September 20, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


For Trump, a Time of Indecision (Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 19, 2019, NY Times)

Speaking to a Fox News reporter near the Mexican border on Wednesday, President Trump seemed taken aback when asked if the White House was preparing to roll out gun control proposals the next day, a timeline administration officials had suggested was likely. [...]

[I]dling in neutral is not something the president is doing only on guns. In discussions with his staff, Mr. Trump has made clear he wants to accomplish something big, but seems stymied as to what it might be, according to interviews with a half-dozen aides and advisers. In the meantime, he has remained on the sidelines as divisive issues are debated and is treading water even on possible staff changes he wants to make, for fear of how things "play."

On the international stage, Mr. Trump has seemed most conflicted about how to respond to Iran's attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, threatening to order "the ultimate option" one moment, and then warning that getting involved in Middle East wars was a mistake the next.

And the lack of direction is apparent even in the message he delivers at his campaign rallies. With little in the way of policy proposals or a larger vision, he has been telling crowds from New Hampshire to South Carolina, "You have no choice but to vote for me," and has been promoting his new slogan, "Keep America Great."

On guns, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has made it clear he will not take any action until the White House does. "If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I'll put it on the floor," he said this month.

For Mr. Trump, who has been under pressure to act but appears to be aware that any decision he makes comes loaded with its own political risk, part of the holdup is division within his own administration.

The two saving graces of his presidency are that he's done nearly nothing and what he has done is opposed by 60-80% of the American people now.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Weird jokes, objectionable attire trip up Canada's Trudeau again (David Ljunggren, 9/19/19, Reuters)

"If he really claims ignorance, then he was living in some strange sheltered world," said Ladonna James, a brand and marketing executive in Toronto. "Because otherwise, you cannot claim ignorance on that. He's an educator. And his father was the prime minister, who was loved by immigrants."

Trudeau's dress sense has landed him in trouble before while in office. He and his family wore a number of elaborate outfits during a 2018 official trip to India, sparking widespread scorn from critics who said he went over the top.

Liberal insiders say part of the issue is that Trudeau - who used to throw himself down stairs as a party trick when younger - does not always think twice before he tries to be funny.

"Before he does a public event, his team tells him: 'Don't make jokes,'" said one well-placed Liberal.

The prime minister himself acknowledged the issue last year after he interrupted a woman who used the word "mankind," saying he preferred "peoplekind" instead.

"I don't necessarily have the best of track records on jokes. ... I shouldn't be making jokes even when I think they're funny," he told reporters after days of mockery.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Yemen's Houthis threaten to attack United Arab Emirates targets (Reuters, 9/19/19) 

Yemen's Houthi group said on Wednesday it had identified dozens of sites in the United Arab Emirates as possible targets, in an attempt to underscore its military clout following a weekend attack it claims to have carried out on Saudi oil facilities.

"To the Emirati regime we say only one operation (of ours) would cost you dearly," Yahya Saria, the military spokesman for the Iran-aligned movement, said in a televised speech.

"Today and for the first time we announce that we have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time."

He said the Houthis have new drones, powered by "normal and jet engines" that can reach targets deep in Saudi Arabia.

Tamp 'em up solid.

September 19, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Zelensky defends relationship with US after Trump accused of pushing Ukraine to meddle in 2020 election (Kim Sengupta, 9/19/19, The Independent)

The house committees' chairs say they will scrutinise a telephone call between the US president and Mr Zelensky on 25 July, during which Mr Trump allegedly told the Ukrainian president to reopen the Biden investigation if he wanted to improve relations with the US.

Trump and Giuliani's Quest for Fake Ukraine "Dirt" on Biden: An Explainer (Viola Gienger, September 10, 2019, JustSecurity)

Vice President Mike Pence was about to finish a routine joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw last week, when he got two astutely specific questions about his meeting the previous day with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

"Number one, did you discuss Joe Biden at all during that meeting yesterday with the Ukrainian President? And number two, can you assure Ukraine that the hold-up of [U.S. security assistance] has absolutely nothing to do with efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family?" Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin asked.

Pence answered the first question directly: "Well, on the first question, the answer is no." His response to the second question was more interesting. He essentially demurred. But to decode the significance of Pence's reply, it's important to understand the recent history of Ukraine and U.S. policy toward the country. From there, we can unpack what's at the bottom of the Trump-Giuliani efforts.

Those efforts yesterday became the focus of a new joint investigation by three House committees - Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform. In letters to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking "any and all" related records and a list of personnel involved, the three Democratic committee chairs outlined a litany of meetings, phone calls, tweets and other threats, including the withholding of the $250 million of security aid the reporter had referenced in the question to Pence.

