August 5, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 PM


Trump's CEO 'Brain Trust' Seems Stalled (Matt Townsend, Shannon Pettypiece and Joe Deaux, 8/05/17, Bloomberg)

Elon Musk of Tesla and Walt Disney's Bob Iger have quit. Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon have dissented.

President Donald Trump's business brain trust -- originally these executives, plus some 50 other chief executive officers chosen to help shape White House policy -- has so far come up short on big ideas.

In fact, there's been little activity for the strategy and policy forum and the manufacturing group, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. After initial meetings early in Trump's presidency -- which the White House promoted with great fanfare -- his administration hasn't convened the groups for months or set firm dates for future meetings, according to the people.

As turmoil has engulfed Washington, some prominent business leaders, including several of these informal advisers, have begun to distance themselves from the president. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 PM


The Mueller Firing: A Prescripting (Jay Nordlinger -- August 5, 2017, National Review)

It seems sure the president will fire him. I think it's a question of when, not if. Trump's surrogates have been preparing the ground for months -- I mean, his surrogates both in the White House and in the media.

They are doing to him what the Clintonistas did to Kenneth Starr. I have seen this movie before, only the teams are different.

For years, Robert Mueller was a sterling Republican lawman, the model of an FBI chief. But then he appeared to threaten Donald J. Trump -- and he had to wear the villain's black hat and the twirly mustache. Russian bots are hard at work, along with their American partners.

Okay, my radical (and whimsical) proposal: Everyone should simply write his reaction to the Mueller firing now. I feel I could write the reactions of one and all, including my own. Couldn't you? It's easy, right?

Die-hard Trumpers will repeat every talking point, every rationale, of the White House. Then there will be anti-anti-Trump people, who will criticize the "hysterical" reaction of the Left, the "MSM," and the "NeverTrumpers." Other people will offer legalistic defenses. Still others will point out the donations to Democrats made by members of Mueller's team. (Much less than Trump himself gave.) "Mueller overreached. Should have stuck to his knitting."

Blah blah blah.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


White House 'Enemies List' Drove McMaster-Bannon Feud (LACHLAN MARKAY, ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, KIMBERLY DOZIER, SPENCER ACKERMAN, 08.05.17, Daily Beast)

An internal White House enemies list of alleged Obama loyalists to be fired early in the Trump administration is a key contributor to a long-running feud between the National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, two senior administration officials tell The Daily Beast.

Team Trump never acted on the list, the officials said, and now those employees have finished their tenure at the National Security Council and returned to their home agencies.

But fallout over the list--and questions about loyalty to Bannon versus McMaster--led the three-star general to fire two of his top aides, an act that's landed McMaster in the firing line of Bannon's alt-right media allies and Russian troll bots, both calling for his ouster. [...]

Bannon, for his part, is a huge fan of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser--a man who was far more sympathetic to the less restrained, right-wing nationalist elements of the Trump administration. President Trump himself has been known to express regret for the need for Flynn's departure, and has privately expressed his hope that a resolution of the FBI's investigation in Flynn's favor might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity--a scenario Trump's closest advisers in and outside of the West Wing have stressed to him is politically untenable, as The Daily Beast previously reported.

And now, some of Flynn's acolytes appear to be striking back, through leaks to nationalist and America-First-leaning media outlets, leading to yet another guerilla war against McMaster and his allies in recent days influential arms of pro-Trump media. Breitbart, the right-wing news outlet formerly run by Bannon, blared headlines across its homepage on Thursday accusing McMaster of being "deeply hostile" to Trump's agenda. Gateway Pundit, another prominent pro-Trump news site, derisively dubbed McMaster an arch "globalist."

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


NEW FIREHOUSE/0PTIMUS SURVEY: Trump's Shrinking Base (Firehouse Strategies, Aug 4, 2017)
Key Findings:

Trump's base of support has shrunk from 35.3% of voters who have a "strongly favorable" view of him in April to only 28.6% today. Notably, much of that erosion is among Republicans: Strongly favorable views among GOP voters dropped from 54.1% to 44.9%, while unfavorable views increased from 20.5% to 27.9%.

KEY POINT: Trump's base is shrinking. He cannot take continued GOP support for granted in swing states.
Nearly half of voters (48.3%) believe Trump lies intentionally to mislead people, up from 43.4% in April. [...]
In April, one third of voters (33.8%) said President Trump had been successful, 35.8% said unsuccessful, and 30.6% said it was too soon to tell. Now, 27.4% say he has been successful, 44.9% say unsuccessful, and 27.7% say it is too soon to tell. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM

How to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken (Emma Christensen, August 5, 2017, Simply Recipes)

There are two major advantages to spatchcocking a chicken that, for me, put this method head and shoulders above all others.

First of all, even cooking. For a spatchcocked chicken, you remove the backbone and open up the chicken so it lies it flat for cooking. This means that the breast meat and the thigh meat are on the same horizontal plane, so both cook at pretty much the same rate.

This means no more waiting around for the thighs to finish cooking while the chicken breasts dry out. Which means that the white meat and the dark meat lovers in your family will all be very happy.

Second, lots and lots of crispy skin. Since the vast majority of the skin is exposed and facing upward, you don't wind up with those flabby, sad areas on the undersides of the thighs and drumsticks. All crispy, all the time. [...]

1 Lay the chicken breast side down on a cutting surface. You should be looking down at the chicken's backbone.

2 Using kitchen shears, cut out the backbone. You can start from the top of the chicken or the bottom. Cut slightly to one side of the backbone, so that you're cutting through rib bones and not  the backbone itself.

If it feels very difficult to cut through the bones, try repositioning your scissors slightly further away from the backbone.

Cut all the way up one side of the backbone and then all the way up the other. Remove the backbone and set it aside.

