who of corporate elites.

He's not the only one making a major turnaround; many of them had previously and enthusiastically supported his Democratic opponent.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


U.S. greenlights Norwegian Air flights in blow to U.S. industry (Jeffrey Dastin, 12/02/16, Reuters)

U.S. airlines and unions have said the subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, would undermine U.S. wages and working standards, claims Norwegian has dismissed.

The accusations have come as a fare war has escalated over the Atlantic, forcing large and established airlines to consider chopping prices, redesigning cabins and adding restrictions to win budget-conscious vacationers back from the likes of Norwegian.

The contrast of our free marketeer President with the protectionist president-elect is hilarious.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


But... Wait... The Good Guys Won't Win With More Crony Capitalism (Gov. Sarah Palin, December 2, 2016, Young Conservatives)

When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people's free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets. Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.

Politicians picking and choosing recipients of corporate welfare is railed against by fiscal conservatives, for it's a hallmark of corruption. And socialism. The Obama Administration dealt in it in spades. Recall Solyndra, Stimulus boondoggles, and all their other taxpayer-subsidized anchors on our economy. A $20 trillion debt-ridden country can't afford this sinfully stupid practice, so vigilantly guard against its continuance, or we're doomed.

Reaganites learned it is POLICY change that changes economic trajectory. Reagan's successes were built on establishing a fiscal framework that invigorated our entire economy, revitalized growth and investment while decreasing spending, tax rates, over-reaching regulations, unemployment, and favoritism via individual subsidies. We need Reaganites in the new Administration.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


Trump's Breezy Calls to World Leaders Leave Diplomats Aghast (MARK LANDLER, DEC. 1, 2016, NY Times)

Mr. Trump's conversation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan has generated the most angst, because, as Mr. Earnest put it, the relationship between Mr. Sharif's country and the United States is "quite complicated," with disputes over issues ranging from counterterrorism to nuclear proliferation.

In a remarkably candid readout of the phone call, the Pakistani government said Mr. Trump had told Mr. Sharif that he was "a terrific guy" who made him feel as though "I'm talking to a person I have known for long." He described Pakistanis as "one of the most intelligent people." When Mr. Sharif invited him to visit Pakistan, the president-elect replied that he would "love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people."

The Trump transition office, in its more circumspect readout, said only that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sharif "had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future." It did not confirm or deny the Pakistani account of Mr. Trump's remarks.

The breezy tone of the readout left diplomats in Washington slack-jawed, with some initially assuming it was a parody. 

December 1, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


The Secret Movement to Draft General James Mattis for President : Gen. James Mattis doesn't necessarily want to be president--but that's not stopping a group of billionaire donors from hatching a plan to get him there. (Tim Mak, 04.08.16, Daily Beast)

An anonymous group of conservative billionaires is ready to place their bets on a man dubbed "Mad Dog," hoping to draft him into the presidential race to confront Donald Trump. [...]

But this situation involves far bigger players: Close to a dozen influential donors--involving politically-involved billionaires with deep pockets and conservative leanings--are ready to put their resources behind Mattis. At their request, a small group of political operatives have taken the first steps in the strategic legwork needed for a bid: a package of six strategic memos outlining how Mattis could win the race, in hopes of coaxing him in.
The general has received the package of memos, according to two individuals involved with the project.

[W]eekly Standard editor Bill Kristol poured fuel onto the fire Feb. 22, after Trump victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Speaking at a fundraiser for the Hoover Institute, where Mattis is a visiting fellow, Kristol suggested--perhaps jokingly--that the former four-star general might be conscripted into the race. [...]

The pro-Mattis donors, who want to stay anonymous for the time being, have assembled a core group of seven political operatives, led by Joel Searby, a Republican consultant based in Florida. The group of strategists also includes lead attorney Mohammad Jazil; ballot access specialist Matthew Sawyer; and former George W. Bush pollster Jan Lohuizen, along with a finance team and a "top firm" that has been secured to lead the ballot access petition gathering, members of the team tell The Daily Beast.

Wilson and Noonan co-authored a memo on how Mattis might capitalize on the current media environment, arguing that Trump's "fake-macho act falls apart" before a bona fide American hero like Mattis. The general's overall bearing "immediately blows a hole into the central narrative of Trump: his toughness," they argue in a memo obtained by The Daily Beast. "[A]nd the drama of watching it fall apart under fire would be amazing television."

