You are browsing the archive for 2018 September 25.

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'A Serpent Covered in Vaseline': Conservative Writer Launches into Epic Tirade About Why He 'Despises' Ted Cruz So Much

September 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Even his fellow Republicans can't stand the Texas senator.


Even in deep-red Texas, it looks like Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke has a decent chance of unseating his Republican opponent for a U.S. Senate seat.

Why are O'Rourke's chances as good as they are? In part, his positive prospects stem from the persistent unlikability of incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz.

Observers have frequently commented on the fact that Cruz is particularly off-putting as a politician, and even many of his GOP colleagues have expressed open contempt for the Texas senator. But perhaps the best Cruz takedown yet was penned by New York Timesconservative columnist Bret Stephens in a dialogue with fellow op-ed writer Gail Collins.

“I like Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, and I like the idea that Texas can turn a bit purple if you have a candidate with energy, wit and a human touch,” Stephens wrote Tuesday. “The big reason is that I despise Ted Cruz. That is 'D-e-s-p-i-s-e,' in case I haven’t spelled out my loathing clearly enough. Would you like to know why?”

“Oh, gosh, please go on,” said Collins.

Stephens obliged:

Because he’s like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because “New York values.” Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that’s just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he’s conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he’s the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that’s what it took to get elected. And that he would …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Another of Kavanaugh's Classmates Just Said He Has Caught the Supreme Court Nominee in a Lie

September 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Kavanaugh's self-portrait of his college years is being challenged again.


The sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have upended every aspect of the carefully manicured life story image he and the White House have sold the American people.

On Monday, Kavanaugh sat for an interview with Fox News' Martha MacCallum and vehemently denied the allegations. In fact, said Kavanaugh, he was a virgin throughout that time period. “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter,” he said.

Putting aside the fact that neither of the assaults Kavanaugh is alleged to have committed at Georgetown Prep and Yale would have required the loss of virginity, at least one of his classmates takes issue with that claim.

Stephen Kantrowitz, now a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tweeted that Kavanaugh's claim of virginity does not match what he told people while he was in school:

When Law & Crime requested further comment, Kantrowitz added:

Contrary to his assertion that he remained a virgin “for many years” after high school, during our freshman year he described losing his virginity. I remember this distinctly because it was the first time I had had such a conversation with an acquaintance who was not a friend. I have no first-hand knowledge of any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, but I thought this conversation was relevant as it goes to the question of his truthfulness.

It is entirely possible that Kavanaugh was lying then, rather than lying now — plenty of college students embellish their sexual exploits, and this is not in and of itself something he should have to answer to in his adult years, as opposed to, for instance, forcing a 15-year-old girl into a room and trying to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'The Beginning of the End of the Trump Presidency': NYT Columnist Argues that Rod Rosenstein's Fate Could Determine the Country's Future

September 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“I think the people who are going to work in that department understand so long as Rosenstein is there, he represents a kind of a shield for what it is that they do.”


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who has made clear he is protecting special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation from undue influence, plans to meet with President Donald Trump Thursday for an encounter that could result in his resignation, his termination, or his staying on the job.

Bret Stephens, a New York Times columnist, argued on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” with host Nicolle Wallace Tuesday that the outcome of this meeting could have massive implications for the future of the country.

“I think the stakes are basically this: This is either the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency or it's the beginning of the end of the Justice Department,” he said. “Because I think Rosenstein has represented the integrity of the department against the efforts by the president to undermine that integrity, against the fact that he has as an attorney general someone who either neutered or complicit, depending on the subject and the day of the week.”

He continued: “And I think the people who are going to work in that department understand that so long as Rosenstein is there, he represents a kind of a shield for what it is that they do. For the institutional process. For the integrity of the institutions within the department itself. If Rosenstein goes, and [Trump] is able to put in someone like Sessions as his number two, we're in real trouble as a country.”

“I hope the Justice Department saw that, Bret Stephens,” Wallace said.

Watch the clip below:

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Bill Cosby's Publicist Allies His Client With Brett Kavanaugh in Wild Rant Claiming They're Victims of a 'Sex War'

September 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Wyatt promoted wild and unsupported claims of a supposed conspiracy against Cosby.


