December 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Emails Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, SHARON LaFRANIERE and SCOTT SHANE, DECEMBER 2, 2017, NY Times)

[E]mails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia.

While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic "hoax" any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump's victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, "which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him," she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


The Arabs need us to support democracy (ELLIOTT ABRAMS, December 2017 / January 2018, Standpoint)

Do Arabs even want democracy, in the sense in which we use the term? What do we mean by it, first of all? A system in which the citizens of a state participate in ruling themselves through regular, contested elections to select officials; a system of impartial justice, where judges are independent; respect for basic human rights such as freedom of speech, press, and assembly; protection of certain rights from majoritarian rule through constitutional provisions. If we start with these, it is very hard to argue that (with exceptions I will explain) Arabs do not want them, and would prefer living in states where the police are free to grab you from your home, beat you, and jail you -- or would prefer living in states where a dictator steals a vast fortune, makes his son his successor, and silences anyone who complains about it. And indeed, repeated and respectable surveys do show that Arabs want democracy. The "Arab Barometer" series of polls and those by the Pew Research Center have given strong evidence of this for over a decade. The country-by-country series of surveys of opinion, Five Years After the Uprisings, conducted in 2016 by Arab Barometer found, for example, that respondents agreeing that "despite its problems, democracy is better than all other political systems" reached 86 per cent in Tunisia, 79 per cent in Morocco, 84 per cent in Lebanon, 86 per cent in Jordan, and 74 per cent in Algeria.

But will Arab democracies be "illiberal democracies," where majority rule will be the means of imposing constraints on freedom? They will, in two areas: religion and sexual matters, to a degree. Neither the French style of laïcisme nor the American pattern of state neutrality will be acceptable in Arab states, where Islam will clearly have a special position. Religious tolerance is a necessary goal, but expecting absolute neutrality between Islam and other religions (or irreligion) is unrealistic. And as to sexual mores, gender roles, while changing, are doing so slowly; true equality of males and females is distant; an end to discrimination against homosexuality is not in sight. Beyond these areas, it is reasonable to expect Arab democracies to meet the standard Western definitions of what democracy means.

The Tunisia case does suggest that democracy is possible, and it has been achieved in other Muslim states around the world, from Senegal to Indonesia. The very great obstacles to achieving democracy tell us that the struggle will be long and arduous -- but that does not explain why Westerners might be indifferent or even hostile to the argument for promoting democracy in the Arab Middle East. That is explained by a different matter: the so-called "security dilemma".

The concept is not new. During the Cold War, the United States and its allies often overlooked the abuses of dictatorial regimes because they were on "our side" against the Soviets. Anti-Communism was all the argument they needed to secure Western support, and human rights abuses were greeted with silence or mild reproofs. The purported dilemma was that if the dictators were overthrown and political openings followed, the Communists might take power. This did indeed happen in Cuba in 1959 and Nicaragua in 1979, so the argument was not entirely without force.

But over time this approach was jettisoned, in part as leaders concluded that the dictators' abuses might actually inspire support for Communism: announcing the Alliance for Progress (to promote development in Latin America) in 1962, John F. Kennedy said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Reagan, as staunch an anti-Communist as ever existed, helped push out Marcos in the Philippines, Pinochet in Chile and Chun Doo-hwan in South Korea, among other dictators, because he understood that point. 

Good in so far as it goes, but the neocons remain confused about the democratic nature of Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM



After news broke Friday that Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador during the 2016 campaign and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, White House lawyer Ty Cobb released a statement attempting to distance the administration from Flynn.

The statement refers to Flynn as a "former Obama administration official" who worked at Trump's White House for 25 days. Cobb says Flynn's lies "mirror the false statements to White House officials," which led to his resignation in February. 

'I took it as a direction': Comey testifies on crucial Valentine's Day meeting with Trump (CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN, June 8, 2017,NY Daily News)

Trump allegedly asked everyone to leave so he could have a one-on-one with Comey before bringing up the investigation into disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and saying "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Exclusive - Mideast nuclear plan backers bragged of support of top Trump aide Flynn (Warren Strobel, Nathan Layne, Jonathan Landay, 12/02/17, Reuters) 

Backers of a U.S.-Russian plan to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East bragged after the U.S. election they had backing from Donald Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn for a project that required lifting sanctions on Russia, documents reviewed by Reuters show. [...]

"Donald Trump's election as president is a game changer because Trump's highest foreign policy priority is to stabilise U.S. relations with Russia which are now at a historical low-point," ACU's managing director, Alex Copson, wrote in a Nov. 16, 2016 email to potential business partners, eight days after the election.

18 U.S. Code § 2381 - Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Google Just Bought Enough Wind Power to Offset 100% of Its Energy Use (Grace Donnelly, December 1, 2017, Fortune)

Google will buy 536 megawatts of wind power, adding to the company's already large supply, making it the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, according to a statement Thursday.

The Alphabet subsidiary will purchase wind energy from four different power plants: two in South Dakota, one in Iowa and one in Oklahoma.

Google announced at the end of last year that it would reach 100% renewable energy in 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Senate Passes Sweeping Republican Tax Overhaul Bill (Jim Tankersley, Thomas Kaplan and Alan Rappeport, Dec. 1, 2017, NY Times)

Mr. Corker was alarmed by the projections. But many of his colleagues greeted them with distrust, both because they expected tax cuts to generate more robust economic growth than the forecasters projected and because they felt burned by unflattering analyses of their health care proposals issued this year by the Congressional Budget Office.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Israel fires missiles at Syria military post near Damascus (Ellen Francis, Tom Perry and Dan Williams, 12/02/17, Independent)

Israeli missiles struck a military position near Damascus and Syria's air defence system responded on Saturday, destroying two of them, Syrian state television said.

"The Israeli enemy launched...several surface-to-surface missiles towards a military position," it said, adding there had been "material losses at the site.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


We Must Save Israel From Its Government (Ehud Barak, Dec. 1, 2017, NY Times)

For anyone who cares about Israel, this is no time for niceties. What we need now is plain speaking, even pained speaking -- and action. For all of Israel's great achievements in its seven decades of statehood, our country now finds its very future, identity and security severely threatened by the whims and illusions of the ultranationalist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In its more than three years in power, this government has been irrational, bordering on messianic. It is now increasingly clear where it is headed: creeping annexation of the West Bank aimed at precluding any permanent separation from the Palestinians.

This "one-state solution" that the government is leading Israel toward is no solution at all. It will inevitably turn Israel into a state that is either not Jewish or not democratic (and possibly not either one), mired in permanent violence. This prospect is an existential danger for the entire Zionist project.

That's the reason they're cozying up to regimes that oppress their populations and oppose democratic regimes and movements.