"President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump's reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme," the chairmen wrote.

The reporter's questions to Pence struck at the heart of a controversy roiling U.S.-Ukraine relations since even before Zelenskyy's election win in April. Starting at least late last year, President Donald Trump and his personal attorney and advisor, Rudy Giuliani, have agitated for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden, the current frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race and the candidate they apparently think could be Trump's biggest rival for a second term.

Rudy is bitter about Don Jr getting to be Fredo.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Fox News Poll: High interest in election, Democrats top Trump in matchups (Dana Blanton, 9/19/19,  Fox News)

Fifty-nine percent of voters are extremely interested in the 2020 presidential election.  That's a number typically only seen right before an election.

It's 27 points higher than around this same time in the last presidential cycle -- and only one point off the record 60 percent extremely interested the week before Election Day in 2008.

In addition, more Democrats (65 percent) than Republicans (60 percent) are extremely interested in the election and more Democrats (69 percent) than Republicans (63 percent) are extremely motivated about voting in 2020.  That helps Democratic candidates top President Donald Trump in potential head-to-head matchups. [...]

In counties where the 2016 vote was close (Hillary Clinton and Trump within 10 points), Biden is ahead by 21 points.

Among the 6 in 10 voters who feel extremely motivated about voting in 2020, Biden is up over Trump by 16 points.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


The Question Posed by Trump's Phone Call: A whistle-blower complaint raises the possibility that President Trump has betrayed the duties of his office. (David Frum, 9/19/19,  The Atlantic)

On the 20th of July 1787, Gouverneur Morris rose inside the stiflingly hot Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, to explain why he had changed his mind and now favored including a power of impeachment in the constitutional text.

Until that point, he and others had feared that an impeachment power would leave the president too dependent on Congress. He had thought that the prospect of reelection defeat would offer a sufficient control on presidential wrongdoing.

But the arguments of other delegates had convinced him--and particularly an example from then-recent British history. A century earlier, Great Britain had been ruled by a king named Charles II. King Charles was the son of Charles I, the king whose head was cut off during the English Civil War. Restored to the throne, Charles II learned to tiptoe carefully around his dangerous subjects. But there was a problem: Charles wanted more money than Parliament willingly offered him. His solution? He reached out to an old friend and patron: the king of France, Louis XIV.

Louis had sheltered Charles during exile. He knew that Charles had converted to Catholicism--a secret that could have cost Charles his throne and possibly his life if his own people had known it. Louis had no parliament of his own to worry about. He paid Charles an annual subsidy to cover Charles's fiscal shortfall. In return, he asked Charles to hand over a British base on French soil--and to stay neutral in the war Louis was about to launch against the Protestant Netherlands.

These treasons would emerge into daylight after the overthrow of Charles's brother and the Stuart dynasty in 1688. For the men of 1787, these events of the century before their own felt as vivid and central as the civil-rights era of the mid-20th century seems to us nearing the middle of the 21st.

So Gouverneur Morris said, according to notes taken by James Madison:

He was now sensible of the necessity of impeachments, if the Executive was to continue for any time in office. Our Executive was not like a Magistrate having a life interest, much less like one having an hereditary interest in his office. He may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust; and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate in foreign pay without being able to guard agst it by displacing him. One would think the King of England well secured agst bribery. He has as it were a fee simple in the whole Kingdom. Yet Charles II was bribed by Louis XIV. The Executive ought therefore to be impeachable for treachery; Corrupting his electors, and incapacity were other causes of impeachment. For the latter he should be punished not as a man, but as an officer, and punished only by degradation from his office. This Magistrate is not the King but the prime-Minister. The people are the King. When we make him amenable to Justice however we should take care to provide some mode that will not make him dependent on the Legislature.

Foreign corruption inducing treason was the core impeachable offense in the eyes of the authors of the Constitution.

Which is why a whistle-blower report filed with the inspector general for the intelligence community, reportedly concerning an improper "promise" by President Donald Trump to a foreign leader, has jolted Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Economic divide in the US is becoming as stark as its politics (John Harwood, 9/19/19, CNBC)

That widening red-blue economic divide in turn drives the parties' starkly different policy agendas. It helps explain why Democrats lavish more attention on education, technology and protecting immigrants, for example, while President Donald Trump and other Republicans place mining, manufacturing and border control on center stage.

That coincides with a sharp increase in incomes and economic output for the constituencies Democrats represent in Congress. Today, the $61,000 median income of blue districts substantially exceeds the $53,000 median income of red ones, reversing the order from 2008.