Bill Cosby has been sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former women’s basketball administrator for Philadelphia’s Temple University.

After the sentencing, Andrew Wyatt, the 81-year-old Cosby’s publicist claimed that his client — like President Donald Trump’s second Supreme court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh — is the victim of a “sex war.” Judge Steven O’Neill (who sentenced Cosby) helped to carry the “war” out, Wyatt said.

In the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, Pennsylvania on September 25, Wyatt told reporters, “What is going on in Washington today with Judge Kavanaugh is part of that sex war that Judge O’Neill, along with his wife, are a part of.”

Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old psychology professor at Palo Alto University in Northern California, is alleging that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party in 1982. And another woman, 53-year-year Deborah Ramirez, is alleging that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm party when they were students at Yale University.

Wyatt, in Norristown, also claimed that the district attorney in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia used “falsified evidence against Dr. Cosby.”

“This is the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States,” Wyatt told reporters. “Dr. Cosby has been one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the United States for over the last 50 years.”

Wyatt added, “All three of the psychologists who testified against Dr. Cosby were white women who make money off of accusing black men of being sexual predators.”

Judge O’Neill ruled that with Cosby having been convicted of drugging and raping Constand, he will be officially classified as a violent sexual predator. Cosby has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by dozens of other women, but many of their claims were unable to be adjudicated in court.

Watch the clip of Wyatt's wild claims below:

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Here's How Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Nomination Could Fall Apart

September 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Several key senators appear to be on the edge.


With a 51-49 GOP majority in the Senate and Vice President Mike Pence acting as the tie-breaking vote, it would only take two Republican senators voting “no” to completely scuttle Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Looming over the process is the upcoming testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is prepared to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations that Kavanaugh forced himself on her, pinned her down on a bed, groped her, and tried to take off her clothes at a party while they were both in high school. Other allegations, including those of Deborah Ramirez, also threaten to curtail the nomination.

There are signs that these allegations are weighing on key senators — and if two of them express explicit opposition to Kavanaugh's appointment, that would likely kill his nomination for good.

On Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke to the New York Times and made it clear that she is taking Ford's allegations seriously.

“We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” she said. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.”

She added: “We have to listen to what she will say on the record, under oath, and what Judge Kavanaugh will say on the record, under oath.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has also said she is still making up her mind and that the Thursday hearing will be “important.” Both Murkowski and Collins are seen as swing votes given that they care about protecting abortion rights, which Kavanaugh is believed to oppose. Collins has consistently sounded as though she is looking for a reason to support Kavanaugh despite her support for women's reproductive freedoms. It's not clear if Ford's testimony will weigh more heavily given these additional concerns or if she will convince herself that she can vote for Kavanaugh despite the allegations.

If Collins and Murkowski abandon Kavanaugh, he's likely finished as a Supreme Court nominee. The only way he could still …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How a Chinese Crop Became an American Winner

September 25, 2018 in History

By John Seven

The soybean originated in China, but its history in the U.S. has ranged from an experimental crop to a Civil War coffee substitute, to a leading U.S. export.


Soybean plants on a Maryland farm.

The soybean, known as a “miracle crop” for its versatility in different climates and the flexibility of its use in by-products, ranks among the United States’ top crops. While the plant traces back to China in the 11th century B.C., the United States emerged as the world’s biggest soybean exporter in the 1950s. But it took a long history of fits and starts for soybeans to become a dominant American crop.

The earliest known attempt to bring soy crops to America was in 1765 by a farmer, Samuel Bowen, according to Matthew D. Roth, assistant director of the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy at University of Pennsylvania and author of the book Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America.

Bowen would figure out a way to grow the crop in Savannah, Georgia to use for soy sauce. Following that effort, there were scattered unusual applications. For instance, Civil War soldiers used soybeans as a coffee substitute, calling them “coffee berries.” “I have the impression that was a mail-order scam, which received mixed reviews,” Roth says.

Soybeans were also ground up into a wheat flour substitute to use in a low-starch bread alternative for diabetics but were mostly used as cattle feed. They got a boost in 1904 when American agricultural scientist, George Washington Carver, determined that soy offered a valuable source of protein. He also endorsed the idea that rotating crops with soybeans could improve soil quality.

