September 20, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign (Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous, September 20, 2017, Washington Post)

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

"If he needs private briefings we can accommodate," Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Netanyahu versus Israel  (Ben Caspit September 20, 2017, Al Monitor)

A quiet war is being waged in Israel. No firearms are employed, even though the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are involved. And none of Israel's external enemies are involved. Nevertheless, both of the warring sides view this struggle as an existential one, a real fight for survival, which is being waged within the very heart of the Jewish state. It is a struggle of the Old Israel versus the New Israel. It is a war between Israel's original Liberal-Zionist-secular statesmanship with the values on which it was established 70 years ago versus a more religious Israel, a more conservative and traditional mindset that is less liberal and also far less democratic. This newer Israel is now trying to exploit its electoral assets into the power to rule. A one-sentence summary: a war between everything that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu symbolizes, and everyone else. [...]

From a party that had once been a liberal democratic bastion in which no one feared expressing an opinion, the Likud morphed into a bulletproof vest with the sole objective of protecting its leader, even from state institutions and legal authorities.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked submitted on Sept. 14 to the Knesset a bill draft she conceived. If turned into law, this bill would allow the prime minister to declare war without the authorization of the Cabinet. In addition, while this very article is being written, the HaBayit HaYehudi party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Shaked, is working hard on a new bill that would clip (with a 61-seat Knesset majority) the wings of the Supreme Court.

This new bill, which will officially be called the Basic Law of Legislation, is designed to empty the Supreme Court of its most essential powers. Today, the Supreme Court can override a law passed by the Knesset if the law is found to conflict with constitutional principles that are anchored in basic laws. Israel has no organized constitution; instead, there are a number of "basic laws," which are special laws that anchor the basic principles of law in Israel.

Although the Supreme Court does not invalidate Knesset laws frequently, it has done so recently (by suspending the regularization law) when it felt that the laws directly impinged on basic principles such as that of equality. Now the Knesset hopes to create for itself absolute superiority over the law, thus violating the very sensitive checks-and-balances system of Israeli democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


As Kurds vote for independence, Americans should cheer (Jeff Jacoby, 9/20/17, The Boston Globe)

The Kurdish campaign for statehood ought to have the robust backing of the United States. Iraqi Kurds are ardently pro-American, unabashed allies in a region where the US has few true friends. The Kurds make no secret of their deep gratitude to the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein, the tyrant who waged a war of genocide against Kurdistan in the 1980s, slaughtering at least 50,000 civilians with chemical weapons and aerial assaults.

Kurdistan isn't just a grateful ally, it's a capable and skillful one. Kurdish soldiers, known as Peshmerga, are widely acknowledged to be America's most effective partners in the fight against the Islamic State. They played a central role in the recent liberation of Raqqa and of Mosul from ISIS. As waves of refugees have fled the violence unleashed by the Islamic State and the Syrian civil war, nearly 2 million have found a safe haven in Kurdistan. Among them are many thousands of Christians.

Yet instead of applauding the Kurds' bid for independence, the United States keeps dousing it with cold water.

For over two centuries now we have represented the world's greatest force for destabilization and too frequently wrung our hands about it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Warren Buffett Says People Who Are Pessimistic About the U.S. Are 'Out of Their Mind' (Reuters, Sep 19, 2017)

He noted that since Forbes created its first list of the 400 richest Americans in 1982 -- Buffett was worth just $250 million then -- some 1,500 different people have been included.

All with one thing in common.

"You don't see any short sellers," he said, referring to people who bet stock prices will fall.

"It has been 241 years since Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence," he said. "Being short America has been a loser's game. I predict to you it will continue to be a loser's game."

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Jack Ma: We need to stop training our kids for manufacturing jobs (Julia Horowitz, September 20, 2017, CNN)

Jack Ma knows artificial intelligence will change the world.

The Alibaba founder and chairman doesn't think we should be scared. But he does think we should be prepared for major disruptions to the job market.

"In the last 200 years, manufacturing [has brought] jobs. But today -- because of the artificial intelligence, because of the robots -- manufacturing is no longer the main engine of creating jobs," Ma said Wednesday in a speech at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City.

