March 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


Qatar Had Dirt On Kushner But Kept It From Mueller To Preserve White House Ties (Aiden Pink, 3/13/18, The Forward)

Qatar believes that secret meetings between Kushner and leaders from the U.A.E., its regional rival, may have led to Trump's endorsement of the U.A.E.'s naval blockade of Qatar. The country also believes that Kushner took an anti-Qatar stance after negotiations fell apart between his family business and Qatar investors.

But when the country's representatives visited Washington in January, they did not share their information with Mueller in order to preserve their country's relationship with the U.S., three sources told NBC.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 PM


There's No Scientific Basis for Race--It's a Made-Up Label (Elizabeth Kolbert, 3/13/18, National Geographic)

Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. The races had distinct characters, which corresponded to their place in a divinely determined hierarchy. Morton's "craniometry" showed, he claimed, that whites, or "Caucasians," were the most intelligent of the races. East Asians--Morton used the term "Mongolian"--though "ingenious" and "susceptible of cultivation," were one step down. Next came Southeast Asians, followed by Native Americans. Blacks, or "Ethiopians," were at the bottom. In the decades before the Civil War, Morton's ideas were quickly taken up by the defenders of slavery.

"He had a lot of influence, particularly in the South," says Paul Wolff Mitchell, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is showing me the skull collection, now housed at the Penn Museum. We're standing over the braincase of a particularly large-headed Dutchman who helped inflate Morton's estimate of Caucasian capacities. When Morton died, in 1851, the Charleston Medical Journal in South Carolina praised him for "giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race."

Today Morton is known as the father of scientific racism. So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another that a tour of his collection is a haunting experience. To an uncomfortable degree we still live with Morton's legacy: Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.

This is the case even though what science actually has to tell us about race is just the opposite of what Morton contended.

Morton thought he'd identified immutable and inherited differences among people, but at the time he was working--shortly before Charles Darwin put forth his theory of evolution and long before the discovery of DNA--scientists had no idea how traits were passed on. Researchers who have since looked at people at the genetic level now say that the whole category of race is misconceived. Indeed, when scientists set out to assemble the first complete human genome, which was a composite of several individuals, they deliberately gathered samples from people who self-identified as members of different races. In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, "The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis."

It was especially fun when realizing that being a Darwinist made him a racist forced Stephen Jay Gould to renounce his life's work.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Tijuana residents laugh at border wall prototypes, call Trump 'loco' (Lizbeth Diaz, Delphine Schrank, 3/13/18, Reuters) 

Mexican residents of a poor Tijuana slum in the shadow of eight prototypes of U.S. President Donald Trump's planned border wall called the project a waste of money and laughed at the idea the monolithic slabs will stop desperate immigrants.

One of the best things about the Trumpbots' racism is that they radically underestimate the desire of immigrants to be American.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Roger Stone claimed contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, according to two associates (Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, March 13, 2018, Washington Post)

In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line.

Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the hackers were working for Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 PM


Trump Denies Russian Guilt in Murder. Tillerson Admits It, Is Fired. Hmm. (Jonathan Chait, 3/13/18, New York)

Last night, Rex Tillerson told reporters the attack "clearly" was undertaken by Russia. Then this morning Trump fired Tillerson, without any advance notice whatsoever. After that, Trump briefly appeared on the White House lawn, and when asked about the murder, said, "We will condemn Russia ...or whoever it may be."

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


Trump personal aide John McEntee forced out over background check issues (JOHN SANTUCCI, KATHERINE FAULDERS TARA PALMERI Mar 13, 2018, ABC News)

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


4.4 million 2012 Obama voters stayed home in 2016 -- more than a third of them black (Philip Bump March 12, Washington Post)

On Sunday, the New York Times published research from a group of political scientists and data analysts that breaks out how voters who supported President Barack Obama in 2012 behaved in 2016. Most of them, unsurprisingly, voted for Hillary Clinton. Nine percent voted for Trump. Seven percent didn't vote.

Those percentages aren't distributed evenly by race. According to the analysis, 12 percent of white voters who had backed Obama in 2012 voted for Trump four years later. Eleven percent of black Obama 2012 voters stayed home.
Those are small percentages of the total pool of voters, but it means that the Obama-to-Trump voter pool was overwhelmingly white -- and the Obama-to-nonvoting pool disproportionately black.

We see this effect in other ways, too. The U.S. Elections Project tracks Census Bureau data on turnout. In 2016, black turnout was down eight points from 2012, helping contribute to that lower percentage that black voters made up of the overall electorate.

