September 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


In Defense of the 'Deep State' and a Free Press (Jeffrey H. Smith, August 30, 2017, Lawfare)

Those who conjured up the Deep State narrative have seen too many bad movies. Their contempt for career public servants is misinformed and dangerous.

We are a nation of laws, not men. We are bound together by the ideas enshrined in the Constitution, not by religion, ethnicity or allegiance to any given president. It is the institutions of government, and the men and women who work in them, who give life to our Constitution.

Career public servants will follow responsible political leadership. But they are also the ballast of the ship of state. They understand why presidents should not obstruct the fair administration of our laws, why intelligence cannot be politicized, and why America is secure only if it leads and maintains the international order established after World War II.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


DOJ Filing Says No Evidence that President Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower (Matthew Kahn, September 2, 2017, Lawfare)

In a Motion for Summary Judgement on a lawsuit related to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by American Oversight earlier this year, the Justice Department said Friday that "Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 [Donald] tweets."

..they're like Charlie Brown and reality keeps whipping the football away from them...

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Trump aides averted more detailed letter justifying Comey firing (JOSH GERSTEIN and JOSH DAWSEY, 09/01/2017, Politico)

A draft letter from President Donald Trump justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey and now reported to be in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller was substantially watered down before Trump dismissed Comey in May, according to people familiar with the events.

The decision to fire Comey was made by the president the weekend before the firing as he huddled at his country club in Bedminster, N.J., with his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and top policy adviser Stephen Miller, the people said.

"It was talked and talked about," said one Trump adviser who asked not to be named. [...]

Then, the White House began frantically searching for how to explain the firing. McGahn had told Trump that the firing would be "less of a big deal" if it was handled properly and delayed, one person said, describing the conversations.

"It turned out to be what everyone was afraid of," one adviser said. "A pivotal point for his presidency, and not a good one."

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Kremlin Says Putin To Skip UN General Assembly (Radio Liberty, September 02, 2017)

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Workers clear out of Russian consulate in San Francisco (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 09/01/2017)

Acrid, black smoke was seen pouring from a chimney at the Russian consulate in San Francisco and workers began hauling boxes out of the stately building in a historic area of the city Friday, a day after the Trump administration ordered its closure amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia. [...]

Mindy Talmadge, a spokeswoman from the San Francisco Fire Department, said the department received a call about the smoke and sent a crew to investigate but determined the smoke was coming from the chimney.

Talmadge said she did not know what they were burning on a day when normally cool San Francisco temperatures had already climbed to 95 degrees by noon.

"It was not unintentional. They were burning something in their fireplace," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Putin's Pal : Stephen Cohen was once considered a top Russia historian. Now he publishes odd defenses of Vladimir Putin. The Nation just published his most outrageous one yet. (Cathy Young, 7/24/14, Slate)

A few months ago, at the height of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict over Crimea, Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, acquired a certain notoriety as the Kremlin's No. 1 American apologist. As Cohen made Russia's case and lamented the American media's meanness to Vladimir Putin in print and on the airwaves, he was mocked as a "patsy" and a "dupe" everywhere from the conservative Free Beacon to the liberal New York and New Republic. Now, as the hostilities in eastern Ukraine have turned to the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Cohen is at it again--this time, with a long article in the current issue of The Nation indicting "Kiev's atrocities" in eastern Ukraine and America's collusion therein. The timing is rather unfortunate for Cohen and The Nation, since the piece is also unabashedly sympathetic to the Russian-backed militants who appear responsible for the murder of 298 innocent civilians. [...]

s Cohen the one person in the world who puts stock in the results of the Donetsk and Luhansk "referendums," which even Russia did not formally recognize? Pre-referendum polls in both regions found that most residents opposed secession; they were also, as a U.N. report confirms, kept from voting in the presidential election by violence and intimidation from the insurgents. Nor does Cohen ever acknowledge the known fact that a substantial percentage of the "resisters" are not locals but citizens of the Russian Federation--particularly their leaders, many of whom have ties to Russian "special security services." Their ranks also include quite a few Russian ultranationalists and even neo-Nazis--a highly relevant fact, given that much of Cohen's article is devoted to claims that Ukrainian "neo-fascists" play a key role both in the Kiev government and in the counterinsurgency operation.