The average gross domestic product for Democratic districts, near parity with Republican ones in 2008, has grown 50% higher. Output per worker has followed the same pattern.

Those shifts reflect trends within a globally-integrated economy that increasingly rewards better-educated workers and advanced technology. The share of professional and digital services jobs in Democratic districts more than doubles the share in Republican districts; a significantly higher proportion in blue areas now holds college degrees.

By contrast, Republican districts now boast the lion's share of work in basic manufacturing, agriculture and mining. They also have a slightly higher proportion of residents age 65 or older - 16.6%, compared to 14.7% in Democratic districts.

While red districts have remained demographically static, blue ones have grown more diverse. Roughly half of residents in Democratic districts are non-white, up by ten percentage points since 2008, compared to just over one-fourth in Republican areas.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


The Lamb and the Lion: Review of Boyd's Crucifixion of the Warrior God (J. Daryl Charles, September 19, 2019, Providence)

Gregory A. Boyd's Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament's Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross is a massive, almost 1,500-page double volume that represents the author's attempt to resolve the tensions between a Jesus who is thought to reveal "an agape-centered, other-oriented, enemy-embracing God who opposes all violence" and the many Old Testament (OT) "portraits of Yahweh violently smiting his enemies" (xxviii-xxix). These tensions, which are very real and confront any serious reader of the OT, are magnified for pastor and theologian Boyd, who professes to stand within the Anabaptist tradition (15-17, 205, 260, and 544, n. 80) and who attempts their resolution with a pre-commitment to ideological pacifism (xxvii-xxxiv). This pre-commitment is stated from the outset and guides the entire project, governing the author's use of a "cruciform hermeneutic" and the author's treatment of all OT texts and narratives.

This task, of course, is complicated by numerous factors, not least of which is Jesus' and the New Testament (NT) writers' authoritative citing of OT figures, events, and categories. But it is further complicated (1) by the NT's unqualified recognition and acknowledgement of the OT scripture's inspiration and authority (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:1-12; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 11:1-40; James 2:8-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21); (2) by Jesus' acknowledgement of the continuity of moral law as revealed in the OT (Matt. 5:17-20), which Boyd misinterprets (75-78); and (3) by the NT writers' constant and authoritative use of the OT in myriads of ways, some of which are at times baffling to the modern reader. These realities create for Boyd a "conundrum" insofar as his own view, to be developed below, is lacking support from the historical Christian tradition (hereafter, HCT).

Boyd's project, then, requires a hermeneutic that begins with the presuppositions of ideological pacifism and works its way backward. It works its way backward (1) through the NT, in which John the Baptist, Jesus, the evangelists, and the apostles are made to espouse pacifism; (2) through church history and the early church in particular; and then finally (3) through the texts of the OT itself, whether found in the Pentateuch, the historical narratives, the Psalms, or the prophets. In light of the clear commands of God given to the leaders of Israel of old, this will not be an easy interpretive task. Along the way, Boyd finds one church father, the pacifist Origen, to assist him in reinterpreting the Old Testament and thereby helping to furnish a "new perspective" (xxxii-xxxiv) on a difficult question.

This "new perspective" wrestles with canonical material in the OT that seems "unworthy of God" (xxxii) and finds a "solution" (xl) to the theological tensions that emanate from OT "texts of terror." It does so in the following manner: "the Spirit," Boyd informs the reader, "will enable us to see beyond the surface appearance of things, where the conundrum resides, and find a resolution in a deeper, more profound, revelatory truth" (xxxiii). "Prayerfully contemplating Scripture's violent portraits of God," as Boyd retells it, he "suddenly began to catch glimpses of the crucified God in them" (ibid.). What he calls the "Magic Eye" approach to understanding the OT (xxxv-xxxvii) becomes for Boyd the key in interpreting those ethically knotty accounts in the OT of God supposedly destroying human beings. In a nutshell, what is this "Magic Eye" approach? "God, who is indiscriminate in his love and non-violent, had to accommodate his self-revelation to the spiritual state and cultural conditioning of his people in the ages leading up to Christ" (xxxv). This starting point for Boyd becomes the essence of his "crucicentric" reading of scripture. In the end, he realizes, "Origen's advice" (i.e., a mystical interpretation) "proved right" (xxxiii). With this inspiration in place, Boyd begins to apply his "cruciform hermeneutic."