Moving forward, Ma said he believes the service industry will be the largest engine of job creation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:24 PM


"Now, if it's in the interest of major powers to uphold international standards, it is even more true for the rest of the community of nations.  Look around the world.  From Singapore to Colombia to Senegal, the facts shows that nations succeed when they pursue an inclusive peace and prosperity within their borders, and work cooperatively with countries beyond their borders.  

That path is now available to a nation like Iran, which, as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies to advance its interests.  These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region, and isolates Iran from the promise of trade and commerce.  The Iranian people have a proud history, and are filled with extraordinary potential.  But chanting "Death to America" does not create jobs, or make Iran more secure.  If Iran chose a different path, that would be good for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people, and good for the world."

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Poll gives New Zealand's Nationals nine point lead after final TV debate before vote (Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Charlotte Greenfield, 9/20/17, Reuters) 

New Zealand's ruling National Party regained a wide lead over the opposition Labour Party in an opinion poll on Wednesday after party leaders went head-to-head in the final debate before Saturday's election.

It was the second poll in recent weeks to show Prime Minister Bill English's party, which has held power for a decade, holding a near double-digit lead.

It took a historically unpopular nominee to lose to Hillary by three million votes.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Here's Where The Money Is Going As Wealth Rises In Vietnam (Ralph Jennings , 9/20/17, Forbes)

Vietnamese are handily finding jobs as the Southeast Asian country's economy expands on export manufacturing. Exporters hire workers. Prosperity of factories enables the launch of local suppliers and companies that do back-end services. The supporting firms create more jobs. The whole cycle increases the spending power of average citizens. By 2020 about one-third of the population will be middle class or higher, the Boston Consulting Group estimates. That means income of at least $714 per month.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Neo-Nazi turned 'Islamic State' supporter goes on trial in Germany for bomb plans (Deutsche-Welle, 9/20/17)

Before swearing allegiance to the "Islamic State" terror group in videos, Sasha L. had been active in the neo-Nazi scene in Berlin, according to the indictment. On a YouTube channel authorities attribute to him, Sasha L. posted videos against Muslims, migrants and anti-fascist groups, Der Spiegel reported in February. 

September 19, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Exclusive: Trump using campaign, RNC funds to pay legal bills from Russia probe (Karen Freifeld, Ginger Gibson, 9/19/17, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission allows the use of private campaign funds to pay legal bills arising from being a candidate or elected official.

While previous presidential campaigns have used these funds to pay for routine legal matters such as ballot access disputes and compliance requirements, Trump would be the first U.S. president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds to cover the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


World leaders' faces react to Trump's U.N. speech (Yahoo News, September 19, 2017)

As Trump made his announcements, country by country, photographers documented how the world leaders reacted to the U.S. commander in chief's address. Click through the above slideshow to see their faces.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, reacts as he and first lady Melania Trump listen to President Trump speak during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)


Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and SOMINI SENGUPTA, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017, NY Times)

Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.

The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Cohen, who came out of nowhere to occupy a prominent spot in Trump's orbit, has his own unique links to Russia and Ukraine. In fact, he might be one of the missing links that ties the president to shady figures and shady money from the former Soviet Union (familiarly known as FSU).

After months of speculation, he's finally meeting, informally, with the Senate Intelligence Committee, i.e. not under oath, and in closed session. It's not clear how in-depth the conversation will be, or what we will learn about it.

But the following story should help. It lays bare, in documented detail, Cohen's dealings, his ties to the FSU, and how he could trigger a world of trouble for the president if he ever decided to reveal what he knows about Trump's business empire.

Among the points illustrated below:

-- Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, two key figures in Trump's businesses in recent years, both have backgrounds tied to the FSU

-- Both men knew each other; both began entering Trump's orbit around the same time with money that may have come from FSU sources -- and in a period when Trump came to increasingly depend on such monies

-- Putin appears to have launched a full-court press on the United States in this time frame through surrogates, and eventually took an interest in Trump as someone who could help advance Russian interests

-- Both Cohen and Sater showed up recently as intermediaries to Trump on behalf of pro-Putin policy initiatives

-- While Trump has a history of sticking with supporters, even controversial ones, his loyalty does not extend to Cohen, Sater, Manafort (who managed his campaign for a time) and Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Advisor. What do they all have in common? Ties to Russia. Ties that are part of the public record.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller's Inquiry Sets a Tone (SHARON LaFRANIERE, MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMANSEPT. 18, 2017, NY Times)

Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's attempts to disrupt last year's election, according to lawyers, witnesses and American officials who have described the approach. Dispensing with the plodding pace typical of many white-collar investigations, Mr. Mueller's team has used what some describe as shock-and-awe tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the inquiry.