On this subject, Cohen's narrative is so error-riddled that one has to wonder if The Nation employs fact-checkers. (According to The Nation's publicity director, Caitlin Graf, "All of The Nation's print pieces are rigorously fact-checked by our research department.") Cohen asserts that after the fall of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, the far-right Svoboda party, and the paramilitary nationalist group Right Sector got a large share of Cabinet posts, including ones for national security and the military, because Ukraine's new leaders were "obliged to both movements for their violence-driven ascent to power, and perhaps for their personal safety." In fact, Svoboda (which has tried to reinvent itself as a moderate nationalist party, despite a genuinely troubling history of bigotry and extremism) got its Cabinet posts as part of a European Union-brokered agreement between Yanukovych and opposition leaders, made shortly before Yanukovych skipped town. Right Sector has no such posts--early reports that its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, got appointed deputy minister for national security were wrong--and the government actually moved to crack down on the group in April. Cohen also neglects to mention that the Svoboda-affiliated acting defense minister, Ihor Tenyukh, was sacked in late March and replaced with a nonpartisan career military man.

Cohen's claims about the "mainstreaming of fascism's dehumanizing ethos" in Ukraine are equally spurious--and rely heavily on Russian propaganda canards. Thus, he asserts that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the rebels "subhumans"; in fact, even the pro-government Russian newspaper Vzglyad admits this was an English mistranslation of nelyudi, literally "inhumans" or "monsters." (The word also exists in Russian, and Russian officials have freely used it toward their own "resisters" in the Caucasus.) He reports that a regional governor (Yuri Odarchenko of the Kherson region) "praised Hitler for his 'slogan of liberating the people' in occupied Ukraine" in his speech at a Victory Day event on May 9. In fact, as a transcript and a video show, Odarchenko said that Hitler used "slogans about alleged liberation of nations" to justify invading sovereign countries and "the aggressor" today was using similar slogans about "alleged oppressions" to justify aggression against Ukraine. And, in Cohen's extremely tendentious retelling, the May 2 tragedy in Odessa, where clashes between separatists and Kiev supporters led to a deadly fire that killed some 40 separatists, becomes a deliberate holocaust reminiscent of "Nazi German extermination squads."

In a downright surreal passage, Cohen argues that Putin has shown "remarkable restraint" so far but faces mounting public pressure due to "vivid accounts" in the Russian state-run media of Kiev's barbarities against ethnic Russians. Can he really be unaware that the hysteria is being whipped up by lurid fictions, such as the recent TV1 story about a 3-year-old boy crucified in Slovyansk's main square in front of a large crowd and his own mother? Does Cohen not know that Russian disinformation and fakery, including old footage from Dagestan or Syria passed off as evidence of horrors in Ukraine, has been extensively documented? Is he unaware that top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin himself, have publicly repeated allegations of war crimes that were quickly exposed as false, such as white phosphorus use by Ukrainian troops or a slaughter of the wounded in a hospital? But Cohen manages to take the surrealism a notch higher, earnestly citing the unnamed "dean of Moscow State University's School of Television" (that's Vitaly Tretyakov, inter alia a 9/11 "truther") who thinks the Kremlin may be colluding with the West to hush up the extent of carnage in Ukraine.

Putin Bootlickers Assemble in D.C. : The World Russia Forum was once a respectable affair. Now it's just a nest of Putin apologists and has-beens and both. Dead Souls indeed. (James Kirchick, 03.31.15, Daily Beast)

Offering introductory remarks was Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who, over the course of a three-decade career in Washington, has made the improbable journey from Cold Warrior to slavish defender of the Russian regime. Rohrabacher, who came to Washington as speechwriter for the Reagan White House, is now doing the same sort of legwork for his old nemeses in the Kremlin, who, in his view, are worthy allies in our shared struggle against militant Islam. "We could not have done it without them," is how he described Russian cooperation in our overthrowing the Taliban, apparently laboring under the belief that granting the United States overflight rights to bring down a radical Islamist regime on its southern flank somehow represented a concession on the part of Moscow.

