May 7, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Chief Of Islamic State In Afghanistan Confirmed Dead After Raid (rADIO lIBERTY, May 07, 2017)

The leader of Islamic State in Afghanistan was killed in a joint Afghan-U.S. operation last month in the eastern province of Nangarhar, officials from the two countries said on May 7.

Abdul Hasib, who was appointed last year following the death of his predecessor Hafiz Saeed in a U.S drone strike, was killed in a raid by 50 U.S. Special Forces and 40 Afghan commandos, according to a joint statement by U.S. and Afghan armed forces.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


By standards of a century ago, we're better off than John D. Rockefeller (GEORGE F. WILL, 5/07/17, Raleigh News & Observer)

As a 1916 billionaire, you would be materially worse off than a 2017 middle- class American; an unhealthy 1916 billionaire would be much worse off than an unhealthy 2017 American of any means. Intellectually, your 1916 range of cultural choices would be paltry compared with today's. And your moral tranquility might be disturbed by the contrast between your billionaire's life and that of the normal American.

In 2015, a Bureau of Labor Statistics paper described the life of workers in 1915. More than half (52.4 percent) of the 100 million Americans were younger than 25, life expectancy at birth was 54.5 years (today, 78.8) and fewer than 5 percent of Americans were 65 or older. One in 10 babies died in the first year of life (today, one in 168). A large majority of births were not in hospitals (today, fewer than 1 percent).

In 1915, only about 14 percent of people ages 14-17 were in high school, an estimated 18 percent ages 25 and older had completed high school, and nearly 75 percent of women working in factories had left school before eighth grade. There were four renters for every homeowner, partly because mortgages (usually for just five to seven years) required down payments of 40 to 50 percent of the purchase price.

Fewer than one-third of homes had electric lights. Small electric motors - the first Hoover vacuum cleaner appeared in 1915 - were not yet lightening housework. Iceboxes, which were the norm until after World War II, were all that 1915 had: General Motors' Frigidaire debuted in 1918.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Never before in my adult life has the future seemed so bleak for progressives (Will Hutton,  6 May 2017, The Guardian)

Britain is a country of the European Enlightenment, or so I have thought. For decades, we have muddled through without a written constitution. But the impact of a referendum that went against majority opinion in parliament, along with a desperately weak parliamentary opposition, a weaponised rightwing media and lack of mass support for the rule of law, has shown how vulnerable our civilisation is to know-nothing populism and a profoundly dysfunctional democracy.

Enlightenment values - tolerance, respect for the importance of fair debate, checked and balanced government, objectivity and impartiality, recognition of international interdependencies - are being trashed. Matters could get very ugly, very fast. It is not just Europe we are leaving, but an idea of Britain.

Over the last week, the scale of the impending disasters started to crystallise. It is becoming obvious that there is no compromise settlement between Britain and the EU that can satisfy both. There cannot be a win-win deal because the EU must show all its members that staying in confers greater benefits than life outside the club. It is a tragedy, thinks the EU leadership, that Britain wants to sever its links completely, aiming for some privileged trade relationship like that of Canada or Ukraine, which the EU is not sure it wants to negotiate and certainly not before Britain's bills are settled. Britain is thus certain to go over a cliff; the only question is how great the fall.

This pessimism is not just the view of Jean-Claude Juncker and Brussels "bureaucrats", as Theresa May characterises them. It is widespread, particularly in Germany. Last week, one of the most distinguished figures in German politics, the president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, told an audience in Oxford that, while every effort had to be made to find a deal, unless May radically changed her position the gulf was too wide. The British did not seem even to understand the need for the European parliament's assent.

It's no wonder Progressives are so shocked, they don't even comprehend their own country and the past several centuries of its history.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


Iranian supreme leader critical of 'Western-influenced' Rouhani education plan (Reuters, 5/07/17)

Iran's supreme leader on Sunday criticized the government of President Hassan Rouhani for promoting a "Western-influenced" United Nations education plan which his hardline allies have said contradicts Islamic principles. [...]

Khamenei did not give details of his opposition to the UNESCO plan, but hardline commentators in Iran have said its promotion of gender equality in education contravened Islam.

"How can a so-called international body which is under the influence of the great powers allow itself to assign duties for countries with different histories, cultures and civilizations?" said Khamenei, who often warns of a "soft war" mounted by the West to topple Iran's Islamic government.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


What Theresa May has learnt from Margaret Thatcher (Philip Stephens, 5/07/17, Financial Times)

The most powerful word in politics, one of Margaret Thatcher's campaign advisers once told me, is "moderate". How was it then that she kept on winning elections? The Lady bore many descriptions but moderate was not usually among them. Easy. These things are relative. Under Michael Foot's leadership the Labour party had rushed off to the distant fringes of the far left. Thatcher could redraw the boundaries of politics' centre ground. [...]

To imagine Mr Corbyn in 10 Downing Street is to bestow on Mrs May the mantle of common sense. On balance, British voters do not judge Fidel Castro's Cuba to be a success story Britain should emulate. They prefer the Union Flag to the hammer and sickle waved by Mr Corbyn's supporters. Labour has some popular policies and there are parts of the country where Tories still draw considerable hostility. But in fabled Middle Britain Labour has claimed the extremist tag.

