February 23, 2018

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A Stroll With Albert Jay Nock (Robert Thornton, 2/23/18, Imaginative Conservative)

A civilized society, wrote Albert Jay Nock, is one which "organizes a full collective expression of mankind's five fundamental social instincts: the instincts of workmanship, of intellect and knowledge, of religion and morals, of beauty and poetry, of social life and manners." When societies have gone on the rocks, "it was invariably the collective overstress on one or more of these fundamental instincts that wrecked them." American society, he wrote from Brussels in 1931, is trying to force the whole current of our being through the narrow channel set by one instinct only: the instinct of acquisition and expansion. A society that gives play to only this instinct "must inevitably be characterized by a low type of intellect, a grotesque type of religion, a fictitious type of morals, an imperfect type of beauty, and an imperfect type of social life and manners. In a word, it is uncivilized."

The trouble with our civilization, Nock declared, is that it makes exceedingly limited demands on the human spirit and the qualities that are distinctly and properly humane. We have been trying to live by mechanics alone, the mechanics of pedagogy, politics, industry, commerce. Instead of experiencing a change of heart, we bend our wits so as to devise changes in mechanics. But, continued Nock, "a nation's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that it possesseth; that it is the spirit and manners of a people, and not the bewildering multiplicity of its social mechanisms that determine the quality of its civilization."

The sort of people he admired were those he found himself among many years ago in New England. Writing in 1930, he observed that New Englanders "like to work, and they are prosperous but they refuse to be dominated by their business" and "resent an over-big rush of trade as keenly as the rest of America grabs for it, and cajoles and lies and grovels for it." Nock felt privileged "to sojourn among such people" and had "enormous admiration for their independence, self-respect and insight into the real values of life."

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 AM


N.H. House Rejects Campus Guns (Valley News, February 22, 2018)

New Hampshire House lawmakers on Thursday rejected an attempt to allow pistols and revolvers on public college campuses, while the state Senate agreed to consider giving school boards explicit authority to ban firearms.

February 22, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


14 major milestones along the brief history of 3D printing (Luke Dohrmel, 2/22/18, Digital Trends)

3D printing is one of the most revolutionary technologies of the 21st century. Giving everyone from engineers and doctors to DIY enthusiasts and small business owners the ability to transform virtual ideas into physical objects, it promises to change life as we know it.

If you don't know your laser sintering from your Shapeways or your bioprinting from your RepRaps, read on. These are the milestones we've passed so far on the road to making 3D printing a reality!

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Two top White House advisers may leave over tensions with Trump: sources (John Walcott, 2/22/18, Reuters) 

The current and most potent irritant, they said, is Kelly's effort, supported by McMaster, to prevent administration officials who have been unable to obtain permanent high-level security clearances from having access to the government's most closely held secrets.

Under pressure to act last week, Kelly strengthened the security clearance process in response to a scandal involving Rob Porter, a former official accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives. Staffers whose interim clearances have been pending since June would have them revoked on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


NRA chief singles out Soros, Bloomberg as 'socialists' (JTA, February 22, 2018)

"Every time in every nation in which this political disease rises to power," LaPierre told the CPAC conference on Thursday, describing socialism, "its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated, and it's all backed in this country by the social engineering and the billions of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and more."

Soros is a hedge fund trader who has been prominent in backing Democratic policies, but also is known for promoting free markets overseas, particularly in formerly communist countries. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, has taken a lead in recent years in promoting gun control, but also has a pro-business reputation cultivated through his eponymous news service.

Steyer, also a hedge funder, for decades has been involved in Democratic politics, with much of that focus on the environment. Last year he launched a movement to impeach President Donald Trump.

All three are Jewish. [...]

"Saul Alinsky would be proud" of gun control activists, LaPierre said, referring to the Jewish community worker who authored a how-to book on social activism

Did they open the day with the Horst Wessel?
Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Mueller Adds Tax, Bank Fraud Charges Against Manafort, Gates (David Voreacos  and Andrew M Harris, February 22, 2018, Bloomberg)

Prosecutors say that more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts controlled by Manafort. Manafort, with Gates's help, laundered more than $30 million in income that he had concealed from the U.S. Treasury Department and Justice Department, they said. Gates collected about $3 million in income that he, too, concealed, they said.

"Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work," the new indictment said. "From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money."

How money laundering works in real estate (Philip Bump January 4, 2018, Washington Post)

"You realize where this is going," Bannon reportedly told Wolff. "This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f--ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner. ... It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner s---." [...]

Real estate, it seems, is central to the charge Bannon made, given the involvement of Kushner and Trump Jr. in the industry. In light of that, we contacted Chris Quick, a retired FBI special agent who specialized in financial crimes and now runs a private investigative firm in South Carolina. He walked us through how money laundering works in the real-estate industry and how others may be implicated in that criminal activity.

"With any money laundering, you're trying to make the illegally gotten money look legitimate," Quick said. "So in the simplest terms, if you have real estate, you're going to buy a piece of property with the illegal funds, hang on to it -- or have rental income from it, so that rental income is legitimate -- and eventually when you sell the real estate, you get your proceeds out of it and by all accounts it appears to be a legitimate transaction." According to U.S. law, any financial transaction of more than $10,000 involving illegal funds counts as money laundering.

Is Money-Laundering the Real Trump Kompromat? (DAVID A. GRAHAM  JAN 19, 2018, The Atlantic)

Perhaps the most interesting thread is Simpson's suggestion that the Trump Organization could have been used by Russians to launder money--an arrangement that would have both allowed Kremlin-linked figures to scrub cash and would have created possible blackmail material over the now-president, since the Russian government would be aware that a crime had been committed.

"I've felt all along in the Russia investigation that the most important issues were those that had the potential of exerting a continuing influence over the administration and over U.S. policy," Representative Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me Friday. "And if the Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization, the Russians would know it, the president would know it, and that could be very powerful leverage."

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Sheriff: Deputy never entered school in shooting  (AP, 2/22/18) 

A Florida sheriff says the deputy who was on duty at a high school where 17 people were massacred waited outside the building for about four minutes without ever going in.

Why Armed Guards at Schools Won't Work (CLIFTON LEAF, 2/22/18, Forbes)

[T]he presence of armed guards tends to dramatically increase the likelihood of violence and injury during a robbery, as the Center for Investigative Reporting found when it analyzed detailed FBI crime incident reports from 2007 to 2011--which the group got through a Freedom of Information Act request. In robberies where there were no guards present, there were violent events (such as the firing of a weapon or injury of a customer or employee) in 4% of cases. When an armed guard was on duty, that rate more than tripled, to 12.8%.

So what's surprise No. 3? Armed guards aren't nearly the kind of deterrent that many think they are. For evidence, consider the most armed and armored kind of bank repository there is: the armored car. These same FBI statistics paint a fairly frightening picture here too. In 2016, no fewer than 36 of these tank-like vehicles were robbed at gunpoint (see pages 9 and 10).

Arming teachers in the classroom will cost kids' lives  (BRANDON FRIEDMAN  FEB 22, 2018, NY daily News)

There were armed guards at Columbine, the Pulse nightclub and in Las Vegas at the time of the massacre. At Parkland too. Time and again, armed civilians or security guards are out-maneuvered, out-gunned and too inexperienced. It's difficult for a rational person to reach a state where they can go toe-to-toe with an armed psychopath who has nothing to lose. I was professionally trained and still almost blew it at the moment of truth.

If armed security guards often don't stop shootings, teachers have no chance.

How Australia All But Ended Gun Violence: People Just Handed Over 51,000 Illegal Firearms in Australia ( CLIFTON LEAF February 20, 2018, Forbes)

Within just weeks of that tragedy, elected officials in each of Australia's six states and two mainland territories--pressed forward by police chiefs across the continent and by the then-newly elected prime minister--banned semi-automatic and other military-style weapons across the country. The federal government of Australia prohibited their import, and lawmakers introduced a generous nationwide gun buyback program, funded with a Medicare tax, to encourage Australians to freely give up their assault-style weapons. Amazingly, many of them did. (Simon Chapman, an emeritus professor in public health at the University of Sydney, and an influential proponent of the original firearms legislation, has a very good summary here. You can also read his free ebook here.)