Mr. Mueller has obtained a flurry of subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury, lawyers and witnesses say, sometimes before his prosecutors have taken the customary first step of interviewing them. One witness was called before the grand jury less than a month after his name surfaced in news accounts. The special counsel even took the unusual step of obtaining a subpoena for one of Mr. Manafort's former lawyers, claiming an exception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny.

"They are setting a tone. It's important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled," said Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. "You want people saying to themselves, 'Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.'"

September 18, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


American Proconsul: How Douglas MacArthur Shaped Postwar Japan (STANLEY WEINTRAUB, 11/8/2011, mILITARY hISTORY)

MacArthur's occupation staff in Tokyo at first numbered about 1,500 and grew to more than 3,000 by 1948. Most of his minions ranged politically from conservative to ultraconservative, and they established policies that continued, rather than dismantled, the zaibatsu (business conglomerates) that had long dominated the Japanese economy. Entrenched Japanese bureaucracies from the national level to the villages and towns continued largely undisturbed.

Reform nonetheless crept into Japan, for MacArthur's regime also enforced policies set by the Truman administration. The "Basic Directive" triggered war crimes trials in 1945-46, as well as replacement of the Meiji Charter Oath of 1868, under which Japan had been ruled by oligarchs on behalf of a semidivine emperor. A four-power Allied agreement (between the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China) called for a commission to formulate a new Japanese constitution by late February 1946. To evade meddlesome Stalinist input, MacArthur's headquarters pre-empted the commission with its own document, "Three Basic Points," presented as a Japanese initiative. The first of the points allowed the emperor to remain head of state, though his powers would henceforth derive from the new constitution, which itself would reflect the will of the people. The second point called for Japan's renunciation of the right to wage war or to maintain armed forces. The third point abolished the feudal system and reformed the peerage. Each point embodied mandates from Washington based on the Allies' August 1945 Potsdam Agreement.

The new constitution had to be ready in a week, in order to forestall any Soviet input. MacArthur's Government Section chief, Brig. Gen. Courtney Whitney, summoned his public administration specialists--some of them lawyers--and announced that they now comprised a constitutional assembly; they would secretly draft the new Japanese constitution, and his three deputies would ensure the document appeared to be of Japanese origin. The resulting 92 articles reflected America's New Deal policies, establishing social welfare and civil rights, even enfranchising women. When deliberations ended on February 10, Lt. Col. Charles Kades, head of the 25-member committee, said to one member, feisty 22-year-old Vienna-born linguist Beate Sirota, the only woman in the room, "My God, you have given Japanese women more rights than in the American Constitution!" She retorted, "That's not very difficult to do, because women are not in the American Constitution." Once Hirohito gave his "full approval" of the draft, MacArthur announced his concurrence, and on March 6 the Japanese government made public its new constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman (Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, 9/18/17, CNN)

Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI's efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.

It is unclear when the new warrant started. The FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves, that reignited their interest in Manafort, the sources told CNN. As part of the FISA warrant, CNN has learned that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. It's not known what they found.

The conversations between Manafort and Trump continued after the President took office, long after the FBI investigation into Manafort was publicly known, the sources told CNN. They went on until lawyers for the President and Manafort insisted that they stop, according to the sources.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Kate Millett's Destructive Feminist Legacy (Mark Tapson, 9/18/17, Acculturated)

I am friends with Kate's sister Mallory, whose perspective on her sibling gives some necessary insight into the true nature of the feminist vision. In a riveting article from a few years back bluntly titled, "Marxist Feminism's Ruined Lives," she shared what she saw of the subversive undercurrent of her sister's passionate radicalism.