3 Use your hands to open up the bird slightly, then flip it breast side up. Now the breast of the chicken should be facing up. Fold the legs so they are facing inward and the majority of the meat is facing up.

4 Flatten the chicken: Use the palm of your hand and press down firmly over the breast bone.

The aim is to flatten the chicken so the breast meat and the thighs are at roughly the same level. You will likely hear some crunching (though it's ok if you don't). You can also pick up the chicken and use your hands if that feels more comfortable.

5 Tuck the wings under (optional): The tips of the tiny, thin wings tend to cook quickly and burn during cooking. Tuck them behind the body of the chicken to help slow down their cooking and keep the tips protected.

 Roast or grill the chicken. If roasting, place the chicken in a roasting pan, rub it all over with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 450F for 35 to 45 minutes, until the chicken registers at least 165F in both the thighs and the breast.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


Driving Tesla's Model 3 Changes Everything : We took one out for a spin, and have little doubt the age of electric cars has arrived. (Tom Randall, July 31, 2017, Bloomberg)

After taking one of the first drives of Tesla's new Model 3 last week, I came away thinking that CEO Elon Musk has finally delivered an electric car for the everyday road tripper like me.

The Model 3 still has plenty of pickup, effortlessly jumping from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds in the upgraded version I test drove, which gets a stunning 310 miles on a charge. It's nimble, comfortable, and has tight steering that'll keep you grinning. The seats embrace you in a gentle hug that feels a bit more geared for road trip than racetrack. It's the Model S on a diet, making up in practicality what it loses in extravagance. 

And I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. 

The fact that this car still looks, drives, and feels like a Tesla--at a starting price of $35,000--shows how far the Silicon Valley automaker has come. It's still an expensive vehicle for many of Tesla's biggest fans, and compelling options packages will drag a lot of stretch spenders into uncomfortable territory. But at current battery prices, Tesla is setting a new standard for value in an electric car--which of course was Musk's plan all along.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


The War Against H.R. McMaster (ROSIE GRAY  AUG 4, 2017, The Atlantic)

[M]cMaster's show of force has set off alarm bells among Bannon allies in the pro-Trump media sphere, who favored Flynn and regard the national-security adviser as a globalist interloper. Other White House officials have in the past been targets of theirs--Priebus was, for example--but the vitriol against McMaster has been notable for its speed and intensity.

"It's noticed, how can you not notice it?" said a source close to McMaster, when asked if the former Army general is registering the pushback.

It's come from all corners. Breitbart News, the website Bannon controlled as executive chairman before joining the Trump campaign, has produced a flurry of negative stories about McMaster over the past two days, accusing him of "purging" dissenters and kowtowing to "holdovers" from the Obama administration. Fox News host Sean Hannity has tweeted about McMaster, saying he might need to go. Radio host Laura Ingraham has also weighed in, tweeting that "Obama holdovers at NSC or State Dept who are leaking shd do real time for these leaks. Why has McMasters fired actual Trump supporters?" The Daily Caller published an interview with two former NSC officials attacking him, accusing him of undermining the president's foreign-policy agenda. Circa, a site owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting company, published a letter Thursday that McMaster sent months ago to his predecessor Susan Rice, in which he informed her that she could keep her security clearance. It's a standard letter, but it has caused a furor in light of the ongoing controversy over unmasking.

The provocative right-wing blogger and activist Mike Cernovich has launched a sustained attack on McMaster, including setting up a website called When it launched, the main page displayed a large cartoon of the Rothschilds controlling a George Soros puppet, which in turn controlled puppets representing McMaster and former CIA director David Petraeus. (The hand labeled "Rothschilds" has since been relabeled "Saudis." Cernovich told me he changed it because complaints about the cartoon's anti-Semitism are "not a hill to die on," and "if everybody wants to complain, then fine--I'll just put the Saudis at the top.")

Posted by orrinj at 1:14 PM


Based on the immigration system he endorsed, Trump would not get a green card (Catherine Rampell, August 3, 2017, Washington Post)

Here's how Trump -- or at least, a foreign national with roughly his qualifications -- would do.

Age: zero points. People older than 51 don't earn points. Trump is 71. The best ages to be under this system, by the way, are 26 to 30. (Darn millennials.)

Education: six.  Trump has a bachelor's degree from a U.S. university.

Record of extraordinary achievement: zero. Trump may have starred in a network reality show and (allegedly) sunk 30-foot putts, but what counts as "extraordinary achievement" is limited to two categories.

One is winning a Nobel Prize or comparable recognition in a science or social science field. No luck there, though a certain pseudo-Kenyan predecessor would benefit.

The other is recently winning an Olympic medal (individual event only, no relays!) or placing first in another comparable international athletic event.

English-language ability: zero. To receive points here, you need to score in the top half of those taking an officially sanctioned English proficiency exam, such as the TOEFL.

Success on this exam's writing section requires using "appropriate word choice," effectively addressing a topic and displaying "unity, progression and coherence." Consider how the coiner of "covfefe" might perform.

The TOEFL speaking section includes responding to a simple question prompt. Scoring well requires staying on topic, being intelligible and exhibiting "sustained, coherent discourse."

Peruse the transcript of Trump's recent interview with the Wall Street Journal -- or any other unscripted conversation, really -- to judge how he fares.

Entrepreneurial initiative: 12. Trump gets this for investing at least $1.8 million in a new commercial enterprise in the United States, maintaining this investment for at least three years and playing an active role in the company's management.

The Trump Organization is not exactly a "new commercial enterprise" -- it was founded by Trump's grandmother, before he was born -- but he has a long list of more-recently-created LLCs and other corporations that probably count.

High-paying job offer: zero. This involves the ambiguous legislative language I flagged earlier.