A land of roughneck pioneers and outback settlers, Australia had never embraced much government regulation and certainly not about their guns. This was a land of almost cartoonish toughness and self-reliance, home of Crocodile Dundee and Australian rules football. Here even the kangaroos box. But Port Arthur had followed too many prior deadly shooting sprees and Australians were clearly sick to death of them.

So what happened after the assault-weapon ban? Well therein lies the other half of the story twist noted above: Nothing.

Nothing, that is, in a good way.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns: They weren't the first victims of a mass shooting the Florida radiologist had seen--but their wounds were radically different. (HEATHER SHER, 2/22/18, The Atlantic)

As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read "gunshot wound." I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

A year ago, when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, hitting 11 people in 90 seconds, I was also on call. It was not until I had diagnosed the third of the six victims who were transported to the trauma center that I realized something out-of-the-ordinary must have happened. The gunshot wounds were the same low velocity handgun injuries as those I diagnose every day; only their rapid succession set them apart. And all six of the victims who arrived at the hospital that day survived.

Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim's body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and they do not bleed to death before being transported to our care at a trauma center, chances are, we can save the victim. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different; they travel at higher velocity and are far more lethal. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than, and imparting more than three times the energy of, a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine cartridge with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


'France first', far right's Marechal-Le Pen says in comeback speech (Reuters, 2/22/18) 

France should follow U.S. President Donald Trump's lead and fight for "France first", Marion Marechal-Le Pen, seen as a potential leader of France's far right, told U.S conservatives on Thursday in her first public appearance in months.

Just in case anyone was still deluded about his politics.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 PM


Trump Says He May Pull Immigration Enforcement From California (Justin Sink  and Toluse Olorunnipa, February 22, 2018,  Bloomberg)

Take ours too.

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


No, a new court filing doesn't suggest that Michael Flynn is about to be exonerated (Philip Bump February 22, 2018, wASHINGTON pOST)

Evidence that could aid the defense could be impeachment evidence -- evidence undermining the testimony of a witness -- or exculpatory, meaning that it shows that the defendant might be innocent. The question is whether the Brady standard applies only to trials and not plea deals; Justice Clarence Thomas, for one, believes that it does.

"The Supreme Court has found before that for a plea case the government can require the defendant to sign in the plea agreement they're not entitled to impeachment evidence," Simpson said. Sullivan's previous version of his standing Brady order demanded that prosecutors turn over favorable evidence in plea cases and trial cases.

"In November, before Flynn was ever charged, he revised that order to try to reflect this sort of nuance in the Supreme Court holdings," Simpson explained. "He said, okay, in all trial cases, government, you've got to go ahead and hand over any favorable material. In plea cases, you have to hand over anything exculpatory." In other words, instead of requiring that prosecutors hand over both impeachment and exculpatory evidence in plea cases, they needed only to hand over exculpatory evidence.

The problem arose on Dec. 12 of last year, shortly after Sullivan took over Flynn's case. His clerks filed his standing Brady order -- but filed the old version, not the version that was updated in November. That mistake was uncovered and, last week, the new version of the standing Brady order was filed. In making the change, the error was noted:
"After this case was randomly assigned to the Court on December 7, 2017," the docket reads, "such an order was entered on December 12, 2017. Unfortunately, the prior version of the order was inadvertently entered rather than the Court's current version."

The current version actually demands less of federal prosecutors, Simpson notes. Before last week's filings, the government would have had to turn over impeachment evidence to Flynn's team as well as exculpatory evidence; now any impeachment evidence that might exist could be withheld.

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The CNN town hall on gun control was a failure. And that's good for our democracy. (Lili Loofbourow, February 22, 2018, The Week)

There's perhaps no better illustration of the staged political theater we've grown accustomed to than the "listening session" the president held with educators and students compared to the town hall later that same day. The former was a pathetically sanitized affair. [...]

The 2.5-hour town hall, mediated by CNN's Jake Tapper, was a stunning contrast. For one thing, it gave grieving students, parents, and teachers in Florida a forum to confront lawmakers and corporate interests as equals. The result was electrifying and substantive: Murdered teen Jaime Guttenberg's father asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to admit that guns were a problem. Ashley Kurth, a culinary arts teacher at Stoneman Douglas who sheltered 65 students during the shooting and identified herself as a Trump voter, asked whether the president's suggestion that teachers be armed meant she now had to train and wear a Kevlar vest in addition to educating her students. (Rubio said he did not support the proposal.)