Mallory describes her first experience participating with Kate and friends in a women's "consciousness-raising-group" in 1969. The meeting opened with an almost liturgical back-and-forth recitation that left Mallory dumbstruck:

"Why are we here today?" asked the chairperson.
"To make revolution," they answered.
"What kind of revolution?" she replied.
"The Cultural Revolution," they chanted.
"And how do we make Cultural Revolution?" she demanded.
"By destroying the American family!" they answered.
"How do we destroy the family?" she came back.
"By destroying the American Patriarch," they cried exuberantly.
"And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?" she replied.
"By taking away his power!"
"How do we do that?"
"By destroying monogamy!" they shouted.
"How can we destroy monogamy?"
"By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!" they resounded.

"It was clear," wrote Mallory, that "they desired nothing less than the utter deconstruction of Western society." To accomplish this it was necessary "to invade every American institution. Every one must be permeated with 'The Revolution': The media, the educational system, universities, high schools, K-12, school boards, etc.; then, the judiciary, the legislatures, the executive branches and even the library system."

Mallory was shocked and became sick of the "unbridled hate" for American society she witnessed at subsequent meetings, but ultimately dismissed it all as "academic-lounge air-castle-building." She moved on with her life while her sister became famous and influential promoting "Marxism 101 for women"--a revolution against the oppression of the nuclear family. "Her books captivated the academic classes and soon 'Women's Studies' courses were installed in colleges in a steady wave across the nation with Kate Millett books as required reading," wrote Mallory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Inspired by France trip, Trump wants July 4th military parade (Sharon Vavra, 9/19/17, Axios)

"Inspired by France" : words never before associated with a president, including their own...

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM


What's the matter with Trump's lawyers? (Aaron Blake, September 18, 2017, Washington Post)

Whatever Cobb and Dowd were discussing, the fact that they were doing it in public would seem to be a pretty serious breach not just of good sense, but possibly of attorney-client privilege. Imagine if this conversation wound up being consequential in the scheme of the Russia investigation. The fact that it even happened -- New York Times reporter or no New York Times reporter -- is astounding.

But against the broader backdrop of what Trump's lawyers have been doing and saying publicly, it is far less surprising.

A quick recap:

Cobb asked a Business Insider reporter if she was "on drugs."

He later called the same reporter "insane" and mused about using a drone on her while unwittingly emailing with a prankster posing as a White House official.

Cobb described himself and Kelly as the "adults in the room" at the White House in emails with a Washington restaurateur. "I walked away from $4 million annually to do this, had to sell my entire retirement account for major capital losses and lost a s‑‑‑load to try to protect the third pillar of democracy," Cobb told Jeff Jetton.

When he took the job, Cobb told that he had "rocks in my head and steel balls." He added that he took the job because it was "an impossible task with a deadline." (Side note: So defending Trump from the Russia investigation is an "impossible task," you say?)

Now-former Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz threatened a random stranger in an email exchange, telling her, "Watch your back, b‑‑‑‑."

Dowd rather strangely confirmed to The Post last week that the legal team had discussed whether Jared Kushner should exit the White House.

Jay Sekulow denied twice that Trump was involved in Donald Trump Jr.'s initial response to that Russia meeting, only to be directly contradicted by the White House itself.

Trump's colorful longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, responded to his contradictory denials about being involved with Russians with plenty of bluster. "I feel great," he told HuffPost. "Which picture did The Wall Street Journal use of me? Was it good?" Cohen added: "I am in many respects just like the president. Nothing seems to rattle me, no matter how bad the hate."

Cohen regularly engages with critics and mixes it up on social media. Asked by Vanity Fair what that says, he responded: "It means I'm relevant."

Any one of these examples is highly unusual for a lawyer, or really any public official. Yet Trump seems to have assembled a legal team that mirrors his own combative style and at-times-unhelpful tendency to spout off in public.

It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg question. Are the lawyers acting like this because the White House as a whole plays it so fast and loose? Or were they selected because most established lawyers wouldn't take on such a challenging client?