Comparing him to President Dwight Eisenhower, the memo concludes that Mattis has "all the iconoclastic, authentic style of non-politician Trump--and all the serious government service credibility of Hillary Clinton."

Some conservatives, disgusted with Trump's candidacy, have already warmed to the idea of a run by Mattis--including conservative commentators Erick Erickson and Kristol.

God Bless Mike Pence.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


High school heroes recreate the pill Martin Shkreli priced at $750 for a measly $20 (Next Web, 12/01/16)

The resourceful high-schoolers successfully recreated Daraprim's key ingredient in their school lab. What's particularly impressive is that the teenage collective managed to produce 3.7 grams of the compound Pyrimethamine for about $15 (or AU$20).

The Sydney Grammar School pupils told ABC Australia they wanted to draw attention to the awfully inflated price of the drug, which student Milan Leonard described as "ridiculous."

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


ADL Reverses on Keith Ellison, Now Opposes His DNC Leadership Bid : The anti-bigotry watchdog drew the line when audio surfaced of Ellison claiming that U.S. foreign policy is 'governed' by Israeli interests. Its stance poses a test for the left and the organization itself. (Yair Rosenberg, December 1, 2016, The Tablet)

[E]arlier this week, new audio came to light that has altered the ADL's stance. In a 2010 speech at a private fundraiser released by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Ellison was recorded saying:

The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes. Can I say that again?

This sort of conspiracy theorizing about the Jewish state's immense power has been debunked at some length, and looks particularly foolish in light of the Iran deal that was passed over Israel's very public objections. In response, the ADL reversed course on Ellison this afternoon, calling his remarks "deeply disturbing and disqualifying"

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


'The Mother of All Deals': Abe Could Gift Trump a Trade Pact : A bilateral trade deal between the U.S. and Japan would leave other would-be TPP members behind. (Anthony Fensom, November 30, 2016, The Diplomat)

Both Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have reportedly attempted to convince Trump to stick to the pact, which took over a decade to negotiate and encompasses some 40 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Abe was the first foreign leader to meet the new U.S. president-in-waiting after his upset election victory, presenting him with a set of golf clubs, with some suggesting that Trump could enlist Abe as his "man in Asia."

"I think they both have a track record of pragmatism. Pragmatism on both sides is going to make their relationship somewhat productive," Stephen Nagy, associate professor of politics and international affairs at the International Christian University in Tokyo, told Australia's ABC News.

Despite Trump's pledge, Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has vowed to have the TPP ratified by Japan's parliament by mid-December, underscoring the nation's support for the pact. According to Japan's Nikkei, Japanese public opinion on the TPP is evenly split, with 37 percent in favor and 37 percent against, although Abe's Cabinet has retained a high public approval rating of 58 percent.

Australia's leader also spoke to Trump soon after the U.S. presidential elections, saying he was confident the president-elect would maintain his nation's influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

"That commitment, I am certain, will continue," Turnbull said. Both leaders entered into politics after making their fortunes in business - a similarity noted by the center-right Australian leader.

"I suppose as both being businessmen who found our way into politics, somewhat later in life, we come to the problems of our own nations and indeed world problems with a pragmatic approach," Turnbull said.

The Australian leader has also noted the "strong support among the other 11 parties to the TPP to ratify it and to seek to bring it into force."

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


McDonald's unveils new job-killing self-service machines thanks to 'Fight for $15' (Brandon Morse, November 29, 2016, The Blaze)

It shouldn't be any surprise to anyone with a slim understanding of economics that driving up costs for businesses means bad news for customers and employees alike. In terms of driving up wages by force, there were only two results that could follow. Either that business was going to have to lay off employees in order to afford their work force, or find a way to circumvent having employees in the first place.

In the case of the major fast food chain McDonald's, they took the latter path and rolled out a shiny new line of self-service machines that allow you to order your food without the need for employees at a register.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Can this man save France from the far right? (Christine Ockrent, November 30, 2016, Washington Post)

Fillon is bad news for the far right. He would not commit the mistake of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president he defeated in the first round, by copying Le Pen's oratory or her Trump-style "anti-system" populism. On the contrary, a practicing Catholic with five children, the president of "Les Républicains" is the embodiment of the French establishment, entrenched in old bourgeois, provincial tradition.

