July 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 PM


Jared Kushner Finds Himself In Crosshairs As Russia Scandal Widens -- And He Pushes Hard Line (Josh Nathan-KazisJuly 15, 2017, The Forward)

"Jared Kusher was mostly a private citizen before going into government," [Aaron Keyak, a Democratic Jewish consultant and managing director at Bluelight Strategies] said. "We knew less about him."

Today, we know plenty.

We know, for instance, that he has been forced to re-file his federal application for security clearance three times, according to CBS, adding more than 100 names of foreign contacts.

We also know that, according to McClatchy, investigators are looking at the Trump campaign digital operation that Kushner ran, and whether it offered assistance to Russian operatives.

Kushner also attended the mysterious Trump Tower meeting last summer attended by Donald Trump Jr., former campaign chair Paul Manafort, a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, and a Russian-American lobbyist who is a former Russian counterintelligence officer.

Aside from being targeted by the flurry of revelations, Kushner has adopted an increasingly aggressive stance against President Trump's perceived enemies. That puts more of a bullseye on him, analysts say.

According to Politico, he is pushing for a "a more robust effort from the [White House] communications team" in defense of the Trump Tower meeting. That follows on his succesful advocacy for the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal, a tiny startup funded by Kushner's brother was invited to a White House roundtable with some of the biggest tech companies in the world.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Trump Campaign Paid Don Jr.'s Lawyer $50,000 Two Weeks Before Email Scandal (LACHLAN MARKAY, 07.15.17, Daily Beast)

About two weeks before the release of emails showing Donald Trump Jr. seeking opposition research from attorneys representing the Russian government, his father's reelection campaign began paying the law firm now representing Trump Jr. in the ensuing political and legal fallout.

A new filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that President Trump's reelection campaign paid $50,000 to the law offices of Alan Futerfas on June 26. That was around the time, Yahoo News reports, that the president's legal team learned of a June 2016 email exchange in which Trump Jr., through an associate, solicited damaging information about 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


How They Justify Collusion : The excuses for the Don Jr. meeting are even more damning than the meeting itself. (William Saletan, 7/15/17, Slate)

[T]rump, his aides, and their allies in the right-wing media have presented a flurry of excuses. The excuses are even more damning than the emails. They expose the nihilism of the Trump family and its allies. Here's the list.

1. Nothing happened. This is Trump Sr.'s primary defense. "Nothing came of the meeting," he says. Don Jr., White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow make the same case. [...]

2. Russia wasn't a big story at the time. Trump says the meeting "was before Russia fever." Don Jr. and other surrogates float the same excuse. But a conscientious American citizen doesn't need headlines or polls to warn him that it's wrong to meet with a "Russian government attorney" bringing "sensitive information [as] part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." When Trump and his allies say Russian interference wasn't a big story back then, what they're really conveying is that they lack an internal sense of fidelity to the United States. They saw Hillary Clinton, not Vladimir Putin, as their adversary.

3. Trump's aides didn't notice what was written or said. Goldstone's emails explicitly described Veselnitskaya's links to the Russian government. They were forwarded to Kushner and Manafort with the header: "Russia - Clinton - private and confidential." But according to Laura Ingraham, who regularly appears on Fox News to audition as Trump's next press secretary, Don Jr., Kushner, and Manafort probably didn't read the emails, even though they showed up at the meeting time specified therein. "These guys are getting thousands of emails," Ingraham argues. "I don't know how much they read."

Posted by orrinj at 11:41 AM


Trump Jr.'s Russia meeting a Democratic plot? Pro-Trump media wants you to think so (Oliver Darcy, 7/14/17, CNNMoney)

"All that right-wing media needs to do is just throw out some things that appear to be substantive that have some stray facts that the cult will hang on to, and the cult will do everything else themselves," John Ziegler, a conservative media columnist and former talk radio host, told CNN. "They don't need a full theory. No one ever provides a narrative that explains all this. It's just poking holes and pretending the whole story is fake news. It's a classic trick really. It's a shame that's what the right-wing media has been reduced to."

This week's theory was given its first sparks of life on Monday, when Mark Corallo, a spokesman for President Trump's outside counsel, pointed to Veselnitskaya's loose ties to the firm that produced the infamous Russia dossier -- that firm had worked for a law firm which represented a company for which Veslnitskaya worked -- and suggested they were relevant to discussions of Trump Jr.'s meeting with her.