Trump reports having a lot of income from his companies. But two immigration experts I consulted said that the "entrepreneurial initiative" and "high-paying job offer" points are likely mutually exclusive. That is, to get points for the entrepreneurial initiative category, the commercial enterprise you invest in must be one you help manage as your primary occupation; and you can't claim you made yourself a high-paying job offer. Even the measly $400,000 offered him as president (which as a foreigner, he couldn't be, but whatever) might not help him here, if he's claiming entrepreneurial points.

Trump's total: 18. To be eligible to join the applicant pool of those trying for a points-based immigrant visa, you need a minimum score of 30.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Republican Shadow Campaign for 2020 Takes Shape as Trump Doubts Grow (JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEXANDER BURNS, AUGUST 5, 2017, NY Tiimes)

Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence's schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago.

President Trump's first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 -- as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren't involved.

Given the unlikelihood of Donald finishing a full term, Mr. Pence is in pole position. Were he to name Ms Haley vp the succession would be settled for a generation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


Don Quixote: Saintly Knight (Brittany Guzman, 8/04/17, Imaginative Conservative)

Critics and fellow characters see Don Quixote as insane, but Don Quixote's "madness" actually follows Jesuit practices, which support the idea of his sainthood. As Don Quixote begins his transformation into a knight, the historian-narrator tells us that Don Quixote's avid reading and resultant lack of sleep cause Don Quixote "to lose his mind." Don Quixote clearly leaves the world of reality that the other characters inhabit, so he is easily identified as insane both by the book's characters and by many literary scholars. Henry W. Sullivan, for instance, subjects Don Quixote to modern psychoanalysis by using Lacanian diagnostics and determines that Don Quixote suffered a "psychotic break" due to a predisposed psychic structure.

However, readers must not forget that Don Quixote is not actually a patient but a complex literary character. The previously described characterization and diagnosis are not wholly accurate because they ignore a hagiographic reading. If the world were simply material, then Don Quixote would simply be insane. But, as a saint, Don Quixote would be aware of a spiritual realm to which others may not be attuned. St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote the Spiritual Exercises, a book that teaches his method of meditation and prayer, where imagination is used as a place to train the mind and soul in order to "see the face of evil and...recognize it in the outside world."[3] If the reader views Don Quixote's "madness" in the context of St. Ignatius's teachings, then it could be argued that Don Quixote's alternative world is really a spiritual training ground. Just as he educates himself in the ways of knight-errantry, Don Quixote prepares himself spiritually with St. Ignatius's practices. In this training, the Jesuit exercises give Don Quixote a new type of vision that allows him to see the world at a spiritual level. As a saint, Don Quixote ignores others' ridicule, and his "madness" allows him to recognize evil and see a deeper truth about sin that the other characters cannot.

For instance, Don Quixote is able to recognize evil where others cannot when he sees corruption within the Church. In one of his adventures, Don Quixote comes across a "procession of penitents" who are carrying "the holy image of the Blessed Virgin," but he perceives the group as a band of villains who have kidnapped "a noble lady" and accordingly ambushes them. At first, this appears to contradict the idea of Don Quixote as a saint because he is attacking a religious group. A saint follows Christ and the Church; he does not harm them. However, Don Quixote's attack does make sense if the reader views it as a criticism or an attack on a corrupt body of the Church. Once again, Frédéric Conrod provides insight; here he sheds light on the religious and political situation during Cervantes's life, especially during the period when Don Quixote was written. Cervantes held the reformist Jesuits in high regard during the Counter-Reformation, in contrast to the "obviously corrupted hierarchies of the Roman institution." [4] Don Quixote thus aligns himself with St. Ignatius of Loyola by exposing corrupt religious orders through insights gleaned through Jesuit spiritual exercises. Don Quixote's actions are justified in the scene described by the understanding that the penitents may actually represent incorrect Church teachings or corruption.

Further supporting this theory, Don Quixote commands the penitents to "release that beauteous lady [the image of Mary] whose tears and melancholy countenance are clear signs that [they] take her against her will, and have done her some notable wrong." In Don Quixote's mind, the penitents have offended the Virgin Mary to the point that she weeps profusely, and yet they continue to abuse her. By appropriating Mary, they could actually be seen as kidnapping Mary in order to use her for their own unholy purposes. Don Quixote does his duty as a saint by rescuing the Blessed Virgin from this corrupted procession. Through his "madness," or rather imaginative spiritual ability, Don Quixote recognizes the evil being committed and sets out to right it when no one else can see it.

Additionally, Don Quixote acts almost as a redeemer because he sees the inner good and potential in people who live sinfully. On his first adventure, Don Quixote meets two noble maidens waiting leisurely in front of a castle; they are actually two women of "easy virtue"--prostitutes--standing by an inn. Even though these women have a perverse occupation that leads others to sin, Don Quixote sees them as washed clean of their trespasses. Don Quixote treats them with respect, and through his actions, he attempts to remind the women of who they can be. With Christ, their sins can be forgiven, and they can find themselves once again clean. Despite their current state, the women could become, by faith, like maidens again. Despite their lowborn status--they are daughters "of a cobbler" and of a miller--Don Quixote's beautiful imagination allows them to transcend the barriers of reality and to achieve a status higher than what they actually could in this world. 

Inevitably, the Don is betrayed by those around him who repent when they realize what they have done.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About the World? (Robin Wright, August 4, 2017, The New Yorker)

Max Boot, a lifelong conservative who advised three Republican Presidential candidates on foreign policy, keeps a folder labelled "Trump Stupidity File" on his computer. It's next to his "Trump Lies" file. "Not sure which is larger at this point," he told me this week. "It's neck-and-neck."

Six months into the Trump era, foreign-policy officials from eight past Administrations told me they are aghast that the President is still so witless about the world. "He seems as clueless today as he was on January 20th," Boot, who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said. Trump's painful public gaffes, they warn, indicate that he's not reading, retaining, or listening to his Presidential briefings. And the newbie excuse no longer flies.

