February 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


The Congressman Who Infuriates the President (NATASHA BERTRAND, 2/06/18, The Atlantic)

A GOP aide who requested anonymity to speak freely about the investigation said he doesn't think Trump "has ever faced an adversary quite like Schiff, and it's freaking him out."

"First off, he's a skilled prosecutor with an acid tongue, and a command of all the facts including the most deeply held classified information," the aide told me. "Second, he's not in leadership and therefore doesn't have to consider being at the negotiating table like [Chuck] Schumer or [Nancy] Pelosi do. Third, he's got a squeaky clean record (wouldn't have ascended to that position if he didn't) and comes from a district where when Trump lashes out at him, it only makes him more powerful and popular."

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Trump's 'marching orders' to the Pentagon: Plan a grand military parade (Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker February 6, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon's tank -- a room reserved for top secret discussions -- marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military's highest ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, Trump's seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

"The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France," said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. "This is being worked at the highest levels of the military."

If only Richard Libertini were still around to play him in the movie...

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Hero or hired gun? How a British former spy became a flash point in the Russia investigation. (Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, February 6, 2018, Washington Post)

The FBI investigators treated Steele as a peer -- a Russia expert so well-trusted that he had assisted the Justice Department on past cases and provided briefing material for British prime ministers and at least one U.S. president. During intense questioning that day in Rome, they alluded to some of their own findings of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign and raised the prospect of paying Steele to continue gathering intelligence after Election Day, according to people familiar with the discussion.

But Steele was not one of them. He had left the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, seven years earlier and was now working on behalf of Fusion GPS, a private Washington research firm whose work at the time was funded by Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party.

The meeting in Rome captured the unusual and complicated role of Steele, who wrote memos that came to be known as the dossier and who has become the central point of contention in the political brawl raging around the Russia inquiry by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Those who believe Steele consider him a hero, a latter-day Paul Revere who, at personal risk, tried to provide an early warning about the Kremlin's unprecedented meddling in a U.S. campaign. Those who distrust him say he is merely a hired gun leading a political attack on Trump.

Steele himself struggled to navigate dual obligations -- to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life.

Sir Andrew Wood, a British former diplomat and friend of Steele, said he urged him in the fall of 2016 to alert the authorities. "The right sort of people" needed to be told, Wood said he told Steele. "My opinion was, 'You don't have a choice. At least, you don't have an honorable choice.' " [...]

He was steeped in Russia early on after being recruited to Britain's elite spy service from Cambridge University. He spent two decades working for the famed MI6 spy agency, including a stint in his mid-20s in Moscow, where he served undercover in the British Embassy.

When he returned to work for the agency in London, he provided briefing materials on Russia for senior government officials and led the British inquiry into the mysterious 2006 death in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB official and Putin critic.

In 2009, after more than two decades in public service, Steele turned to the private sector and founded a London-based consulting firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, drawing on the reputation and network he developed doing intelligence work.

Among those who have continued to seek his expertise is Steele's former boss Richard Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004.

In an interview, Dearlove said Steele became the "go-to person on Russia in the commercial sector" following his retirement from the Secret Intelligence Service. He described the reputations of Steele and his business partner, fellow intelligence veteran Christopher Burrows, as "superb."

 Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of MI6, called Steele the "go-to person on Russia." (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire via Associated Press)
In one of his first cases as a private consultant, Steele worked closely with the FBI in its investigation of corruption at FIFA, the powerful worldwide soccer governing body. Steele, who at the time was working for the English Football Association, shared his research with top officials at the Justice Department. U.S. officials eventually charged 14 top soccer executives and their associates with wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

Steele and Burrows soon amassed a group of clients that included multinational companies and wealthy business titans, including some Russians, according to people familiar with their work.

Steele continued to feed information to the U.S. government, passing along intelligence he gathered about Ukraine and Russia for corporate clients in 2014 and 2015 to a friend at the State Department, according to former assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland. "He offered us that reporting free, so that we could also benefit from it," she said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

In June 2016, Steele was contacted by Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and co-founder of Fusion GPS. Simpson and Steele had been introduced by a mutual friend in 2009 who knew that they shared a near-obsessive interest in Russian organized crime and that they had worked together on previous cases.