Soon after, Trump supporters discovered and began to circulate a photo on Twitter of Vesenlitskaya with Michael McFaul, who was US Ambassador to Russia under President Obama. The image was picked up by the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website, which characterized the picture as evidence of Veselnitskaya "hanging out with Obama officials just days after her meeting with Donald Trump Jr." Hours later, far-right Internet personality Mike Cernovich posted a video on Twitter in which he used the photo, in part, to ask whether Veselnitskaya was a "Democratic plant" who was sent to "wire tap Trump Tower." That video had been retweeted more than 15,000 times as of Friday afternoon.

But the story really grew legs when it landed on the Drudge Report, which often acts as the de-facto assignment editor for right-leaning media. The website linked to the Gateway Pundit's post, giving it the headline, "PICTURED WITH OBAMA AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA."

On Wednesday, conservative talk radio king Rush Limbaugh told his national audience that he believed Veselnitskaya was part of a "setup" targeting Trump. Fox News host Sean Hannity also questioned on his radio show why Veselnitskaya was seen pictured with McFaul, telling his audience there was a picture of the two "in existence," as if it was damning evidence.

But the truth, which those discussing the photo typically either played down or ignored altogether, was more innocent. The photo of McFaul and Veselnitskaya did not show the two "hanging out" with each other -- it's of a Congressional hearing, open to the public, at which McFaul testified. Veselnitskaya was sitting in the audience, in the row behind McFaul. McFaul told CNN this week that he had no control over who attended or where they were seated, that he had never met with Veselnitskaya and that he only learned her name this week.

"It's ridiculous," McFaul said. "It's silly. And I think it shows the desperation in a world where facts don't matter. That's the part that bothers me as an academic and American. Basic facts don't seem to matter in these debates."

The photo of the hearing was not the only image cited as supposed evidence as the theory grew in popularity. Trump supporters online also pointed to a photo Veselnitskaya posted to Facebook, of Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican who's been critical of Trump, with a Russian opposition lawyer, claiming it was proof she'd been inside McCain's office.

That was not the case. In a press release warning of "fake news," McCain said the assertion was false and that Veselnitskaya "did not attend that meeting." She had only for whatever reason posted the image of him and the lawyer to her Facebook page, McCain said.

But the theory got its biggest boost Wednesday night, with a story published by The Hill. The Hill reported that Veselnitskaya got into the U.S. only because the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and led by Attorney General Loretta Lynch let her in after she'd been previously denied a travel visa. The report, which was co-written by John Solomon -- a journalist fresh off stints in conservative-leaning media, who has recently written a number of articles favorable to the narratives of Trump supporters -- said in its second paragraph that "it was the Obama Justice Department that enabled the newest and most intriguing figure in the Russia-Trump investigation to enter the country without a visa." It was only in its 16th paragraph that the article explained why she had been let in: to help a company owned by a client defend itself in federal court.

The funniest part is since all this nonsense gets endlessly churned in their bubble they think it's real.
Posted by orrinj at 11:28 AM


Self-debunking Keystone Cops Scenario (Mike Allen, 7/15/17, Axios)

A seasoned Republican operative told me that when you're working on a campaign and you get an email that says something like "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," the response is obvious

"I'd stop reading right there," the operative said. "I'd print it out and walk it over to the counsel's office."

*That's why so many Republicans downtown and on Capitol Hill have tried to avert their gaze from "the Russia stuff" by relying on the Keystone Cops Scenario -- that this was all incompetence and inexperience: These guys just didn't know what they were doing, and were acting the way they do in business.

*But the Keystone Cops Scenario fell apart yesterday. Don Jr. had told Fox's Sean Hannity on Tuesday, regarding the Russia meeting at Trump Tower: "This is everything. This is everything."

*But it wasn't. As AP and others reported yesterday: "A prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer said he was at [the] meeting between a Russian lawyer and ... Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year."

Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian-American lobbyist, "said he recognized Kushner and Trump Jr. He also said he recognized Manafort ... He said there were others in the room but he didn't know them."

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Q&A It's hard to believe but a condo could be lost to squatters (Donie Vanitzian, 7/15/17, LA Times)

Question: About 17 years ago I inherited my father's mortgage-free town house in Southern California. I made the five-hour round-trip drive from my home to the townhouse to pick up mail and pay the leftover bills. As the mail and bills eventually stopped there was no need for me to continue making the long drive. For over 13 years I intentionally kept the unit vacant mainly because I didn't want to deal with tenants. I never received any invoices from the homeowner association saying I owed anything.

Then last week I visited my unit but the locks were changed, and when I peeked through a window it looked occupied! The homeowner association's manager said she thought the occupants were the new owners because they had been living there, paying the homeowner association fees, attending board meetings and voting. I asked if the association foreclosed on my unit and was told "No" but that the manager received a title change a few years ago.

