September 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


House Passes Amendment to Block Funding of Sessions Civil Asset Forfeiture Program (Charles Fain Lehman, September 12, 2017, Free Beacon)

The House of Representatives passed an amendment Tuesday which blocks funding of a controversial program reimplemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The amendment, co-sponsored by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.), and John Conyers (D., Mich.), affects the federal government's involvement in the controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Attached to a larger appropriations bill, the amendment passed on a voice vote.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


In first, U.S. defense chief to attend Mexican Independence Day events  (Reuters, 9/12/17) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's defense secretary plans this week to become the first Pentagon chief to travel to Mexico for its Independence Day activities, the Defense Department said on Tuesday, in a sign that defense ties are withstanding political tensions between the two countries.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Will Donald Trump Destroy the Presidency? (JACK GOLDSMITH, OCTOBER 2017, The Atlantic)

We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration. Trump is a Frankenstein's monster of past presidents' worst attributes: Andrew Jackson's rage; Millard Fillmore's bigotry; James Buchanan's incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt's self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon's paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton's lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty. [...]


JACK GOLDSMITH is a professor at Harvard Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Russia probes pose loyalty test for Team Trump : Current and former White House aides caught up in the probe are being advised by their attorneys to tell the truth - even if that might hurt the president. (DARREN SAMUELSOHN 09/12/2017, Politico)

Lawyers representing Donald Trump's current and former aides are giving their clients one simple piece of advice: Don't lie to protect the president.

As special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators prepare to question high-ranking aides -- including Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer -- in the coming weeks, Trump's long history of demanding his employees' complete loyalty is being put to the test.

But Trump stalwarts know the president is closely following the media coverage of the Russia case -- and the last thing they want is to be deemed a turncoat whose answers end up becoming further fuel for investigators.

Several of the lawyers representing current and former aides told POLITICO they're actively warning their clients that any bonds connecting them to Trump won't protect them from criminal charges if federal prosecutors can nail them for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice. that they need this counsel.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Why is US Senator Ted Cruz trending for porn? (Georgina Rannard, 9/12/17, BBC News)

A US Republican senator who once defended a ban on masturbation appears to have 'liked' a pornographic video on social media.

The Twitter account of Ted Cruz, the former lawyer who ran for US president in 2016, 'liked' the two-minute video by @SexuallPosts on Monday.

No one will believe he's that interesting.
Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Uninsured rate dipped to 8.8% in 2016 (Bob Herman, 9/12/17, Axios)

The number of Americans who did not have health insurance was at another all-time low last year, according to new data from the Census Bureau. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


California moves closer to adopting a drug pricing transparency law (ED SILVERMAN, SEPTEMBER 12, 2017, STAT)

A California bill that would require drug makers to report and justify price hikes took a big step toward reality on Monday night. The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed the legislation and it now goes to the Senate for approval, which legislative sources say may occur as soon as today.

The bill, which has been vociferously fought by the pharmaceutical industry, could become one of the most comprehensive state efforts to address pricing transparency. For instance, drug makers would have to provide 60-day notice to insurers and government health plans before increasing list prices of a medicine that costs more than $40, by 16 percent in a two-year period.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Median income in the U.S. hits new highs (Christopher Matthews, 9/12/17, axios)

The median household earned more money in 2016 than ever before, according to new Census Bureau data. The typical family earned $59,039, up 3.2% compared to 2015 and beating the previous all-time high of $58,149 from 1999.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Trump open to Dreamers relief legislation without wall funding -aide (James Oliphant, Richard Cowan, 9/12/17, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump will not necessarily insist on including funding for a border wall with Mexico in legislation to address protections for children brought to the United States illegally, a senior aide said on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil (BEN COLLINS, KEVIN POULSEN, SPENCER ACKERMAN, 09.11.17, DAILY BEAST)

Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook's event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the social-media giant "shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week." The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)

The Facebook events--one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets--are the first indication that the Kremlin's attempts to shape America's political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action.

Reducing immigration only serves our enemies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Why Sweden is close to becoming a cashless economy (Maddy Savage,12 September 2017, BBC)

Amongst the other typically Scandinavian touches - minimalist white tiles and exposed filament light bulbs - is another increasingly common sight in the Swedish capital: a "We don't accept cash" sign.

"We wanted to minimise the risk of robberies and it's quicker with the customers when they pay by card," says Victoria Nilsson, who manages two of the bakery chain's 16 stores across the city.

"It's been mainly positive reactions. We love to use our cards here in Stockholm."

Across the country, cash is now used in less than 20% of transactions in stores - half the number five years ago, according to the Riksbank, Sweden's central bank.

Coins and banknotes have been banned on buses for several years after unions raised concerns over drivers' safety.

Even tourist attractions have started to gamble on taking plastic-only payments, including Stockholm's Pop House Hotel and The Abba Museum.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM


White House lawyers reportedly discussed getting Kushner booted (Times of Israel, September 12, 2017)

Although the suggestion was ultimately rejected, a group of Trump's lawyers debated the dangers of keeping the president's son-in-law and senior adviser on the team as they felt the investigations into Russian collusion could harm the president and prevent Kushner from doing his job, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. [...]