Rohrabacher told the audience how, following the 2004 Beslan school massacre, in which nearly 200 children were killed after being taken hostage by Chechen terrorists, he called a "high-level person" in the George W. Bush administration to propose that the president "go to Beslan and stand shoulder to shoulder with Putin." Tying America's struggle against Islamist terrorism with Russia's would be inadvisable on several levels, not the least of which is that Russia's way of dealing with the problem largely consists of leveling entire cities. Indeed, this is a tried-and-true Russian strategy dating back to their war in Afghanistan--a war that Rohrabacher himself took part in as a fighter with the mujahideen--when the Russians inflicted nearly a million deaths. As for Beslan, to this day, parents of the victims criticize Putin for his handling of the crisis, alleging that their children lost their lives as a result of the botched rescue effort, as was the case when Putin ordered his security services to pump poison gas into a Moscow theater seized by Chechen terrorists. Thankfully, wiser heads within the White House prevailed, and the Bush-Putin photo op never happened. (Rohrabacher was the only elected official who turned up at the event. Lozansky said that Sen. Amy Klobuchar reserved the room, revealing a strange Minnesota connection: At last year's World Russia Forum, which took place just months after the annexation of Crimea, the Minnesota secretary of state spoke in opposition to sanctions, complaining about how a "U.S.-Russia Innovation Forum" scheduled to take place in St. Paul had to be canceled on orders from the State Department.)

Next up was the redoubtable Stephen Cohen, America's most notorious Kremlin apologist. Falsely labeling the conflict in Ukraine a "civil war," Cohen called for a "new détente" between Russia and the United States. This would suit Cohen well, as the old détente effectively conceded Soviet mastery over Eastern Europe, which is exactly what Cohen wants the West to do today. Cohen lamented how, not long ago, "both sides had legitimate spheres of influence," (or what he prefers to call "zones of national security") yet after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America and its allies disregarded the "conception of parity" and "treated Russia as a defeated nation." Washington's relationship to Moscow has since been characterized by "constant meddling in Russia's internal affairs," and the problem has only gotten worse. "This vilification of a Russian leader is unprecedented," constituting nothing less than "an illness." Cohen would presumably prefer all those gays, journalists, and other liberals--in the true sense of the word, not the form in which Cohen and other "progressives" of his ilk have perverted it--would just shut the hell up. [...]

It says something about your intellectual credibility as a scholar of Russia when the only outlets to feature your work are Russia Today and The Nation, the magazine edited by your spouse. Addressing the confab, Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel praised her publication as one that "repeatedly champions ideas labeled 'heretical' only to see them championed as conventional wisdom later." People who challenge the conventional wisdom on the situation in Ukraine are "marginalized and vilified" here in these United States, she complained (as opposed to those who express "heretical" ideas in Russia, who--if they're not shot in the back four times like opposition leader Boris Nemtsov--are thrown in jail). Like her husband, vanden Heuvel criticized the "demonization" of Putin, as if the man's critics needed to invent facts about his horrible record, and took a surprising swipe at The Washington Post, where she writes a column, calling it "Pravda on the Potomac. A regime change newspaper." (Which is more than can be said of The Nation. It's just Pravda, in English).

Vanden Heuvel introduced a panel of has-bens, "formers" all around: former AP reporter Robert Parry, former UPI editor Martin Sieff, former International Herald Tribune Asia bureau chief Patrick Smith, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, now the proprietor of the internationally renowned news source Like all regular guests of RT, the men channeled embitterment over their flailing careers into critiques of the "mainstream media." Parry, who accused the U.S. government of withholding information about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, complained about how no one in the State Department returns his calls. McGovern spoke of Russia's "so-called aggression" in Ukraine before asking, "How can Russia trust a serial liar? And by that I mean John Kerry." It was at some point in the midst of Sieff's spiel about how the Western powers were leading us back to the carnage of World War that I decided I had better things to do.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


The Nation issues editor's note on story questioning whether the DNC was hacked (Erik Wemple September 1, 20/17, Washington Post)

The editor's note addresses the use of technical language in Lawrence's reporting: "The article was indeed fact-checked to ensure that Patrick Lawrence, a regular Nation contributor, accurately reported the VIPS analysis and conclusions, which he did," notes vanden Heuvel. "As part of the editing process, however, we should have made certain that several of the article's conclusions were presented as possibilities, not as certainties. And given the technical complexity of the material, we would have benefited from bringing on an independent expert to conduct a rigorous review of the VIPS technical claims." [...]