Democrats almost have to nominate Michelle.

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Central Banks Are Looking for New Ways to Meet Inflation Targets (Bloomberg, March 12, 2018)

With so many central banks failing to hit their inflation targets, some are considering changes to the tool kits they use to steer their economies.

Norway's decision to lower its price target is just the latest example, and follows more or less official adjustments in Sweden, Argentina and the euro area. Even in New Zealand, the birthplace of inflation targeting, the central bank is shifting to a broader goal that includes a focus on employment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


EXCLUSIVE: Top Arab spy and prince's conduit to the Kremlin were at the Seychelles meeting between Trump donor Erik Prince and Russian oligarch which Mueller is probing (Ryan Parry, West Coast Correspondent For and Josh Boswell For, 12 March 2018, Daily Mail)

One of the Arab world's top spies and a shadowy conduit to Vladimir Putin's Kremlin were present at a meeting in the Seychelles being probed by Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, can disclose.

The meeting between Erik Prince, the Trump donor and billionaire Blackwater founder whose sister is education secretary Betsy DeVos, and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker close to the Kremlin, was convened by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed, who is the de factor joint ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

But can disclose that also present were bin Zayed's spy chief and a Palestinian seen as the crown prince's personal conduit to Putin's Kremlin.

The two men - Hamad al Mazroie, the de facto head of the UAE intelligence service, and Mohammed Dahlan, a bin Zayed adviser who is fluent in Russian - were never named by Prince when he testified to the House intelligence committee about the meeting.

It emerged last month that George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and Middle East expert with ties to the Trump administration was present.

Nader is now co-operating with Mueller after being stopped as he entered the U.S. in January and being served with a subpoena.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Oil prices dip on relentless rise in U.S. crude output (Henning Gloystein, 3/13/18, Reuters) 

Oil prices dipped on Tuesday, extending losses from the previous session, as the inexorable rise in U.S. crude output weighed on markets.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 AM


The wild, wild world of Sheriff David Clarke (Cockburn, 11 March 2018, Spectator USA)

Clarke has suffered other problems on the home front. Two months before Clarke spoke at the RNC, an inmate died in one of his jails in Milwaukee after allegedly being deprived of water for a week. After the autopsy results were released, Clarke was further accused of calling the city medical examiner and threatening him, an accusation Clarke declined to comment on. The jail death has resulted in an ongoing criminal trial of three jail staff. Two have plead not guilty. Inmates said the man cried out for water before he died.

But Cockburn can reveal that there may be another reason for his political demise. It seems that he has for some time been conducting extra-marital affairs.

Clarke filed for divorce from his wife two weeks ago, on the day before this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Since last year, he has been seen regularly with Hedieh Mirahmadi, a Muslim woman who has a job conducting sensitivity training with law enforcement agencies. According to her LinkedIn page, Mirahmadi was a consultant to the FBI from 2015 until June 2017.

Mirahmadi characterises her relationship as standard for a business manager to someone of Clarke's stature. But when asked to confirm or deny whether they were having an affair, Mirahmadi told Cockburn, 'well, he's filing for a divorce, so I don't think it's technically an affair. I don't really want to comment on the nature of our relationship.'

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


GOP House Intelligence member says Russia did try to help Trump, his panel 'lost all credibility' to investigate (The Week, 3/13/18)

The U.S. intelligence community disagrees with that assessment, and said so again Monday, CNN's Erin Burnett reminded House Intelligence Committee member Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) Monday night. "They believed that the Russian intent was to hurt Hillary Clinton, but as it became clear that Donald Trump was a viable candidate, they then took it further," Burnett said. "They wanted to explicitly help Donald Trump. So you're saying you do agree?" "I believe there's evidence of everything that you just said," Rooney agreed. "But I also believe there's evidence to where they were trying to wreak havoc on both sides."

Rooney said his assertion is "not completely the opposite" of what Conaway said. "I think there were efforts to try to hurt Hillary and help Trump, but I think there was also the opposite, too," he said. Burnett asked why Republicans are wrapping up the House investigation with questions outstanding, and Rooney was frank. "We have gone completely off the rails, and now we're basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day's news," he said. "As you allude to, we have lost all credibility."

