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BrothersJudd Blog

Blog of the Brothers Judd

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:36:40 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2017


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:36:40 -0500

Trump Turns an Iowa Rally Into a Venting Session (MAGGIE HABERMAN, JUNE 21, 2017, NY Times)

Free from his handlers for roughly 70 minutes, Mr. Trump described his administration as he wished it to be: one in which he had made historic governing accomplishments and been stymied solely by the "resistance."

"I think health care is going to happen, and infrastructure is going to happen, and I look forward to being able to produce it," he said.

He derided trade deals despite an Iowa economy that relies in part on exports. He denounced the $6 trillion spent and the lives lost in the Middle East over the last 15 years, despite his administration's decision to reauthorize troops in Afghanistan.

He toggled back and forth between telling farm-rich Iowa that he had fought for forgotten voters and lauding the wealth of Gary D. Cohn, his top economic adviser and a former executive at Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant that Mr. Trump derided in commercials in 2016.

"In those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person -- does that make sense?" he said of Mr. Cohn's job and that of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, another immensely wealthy man whom Mr. Trump lauded as a "legendary Wall Street genius."

"Brilliant business minds" are what the economy needs, he said.

And the president frequently embellished details during his speech, or told outright falsehoods. He tried to catch himself at one point, saying, "I have to be a little careful, because they'll say, 'He lied!'"

But he nonetheless plowed ahead, including misstating whether the Paris climate agreement, from which he plans to withdraw the United States, is binding. While doing so, he also prompted the audience to name the agreement themselves. "P... p... p," he said.

"Like hell it's nonbinding!" thundered Mr. Trump, who in fact called the accord nonbinding in his Rose Garden speech announcing the withdrawal this month.

"We're not even campaigning, and look at this crowd!" he said at another point. The rally was advertised, sponsored and organized by his campaign committee.

He also repeated his frequent, untrue campaign refrain that the United States is one of the world's highest-taxed nations.

The president dismissed the potency of wind-harnessed energy in a state filled with thousands of turbines. "I don't want to just hope the wind blows to light up your house and your factory," he said, "as the birds fall to the ground."

And he vented throughout against the news media: "the fake news," he said, one of his favorite and most therapeutic invocations.

Mr. Trump also condemned Democrats as "obstructionists" -- but then added that he wanted to work with them and might be damaging those prospects. "But who cares," he concluded. He ignored the fact that Republicans hold majorities in Congress.



Thu, 22 Jun 2017 07:20:00 -0500

Trump suggests creating law enacted in 1996 (MALLORY SHELBOURNE, 06/21/17, The Hill)

President Trump in a rally on Wednesday evening said immigrants who enter the United States should not be eligible for welfare benefits for five years, though such a law has already existed for 20 years.