Now Simpson had an intriguing offer: Would Steele's firm help research Trump's ties to Russia? [...]

Most of Simpson's research was based on scouring public records, court filings and media reports from around the world.

Steele brought far more: He was able to tap a network of human sources cultivated over decades of Russia work. He moved quickly, reaching out to Russian contacts and others he referred to as "collectors" who had other sources -- some of whom had no idea their comments would be passed along to Steele.

His sources included "a close associate of Trump," as well as "a senior Russian foreign ministry figure" and a "former top-level Russian intelligence officer," both of whom Steele indicated had revealed their information to a "trusted compatriot," he later reported to Fusion GPS.

Just weeks after taking the case, Steele told friends that the initial intelligence he had gathered was "hair-raising." [...]

Steele told Simpson of his plan to meet with the FBI, describing it as an obligation rooted in his past work for the British government.

" 'I'm a former intelligence officer, and we're your closest ally,' " Steele told Simpson, according to testimony Simpson later gave to the House Intelligence Committee. " 'You know, I have obligations, professional obligations. If there's a national security emergency or possible national security issue, I should report it.' "

Simpson said he did not question Steele's judgment: "He's the spy," Simpson said. "I'm the ex-journalist."  [...]

In late July, Steele told friends he was rattled when WikiLeaks released thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, material that U.S. law enforcement officials said was hacked by Russia. Then Trump -- who had repeatedly praised Putin on the campaign trail -- publicly called on Russia to hack and release a cache of missing Clinton emails.

Steele, who had researched Russian attempts to interfere in European elections for another client, began to fear that the Americans were not taking the Kremlin's efforts seriously enough, associates said.

Stage Two of Memogate (Nancy LeTourneau, February 6, 2018, Washington Monthly)

According to a source familiar with the matter, however, Steele's "memorandum" was actually a handwritten note on a copy of Shearer's report that outlined its origin--the "foreign sub-source" who had been in touch with Shearer. The note identified Shearer as a contact of Sidney Blumenthal's, a longtime associate of the Clintons. It also explained that Steele had obtained the document via Winer, who had gotten it from Shearer.

What Steele added to Shearer's report were the names of sources, along with a note that the author had ties to Blumenthal. That's it.

One can only assume that Carter invented the line about Steele using part of Shearer's memo in his own dossier, because nowhere is that corroborated in the Grassley memo or in any other reporting. As a matter of fact, here is how the Guardian characterizes the handoff from Steele to the FBI:

The Shearer memo was provided to the FBI in October 2016.

It was handed to them by Steele - who had been given it by an American contact - after the FBI requested the former MI6 agent provide any documents or evidence that could be useful in its investigation, according to multiple sources.

The Guardian was told Steele warned the FBI he could not vouch for the veracity of the Shearer memo, but that he was providing a copy because it corresponded with what he had separately heard from his own independent sources.

As for the FBI's take on the Shearer memo, here is where things stand:

...the Guardian has been told the FBI investigation is still assessing details in the "Shearer memo" and is pursuing intriguing leads.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


The case for automating leadership (Johan Aurik, 1/19/18, WEF)

What if leaders knew as much about their organisations as Google knows about them? By deploying appropriate technologies, it is possible today for organisations to capture data on practically every interaction and consolidate every performance metric in an organisation.

Analytic tools powered by AI can rapidly probe the resulting mountains of data to identify correlations and make accurate, useful predictions. By applying such technologies, companies can essentially automate many operational decisions, freeing leaders to focus more on areas where human judgement is clearly required.

Automating management offers decisive advantages. As the system knows exactly what everyone is working on and what is being produced, accountability is clear. Performance evaluation can be grounded in contextually relevant data, rather than subjective inference. Coaching and feedback can be automated, tailored to the individual, and delivered exactly when required, making the dreaded annual review cycle obsolete.

All information can be made available to anyone in the organisation who needs it, and collaboration tools can allow instantaneous communication around a single real-time version of the truth.