Briefly summarized, Crucifixion of the Warrior God[i] (hereafter CWG) attempts to argue that the OT accounts of God's "violence"--i.e., "texts of terror" (279)--are not true portraits of the character of God. Rather, they are misconstrued and culturally conditioned--i.e., fallen--accounts that "mask" God's true character and self-revelation. These accounts, therefore, are to be understood as "literary artifices" (548) and not to be taken at face value. Let the reader beware: Boyd's argument consists of seven parts, 25 chapters, 10 appendices, one postscript, 100 pages of indices, and 40 pages of suggested reading, all of which consumes 1,445 pages of print. Wading through this project is not for the faint in heart.

The Magic Jesus reading is by far the silliest.  Just take the story on its own terms and the Bible describes how God learns from Man and by becoming a man.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


PODCAST: David Priess on the Whistleblower Complaint (Charlie Sykes, September 19th, 2019, The Bulwark)

On today's Bulwark Podcast, Lawfare's David Priess joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss the anonymous whistleblower complaint, the departure of John Bolton, and new NSA Robert O'Brien and his resume.

...than that when a Trump IG finally did find something actionable it would be a misdeed of Donald's.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Trump's whistleblower-flagged 'promise' might have been to Putin, Washington Post reporters tell MSNBC (The Week, 9/19/19)

The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that a phone call between President Trump and a foreign leader "included a 'promise' that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint," leading to a standoff between Congress and the acting director of national intelligence. Two of the three major cable news networks had some big questions on Wednesday night. On MSNBC, it was: Who is this leader?

"If you look through the White House records, Trump had interactions with about four or five foreign leaders in the weeks leading up to this complaint," Washington Post reporter Greg Miller told Brian Williams. "Perhaps the most relevant one is a late-July, end-of-July conversation with Vladimir Putin, in which the White House readout was very different from the Russian readout afterward." Former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul had a similar thought. has always seemed more likely that he wants to help Putin because of their shared ideology than because of micturation blackmail or cash transactions. Anyone who opposes Muslim democracy is a friend to Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Tillerson says Netanyahu fed Trump misinformation (Jacob Kornbluh, September 19, 2019, Jewish Insider)

In an interview at the Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday, the former top diplomat argued that Netanyahu -- whom he described as an "extraordinarily skilled" politician -- would share "misinformation" in meetings to get the Trump administration on board with his policy goals. "They did that with the president on a couple of occasions, to persuade him that 'We're the good guys, they're the bad guys,'" Tillerson charged.

Tillerson, who clashed with Trump on decisions including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the Iran deal, explained that he "exposed" Netanyahu's tricks to the president "so he understood: 'You've been played.'" 

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


A surprised right discovers the rising cost of making Arabs their punching bag: Likud may long rue the day it turned on the Arab electorate, just as the left still laments its mistreatment of Mizrahim; plus, the limits of annexation and of the campaign chiefs (Haviv Rettig Gur, 9/19/19, Times of Israel)

Arab Israelis defied expectations, withstood Likud's active and unabashed suppression campaign, and came to the polls demanding their due.

Indeed, the narrative now crystallizing in the Arab community contends that Likud's anti-Arab campaign caused the roughly 10-point spike in turnout (based on still-unofficial vote counts).

Hamad Khalailah, a 28-year-old lawyer in the large Galilee town of Sakhnin, told The Times of Israel on election day that he'd made the effort to go and vote -- for the Arab party the Joint List, to be sure -- in order to prove he could not be cowed by Likud's efforts, which included an attempt to install cameras in Arab polling stations (successful in April; banned on Tuesday) and campaign rhetoric focused on the "danger" of Arab citizens turning out to cast their ballots.
"I wasn't scared to come here," Khalailah said. "It is my right to vote and Netanyahu will not stop me from doing that."

As Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi put it on Wednesday, "Two weeks ago, our campaign was asleep, weak, limping. Then, a week ago, someone, a magician, set off alarm clocks at the entrances to all of our towns. That was Benjamin Netanyahu with his [polling-station] cameras bill. Then the Arabs rushed to the polls in droves."

Likud believed it had found a formula, immoral but effective, to maximize its advantage on election day. It worked, too -- until it didn't. As some Likud lawmakers have admitted, the anti-Arab campaign appears to have helped galvanize the very voters it was trying to dissuade.

But Likud's mistake could turn out to be costlier than the results of Tuesday's race, as the history of Israeli ethnic politics reveals.

The Labor party, once called Mapai, has long been dominated by Ashkenazi Jews. In the early years of Israel's existence, the party engaged in willful and systematic neglect and marginalization of newly arrived Mizrahi Jews from Arab and Muslim lands, largely excluding them from party membership and positions of influence in the young state.