Perhaps the most dramatic moment came when high schooler Cameron Kasky asked Rubio whether he would, in future, reject donations from the National Rifle Association. "That's the wrong way to look at it," Rubio hedged, "people buy into my agenda." In the ensuing exchange, Kasky persisted: "In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?" Rubio, who said he supported raising the age at which you can buy a gun from 18 to 21, refused to reject NRA funds: "I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda," he concluded, lamely. The teen drove the ugly contradiction at the heart of Rubio's answer home: "Your agenda is protecting us, right?" he said.

Judging by reactions online, viewers were stunned by this exchange. People were certainly impressed by Kasky's poise and persistence (especially given his youth). But we're also just totally unused to platforms where follow-up questions like these are asked, let alone answered. It felt, in a very small way, revolutionary. That's partly due to the kids' lack of deference. It is genuinely unusual to see citizens treat their public servants as public servants, but Kasky and the other students behaved as though the idea of public service was more than a polite fiction.

The format even seemed to give the politicians a way to talk to each other. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Rubio appeared to have a genuine (if heated) exchange of ideas over how to move forward with shared legislation. It may have been theater, but it felt like we were witnessing a conversation between them that they would not otherwise have had.

That doesn't mean anything was solved. There are hard limits to what this kind of spectacle can do. Any hope of converting Rubio (or NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, who sternly condescended to the bereaved crowd in a tornado of deflection) was slim. Within a couple of hours of that town hall, Rubio was already walking back any hope of progress.

But spectacles like these aren't actually about producing his moment of conversion. They're about producing ours.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Giving Alaskans Free Money Didn't Stop Them From Working (Ben Leubsdorf, Feb 20, 2018, WSJ)

The annual payments made to every Alaska resident out of the state's oil wealth haven't reduced how many of them are employed, according to a new study, potentially alleviating one concern about the idea of guaranteeing every citizen a government-paid basic income.

"We speak to one part of this debate, which is, could this have a huge negative effect on labor supply?" said University of Chicago economist Damon Jones, who co-authored the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper circulated this month with Ioana Marinescu, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania.

People having more money to spend appeared to stimulate the economy, and offset the fact that some people may have been inclined not to work due to the payments. "Those forces seem to be canceling out," Mr. Jones said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


At CNN town hall, Florida shooting survivors and parents confront Marco Rubio and the NRA (Marwa Eltagouri and Keith McMillan February 22, 2018, Washington Post)

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) brought up a concept that would allow police to temporarily seize a gun-owner's weapons, Stoneman Douglas student Ryan Deitsch told him, "that feels like the first step of a 5k run."

"This issue will take more than a 5k run," Rubio answered.

Judging by their applause and boos, what the heartbroken parents and classmates of the victims wanted was a commitment to more-immediate action. They wanted a clear directive that guarantees children won't ever fear being murdered in their school's halls.

Many asked Rubio, who has recently become the face of lawmakers' inaction on stricter gun regulations, questions they felt should have clear-cut answers seven days after one of the nation's worst school shootings.

"Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in the school this week," Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the shooting, told Rubio. She had been running down the hallway when she was shot in the back, Guttenberg said.

"Were guns the factor in the hunting of our kids?" Guttenberg asked.

"Of course they were," Rubio responded. But he said a "better answer" than banning assault weapons is to "make sure that dangerous criminals, people that are deranged cannot buy any gun of any kind."

Rubio said he would support a law that makes it illegal for 18-year-olds to purchase rifles, as well as the banning of bump stocks and expanded background checks. He said he pushed for a $50-million-a-year threat-assessment fund so states could identify people who could potentially commit mass shootings, and stop them.

Rubio also said he's reconsidered his position on magazine-clip size limits, saying that they might not help prevent a shooting, but could lower the number of lives lost in one.

This is how you get people to take you seriously as a potential president.  
Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM



A nonpartisan expert who independently reviewed the Medicare Extra plan said it could provide Democrats with a middle way to achieve their longstanding goal of coverage for all.

