May 28, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


The good folks at Out of the Park Baseball have kindly offered to give two BroJudd readers a copy of OOTP 19.  If you're interested, please comment below or send me an email and we'll draw a couple names out of a hat on Monday afternoon.

May 26, 2018

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Back to the future? Bolton, Trump and Iranian regime change (Gareth Porter, Friday 18 May 2018, Middle East Eye)

Bolton was part of the powerful neoconservative faction of national security officials in the George W Bush administration that had a plan for supporting regime change in Iran, not much different from the one Bolton is reportedly pushing now. But it was a crackbrained scheme that involved the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) exiled terrorist organisation that never had Bush's support. [...]

It appears that Bolton was still pushing the idea within the administration as of last week. The Washington Free Beacon reported on 10 May that a three-page paper outlining a regime-change strategy from a small far-right organisation called the Security Studies Group, with which Bolton is said to have close ties, was circulated among NSC officials. The quotes from the paper in the story make it clear that the strategy is based largely on seeking to exploit ethnic and religious conflicts in Iran. 

The paper reportedly makes the point that ethnic minorities - such as Kurds, Azeris, Ahwazi Arabs and Baloch - represent one-third of Iran's population, and argues that the Iranian regime's "oppression of its ethnic and religious minorities has created he conditions for an effective campaign to splinter the Iranian state into component parts".

It adds: "US support for their independence movements, both overt and covert, could force the regime to focus attention on them and limit its ability to conduct other malign activities." 

Those minorities have all had organisations that have carried out violent actions, including bombings and assassinations against Iranian officials, over the past decade, and such a strategy would presumably involve supporting a step-up in such activities - in other words, US support for terrorist activities against Iranian government targets.

But none of this is new. It was the official line of the powerful alliance between the neoconservatives and the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis within the Bush administration. By 2003, Douglas Feith, the uber-neoconservative former undersecretary of defense for policy, had developed a plan for giving MEK, whose army had been captured by US troops in Iraq, a new name and using them for a covert paramilitary operation in Iran. 

Meanwhile, Iran was offering to provide names and other data on al-Qaeda officials it had captured in return for US information on MEK. When former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld sought to protect MEK from such a deal, Bush's response was: "But we say there is no such thing as a good terrorist." 

Despite the neocon fixation with supporting MEK, both the CIA and the Israelis have long regarded the idea that it could be an instrument for regime change in Iran as ridiculous. After the organisation helped Saddam Hussein's regime suppress Shia and Kurdish uprisings, it lost any semblance of legitimacy inside Iran. After it relocated to Iraq, moreover, it was transformed into an authoritarian cult.

The former Israeli ambassador to Iran, Uri Lubrani, who was given a free hand to organise a programme for destabilising Iran, recognised long ago, as he told two Israeli journalists, that MEK has no capacity to do anything inside the country. 

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How plans for a North Korea summit collapsed: Trump sought a legacy, underestimated the difficulty (NOAH BIERMAN and ELI STOKOLS, MAY 25, 2018, Washington Post)
When it began, with a South Korean official standing outside the White House announcing that the leaders of the United States and North Korea would meet for an unprecedented summit, President Trump believed he had accomplished a historic breakthrough -- an accomplishment, he told friends, that would secure his legacy and his reelection. [...]

[W]hile Trump privately blamed Chinese president Xi Jinping for souring North Korea on the meeting, U.S. observers, including some close to the White House, said that all along, the prospects for the summit had been caught between two competing currents: Trump's unbridled desire to make history and his advisors' increasing skepticism that Kim was willing to come anywhere close to Trump's fundamental demand that he relinquish his nuclear arsenal.

Some of that tension played out in public as the North Koreans threatened to pull the plug within days of Trump musing publicly about winning a Nobel Peace Prize.

But the roots of the trouble took shape earlier, according to friends of Trump, national security veterans and Korea experts.

