August 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


China is quietly relaxing its sanctions against North Korea, complicating matters for Trump (Don Lee, AUG 03, 2018, LA Times)

After his dramatic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, Trump declared on Twitter, "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

Administration officials were quick to say the actual elimination of that threat would be the subject of negotiations now underway.

And, they said, the trade embargo that China has played a pivotal role in enforcing would ease only after North Korea had taken significant steps to stop developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

The visits by North Korean trade officials in Dandong, along with a boomlet in Chinese tourists to Pyongyang and elsewhere in North Korea, are far from the only signs that Beijing is not waiting.

Instead, it has quietly begun loosening the screws on its long-time ally.

U.S. satellite images and Japanese naval photos have captured suspected illicit ship-to-ship transfers of oil. And experts say North Korean workers are returning to jobs inside China, some under the guise of educational exchanges. Thousands of North Korean laborers also have entered Russia since the U.N. ban against new work permits last September, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Those workers send home hard-cash wages that, combined with large slush funds likely from prior years of coal sales and clandestine trading networks built up across China and southeast Asia, allow Pyongyang to pursue its nuclear ambitions while keeping its political elite happy with fine liquor, designer watches and the latest electronics normally unobtainable at home.

Some of these transactions, like procuring luxury goods, are clear violations of United Nations resolutions aimed at choking back Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


'Enemy of the people': Trump's phrase and its echoes of totalitarianism (Emma Graham-Harrison,  3 Aug 2018, The Guardian)

The phrase has old roots, even appearing in a Shakespeare play, but it became well known in the 20th century when it was adopted by dictators from Stalin to Mao, and Nazi propagandists, to justify their murderous purges of millions.

Stalin was perhaps most closely associated with the phrase, which successor Nikita Khrushchev specifically denounced in a landmark speech after Stalin's death, which he used to begin dismantling the dictator's poisonous legacy.

"Stalin originated the concept 'enemy of the people'. This term automatically made it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man be proven," Khrushchev said in his secret address to the Communist party's inner circle.

"It made possible the use of the cruellest repression, against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations."

In fact the phrase was first deployed in a modern political sense during the French Revolution, allied with a form of another favourite Trump phrase, "fake news", according to the New York Times.

So much tendency,. so little talent.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Omarosa Claims Trump Has 'Mental Decline That Could Not Be Denied' (Ed Mazza, 8/03/18, Huffington Post)

In an excerpt of her upcoming book, reality TV star and former White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman claims President Donald Trump is suffering from "mental decline."
Trump had been prepped to say former FBI Director James Comey was fired on the recommendation of the Department of Justice and not because of the Russia investigation, Manigault-Newman claimed, but that's not what he said in the interview.

"I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it," Trump said. "And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.'"

In the book excerpt, Manigault-Newman wrote:

"While watching the interview I realized that something real and serious was going on in Donald's brain. His mental decline could not be denied. Many didn't notice it as keenly as I did because I knew him way back when. They thought Trump was being Trump, off the cuff. But I knew something wasn't right."

You can't decline from the gutter.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


The Western Illusion of Chinese Innovation (ZHANG JUN, 7/30/18, Project Syndicate)

 While it is true that digital technologies are transforming China's economy, this reflects the implementation of mobile-Internet-enabled business models more than the development of cutting-edge technologies, and it affects consumption patterns more than, say, manufacturing. This kind of transformation is hardly unique to China, though it is occurring particularly rapidly here, thanks to a huge consumer market and weak financial regulation.

Furthermore, it is not so obvious that these changes have anything to do with the government's industrial policies. On the contrary, the growth of China's Internet economy has been driven largely by the entrepreneurship of privately owned companies like Alibaba and Tencent.

In fact, Western observers - not just the media, but also academics and government leaders, including US President Donald Trump - have fundamentally misunderstood the nature and exaggerated the role of China's policies for developing strategic and high-tech industries. Contrary to popular belief, these policies do little more than help lower the entry cost for firms and enhance competition. In fact, such policies encourage excessive entry, and the resulting competition and lack of protection for existing firms have been constantly criticized in China. Therefore, if China relies on effective industrial policies, they would not create much unfairness in terms of global rules.

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Data shows a surprising campus free speech problem: left-wingers being fired for their opinions (Zack Beauchamp, Aug 3, 2018, Vox)

The Free Speech Project's researchers have cataloged more than 90 incidents since 2016 that fit their criteria for a person's free speech rights being threatened. Of those 90, about two-thirds took place on college campuses. These incidents range from a speaker being disinvited to a faculty member being fired over allegedly offensive comments to a student-run play being canceled over concerns it would offend.

The raw numbers here should already raise questions about the so-called political correctness epidemic. According to the Department of Education, there are 4,583 colleges and universities in the United States (including two- and four-year institutions). The fact that there were roughly only 60 incidents in the past two years suggests that free speech crises are extremely rare events and don't define university life in the way that critics suggest.