"It's an attempt to capture the enthusiasm for a single-payer system among the Democratic base, but trying to create a more politically and fiscally realistic roadmap," said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

To be sure, taxes would rise and the federal government would take on a larger role.

"It is in some ways 'repeal and replace,' but from the left rather than the right," Levitt added.

Medicare Extra envisions a complex transition that would take the better part of a decade. Among its major elements:

--All U.S. citizens and lawful residents would be automatically eligible for coverage.

--Preventive care, treatment for chronic disease, and generic prescription drugs would be free. Dental, vision and hearing services would be included.

--Low-income people would pay no premiums or copays. Premiums and cost-sharing would be determined according to income for everyone else.

--Employers would have the option of maintaining their own plans or joining Medicare Extra. Workers could pick the government plan over their employer's. The proposal would preserve the tax-free status of employer-provided health care, subject to a limit.

--Seniors with private Medicare Advantage insurance plans through Medicare would be able to keep similar coverage, although the program would be redesigned and called "Medicare Choice." Seniors would gain coverage for vision, dental and hearing services not now provided by Medicare. Long-term care services would be covered.

--Government would negotiate prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and medical equipment.

All developed democratic electorates agree health care is a right, but universal HSAs would provide that while making succeeding generations universally wealthier as well.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 AM


McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump (Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, Elise Labott, Kaitlan Collins and Jamie Gangel, 2/22/18, CNN)

While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire. [...]

The two have never gotten along, and Trump continues to chafe at McMaster's demeanor when he briefs him, feeling that he is gruff and condescending, according to a source who is familiar with his thinking. 

He prefers the briefing style of someone like CIA Director Mike Pompeo or Defense Secretary James Mattis, who patiently answer his questions, regardless of the premise. McMaster, meanwhile, is the person who delivers the news that Trump doesn't want to hear on a daily basis, according to the senior Republican source.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 AM


Why Economists Are Worried About International Trade (N. GREGORY MANKIW FEB. 16, 2018, NY Times)

 In a model pioneered by my Harvard colleague Marc Melitz, when a nation opens up to international trade, the most productive firms expand their markets, while the least productive are forced out by increased competition. As resources move from the least to the most productive firms, overall productivity rises.

A skeptic might say that all this is just theory. Where's the evidence?

One approach to answering this question is to examine whether countries that are open to trade enjoy greater prosperity. In a 1995 paper, the economists Jeffrey D. Sachs and Andrew Warner studied a large sample of nations and found that open economies grew significantly faster than closed ones.

A second approach is to look at what happens when closed economies remove their trade restrictions. Again, free trade fares well. Throughout history, when nations have opened themselves up to the world economy, the typical result has been an increase in their growth rates. This occurred in Japan in the 1850s, South Korea in the 1960s and Vietnam in the 1990s.

These results, while suggestive, come with a caveat. Trade restrictions often accompany other government policies that interfere with markets. Perhaps these other policies, rather than trade restrictions, impede growth.

To address this problem, a third approach to measuring the effects of trade, proposed by the economists Jeffrey A. Frankel of Harvard and David C. Romer of the University of California, Berkeley, focuses on geography. Some countries trade less because of geographic disadvantages.

For example, New Zealand is disadvantaged compared with Belgium because it is farther from other populous countries. Similarly, landlocked nations are disadvantaged compared with nations with their own seaports. Because these geographic characteristics are correlated with trade, but arguably uncorrelated with other determinants of prosperity, they can be used to separate the impact of trade on national income from other confounding factors.

After analyzing the data, Mr. Frankel and Mr. Romer concluded that "a rise of one percentage point in the ratio of trade to G.D.P. increases income per person by at least one-half percent." In other words, nations should take the theories of Smith, Ricardo and Melitz seriously.

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 AM


Putin's useful idiots (Dana Milbank, February 20, 2018, Washington Post)

The phrase "useful idiots," often attributed to an earlier Vladimir, referred to Westerners who had been successfully manipulated by Soviet propaganda. But even Lenin would have to smile at the way Putin exploited Americans in 2016 to support Trump, or at least to oppose Hillary Clinton. Mueller's indictment is full of nauseating detail about how Putin made fools of Americans.

They attracted more than 100,000 followers to a Twitter account falsely claiming to be controlled by the Tennessee Republican Party, @TEN_GOP, and got hundreds of thousands of online followers for groups they created such as "Army of Jesus" and "South United."

