April 19, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Exclusive: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election - documents (Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay and John Walcott, 4/19/17, Reuters)

 A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters' faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election.

The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin's office.

The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.

It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said. [...]

Four of the officials said the approach outlined in the June strategy paper was a broadening of an effort the Putin administration launched in March 2016. That month the Kremlin instructed state-backed media outlets, including international platforms Russia Today and Sputnik news agency, to start producing positive reports on Trump's quest for the U.S. presidency, the officials said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Trump's inaugural committee took $1 million from a Russian-American whose money the GOP rejected (Max de Haldevang, 4/19/17, Quartz)

In 2000, Alexander Shustorovich, a Russian-American millionaire, tried to give $250,000 to the Republican party in support of then-Texas governor George W. Bush's presidential campaign. The check bounced due to a clerical error, and once party officials looked into Shustorovich, they realized this was someone whose name they didn't want (paywall) attached to them. They told him to keep his money.

Not long before, a potential uranium deal between Russia and the US had fallen through, after the Clinton administration sounded warning notes (paywall) over Shustorovich's connections to the Russian government. (His company, Pleiades Group, would have been a middleman in the deal.) However, in 2017, the Trump Inaugural Committee decided to take $1 million from Shustorovich, according to a Federal Election Commission filing (pdf).

In 2012, Shustorovich, who was born in Moscow and moved to the US as a child, implied in an interview with Wired that he had good relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin and prime minister Dmitri Medvedev. He had earlier been engaged to Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of Putin's earliest political benefactor.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Ossoff Only Earned 1.3 Percent More Than Clinton In Georgia's 6th (PHILLIP STUCKY, 04/19/2017, Daily Caller)
Democrats invested over $8.3 million and thousands of volunteer hours in the Georgia special election but only received a 1.3 percent gain over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 46.8 percent in November 2016. [...]

Trump earned the lowest percentage of votes compared to any other Republican presidential candidate in recent history with 48.3 percent. Former candidates Mitt Romney earned 61 percent and John McCain earned 59 percent in the district.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


In French Election, the Far Left and Right Target EU as Common Enemy (Josh Siegel, April 19, 2017, Daily Signal)

"Sometimes, the extremes meet, and in this case, the extreme left and right are meeting with an anti-EU agenda," Michael Leigh, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States who focuses on the European Union, said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter teaming up in pursuit of Miami Marlins (DOUGLAS HANKS, 4/19/17, miamiherald.com)

Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter have joined forces in their bid to buy the Miami Marlins, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The former Florida governor and retired New York Yankees star once were rivals for the Major League Baseball franchise but now have teamed up to try and buy the team, the sources said. They are competing against a New York financier named Wayne Rothbaum, manager of Quogue Capital, a source close to the situation said. It is not known if other would-be suitors of the Marlins remain in the hunt.

The alliance pairs one of Miami's most prominent political leaders -- Bush lives in Coral Gables -- with one of the most famous names in baseball. Jeter retired from the Yankees in 2014 and has a house in Tampa.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Trump administration says Iran complying with nuclear deal (AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL, April 19, 2017)

The Trump administration notified Congress on Tuesday that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and that it has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Democrats begin to wonder: When do we win? : For all the roiling anger and energy at the grassroots, the party still fell short in Georgia and Kansas. And Democratic prospects in upcoming elections aren't promising. (GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI 04/19/17, Politico)

For all the anger, energy, and money swirling at the grassroots level, Democrats didn't manage to pick off the first two Republican-held congressional seats they contended for in the Trump era, and the prospects aren't markedly better in the next few House races coming up: the Montana race at the end of May, and the South Carolina contest on June 20.

Their best shot at knocking Donald Trump down a peg appears to be Ossoff's runoff against Republican Karen Handel, also scheduled for June 20. But the Democrat will be an underdog in that contest, when there won't be a crowded field of Republicans to splinter the vote.

After that, it'll be another five months before the New Jersey and Virginia elections for governor, leaving some strategists and lawmakers wondering how to keep the furious rank-and-file voters engaged in fueling and funding the party's comeback -- especially given the sky-high expectations that surrounded Ossoff's ultimately unsuccessful run at the 50-percent threshold that was necessary to win the seat outright.

Trying to maintain fury at your own party establishment and the American voter is how you end up the British Labour party.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


THE CONSERVATIVE AGENDA FOR GORSUCH'S FIRST WEEK (Jeffrey Toobin,  April 18, 2017, The New Yorker)

Neil Gorsuch takes his seat on the Supreme Court this week and will immediately have a chance to make his mark with a case that involves one of the top priorities for the conservative movement: lowering the barriers between church and state. The issue has long been a priority for conservatives, on the Court and elsewhere. But the complexion of the controversy has changed in recent years, as those on the right have become more aggressive in pressing constitutional arguments. At one point, the issues in this area were fairly straightforward, if largely symbolic. Could a Christmas crèche be displayed on municipal property? (Yes, as long as there are, say, plastic reindeer as well as the baby Jesus.) Can a student deliver a prayer before a high-school football game? (Yes, in the stands, but not over the public-address system.)