Dependencies become much clearer, as the impact of actions in one part of the organisation on another are immediately evident. Peer pressure can drive compliance to process and motivate people to meet their commitments. On a day to day basis, the organisation can be made to largely run itself.

So, is this science fiction? The New York Times best-seller The Decoded Company describes how a company named Klick has made technology and culture inseparable. A Canadian digital agency specialising in healthcare, Klick has pioneered applying digital technology to 1) provide real-time coaching to enable talent and to automate processes 2) use data as a sixth sense to inform decision-making, and 3) create a talent-centric organisation.

At the core of Klick's culture and systems is clarity of roles and tasks. A platform developed by the company keeps all its leaders and employees informed on the progress of work and clearly specifies who is accountable for what.

There is a culture of hyper-transparency, where an entire project team can comment on every aspect of their project. Performance feedback happens every week. And every transaction, interaction, input and outcome is stored in a 'Wisdom Layer' of data that enables "gut feel" to be combined with data to inform rich insights. AI brings predictive insights to inform the company whether a contract will be profitable or a recruit will be successful.

This experiment in automating and augmenting practically every aspect of a company has yielded remarkable efficiencies. Klick, an organisation of 700 people, has just five people in finance, no HR department, no annual review process, and remarkably few administrative assistants. It has sustained a consistent 40% annual growth rate, high levels of profitability, less than 3% voluntary attrition (in an industry where rates are typically near 20%), and public recognition for its contributions to broader society.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


The 'Deep State' Conspiracy Is How Fascists Discredit Democracy : The efforts to call into question the motivations of top officials at the FBI are creating a constitutional crisis. (Glenn Carle, 02.06.18, Daily Beast)

I never saw an officer's personal views interfere with how the agency performed its duties. Personal political opinions, like cellphones and football pools, are left out of the office. This commitment and motivation is why we spend our careers working for a fraction of what our peers in the private sector earn.

Nor do the CIA or the FBI as institutions have political agendas. The idea of the "Deep State" opposing elected leaders and the rule of law is--I will be blunt here--a fascist concept, which is intended to discredit the institutions of democracy. It is done, precisely, so that a "Leader" can represent the "people" without the encumbrance of law or representative institutions.

Most CIA and FBI officers share my alarm that such a distorting and harmful term has even entered American political discussions. Those who use the term "Deep State" frankly disqualify themselves from public life in a democracy.

If anything, the Nunes memorandum shows how carefully the FBI, CIA, and Department of Justice protect an individual from any official abuse. The memorandum notes that at least five senior officials, from three separate departments, on seven different occasions, every 90 days, had to review the FBI's request to investigate Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. That was before they passed the request to the separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court that grants or denies the requests. And all of this occurred each time after officers in the rank and file of the FBI had themselves judged that there was sufficient probable cause of espionage activity to merit the request.

I have lived this process. Its multiple levels of review make it just about certain that FISA requests are based on solid concern about foreign intelligence activity.

So, I can state with confidence that the reaction in the FBI and the CIA to the Nunes memorandum will be disdain for what Madison calls, the "vicious arts" in it. It will be seen for what it truly is: an attempt to protect what appears to be the Trump entourages' ties to Russian intelligence. And there will be irritation at the groundless slurs it casts on FBI officers, and anger at the harm it could cause the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Justice.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:33 PM


GOP Senate office rips Trump nominee: 'Cynics and nuts' will have hard time securing confirmation (Nathan McDermott, 2/06/18, CNN)

CNN's KFile reported on Monday that Leandro Rizzuto Jr., Trump's nominee to be the US Ambassador to Barbados and several other Caribbean countries, frequently retweeted conspiracy theories and rumors about Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

A spokesperson for Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse's office joked in a statement Tuesday that the Senate should probably know Rizzuto's views on the moon landing and warned that "cynics and nuts" would probably face a difficult confirmation process.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary Conservative Lawyer : A new book illustrates how Alexander Hamilton used British legal traditions and the American judiciary to give a distinctive constitutional form to a new republic. : a review of Kate Elizabeth Brown's Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law (2017) (Samuel Gregg, February 5th, 2018, Public Discourse)

In Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (1985), the historian Forrest McDonald underlined how conscious America's Founders were of what McDonald called "The Rights of Englishmen." McDonald especially had in mind the link made by many prerevolutionary Americans between liberty and property. But McDonald went on to stress how British constitutional arrangements, legislation, and common law shaped the same Americans' use of their property and liberties during the colonial period to a greater extent than they perhaps realized. [...]