The strategy worked -- until it didn't. A narrow Ashkenazi elite kept its hold on power for 29 long years. But once the spell broke, Labor and the broader Israeli left spent the next four decades (and counting) struggling to overcome the almost axiomatic Mizrahi identification with the right.

The marginalization of Mizrahim, like Likud's browbeating of the Arab community, was a deliberate effort, as the political debates of the state's early years reveal. One newspaper editor, Yehiel Halpern of Davar, Mapai's main outlet, warned his readers in a January 1951 op-ed that the deliberate marginalization of the Mizrahi newcomers could have disastrous consequences.

"They don't see the value to be gained from democratic rights and freedoms," he wrote of the Mizrahim, but blamed Mapai for that fact. By excluding them from membership and access to the ruling party's ranks, and thus to national leadership in those years, Mapai was denying the newcomers the experience of "real ownership" of their new country and "mastery over their own fate" that could transform those who had never experienced democracy into lifelong democrats.

By the 1970s, this marginalization had driven Mizrahim decisively into Likud's camp, paving the way for decades of mostly right-wing ascendance. Even in 2019, in the Ashkenazi-Mizrahi gap between Blue and White and Likud, the political reverberations of that old bigotry still echo.

Arabs make up roughly 21 percent of the Israeli population, but only 16% of the electorate. That large gap has two sources. About half the gap is due to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics classifying over 200,000 East Jerusalemites as part of the Arab Israeli population, though most are not Israeli citizens and are unable to vote in Knesset elections. The rest of the gap is due to the young age of the Arab population.

It seems safe to assume that both those demographic realities will eventually swell the Arab portion of the electorate. Since Israel is unlikely to surrender East Jerusalem anytime soon, it is likely to eventually see those residents ask for and receive voting rights to the Knesset. Similarly, barring drastic and sudden changes to human biology, those Arab children will soon grow up to be voting-age adults.

A third election now would be optimal.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Netanyahu's bullying gets out Arab vote (Shlomi Eldar, September 18, 2019, Al Monitor)

While tight monitoring of the Sept. 17 election results has delayed publication of the official numbers, as of the morning after, even partial results have made the situation abundantly clear. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party's warnings that the country's Arab parties would steal the elections had a boomerang effect. The Joint List led by Knesset member Ayman Odeh will likely be the third-largest faction in the 22nd Knesset, with at least 13 of its 120 seats, after the Likud and Blue and White. According to counted ballots, turnout among Arab voters rose by 10% compared to the April elections (60%, far higher than the record-low 49% in April). The Joint List received about 430,000 votes compared to 337,000 in April in what was quite likely a response to Netanyahu's baseless accusations that fraud in Arab polling stations prevented him from forming a government after the April elections.

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi is chair of the Ta'al Party, one of the factions that form the Joint List. He summed up election day with, "The Arabs flocked to the polls," paraphrasing Netanyahu's infamous 2015 video warning of high Arab turnout and exhorting his followers to go out and vote.

It's why the one-state solution precludes democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Canada's Trudeau admits to racist 'brownface' makeup (Al Jazeera, 9/19/19)

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologised following the publication of a photograph that showed him wearing brownface make-up at a party 18 years ago, as he scrambled to get on top of a fresh blow to a re-election campaign dogged by controversy.

September 18, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Why it will be hard for Trump to win Wisconsin again: Milwaukee's Republican suburbs have never really warmed up to the president. That could be a big problem. (NATASHA KORECKI, 09/18/2019, Politico)

Clinton famously never made it to Wisconsin, where her failure to campaign is widely believed to have cost her a state that had not voted Republican for president since 1984 -- less than 23,000 votes ultimately decided the contest.

Democrats are determined not to make that tactical mistake again. The national party pointedly placed its nominating convention next summer in Milwaukee -- where a 19 percent drop in African American turnout doomed Clinton's chances in 2016.

Locally, the party is attempting to expand on Clinton's anemic performance in the WOW counties by tapping into a vein of anti-Trump sentiment that they say is palpable. Democrats have had teams on the ground organizing for months in the suburbs.

"I know if we get 40 percent we almost guarantee a Democrat a victory statewide," Waukesha County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Lowe said. "We're seeing so many volunteers every day that I don't think 40 percent is a total pipe dream."

The Democratic optimism is in part fueled by Trump's underwhelming 2016 performance in the WOW counties, where he lagged behind Mitt Romney's 2012 pace. Republicans there haven't entirely warmed to the president since then.

"It isn't that the Republican Party is withering away in the WOW counties; it was that they weren't particularly thrilled with Trump and they showed it by not voting for him," said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll. "Trump still struggles to get more than 40 percent approval, even in the WOW counties. It really is an open question about whether Republicans have come back to him here."