"Trump has an appalling ignorance of the current world, of history, of previous American engagement, of what former Presidents thought and did," Geoffrey Kemp, who worked at the Pentagon during the Ford Administration and at the National Security Council during the Reagan Administration, reflected. "He has an almost studious rejection of the type of in-depth knowledge that virtually all of his predecessors eventually gained or had views on." [...]

I asked top Republican and intelligence officials from eight Administrations what they thought was the one thing the President needs to grasp to succeed on the world stage. Their various replies: embrace the fact that the Russians are not America's friends. Don't further alienate the Europeans, who are our friends. Encourage human rights--a founding principle of American identity--and don't make priority visits to governments that curtail them, such as Poland and Saudi Arabia. Understand that North Korea's nuclear program can't be outsourced to China, which can't or won't singlehandedly fix the problem anyway, and realize that military options are limited. Pulling out of innovative trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will boost China's economy and secure its global influence--to America's disadvantage. Stop bullying his counterparts. And put the Russia case behind him by coöperating with the investigation rather than trying to discredit it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:12 PM


Are Iran and Qatar reshuffling energy geopolitics in the Gulf? (Rémi Piet, 7/11/17, TRT World)

On Tuesday, Qatar announced a 30 percent hike in its output of liquefied natural gas over the next five to seven years. This decision by the country that is already the world's largest producer of LNG will further increase the developing supply glut, pull prices down, and seriously harm the balance sheets of energy companies, particularly those in North America.

The announcement was not the only blow to Donald Trump's hope for American energy dominance as it came just one day after French oil company Total S.A. signed a historic agreement with Iran - by far the most important investment contract since the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions. This contract foresees the development of phase 11 of "South Pars" , the largest gas field in the world, straddling Iran and Qatar.

With this decision, Total became the first Western oil company to reinvest in Iran two years after the lifting of sanctions against the country in 2015. The contract allows the French major to own 50.1% of a consortium gathering the Chinese national company CNPC (30%) and the Iranian company Petropars.

Evaluated at 4.8 billion dollars, this investment provides Iran with a much needed financial boost and demonstrates the positive output of the nuclear negotiations and liberalisation of its economy. It also offers a breath of fresh air to President Hassan Rouhani, re-elected on the promise that the opening of the country he advocates for, would lead to a steady improvement of the country's economy thanks to an expected $50 billion in foreign investment. Yet, several years after his arrival to power, investments have remained scarce, in particular due to the fear of retaliation from the United States.

Among the opponents to the deal were also the hard liners of the Iranian regime who intensified their criticism of the president in recent weeks and operated in the background to solidify the control of the Revolutionary Guards over part of the economic apparatus.

During the last decade of sanctions, the Pasdarans, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, had taken advantage of the isolation of the country to strengthen their positions in key sectors, especially those of construction, oil and gas. Not surprisingly, Iranian oil companies linked to the Revolutionary Guards continuously insisted on managing its oil and gas industry autonomously without the participation of a foreign company.

But as Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh confirmed, the country does not have the money nor the technological knowledge to develop a natural gas field that can place Iran back at centre stage of energy geopolitics. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:45 AM


Rays pitcher Chris Archer's feud with Astros' Orbit escalates (Michelle R. Martinelli, August 5, 2017, MLB)'
The ridiculous feud between Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer and the Astros' mascot, Orbit, escalated this week when the teams played a four-game series this week in Houston. It ended with a fantastic final prank from Orbit as Archer headed to the team bus after the last game Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM



Two days before the presidential inauguration, Trump tweeted a picture of himself seated at a desk, pen hovering above a stack of papers. On his face was the faraway look of a great man lost in deep thought: Pericles pondering the Athenian dead, Churchill surveying a blitzkrieged London. The accompanying text revealed that the president-elect was composing his inaugural address at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which he'd already rebranded "the Winter White House."The tweet was supposed to show leadership at work, but it instead revealed the lengths to which Trump will go to foster the image of diligent leadership. It didn't take a team of CIA digital forensicists to figure out that the Spanish tile wall behind Trump in the photograph matched the one in the reception area at Mar-a-Lago. A photograph soon surfaced of a young woman at the very same desk, looking like she was ready to confirm your dinner reservation. Further scrutiny--that is, clicking a magnifying glass icon to zoom in--revealed that the papers on the desk were seemingly blank, while the writing instrument in Trump's hand appeared to be a Sharpie, not especially useful for writing out a lengthy speech. Wanting to look like a head of state, Trump instead ended up looking like a concierge-in-training.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Trump's Fledgling Presidency Has Already Collapsed (Jonathan Chait, 8/04/17, New York)

After half a year of comic internal disarray, even in the face of broad public dismay, Trump's administration had, through most of July, managed to hold together some basic level of partisan cohesion with a still-enthusiastic base and supportive partners in Congress. This has quickly collapsed.

Signs of the disintegration have popped up everywhere. The usual staff turmoil came to a boil in the course of ten days, during which the following occurred: The president denounced his own attorney general in public, the press secretary quit, a new communications director came aboard, the chief of staff was fired, the communications director accused the chief strategist of auto-fellatio in an interview, then he was himself fired. Meanwhile, the secretary of State and national-security adviser were both reported to be eyeing the exits. (Against this colorful backdrop, the ominous news that Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury barely registered.)

More disturbingly for Trump, Republicans in Congress have openly broken ranks. When the Senate voted down the latest (and weakest) proposal to repeal Obamacare, Trump demanded the chamber resume the effort, as he has before. This time, Republican leaders defied him and declared the question settled for the year. When the president threatened to withhold promised payments to insurers in retribution, Republicans in Congress proposed to continue making them. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, responding to the president's threat to sack Jeff Sessions, announced he had no time to confirm a new attorney general. Many Republican senators have endorsed bills to block the president from firing the special counsel.