An elected politician since the age of 27, Fillon has quietly and consistently played to concerns about identity and values, which have proved to be more acute than pollsters had assumed. He has condemned Islamism and pleaded against multiculturalism on the premise that citizens have to abide by the same principles whatever their origins or religion. The noise and rattle of Le Pen's arguments, with their subtle racial overtones, do not go down quite as well. The shift already shows: according to the first polls conducted since last Sunday, Fillon would defeat Le Pen if elections were to be held now.

The National Front leader has been prompt to realize she has no other choice but to attack Fillon on his economic and social platform. The bazookas are ready: Isn't he the "ultra-liberal" disciple of that English witch Margaret Thatcher? Hasn't he promised to erase 500,000 jobs in the public sector, curb the unions, end the 35-hour workweek and even revisit the welfare system? That could be more than enough to energize the blue-collar workers, teachers and civil servants who have enlarged the core of the far right.

The paradox is that the Socialist party would use exactly the same arguments against Fillon -- if only it had a leader. 

Actually, that's just a dox.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


Republicans suddenly discover that Obamacare repeal might not be so awesome, after all (Greg Sargent, November 30, 2016, Washington Post)

Talking Points Memo has a good piece that captures the contortions this is forcing Republicans to put themselves through right now. There are a number of questions they are trying to resolve: How can we keep protections for people with preexisting conditions while scrapping the mandate that keeps the insurance pool from getting too old and sick? How much can be repealed through "reconciliation" and a simple-majority Senate vote? All of those are difficult problems.

But I wanted to focus for the moment on one particular question: What will Republican legislators from states that have expanded Medicaid do? Note this quote that TPM got from Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from Trump-friendly West Virginia:

"I'm from a state that has an expanded Medicaid population that I am very concerned about....I don't want to throw them off into the cold, and I don't think that's a strategy that I want to see. It's too many people. That's over 200,000 people in my state. So we need a transition. I think we'll repeal and then we'll work during the transition period for the replacement vehicle."

Capito knows that repeal would mean 200,000 of her constituents lose health coverage. And it turns out there are many other GOP Senators in a similar situation.

Oh, yeah, that's why he followed the Heritage Foundation plan....
Posted by orrinj at 6:13 AM


November 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Here's the verdict on that 'terrible' Obama economy (Brett Arends, Nov 30, 2016, Marketwatch)
The Obama Economy
Third-quarter 2008Third-quarter 2016Verdict
Gross domestic product (2009 dollars)$14.892 trillion$16.713 trillionUp 12%
30-year mortgage loan rate6.46%3.54%Nearly halved
Nonfarm payrolls136.3 million145.0 millionUp 8.7 million
Uninsured (health)45 million27 millionDown 18 million
Exports (2009 dollars)$1.766 trillion$2.163 trillionUp 22%
Un- and under-employed rate (U6)11.8%9.5%Down 20%
Median household income$50,303$57,929Up 15%
Manufacturing output per worker (2009 dollars)$382,977$436,776Up 14%
Dow Jones Industrial Average9,31918,332Nearly doubled

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


UN hits North Korea with toughest ever sanctions (ANDRE VIOLLAZ November 30, 2016, AFP) 

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously imposed its toughest ever sanctions on North Korea, placing a cap on its key coal exports after the state's defiant nuclear tests.

The new sanctions resolution, which was spearheaded by the United States and came after three months of tough negotiations with fellow veto-wielding council member China, passed by a 15-0 vote.

Regime change would be more humane.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Closer Moscow ties don't change Turkey's stance on Assad: Deputy PM (Karin Strohecker, 11/26/16, Reuters) 

Turkey's rapprochement with Russia has not changed Ankara's position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go to restore peace in the country, Turkish deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Saturday. [...]

"We are in the same position, Assad has committed war crimes several times," Kurtulmus told Reuters. "We have of course with Russia some differences in our opinions for the future of Syria, but we see the Russian side much more willing to encourage the regime for a peaceful solution."

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