World War I provided an impetus to use soy foods as a substitute for scarce meat,” says Roth. “The US government sent a Chinese citizen, Yamei Kin, to China on a mission to investigate tofu and its uses. Home economists at the USDA and elsewhere developed recipes for soybean loaves and hash, but in general, cooks found soybeans tough to cook.”

Roth says that one of the earliest champions of soy-based health foods is the Seventh Day Adventist Church in the early 20th Century.

“It ran a number of health sanitariums and colleges,” Roth says. “These institutional customers for imitation meat and milk products provided a steady source of income to Adventist food factories, which also then supplied a network of health-food stores which grew …read more

Source: HISTORY

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4 Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Take on the Nazis

September 25, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

In a time when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party was engulfing Europe in hatred and fear, everyday heroes emerged to stand up to the terror.

In a time when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party was engulfing Europe in hatred and fear, everyday heroes emerged to stand up to the terror.

Many fought quietly, as a Swiss diplomat who took advantage of Nazi officers’ respect for paperwork, or the Dutch teacher who saved 600 children by smuggling them out of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in baskets. Others were more brazen in their defiance, including a teenage girl who, with her sister, shot Nazi officers from her bicycle.

Some of these heroes would survive the war, others weren’t as fortunate. All demonstrated a humanity that history shows persists even in the darkest of times.

Carl Lutz Fought the Nazis Through Paperwork

Swiss Diplomat Carl Lutz among the ruins of the former British legation in Budapest, Hungary. He saved half of Budapest’s Jewish population during the Holocaust.

Credited with saving half of Budapest’s Jewish population from the Holocaust, Carl Lutz used paper, not weapons, to fight the Nazis. He even issued official Swiss protection to safe houses throughout Budapest. And, as thousands of Jews were forced to walk to various concentration camps in Austria and Germany, Lutz, with his wife, pulled as many people as they could from the grim march and issued them protective documents. Read the full story here.

Freddie Oversteegen Killed Nazis With Her Sister

Freddie Oversteegen was only 14 when she joined the Dutch resistance during World War II, and only a couple of years older when she became one of its armed assassins. Oversteegen and her sister, Truus, were taught by their single, working mother that it was critical to fight injustice. The sisters’ actions weren’t only subversive, they were dangerous. Read the full story here.

Teacher, Johan van Hulst, Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children


Former Dutch teacher and politician, Johan van Hulst, in 2012. He saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis.

In 1942 and 1943, Dutch educator Johan van Hulst arranged for the transport of some very precious cargo. It was passed over a hedge, hidden in basket and sacks, and then whisked out of Amsterdam by bicycle. The cargo wasn’t food or supplies: It was Jewish children, smuggled and saved by van Hulst and his colleagues during the Nazi occupation of …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Forget Economics, Immigration Policy Is More about Our Values

September 25, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

You’re probably tired of me saying it, dear reader.

But a big problem with supposed “evidence-based
policy” is that the conclusions we derive from evidence often
take our underlying aims for granted.

If we’re considering a tax cut, no evidence-base showing
that it could create a positive GDP effect will convince you if
your main concern is inequality.

Values matter. Yet policy debates are often wrongly conducted as
if we all agree on metrics of success and just need the facts to
determine the right approach.

Immigration policy is a
thorny issue, entailing economic, cultural, and moral
judgements.

Consider last week’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report
on European Economic Area (EEA) immigration. The MAC laid out
buckets of useful evidence on the effects single market immigrants
have on jobs, wages, productivity, training, prices and public
services.

Based upon this evidence, it concluded that the UK’s immigration
regime should not give EEA migrants preference over non-EEA
migrants. Significantly, it called for more restrictions on
low-skilled migration from the EEA, and a more permissive approach
to high-skilled immigration from all countries.

This was a reasonable interpretation of the evidence presented.
But there was a massive assumption underlying it. That is, in
thinking about the effects of people moving here, it assumed the UK
government should only care about the impact on people living here
already.

In other words, the weight that we should attach to the
wellbeing of future low-skilled immigrants from EEA countries
should be zero, or near-zero.