On one side was Trump, guided by the desire to captivate a world audience, prove the establishment wrong and win the type of legacy-building achievement that transcends scandals at home in the same way that President Nixon's opening of China survived the tarnish of Watergate.'s no big deal to sell out to another one to try to distract from your legal morass.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Surprise! Donald Trump is terrible at diplomacy. (Max Boot, May 24, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump is widely reported, after 16 months on the job, to feel unleashed. Naysayers like economic adviser Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been banished. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly has, to a large extent, been sidelined. Trump is listening to Sean Hannity and doing what he wants.

And how's that working out? To judge by the evidence of Trump's dealings with China and North Korea this week, it's been a disaster. The Trump Train just jumped the tracks.

Trump marched into a confrontation with China - America's top trade partner - in the serene confidence that "trade wars are good and easy to win." As recently as Tuesday, he was claiming: "When you're losing $500 billion a year, you can't lose in terms of a negotiation." (The U.S. trade deficit with China is actually $375 billion; $506 billion is the amount of goods the U.S. imports from China - and we're not losing that money, we are getting sneakers and LED displays in return. But then this president traffics in attitudes, not facts.)

Trump evidently thought he would threaten China with tariffs, and Beijing would fold as quickly as one of the vendors he has made a practice of stiffing. Not so fast. China retaliated by stopping purchases of U.S. soybeans, hurting the farm states whose votes Trump needs. China also made plain it wasn't going to pressure North Korea into concessions as long as Trump was threatening its trade.

Lo and behold, Trump caved. First he tweeted that he would lift sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE before kind of, sort of, walking it back. And then this week he ran up the white flag altogether, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying that the trade war is "on hold."

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


History Suggests Double Trouble for Incumbent Trump (Paul Brandus, April 19th, 2018, Crystal Ball)

 In the last half-century, there have been four times when a weak presidential incumbent invited a primary challenger from within his own party. None of these weak incumbents -- Lyndon Johnson (1968), Gerald Ford (1976), Jimmy Carter (1980), or George H.W. Bush (1992) -- was re-elected (or in Ford's case, elected, given that he became president when Richard Nixon resigned). Let's take a closer look:

-- 1968: Growing opposition to the Vietnam War took Lyndon Johnson's approval (Gallup) from 79% in early 1964 to 41% four years later. Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) challenged him for the Democratic presidential nomination, nearly upsetting the president in the New Hampshire primary. Johnson's arch-enemy Robert F. Kennedy then declared his candidacy. LBJ, seeing the writing on the wall, announced that he would neither seek nor accept the Democratic nomination.

-- 1976: Gerald Ford was a weak incumbent for two reasons: his pardon of Richard Nixon and a terrible recession. Former Gov. Ronald Reagan (R-CA) took him on in the Republican presidential nomination contest. After a tooth-and-nail fight that went all the way to the GOP national convention, Ford won his party's nomination. But Ford was badly weakened, and he lost to Jimmy Carter that fall.

-- 1980: Thanks to a recession and a hostage crisis with Iran, it was Carter's turn to earn an intraparty challenge, this time by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Carter vowed to "whip his ass," and did -- only to be crushed by Reagan in a November landslide.

-- 1992: After winning the Gulf War in a rout, George H.W. Bush's approval soared to 89%. A shoo-in for reelection, right? But Bush, backing away from a major 1988 campaign pledge, supported a tax hike to lower the deficit. That, along with a mild recession, caused his approval to collapse. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan challenged him for the GOP presidential nomination and won nearly a quarter of all primary votes. A weakened Bush survived to make the general election, but lost in a three-way race that November to Bill Clinton.

If that's not ominous enough for Trump, consider this: He's at or below the approval of all four of those unsuccessful incumbents at this stage (Trump is at 39% approval in Gallup right now). Gallup approval 15 months in:

Johnson (Feb. 1965): 68%
Ford (Nov. 1975): 44%
Carter (April 1978): 40%
Bush (April 1990): 67%
History is also against Trump in another big way: he's the fifth president to lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College. So what happened to the other four when they sought re-election? Only one was successful.

