August 6, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Rouhani uses inauguration to send message of moderation (Ali Hashem, August 6, 2017, Al Monitor)

"On behalf of the Iranian people and authorities, I explicitly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not start violating the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] but will not remain quiet against the United States' continuing to wriggle out of its commitments," said Rouhani, who addressed Trump without naming him. "We have no business with novice politicians, but we announce to those more experienced that the process of the JCPOA can be used as a model for relations and international law."

Rouhani explained that his government is a peace-seeking administration in domestic and foreign affairs and prefers peace over war and reform over the status quo. He said, "We stretch a hand of friendship to our neighboring countries."

While three of the six Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] countries were present at the ceremony -- the aforementioned Kuwait, Oman and Qatar -- the remaining three GCC members -- mainly Saudi Arabia -- were nonetheless indirectly present in Rouhani's speech. When Rouhani noted that "foreign powers intensify instability and chaos in the region by selling billions of dollars of weapons," he implied that there are no real problems among the region's states and all that is happening is because of foreign hands. It was significant that Rouhani preserved a moderate rhetoric in tackling regional issues; even when he spoke of Syria and Yemen, he clearly indicated that the war on terror should continue, yet the best tool to combat terrorism is democratic governance -- a message that could have several meanings. He also stressed that intra-Syrian dialogue and similarly dialogue between the parties in Yemen are the only way out of those crises.

War against the salafi and democratization of the Middle East is our shared commitment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Pence denies eyeing presidential bid amid distance with Trump over Russia (Susan Cornwell8/06/17, Reuters) 

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday denied that he is preparing for a presidential election run in 2020, saying the suggestion is "disgraceful and offensive." [...]

[A]s investigations deepen into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible ties to members of Trump's campaign, Pence has put some distance between himself and the president on the best way to approach Moscow.

On a trip to Eastern Europe last week, Pence condemned Russia's presence in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, with which Moscow fought a brief war in 2008. He also said ties with Russia would not improve until Moscow changed its stance on Ukraine and withdrew support for countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea.

The only reason one even acknowledges the story is to give it legs.  He has to fend of plenty of others who have legitimate distance from Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Saudi Arabia still sees no role for Assad in Syrian transition  (Reuters, 8/06/17) 

Saudi Arabia, a main backer of Syrian rebels, said on Sunday it still supported an international agreement on the future of Syria and President Bashar al-Assad should have no role in any transition to bring the war there to an end.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Russia slaps the U.S., but Trump won't slap back. Sad (Max Boot, 8/03/17, LA Times)

His silence suggests he remains wedded to the fantasy that Putin is an admirable leader and a potential American ally in Syria and beyond, and his long-standing affection for the Russian dictator seems to have only grown stronger after the two men spent hours bonding with one another in Hamburg.

The only anti-Russian measures [Trump] has taken are those that have been forced on him by Congress.
Just imagine if Rosie O'Donnell, "Crooked Hillary," the "failing New York Times" or one of the president's other supposed enemies had insulted him, however slightly. He would surely have gone ballistic on Twitter by now. But there is not a word about Russia or Putin in Trump's Twitter feed, nor in his public comments, save for his ritualistic (and increasingly unconvincing) denials of any collusion between his campaign and Russia in the election.

The only official U.S. response to Putin's act was a perfunctory State Department statement saying the expulsion was "regrettable and uncalled for." Vice President Mike Pence is talking tough on Russia while in Estonia, but Trump continues his streak of never speaking ill of Putin, a streak all the more remarkable given how many other people Trump routinely disparages. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a recipient of the Order of Friendship from Putin, also has been thunderously silent about this unwarranted affront to the department he leads.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


The Ghost of Hillary Still Haunts Evangelicals : She's gone. It's time to stop fighting the old war. (David French, August 5, 2017, National Review)

It almost never fails. When I'm asked to speak to Evangelical audiences about politics, I can predict the reaction to the speech based almost entirely on the age of the audience. If a Christian is older than me, he's often angry. If younger, usually grateful.

A recent interaction is typical. After being asked in a question-and-answer session about Trump's use of Twitter, I argued that Christians should be just as concerned about falsehoods and unpresidential behavior as they were during the Obama administration. The same people who launched extended diatribes about various Obama offenses against decorum (feet up on the Oval Office desk, a sloppy salute before entering Marine One) were laughing at Trump's gifs, memes, and insults. Deceptions and misconduct aren't cleansed by partisan affiliation. The blood of Jesus can wash away sins. A red political jersey cannot.

After the speech, I was speaking to a small group of younger Christians when an older man walked up, glared at me, and said, "You just wanted Hillary." (I did not.) Conversations like this have happened time and again. It's the answer to all critiques. Worried that Trump's team has lied about the extent of their contacts with Russia? "Hillary." Concerned about chaos in the West Wing? "Hillary." Alarmed at the failure of Obamacare repeal and the obvious lack of presidential leadership? "Hillary."

