April 6, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM

NEIGHBOR LOVE (profanity alert):

"Can You Say...Hero?" : Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time... (TOM JUNOD, November 1998 , Esquire)

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a boy who didn't like himself very much. It was not his fault. He was born with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is something that happens to the brain. It means that you can think but sometimes can't walk, or even talk. This boy had a very bad case of cerebral palsy, and when he was still a little boy, some of the people entrusted to take care of him took advantage of him instead and did things to him that made him think that he was a very bad little boy, because only a bad little boy would have to live with the things he had to live with. In fact, when the little boy grew up to be a teenager, he would get so mad at himself that he would hit himself, hard, with his own fists and tell his mother, on the computer he used for a mouth, that he didn't want to live anymore, for he was sure that God didn't like what was inside him any more than he did. He had always loved Mister Rogers, though, and now, even when he was fourteen years old, he watched the Neighborhood whenever it was on, and the boy's mother sometimes thought that Mister Rogers was keeping her son alive. She and the boy lived together in a city in California, and although she wanted very much for her son to meet Mister Rogers, she knew that he was far too disabled to travel all the way to Pittsburgh, so she figured he would never meet his hero, until one day she learned through a special foundation designed to help children like her son that Mister Rogers was coming to California and that after he visited the gorilla named Koko, he was coming to meet her son.

At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn't leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, "I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?" On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said, "I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?" And now the boy didn't know how to respond. He was thunderstruck. Thunderstruck means that you can't talk, because something has happened that's as sudden and as miraculous and maybe as scary as a bolt of lightning, and all you can do is listen to the rumble. The boy was thunderstruck because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn't know if he could do it, he said he would, he said he'd try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn't talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean God likes him, too.

As for Mister Rogers himself...well, he doesn't look at the story in the same way that the boy did or that I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being so smart--for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself--and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me at first with puzzlement and then with surprise. "Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn't ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession."

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM



Secretary of Defense James Mattis will present the proposals to Donald Trump later today at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

One of the proposals drawn up is a "saturation strike" using dozens of cruise missiles designed to hit Syrian military targets --including military air fields -- in an effort to limit future Syrian Air Force attacks on rebel positions, according to the two U.S. military officials. [...]

The proposed strike would involve launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to overwhelm Russian air defense systems used by the Syrian military. The Russian government currently helps maintain the air defense sites and advises the Syrian military.

According to both U.S. military officials, the current proposal would likely result in Russian military deaths and mark a drastic escalation of U.S. force in Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


Republicans Use 'Nuclear Option' to Clear the Way for Gorsuch Confirmation (LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, 4/06/17, NBC)

Senate Republicans used the "nuclear option" Thursday to change the chamber's rules and clear the way for the confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The rules change will enable Gorsuch to easily pass through the Senate with a simple majority instead of the now-defunct 60-vote threshold. A final confirmation vote is expected Friday.

Confirmation is barely a story.  Forcing the GOP to use the nuclear option to obtain the confirmation makes them appear competent again and appeals to the entire base. It also means that Democrats have lost one of the tools with which they could have opposed an unqualified nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM

NO ONE HATES JUST MEXICANS (profanity alert):

Steve Bannon Calls Jared Kushner a 'Cuck' and 'Globalist' Behind His Back  (Asawin Suebsaeng, 04.06.17, The Daily Beast)

Donald Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a "cuck" and a "globalist" during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast.

The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been "nonstop" in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. It's been an "open secret" that Bannon and Kushner often clash "face-to-face," according to senior officials.

Tough to have both Jews and racists/anti-Semites on senior staff.  

Fortunately, Little Finger is easily played:

The Times also reported that "Bannon's Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing's only leading man," and that "several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda--and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the 'President Bannon' puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter."

A Republican source close to Trump told The Daily Beast confirmed this level of insecurity over Bannon's reputation coming from the president, and mentioned that the president was "irked" after catching a glimpse of a recent cold-open on Saturday Night Live.

Bannon was depicted as a Grim Reaper character who manipulates Alec Baldwin's President Trump into sowing global chaos and diplomatic breakdown. At the end of the scene, "Bannon" tells Trump to give him his Oval Office desk back. Baldwin's Trump calls the Reaper "Mr. President," and then proceeds to go sit at his own much smaller, shorter desk, where the president plays with a kid's toy instead of governing. 

"Did you see this crap?" Trump asked the confidante, referring to the SNL sketch.