John Quincy Adams (1828): crushed by Andrew Jackson
Rutherford Hayes (1880): declined to run again
Benjamin Harrison (1892): lost to Grover Cleveland
George W. Bush (2004): won reelection

And Bush's 2004 win wasn't exactly a landslide. He got 50.7% of the popular vote and 286 electoral votes against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


How a Tiny Kansas Town Rebooted Its Struggling Hospital into a Health Care Jewel: An innovative exec found a way to recruit doctors, help refugees and make money delivering babies. (LISA RAB May 26, 2018, Politico)

The region's economy depends on the price of gas and oil, which plummeted in recent years. But there are pockets of industrial vitality, too. Seventeen miles east of Lakin, in Holcomb, where Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood, smoke rises from the steel towers of the Tyson Fresh Meats plant. Tyson's workers slaughter 6,000 head of cattle a day, making it one of the largest beef-packing plants in the world. East African refugees inspect beef beside immigrants from Burma, Mexico, and Ecuador. Those who don't find jobs at the plant labor on the surrounding dairy farms and ranches. In short, this part of western Kansas is like a lot of rural America, right down to the struggling county hospital.

Four years ago, Kearny County Hospital had to turn away patients because it didn't have enough doctors to treat them. It was losing $100,000 a year in its maternity ward. County commissioners wanted to avoid the fate of other rural communities, which have lost 83 hospitals across the country in the past eight years. Often, the solution is to stop delivering babies. More than half the rural counties in the country no longer have a labor and delivery unit in their hospitals; in Kansas, nine rural obstetrics units have shut down in the past 10 years, and six more are planning to close soon, says Michael Kennedy, associate dean for rural health education at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

But Kearny County went the other way.

Officials hired an innovative CEO who came up with a way to make their rural hospital appeal to talented young physicians who want to deliver babies in Third World countries. You can do that work right here in Kansas, Ben Anderson told his new recruits, by serving immigrants and refugees. Once the new doctors arrived, Anderson applied for grants to upgrade the hospital's equipment and fly in a specialist to see women with high-risk pregnancies. The skilled doctors and luxurious birthing suites attracted immigrants from neighboring Garden City and wealthier patients from out of town, and the baby boom they created padded the hospital's bottom line. KCH went from delivering 187 babies in 2014 to 327 in 2017. In the span of five years, Anderson has turned the hospital into the county's largest employer, with a profitable maternity ward that draws patients from as much as two hours away for its superior care. "I think it's a huge success story," Kearny County Commissioner Shannon McCormick says.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


MLB panel: Baseballs are getting more lift; cause is a mystery (Associated Press, 5/24/18)

Baseballs really have been getting extra lift since 2015, and it's not from the exaggerated uppercuts batters are taking, according to a 10-person committee of researchers hired by the commissioner's office.

"The aerodynamic properties of the ball have changed, allowing it to carry farther," said committee chairman Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But the panel, which includes professors specializing in physics, mechanical engineering, statistics and mathematics, struck out trying to pinpoint the cause. [...]

"We have to admit, and we do admit, that we do not understand it. We know the primary cause is the change in the drag but we just simply cannot pinpoint what feature of the ball would lead to it," Nathan said during a conference call Wednesday, ahead of the report's release. "Therefore it was probably something very, very subtle in the manufacturing process, but again it has to be pretty subtle, because if it weren't, we would have found it."


Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


This Is How We Forget Who We Are (NOAH ROTHMAN, MAY 25, 2018, Commentary)

There is enough scholarly literature and social science on the effect of dehumanizing rhetoric from political leaders on their respective societies for any conservative with a proper fear of the state to find Trump's remarks disturbing. Throughout history and across wildly distinct cultures, such language from public officials has prepared the way for social unrest and, ultimately, statist oppression. This is hardly the first time Trump has described criminal immigrants as beasts and implied that individual immigrants were incapable of any independent thought that contradicts their ethnicity's hive mind. And we have reason to fear the extent to which this kind of rhetoric has greased the skids for inhumane policies that are happening right before our eyes.

