January 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 PM

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM



In October 2016, President Donald Trump's lawyer arranged a payment of $130,000 to former adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, the Wall Street Journal reports. The payment was part of an agreement that Clifford, who performed under the name Stormy Daniels, would refrain from making public comment about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Donald Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006, according to the Journal.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Spy Bosses Helped Trump Draft Tweet Backing Surveillance Program (RYAN LUCAS, 1/12/17, npr)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster all convened in the Oval Office with the president to urge him to row back his criticism. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also joined in by telephone.

The men helped coach the president in wording the conclusion of a thread that began with a condemnation of the law that the president's administration supports.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Television Is Showing Us the Dark Side of Trying to Play God (Noah Berlatsky, 1/11/18, The Washington Post)

In each of these shows, a powerful creator sets up a complex plot to torment humans for sadistic entertainment. This metaphorical setup presents television as a complicated and intricate act of creation, requiring a divine spark. But it's a divine spark that panders to humanity's worst impulses.

The divine plan, as seen on TV, is a world in which God designs fiendish plot arcs to eviscerate us all. Michael tells Eleanor and her friends that they're cockroaches: Small, disgusting creatures that he delights in exterminating.

Religion used to provide society with a shared communal point of reference -- a common well of stories and ethical examples. Now, that point of reference largely comes through popular entertainment in general, and television in particular.

The Good Place is a comedy, but it takes the ramifications of television as moral landscape seriously. Eleanor's efforts to become less selfish and kinder seem straightforward, but other characters get into more intricate ethical issues.

Chidi, for example, ends up in the Bad Place because he's so obsessed with being a moral person that he's paralyzed with indecision. He's so absorbed in doing the right thing that he can't take the time to be kind, or even marginally humane, to others. Ethics without love is still sin -- which is why, as Michael gleefully informs Chidi, all the philosophers from Kant to Foucault are in hell. (That's an insight Christian author C.S. Lewis might have appreciated.)

But while The Good Place tries to take on religious themes, it's also hesitant about its ability to do so. Michael, the architect, is a demon, and an incompetent demon at that. If God's a showrunner, The Good Place says, we're all in a lot of trouble -- which, in fact, we are.

There is hardly a more enduring theme in Western literature (and sadly in human reality) than that attempts to create utopia end in dystopia. Television and film repeat the trope because it's a Puritan Nation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


A Bad Idea on Immigration (John Kasich and Jeb Bush Jr., JAN. 11, 2018, NY Times)

Regardless of your views of the underlying legal arguments in the case, the image of a small, frightened boy being pulled from the arms of a sheltering adult by a team of heavily armed federal agents remains seared in the minds of many people as a low point in the immigration debate.

Brace yourself for the possibility of seeing this kind of scene again.

As Republicans, whose party has consistently and rightly advanced policies to support the essential role of families in America, we are deeply troubled by the harm that is about to be done to hundreds of thousands of families that have legally called America home for more than two decades.

In the wake of the 2001 earthquake in El Salvador that claimed more than 1,000 lives and destroyed 100,000 homes, the United States allowed hard-hit families to live and work in America. This merciful act was one of many that America took to relieve the suffering of a natural disaster in one of the hemisphere's most troubled, impoverished nations.

Now, after almost two decades, the nation that showed that kindness is poised to revoke it and force approximately 200,000 Salvadorans to leave the United States, even those whose children are American citizens. (Together, they have about 190,000 American-born children.)

It is wrong to potentially break up so many families that have for so long made the United States their home -- legally and at our invitation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 AM


Trump to extend Iran sanctions relief, keeping nuclear deal intact: source (Steve Holland, 1/12/18, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump will extend sanctions relief granted to Iran under its 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers, leaving the accord intact for now, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


What the Iran Protests Were Not  (VALI NASR  JAN 10, 2018, The Atlantic)

The important factor in the recent protests, and why they did not resemble the fight against tyranny Trump tried to portray in his tweets, is the dog that did not bark. The urban dissident voices did not join the populist call for economic justice. Why? First, urbanites, as note by the economist Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, have been the main beneficiaries of President Hassan Rouhani's economic liberalization policies, like his talk of moderation, and have been the main backers of his pursuit of a nuclear deal. They had expected that the deal would end Iran's international isolation, yield economic benefits, and also improve the political climate at home.

They saw in Rouhani an orderly path to change. Many among these urbanites actually feared that the protests could lead to chaos, or tilt Iranian politics in favor of their nemesis, the populist demagogue and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Without Tehran joining the protests, they never really posed an existential threat to the Islamic Republic.

This is the time to accelerate the economic reintegration of Iran into the world economy, in exchange they could insist on elections in Alawistan.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 AM


French told not to say 'smartphone' in ongoing battle against English (The Local, 12 January 2018)

After banishing the likes of "email", "hashtag" and "dark web", to much hilarity -- and without much success it must be said -- they have now turned their attention to the "smartphone".

The body known as the Commission d'enrichissement de la langue fran├žaise, which works alongside the famously proud and often grouchy Academie Fran├žaise, is urging French speakers to use the word "mobile multifonction" instead. 

It takes a lot of work to keep a language as ugly as French.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 AM


Trump cancels London trip amid threats of mass protests (AFP and TOI STAFF, 1/12/18, Times of Israel)

US President Donald Trump said late Thursday he no longer plans to attend the opening of a new US embassy in London.