Via the magazine's review of the Lawrence piece, it has published pieces from two VIPS groups -- one from the folks on whom Lawrence relied for his hack-debunking piece, and another from a band of dissenters. "A number of VIPS members did not sign this problematic memo because of troubling questions about its conclusions, and others who did sign it have raised key concerns since its publication," reads the piece from the dissenters. They continue: "The implications of this leap-to-conclusions analysis of the VIPS memo--which centers on claiming as an unassailable and immutable fact that the DNC 'hack' was committed by an insider with direct access to the DNC server, who then deliberately doctored data and documents to look like a Russian or Russia-affiliated actor was involved, and therefore no hack occurred (consequently, ipso facto, the Russians did not do it)--are contingent on a fallacy," they write.

As for the VIPS personnel who Lawrence sourced for his column -- they write, in part, "In recent years we have seen 'false-flag' attacks carried out to undergird a political narrative and objective--to blame the Syrian government for chemical attacks, for example. Forensic evidence suggests that this tried-and-tested technique (in this instance, simply pasting in a Russian template with 'telltale signs') may have been used to 'show' that Russia hacked into the DNC computers last June."

There's more! The Nation commissioned its own, independent technical review of the Lawrence piece. Performed by Nathanial Freitas, this document takes tremendous pains to assess the minutiae in Lawrence's story, before reaching this conclusion:

Good-faith efforts to parse the available data to provide insight into the unlawful extraction of documents from the DNC in 2016 are admirable and necessary. All parties, however, must exercise much greater care in separating out statements backed by available digital metadata from thoughtful insights and educated guesses. Walking nontechnical readers down any narrative path that cannot be directly supported by evidence must be avoided. At this point, given the limited available data, certainty about only a very small number of things can be achieved. [...]

The soft-glove treatment of Russian President Vladimir Putin is a specialty of Stephen F. Cohen, a Nation contributing editor and the husband of vanden Heuvel. In a February piece, Cohen wrote of the intelligence community's assessment: "A summary of these 'facts' was presented in a declassified report released by the 'intelligence community' and widely discussed in January," wrote Cohen. "Though it quickly became axiomatic proof for Trump's political and media enemies, almost nothing in the report is persuasive. About half are 'assessments' based on surmised motivations, not factual evidence of an actual Kremlin operation on Trump's behalf." The column was essentially a harbinger of Lawrence's story: "Indeed, the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity believes that the DNC documents were not hacked but rather leaked by an insider," wrote Cohen.

There's an inventory of Cohen's views on Russia on the Nation's site; it's a series in which he summarizes his discussions with radio host John Batchelor. He refers to himself in these summaries in the third person (much like the Erik Wemple Blog), as in this passage reacting to a new set of Russia sanctions: "Pointless and recklessly irresponsible new sanctions recently adopted almost unanimously by Congress against Russia are, as Cohen has long argued, evidence that the new Cold War is more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor. Still worse, the sanctions, inspired more by unverified 'Russiagate' allegations against Trump than by anything Moscow has actually done recently, further prevent him from seeking cooperation instead of conflict with the Kremlin, as previous presidents did and indeed as President Trump has tried to do. "He writes them up as if they were dispatches," said vanden Heuvel about Cohen's radio write-ups. "They find their audience."

A charitable approach to Russia colors the Nation's review of the Lawrence piece. As opposed to actually weighing the evidence carefully and reaching a firm conclusion, the Nation has opted to assign more homework to its readers. [...]

Nationites long frustrated by the magazine's Russia tilt are unlikely to find satisfaction in vanden Heuvel's response. "This article was flat-out wrong and a tremendous disservice to honest discourse," says contributor editor Bob Dreyfuss. "The review by Nathan Freitas says that the article simply doesn't prove what it says it proves." A full retraction, says Dreyfuss, is in order.