Hamilton's project is usually portrayed as implemented through his political writings, advice tendered to President George Washington, and critical pieces of financial and economic legislation. Kate Elizabeth Brown's Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law (2017), however, highlights the extent to which Hamilton used British legal traditions and America's federal and state courts to achieve many of his aims. In doing so, Brown argues, Hamilton revealed himself not just "as a constitutional strategist" of the first order but also as a conservative innovator--one less nationalistic than is often supposed.

As Brown describes it, Hamilton's legal expertise proved especially relevant as he pursued five goals. These were: establishing a robust federal judicial power, enhancing federal executive power, creating a commercial republic, protecting the federal government's fiscal powers, and securing basic liberties such as due process, trial by jury, and press freedoms.

There were, Brown states, two primary legal sources on which Hamilton drew to realize these ends. The first of these was Anglo-American common law. Among other things, common law emphasizes judges reflecting on judicial precedents to apply established principles consistently across time to address unresolved questions, especially when legislation is ambiguous or silent on the matter under consideration. [...]

The second reference point for Hamilton, Brown maintains, was the British constitutional tradition. Hamilton was an unabashed promoter of Britain's post-Glorious Revolution constitutional arrangements at a time when many Americans were suspicious of anything associated with Britain. Hamilton, by contrast, saw this heritage as the basis for what Brown calls "a restorative approach to the American constitutional system."

Had George understood that we just wanted our rights as Englishmen, the whole disaster could have been avoided.
Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


North Korean State Media: 'Old Lunatic' Trump 'Cannot Deodorize Nasty Smell From His Dirty Body' (Joe DePaolo, February 6th, 2018, Mediate)

According to CNN's Will Ripley, North Korean state media took a shot on Trump's hygiene on Tuesday -- saying that the president "cannot deodorize [the] nasty smell from his dirty body."

Genesis 6:12

Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


Thriller spins true yarn of Jewish athlete-turned-WWII-assassin: 'The Catcher Was a Spy' sees Paul Rudd playing Moe Berg, the genius baseball catcher who goes to Europe to kill a German scientist before the Reich becomes an atomic superpower (JORDAN HOFFMAN, 2/06/18, Times of Israel)

When we first meet Moe Berg in 1938, he's already an outcast on his current team, the Boston Red Sox. He's old, he isn't the best player, but he's all-seeing from his position calling the pitches as a catcher, and cocky when his instincts are proven correct.

He speaks a slew of languages, reads foreign newspapers, appears on radio quiz shows (and blows everyone away) but reveals nothing about himself. He doesn't socialize with the rest of the team, and some think he may be a "left-handed batter," code for a homosexual.

Later, we'll see that even in this bigoted era, Berg prefers absolute privacy than defending himself against this charge. (As it happens, he lives with a woman without being married, an ignoble thing for this time period, but certainly "preferable" to the other claim.) There are implications that Berg's self-perception as an outsider springs from his earliest days on a baseball team, the only Jew on a church-organized squad.

Berg joins baseball's most notable figures, like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, on a goodwill tour of Japan. His stats didn't really merit it, but the Princeton graduate who later attended Columbia Law School and the Sorbonne had a reputation among sportswriters as being "the Professor."

Japanese was one of the few languages his didn't speak, but the wags thought he did, so he ended up on the trip. He brought a small movie camera with him and, seizing an opportunity, he shot footage of an air field from the roof of a hospital. He had a hunch this could come in handy down the line. 

While Moe took surreptitious photos of Tokyo that Jimmy Doolittle studied before bombing it, his brother was sent to Nagasaki to study A-bomb victims.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


'Junk' political news shared more widely by Trump backers, study finds (February 06, 2018, McClatchy)

Backers of President Donald Trump are sharing more "junk" political news - ideologically extreme, conspiratorial, sensationalist and phony information - over Twitter and Facebook than all other groups combined, significantly magnifying the polarization in the American electorate, according to an analysis by British researchers.