Moreover, there's a consistent pattern in the data when it comes to conservatives -- one that tells a different story than you hear among free speech panickers.

"Most of the incidents where presumptively conservative speech has been interrupted or squelched in the last two or three years seem to involve the same few speakers: Milo Yiannopoulos, Ben Shapiro, Charles Murray, and Ann Coulter ," Sanford Ungar, the Free Speech Project's director, writes. "In some instances, they seem to invite, and delight in, disruption."

What Ungar is suggesting here is that the "campus free speech" crisis is somewhat manufactured. Conservative student groups invite speakers famous for offensive and racially charged speech -- all of the above speakers fit that bill -- in a deliberate attempt to provoke the campus left. In other words, they're trolling. When students react by protesting or disrupting the event, the conservatives use it as proof that there's real intolerance for conservative ideas.

The other key thing that emerges from the Georgetown data, according to Ungar, is that these protests and disruptions don't just target the right. "Our data also include many incidents, generally less well-publicized, where lower-profile scholars, speakers, or students who could be considered to be on the left have been silenced or shut down," he writes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Ex-leader of SC Republican Party says he's Christ and God told him to kill mom's dog, police say (NOAH FEIT,  August 02, 2018, The State)

The former leader of the South Carolina Republican Party was recently arrested after police said he "cruelly" killed his mother's dog, and told them he did it because he was acting on a command from God -- and that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ.

...the Trumpbots would be telling us the pooch was Satan....

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Will the 'Trump economy' save the GOP?  (Greg Sargent, August 3, 2018, washington Post)

Priorities USA surveyed 1,000 presidential-year voters and people who recently registered to vote and found:

Voters are evenly divided on Trump's economic policies in general, with 41 percent viewing them favorably and 41 percent viewing them unfavorably.
However, on some of the specifics, Trump fares worse:

By 56-31, voters say they have an unfavorable reaction to what they've been hearing about Trump's trade policies and his developing trade war with China and Europe.

Only 33 percent view the Trump/GOP tax law favorably, while 21 percent are neutral and 38 percent view it unfavorably.

By 47-22, voters say things are getting worse rather than better in terms of wages keeping pace with the cost of living.

64 percent say the cost of health care is getting worse.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


The NRA Says It's in Deep Financial Trouble, May Be 'Unable to Exist' (TIM DICKINSON, 8/02/18, Rolling Stone)

The National Rifle Association warns that it is in grave financial jeopardy, according to a recent court filing obtained by Rolling Stone, and that it could soon "be unable to exist... or pursue its advocacy mission."

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Trump Administration Says the ACLU Should Reunite Separated Families (TONYA RILEY, AUG. 3, 2018, Mother Jones)

Nearly a week after missing its deadline to reunite all the migrant families it separated at the border, the Trump administration has a new solution: The American Civil Liberties Union should do it.

On June 27, a federal judge gave the administration 30 days to reunite these families. But more than 570 children remain separated from their parents. Now the Justice Department is suggesting that the ACLU, which sued the administration for separating families, should be responsible for reuniting these remaining children with their parents.

Just turn over immigration to them wholesale. They understand it better.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Ivanka Trump rebukes Donald: Media is not the enemy (Deutsche-Welle, 8/03/18)

US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump appeared to distance herself Thursday from her father's ongoing attacks on the US media. The first daughter said she did not believe the media was "the enemy of the people" as the US president has repeated many times on Twitter.

Next she'll be telling us that Latinos aren't subhuman....

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Employee Charged With Molested 8 Kids At Immigrant Shelter (Topher Sanders, August 3, 2018,  ProPublica)

A youth care worker for Southwest Key has been charged with 11 sex offenses after authorities accused him of molesting at least eight unaccompanied immigrant boys over nearly a year at one of the company's shelters in Mesa, Arizona, federal court records show.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM



Trump's latest attacks on Mueller are partly being enabled by conversations with his attorney Emmet Flood, one source told me. "Emmet feels there's nothing there with collusion, so it's fine for Trump to comment and tweet," the source explained. This person added that Trump appears to be in earnest about his desire for Sessions to end the Mueller probe, and spoke of a timeline of a couple of weeks. Otherwise, Trump has threatened to fire Rosenstein himself.

Inside the White House, West Wing advisers fear that Trump is careening toward disaster with few guardrails. One prominent Republican close to the White House told me Chief of Staff John Kelly made his decision to stay on past his one-year mark, in part, to be present in case Trump makes a calamitous decision. "Kelly knows he's the last bulwark against insanity in that White House," the Republican said.

Seeking to strengthen his hand against being fired, Kelly went to Trump this week and said he needed Trump's support. Afterward, Kelly told White House staff that Trump assured him he could stay on until 2020. According to two sources familiar with the matter, Trump was surprised that Kelly made their conversation public. From Trump's point of view, the sources said, it was an offhand comment, not a formal commitment to keep Kelly. "Trump is like, 'Whatever, we'll deal with Kelly after the midterms,'" a source said.