The New York Times reported in late April that the Department of Health and Human Services has lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children who were separated from their parents or were apprehended alone after they crossed the border illegally. They have simply fallen off the radar, prompting concerns that these children could end up in the custody of abusers or human traffickers. Hundreds of children have been separated from their parents at the border, which is a practice that is often legitimate and predates the Trump administration. What is new is that the Trump administration has openly floated the idea of breaking up families as a means of deterring future illegal immigration. The process would be entirely humane, said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, because HHS does "a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States." Clearly, that is not the case.

What's more, the process to which illegal migrant parents are subjected is disturbing. No human being could fail to be moved by the all-too-common story of a young mother, forced to wear a yellow bracelet that identifies her as an illegal immigrant parent, weeping in an American courtroom as she is separated from her children. This is not "ordered liberty" or the dispassionate conduct of the affairs of a state. It's capricious and vengeful, and it is corrupting of the soul. Donald Trump isn't responsible for a mentality on the right that views this kind of treatment as a necessary evil to which any self-respecting country must appeal; he's a product of it.

May 25, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 PM


'Trump's son should be concerned': FBI obtained wiretaps of Putin ally who met with Trump Jr. (Michael Isikoff, 5/25/18,Yahoo News)

The FBI has obtained secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia's Central Bank who has forged close ties with U.S. lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, that led to a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the gun lobby's annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016, a top Spanish prosecutor said Friday.

José Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spanish organized crime, said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer. On the wiretaps, Romanov refers to Torshin as "El Padrino," the godfather.

"Just a few months ago, the wiretaps of these telephone conversations were given to the FBI," Grinda said in response to a question from Yahoo News during a talk he gave at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Asked if he was concerned about Torshin's meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, Grinda replied: "Mr. Trump's son should be concerned."

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Where in the world is Melania Trump? (The Week, 5/25/18)

Reporters asked Trump about the first lady's absence on Friday, and the president pointed at a White House window, responding that "she's doing great. She's looking at us right there." But Melania was nowhere to be seen.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


There is only one gun store in all of Mexico. So why is gun violence soaring? (Kate Linthicum, MAY 24, 2018, LA Times)
The only gun store in all of Mexico is located behind a fortress-like wall on a heavily guarded military base in Mexico City.
The only gun shop in all of Mexico is behind a fortress-like wall on a heavily guarded military base.

To enter the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales, customers must undergo months of background checks -- six documents are required -- and then be frisked by uniformed soldiers.

The army-run store on the outskirts of Mexico City embodies the country's cautious approach to firearms, and a visit here illustrates the dramatically different ways two neighboring countries view guns, legally and culturally.

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico's Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law "will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places" of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

Yet on this issue, like so many aspects of life in Mexico, the influence of its powerful neighbor to the north is keenly felt: Each day the army gun store sells on average just 38 firearms to civilians, while an estimated 580 weapons are smuggled into Mexico from the United States.

That paradox is increasingly relevant given Mexico's unprecedented levels of gun violence, which have claimed more than 100,000 lives over the last decade. Last year was Mexico's deadliest since the government began releasing homicide statistics in 1997. This year, it is on track to surpass that record.