Democratic hopes are also colored by last year's toppling of GOP Gov. Scott Walker and a Democratic sweep of every statewide office -- a humbling defeat for what was once one of the strongest state parties in the country.

The debacle was emblematic of the political havoc unleashed by the Trump era, which hastened the end of the one-time Wisconsin GOP power triumvirate of Walker, former House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Other pillars of the old guard have also seen fit to leave the scene: Suburban Milwaukee Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the second longest-serving congressman in the nation and an early Trump skeptic, announced in early September he would not run for reelection. At the local level, activists and county chairs, including in Waukesha County, have also stepped aside.

Aaron Perry, a Waukesha alderman, said he grew so tired of Trump and accompanying GOP policies that in June he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

"There comes a point where everybody has their own threshold of how much they can take," Perry said. "We're getting to the point now where there's no way he's gaining supporters. The only way for Trump to go is down."

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Netanyahu to skip UN General Assembly due to 'political circumstances' (JTA, 9/18/19) 

Netanyahu also is scuttling a meeting on the General Assembly sidelines with President Donald Trump. Trump tweeted Saturday that he would meet with the prime minister to discuss a potential mutual defense treaty with Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will speak on the same day that Netanyahu was scheduled to address the world body.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


U.S. trade groups urge Congress to rein in 'Tariff Man' Trump (Andrea Shalal, 9/18/19, Reuters) 

Nearly two dozen U.S. lobbying groups have joined forces to try to rein in U.S. President Donald Trump's power to unilaterally impose tariffs amid growing concern about the negative economic impact of his trade policies.

Led by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), the groups on Wednesday said they had formed the Tariff Reform Coalition to urge Congress to wrestle back greater control of trade policy and increase its oversight of the president's use of tariffs.

Trump, who has dubbed himself "Tariff Man," has imposed or planned tariffs on steel, aluminum and nearly all $500 billion in products imported from China each year, as he pursues an "America First" policy aimed at rebalancing U.S. trade ties.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


U.S. Democratic Party donor Ed Buck charged with running drug den (Alex Dobuzinskis, 9/18/19, Reuters) 

Prominent California Democratic Party donor Edward Buck has been charged with operating a drug den after injecting a man with methamphetamine in his West Hollywood home where two other men previously died of apparent overdoses, prosecutors said.

Buck, who donated to former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, is a well-known activist in California politics.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Why an Assault Weapons Ban Hits Such a Nerve With Many Conservatives : The premise of Trumpist populism is that the political preferences of a shrinking minority of citizens matter more than democracy. (Will Wilkinson, Sept. 18, 2019, NY Times)

Democracy is what we do to prevent political disagreement from turning into violent conflict. But the premise of Trumpist populism is that the legitimacy and authority of government is conditional on agreement with the political preferences of a shrinking minority of citizens -- a group mainly composed of white, Christian conservatives.

Who, you may sensibly ask, granted Tucker Carlson's target demographic veto power over the legislative will of the American people? Nobody. They got high on their own supply and anointed themselves the "real American" sovereigns of the realm. But their relative numbers are dwindling, and they live in fear of a future in which the law of the land reliably tracks the will of the people. Therein lies the appeal of a personal cache of AR-15s.

Weapons of mass death, and the submissive fear they engender, put teeth on that shrinking minority's entitled claim to indefinite power. Without the threat of violence, what have they really got? Votes? Sooner or later, they won't have enough, and they know it.

Nearly every Republican policy priority lacks majority support. New restrictions on abortion are unpopular. Slashing legal immigration levels is unpopular. The president's single major legislative achievement, tax cuts for corporations and high earners, is unpopular.

Public support for enhanced background checks stands at an astonishing 90 percent, and 60 percent (and more) support a ban on assault weapon sales. Yet Republican legislatures block modest, popular gun control measures at every turn. The security of the minority's self-ascribed right to make the rules has become their platform's major plank, because unpopular rules don't stand a chance without it. Float a rule that threatens their grip on power, no matter how popular, and it's "my AR is waiting for you, Robert Francis."

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


This report tallied the human and economic toll of gun violence in all 50 states. The cost is staggering. (Dartunorro Clark, 9/18/19, NBC News)

Gun violence hits America's youth and rural states the hardest and has reached the highest levels in decades, a report released Wednesday by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee has found.

U.S. teens and young adults, ages 15-24, are 50 times more likely to die by gun violence than they are in other economically advanced countries, according to the 50-state breakdown.