They paid Americans to build a cage on a flatbed truck and to wear a Clinton-in-prison-garb costume. To whip up anti-Muslim fervor to Trump's benefit, they created a Facebook group called "United Muslims of America" and promoted a rally called "Support Hillary. Save American Muslims," at which they recruited an actual American to hold a sign saying, "I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom."

They promoted Trump-friendly hashtags (#MAGA, #Hillary4Prison), created pro-Trump accounts ("Trumpsters United") and paid for election ads saying, among other things, "Vote Republican, vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment!" and "Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is."

Putin's meddling, now exposed, should shame us and unify us in a response. But that won't happen, because the most useful idiot of all happens to be the president, who is focused only on himself.

"Post admits Trump useful!"

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 AM


Trump Loses It After Being Named Worst President Ever (Tommy Christopher, 2/22/18, Shareblue.com)

Presidents Day was not kind to Trump. Survivors of the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting continued to shame him, and Trump shamed himself by golfing just miles away from where one of the teenagers slain in the tragedy was being put to rest.

But worse than that for Trump's fragile ego was the fact that a national organization of political scientists announced that Trump had been ranked the worst president of all time in their survey of experts, which included Republicans.

On Tuesday morning, Trump responded with a Twitter meltdown in which he took repeated shotsat President Obama, who was ranked first among living presidents, and lied his way through a raft of issues that are getting under his skin.

Posted by orrinj at 3:09 AM


Questions Swirl as Melania Trump's Parents Obtain Green Cards (EMILY COCHRANE, FEB. 21, 2018, NY Times)

The parents of the first lady, Melania Trump, have obtained lawful permanent residency in the United States, a lawyer for the couple confirmed Wednesday, but it remains unclear how or when the couple received their green cards.

AP: Melania Trump was an undocumented working model in '96 (William Cummings, 11/04/16, USA TODAY)

Melania Trump, the wife of the Republican nominee Donald Trump, was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States in 1996 before obtaining the necessary documents to legally work in the country, the Associated Press reported Friday.

February 21, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


How Billy Graham and George W. Bush Connected on Faith  (Parade, NOVEMBER 14, 2017)

[I]n the spring of 1984, when he heard the aptly named Arthur Blessitt proselytizing on local radio, Bush was intrigued. At the time, oil prices had started to crater, jeopardizing his business, and Laura had made repeated pleas for him to stop drinking. Blessitt, a traveling preacher who gained renown as a sort of folk hero among the evangelical community for dragging a twelve-foot wooden cross across the country and throughout much of the world, was in town for a week of speeches at Midland College's Chaparral Center. Through a friend, Bush arranged to have a private meeting with Blessitt at his hotel.

Bush was forthcoming with Blessitt, who while pledging his discretion, implored him to follow the path of Jesus. "I encouraged him to tell his wife and his friends what was in his heart," Blessitt wrote of their encounter on his website. "I told him he needed now to grow in the Lord and to study the word of God and be open to his testimony. I told him I would not to get up and announce in the meeting about him being saved."

Whether Bush was actually saved by the meeting remained to be seen. He and Blessitt never spoke again, nor did Bush show any outward signs of religious conversion.

A different spiritual mentorship, though, began again a year later, in the frigid Maine waters not far from the family warmth and tradition of Walker's Point. It spoke volumes about George W.'s rarefied life that it came from Billy Graham--and perhaps it was prophetic. Graham, a friend of George and Barbara's, had offered spiritual and political counsel to every U.S. president since Harry Truman. He and Ruth, his wife of forty-two years, were guests of the vice president and second lady during the Bushes' annual August reunion in Kennebunkport, where they took part in a frenzy of activities--golf, tennis, swimming, and anything else that may have a competition attached--that typified a Bush summer get-together.

One afternoon George W. and Graham took a walk on the beach, then ventured into the dark, heaving Atlantic Ocean. While it wasn't a baptism, it stirred something in Bush. Graham remembered little of what was said as they swam but recalled, "It was just two people. That was our beginning."