Rather than obtaining news over social media from mainstream outlets, these Americans shared posts from 92 Twitter accounts of fringe groups such as "100PercentFEDUp," "Beforeitsnews," "TheAngryAmericans" and "WeArethenewmedia" during the three months before Trump's first State of the Union address, the Oxford University researchers reported.

The study, which culled data from hundreds of thousands of social media accounts, found similar patterns among Facebook users.

One can hardly expect them to read genuine news without totally decompensating.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Bob Mueller's Investigation Is Larger--and Further Along--Than You Think (ARRETT M. GRAFF, 02.05.18, Wired)

Right now, we know it involves at least five separate investigative angles:

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering. Business dealings and money laundering related to Trump campaign staff, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates, are a major target of the inquiry. While this phase of the investigation has already led to the indictment of Gates and Manafort, it almost certainly will continue to bear further fruit. Gates appears to be heading toward a plea deal with Mueller, and there is expected to be a so-called "superseding" indictment that may add to or refine the existing charges. Such indictments are common in federal prosecutions, particularly in complicated financial cases where additional evidence may surface. Mueller's team is believed to have amassed more than 400,000 documents in this part of the investigation alone. There have also been reports--largely advanced through intriguing reporting by Buzzfeed--about suspicious payments flagged by Citibank that passed through the accounts of the Russian embassy in the United States, including an abnormal attempted $150,000 cash withdrawal by the embassy just days after the election.

2. Russian Information Operations. When we speak in shorthand about the "hacking of the election," we are actually talking about unique and distinct efforts, with varying degrees of coordination, by different entities associated with the Russian government. One of these is the "information operations" (bots and trolls) that swirled around the 2016 election, focused on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, possibly with the coordination or involvement of the Trump campaign's data team, Cambridge Analytica. [...]

3. Active Cyber Intrusions. Separate from the trolls and bots on social media were a series of active operations and cyber intrusions carried out by Russian intelligence officers at the GRU and the FSB against political targets like John Podesta and the DNC. We know that Russian intelligence also penetrated the Republican National Committee, but none of those emails or documents were made public. This thread of the investigation may also involve unofficial or official campaign contacts with WikiLeaks or other campaign advisers, like Roger Stone, as well as the warning--via the Australian government--that former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos appeared to have foreknowledge of the hacking of Democratic emails. [...]

4. Russian Campaign Contacts. This corner of the investigation remains perhaps the most mysterious aspect of Mueller's probe, as questions continue to swirl about the links and contacts among Russian nationals and officials and Trump campaign staff, including Carter Page, the subject of the FISA warrant that was the focus of the Nunes memo. Numerous campaign (and now administration) officials have lied about or failed to disclose contacts with both Russian nationals and Russian government officials, from meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to government banker Sergey Gorkov to the infamous Trump Tower meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr. with Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer Natalia V. Veselnitskaya.

At least two members of the campaign--Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn--have already pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about these contacts. But many other Trump aides face scrutiny, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. Some of these contacts may go back years; Page himself originally surfaced in January 2015 as "Male #1" in the indictment of three Russian SVR agents, working undercover in New York City, who had tried to recruit Page, an oil and gas adviser, as an intelligence asset, only to decide that he was too scatterbrained to be a useful source.

5. Obstruction of Justice. This is the big kahuna--the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice by pressuring FBI director James Comey to "look past" the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn and whether his firing in May was in any way tied to Comey's refusal to stop the investigation. This thread, as far as we know from public reporting, remains the only part of the investigation that stretches directly into the Oval Office. It likely focuses not only on the President and the FBI director but also on a handful of related questions about the FBI investigation of Flynn and the White House's statements about the Trump Tower meeting. The president himself has said publicly that he fired Comey over "this Russia thing."