American firearms are directly driving the violence, although U.S. appetites for drugs and rampant corruption among Mexican officials also play a role. About 70% of guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement officials from 2011 to 2016 were originally purchased from legal gun dealers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Just because one attempt to stem this flow was botched does not obviate our moral obligation to our neighbors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:24 PM


At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations ( William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Mike McIntire, May 25, 2018, NY Times)

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

In Mr. Cohen's office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia's relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Compromise is possible on Palestinian right of return (Akiva Eldar, May 24, 2018, Al Monitor)

Shubair recounts how she set out with her family on March 30, the date Palestinians call Land Day to commemorate Israel's 1976 confiscation of Arab lands in the Galilee, for the border with "occupied Palestine." She vowed, "Each day until May 15, the anniversary of the Nakba ["catastrophe" when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homeland to create Israel] we will camp by the border to remind the world that we have a right to return home ... Everyone there was united under one flag and one motto: We have a right to return to Palestinians' historic homeland. This overwhelming feeling of unity long has been missing, especially in Gaza ... None of us had anything more valuable to lose than what we already had: our home."

Shubair laments the home that was lost and insistence on her right to "return home." She is not asking to go back to the once predominantly Arab towns of Ashkelon or Jaffa, a demand that a priori nullifies the two-state solution to the conflict. Jews, on the other hand, are of course entitled to long to go back to their ancestors' homes in the West Bank's Hebron and to receive compensation for these homes. But these rights do not justify the expulsion of Palestinians from the buildings where they have lived for several decades. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also said in a 2012 interview on Israel's Channel 2 that despite being a refugee from the Galilee town of Safed, he does not expect to return there. "Palestine now for me is the '67 borders -- alongside the state of Israel," he said.

Three comprehensive polls conducted in the first half of 2003 among 4,500 families living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza indicate that most refugees favor Abbas' position. Only 10% want to return to Israel, compared with 72% who would rather live in a Palestinian state or receive monetary compensation. The results were met with harsh criticism by radical Palestinian factions opposed to any compromise on the right of return. They even threatened the head of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Khalil Shikaki, with violence.

After deliberating on a petition by Greek Cypriot refugees, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in March 2010 that claiming a certain land or property as "home" is insufficient to establish a right. An overwhelming majority of the 17 judges agreed that given that 35 years had passed since the petitioners lost their property when Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974, and the local population had changed, the claimants were entitled to compensation in cash, but not necessarily in land. The judges warned that rectifying an old injustice could result in a new injustice. One can infer that UN Resolution 194 of 1948, stipulating that a refugee can choose between a return to Israel and compensation, does not grant every refugee a personal right to return. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative referred to this resolution as the basis for a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 AM


The Scarlet Letter Is Back. It Never Really Went Away. (DAN MCLAUGHLIN, May 23, 2018, National Review)

When Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter is read by modern Americans, it tends to provoke snickers, sneering, and judgmental tut-tutting at those awful Puritan prudes who would force an adulterous woman to wear an outward sign of the shame of her sin for her entire life and endure communal shunning over her violation of a social norm that we, in our own era, would not even regard as a crime. We would never do something like that today, would we? But actually we do, and -- in appropriate cases -- we should. And it's high time we stopped pretending otherwise.

That thought came back as I read the story of Aaron Schlossberg, a Manhattan lawyer who committed a sin last week -- letting fly a racially incendiary tirade at Spanish-speaking workers in a crowded Madison Avenue restaurant -- and had the misfortune of having it filmed and widely disseminated. For this, at least for the moment, he has been shunned as surely as Hester Prynne was, complete with government officials bidding to permanently end his livelihood:

Schlossberg was then kicked out of his office building, while lawmakers petitioned the New York state court system to review his behavior and potentially revoke his law license.

And on Friday, dozens of protesters rallied outside his building while a mariachi band played.

The 42-year-old also lost at least one client over his tirade...

This is very much the same impulse that motivated the Puritans. Bigotry is more a sin than a crime, but a sin that we subject to harsh moral judgment, and that we rightly see today as corrosive of society and a contributor to worse problems, like sudden explosions of violence. In other words, we see it in exactly the same terms that the Puritans saw adultery...