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Consumption poverty and the Official Poverty Measure (Robert Doar, September 18, 2017, AEIdeas)

Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and AEI, and James Sullivan of Notre Dame last week released their report on consumption poverty in the United States for the year 2016. The takeaway from the report is positive: The rate of consumption poverty, which measures how much people consume, and therefore better captures the extent of deprivation and material poverty in the United States, continues to decline, falling to an all-time low of 3.0%. Improvement in the consumption poverty rate speaks to the effectiveness of various in-kind and tax benefits afforded to low-income Americans, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and housing benefits, all of which help to shore up the material well-being of America's struggling families.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


After single payer failed, Vermont embarks on a big health care experiment (Carolyn Y. Johnson September 17, 2017, wASHINGTON pOST)

The underlying premise is simple: Reward doctors and hospitals financially when patients are healthy, not just when they come in sick.

It's an idea that has been percolating through the health-care system in recent years, supported by the Affordable Care Act and changes to how Medicare pays for certain kinds of care, such as hip and knee replacements.

But Vermont is setting an ambitious goal of taking its alternative payment model statewide and applying it to 70 percent of insured state residents by 2022 which -- if it works -- could eventually lead to fundamental changes in how Americans pay for health care.

"You make your margin off of keeping people healthier, instead of doing more operations. This drastically changes you, from wanting to do more of a certain kind of surgery to wanting to prevent them," said Stephen Leffler, chief population health and quality officer of the University of Vermont Health Network.

Most importantly, it discourages practitioners from encouraging you to consume.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Worried about Jewish pluralism in Israel? So are Israelis, poll shows : 65% of Israelis surveyed by liberal group by Hiddush want Reform and Conservative Judaism to have official standing equal to Orthodoxy (ANDREW TOBIN, September 18, 2017, JTA)

For non-Orthodox Diaspora Jews worried by the Israeli government's unfriendly policies toward them this year, a new poll has some good news.

The 2017 annual survey by Hiddush, a nonprofit advocating religious pluralism in Israel, offers indications that the Israeli Jewish public is as supportive as ever of religious pluralism, if not more so. Few are happy with how the state handles religion, and a record number would like to disentangle Judaism and politics.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM



White House staff are so worried about Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's possible collusion with Donald Trump's campaign that some in the West Wing are suspicious their colleagues are wearing a wire.

In private, White House officials have said they are afraid their co-workers may be secretly recording their conversations to pass along to Mueller, the investigation's special counsel, according to a report in The New York Times Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Soros hatred is a global sickness (Gideon Rachman, 9/19/17, Financial Times)

In the 1990s, Mr Soros was in tune with the spirit of the age, as he used the billions he had made in finance to support the transition to democracy in post-communist Europe and elsewhere. But now the global political climate has changed and liberal ideas are in retreat. For a new generation of nationalists -- from the US to Russia and Hungary -- Mr Soros has become the perfect villain. He is an internationalist in an age of nationalism. He is a supporter of individual rights, not group rights. He is the 29th-richest man in the world, according to the Forbes rich list. And he is also Jewish, so is easily cast in the role of the shadowy and manipulative international financier, once reserved for the Rothschilds.

One of the nastier bits of anti-Soros propaganda this year explicitly linked him to the old slurs against the Rothschilds. When America First nationalists became worried that HR McMaster, national security adviser to President Donald Trump, was purging their allies in the White House, they set up a website called "McMaster leaks" which featured a cartoon of Mr McMaster being manipulated by puppetmasters labelled "Soros" and "Rothschilds". [...]

There is clearly an echo-chamber element to the anti-Soros campaigns around the world, as far-right groups pick up on the same conspiracy theories. But some strongman leaders have more concrete reasons to fear Mr Soros's Open Society Foundation, which funds civil society organisations that promote education, a free press, minority rights and anti-corruption initiatives. In 2015, Vladimir Putin's government chucked the Open Society Foundation out of Russia since it was no longer willing to tolerate the latter's support for organisations such as Memorial, which promoted research into the Soviet terror.

Mr Soros's activities have even made him a target in Israel. The obvious anti-Semitism in many of the anti-Soros campaigns around the world evidently matters less to the Netanyahu government than Mr Soros's support for Palestinian rights and other causes unpopular on the Israeli right.