The Walls Are Closing In on Trump: Nunes' 'investigation' has shown Washington at its worst. It's been a pure exercise in protecting Trump, and a low point for the GOP's reputation as the party of national security. (Rick Wilson, 03.12.18, Daily Beast)

When secret agent man Devin Nunes raced to the White House to break a phony story of illegal and inappropriate surveillance from a mysterious "whistleblower," it turned out the super-secret intel he set his ass on fire to reveal came from... wait for it... the White House itself.  Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, both employees of the White House, provided Nunes with top secret material outside the approved channels to push one of many of the White House's endless variations on the "no collusion--no puppet, you're the puppet" defense.

Nunes released a memo last month that tried and failed to bring the grown-ups' investigations to a halt, and to change the facts of why Carter Page and Trump campaign officials came under the baleful glare of the FISA Court. Spoiler: it wasn't the intelligence community helping Hillary Clinton. It was Trump's allies and family ass-deep in contacts, connections, communications, and coordination with Vladimir Putin's information warfare operation.  

To imagine for even one moment that every intelligence agency in this nation is wrong and that Devin Nunes, super-staffer Derek Harvey and the other partisans are right about Putin and Trump is beyond ludicrous. Harvey, a refugee from the Trump national security council purge executed by H.R. McMaster and John Kelly, is now the lead agent in the coverup by Republican members of the House. Nunes, while claiming to have recused himself, has remained deeply involved at all time in the coverup.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM


Stormy Daniels Outmaneuvers White House, Gives Trump Ultimatum (Eric Boehlert, March 13, 2018, Share Blue)

Now, in a bold move that places more pressure on the White House, Daniels is offering to give back the $130,000.

The New York Times reports that Daniels' lawyer sent a letter to Trump's personal attorney early Monday indicating that Daniels would "wire the money into an account of Mr. Trump's choosing by Friday." According to the report, Trump's lawyer has until noon tomorrow to respond.

Daniels and her attorney want to return the hush money to make the agreement to stay quiet null and void. They argue that Daniels would then be free to speak openly about her relationship with Trump and well as to share any text messages, phone and/or videos relating to Trump.

For the White House, the story continues to descend into chaos.

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 AM


Relativistic Baseball: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light? (Ellen McManis, What If?)

The answer turns out to be "a lot of things", and they all happen very quickly, and it doesn't end well for the batter (or the pitcher). I sat down with some physics books, a Nolan Ryan action figure, and a bunch of videotapes of nuclear tests and tried to sort it all out. What follows is my best guess at a nanosecond-by-nanosecond portrait

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Russian spy claims he was poisoned just like Sergei Skripal as Vladimir Putin wants him dead (Nigel Nelson, 10 MAR 2018, Daily Mail)

Boris Karpichkov says he and Skripal were on a hit-list of EIGHT defectors Vladimir Putin wants dead - and names the others . [...]

"Vladimir Putin was there and was briefed that the hit had been a success." And he reveals other names on a hit list he has been given by his contact.

OLEG GORDIEVSKY, 79: Britain's top Cold War double agent spirited out of Russia in 1985 in the boot of a Ford saloon.

BILL BROWDER, 53: ­US-born Brit financier banned from Russia for fraud, but he claims it was for exposing corruption.

IGOR SUTYAGIN, 53: Russian nuclear weapons specialist accused of spying for UK. Spy-swapped in 2010 along with Skirpal.

YURI SHVETS, 65: Ex-KGB major who defected to America in 1994. A key witness in the poisoning of Litvinenko.

CHRISTOPHER STEELE, 53: Former MI6 officer who claimed Russian spies had a video of Donald Trump cavorting with prostitutes.

VLADIMIR REZUN, 70 : Soviet military intelligence captain who defected to Britain in 1978.

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Candidate Haley: The portrait that emerges is of a retail politician turning U.N. diplomacy into a ticket to the White House. (COLUM LYNCH, MARCH 9, 2018, Foreign Policy)

Over the winter holidays, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations got around to hanging the official portrait of Ambassador Nikki Haley alongside the images of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in its lobby in New York.

But there was something, or someone, missing. In the spot where the portraits of America's previous top diplomats, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, once hung was an unused picture hanger. The U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had been essentially airbrushed out of this American diplomatic tableau.

The elimination of America's top diplomat from the mission's lobby gallery highlighted the contentious nature of relations at the top of the president's diplomatic team, as well as the unique nature of Haley's tenure as U.S. ambassador.