What folks always underestimate is the degree to which democratic society depends on such social conformity to rein in our nature.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


Parents, children ensnared in 'zero-tolerance' border prosecutions (Curt Prendergast and Perla Trevizo, 5/19/18,  Arizona Daily Star)

Alma Jacinto covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The 36-year-old from Guatemala was led out of the federal courtroom without an answer to the question that brought her to tears: When would she see her boys again?

Jacinto wore a yellow bracelet on her left wrist, which defense lawyers said identifies parents who are arrested with their children and prosecuted in Operation Streamline, a fast-track program for illegal border crossers.

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Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed With Sponsors (Ron Nixon, April 26, 2018, NY Times)

A top official with the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress on Thursday that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.

The official, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the agency's Administration for Children and Families, disclosed during testimony before a Senate homeland security subcommittee that the agency had learned of the missing children after placing calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from government custody.

The children were taken into government care after they showed up alone at the Southwest border. Most of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and were fleeing drug cartels, gang violence and domestic abuse, government data shows.

From last October to the end of the year, officials at the agency's Office of Refugee Resettlement tried to reach 7,635 children and their sponsors, Mr. Wagner testified. From these calls, officials learned that 6,075 children remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight had run away, five had been removed from the United States and 52 had relocated to live with a nonsponsor.

Always fun to hear the Right claim to be pro-life.

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French state coffers boosted by record €1 billion bonanza from speed cameras (The Local, 25 May 2018)

Automatic speed cameras on French roads are proving a healthy earner for the state with a record one billion euros pulled in over the past year. And the record will likely be broken next year.
There are some 4,600 speed cameras in France and they have never proved more lucrative.

While state accountants will be rubbing their hands with glee, drivers in France will be gnashing their teeth at the news that speed cameras handed out €1.01 billion of fines in 2017.

But the total sum paid out by motorists for all kinds driving offences was even more eye-watering with state coffers boosted by €1.97 in 2017. That's a nine percent rise on 2016.

That's a record haul for the state. But it looks like it won't stay in the record books too long, with 2018 set to bring in even more money.

May 24, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:32 PM


White House Lawyer Crashes FBI Meeting on Trump-Russia Investigation (Betsy Woodruff, 05.24.18, Daily Beast)

Carrie Cordero, formerly an attorney in the Justice Department's National Security Division, said Flood's attendance created the appearance of impropriety.

"It creates the appearance that the briefing was set up for the purpose of the defense team learning what was going on in the investigation," she told The Daily Beast. "That's the optics of it. Whether or not that is really what's happening, we don't exactly know. But I can't think of any positive reason for him having been there."

It was the only reason for the meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Judge who took part in storied undercover Chicago probe dies (AP, 5/24/18) 

A southern Illinois judge who went to Chicago for a temporary assignment and ended up helping convict dozens of judges, attorneys and police officers in one of city's most famous corruption cases has died.

Brocton Lockwood died Monday in Marion after a fight with Parkinson's disease. He was 74. Crain Funeral Home & Cremation Service confirms the death and says no services are planned.

Lockwood filled in on the bench in Chicago in the early 1980s, something downstate judges did to help reduce a backlog of cases in Cook County.

But in 1981, he alerted federal authorities to widespread corruption. He wore a wire and taped conversations for three years with corrupt judges, lawyers, court employees and police officers.

The investigation known as "Operation Greylord" led to the conviction of nearly 100 people.

Lockwood later told the (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan newspaper that he hid a recorder in his cowboy boots.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


What I Saw in Post-Nuclear Deal Iran (PETER VAN BUREN • May 24, 2018, American Conservative)

I'm just back from eight days in Iran. Before my trip the United States withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear accords, and while I was in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, officially moved the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Inside Iran I spoke with fearful students, anxious Foreign Ministry officials, and clerics seemingly pleased that they'd been proven right--the Americans could not be trusted. It doesn't take long to conclude that we've empowered the wrong people, shouting at the very folks who might have helped lower the nuclear temperature.