My neighbors didn't even bother to tell me or keep me apprised that squatters had taken over my property. I've since hired an attorney but shouldn't someone have told me this?

Answer: Squatting is a significant issue in California, where the law is relatively generous to people who live in homes they do not legally own. There were numerous reports of squatters taking over unoccupied, single-family homes in subdivisions hit hard by last decade's housing bust. There also have been reports of squatting in upscale coastal communities, so it's not entirely surprising that a condo unit you left vacant for years was taken over by squatters.

Though it may seem odd that squatters have any rights to property you bought or inherited, the practice dates back hundreds of years in England, where unused or abandoned property was taken over by people willing to work it.

As an owner, the onus is on you, not your neighbors, to maintain and take care of your property.

If you treat property like you own it you do. If you treat it like you don't you don't.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Circus Smirkus Coming to Hanover (David Corriveau, 7/15/17, Valley News)

Watching the young acrobats and jugglers of Circus Smirkus perform last summer, Patrick Chikoloma dared to dream about someday returning to the United States to join the troupe.

At the same time, the then-17-year-old from a slum in the Zambian capital of Lusaka couldn't help questioning his qualifications to do so.

"It was a great show, a wonderful show," Chikoloma remembered on Tuesday night, during a telephone conversation after the company's second show of the day in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Last summer's tour was on the theme of "The Invention of Flight" and Chikoloma was struck by the talent on display. "There was one little girl in the aerial act who was just amazing. It really inspired me.

"But I thought I wasn't good enough to be in Circus Smirkus."

As it turned out, he was alone in that view. Upper Valley residents who hosted Chikoloma and his fellow members of the Lusaka-based Circus Zambia last summer (see www.vnews.com/Circus-Zambia-Tours-Valley-3528881), encouraged him to audition for Circus Smirkus. He is now the first resident of Africa in the circus' cast, both performing and working behind the scenes on its 30th Big Top Tour, which arrives in Hanover on Thursday and Friday to perform on the theme of "Midnight at the Museum."

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM

3 Ingredient No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (Demeter, 4/10/17, Beaming Baker


1 cup natural, unsalted creamy peanut butter

½ cup pure maple syrup

2 cups gluten free rolled oats


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Set aside.

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl (large enough to add oats later), add peanut butter and maple syrup. Whisk together until well mixed.

Heat in 20-second increments in the microwave until warm and fragrant, and the mixture begins to dry out (about 4-7 rounds). Whisk in between heating increments. *Stovetop instructions in Notes.

Add oats to the peanut butter mixture. Stir and fold until thoroughly combined.

Using a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop**, scoop and drop balls of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. Using a fork, flatten cookies to desired thickness.

Chill in the freezer for 15-25 mins, until firm and completely cooled. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


The Savvy Rube : Does Ring Lardner's shtick stand the test of time? (ANDREW FERGUSON, 7/24/17, Weekly Standard)

Writing up baseball games, he was of course surrounded by professional ballplayers, most of them country boys fresh off the farm. He began using their voice in his own columns. One of these efforts was a series of semiliterate letters from a fictitious hurler named Jack Keefe, sent to his friend Al back home in southern Indiana. Editors at the Tribune rejected it for reasons long ago lost to the ages, and unimaginable now. Lardner mailed the piece to the country's most popular magazine, the Saturday Evening Post. It was immediately accepted, and it made a sensation. The editor asked for more. Lardner, now married with children, was eager to provide. Outside the "Wake of the News," the letters were his first stab at writing fiction for publication. Two years later they appeared as You Know Me Al.

He started writing for the magazines regularly and lucratively, and in 1919, he quit the Trib to become a freelance in New York. Jonathan Yardley, in his classic biography Ring (1976), quotes a letter in which Lardner explains his motive for heading east -- the same one that has goosed every freelance writer who ever lived. "It's dough and the prospect of it that would tempt me to tackle the New York game," Lardner wrote a friend. "I think a gent in this business would be foolish not to go to New York if he had a good chance. From all I can learn, that's where the real money is."