It really just doesn't get any better than watching Trump defenders on the Right hop in bed with the pro-Putin/anti-American Left.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Trump's Insubordination Problem (RICH LOWRY August 30, 2017, Politico)

The new measure of power in Washington is how far you can go criticizing the president at whose pleasure you serve. The hangers-on and junior players must do it furtively and anonymously. Only a principal like Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson or James Mattis can do it out in the open and get away with it.

First, it was chief economic adviser Cohn saying in an interview that the administration--i.e., Donald J. Trump--must do a better job denouncing hate groups. Then, it was Secretary of State Tillerson suggesting in a stunning interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News that the rest of the government speaks for American values, but not necessarily the president. Finally, Secretary of Defense Mattis contradicted without a moment's hesitation a Trump tweet saying we are done talking with North Korea.

In a more normal time, in a more normal administration, any of these would be a firing offense (although, in Mattis' defense, he more accurately stated official U.S. policy than the president did). Tillerson, in particular, should have been told before he was off the set of Fox News on Sunday that he was only going to be allowed to return to the seventh floor of the State Department to clean out his desk.

The fact that this hasn't happened is an advertisement of Trump's precarious standing, broadcast by officials he himself selected for positions of significant power and prestige. A more typical scenario is that a president loses credibility in a foreign crisis when an adversary defies him, or in a domestic political confrontation when the opposition deals him a stinging defeat. Not at the hands of his own team.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM



While James Comey was FBI director, he began drafting a statement about the bureau's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email system long before the probe was completed, according to Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a committee member. The committee is investigating President Donald Trump's firing of Comey on May 9.

In July 2016, Comey said during a press conference that he would not be recommending the Department of Justice pursue charges against Clinton. But in a letter to new FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday, which the committee made public on Thursday, Grassley and Graham wrote that according to information from the United States Office of the Special Counsel, "in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton.

The main fact of the FBI investigation was, of course, that it was never based on any evidence nor accusation, just a congressional referral.  There was never anything there.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


America needs tax reform. But not like this. (James Pethokoukis, September 1, 2017, the Week)

 Abandon the go-it-alone strategy that doomed the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. To get the big reform the American economy needs, Republicans and Democrats should work together. Maybe lower the corporate tax rate all the way to 15 percent but pay for it by raising investment taxes. And perhaps help workers out by cutting payroll taxes, paid for by a new value-added tax or even a carbon tax.

These are big ideas and politically difficult lifts. But at least the effort, if successful, is more likely to be worth it.

Why tax profit, investment and pay at all?

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Letter from Gaza: 'Alive due to lack of death' : Gaza-born Jehad Abusalim describes the devastating effects of Israel's blockade on the daily lives of Palestinians. (Jehad Abusalim, 9/02/17, Al Jazeera)

In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles generating the only light. Dozens of families have lost loved ones in house fires.

Propane is scarce, and small generators are unsafe and hard to come by. They are usually smuggled through tunnels and poorly made. One of my college professors lost three children (a 14-year-old and eight-year-old twins) after their generator exploded.

Gaza residents face so much hardship and pain, just to secure one of life's basic necessities.

When the electricity goes out, the silence is deafening. Everything grinds to a halt: refrigerators, televisions, hospital equipment, water pumps and fans. Modern life stops. The quiet allows us to imagine what the world was like before we were immersed in the noise of car horns and the hum and buzz of modern machines. Later, the quiet is replaced by a storm of sound as generators whir and screech back to life.

I will never forget the afternoon when I asked my father how long he thought the blockade would last.

"A  few months, my son. A few months. It won't take long," he answered.

A few weeks ago, more than a decade since the Israeli blockade of Gaza was implemented, I spoke with my father again and reminded him of what he said that day. I could practically feel his sorrow and grief through the phone.

"I don't know how many 10 years there are in one's life," he answered, crushed by the naivete of his statement all those years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Shelley Berman, Stand-Up Comic Who Skewered Modern Life, Dies at 92 (PETER KEEPNEWS, SEPT. 1, 2017, NY Times)

Perched on a stool -- unlike most stand-up comedians, he did his entire act sitting down -- Mr. Berman focused on the little things. He talked about passionate kisses that miss the mark so that ''you wind up with the tip of her nose in the corner of your mouth." Or what to do when the person you are talking to accidentally spits in your face -- do you wipe the spit off or make believe it didn't happen?