Mr Corbyn has allowed Mrs May to reunite the forces of the right. That is what happened in last week's local elections, when voters who had formerly backed the United Kingdom Independence party returned in droves to the Tory fold. Ukip now looks spent as a political force except in so far as it also offers a home to working class voters disenfranchised by the Mr Corbyn's metropolitan socialism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Trump Focuses on Islamist Extremism -- Guts Programs Countering White Supremacy (Nathan Guttman, May 7, 2017, Forward)

Experts in the field believe that withholding the funds is part of a broader policy of the Trump administration to redefine violent extremism and reshape government policy for dealing with the problem, focusing exclusively on violent Islamic extremism while eliminating programs aimed at violent white nationalists.

"Their people talk about terrorism only in the context of Islamic extremism," said Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "It seems pretty clear that Trump doesn't care about other types of extremism."

But existing data on violent extremism in the U.S. does not support the Trump administration's narrow approach to the problem.

An analysis prepared by START, a national consortium for the study of terrorism, supported by the Department of Homeland Security and based at the University of Maryland, looked at Islamist and far-right homicides in the U.S. in the past 15 years. The study excluded two outliers - the 9/11 terror attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, and found that far-right extremists have killed more than double the people than Islamist extremists - 272 compared to 130. "To focus solely on Islamist extremism is to ignore the murders perpetrated by the extreme far right and their place in a constantly changing threat environment," concluded a February 2017 research paper compiled by scholars affiliated with START.

"It's probably short-sighted to only focus on Islamist extremists," said Peter Weinberger who heads the counter violent extremism program at START. He noted that not only do the numbers show the danger of far-right extremism, but also that dealing with extremists from the right could provide tools and information to help counter Islamist extremism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM

TO WIT...:

Trump 101: His advisers talk about him like he's a child  (Lazaro Gamio, 5/07/17,  Axios)

Simplifying: When it comes to making a policy or strategy decision, aides told Politico that it's best not to give Trump too many different options, but instead, thoroughly explain one, favored option and how the press would cover it. "You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like."

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Why Wall Street Has Stopped Listening to Donald Trump (Reuters, May 02, 2017)

"I don't take Trump seriously," said a senior executive at one of the country's six largest banks. "I'm listening less and less."

Like most who wanted to share their more candid views privately, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the president, his employer or business associates. But his comments were echoed by at least a dozen institutional investors and bank executives who spoke to Reuters.

While they remain hopeful Trump will be able to get reforms through Congress, the lack of progress combined with conflicting messages coming out of the administration make it hard to put faith in anything, they said.

Several cited comments on Monday from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who joked on a panel that bank investors should thank him for boosting share prices. Hours later, Bloomberg News published an interview with Trump, in which said he was considering breaking up the country's biggest banks - an idea that is an anathema to shareholders of lenders like JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp or Citigroup Inc.

However, few people at the event in the Beverly Hilton Hotel appeared to take the comment seriously.

"Until it's signed into law, you can't bank on it," said Aaron Cutler, a regulatory lawyer at Hogan Lovells who lobbies Congress on behalf of banks and hedge funds and was milling about on a sunny terrace. He said his clients are not yet acting on anything the administration says.

A report last week by PwC's financial services regulatory practice echoed that view. Despite Trump's talk of quick action, PwC predicts his executive orders will "yield few results," that plans to repeal a package of financial regulations called Dodd-Frank will not happen, and that any change in Washington will be slow due to a lack of consensus, a slothy appointments process and upcoming midterm elections.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 'investor visa' to wealthy Chinese (Emily Rauhala and William Wan, May 6, 2017, Washington Post)

The Kushner family came to the United States as refugees, worked hard and made it big -- and if you invest in Kushner properties, so can you.

That was the message delivered Saturday by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner's sister Nicole Kushner Meyer to a ballroom full of wealthy Chinese investors in Beijing.

Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives from the Kushner family business urged Chinese citizens gathered at a Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help them secure what's known as an investor visa.

The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration. "Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules," one speaker said.

The tagline on a brochure for the event: "Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States."

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Trump Does Not Know What It Is to Know ; He lacks a sense of American history and its presence with us today. (GEORGE WILL, May 3, 2017, National Review)

It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about Donald Trump's inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. [...]

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation's history. As this column has said before, the problem isn't that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know--or cannot acknowledge, even to himself--that he does not know anything.

An ignorant man can be a fine president.  Indeed, they may make better presidents.Some level of ignorance allows you to approach problems afresh, without the clutter of preconceived notions and accreted positions that make up the conventional wisdom. There are very rarely crises that are so urgent that they require immediate decisions and you have ample time to read and be briefed about issues.  And if you are comfortable in your ignorance you will approach such areas with some eagerness to alleviate your lack of knowledge and understanding.

On the other hand, if you are ignorant but refuse to believe/accept that you are, you will make ill-informed judgments proceeding from that ignorance or may fall prey to expertise, deferring the judgment to another.  We see the former most often with Donald, who can hardly answer most questions without revealing complete ignorance or, at best, cursory knowledge.  We see the latter when he just mouths the idiocies that his guru, Steve Bannon, has revealed to him, like the Civil War nonsense.  Both expose him as a man unfit for the office he holds.