Their relationship developed during Graham's visit. One evening, in the expansive living room at Walker's Point as the waves steadily crashed into the rocky shore outside, Graham lectured the assembled Bush clan in a private Bible study. George, his mother, Dorothy, and Graham sat on a couch. "They say you have to be born-again to go to heaven," the vice president challenged Graham. "My mom, who I'm confident will go to heaven, will say that she's not born-again. Billy, what do you say?"

"I had a born-again experience," Graham replied. "But I needed it, and your mom didn't."

George W., who stood in the back of the room sipping wine, thought, Wow, that's a good answer. It wasn't an epiphany, but he started listening more intently to Graham throughout the evening.

The following day, Graham "saddled up" to George W. during a walk and asked, "Do you mind if I send you a Bible?"

"No, I'd be honored," Bush said. As he recalled thirty years later, "There was no lecture, no grabbing of the shoulders. And I started reading it. It was the beginning of me reading the Bible. A religious walk began, and still goes on today."

Graham had the advantage of seeing Bush around the larger Bush family, providing insight into his character. "Billy Graham was watching the interplay of [George W.] and his family, and he asked, 'Do you have the right relationship with God?'" said Karl Rove.

It was a question Bush carefully considered, taken as much by Graham's message as he was its messenger. "The man is powerful and humble," he said of Graham. "The combination of wisdom and humility was so inspiring to me individually that I took up the Bible in a more serious and meaningful way."

Forever after, he remained grateful to Graham, who "planted a seed in my heart, and I began to change."

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Trump's former bodyguard makes $15,000 a month from a GOP 'slush fund' (Christina Wilkie, 2/21/18, CNBC.com)

Within weeks of leaving his job as director of Oval Office operations, Schiller's private security firm, KS Global Group, began collecting $15,000 a month for "security services" from the Republican National Committee.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Iranian authorities, Sufi leader move toward reconciliation (Al-Monitor, February 21, 2018)

After spiraling tensions and the deadly clashes, it seems that both sides have adopted a softer tone to achieve a resolution. Nour Ali Tabandeh, the Gonabadi grand master, issued a statement Feb. 20 expressing regret over the death of police and Basij forces.

He addressed his followers in his statement, saying their travel to Tehran to stage a protest was not right. "If you are worried about my health and you want to come to Tehran, [I should say] thank God I'm well and there is no concern about that. ... [Do] not come to Tehran during this period," Tabandeh said.

Adopting a conciliatory tone, Tabandeh added, "Fortunately, now that the country is in the hands of leaders who believe in God and the Prophet [Muhammad], it would be good if they attempt to eliminate the hostilities that can lead to these kinds of painful clashes."

Seemingly addressing those reportedly among his followers who were behind the killing of the security personnel, Tabandeh noted, "Everyone should know that only those who observe Sharia and spiritual orders are considered dervishes, and they are the real dervishes."

Adopting the same soft tone, Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli seemed to want to distance "real" Gonabadis from the violence, claiming on Feb. 21 that those who clashed with police were not dervishes.

He stated, "We know the dervishes as a wise, logical and moderate current. ... We don't attribute Monday's events on Pasdaran Street to this current."

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


The Pardon Boomerang: Why Trump Associates May Need to Decline Any Offer of a Pardon (Ryan Goodman, February 21, 2018, Just Security)

The framework in which Kushner and others must operate is fairly well set. A president's pardon power applies only to federal crimes. Anyone pardoned for federal offenses would, accordingly, remain liable for state crimes that cover the same underlying conduct. Professor Jed Shugerman has led the way in describing the large set of potential state-level offenses that could apply to conduct related to the Russia investigation--including financial crimes and criminal invasion of privacy for abetting the distribution of stolen emails. Accept a pardon for money laundering under federal law? Look out for prosecutions under state money laundering statutes.

But this is not simply about the residual power of a state attorney-general to prosecute in the wake of a presidential pardon. What Trump campaign affiliates have to fear is that acceptance of a pardon could add booster rockets to the state prosecutors' efforts for closely related state crimes. Officials like New York's Schneiderman may feel they have an ace in hand if they can walk into a state courthouse with a defendant's admission of guilt implied by having accepted a presidential pardon. This get-out-of-federal-jail card comes at a price.