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 07:09:40 -0500

Will Robert Mueller Separate Fact From Fiction? (David Von Drehle, 6/20/17, TIME)The special counsel is, like Trump, the scion of a wealthy family, raised at a boarding school and educated in the Ivy League. But the life choices of Robert Swan Mueller III, 72, suggest a decidedly different temperament from the one that occupies the Oval Office. Unlike Trump, who says he has few if any personal heroes, Mueller's path was marked by a profound admiration for a role model he met at Princeton, a student a year ahead of him named David Spencer Hackett."I played lacrosse with David," Mueller explained last year in a speech at West Point. "He was not necessarily the best on the team, but he was a determined and a natural leader." Hackett's decision to join the Marine Corps, and his death in 1967 while rallying his platoon during an ambush in Vietnam, moved Mueller to follow in Hackett's footsteps. "Many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be," Mueller said.Trump once joked with radio shock jock Howard Stern that chasing women while risking STDs was his version of Vietnam, adding, "It is very dangerous." He might have chosen a different analogy if he had served as Mueller did. Commissioned in the Marine Corps and trained at Army Ranger School, Lieut. Mueller led a rifle platoon in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Wounded in combat, he received a Bronze Star with a V for valor as well as a Purple Heart and two Navy Commendation Medals.Mueller told his West Point audience that his military experience instilled in him a desire to continue to serve his country. After earning a law degree from the University of Virginia and learning the ropes as an associate at a large law firm, he joined the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco, where he rose to chief of the criminal division.In 1989, Mueller moved to Washington, where he soon took charge of the entire Justice Department's criminal division. Under his watch, department lawyers prosecuted major cases involving terrorism, organized crime, drugs and money laundering. Although his voter registration said Republican, Mueller earned the confidence of leaders in both parties. In 1998, Democrat Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for Northern California. Republican George W. Bush called him back to Washington as Deputy Attorney General, then picked him to lead the FBI in 2001.Mueller's first official day at the Hoover Building was Sept. 4. A week later, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington plunged the bureau into one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Mueller's challenge was to transform a primarily domestic law-enforcement agency into a global counterterrorism force-while breaking down cultural barriers to information sharing and pulling the paper-pushing bureau into the digital age. Many agents found Mueller to be bullheaded as he shook up personnel rules and rammed through technology updates. And he made mistakes, including a botched investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks in D.C., Florida, New York and New Jersey, in which an innocent man was hounded in the press while Mueller and his agents ignored the real killer. But overall, in the judgment of FBI historian Ronald Kessler, no director in the modern era "has had a greater positive impact on the bureau than Mueller."As director, Mueller worked closely with Comey, who was appointed Deputy Attorney General in 2003. Together, they threatened to resign in 2004 over a White House plan to preserve a program of warrantless wiretaps. Their frantic dash to the bedside of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to ward off a delegation of White House arm twisters on a mission to save the program was a heroic high point for friends of Mueller and Comey-and an example of their sanctimony to their detractors. Either way, they won: Bush agreed to make changes to the program. When Mueller's extended term at the FBI ended in 2013, few were surprised that Obama installed Comey in his place.Praise was widespread and bipartisan for Mueller's appointment on May 17 as sp[...]


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 06:58:13 -0500

Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: 'Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump' (ALEXANDER BURNS and JONATHAN MARTIN, JUNE 21, 2017, NY Times)

A small group of Democrats who have been critical of Ms. Pelosi in the past again pressed her to step down on Wednesday. And in a private meeting of Democratic lawmakers, Representative Tony Cárdenas of California, Ms. Pelosi's home state, suggested the party should have a more open conversation about her effect on its political fortunes.

But the most acute and widely expressed concerns were economic. Speaking after a meeting of the Democratic caucus on Wednesday morning, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York said the party was preparing to be "aggressively focused on job creation and economic growth." And Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, who represents an affluent district near New York City, said Democrats must do more to compete with what he described as expansive and unrealistic promises by President Trump.

"It's not enough to say, 'I want jobs,'" Mr. Himes said.  [...]

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who tried to unseat Ms. Pelosi as House minority leader late last fall, said she remained a political millstone for Democrats. But Mr. Ryan said the Democratic brand had also become "toxic" in much of the country because voters saw Democrats as "not being able to connect with the issues they care about."

"Our brand is worse than Trump," he said.

US has 5.7 million job openings, near record high (Patrick Gillespie, 5/09/17, CNNMoney)

Looking for a job? America has 5.7 million openings.

That's close to the record number of job openings reported by the Labor Department since it started tracking them in 2000. The US had an all-time high of 5.9 million openings last July.


Everyone who is willing to work has a job.  The disconnect between Democrats and Americans is cultural, not economic.


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 06:15:20 -0500

Domestically, MBS expanded his reach by turning to outside consulting firms to launch a plan to overhaul the kingdom's economy. His goal is to drastically reduce the country's dependence on oil exports after a plunge in prices nearly crippled Saudi Arabia's ability to spend on national projects and foreign efforts.

MBS vowed to end Saudi Arabia's "addiction" to oil, and pushed through politically-sensitive austerity measures that curbed spending on subsidies and the public sector -- where the majority of Saudis are employed.