From his views on NATO to his policies regarding U.S.-Russia relations, Trump has proven again and again that he's a "very flexible person."
The most humiliating rebuke came in the form of a bill to lock in sanctions on Russia, passed by Congress without the president's consent. The premise of the sanctions law is that Congress cannot trust the president to safeguard the national interest, treating him as a potential Russian dupe.

All you really need to know about the complete negation of Donald and everything he stands for is that the economy continues to thrive.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Irish writer says he deserved to be fired for anti-Semitic column (JTA, August 5, 2017)

The Irish journalist fired for writing what critics called an anti-Semitic newspaper column apologized and acknowledged that he deserved to be sacked.

But Kevin Myers said in an interview with an Irish radio station Friday that he was not anti-Semitic.

"It was stupid of me, the encapsulation of such a complex issue in a single sentence," Myers said, referring to a line in a July 30 column that played on the stereotype of Jews as hard bargainers. "One of my flaws is to deal with major issues with throwaway lines." [...]

"I am very very sorry to them, I really mean it, I'm not rescuing anything as far as I can see, it's over for me," he said, referring to the two BBC broadcasters mentioned in his column. "I am issuing an apology for no other reason than contrition of the hurt I have caused them."

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


The War over H. R. McMaster (Curt Mills, August 4, 2017, National Interest)

"McMaster, On 'Warpath,' Purges Key Trump Allies From White House NSC," reads The Washington Free Beacon. "McMaster Goes to War--Against His White House Enemies," reads The Daily Beast. And the accusations against McMaster are getting nasty, floating him as just short of anti-Semitic. "'Everything The President Wants To Do, McMaster Opposes,' Former NSC Officials Say," reads a headline Thursday in The Daily Caller. And Breitbart prominently covered a Facebook post by right-wing Jerusalem Post writer Caroline Glick in which she alleges the National Security Adviser is "deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump" and that he disagrees and actively undermines Trump's agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda."

"He fires all of Trump's loyalists and replaces them with Trump's opponents," Glick continued. "MCMASTER'S NSC COUP AGAINST TRUMP PURGES CRITICS OF ISLAM AND OBAMA," reads FrontPage Magazine, in an article retweeted by Laura Ingraham, a frequent Fox News personality with ties to the White House. Jordan Schachtel, who has been after McMaster for some time, writes that a senior administration official told him that McMaster purportedly constantly refers to Israel as an "occupying power." Though the campaign has not been provably linked to Bannon, the ex-Breitbart chief, his feud with McMaster has been long reported. Mr. Schachtel is also formally of Breitbart.

More radical elements have come to loggerheads with McMaster. One of the dismissed NSC staffers, Rich Higgins, had circulated a memo before his sacking alleging  "deep state" forces of aligning with "Islamists" and "globalists" to destroy the president. And Mike Cernovich, a member of the "alt-right" or "alt-light" (depending on who you ask), has been continually agitating on Twitter for McMaster's ouster.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


What if the South had won the Civil War? 4 sci-fi scenarios for HBO's 'Confederate' (Allen C. Guelzo, July 31, 2017, USA Today)

A successful Confederacy would be an imperial Confederacy. Aggressive Southerners before 1860 made no secret of their ambitions to spread a slave-labor cotton empire into Central and South America. [...]

A successful Confederacy would have found ways for slavery to evolve, from cotton-picking to cotton-manufacturing, and beyond. The Gone With the Wind image of the South as agricultural has become so fixed that it's easy to miss how steadily black slaves were being slipped into the South's industrial workforce in the decade before the Civil War. More than half of the workers in the iron furnaces along the Cumberland River in Tennessee were slaves; most of the ironworkers in the Richmond iron furnaces in Virginia were slaves as well. They are, argued one slave-owner, "cheaper than freemen, who are often refractory and dissipated; who waste much time by frequenting public places ... which the operative slave is not permitted to frequent."

A successful Confederacy would be a zero-sum economy. In the world of Confederate, the economy would be a hierarchy, with no social mobility, since mobility among economic classes would open the door to economic mobility across racial lines. At the top would be the elite slave-owning families, which owned not only assets but labor, and at the bottom, legally-enslaved African Americans, holding down most of the working-class jobs. There would be no middle class, apart from a thin stratum of professionals: doctors, clergy and lawyers. Beyond that would be only a vast reservoir of restless and unemployable whites, free but bribed into cooperation by Confederate government subsidies and racist propaganda.

The South was just one in a series of nations that refused to accept the End of History, so we imposed it on them.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Mueller Seeks White House Documents on Flynn (MATTHEW ROSENBERG, MATT APUZZO and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, AUG. 4, 2017, NY Times)

Investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation. [...]

After Mr. Flynn's dismissal, Mr. Trump tried to get James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to drop the investigation, Mr. Comey said.

Mr. Mueller is investigating whether Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice in pressing for an end to the Flynn inquiry. The president fired Mr. Comey on May 9.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


Insurer wins $52 million in ACA payment lawsuit (Bob Herman, 8/05/17, Axios)

A federal judge ruled late Friday in favor of Molina Healthcare, declaring the health insurer is owed $52.4 million under the Affordable Care Act's risk corridor program, which was created to help insurance companies manage their unpredictable costs in the law's early years. Molina, which has been crushed by the ACA so far this year, filed suit in January after congressional Republicans blocked the payments, calling them a "bailout" for the industry.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Bernie, Kamala, and the Left's War of Mutually Assured Destruction (David Atkins, August 5, 2017, Washington Monthly)

The latest conflagration was ignited in part by Washington Monthly alum Ryan Cooper's piece establishing the reasons for economic populist distrust of establishment favorite 2020 hopefuls Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick. Cooper made some valid points about the histories of all three candidates that make many Occupy-aligned Democrats shudder: Booker's defense of Wall Street and charter schools, Harris' failure to charge now-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for his crimes with One West Bank, and Deval Patrick's employment as managing director with Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, for starters. These are not minor complaints.

