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Economist Explains Why Trump's Ridiculous Trade War Is Now In a 'Dangerous New Phase'

September 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A new round of tariffs is about to hit American consumers.

As President Donald Trump ramps up his trade war with China with a new round of tariffs and President Xi Xinping responds in kind, economist Tyler Cowen warned Tuesday that the dispute is entering a “dangerous new phase.”

The reason the stakes have been raised becomes clear in comments from, of all sources, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“Nobody is going to actually notice it at the end of the day,” Ross said of the new 10 percent import tax on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods (rising to 25 percent by the end of the year. He argued that consumers wouldn't notice a difference because the new taxes, often called tariffs, are “spread across thousands and thousands of products.”

Cowen argued in Bloomberg on Tuesday that Ross's argument has a “disturbing grain of truth to it.” He explained this kernel of truth by referring to the basic economic idea of “tax salience theory,” which explains why some price changes impact consumers in different ways.

“For example, consumers (and voters) seem to be especially irritated by high gas prices,” wrote Cowen. “Drivers have to buy gas regularly, the price is advertised conspicuously, and higher gas expenses typically come out of consumers’ discretionary income. The net result is that gas taxes are probably lower than is socially optimal, considering that congestion, road wear and climate change may imply a fairly high gas tax.”

Tariffs, on the other hand, work in the opposite way, because they're mostly invisible. This is in part because of how they are priced into certain products, and because they often affect components of larger goods, like computers. In these cases, it's hard for consumers to tell where the price increase is coming from.

“It may well be true that consumers don’t notice tariffs as such. But they respond by buying less, lowering their well-being and also possibly lowering GDP and employment,” he wrote.

This means it will be difficult for voters to realize that Trump's tariffs are hurting them, even if they are having a significant negative impact on the …read more


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Trump Is Now Shamelessly Politicizing Natural Disasters — But He's Not the First

September 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Korey Pasch, The Conversation

Disaster death tolls are notoriously difficult to determine accurately.

The Atlantic hurricane season is in full swing and while earlier assessments predicted a normal year compared to 2017’s monstrous season, 2018 is now poised to potentially set records for the number of named storms occurring simultaneously.

Layered on top of updates on Florence’s strength and path in recent days, as well as warnings to citizens about how to protect themselves, was an ongoing tirade from U.S. President Donald Trump disputing the death toll of last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Trump’s gale of tweets was unleashed when a new study from the Milken Institute School of Public Health of George Washington University estimated a revised death toll of almost 3,000 due to the hurricane.

Trump’s self-serving objections aside, this is not the first time Hurricane Maria’s death toll had been revised. The numbers have been adjusted several times, with estimates varying from a Harvard study that pegged it between 800 to 8,500 dead to the government of Puerto Rico’s confirmation in early August that 1,427 people died as a result of Maria’s fury.

But more importantly, Trump’s display of self-serving, defensive narcissism as he disputed Maria’s death toll has demonstrated in real time what many observers and students of disasters and the politics that surround them have long known: Disaster death tolls are notoriously difficult to determine accurately.

That’s despite our best efforts, and amid obvious attempts to use these estimates for political purposes.

What’s in a number?

As scholars and practitioners in the governance area of disasters have made clear, there are limitations to the accuracy of estimates for a variety of reasons.

These include the unique conditions of each disaster as it unfolds, its immediate aftermath and disputes about who gets counted and who doesn’t.

As we have seen with the evolution of Hurricane Maria’s death toll, the numbers are subject to change and revision. In the case of Maria, the number has gone from the 16 deaths Trump cited when he visited the island and tossed half as many paper towel rolls into a crowd …read more


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Trump Is Privately Furious at One of His Most Loyal Minions for Dismissing His Puerto Rico Conspiracy Theory: Report

September 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

The Florida gubernatorial candidate — and Trump super fan — has incurred the president's wrath.

Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis got off to a rocky start this week with the revelation that he gave a speech to a hate group last year.

But he is also drawing anger from one of the last people he needs to cross right now: President Donald Trump.

According to Politico, Trump is enraged that when he claimed Puerto Rico's hurricane death toll was faked by Democrats to make him look bad last Friday, DeSantis did not back him up:

The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis — who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump’s strong support — as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president’s assertion that the Hurricane Maria death toll was inflated by Democrats for political purposes.

“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump tweeted that “3000 people did not die” in Puerto Rico.