His Vision 2030 plan and its accompanying National Transformation Plan grabbed international headlines when he announced the country would publicly list a percentage of Saudi Aramco.

Social reforms, he's argued, are also needed in order to bring the deeply conservative nation into the 21st Century. MBS has promised amusement parks and more fun for his generation of millennials. For the first time in decades, Saudis can attend musical concerts in the kingdom and the powers of country's feared religious police have been curbed.

In retrospect, deciding to export US oil and force a transition to alternative energy sources in the West will be seen as the decisive steps in the WoT.


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 06:09:01 -0500

For a time this spring in California, as the snow melted above hydroelectric dams, the sun shone on solar arrays, and the wind whipped through turbines, the state was confronted with both a blessing and a curse.

It arrived as an overwhelming flood of cheap, clean electricity. At times it drove wholesale prices below zero. And it has left grid operators in California, and in other parts of the country, wondering how to cope with the upending of power markets by abundant renewable energy.

California has led the pack in adding renewable energy to its grid. How it manages the challenges of energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow in its clean energy footsteps.

Some worry that if California bungles the transition to clean energy, it could undermine the state's own incredibly rapid solar build-out--from 300 megawatts on the grid in 2008 to nearly 15,000 megawatts today--which has put California well ahead of its milestones toward deep decarbonization. 

The crux of the issue that arose this spring is that in the middle of some days, California produced so much renewable energy it drove wholesale electricity prices below zero--what's known as negative pricing.


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 05:59:34 -0500

Airbus (AIR.PA) conceded defeat to arch-rival Boeing (BA.N) at the Paris Airshow on Thursday as a last-minute haul of almost 100 orders, including new interest from Iran, failed to close a gap opened up by the launch of Boeing's new 737 model.


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 05:38:39 -0500

In this part of the Midwest, the problem isn't China. It's too many jobs. (Danielle Paquette June 20, 2017, Washington Post)

Each day at Zimmer Biomet headquarters, machinists on one robot-assisted factory floor churn out about 3,000 metallic knee parts. They are facing pressure to crank up the pace as the population ages and demand soars.

But the artificial-bone giant is grappling with a steep downside of the nation's low unemployment rate: It is struggling to find enough workers, despite offering some of the region's best pay and benefits. Forty positions sit open.

Other manufacturers in ­Kosciusko County, home to roughly one-third of global orthopedic device production, are running into the same problem.

The lack of laborers not only threatens to stunt the growth of these companies, experts warn, but it could also force them to decamp their home town in search of workers.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent, employers across the country are dealing with a dearth of potential hires. Economists say that talent shortages are growing constraints on the country's economic expansion, especially as millions of baby boomers enter retirement.

But the shortage is particularly problematic in places such as Kosciusko County, where the unemployment rate rests at 2 percent. Of the county's 41,136 adults who can work, 40,311 are employed, according to government statistics.

This region -- a land of clear lakes, duck farms and medical device makers -- escaped the industrial decline that rocked other communities throughout the Rust Belt.

It prospered, thanks to a local industry that proved largely immune to competition from China and Mexico.

But without more people to grow Warsaw's business, the chances of companies relocating is "extraordinarily high," said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Indiana's Ball State University.


Thu, 22 Jun 2017 05:29:17 -0500

Islamic State blows up historic Mosul mosque where it declared 'caliphate' (Marius Bosch and Maher Chmaytelli, 6/21/17, Reuters)

''Blowing up the al-Hadba minaret and the al-Nuri mosque amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat,'' Iraqi Prime Minister said in a brief comment on his website.


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 09:13:27 -0500

You've probably heard of Project Gutenberg, an incredible initiative that's turned over 54,000 books whose copyrights have expired into freely downloadable ebooks. But they aren't formatted as well as most ebooks you'd pay for, and issues with justification, odd spaces and inconsistent typography can distract from the reading experience.

That's where Standard Ebooks comes in. This volunteer-driven project beautifies Project Gutenberg ebooks by fixing typesetting, making minor corrections in punctuation and grammar, adding covers and enhancing metadata. The result is a more enjoyable ebook that looks better on your device.