In 2017 -- the year of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured hundreds -- nearly 40,000 people died from gun-related injuries, including 2,500 school children, the report said, noting that six in 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides.

That year marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents, the report said.

Rural states, meanwhile, have the highest rates of gun deaths and bear the largest costs as a share of their economies. Nationally, the cost of gun violence in the U.S. runs $229 billion a year, or 1.4 percent of the gross domestic product, the report said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


How Selling Assets Could Help Revive Brazil's Economy (JOHN H. WELCH,  SEPTEMBER 18, 2019, America's Quarterly)

Since Brazil's new government took office, policymakers and investors have rightly focused on social security reform as a crucial ingredient for the country's long-term solvency. Now that an ambitious reform package has passed the lower house, the government and Congress are looking to other areas, such as tax reform and reducing the oversized wage bill, to help boost growth.

But almost under the radar, the government has also continued a large divestiture program that started under the previous administration. President Jair Bolsonaro's government has promised to deepen that effort by selling or shuttering as many state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as possible.

This program could help Brazil with some large fiscal challenges. Social security was the most important structural reform, and others remain that are crucial for sustained economic growth. But privatization can offer improvements in efficiency and reduce or eliminate the drain from loss-making SOEs. Moreover, privatization revenue would help finance a transition to fiscal sustainability by reducing government debt issuance to cover deficits.

Brazil's federal assets set for immediate sale fall into four main categories:

1. Companies with a direct government stake, such as Eletrobras (where only IPO rights worth around $15 billion would be included) and some smaller companies.

2. Listed equity shares in private companies held by development bank BNDES and the treasury (totaling $28 billion as of February 2019; BNDES has already sold $8.5 billion this year), not counting BNDES investments in closely held companies, debentures, or funds.

3. Contingent stakes in presalt excess oil transfer rights ($21.7 billion, discounted for indemnification of Petrobras and 30% transfer to regional governments).

4. Concessions such as airports, ports, railroads, and toll roads, with an estimated value $8.4 billion (with $1.5 billion sold in 2019 so far).

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


In a Close Governor's Race, a GOP Incumbent Resorts to Racism (Nancy LeTourneau, September 18, 2019, washington Monthly)

The ad features scary-looking photos of brown-skinned prison inmates with facial tattoos while the narrator says that Bevin will "outlaw" sanctuary cities--even though there are none in Kentucky. The narrator goes on to say that Beshear "would allow illegal immigrants to swarm our state," and ties Bevin to Trump.

If any of that looks and sounds familiar, it is exactly the kind of ad that Ed Gillepie aired as he was losing the Virginia governor's race in 2017. Bevin is putting all of his chips on Trump and racism as a winning combination, which might play better in Kentucky than it did in Virginia.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


 In search of the soul of Chinese food in the Upper Valley (FANG DU, 9/17/19,  Valley News)

I was born and raised in China, and so when I came to live in the Upper Valley last year, I was eager to try the American version of my native cuisine. What I found in the area's Chinese restaurants both appalled me, and invigorated me.

Let me start by saying that "Chinese food" in New England is quite different from what you'll get in my home country. China, it goes without saying, is a big country, with a culinary tradition that's as deep as it is broad. The American version simplifies it and heightens a few qualities. And some of it is just plain odd. The chefs here -- whether they operate out of take-out storefronts or conventional restaurants -- are fond of deep-fried wontons and of stir-frying sweet vegetables in way too much oil.

This recalls what you'll get if you go to an "American" restaurant in China: greasy stew, weird cheeses, cloying cookies, as if cooks had decided to wipe away all the flavor and leave nothing but sugar, salt and fat. Shadows of oily meat and sickly sweetness ran through both of these ersatz versions of great, complex cuisines made somehow lesser in translation.

But then I decided to look deeper, and went on a quest to find the soul of Chinese food in the Upper Valley. Our area represents a small drop in a big ocean. According to "Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant," an exhibition at the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, N.Y. (on view through Dec. 8), there are nearly 50,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. -- three times the number of McDonalds. You can find them everywhere with similar names: Peking Star, Oriental Garden, Star of the Orient, Dragon Garden; a real game of mix-and-match. They offer similar menus, and similar fortune cookies -- a Japanese invention that I've never seen in China. Most of them are run by staffers from the province of Fujian, which is as dependable a source for the global Chinese Food Industrial Complex as the Napa Valley is to wine or MIT is for scientists. All of these restaurants are working from a similar template, and we see it in clear focus in the Upper Valley.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


The global anti-vaping tipping point (justin Green, 9/18/19, Axios)

Numerous states are pushing major anti-vaping efforts, testing everything from banning flavored cartridges to PSA messages aimed at teens that feel like rehashes of the anti-cigarette movement.