Posted by orrinj at 10:49 AM


From Breitbart to Sputnik : A former Breitbart reporter will host a radio show for the Russian government outlet. (ROSIE GRAY  APR 5, 2017, The Atlantic)

"I'm on the Russian payroll now, when you work at Sputnik you're being paid by the Russians," former Breitbart investigative reporter Lee Stranahan told me. "That's what it is. I don't have any qualms about it. Nothing about it really affects my position on stuff that I've had for years now."

Stranahan's new position is the latest twist in the increasingly atomized world of niche right-wing media, which has seen an increase in prominence and influence during the Trump era. It also reflects a realignment on the right towards Russia as the administration, led by an unusually Russia-receptive president, becomes increasingly entangled in a drip-drip of stories about Russian influence.

Is anyone on the Right not employed by Russia?

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


Devin Nunes Steps Aside; Ethics Committee Investigating for Spilling Secrets (Tim Mak, 4/06/17, Daily Beast)

Rep. Devin Nunes said Thursday he is stepping aside from the Russia investigation by the House intelligence committee because he is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly disclosing intelligence without proper authorization.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Russia bans picture of Vladimir Putin in drag (Elena Cresci, 6 April 2017, The Guardian)

The picture is cited on the Russian justice ministry's list of banned "extremist" materials - a list that is 4,074 entries long. No 4,071 states that the poster, depicting Putin with painted eyes and lips, implies "the supposed nonstandard sexual orientation of the president of the Russian Federation".

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Civil war rages throughout Trump administration (ALEX ISENSTADT and ANDREW RESTUCCIA, 04/06/17, Politico)

A civil war between Donald Trump loyalists and establishment-minded Republicans is escalating throughout the federal government -- and increasingly the president's allies are losing.

From the State Department to the Environmental Protection Agency, a sharp dividing line has formed: Cabinet secretaries and their handpicked teams of GOP veterans are rushing to take power as Trump campaign staffers -- "originals," as they call themselves -- gripe that they're being pushed aside.

In over a dozen interviews, the originals, many of whom volunteered to work for candidate Trump when few others were willing to do so, complained that they'd been shut out of meetings and targeted with career-destroying leaks. In recent weeks, a number of longtime Trump supporters have abruptly quit, saying they felt the administration had been overtaken by the same establishment they worked to defeat.

It's the Republican Party, not Donald's.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Trump tells newspaper Obama aide might have broken the law (AP, 5/05/17)

The unmasking review was led by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC's senior director of intelligence. Cohen-Watnick has clashed with the CIA and was on the verge of being moved out of his job until Trump political advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner stepped in to keep him in the role.

Cohen-Watnick raised his findings about Rice with the White House counsel's office, according to the official. The counsel's office ordered him to stand down because the lawyers did not want the White House to be running an independent investigation into the prior administration.

The Administration's only interest in the corruption investigation is the politics.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Kurds 're-energize' independence referendum plan for post-jihadist Iraq (Maher Chmaytelli, 4/06/17, Reuters)

Iraq's Kurds plan to hold a referendum on independence this year to press their case for "the best deal" on self-determination once Islamic State is defeated, a senior Kurdish official said.

The Kurds already run their own autonomous region in northern Iraq and the official, Hoshiyar Zebari, indicated the expected 'yes' outcome in a vote wouldn't mean automatically declaring independence.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Cohn Backs Wall Street Split of Lending, Investment Banks (Elizabeth Dexheimer, April 5, 2017, Bloomberg)

In a private meeting with lawmakers, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said he supports a policy that could radically reshape Wall Street's biggest firms by separating their consumer-lending businesses from their investment banks, said people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Cohn, the ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive who is now advising President Donald Trump, said he generally favors banking going back to how it was when firms like Goldman focused on trading and underwriting securities, and companies such as Citigroup Inc. primarily issued loans, according to the people, who heard his comments.

The remarks surprised some senators and congressional aides who attended the Wednesday meeting, as they didn't expect a former top Wall Street executive to speak favorably of proposals that would force banks to dramatically rethink how they do business.

Yet Cohn's comments echo what Trump and Republican lawmakers have previously said about wanting to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that kept bricks-and-mortar lending separate from investment banking for more than six decades.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


DEATH OF A DYSTOPIAN : Alt-right conspiracy theorists think that the government killed the aspiring Libertarian filmmaker David Crowley. The truth is far stranger. (Alec Wilkinson, 4/10/17, The New Yorker)

David Crowley began keeping a journal in April of 2014. He was twenty-eight years old, and he lived in Apple Valley, Minnesota, with his wife, Komel, and their four-year-old daughter, Raniya. The journal was "a life report, since I suspect my feelings right now in nostalgia or reflection might be of value," Crowley wrote. By the time he stopped making entries, seven months later, he had inadvertently created a psychological document of which very few examples are known.