Performing in upscale nightclubs and on concert stages, including Carnegie Hall at the height of his fame, he found humor in places where his borscht belt predecessors had never thought to look: ''If you've never met a student from the University of Chicago, I'll describe him to you. If you give him a glass of water, he says: 'This is a glass of water. But is it a glass of water? And if it is a glass of water, why is it a glass of water?' And eventually he dies of thirst."

"Sometimes," Mr. Berman told The New York Times in 1970, "I'm so oblique, even I don't know what I'm talking about."

Like his fellow Chicago comedian Bob Newhart, Mr. Berman specialized in telephone monologues, in which the humor came from his reactions to the unheard voice on the other end of the line. (Mr. Berman often claimed that Mr. Newhart stole that idea from him. Mr. Newhart maintained that the idea did not originate with either of them, noting that comedians had been doing telephone monologues since at least the 1920s.)

In one classic routine, Mr. Berman, nursing a brutal hangover, listened with increasing horror as the host of the party he had attended the night before reminded him of the damage he had done: "How did I break a window? ... Oh, I see. ... Were you very fond of that cat?"

In another, he called a department store to report that a woman was hanging from a 10th-floor window ledge: "And I was just sitting, I was looking out my window, and I, uh, uh, noticed there's a woman -- there's a woman hanging from a window ledge on your building about 10 flights up and she's. ... No, operator, you're missing the point. I don't wish to speak to the woman."

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Forceful Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual (GLENN THRUSH and MAGGIE HABERMAN, SEPT. 1, 2017, NY Times)

The president, for his part, has marveled at the installation of management controls that would have been considered routine in any other White House.

"I now have time to think," a surprised Mr. Trump has told one of his senior aides repeatedly over the last few weeks.

Mr. Kelly cannot stop Mr. Trump from binge-watching Fox News, which aides describe as the president's primary source of information gathering. But Mr. Trump does not have a web browser on his phone, and does not use a laptop, so he was dependent on aides like Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, to hand-deliver printouts of articles from conservative media outlets.

Now Mr. Kelly has thinned out his package of printouts so much that Mr. Trump plaintively asked a friend recently where The Daily Caller and Breitbart were. [...]

Mr. Kelly is close to Mr. Mattis and supported the Pentagon's decision to slow-walk Mr. Trump's order to ban transgender troops from serving in the military, opting for the creation of a panel to study the matter before implementing a policy that is highly popular with the president's conservative base.

Despite his crackdown on illegal immigrants and support for the Muslim travel ban in his previous job as Homeland Security secretary, Mr. Kelly has been among those calling for Mr. Trump to proceed with caution on rolling back Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era policy protecting from deportation immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors. [...]

But one associate who spoke to Mr. Kelly last month said the former commander had remarked that his current assignment was by far the hardest job he had ever had. His favorite gig, he jokes, was his first: Marine grunt.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Maybe Colin Kaepernick Is Just Not That Good (Colin Fleming, SEPT. 1, 2017, NY Times)

What seems to me more problematic than Kaepernick's not having a job is the general unwillingness to consider that this situation might be justified on the merits, given Kaepernick's current attributes, or lack thereof, as a quarterback, rather than assuming, as part of a kneejerk gospel of victimhood, that persecution must be the cause.

It's not hard to make a statistical case for why Kaepernick is not playing now. He threw for a mere 187 yards a game last season, which was good enough for 30th (in a league of 32 teams). For his career, he has completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes. Last season, 24 passers completed more than 60 percent. Kaepernick, at 59.2 percent, was ranked 26th. If you're below 60 percent, you're a fringe guy.

More damning, Kaepernick was not asked to make difficult throws; he's not a Matt Ryan-type quarterback, slinging the ball far down the field on deep crosses or challenging out routes. In the current iteration of the N.F.L., offense rules the day, with quarterbacks tasked to put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Kaepernick's job was to be a game manager, making the easiest, high-percentage throws. And he still struggled. What are you supposed to do with a guy like this? What can he do for you? Can he help you win?

If Kaepernick deserves a spot in the league, it's only as a backup quarterback. And he will eventually get a job as one, I bet, once quarterbacks start getting hurt. But the fact that he doesn't have a job right now isn't shocking, and it doesn't have to be because N.F.L. owners are racists who are blackballing him.