There's fresh reason to believe that this is an active criminal investigation; lost amid the news of the Nunes memo on Friday was a court ruling in a lawsuit where I and a handful of other reporters from outlets like CNN and Daily Caller are suing the Justice Department to release the "Comey memos": The ruling held that, based on the FBI's private testimony to the court--including evidence from Michael Dreeben, one of the leaders of the special counsel's office--releasing the memos would compromise the investigation. "Having heard this, the Court is now fully convinced that disclosure 'could reasonably be expected to interfere' with that ongoing investigation," the judge wrote in our case.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Help Trump climb down from the wall (IJuan Williams, 2/06/18, The Hill)

With the growing influence of Hispanic voters in southwestern states like Arizona, where Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring and Sen. John McCain is in poor health, Republicans are hesitant to embrace the label of the "party of the wall."

In Nevada, Sen. Dean Heller -- arguably the most vulnerable Republican senator up for re-election this year -- is no fan of the wall.

Heller can see that Democrats are targeting his state and congressional districts where the Latino population has increased in recent years. A wall will not help Republicans hold those seats.

Former Ariz. Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), who also served as Obama's Homeland Security secretary, gave the Democrats a good line for political advertising in the southwest when she famously said, regarding a border wall: "Show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder."

Another problem for Republicans is that much of the land along the U.S.-Mexico border is privately owned, meaning the Trump administration would have to assert sweeping new eminent domain powers to seize the land and build the wall on it.

This kind of unprecedented government land grab would tie the government up in years of costly litigation as landowners fight back in the courts.

And then there is the fact that Trump is not getting help to pay for the wall from Mexico.

Whenever Trump says that Mexico will eventually pay for the wall, former Mexican President Vincente Fox tweets back: "We are not paying for that stupid f-in wall."

For Christians, no amount of money wasted on the wall is too much to pay for citizenship for 11 million neighbors.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM


Is Faith Gaining Ground In American Music? Interview With 'Rock Gets Religion' Author Mark Joseph (CHRISTIAN TOTO February 5, 2018, Daily Wire)

What do Alice Cooper, Chance the Rapper and Katy Perry have in common -- besides selling millions of records?

Author Mark Joseph points to their faith and how it washes over their musical contributions. Joseph's new book, "Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil's Music," connects the disparate talents in ways you might not expect.

It's there all the same, just like how God's influence can be seen across music genres in the most unlikely of places. [...]

"These are guys who are really struggling to express their faith," says Joseph, promoting his third book examining the intersection between God and music. "The Bible talks about working on your faith with fear and trembling."

"Rock Gets Religion" introduces us to names big and small whose art reflects their faith journeys. For some, the conflict between a secular music world and God became too much. Others navigated the thorny path between music fame and honoring God. No two stories are the same. The themes are unmistakably similar, Joseph says. That leaves some Christians unsure how much to embrace them.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 AM


Gene Sharp: freedom is out of the bottle (MANUEL NUNES RAMIRES SERRANO 5 February 2018, OpenDemocracy)

Hardly a revolutionary, Gene Sharp will be remembered as an inspiration for countless revolutions. A lifelong advocate of non-violent resistance, Sharp believed that the road towards freedom cannot be paved with violence. His strategy, outlined in "From Dictatorship to Democracy", has been adopted by insurgents everywhere. From the resistance in the Burmese jungles to protestors in Ukraine; from dissidents in Cairo to activists in the outskirts of Luanda. All of them have benefited from Gene´s Sharp ability to explore dictators' worst nightmares.

Sharp reasoned that autocracies are vulnerable because dictators are never as strong as they think. And people are never as weak as they think they are. Standing on the shoulders of Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, he suggested that non-violent action is a viable alternative to violent conflict. Not for any moral reasons, but because when we choose violence we fight with our enemy´s best weapons; violence generates violence. Far from being a pacifist, he recognized that limited violence against dictatorial forces may sometimes be unavoidable. However, we should never rely on it deliberately.  

The central point of his philosophy is that non-violent resistance draws its strength from human nature. From our capacity to fight for what we believe in and be stubborn. But he was quick to point out that there´s no such thing as a universal formula to challenge oppression. Strategies vary from region to region and from case to case.

The tactics adopted in the Burmese jungles differed substantially from the ones used during the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt.