The first Republican Cabinet-level U.N. ambassador since the end of the Cold War, Haley has rejected the traditional chain of command that grants the secretary of state the primary policymaking role, and she has made it clear she will accept nothing less than to be Tillerson's equal. Her voracious pursuit of the spotlight, meanwhile, has elevated her national profile and strengthened her prospects for higher political office should she decide, as many suspect she will, to pursue the American presidency.

"Overall, the consensus in Republican national security circles is that she has done herself a huge favor by taking this position and going to New York," says Daniel Vajdich, a Republican foreign-policy expert who advised the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz. "She can be a very popular candidate in 2020 or 2024."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Why (Almost) Everyone Likes Jake Tapper: Liberals praise the CNN anchor, but so do conservatives. How did he pull this off in the age of "Fake News"? (GRAHAM VYSE, March 9, 2018, New Republic)

Jake Tapper has found himself--or put himself--in the middle of the gun-control debate in America. After last month's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the CNN anchor moderated a town hall in which parents and survivors vented anger at politicians, police, and the National Rifle Association.

"We're here tonight to facilitate your desire to speak directly to your leaders," he said as the broadcast began. He made a few points--for instance, that Democrats didn't prioritize gun control when they last held Congress and the White House--but mostly hung back, even when the dialogue grew tense. "Normally at a debate or a town hall, I would be quick to say to someone, 'That was rude' or 'We're going to try to keep it civil here,' or 'Let's not have personal attacks,'" he later told Variety. "But in this situation, who am I to tell someone that just lost a daughter or a friend, 'Don't talk that way'?"

Media observers said the town hall was a "stunning" event, unlike any in the history of American TV. Liberals cheered it, too. But conservatives hated it. Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, called it a "show trial on behalf of full gun bans," and nationally syndicated radio host Joe Walsh described it to me as "a one-sided pep rally against guns."

Days later, Tapper grilled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. "Just so people watching at home understand," Tapper said, "even after the shooter left the school, there was a period of time where nobody was going into the school--no law enforcement officers. People were bleeding out." He later asked Israel, "Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward sheriff's office about this shooter before the incident?"

Some liberals criticized the interview. But conservatives loved it. Shapiro said it was "deeply necessary and perfectly done"; NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch agreed. The Blaze founder Glenn Beck called Tapper "the number one journalist in the nation." The right praised Tapper again this week after he called out Democrats for not condemning Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who recently gave an anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT speech.

With the asymmetric polarization of American politics, many on the right condemn mainstream news organizations as liberal organs or "Fake News," and they cocoon themselves in a right-wing media ecosystem of Fox News, the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and the like. This includes President Donald Trump, whose favorite show is Fox & Friends and number-one target is CNN. In this era, consensus journalists--those who are respected across America's partisan divide--are not supposed to exist. And yet, Tapper has become perhaps the most widely praised journalist working in TV today.

The Left and the Right have abandoned the field in favor of their niche 20%, so it's easy to speak for America...if you so choose.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Why a white town paid for a class called 'Hispanics 101' (Danielle Paquette, 3/07/18, Washington Post)

BRANSON, Mo. -- In a ballroom with antlers on the wall and hoof prints on the carpet, diversity coach Miguel Joey Aviles asked whether anyone knew how to merengue.

"Lord have mercy," he said, counting hands. "Only two?"

This is "Hispanics 101," a class meant to teach employers in the Ozarks resort town of 11,400 how to lure workers from Puerto Rico and persuade them to stay.

The economy depends on it. As tourism season kicks off this month, the remote getaway known for dinner theaters, country music concerts and a museum of dinosaur replicas has 2,050 vacancies -- and a lack of locals applying.

So, like other areas with tight labor markets, Branson finds itself getting creative to fill jobs -- in this case by recruiting people from a part of the United States with much higher unemployment.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


George Papadopoulos Claimed Trump Encouraged His Efforts to Establish a Russian Back Channel: And more scoops from "Russian Roulette," the new book co-authored by Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. (MOTHER JONES, MAR. 12, 2018)

The rest of the book has other significant disclosures. Here's an incomplete list.