The older I get, the less I care about football, but I do care about merit, and things being seen for what they are. "Life is," as Dostoyevsky wrote, and it is our job to figure out what the "is" is. I believe that's one of the core responsibilities of being human.

We don't do this enough anymore. We don't ask the tough questions. We seek to align ourselves with what I think of as the "control voice" -- whatever piped-in monotone is dictating a given narrative at the moment. It's easy to feel good about yourself when you're patting yourself on the back for your inability to never fail to take the moral high ground, which everyone who agrees with you reinforces and enables, one Facebook "like" at a time. But there is nothing real about that.

It doesn't matter that Kaepernick doesn't have a job; it matters that so few people even wonder if there might be a non-disgraceful explanation. We have become the anti-meritocracy. We resent those who outperform us, outwork us, outproduce us. And the person who has been perceived to have been slighted? He is whom we now adore.

He had a lower QB rating than Brock Osweiler. In a normal workplace you'd assume he was crying racism to protect his sinecure.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Consumers Face Upcoming 'Golden Age' Worth $2.95 Trillion, Study Says (Tom Popomaronis , 9/01/17, Forbes)

Technology is one of the most rapidly changing elements of modern businesses. But according to the Painting the Digital Future of Retail and Consumer Goods Companies report from Accenture Strategy, that's not going to be a bad thing at all for consumers. The study found that, if companies invest in digitally-driven business models, consumers will have more choices about how they buy what they want. Companies also will have the opportunity to give consumers engaging, desirable experiences that yield profits for the businesses. Together, accelerated digital transformations could be worth $2.95 trillion over the course of just 10 years for shoppers, retailers, and consumer goods companies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Press Release: Government Settles in First Lawsuit Filed Against Trump's Muslim Ban (International Refugee Assistance Project, August 31, 2017)

(New York, NY) - The Trump administration today settled with the plaintiffs in the first legal challenge to the president's original executive order, which sought to bar travelers from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States and to dramatically curtail the admission of refugees. The settlement ensures that all travelers who were barred from the country on the basis of the ban and have not since returned to the United States are informed of their right to reapply for a visa and provided with a list of free legal services organizations that can help them do so.

The settlement came in the case of Darweesh v. Trump, which was filed as a nationwide class-action in federal district court in New York City on the morning of January 28, 2017, only hours after the first Muslim ban went into effect. The ban had plunged airports across the country into chaos as the Trump administration haphazardly implemented its discriminatory policy, leading to the separation of families and exclusion of refugees fleeing persecution. By the evening of January 28, the court had issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from removing anyone from the country on the basis of the Muslim ban. As a result, the administration's effort to bar Muslims and refugees from the country was halted barely 24 hours after it went into effect.

Having succeeded in halting detentions under the Muslim ban, the lawsuit then sought to address the harm done to those already excluded in the chaotic first days of the Muslim ban. In the settlement announced today, the government agreed to contact all individuals who had been barred from entry as a result of the ban and have not since reapplied for a visa or entered the United States and to inform them of their right to reapply for a visa. The government will also provide a list of pro bono immigration legal aid providers available to assist with the visa application. The written notice will be provided in English, Arabic and Farsi. The settlement also requires the Justice Department to coordinate the processing of new applications for any affected individuals identified by the plaintiffs' attorneys who are seeking to return to the U.S. in the next three months.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Pro-Kremlin Botnets Pose An Existential Threat To Twitter (Tony Bradley , 9/01/17, Forbes)

Respected information security journalist Brian Krebs wrote a post this week detailing his interactions with the world of fake Twitter account botnets. Krebs had noted that every time he tweets anything about Vladimir Putin it somehow results in a predictable flood of pro-Trump replies even when Trump is not mentioned. Krebs shared that following that tweet, "I awoke this morning to find my account on Twitter (@briankrebs) had attracted almost 12,000 new followers overnight. Then I noticed I'd gained almost as many followers as the number of re-tweets (RTs) earned for a tweet I published on Tuesday."