There is also a personal element in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's anti-Soros ire. As an anti-corruption probe has got closer and closer to Israel's first family, so they have lashed out against Mr Soros. Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister's son, complained recently that the "Fund for the Destruction of Israel, funded by Soros and the European Union, is threatening me". He even re-published a cartoon of Mr Soros dangling the world in front of a reptilian creature, the kind of image that his father would routinely denounce as anti-Semitic if it had been published by another source.

There are always Jews to blame.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Spicer mocks Trump in surprise Emmys cameo - video (THe Guardian, 9/18/17)
Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Hold the Egg Sandwich: Egyptian TV Is Calling (SARAH MASLIN NIR, SEPT. 16, 2017, NY Times)

Every other day or so, Hatem El-Gamasy connects to a news audience nearly halfway around the world, delivering hot takes on American politics, live from New York, but on Egyptian television.

When the broadcast ends, he slips out his earpieces, opens the door of his makeshift studio and returns to his day job.

"You want ketchup on that?" he said to a customer on a recent morning. "Extra ketchup as usual?"

Mr. El-Gamasy owns the Lotus Deli in Ridgewood, Queens, a place known for its sandwiches, extensive craft beer selection, and its gracious, friendly owner. But few of his customers -- and likely, none of his viewers in Egypt -- know that the man making egg sandwiches and small talk behind the counter is the same one who appears on popular Egyptian television news programs, holding forth on subjects from immigration policy to North Korea.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Robots will soon do your taxes and your bookkeeper is cool with that (ANOUK VLEUGELS, 9/18/17, Next Web)

Up until about ten years ago, choosing a career in accountancy was considered a safe bet. It came with a decent salary, plenty of job opportunities and all sorts of benefits. Robots were still a distant reality. Something to worry about for blue-collar workers, maybe, but in no way threatening to those in the financial industry.

Oh, how times have changed. In 2013, two researchers from Oxford University published a study examining to what extent jobs are susceptible to computerization. The results, at least for accountants and bookkeepers, were pretty grim: Bookkeeping had a 97.6 percent chance of being automated in the near future. Accounting and auditing did only a little better, at 95.3 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond (FRANCIS OWTRAM 18 September 2017, OpenDemocracy)

The Kurds' quest for independence is partly the product of geography: their ancestral homeland around the Taurus mountains occupies a peripheral border region at the intersection of the historic empires of the Turks, Persians and Arabs.

Under these empires the Kurdish tribes attempted to carve out high levels of autonomy and were often in conflict with the central authority and other rival tribes. Following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, they found themselves divided between three successor states: Iraq, Syria and Turkey where they became regionally concentrated 'non-assimilating minorities'. This underlying sense of malaise finds conceptual framing in the 'syndrome of post-colonial sequestration', a term coined by the late Professor Fred Halliday in a succinct and incisive openDemocracy article in 2008 to explain the experience of peoples such as the Kurds and Palestinians.

This underlying sense of malaise finds conceptual framing in the 'syndrome of post-colonial sequestration', a term coined by the late Professor Fred Halliday.

Halliday noted that various peoples have found, during moments of momentous historic change (the end of WW1, WW2, colonial withdraw) that if they were not able (due to bad luck, poor leadership or other circumstances) to obtain a state, then they may remain trapped until the next moment of opportunity. To understand their plight, he argued, it is important to be aware that the division of the world into today's 'nation states' does not correspond to any fundamental principles of natural justice or historic entitlement. It is rather arbitrary and haphazard - the result of power politics, accidents, wars, state crises and hegemonic or colonial intervention.

By way of moving beyond post-colonial sequestration, Halliday recommended these peoples to seek to establish democratic forms including federalism, which once consolidated could lead to discussion of all issues, including independence. Halliday focussed on the Palestinians and the Tibetans, making only passing reference to the Kurds, which I expand here with my primary focus on the Kurds in Iraq.

The imposition of  European-style 'nation-states' on the Middle East led to deeply divided societies due to the straight lines drawn across tribal lands on the map enclosed with the 1916 Asia Minor Agreement signed between Britain and France - otherwise known as the Sykes-Picot agreement.

It's impossible to overstate how much we retarded the development of the Third World by trading self-determination for the League of Nations. It makes David Fromkin's Peace to End All Peace the must read on the Middle East. Most of the geopolitical problems of the last century trace to our failure to adhere to our own ideals.

September 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30