The Lardners moved to an estate in Great Neck, on Long Island, just in time for the descent of Prohibition and the rise of the Roaring Twenties. He traveled in heady company. Among his neighbors were show business stars (Groucho Marx, Bert Lahr, and George S. Kaufman), journalists (Herbert Bayard Swope, Franklin P. Adams, and Grantland Rice), and book writers (Joseph Conrad, P. G. Wodehouse, and Fitzgerald, who used his own sojourn on Long Island to gather material for what became The Great Gatsby). Lardner was a devoted father and husband, but also an insomniac and a binge drinker. Long and productive periods on the wagon alternated with superhuman benders during which he would disappear for days at a time. He drank to cure his insomnia, and insomnia usually followed the binges. With a bender coming he escaped to the city, away from his wife and kids. Yardley tells the story of Lardner appearing at the Friars Club one evening for a drink and then another, and then one more, until he had remained in the lobby, quietly drinking, for 60 hours straight.

When he was sober and hard at work earning money, it turned out that Lardner's most pressing professional ambition wasn't to write short stories or journalism but to write Broadway musicals, and he spent a great deal of energy grinding them out with one collaborator after another. Sometimes they made it to the stage. He had a single hit, a comedy written with Kaufman called June Moon, and a long trail of flops.

It takes a lot of money to support a Broadway habit, and Lardner was indiscriminate in accepting the many freelance offers dangled in front of him. He even wrote a daily comic strip. By now his fame was such that magazine editors were paying him the highest compliment a humorist can receive: They asked him to cover events usually reserved for the Big Boys of the news desk -- international conferences, political conventions, presidential inaugurals. Those reported pieces make up a good chunk of this new collection. Here he is at Warren Harding's inaugural:

If they have a inaugural ball I will loom up in a shirt of Chinese white over white B.V.D's, a 15½ collar of the same hue, flowered white silk brassiere, and soup and fish of Sam Langford black with shoes and sox of some dark tint. I won't wear no ornaments except a place on my knee that somebody mistook for a ash tray New Yrs. eve and . . . the old nose will carry a shower bouquet of violet talcum powder. 

In 1921, a newspaper syndicate sent him to a disarmament conference in Washington. The conference was the first step in a diplomatic grind that eight years later produced the notorious Kellogg-Briand Pact -- the treaty that declared war illegal. It was signed by most of the civilized nations of the world but -- no need for spoiler alerts-- it didn't work. Lardner suspected as much: "The object of this meeting is to get all the different nations to quit building warships and making ammunitions, etc., and it looks now like they would all agree to the proposition provided they's an understanding that it don't include they themselfs."

The voice of Lardner's rube-journalist wears better than you might expect, because the rube is sharper and wittier than you might expect, as rubes often are. I worry, though, that as 21st-century readers leaf through The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner -- it's a book for dipping in and out of, not for reading straight through -- they will sooner or later arrive at the point of diminishing returns, when the humor no longer compensates for the strangeness and artificiality of the bumpkin dialect. Lardner's mastery of all the modes of American speech is essential to his fictional sketches of Broadway main-chancers, lovestruck teens, gabby Babbitts, and certified hicks like Jack Keefe. But in journalism, in accounts of real people and real events, readers like to know the stuff isn't made up. The dialect looks like a dodge.

It's not clear how comfortable Lardner was in letting the mask slip. The critic Edmund Wilson, who like most of his contemporaries revered Lardner's short stories, once wrote about an evening he spent with him at the Fitzgeralds' house on Long Island. Everyone was drunk, no surprise, but Lardner was happy to sit with Wilson before a roaring fire and talk about his work. Lardner said that his chief trouble as a writer was that he, Lardner, couldn't write "straight English." When Wilson asked him what he meant, Lardner said, "I can't write a sentence like 'We were sitting in the Fitzgeralds' house, and the fire was burning brightly.' "

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


White House releases sensitive personal information of voters worried about their sensitive personal information (Christopher Ingraham, July 14, 2017, Washington Post)

Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump administration did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment of people worried about such information being made available to the public.

The Washington Post is not publishing any of this information because in most cases it does not appear that the individuals were aware their comments would be shared by the White House. The emails were sent to the Election Integrity Commissions' email address that the administration asked U.S. secretaries of state to send data files to.

"This request is very concerning," wrote one. "The federal government is attempting to get the name, address, birth date, political party, and social security number of every voter in the country." That email, published by the White House, contained the sender's name and home address.

"DO NOT RELEASE ANY OF MY VOTER DATA PERIOD," wrote one voter whose name and email address was published by the White House.

"Beefed up the security on this email address yet?" asked another voter whose name and email address were also published by the White House.

"The request for private voter information is offensive," wrote one voter whose name, home address and email address were published by the White House.

"I removed my name from voter rolls. And I'm a Republican!" wrote one voter whose name was published by the White House.