Of the 54,000 ebooks available from Project Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks has tackled about 100 titles that you can grab for free and read on your phone, Kindle, Kobo or desktop.


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 09:10:37 -0500

Vice President Mike Pence and other national-security leaders are dragging President Donald Trump along in a growing effort to hold Russia accountable for illegal actions in Ukraine. For evidence of that just look at how two very different people interpreted Tuesday's meeting in the Oval Office.

As Trump sat for his first photo-op with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled new sanctions aimed at Russian citizens, banks, and other entities that support the Russian soldiers who are - unofficially - attacking the government of Ukraine. After the meeting, a reporter asked Poroshenko whether Trump had discussed the future of the U.S. Russian-sanctions policy. "I think it is obvious. To date, the U.S. adopts additional sanctions almost every day. I consider the position of the United States as a solid, reliable and strategic partner of Ukraine," said Poroshenko, avoiding any mention of the U.S. president, according to an official readout from his office.

Trump, too, declined the opportunity to take credit for the Treasury Department's decision. The White House readout of the meeting says only that the two leaders discussed "the peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and President Poroshenko's reform agenda and anti-corruption efforts."

That fits with a pattern. In a now-infamous May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that his "critics cared about the issue" of Ukraine. 


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 09:01:38 -0500

Robert Mueller terrifies President Trump. Of course he wants him gone. (Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, June 20, 2017, USA Today)

He is about as good a special counsel as one can imagine, having bipartisan credentials and deep prosecutorial experience -- far more than the late Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. And Mueller is assembling a dream team of expert deputies. Of course the president would love an excuse to get rid of Mueller.

We have rebutted claims that Mueller's prior law firm affiliation posed a conflict -- under the District of Columbia's tough professional conduct rules, it does not. But Trump's surrogates continue to manufacture new and ludicrous conflict of interest claims against Mueller. One is that because he worked closely with James Comey at the FBI and because Comey is a material witness to the obstruction of justice part of the case, Mueller cannot investigate and if appropriate prosecute the obstruction of justice charge.

We are not aware of any precedent for a prosecutor being required to recuse from a case simply because a colleague who was also a law enforcement officer was a material witness in the case. Nor do the applicable rules of professional conduct for attorneys or prosecutors require it. In fact, many prosecutors are close friends with police officers, detectives, FBI agents and other law enforcement officials. Indeed, the rules even explicitly state that a lawyer can act as an advocate in a trial in which another lawyer currently in the same law firm is a witness -- so clearly, a former colleague would not be a problem. To preclude prosecutors from working on cases solely for these kinds of reasons would unduly hamper the course of justice.

Another argument is that Mueller should not have hired any lawyers for his staff who made significant campaign contributions. This overlooks that Mueller himself was a registered Republican when he was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the FBI, and he was named special counsel by Trump's own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

His critics apparently feel that Mueller has not sufficiently solidified his GOP credentials by making significant campaign contributions recently. But to them, his deeper sin is that he appointed to his staff a handful of lawyers who made contributions to Democrats. This presumably makes the entire enterprise a partisan "witch hunt."

This objection is frivolous. Presidents of both political parties have for a long time appointed campaign contributors to be U.S. attorneys and top Justice Department officials. Every American is subject to being prosecuted by these officials who were also campaign contributors to one party or the other. But a Republican special counsel who hires a handful of Democrats is presumed to be biased against the most powerful man in the country, the president? Nonsense.

...who doesn't believe that he fired Comey?


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:32:52 -0500

The Meaningless Politics of Liberal Democracies : The desire for theocracy in the Muslim world can be partly understood through the failures of Western secularism.  (EMMA GREEN  JUN 8, 2016, The Atlantic)

In his new book Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid--an Atlantic contributor, a scholar at Brookings, and a self-identified liberal--calls Affleck's declaration a "well-intentioned ... red herring." Islam really is different from other religions, he says, and many Muslims view politics, theocracy, and violence differently than do Christians, Jews, or non-religious people in Europe and the United States.