The current cases before the Supreme Court are more consequential because they concern government policy and, more often, government money. In some of the cases, religious individuals seek to be excused from obligations that the law imposes on the rest of society; in other cases, including Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the one to be argued this week, religious institutions seek government money, notwithstanding the Constitution's prohibition on the establishment of a state religion.

The facts of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer are simple. A Missouri law provides grants for nonprofit organizations to purchase rubber playground surfaces. Trinity Lutheran Church, which operates a preschool on church property, applied for a grant through the program but was rejected under a provision in the state constitution that prohibits state money from going "directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion." The church sued, claiming that the law violates the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

The problem for the Left on Church-State questions is that they are trying to defend an extra-textyual standard--Separation--when the Constitutional one is only no Establishment.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM



It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice's normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice's unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided "no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal."

I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. "There's absolutely nothing there," one source said. The Trump names remain masked in the documents, and Rice would not have been able to know in all cases that she was asking the N.S.A. to unmask the names of Trump officials.

Consider that the Donald/Nunes position was that : one would only ask to see which Americans the Russians were corrupting because  one would have to assume they were Trumpies.  It's essentially a confession.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump : Sneering hosts have alienated conservatives and made liberals smug. (CAITLIN FLANAGAN  MAY 2017, The Atlantic)

In March, Samantha Bee's show issued a formal apology to a young man who had attended the Conservative Political Action Conference and whom the show had blasted for having "Nazi hair." As it turned out, the young man was suffering from Stage 4 brain cancer--which a moment's research on the producers' part would have revealed: He had tweeted about his frightening diagnosis days before the conference. As part of its apology, the show contributed $1,000 to the GoFundMe campaign that is raising money for his medical expenses, so now we know the price of a cancer joke.

It was hardly the first time Full Frontal had gone, guns blazing, after the sick or the meek. During the campaign, Bee dispatched a correspondent to go shoot fish in a barrel at something called the Western Conservative Summit, which the reporter described as "an annual Denver gathering popular with hard-right Christian conservatives." He interviewed an earnest young boy who talked about going to church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays, and about his hope to start a group called Children for Trump. For this, the boy--who spoke with the unguarded openness of a child who has assumed goodwill on the part of an adult--was described as "Jerry Falwell in blond, larval form." Trump and Bee are on different sides politically, but culturally they are drinking from the same cup, one filled with the poisonous nectar of reality TV and its baseless values, which have now moved to the very center of our national discourse. Trump and Bee share a penchant for verbal cruelty and a willingness to mock the defenseless. Both consider self-restraint, once the hallmark of the admirable, to be for chumps.

Yes, yes, I know: She is a comedian, he is the president of the United States; there is no scale by which their words and actions can be reasonably compared. Yet while for Bee, as for so many in her field, Michelle Obama's "When they go low, we go high" may have been a ravishing meme, Trump's mockery of a war hero, grieving parents, and a disabled man showed how you get the job done. When John Oliver told viewers that if they opposed abortion they had to change the channel until the last minute of the program, when they would be shown "an adorable bucket of sloths," he perfectly encapsulated the tone of these shows: one imbued with the conviction that they and their fans are intellectually and morally superior to those who espouse any of the beliefs of the political right. Two days before the election, every talking head on television was assuring us that Trump didn't have a chance, because he lacked a "ground game." After his victory, one had to wonder whether some part of his ground game had been conducted night after night after night on television, under flattering studio lights and with excellent production values and comedy writing.

Though aimed at blue-state sophisticates, these shows are an unintended but powerful form of propaganda for conservatives. When Republicans see these harsh jokes--which echo down through the morning news shows and the chattering day's worth of viral clips, along with those of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers--they don't just see a handful of comics mocking them. They see HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In other words, they see exactly what Donald Trump has taught them: that the entire media landscape loathes them, their values, their family, and their religion. It is hardly a reach for them to further imagine that the legitimate news shows on these channels are run by similarly partisan players--nor is it at all illogical. No wonder so many of Trump's followers are inclined to believe only the things that he or his spokespeople tell them directly--everyone else on the tube thinks they're a bunch of trailer-park, Oxy-snorting half-wits who divide their time between retweeting Alex Jones fantasies and ironing their Klan hoods.

Are they even supposed to be comic?