Krebs explains that further investigation determined that almost all of the new Twitter followers he had gained were actually part of a social media botnet being used to falsely amplify propaganda and fake news posts, and to intimidate journalists, activists and researchers. "The botnet or botnets appear to be targeting people who are exposing the extent to which sock puppet and bot accounts on social media platforms can be used to influence public opinion."

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


The burning of Atlanta, seared into America's memory (FRANK REEVES, 8/31/14, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The fall of Atlanta 150 years ago this week was pivotal to the outcome of the Civil War. It increased the odds that Abraham Lincoln would be re-elected president on the Republican Party platform to preserve the Union and abolish slavery.

The immediate effect was to destroy a key Confederate railroad center and manufacturing center, thus depriving Southern armies of vital supplies needed to carry on the war. [...]

In April, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the Union Army's top commander, had ordered Sherman to attack the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Grant had also ordered Sherman "to get into the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war supplies."

The Union high command also hoped Sherman would be able to prevent Johnston's forces from reinforcing Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, thereby assuring, as one historian has put it, "Grant's expected war-ending victory in Virginia."

With the capture of Atlanta, Sherman was well on his way to accomplishing part of his mission.

"So Atlanta is ours and fairly won," Sherman telegraphed his superiors in Washington, hours after Confederate forces, now under the command of Gen. John B. Hood, abandoned the city. Soon his words were emblazoned in headlines in newspapers across the North. "Wild celebrations," as some newspapers described them, greeted the news in many cities.

"The fall of Atlanta is the severest blow -- considered both in military and political aspects -- which the rebels have received since Vicksburg and Gettysburg," wrote the editors of the Pittsburgh Evening Chronicle, a Republican-leaning newspaper. [...]

Now with Atlanta "fairly won," Sherman had his own plans for the city. On Sept. 7, he notified Hood that he wanted to remove the 1,600 residents who had remained in the city as the Union armies closed in. Sherman said Union troops would escort those who wished to go north to Tennessee and Kentucky and asked Hood's assistance in aiding those who wished to go south.

In a letter to his superiors in Washington, Sherman explained his "real reasons" for advocating what he knew was a controversial proposal: He wanted to use Atlanta's buildings for Union war supplies. He wanted to leave only a minimal force to guard the town. He also did not want the responsibility of supplying food and clothing to the city's beleaguered population.

Hood protested Sherman's decision "in the name of God and humanity."

There then passed between the two men-- 44-year-old Sherman and 33-year-old Hood --an exchange of letters that set the stage for a debate that would last long after the Civil War was over.

"The unprecedented measure you propose transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war," Hood wrote Sherman.

But the Union general was unmoved, reminding Hood and other Southerners at every opportunity, that it was they who brought the war on themselves and the country.

"If we must be enemies, let us be men, and fight it out as we propose to do, and not deal with such hypocritical appeals to God and humanity," Sherman replied. "God will judge us in due time."

Atlanta's mayor and city council members also implored Sherman to reconsider his expulsion order. But Sherman was adamant.

"War is cruelty and you cannot refine it," he told Atlanta's leaders. "But my dear sirs, when peace comes, you may call on me for anything. Then I will share with you the last cracker."

It's not terrorism when we do it.
Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Reports: Trump Drafted Angry, Unsent Letter to Comey Before His Firing (Benjamin Hart, 8/01/17, New York)

Trump drafted the characteristically belligerent letter, with help from adviser Stephen Miller, from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. But the missive never made it to Comey. The Times reports:

The letter, drafted in May, was met with opposition from Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who believed that its angry, meandering tone was problematic, according to interviews with a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter. Among Mr. McGahn's concerns were references to private conversations the president had with Mr. Comey, including times when the F.B.I. director told Mr. Trump he was not under investigation in the F.B.I.'s ongoing Russia inquiry.

Mr. McGahn successfully blocked the president from sending the letter to Mr. Comey, which Mr. Trump had composed with Stephen Miller, one of the president's top political advisers. But a copy was given to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who then drafted his own letter. Mr. Rosenstein's letter was ultimately used as the Trump administration's public rationale for Mr. Comey's firing, which was that Mr. Comey mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner were also in Bedminster that weekend, and Kushner was reportedly in favor of firing Comey. (The Times notes that rain forced Trump to cancel his tee time with legendary golfer Greg Norman, contributing to his noxious mood.)