The obvious problem, of course, is that in targeting black candidates Booker, Harris and Patrick specifically, Cooper only gives further fuel to those who claim that Sanders-aligned economic progressives have racist motivations-or at least that they are tone-deaf and poor allies on matters of identity and social justice. That the writers of these critiques tend to be predominantly white and male certainly doesn't help, either. Regardless of the motivations, it's self-defeating for the democratic socialist left to take this particular tack: as our own Martin Longman pointed out, economic populists will not win the the argument within the party if they openly antagonize not only the wealthy donor base but also older and minority voters.

On the other hand, there is a substantial faction of establishment players who, rather than seeking to repair and mitigate the causes the conflict in the Sanders-Clinton primary, are eagerly hoping to perpetuate it. They see the young, insurgent, aggressively anti-Wall Street wing as illegitimate interlopers, easily propagandized dupes, and overprivileged "alt left" bigots. 

There's a reason that the only recent major party nominee that Bernie resembles is Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Rouhani's inauguration raises hopes for more democracy in Iran : The start of Hassan Rouhani's second term as president signals the extension of Iran's moderate direction. But how much power does he have? DW talks to Iran expert Adnan Tabatabai. (Deutsche-Welle, 8/05/17)

DW: Iran's political system is complicated. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader for life, and he approves all policy. However, the president changes every four years. What can the president really do?

Adnan Tabatabai: It's important here to differentiate between political decision-makers and political shapers. The leader of the revolution, the religious leader, has ultimate decision-making authority along with an advising council. There are, however, a number of other councils in the Islamic Republic where policy is shaped. Some are elected - for example parliament, the Council of Experts, and city and municipal councils. Others are comprised of the elite, like the Guardian Council, the assessment council, also known as the Expediency Discernment Council, and the Supreme National Security Council. The better connected a president is with these councils, the more influence he can have on the shaping of policy.

The revolutionary leader is a cornerstone for important questions. How these questions are answered is up to the government. The nuclear agreement is a good example. Khamenei set the overall conditions for such an agreement. The specific steps and how the deal was designed, however, was up to the government with the president in the lead.

President Hassan Rouhani promised his followers a great deal four years ago. He called for a release of political prisoners, the creation of a bill of rights, more freedom of expression and equality for women. He was unable to do much of this in his first term. What concrete changes did he make?

In my view, the most important change during the Rouhani government is in trends, and we should differentiate between the status of change and the trend towards change. Political participation is just one example: Women are seriously underrepresented. However, the trend since Rouhani's term has been more women in parliament and the cabinet. The same with ethnic minorities: For the first time there are Kurdish Iranians as members of parliament and a Sunni vice minister.

The number of executions is particularly terrifying, but it is also trending positive given a change to the law that removes drug convicts, who comprise two-thirds of all death sentences, from death row. That would amount to about 4,000 stayed executions, should the law come into force. The death penalty has not been abolished, but the number of executions has been drastically reduced. Overall, the government has to invest more political will on these issues to counter conservative hardliners. It is a long process that would surely be part of a second term for Rohani.

It's a pretty basic choice for the West : assist the Reform and normalize an inherent ally or oppose it and retain a mistaken enemy. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Republican Discontent With Trump Rising Like A River (Jamie Stiehm, August 5, 2017, Creators)

If you listen, you can hear it coming closer.

The rumble of resistance to President Trump is rising faster than a river this summer. It's not the Democratic minority in Congress. What's new, at the seven-month stretch, is Republican rebellion growing within the government. Even the rock-ribbed Republican House approved a Russian sanctions bill Trump unwillingly signed.

Anxious thoughts on the Senate side of the Capitol dome shadow Republicans. What have we wrought? Can we govern going forward? Tell us how this president ends.

The sea change is, they don't fear Trump's power anymore. Now they're running scared of his plummeting unpopularity.

Typically, you damage your own electoral chances if you run against a president of your party, as the GOP did by opposing immigration and SS reform in '06 and the economic rescue of '08.  But W is the very definition of a Republican and a conservative.  Donald is neither, so there is no damage to opposing him. Indeed, they all ran ahead of him in their states and districts and carried him in incidentally.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Pakistan's traditional third gender isn't happy with the trans movement (Mobeen Azhar, 7/29/17, PRI)

Bindiya Rana is the grand matriarch of the third gender community in Karachi. She doesn't prescribe to the transgender identity. She is a Khawaja Sira, so revered that she is a guru (teacher) to more than 50 chelahs or apprentices. 

This relationship has a parental element and is a cornerstone of Khawaja Sira culture. Each chelah pledges allegiance to their guru, as they did to their guru before them. These family trees provide acceptance, social support and financial backing. Most chelahs give a percentage of their income to their gurus. It's a lifetime commitment that allows the establishment of families that often replaces biological lineage. 

But those who identify as transgender, like Choudary, don't prescribe to the guru-chelah system. As a result, Rana and her chelahs view the transgender identity as alien and even immoral.  

"If you don't have a guru, we don't recognize you. These people who say they are transgender; that concept is just wrong," says Rana. "They can never be women. They cannot give birth. Even if they change their bodies they can't change who they are. We are not women. We are what Allah has made."    

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


'Cosmopolitan' is a dog whistle word once used in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (Amulya Shankar, 8/03/17, PRI)

"Cosmopolitan" isn't a word that's frequently heard in American politics ("elite" is much more common), but it wouldn't be out of place in Adolf Hitler's Germany or Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.