Now, that’s not a crazy assumption. Plenty of the public would
agree with it. Our political system directs relatively small
amounts of resources to people overseas through foreign aid,
defence spending, and transfers to other countries through the EU.
In a democracy, we’d imagine that this amount would be much higher
if we considered the wellbeing of, say, a Romanian or a Venezuelan
as important as someone in Romford. Our voting preference seems to
put very little weight on the interests of low-skilled
foreigners.

But it’s a crucial starting point, because relaxing that
assumption would see very different policy conclusions from those
presented.

After all, the MAC found that any negative effects of
immigration on wages and jobs for low-skilled natives were small
and uncertain.

It found no evidence to suggest that immigration had led to less
training of British workers, while the report also concluded that
EEA migration had not increased crime or damaged the wellbeing of
people already living in the UK.

Migration has reduced some prices of services for consumers, and
increased house prices – though any uplift occurred largely because
of restrictive land-use planning laws. When it came to the impact
on the public finances, the report …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Digging in for a Long Fight

September 25, 2018 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

US President Donald Trump frequently proclaims his desire to
“drain the swamp.” In US-China trade relations, however, he is
steadily leading the United States into a quagmire from which it
may be difficult to escape. Skepticism and hostility towards China
among US politicians and commentators existed long before Trump,
but the intensification of the rhetoric, and aggressive actions
taken in recent months, will be difficult to undo or pull back
from, at least for this administration.

Like all countries, China is guilty of a number of trade sins.
There are sectors in which it is highly protectionist, and it has
only recently begun to follow rich country norms on intellectual
property. China is not the only offender, of course, but given its
economic size and its authoritarian politics, it is not surprising
that China is the target of the most intense criticism.

What is surprising is the strategy taken by the Trump
administration to address these issues. While the Barack Obama
administration tried to work within multilateral rules, the Trump
administration has decided to go it alone. It is imposing tariffs
on China that clearly flout World Trade Organization (WTO)
obligations, and which do not appear to be achieving the objective
of prompting reform in China.

Instead, we are in the midst of a back-and-forth game of tariff
escalation. The US imposes tariffs on US$34 billion of imports;
China matches it. The US adds tariffs on another US$16 billion of
imports; China matches that. The US is now threatening tariffs on
$200 billion of imports; China doesn’t import enough from the US to
match that, but it will impose tariffs on all the imports it can.
If this keeps going, both sides will be imposing tariffs on all
imports from each other, and perhaps taking other retaliatory
actions as well.

The administration’s defense of its policies is that other
methods of dealing with China have been tried and did not work. The
administration accuses China of cheating, and says the WTO cannot
handle China’s unique brand of state intervention. There have even
been suggestions that China’s entry into the WTO on the terms
agreed in 1999 was a mistake.

The reality is that WTO litigation against China’s trade
practices has worked quite well, where it has been used. China does
as well as other countries at compliance when challenged in a WTO
complaint. The problem is that WTO dispute settlement needs to be
used more. But the Trump administration is not listening to this
criticism (it has filed only one new WTO complaint). It is relying
mostly on tariffs instead.

And despite the concerns of economists and affected companies,
the administration shows no …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Fall in the Value of the Indonesian Rupiah — DéjàVu 1998?

September 25, 2018 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

Since that August interview, the poor rupiah has been put into
the emerging market meat grinder. It has reached depths not seen
since 1998. But, are the causes of the fall of the rupiah the same
as they were in 1997-1998? In a word, “no.”

For one thing, Indonesia’s broad money (M2) was growing at
an excessive annual rate of 25.35% in 1997. Today, it’s
growing at a modest 6.4%. Just how modest?

To answer that question, I employ a monetary approach to
national income determination for a diagnosis. As Milton Friedman
put it in his 1987 New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics
entry, “Quantity Theory of Money” (QTM), “The
conclusion (of the QTM) is that substantial changes in prices or
nominal income are almost always the result of changes in the
nominal supply of money.” The income form of the QTM states
that: MV=Py, where M is the money supply, V is the Velocity of
money, P is the price level, and y is real GDP (national
income).