In a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1915, Burdick v. United States, the Justices stated that individuals have a right to refuse a pardon because "acceptance" of one carries with it a "confession of guilt." Over the years, many federal courts have relied on Burdick for this proposition, the most recent including the Arizona court in upholding President Trump's pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


A Train That Inspired a 'Thomas the Tank Engine' Character Is Turning 100 (NATASHA FROST, FEBRUARY 21, 2018, Atlas Obscura)

The Talyllyn Railway is Britain's oldest continuously operated narrow gauge railway, founded in 1866 to ferry slate and passengers 7.25 miles from the quarries above the remote Welsh village of Abergynolwyn to the main station at Twywn. Douglas the train was originally built in 1918 for the Airservice Construction Corps--for the first 28 years of its service, it was used by Britain's Royal Air Force, before beginning service at the Talyllyn Railway in 1954.

The railway has been run by volunteers for many years, among them the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, the creator of the Thomas the Tank Engine books. Many of the stories and trains from the series were inspired by real-life events from this very junction, including curmudgeonly Duncan.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


How Billy Graham's legacy lives on in American life (David Mislin, 2/21/18, The Conversation)

In the 1950s, however, religious language found its way into government and politics, due in no small part to Billy Graham.

In 1953, at the strong encouragement of Graham, President Dwight Eisenhower held the first National Prayer Breakfast, an event that brings together political, military and corporate leaders in Washington, D.C., usually on the first Thursday of February.

In the following years, Eisenhower signed a bill placing the phrase "In God We Trust" on all American currency and the phrase was adopted as the first official motto of the United States.

Both of these developments reflected the desire to emphasize Americans' religious commitment in the early years of the Cold War. Historians such as Jonathan Herzog have chronicled how leaders such as Eisenhower and Graham stressed the strong faith of the nation in setting the U.S. apart from the godlessness of Soviet communism. But, there were domestic concerns as well. Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse has shown that religious language was not merely rhetoric against communism.

Indeed, this belief in American religiosity had emerged over several decades. Conservative businessmen had allied with ministers and evangelical leaders such as Billy Graham, to combat the social welfare policies and government expansion that began with Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. These wide-ranging programs, designed to tackle the Great Depression, irked many conservatives. They objected to government intervention in business and Roosevelt's support for labor unions.

As Kruse notes, this alliance of conservative business leaders and ministers linked "faith, freedom, and free enterprise."

To be sure, Billy Graham was not singularly responsible for all of these developments. But as his biographers have noted, he loomed large in the religious politics of the 1950s.

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Devin Nunes begs Russian bots to make his tweet go viral (The Week, 2/21/18)

While retweeting an article by The Federalist about the ongoing investigations into Russian election meddling, Nunes quipped: "PS-if you are a Russian Bot please make this go viral."

At least he knows what he is and who shares his aims.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Right-Wing Media Uses Parkland Shooting as Conspiracy Fodder (MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUMFEB. 20, 2018, NY Times)

On Tuesday, the president's son Donald J. Trump Jr. liked a pair of tweets that accused David Hogg, a 17-year-old who is among the most outspoken of the Parkland students, of criticizing the Trump administration in an effort to protect his father, whom Mr. Hogg has described as a retired F.B.I. agent.

Mr. Hogg, the high school's student news director, has become a sensation among many liberals for his polished and compelling television interviews, in which he has called on lawmakers to enact tougher restrictions on guns. Just as quickly, Mr. Hogg attracted the disdain of right-wing provocateurs like The Gateway Pundit, a fringe website that gained prominence in 2016 for pushing conspiracies about voter fraud and Hillary Clinton.

In written posts and YouTube videos -- one of which had more than 100,000 views as of Tuesday night -- Gateway Pundit has argued that Mr. Hogg had been coached on what to say during his interviews. The notion that Mr. Hogg is merely protecting his father dovetails with a broader right-wing trope, that liberal forces in the F.B.I. are trying to undermine President Trump and his pro-Second Amendment supporters.

Others offered more sweeping condemnations. Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind the site Infowars, suggested that the mass shooting was a "false flag" orchestrated by anti-gun groups. Mr. Limbaugh, on his radio program, said of the student activists on Monday: "Everything they're doing is right out of the Democrat Party's various playbooks. It has the same enemies: the N.R.A. and guns."

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