It was an "anti-Semitic fighting term," Volker Ullrich writes in his biography, Hitler: Ascent, "used against the Jews by Nazis and Bolsheviks alike." Ullrich writes that the Jewish diaspora in Europe was "considered not only cosmopolitan, but also rootless, and in the late 1940s the term became a code word for Jews who insisted on their Jewish identity."

Today, as Politico notes, the definition has expanded -- "in the eyes of their foes, 'cosmopolitans' tend to cluster in the universities, the arts and in urban centers, where familiarity with diversity makes for a high comfort level with 'untraditional' ideas and lives."

But its ugly history means that the word "cosmopolitan" still serves as a dog whistle within the white nationalist movement in the United States.

"Dog whistles work kind of like Easter eggs," said Cristina López, who studies trends in alt-right language at the media watchdog group Media Matters. "You have to know what you're looking for to find it -- and therefore they land with a very specific kind of audience and fly over the heads of everyone else."

Dog whistles can be insidious -- they seem innocuous, and give the speaker a buffer against accusations of racism, sexism or worse, while simultaneously energizing the base. That's why they've been so popular in political speeches throughout history.

It's hard to prove a dog whistle, says López, but the use of the word "cosmopolitan" has struck a nerve. "Miller is right now being celebrated in the corners of the alt-right, white nationalistic internet as a hero."

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Atomic Blonde Is a Serious Anti-Communist Historical Drama (Jeffrey A. Tucker, August 01, 2017, FEE)

At the start of the film, all Cold War dynamics are in place, with state actors killing anyone who tries to escape and spies and counterspies working their networks. To seek an end to the wall or to attempt to transverse it brought a death sentence. Real-life figures list 134 deaths trying to escape, but many estimate far more. The toll on civilization where it once thrived was far higher.

The poverty, despotism, corruption, and despair are palpable in the scenes from socialist/communist East Germany. The film tells the bitter truth that today's fashionable socialist left so conveniently forgets. You can talk all you want about glorious socialist ideals but, in practice, socialism (because it is literally impossible to realize as an ideal) degenerates into top-down control by a police state charged with suppressing dissent. It's not fancy; it's just life lived on the other side of a huge wall, staring down the barrel of a gun everywhere you turned.

It matters because the East/West division after World War II provided a case study in free vs unfree economies. The West experienced what later came to be called a miracle of prosperity. The East became frozen in time just like every other case of socialism, a land of misery, statism, and impoverishment. One would think that observing this would be enough to settle this debate. But in order to learn lessons, you have to know about the experience. 

The film opens with Ronald Reagan's famous speech demanding: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." A text follows assuring the viewer that this movie is not about that. But actually, as it turns out, this is precisely what the film is about.

We are introduced to the East German underground with its obsessions over punk rock, blue jeans, and illicit contraband of all sorts. You can call it corruption if you want, but it is the way revolt looked in those days: personal, not institutional. The total state had broken whatever faith people might have developed in normal codes of civility and morality and this is what remained.

They craved a free life, whatever that meant.

In the mid-1980s, not much about this movement was known by those of us in the United States. There was no news of daily life and very little contact, just as with North Korea today. We knew there was a tyrannical regime ruling the East Side of a once-united Germany, but we had little knowledge of the rise of a resistance movement that would eventually assist in the demolition of the wall.

The Atomic Blonde is Lorraine Broughton, an agent of British intelligence who enters the East to find a list of double agents in Russia and Germany slated to be brought over to the West before they are slaughtered. She learns quickly that she can trust no one and faces a constant stream of lies, betrayals, violence, and death, right in the midst of emerging political chaos.

All the action seems to take place in a matter of weeks, and we are given a front-row seat to some of the strategies used by the resistance movement to foil the violence of a cruel regime.

Here's what's particularly interesting. The film is about spies and states. But they are not the actors that are driving the political narrative forward. The spooks did not cause the upheaval. They were there to adapt and move within the action, protecting their own as best they are able given fast-changing events. We are shown a revolution from below, how a people united in the goal of freedom will never be defeated. No matter how mighty and bloody a regime may be, it is powerless in the face of a population that refuses to submit.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


The Anti-Slavery Campaign in Britain (Marjie Bloy, Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow, the Victorian Web)

In 1793 Britain went to war against the French following the French Revolution and the cause of the slave-traders appeared to be a patriotic cause: the trade was seen as the "nursery of seamen." Abolition of the trade was postponed although Wilberforce regularly continued to propose legislation for abolition. His moral case was very strong and the evils of the trade were generally admitted. In 1807 the slave trade in the British colonies was abolished and it became illegal to carry slaves in British ships. This was only the beginning: the ultimate aim was the abolition of slavery itself.

In 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, European statesmen condemned slavery but nothing was done to improve the conditions of slaves. The campaign to abolish slavery continued in Britain. Wilberforce and his co-workers held meetings all over the country to try to persuade people that abolition should be supported. They discovered that many people were unaware of the horrors of slavery and that others were not interested in something which happened thousands of miles away. They also met opposition from the West India lobby.

After 1830 when the mood of the nation changed in favour of a variety of types of reform, the antislavery campaign gathered momentum. In 1833 Wilberforce's efforts were finally rewarded when the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed. Wilberforce, on his death-bed, was informed of the passing of the Act in the nick of time. The main terms of the Act were:

all slaves under the age of six were to be freed immediately

slaves over the age of six were to remain as part slave and part free for a further four years. In that time they would have to be paid a wage for the work they did in the quarter of the week when they were "free"

the government was to provide £20 million in compensation to the slave-owners who had lost their "property."