That now extends to local government: D.C. suburb Montgomery County is considering a rule that'd ban vape shops from within a 1/2 mile of public middle and high schools -- effectively closing 19 of the county's 22 stores, the WashPost notes.

Legal vaping manufacturers (particularly in the marijuana variety) are rushing to make sure their product doesn't get mistaken for the bootlegged cartridges that officials believe are causing some of the vaping-related lung illnesses.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



[B]erke worked around Lewandowski's stonewalling and as much as got the Trump man to admit that he lies in public by contrasting his comments in the media--playing his appearances on a big screen--with the facts presented in the Mueller report.

The lawyer played a clip of Lewandowski on MSNBC in a May 2019 interview saying he did not remember President Trump ever asking him to "get involved with Jeff Sessions or the Department of Justice in any way, shape, or form, ever."

Yet Lewandowski had told Mueller in 2018 that Trump had directed him to deliver a message to his Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he should make a statement in support of the president and committing to limit the jurisdiction of the special counsel.

At a follow-up meeting, Trump instructed Lewandowski--who had arranged for someone else to deliver the message in the future--to tell Sessions that if he would not meet with him, he would be fired. Lewandowski made notes of both discussions with Trump and kept them in a safe.

"I have no obligation to be honest with the media because they are just as dishonest as anybody else," a rattled Lewandowski replied when Berke highlighted his lie on MSNBC.

Berke's measured, razor-sharp performance received plaudits on social media as he found a way around Lewandowski's constant references to executive privilege by focusing on his public statements in the media and in his own book about his relationship with Trump.

"Barry Berke absolutely killed it," tweeted Harvard law professor Jennifer Taub. "Every lawyer and law student must watch this segment of the hearing. Such amazing cross-examination of Corey Lewandowski."

The writer James Fallows tweeted: "Watching Barry Berke question Lewandowski, compared w question-speeches from most of the committee members, is like watching an NBA player compared with high schoolers."

Former Republican congressman David Jolly told MSNBC on Tuesday evening that Lewandowski gave Democrats "what they needed today for an article of impeachment against the president of the United States for obstruction of justice."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jimmy Carter says he couldn't have managed presidency at 80 (BILL BARROW, 9/17/19,  AP) 

Weeks shy of his 95th birthday, former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he doesn't believe he could have managed the most powerful office in the world at 80 years old.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How could anyone prefer football to rugby?: Immensely violent and hugely dignified, it's a beautiful game (Justin Webb, 9/17/19, UnHerd)

The World Cup, played over the next month or so in Japan, will be watched by fans from Tonga to Kenya, Russia to New Zealand; even the USA, where it's become a big deal in universities. And, of course, in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, both north and south.

If football really is our "national game" we are, as a group of nations, pretty bad at it. It certainly doesn't bring us joy. Sometimes when I listen to Garry or Rob, droning on during The Today Programme sports news about some ghastly score draw in the Scottish League (the only news line being that someone chucked a coin at the goalie), I wonder whether the sporting powers that be properly understand the truth: that the game really binding us together as a nation is not football but rugby union.

Every corner of the UK is good at it. The Scots are unlikely to win the World Cup but they have a fantastic team who will last the course with the world's best - and they are the weakest of the Home Nations. The Irish (including several players from Northern Ireland) could win, as might either Wales or England. Indeed Ireland, England and Wales are all in the top five world rankings.

So this World Cup should be a celebration of a sport that we are all good at: in the South Wales Valleys, the Scottish Lowlands, in Lancashire and the East Midlands, all the way down to Cornwall where the long running campaign for a national stadium is led by supporters of the Cornish Pirates rugby team. Rugby does not need to "come home" because it is already home. It is part of life.

September 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren separate themselves from the 2020 Democratic pack in new NBC/WSJ poll (John Harwood, 9/17/19, CNBC)

Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, holding distinctly different advantages, have separated themselves from the crowded Democratic presidential field, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows.

In the survey, conducted after the third in the Democratic Party's series of debate, the former vice president draws 31% compared to 25% for the Massachusetts senator. At 14%, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trails Warren by a double-digit margin while 15 other candidates receive support of 7% or less.

Biden builds his edge on dominance among three chunks of Democratic primary voters. He commands 49% among African-Americans, 46% among senior citizens, and 42% among moderate and conservative Democrats.

Basically she's the opposite of Mitt in 2012--she wins the nomination by moderating which helps her in the general as well. Mitt moved so far towards the Right he blew his shot in the general.

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