Perhaps his most provocative claim is this: History will not necessarily favor the secular, liberal democracies of the West. Hamid does not believe all countries will inevitably follow a path from revolution to rational Enlightenment and non-theocratic government, nor should they. There are some basic arguments for this: Islam is growing, and in some majority-Muslim nations, huge numbers of citizens believe Islamic law should be upheld by the state. But Hamid also thinks there's something lacking in Western democracies, that there's a sense of overarching meaninglessness in political and cultural life in these countries that can help explain why a young Muslim who grew up in the U.K. might feel drawn to martyrdom, for example. This is not a dismissal of democracy, nor does it comprehensively explain the phenomenon of jihadism. Rather, it's a note of skepticism about the promise of secular democracy--and the wisdom of pushing that model on other cultures and regions. 

Most Islamists--people who, in his words, "believe Islam or Islamic law should play a central role in political life"--are not terrorists. But the meaning they find in religion, Hamid said, helps explain their vision of governance, and it's one that can seem incomprehensible to people who live in liberal democracies.

...if Bernie Sanders introduced a measure calling for all traces of Judeo-Christianity law to be expunged from the Republic? It's no coincidence that the Protestant North/Anglosphere is thriving while secular Europe is dying.


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:28:50 -0500

What If Donald Trump Doesn't Sink The Republican Party? (David Harsanyi, JUNE 21, 2017, The Federalist)

You can try and grasp at moral victories, of course, as I saw a number of liberal pundits on cable television trying to do yesterday. You can tell yourself that Ossoff had come closer than any Democrat ever in the sixth district. But there are numerous problems with this optimism. For one, there won't be many red districts were the president is less popular. Democrats are going to have to flip some of these seats to win back a majority. Second, it's difficult to imagine how the environment could be any worse for the GOP (though, of course, that too is possible.) Moreover, Ossoff spent a record $25 million on a House race, yet Handel still outran not only him but Trump, as well.

This last point is mentioned as often as the others, yet it's probably the most important. Trump's approval rating in the sixth district is at the national average of 35 percent, which is to say exceptionally low for a Republican area. Trump had won the district by less than two percentage points back in November. According to a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution poll, the majority of Republicans surveyed (55 percent) said "expressing their opinion on Trump wasn't a factor in their decision-making."

Now, I realize that neither Ossoff nor Handel mentioned the president much during the race -- which, in itself, bolsters the theory that Trump might not be as consequential in these races as Dems hope. But the race was nationalized. Its implications were national. The coverage was national. The parties treated the race as one that would have national implications. Certainly, the money that poured into the race was national. One imagines that every Georgian Republican who went to the polls understood what this race meant for the future of the parties. When you nationalize races, Republicans will take more than the president into account.

Donald ran behind the bottom of the ticket in November--he was carried to victory on Republican party coattails.  


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 07:07:28 -0500

The truth about the Fed and inflation (Rick Rieder, BlackRock Chief Investment Officer of Global Fixed Income)

[W]e believe the excessive obsession some market watchers have with the Fed hewing to its 2% inflation target is shortsighted. Here's the truth about the Fed and inflation: The Fed adopted its 2% inflation target only quite recently, in 2012. Prior to that, the central bank was comfortable with an inflation level slightly lower than 2% and looked past the small variations around its previously preferred target range.

Today, massive technological disruptions and long-term demographic trends are remaking the inflation landscape, and we believe both investors and policy makers need to abandon an overly rigid view of price change.

Historically, technological innovation has proved to be deflationary, exerting downward pressure on prices. This is evident in the chart below, showing the drastic drop in computing and storage costs over the last 60 years. Based on the chart below, an iPhone in 1991 storage and computing cost dollars would be worth $1.44 million--per phone. An iPhone today costs a miniscule fraction of that.

Technological innovation is disrupting traditional business models of many industries, putting a lid on prices and influencing inflation in the economy overall.