Let’s use the QTM to make some bench calculations to
determine what the “golden growth” rate (read: optional
rate) is for the money supply. This is the rate of broad money
growth that would allow the Bank Indonesia (BI) to hit its
inflation target. According to my calculations, the average percent
real GDP growth from the time that the President of Indonesia Joko
Widodo “Jokowi” took office in November 2014 through
July 2018 was 5.05%. The average change in the velocity of money
was 1.76%. Using these values and the BI’s average inflation
target of 3.88%, I calculated Indonesia’s “golden
growth” rate for Total Money to be 7.17%.

Calculations:

Golden growth rate = Inflation target + Average real GDP growth
- Average percent change in velocity

Golden growth rate = 3.88% + 5.05% – 1.76% = 7.17%

The actual average rate of growth in the money supply during the
Jokowi years (7.22%) is very close to the golden growth rate of
7.17%. The BI has been on target. Not surprisingly, the realized
inflation rate has been very close to the BI’s inflation
target, too.

So, what’s the problem? Why are Indonesians so uneasy
about the rupiah? There are three reasons. The first is the fact
that Indonesians remember the Asian Financial crisis and have
little confidence in the floating rupiah. Secondly, they have
little confidence in Jokowi’s ability to deliver much needed
economic reforms. Indeed, even though Jokowi has presented big
infrastructure plans, all have proceeded at a snail’s pace.
Thirdly, instead of remaining calm, the Jokowi administration hit
the panic button when the rupiah was attacked in late summer. The
administration said things that were nonsense, namely that it was
going to “save the rupiah” at all costs and that it was
not going to raise interest rates. These incompatible statements
gave markets the impression that the administration didn’t
know what it was doing.

So, the recent plunge of the rupiah represents a collapse in
confidence. And, as John Maynard Keynes stated in The
General Theory: “The state of confidence, as they
term it, is a matter to which practical men always pay the closest
and most anxious attention.” Once lost, confidence is hard to
regain. So, as I said in August, even though the monetary
fundamentals in Indonesia are quite good, the rupiah will end the
year on a weak note.

Steve H. Hanke

In 1998, thanks to President Bill Clinton and the IMF, the
Indonesian rupiah collapsed, and inflation surged.

I know every act in this play because I had a front row seat as
then-President Suharto’s Special Counselor. A brief account of this
sorry saga is contained in Forbes. In a nutshell, to stabilize the
rupiah and stop inflation in its tracks, I proposed, and Suharto
accepted, a currency board system for Indonesia. This would have
made the rupiah a clone of the greenback.

The prospect of a currency board unleashed a ruthless
counter-attack from the White House and the IMF. Both knew the
currency board would work, and that Bill Clinton would be stuck
with Suharto. The message to Suharto from both Clinton and Michel
Camdessus, Managing Director of the IMF, was the same: If you
proceed with Prof. Hanke’s currency board, Indonesia will not
receive the $43 billion bailout. In the end, Suharto abandoned the
currency board idea, and the Asian Financial Crisis ousted him.

Since my Forbes column of July 6th, 2017, White House documents that confirm my
observations have been released. In anticipation of the
Presidential elections in Indonesia in April of 2019, the documents
were released ahead of schedule.

Shortly after the White House documents were released,
journalists and a film crew arrived at my Johns Hopkins office to
film part of a documentary. One question that kept coming up
during the filming dealt with where I thought the rupiah was going.
Obviously, there was a great deal of angst in Indonesia about the
rupiah’s weakness. At the time, I simply said that the rupiah would
be weaker at the end of the year than it was then (in early
August). Given the trend of the rupiah-dollar exchange rate, that
was a safe bet (see the chart below). Little did I know how fast
the rupiah would sink. Yes, in Indonesia, everything seems to be
sinking, even Jakarta—the
fastest sinking city in the world.

Since that August interview, the poor rupiah has been put into
the emerging market meat grinder. It has reached depths not seen
since 1998. But, are the causes of the fall of the rupiah the same
as they were in 1997-1998? In a word, “no.”

For one thing, Indonesia’s broad money (M2) was growing at
an excessive annual rate of 25.35% in 1997. Today, it’s
growing at a modest 6.4%. Just how modest?

To answer that question, I employ a monetary approach to
national income determination for a diagnosis. As Milton Friedman
put it in his 1987 New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics
entry, “Quantity …read more

Source: OP-EDS