The White House legal team in July debated the damage Kushner could potentially do to the administration after details emerged of a June 2016 meeting with a Russian-American lawyer he was invited to attend by Donald Trump Jr. and several other meetings with foreign officials which Kushner failed to disclose on the forms required for him to obtain security clearance.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


Saudi Arabia foils 'Islamic State' plot to attack defense ministry (Deutsche-Welle, 9/12/17)

Officials said they had detained two Yemeni members of the "Islamic State" (IS) jihadist group who were living in the kingdom under aliases, according to the state news agency SPA.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


Sixteen Years After 9/11, How Does Terrorism End? (Robin Wright, September 10, 2017, The New Yorker)

The current spasm of international terrorism, an age-old tactic of warfare, is often traced to a bomb mailed from New York by the anti-Castro group El Poder Cubano, or Cuban Power, that exploded in a Havana post office, on January 9, 1968. Five people were seriously injured. Since then, almost four hundred thousand people have died in terrorist attacks worldwide, on airplanes and trains, in shopping malls, schools, embassies, cinemas, apartment blocks, government offices, and businesses, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The deadliest remains the 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago this week, which killed almost three thousand people--and in turn triggered a war that has become America's longest.

I've covered dozens of these terrorist attacks on four continents over that half century. After the Barcelona attack and the U.S. decision to send more troops to fight the Taliban, I began to wonder how terrorism ends--or how militant groups evolve. In her landmark study of more than four hundred and fifty terrorist groups, Audrey Kurth Cronin found that the average life span of an extremist movement is about eight years. Cuban Power carried out several other bombings, but, in the end, it didn't last a whole year. [...]

Fewer than five per cent of terrorist groups succeed outright, Cronin told me. Among the most notable was Irgun. The Jewish group bombed Britain's colonial offices in Palestine and diplomatic sites abroad, as well as local Arab targets. Its most famous attack was in 1946, when members, dressed as waiters, planted a bomb, concealed in milk cans, in Britain's headquarters in Jerusalem's King David Hotel; ninety-one were killed. The group was then led by Menachem Begin. Two years later, Irgun realized its goals when British troops withdrew and the state of Israel was founded. Three decades later, Begin, then the Prime Minister, shared the Nobel Peace Prize for détente with Egypt.

Another was in South Africa. In 1961, Nelson Mandela founded the armed wing of the African National Congress. Its first attack was five bombings on government facilities on the same day, in Johannesburg, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. Mandela was arrested and sentenced to life for sabotage. Decades later, as apartheid floundered, the white-minority government ceded power.

Extremist groups are more likely to succeed when objectives are limited or attainable, "such as independence, a role in government, or a piece of territory," Richard Clarke, the national coördinator on counterterrorism under the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, told me. "If a group can increase the pain point to the decision-makers, they will give in. That was true of many independence movements, including the American Revolution."
"Then they go straight," Clarke added. "They trade off their radicalism to become a government that is not that out of line with other governments of the world."

More common--about eighteen per cent--are terrorist movements that end up negotiating to achieve their political goals. "They are the groups that hang on the longest. Their life span as terrorists is usually twenty to twenty-five years," Cronin told me. "Usually, the talks trundle along. They often take years, and some lower level of violence continues," she said. "But they rarely fail outright." [...]

I lived in Beirut when embryonic precursors of Hezbollah launched the first suicide bombing against an American Embassy, in 1983. After the attack, the seven-story building, which was down the hill from my office, looked like a doll's house with its façade blown off. Sixty-four died, including some of my friends. Six months later, a bomber drove a Mercedes-Benz truck into the barracks of U.S. Marine peacekeepers in Lebanon. Two hundred and forty-one marines died in the largest loss of U.S. military life in a single incident since the Second World War. I still recall the roar of that bomb waking me up on a balmy October morning, and watching for weeks as the bodies of my countrymen were recovered from under tons of debris.

A decade later, Hezbollah emerged from the underground to run for Parliament, build a network of social services, and greatly expand its support base. Today it has seats in Parliament, Cabinet positions, an alliance with Lebanon's President, and the largest military force outside the army, as well as hospitals, schools, and welfare agencies. I spent several hours interviewing its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in 2006, and his deputy, last October. Yet Hezbollah still calls for Israel's destruction. The United States considers it one of the most dangerous terrorist groups.

"Hezbollah doesn't rule Lebanon, but it controls it. The message is that terrorism pays. It is translated into power," Hoffman told me.

The similarities stand out more than the differences: successful violence works for exactly the same reason non-violence does, when the group is making universalist demands that a democratic oppressor live up to its own ideals of self-determination.  It fails when the power it opposes is inherently non-democratic--and the demands, therefore, do not resonate--and when the demands themselves are non-democratic.