DeSantis, who is running against progressive Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, is one of the most proudly pro-Trump gubernatorial candidates in America, supporting his agenda almost line for line in Congress and attacking the Mueller investigation for daring to challenge Trump. He's so smitten with the president, in fact, that he recently ran an ad depicting himself teaching his young child how to read with a Trump campaign sign. Trump's decision to endorse him over Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam arguably gave him the nomination.

But despite all of this, DeSantis is not willing to commit political suicide for Trump. Florida is home to some 50,000 to 75,000 Puerto Ricans who fled the island after Hurricane María — many of whom are going to the polls this November.

The independent report pegging the hurricane death toll at 2,975 includes people who survived the storm itself, but died from lack of access to clean water, …read more


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CNN's Jake Tapper Mocks Trump for Blatant Hypocrisy After He Refuses to Ask FBI to Investigate Brett Kavanaugh

September 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Tapper called it an “interesting moment of restraint.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pushed back against calls for the FBI to investigate an accusation that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault in high school, saying that the bureau itself has said it doesn't want to pursue the case.

However, as CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out, Trump often calls on the FBI to investigate matters that it clearly has no interest in working on.

“This is an interesting moment of restraint for President Trump,” Tapper said, “given his normal propensity to have the FBI and Justice Department get involved all the time, whether they want to or not, calling for them in the past to investigate: Hillary Clinton and her private email server (again), Clinton and the Uranium One deal, the Clinton campaign for alleged collusion, the Clinton Foundation for alleged corruption, the Obama administration for what President Trump called, without evidence, illegal surveillance of his campaign, former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the New York Times anonymous op-ed author, special counsel Robert Mueller for what the president says are conflicts of interest, and on, and on.”

Tapper added: “I could continue. Of course, it's only an hour show. His concerns for the parameters and propriety of what the FBI should be investigating? That seems rather new.”

Watch the clip below:

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Why the Christian Right Couldn't Care Less About Accusations Against Brett Kavanaugh

September 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

It's nothing but hypocrisy.

Memories of Justice Clarence Thomas’ 1991 Senate confirmation hearings have come flooding back this week, with Christine Blasey Ford—a 51-year-old psychology professor at Palo Alto University in Northern California—accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, of attempted rape.

On September 17, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted the parallels between the two by discussing Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh and playing old October 1991 clips of Sen. Joe Biden questioning Anita Hill—who alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed her and described to her, in elaborate detail, hardcore porn films he had viewed. Regardless of Hill’s allegations, Thomas has been an icon of the Christian Right, just as far-right white evangelicals are longing to see Kavanaugh confirmed. And once again, we are reminded that for the Christian Right, tribalism always takes a back seat to the morality and piety they claim to represent.

Despite Hill’s accusations against him in 1991, Thomas has been one of the most socially conservative justices on the Supreme Court—and the Christian Right has generally applauded the nomination of Kavanaugh, who would replace the retired Anthony Kennedy, a right-wing 1987 Ronald Reagan appointee who was fiscally conservative but showed libertarian-ish leanings when it came to gay rights and abortion. The Christian Right is hoping that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will join Thomas and other social conservatives on the High Court in ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade (the 1973 ruling that, in effect, made abortion legal in all 50 states). And those who have applauded Kavanaugh’s nomination have ranged from Karen Swallow Prior of Liberty University (founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr.) to the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins (who considers Kavanaugh a “strict constitutionalist” despite his appalling record on civil rights).

Had a Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court been accused of attempted rape, the Christian Right would be demanding the nominee’s immediate withdrawal. But Kavanaugh, regardless of Ford’s accusation, will get a pass from the Christian Right because they see him as part of their tribe—just as Thomas got a pass in 1991, and just as President Donald …read more


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Best Gear for an Epic Mountain Adventure

September 18, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Long to become an off-grid winter expert like the cast of ‘Mountain Men’? Looking to elevate your next snowy trail hike or camping trip? Take things up a notch with this selection of outdoor gear. The mountains are calling.

HISTORY recommends products that our editors think you’ll like, and if you buy something through our links HISTORY may get a small share of the revenue. Prices may fluctuate.