It's a curious notion, that the information you send to the government, unsolicited, would be private.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Gatsby as noir: The genesis of Ross Macdonald's Black Money. : Spoiler alert: Nolan's essay reveals several critical details of the book's plot. So if you haven't already read Black Money, we recommend you do so right away and then come back and enjoy Nolan's illuminating commentary on one of Macdonald's most multilayered narratives. (Tom Nolan, 7/14/17, Library of America)

Another key element in the composition of Black Money was the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald work The Great Gatsby, which serves as a sort of phantom template for this and a few other Macdonald novels, especially The Galton Case.

"Yes, Gatsby hangs over my work," Macdonald acknowledged to literary scholar Peter Wolfe, "its blessing and its curse, particularly over Black Money. But [that book is] saved for originality by embracing the Latin cultures, the U[niversity] culture, etc."

Much of Black Money takes place among the residents of a college community--a mere two books after Macdonald's masterly The Chill (1964), another novel with an academic setting. As informed a view of university life as that work had given, Macdonald's English-poet friend Donald Davie had faulted The Chill for what he perceived as its somewhat dated feel: he thought the book drew on Millar's recollections of his alma mater the University of Michigan in the 1940s and '50s rather than detective Lew Archer's present-day perceptions of a 1960s Southern California school.

Macdonald took such comments to heart. When his critic-friend Hugh Kenner suggested in the '50s that first-person narrator Lew Archer was a bit too good a character to be true-to-life, the disgruntled author in time presented Kenner with the manuscript of a Macdonald novel which included a visit to a private detective (not Archer) much less forthright and compelling than his series hero: this, Macdonald claimed, was Archer seen from the outside. It's possible Black Money's contemporary campus setting was in part a response to Davie's critique. Macdonald took pains this time to portray an up-to-date institution: he did research at another poet-friend Henri Coulette's place of employment, L.A. State College.

His campus characters became crucial to the novel's plot and mood. "[F]or the first time," Macdonald told journalist Paul Nelson, "I was able to get a peculiar semi-tragic atmosphere about a kind of contemporary love affair which was fated--not really tragic; I mean the love affair between the professor and the girl. I was the witness of a love affair which resembled it in some ways, had been privy to what went on, and while I'm not writing about actual people, I tried to get the feeling of a fated and ultimately tragic contemporary love affair into my book. . . .

"[Black Money] seems to me to be the broadest expression of whatever sensibility I have, that I've written in a single book. . . . Sensibility is something I value, and I'm not always good at conveying it. But I felt the book came off, in a kind of original way, and had quite an original plot, in spite of its broad comparability to Gatsby."

The private eye novel--along with the Western--is the great American form and MacDonald's Lew Archer books were its pinnacle.
Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Lebanon's Elections on the Rhythms of 'Consensual Democracy' (Nazeer Rida, 7/15/17, Asharq Al-Awasat)

Despite the ambiguity of the outcome of this new law, it is definitely "the fruit of consensus following a long period of discussions and deliberations" and proves that Lebanon cannot neglect the balances of democratic consensus that govern the course of its political process.

While the new electoral law has been widely welcomed and described as "the best possible", critics stressed that the voting system "reinforces current political powers" and does not allow for any fundamental changes.

Hezbollah's opponents, for their part, fear that a similar law would allow the group's allies to increase their share in parliament, which might lead, in future stages, to giving legitimacy to Hezbollah's military wing, alongside the Lebanese army.

The fundamental instability in the Lebanon is a function of the over-representation of Christians and under-representation of Muslims, especially the Shi'a.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Trump crafting plan to slash legal immigration : Senior aide Stephen Miller has been working with conservative senators to make good on Trump's campaign promise. (ELIANA JOHNSON and JOSH DAWSEY, 07/12/2017, Politico)

Donald Trump and his aides are quietly working with two conservative senators to dramatically scale back legal immigration -- a move that would mark a fulfillment of one of the president's biggest campaign promises.

Trump plans to get behind a bill being introduced later this summer by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that, if signed into law, would, by 2027, slash in half the number of legal immigrants entering the country each year, according to four people familiar with the conversations. Currently, about 1 million legal immigrants enter the country annually; that number would fall to 500,000 over the next decade.

The senators have been working closely with Stephen Miller, a senior White House official known for his hawkish stance on immigration. The issue is also a central priority for Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist, who has several promises to limit immigration scribbled on the walls of his office.

They always pretend it is the illegality that bothers them, but it is only ever about the the racial mixing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Wild lion caught on camera nursing leopard cub (Deutsche-Welle, 7/15/17)

A lion has been photographed nursing a leopard cub in the first-ever known case of cross-species suckling among wild cats. The two species are normally mortal enemies.