Among students there is deep frustration at their nation's lack of participation in the world, and a desire to engage. The universities I visited had foreign students from China, but no one from the United States. One man who had never left Iran spoke English with a scarred Southern accent, admitting he got his start with a DVD of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof his father brought home from a now-ancient business trip. He loved America from afar and the Trump visa ban was a personal affront to him. The students I met were not about to take to the streets in favor of John Bolton's regime change schemes. Nowhere did I feel any sense of the panic, crisis, and disruption that American pundits speak of. These kids wanted to see L.A.

People from the Foreign Ministry expressed frustration over having no Americans to talk to, and were unsure why the U.S. still questions the legitimacy and stability of Iran's government. "The Americans everywhere seem to have quit trying," one said. There was much talk about Russia and China, little confidence the Europeans would fight the American sanctions, and a sad resignation that moderates would not be able to overrule the hardliners on foreign policy for a long time to come. "The door you came through to Iran is open," one said, "but it's Russians and Chinese who seem to want to come in."

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists (DAVID ADLER, MAY 23, 2018, NY Times)

 My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.

I examined the data from the most recent World Values Survey (2010 to 2014) and European Values Survey (2008), two of the most comprehensive studies of public opinion carried out in over 100 countries. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on a spectrum from far left to center to far right. I then plotted the proportion of each group's support for key democratic institutions. (A copy of my working paper, with a more detailed analysis of the survey data, can be found here.)

Respondents who put themselves at the center of the political spectrum are the least supportive of democracy, according to several survey measures. These include views of democracy as the "best political system," and a more general rating of democratic politics. In both, those in the center have the most critical views of democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Trump's Reckoning Arrives (DAVID FRUM, 5/24/18, The Atlantic)

When a president speaks, others hear. When he acts, he sets in motion a chain of reactions. When he selects one option, he precludes others.

This is why presidents are surrounded by elaborate staff systems to help them--and oblige them--to think through their words and actions.  

If we impose tariffs on Chinese products, how might they retaliate? What's our next move after that?

If we want to pressure Iran more tightly than our predecessors, what buy-in will we need from other countries? What will they want in return?

What do we want from North Korea that we can realistically get?

Team Trump does not engage in exercises like this.

Team Trump does not do it because the president does not do it. His idea of foreign policy is to bark orders like an emperor, without thinking very hard about how to enforce compliance or what to do if compliance is not forthcoming.

The administration canceled the Iran deal without first gaining European, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian cooperation for new sanctions.

Trump started a trade war with China without any plan for response to the inevitable Chinese counter-moves.

He enthusiastically pounced on a possible U.S.-North Korea summit in the false belief that such a summit represented a huge concession to the United States rather than--correctly--a huge concession by the United States.

..he's achieved nothing on the domestic front either.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Democrats are helping Republicans unleash Wall Street. What could go wrong? (Ryan Cooper, May 24, 2018, The Week)

A hefty package of bank deregulation passed the House of Representatives earlier this week, after being passed by the Senate back in March. It now goes to Trump to be signed into law. The majority of votes were Republican, of course, but some 33 Democrats also joined -- some 17 percent of the House Democratic caucus, which is at least less than the 16 (or 34 percent of) Senate Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Art of the Fail (FRED KAPLAN, MAY 24, 2018, Slate)

[K]im doesn't need this summit. He has already, deceptively or not, cultivated the image of a peace-seeker, through a charm offensive that began with his New Year's Day message and continued through the Winter Olympics, his own summits in China and South Korea (the first meetings with those countries' leaders on their territory), his offer to meet with Trump, his suspension of nuclear and missile tests (though only after announcing that he now had a viable nuclear arsenal), and proposing "denuclearization" (though with a vague timetable and the usual caveats).

All Kim was looking for was to be treated as if his regime were legitimate.  Being portrayed as the peace-maker was just gravy.

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