In the West Indies the economic results of the Act were disastrous. The islands depended on the sugar trade which in turn depended on slave labour. Ultimately, the planters were unable to make the West Indies the thriving centres of trade which they had been in the eighteenth century. However, a moral victory had been won, and the 1833 Act marked the beginning of the end of slavery in the New World.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Are We Nearing the Endgame with ISIS? (Robin Wright, July 27, 2017, The New Yorker)

The American diplomat Brett McGurk is the central player in the seventy-two-nation coalition fighting the Islamic State, a disparate array of countries twice the size of nato. He has now worked all of America's major wars against extremism--in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria--under three very different Presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump. McGurk served in Baghdad after the ouster of Saddam Hussein; he used his experience clerking for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the Supreme Court to help draft Iraq's new constitution. President Bush brought McGurk back to Washington to serve on the National Security Council and help run the campaign against Al Qaeda. President Obama tapped him to work Iraq and Iran at the State Department. McGurk was visiting Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, when isis seized nearby Mosul. In 2015, he became Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter isis. President Trump kept him on.

In a sign of how fast the Islamic State is shrinking, McGurk last month visited northern Syria. I called on him Wednesday, at his small whitewashed office on the ground floor of the State Department, to assess the future of isis and the world's most unconventional nation. McGurk is an optimist, long-term, despite the chorus of skeptics in Washington about extremism, Iraq and Syria, and U.S. foreign policy in the volatile Middle East. The interview has been edited and condensed. McGurk's most chilling answer was when he talked about how many isis fighters are still alive. [...]

Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the isis caliph, alive? And what is he doing?

This is someone who cannot show his face. He communicates by audiotapes, like we are back in the nineteen-nineties. He has dramatically tainted his claim to any legitimacy. Whether or not he is alive, we do not know. But his command and control over this organization is severed.

What is the U.S. military role after the caliphate collapses?

Our coalition has trained a hundred thousand members of the Iraqi security force that had collapsed in 2014. They have now fought some of the most difficult battles since the Second World War. We are in discussions with the Iraqi government about a future role for the coalition training and advising. In Syria, we have also pioneered this model of working by, with, and through local forces. It's local Syrians retaking their areas. Our footprint is small, it's light, but it is effective. We will want to be able to keep the pressure so that isis can't regenerate. [...]

Since 2003, Iran has played an increasing role in Iraq. How do you assess their intentions down the road and their power compared to the U.S.?

Iran likes to be flattered with the view that everything that happens in Iraq and Syria happens because Iran is pulling the strings. That's just not true. Do they have enormous influence? Yes. Just look at a map and you can understand why. But the differences, even within the Shia community in Iraq and the Shia community in Iran, are profound. The vision of [Iraq's] Grand Ayatollah Sistani --of quietism and a civil state, meaning not a state governed by clerics--is totally different from the vision of [Iran's] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The Iranians tried to do a number of things in Iraq that simply have not worked, because the Iraqis rejected it. Their influence is not dominant. I never discount the ability of the Iraqis to chart their own course.

Sadr Calls Authorities to Place 'Hashd Al-Shaabi' Under Command Of State (Asharq Al-Awsat, 8/05/17)

Baghdad- Head of the Sadrist Movement, Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on the authorities Friday to seize the arsenals of all armed groups, adding that the government is the sole entity assigned to maintain security and possess arms.

In a speech broadcasted on huge screens, Sadr urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to dismantle Hashd al-Shaabi and "integrate into the army the disciplined members" of the paramilitary force, an AFP reporter said.

"The Hashd al-Shaabi should function under the command of the state. And weapons should be in the hands of the state too," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Conservative Millennial Women Are Here For Female Empowerment--Just Don't Call Them Feminists (SAMANTHA LEACH, AUGUST 4, 2017Glamour)

[B]y the end of lunch I found myself engaged in complex conversations about their hopes for female empowerment within the conservative party.

"I want equality of opportunity, and they want equality of outcome," said Emily Hall, the president of her NeW chapter at Harvard, when I called her a week later, curious to hear more about her problem conservative women have with modern feminism. The "they" she's referring to, in case you haven't caught on, are liberal women.

Hall's point is the backbone of what Agness calls "opportunity feminism," which touts the belief that as long as women have the ability to enter fields like STEM, it doesn't matter how many actually do.

Another fundamental problem NeW attendees expressed with the feminist movement is its focus on women's reproductive rights, particularly--of course--abortion.

Jessica Martinez, the founder of her NeW chapter at UNC Charlotte, told me, "I have a strong Christian faith. I understand women want the right to do whatever they want with their body, but if it's at the cost of another's life, even though they don't consider it a life--if it has a heartbeat--then I [abortion] to be illegal." Other women admitted the left's laser-focus on Planned Parenthood was the primary reason they didn't participate in January's Women's March.

Outside divisive issues like abortion, another common complaint women at the conference shared with me was what they perceive to be the left's "victimhood" culture. "Feminism is focusing on an intersectionality that seems to be a competition to see who's the biggest victim," Hall said. "I think feminism should focus on empowering women, not just focusing on the ways that they've been disadvantaged."  [...]

Yet, even though these women don't identify with feminism as I define it, I came to find that they can still be--for lack of a better phrase--woke as hell. For example, Martinez told me about how, as a conservative Hispanic woman, she's fighting for Republicans to embrace more diversity in the party. Another attendee, Amy Dunham, a rising senior at the University of Alabama, proudly told me that she's studying engineering and plans to work in STEM. In one of the most emotional moments of the conference, a sexual assault survivor and advocate stood up and questioned whether she could defend Trump after the comments he's made towards women. Later, I saw many of the attendees thank her, and others tell her about their own work in sexual assault awareness community.

Now that I had a better understanding of the problems millennial conservative women have with feminism, I still wanted to know what their ideal movement would look like, and how it would better serve women. When I asked Hall how she'd envision it, she told me this: "[It would] include all women and [our] male allies as well, because I think that the vast majority of people, women and men, absolutely support political and otherwise equality of women. I think we should capitalize on the support of [the] many people [who] want women to be equal. I think it would be important to make that feminism into a network of women who are empowering women to run for office. Something that crosses ideological lines."