Oddly enough, this ongoing older-generation Hillary obsession makes me less pessimistic about the long-term future of Evangelical political engagement. When committed support for Trump is both generational and situational, there's less chance that we're looking at a permanent Evangelical shift towards "by any means necessary" political combat. There's a better chance that we're looking at the sad by-product of the worst presidential choice in living American memory.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Can Israel transfer its Palestinian population? (Patrick Strickland, 8/06/17, Al Jazeera)

Palestinian politicians and rights groups have condemned a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to transfer some Arab-populated villages to the Palestinian Authority's control and strip residents of their citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


IS THE NEW YORK TIMES VS. THE WASHINGTON POST VS. TRUMP THE LAST GREAT NEWSPAPER WAR? : Breaking story after story, two great American newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, are resurgent, with record readerships. One has greater global reach and fifth-generation family ownership; the other has Jeff Bezos as its deep-pocketed proprietor and a technological advantage. Both, however, still face an existential foe. (JAMES WARREN, SEPTEMBER 2017, Vanity Fair)

It was wheels-up at Joint Base Andrews as Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, settled into the Air Force One press cabin on May 19 at the start of a presidential flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Then his cell phone rang with a heads-up from his boss, Washington-bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller, that the paper was about to break a big story: Donald Trump had denounced James Comey--whom he had just fired as F.B.I. director--as a "nut job" during a meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. He had also told the Russians that Comey's ouster relieved "great pressure" on him just as the F.B.I. investigation of the Trump campaign and contacts with Russian officials seemed to be gathering momentum.

The airplane was aloft when the two television sets in the aft cabin, both turned to the Fox News channel, flashed bulletins about the story. But moments later, the same TV sets were touting another revelation, this one from The Washington Post--Baker's alma mater. The Post was reporting that the F.B.I. probe had identified "a current White House official as a significant person of interest."

"It wasn't even five minutes," recalled Baker, who has trouble, like most people, keeping track of the competing Post-Times exclusives about the Trump administration that have dominated the media world for months. Two revived bastions of Old Media are engaged in a duel that resembles the World War II rivalry of American general George S. Patton and British general Sir Bernard Montgomery as they scrambled to be first to capture Messina. There is a sense, too, that something fundamental about the nation is at stake. The Washington Post now proclaims every day in its print and online editions, "Democracy Dies in Darkness."

The ongoing tit for tat helps explain the online-traffic records for both newspapers and why they are, more than ever, the tip sheets and storyboards for cable and broadcast news. So the Post discloses that Trump revealed classified information to the Russians; then the Times discloses that Comey memorialized an Oval Office meeting in which the president allegedly pressured him to end the F.B.I.'s investigation into former national-security adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian officials. In headlines, they both question the honesty of Trump, even using the once taboo words "lie" and "lies." Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, traces the use of those words in his newspaper to Trump's lies about Barack Obama's place of birth. To have not used them, he told me, "would have been screwing around with the English language." At the Post, Glenn Kessler's interactive Fact Checker graphic keeps a tally of Trump's false and misleading claims as president. (As of late July: 836.) It was a Post story which broke the news that fake Time magazine covers of a pre-presidential Trump ("HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!") had been hung prominently at some of his resorts. Meanwhile, a Times bombshell revealed that Trump's son Donald junior, along with campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, had met, two weeks after Trump's nomination, with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who was said to be offering dirt on Hillary Clinton--leaving himself open to charges of attempted collusion with a foreign government. Both papers are windows on--and vehicles for--the animus between Trump and the intelligence community, and thus for what Baquet concedes have been unceasing leaks from a Trump-wary bureaucracy. ("Remarkably easy" is how he described some of the reporting.)

If you miss the stories in print or online, reporters from the two newspapers are beckoned for regular cable-news duty. And there's always Snapchat, Facebook, and other social tools, part of a subterranean war for survival that marries scoops and computer engineering. It is a contest in which the geeks supplement shoe-leather reporting, a contest that both could win or both could lose, given the vagaries of media fragmentation. The two papers are battling amid a dramatic, decade-plus industry free fall. After hitting a high of more than $49 billion in 2006, total newspaper ad revenues nationwide fell to $18 billion in 2016. According to industry analyst Alan Mutter, print circulation has plunged by half. At the Times and the Post, there is talk internally about a world without the print edition.

Call it the Last Newspaper War, as two great survivors face off with different strategies and different economic realities but the same audacity; an impressive array of talent; and two highly competitive leaders--Baquet and his counterpart at the Post, Marty Baron (who, says one observer, would "rather beat the Times than eat"). Both papers receive lacerating criticism from the White House almost every day. The underlying passion offers the Internet Age version of The Front Page, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1928 tribute to an indomitable craft in which editor Walter Burns responds to one reporter's request to know how much space he has for an exclusive by telling him he wants every goddamn word the reporter can give him.

There are days when you can swear that the Post and the Times are giving you every goddamn word on Trump. The Post's "Democracy Dies in Darkness" may seem a bit overwrought as a slogan--"like the next Batman movie," Baquet has said--but crusty Walter Burns would probably pound a table, slam down a candlestick telephone, utter a few choice words, and growl, But it's true!

The remarkable thing is that, within very recent memory, the resurgence of the Times and the Post seemed hard to imagine. Even harder to imagine was that assistance would come from a boorish blowhard and real-estate developer who decided to enter politics.

The same dynamic that made it impossible to contend with him in the primaries was always going to make it impossible for him to govern.