- George Papadopoulos claimed Trump encouraged him to connect with the Russian government. As a member of Trump's team of foreign policy advisers, Papadopoulos, a young energy consultant with little national security experience, spent months in the spring and summer of 2016 trying to set up a back channel between the campaign and the Kremlin, in part to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting before Election Day. His efforts were known to senior campaign aides, including campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis and top campaign aide Paul Manafort. According to a later court filing, Papadopoulos, who in October 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, aimed to set up an "off the record" meeting between campaign representatives and Putin's office. Trump has famously denied there was any relationship between his campaign and Moscow. But Russian Roulette reveals that Papadopoulos has told investigators that at a March 31, 2016, meeting Trump held with his foreign policy team, when Papadopoulos informed Trump he had contacts in the United Kingdom who could set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, Trump said this was an "interesting" idea. Trump, according to Papadopoulos' account, looked at then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a top Trump adviser at the time, as if he expected him to follow up. Afterward, Papadopoulos, working with Russian cutouts, kept pursuing such a meeting.

- A secret source. According to the book, a US official in Russia in 2014 developed a high-level source in the Russian government who regularly shared inside information about Kremlin doings. After Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine and a Putin ally, fled Kiev in February, this source told his American contact that Putin was planning to move into Crimea. He also informed the US official that Putin was increasingly under the influence of an ultranationalist Orthodox Russian monk named Father Tikhon Shevkunov and that Putin and his inner circle had total contempt for Obama, denigrating the president as weak but also accusing him of meddling in Russia's affair. Putin's aides often used racist terms when referring to Obama, calling him a "monkey" and using the N-word. But most alarming, this secret source told the US official that the Kremlin was planning a wide-ranging clandestine campaign to undermine Western democracies that would include cyberattacks, information warfare, propaganda, and social media efforts. The US official sent in reports based on the source's information. Yet these warnings garnered little attention within the US government. "Anybody who had any doubt about Putin's intentions," the US official later said, "just wasn't reading what we reported."

- Steele isn't sure the pee party happened. Steele's dossier became most notorious because it included the allegation that Trump had prostitutes put on a "golden showers" performance in his hotel room when he was in Moscow in 2013. Steele's larger point was that the Russian government, according to his sources, had obtained compromising information about Trump's personal conduct that could be used to blackmail Trump. There still is no confirmation anything sordid happened in Trump's suite that particular night. (At least one Trump associate has said Trump engaged in sexual antics on previous trips to Russia.) Steele, according to Russian Roulette, has told people that he believes that 70 to 90 percent of the broad assertions of his reporting--that Russia mounted a campaign to cultivate Trump and in some manner colluded with the Trump campaign--was accurate. But he is less certain about the most sordid allegation. Regarding whether prostitutes in Moscow had urinated in Trump's presence, Steele has told colleagues, "It's fifty-fifty."

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 AM


On the Road (Alice Spawls, 2/28/18, London Review of Books)

The language of the roads is standardised but the handwriting varies hugely. It's not Transport, the round sans serif typeface designed for highway signs in the late 1950s by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir. The official script is Pavement, an elongated form of Transport, but it's only a guide: nearly all the shapes and lettering on road surfaces are hand-painted. Reading the roads every day, you begin to notice the different hands. Some do short, fat-bottomed arrows, with an even triangle for the head; others draw long stems topped with a flashy inverted 'V'. A few are jaunty, most are austere. Some hands are rather shaky and in need of practice: you can tell where a painter was learning or lazy (Dalston has some terrible - terribly good? - examples). But there's much artistry too, starting with the straightness of lines and the even dashes of parking spaces. Where there is variety, it's hard to tell if fashions or individuals have changed. The bicycle symbols that were painted in Islington four or five years ago (that's as long as road paint lasts) showed rather elegant, long, square-wheeled machines with tapered racer handlebars curving back like ibex horns. They only remain as ghosts now, and have been replaced with a new shape, rounder and with the fussy addition of pedals. Road symbols, like all municipal communication, seem to grow cuter but also vaguely patronising. Perhaps out of respect, the latest shapes are painted a few yards along from the older, fading figures. [...]

There weren't any markings on the roads themselves till 1918, when Britain became the first country to paint a white line down the middle to keep cars from colliding. Pedestrian markings appeared later, during World War Two, when the edges of roads were whitened so that people could see them in the blackout. As late as the 1950s many of the markings remained optional - recommendations not rules - and presumably some sort of Brownian motion ensued. Now there are so many markings the roads need constant maintenance and one type of sign has barely faded before a new rule or style supersedes it. Figures are replicated to the point of incoherence: at some places along the cycle routes a bike is painted every three yards. A narrow cut-through I take, not wide enough for a car, has the words 'Look Right' on one side of the pedestrian crossing and 'Look Left' on the other, so close they're almost touching. In other places lettering is bunched up, unreadable; arrows point in two directions; a cycle lane runs into a wall.