Whether you’re navigating wintry backwoods terrain, looking for a quad-burning workout or simply out to enjoy a scenic stroll through the fluffy stuff, that’s not only a warm knit hat, but also features a built-in headlamp with two modes—white light or flashing red and blue lights—so you can see and be seen in the dark. Washable. $9, Amazon


You don’t have to be a lumberjack the likes of Paul Bunyan to know the value of a good axe when you’re mountain-bound. This sleek 17.5-inch Gerber Freescape hatchet features a durable forged-steel head and composite handle, making it easy to use without a lot of hand strain. Babe the Blue Ox not included. $45.50, Amazon


Building a fire on a cold mountain night can make the difference between a comfortable campsite and the possibility of frostbite or hypothermia. If you can rub two sticks together to start a fire, well—more power to ya. For the rest of us, we’ll rely on the Zippo Emergency Fire Kit, which includes five lightweight paraffin wax-coated cotton tinders, a Zippo flint-wheel lighter and a water-resistant, floatable case. $9, Amazon


Winter rule No. 1? Don’t leave home without a hat. This chocolate-brown Stetson “Pawnee” fur-felt cowboy hat is a classic, durable, American-made style with a brown leather concho-adorned band. Bonus: a fabric moisture-wicking sweatband to keep you feeling as cool as you look. $156-$203, depending on the seller, Amazon


If there’s one thing we don’t want to sacrifice—like, ever—it’s a hot-cooked meal. So, the MSR PocketRocket 2 folding-canister backpacking stove is a must in our adventure kit. Easy to use and able to boil a liter of water in less than four minutes, it’s ultra lightweight (2.6 oz.), compact (2 x 2 x 3 in.) and works with a variety of pot sizes. Dinner is served. $45, Amazon


You don’t …read more


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Four Works of Nazi-Looted Art Identified and Returned to Jewish Family

September 18, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The drawings were in the stash of Hildebrand Gurlitt, the head buyer for Adolf Hitler’s planned Führermuseum.

Adolf Hitler is shown looking at a tiara and a sculpture of Napoleon Bonaparte during his visit of an art exhibition. Rudolf Hess stands in the background.

Germany has .

Only a few pieces from Cornelius’ stash have been returned to the heirs of the artworks’ original owners. Now, the four Deutsch de la Meurthe drawings have also been restituted to the family’s heirs. With the family’s approval, these drawings by Charles-Dominique-Joseph Eisen, Augustin de Saint Aubin and Anne Vallayer-Coster are on display until January 2019 at the Gropius Bau museum in Berlin, along with other pieces from the famous Gurlitt stash.

…read more


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Expect Kavanaugh Hearing to Be Inconclusive, Circus-Like

September 18, 2018 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

It’s fine for the Senate to drill down into the allegation
against Brett Kavanaugh, but the hearing now scheduled for Monday
will hardly accomplish anything. Even if Christine Blasey Ford
testifies, what we’ll likely be left with is a she-said, he-denied
that’ll put us no further than when this 11th-hour bombshell

What we’ll likely be left
with is a she-said, he-denied that’ll put us no further than when
this 11th-hour bombshell dropped.

Unlike Anita Hill’s case against Clarence Thomas, which arose
out of a longtime working relationship, here the accuser can’t
recall facts that are key to establishing her claim, while the
accused has issued a categorical denial: not simply that he didn’t
do it, but, according to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that he wasn’t
even at a party like the one Ford described.

It’s certainly possible that, under oath, Kavanaugh will change
his story, but this is exceedingly unlikely given that he chooses
his words carefully and had time to ponder his statements.

Senators will have to proceed with the same information they
have now, weighing the claim’s veracity against the politically
suspect circumstances in which it arose. They’ll also have to
consider Kavanaugh’s exemplary adult life, as attested to by
copious character statements.

To be frank, few senators’ votes are likely to change. Susan
Collins – the moderate Maine Republican whose vote is key – has
already expressed frustration at the process by which the
allegation came to light, with Judiciary Committee ranking member
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., discounting the allegation until pressed by colleagues last week.

Of course, the Democratic senators running in red states may
seize on this issue as providing just enough political wiggle room
to justify a no vote. We may thus see a completely party-line vote
to seat a Supreme Court justice.

That would mark a further rift in our nation’s political fabric.
Regardless, there can be no winners. After a presumptively
inconclusive (if not pointless and circus-like) hearing, it will be
time for the Senate to vote – and let the political chips fall
where they may.

Ilya Shapiro
is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. …read more

Source: OP-EDS