Crowley had been a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afterward, he had gone to film school, and in 2010 he began writing a script that he called "Gray State," in which a totalitarian foreign regime conquers the U.S. government and a band of patriots form a resistance. On LinkedIn, Crowley described "Gray State" as "a film about a near future collapse of society under martial law."

Crowley's engagement with "Gray State" was consuming. "Every little part of this project is me," he recorded himself saying. In addition to writing six very different drafts of the script, he made three trailers, for which he auditioned, rehearsed, and directed the actors; drew storyboards; designed costumes; found locations and got permits; acted as the director of photography, overseeing as many as four cameras at once; and composed music and special effects. As if inhabiting the world he was creating, he periodically cut his hair in a Mohawk and wore combat fatigues and body armor. An actor named Danny Mason, who helped write the first draft, told me that Crowley would take him on hikes through the woods at three in the morning. "We'd come to a clearing and he'd say, 'See that field?' " Mason said. " 'Imagine there being a convoy there and fires in the distance.' "

Crowley posted a trailer for "Gray State" on YouTube in 2012. It has been watched more than two and a half million times, and the film has more than fifty-seven thousand followers on Facebook. Its supporters included "conspiracy theorists, survival groups," Crowley wrote, "libertarians, veterans," and "the military," many of whom believe that the government has plans to impose martial law, confiscate guns, and hold dissidents prisoner in camps built by fema.

Crowley had a patchwork system of beliefs. He regarded himself as a Libertarian, but he identified with the left-leaning wing of the Party, not the militant one--being a soldier had made him a pacifist. After uploading the trailer, Crowley spoke at a Ron Paul event in Tampa, hoping to raise money. "Gray State," he said, would explore such trends as "the slow yielding of our quiet American towns and streets to a choking array of federal surveillance grids, illegal police checkpoints."

Through a crowdsourcing campaign, Crowley collected more than sixty thousand dollars, much of it after the conservative radio commentator Alex Jones had Crowley and Danny Mason on his radio show "Infowars," in 2012, to discuss "the impressive film you're working on." The world depicted in "Gray State" was already "happening here," Jones said. "The people who have hijacked our country, they're admitting it. They're admitting that we're an occupied nation by foreign banks, they're admitting they're getting rid of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution."

"We have people who are living in the Alex Jones world who know what's going on, and the people who simply don't," Crowley replied. "Gray State," he added, was factual and "could be described as a documentary." (Jones declined my request for an interview.)

In January of 2015, Crowley and his wife and daughter were found shot dead at their home. Reports of their deaths appeared in the United States and abroad. The Huffington Post called Crowley a military man, and USA Today called him a filmmaker. The police determined that Crowley had shot his wife and child and then shot himself, but commentators on the Internet soon began saying that Crowley's death seemed "suspicious" and "mysterious," and that he had likely been murdered by government agents intent on preventing the movie from being made.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Poland Eyes Buying Gas From U.S. To Cut Dependence On Russia (RFE/RL, 4/06/17)

In a visit to the United States this week, Mateusz Morawiecki, who is also Poland's minister of economic development, met with U.S. Energy Secretary RIck Perry to discuss purchasing U.S. gas and got a "very positive response," he told reporters.

Morawiecki told Reuters on April 5 that he reached an "understanding" with Perry to work toward a deal.

Poland, a NATO member, currently gets about two-thirds of its gas from Russia, and has been striving to find alternative sources for national security reasons.

The purchase of gas from the United States would diversify Poland's energy supplies and increase its energy security, Morawiecki said.

Number Of Russians In Poverty Hits Decade-High (Radio Liberty, April 06, 2017)

The number of Russians living in poverty reached 19.8 million last year, the highest in a decade, as the economy struggled through a recession following a sharp oil-price drop and the imposition of Western sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 AM


Trump Removes Stephen Bannon From National Security Council Post (PETER BAKER, MAGGIE HABERMAN and GLENN THRUSH, APRIL 5, 2017, NY Times)

[B]ehind the scenes, White House officials said, the ideologist who enjoyed the president's confidence became increasingly embattled as other advisers, including Mr. Trump's daughter and son-in-law, complained about setbacks on health care and immigration. Lately, Mr. Bannon has been conspicuously absent from some meetings. And now he has lost his seat at the national security table.

In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council's cabinet-level "principals committee" on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump's national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.

Mr. Bannon resisted the move, even threatening at one point to quit if it went forward, according to a White House official who, like others, insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.