...cost Egyptians their democracy and the Rohingya their own state.  Indeed, the effectiveness of non-violence depends not on the non-violent themselves but on the violence of those they are making demands of.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 AM


Was Alexander Hamilton a Great Man? (William Murchison, 2/06/18, Imaginative Conservative)

In an era of sublime confusion regarding the Republic's purposes, if any, one can do worse than hark back to Hamilton, who had a crystal-clear vision of the kind of nation he wished the United States to become. McDonald writes:

His vision was grander [than that of the other Founding Fathers]: he sought to transform the American people into free, opulent, and law-abiding citizens, through the instrumentality of a limited republican government, on the basis of consent, and in the face of powerful vested interests in the status quo. The others were content merely to effect a political revolution. He set out to effect what amounted to a social revolution.

The revolution would proceed in accordance with Hamilton's own values. His notion was that money should become the agent of transformation--in McDonald's words, "the universal measure of the value of things." So consecrated, money would make society "fluid and open to merit;" industry would become "both rewarding and necessary." And America's greatness would be guaranteed.

An audacious, even a presumptuous, design. Hamilton was, at all events, in no doubt as to what should be done. As McDonald points out, "his true genius...was for running things, for organizing and regularizing human activity and establishing procedures whereby work could most effectively be done."

The Hamilton known to schoolboys is something of a haughty aristocrat. And in fact his social design called for the best men to run the country. Yet these would be men raised up by their own merits, not by birth or preferment. McDonald tells us that Hamilton hated "the American system of pluralistic local oligarchies [that] made everyone dependent upon those born to the oligarchy. He hated the narrow provincialism that the system nourished and fed upon." Not least did he resent the system's failure to reward hard work.

What was wanted, then, was "efficient fiscal machinery," beneficial to all; so crucial to life and to government that "it would be almost impossible to dismantle the machinery short of dismantling the whole society."

Accordingly, as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton worked to have the federal government assume the debts of the states. The public debt, as a whole, would not be paid off quickly; rather, payments would be stretched out over time in order to expand the supply of money. Mere paper would thus become a form of capital. A mint and a national bank were likewise wanted, and in due course Hamilton procured their establishment. No laissez faire economist like his contemporary Adam Smith, Hamilton sought government protection and subsidies for American industry. He believed, to be sure, in what we should nowadays call private enterprise. In McDonald's words, Hamilton thought that

The function of government should be to promote a general spirit of improvement. It should reward productivity and punish dissipation, idleness, and extravagance. Taxes should be designed to encourage industry, never to impede it. Regulation of productive activity should be confined to inspection to prevent frauds and ensure the highest quality and marketability of products. [...]

To Hamilton's opponents, McDonald concedes nothing. The great man is right, all the rest are wrong. Well, in fact, the anti-Hamiltonians often wound up looking foolish--as when, to cite only one instance, they too fervently backed revolutionary France and Burke's "red fool fury of the Seine." It is easy to see, in retrospect, that Hamilton's desire for well-mannered but non-deferential relations with Great Britain was far the wiser policy.

On the other hand, the bitter agrarian opposition to Hamilton's policies merits, at the very least, an attempt at understanding. Hamilton made it clear by 1791 that "the aim of his program as a whole was the abandonment of the leisurely, agrarian life-style to which Americans had long been accustomed." And why not? shrugs McDonald. The agrarian life-style was oppressive and somnolent. Through com­merce and manufacturing, Hamilton wished to "liberate and energize" America. Whether America wished, in just this way, to be liberated and energized was a question that scarcely bothered him. Yet, in fact, attachment to agrarian values is an enduring facet of the American character. Hamilton--and McDonald--would have performed a greater service had they not contemptuously waved aside such values as beneath the attention of intelligent men.

Posted by orrinj at 3:20 AM


Trump's Lawyers Want Him to Refuse an Interview in Russia Inquiry (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MAGGIE HABERMAN, FEB. 5, 2018, NY times)

Lawyers for President Trump have advised him against sitting down for a wide-ranging interview with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to four people briefed on the matter, raising the specter of a monthslong court battle over whether the president must answer questions under oath.

His lawyers are concerned that the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators.