August 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Only a Pawn in Their Game: Seymour Hersh's memoir reveals not a fearless reporter but a useful idiot: a man who spent a lifetime channeling faulty intelligence in a game of intrigue he did not understand. (Liel Liebovitz, 8/06/18, American Interest)

[P]roperly read, Reporter isn't a memoir at all: It's a novel about the sort of chap le Carré knows best, the gullible guy who becomes a pawn in a game of intelligence and intrigue whose rules he doesn't understand but whose players, for some strange reasons, he trusts.

Read almost any Hersh story, going back now for decades, and sooner or later you'll come across a staple of his reporting: unnamed sources. These shadowy figures emerge at critical junctures to shed light on astonishing plots, like the alleged one by the Bush Administration to manipulate Iraq's democratic elections: "I was informed by several former military and intelligence officials," Hersh wrote in the New Yorker in 2005, "that the activities were kept, in part, 'off the books'--they were conducted by retired C.I.A. officers and other non-government personnel, and used funds that were not necessarily appropriated by Congress." A year earlier, unnamed sources also informed Hersh that the Department of Defense, inspired by a 1973 book about Arab psychology, had launched a program, codenamed "Copper Green," designed to use sexual abuse and humiliation to get Iraqi prisoners to share useful intelligence. And in 2017, Hersh published a widely criticized article in the German Die Welt, rushing to the defense of Syria's Bashar al-Assad: The World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders may have ruled the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun, leaving 92 dead, to be a chemical attack orchestrated by the Syrian regime, but unnamed sources assured Hersh that the deaths were caused by toxic discharge released as a result of a conventional attack on a nearby jihadi facility.

These outlandish allegations nearly always turn out to be unverifiable. Frequently, they turn out to be dead wrong: In 1974, for example, another anonymous source informed Hersh that the one-time American Ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, was instrumental in orchestrating that country's coup d'état. Seven years later, faced with incontrovertible disconfirming information, Hersh was forced to write a 3,000-word story correcting the record and recanting his earlier reporting.

Of course, relying on anonymous sources is an important part of an investigative journalist's job. People in a position to know sensitive information, especially information pertaining to national security, aren't likely to amble into a newsroom and volunteer information that is likely to jeopardize their careers and, sometimes, their freedom. Even our best reporters err from time to time, an inconvenient truth you're taught sometime during your first semester in journalism school. But Hersh errs far more than most, and the pattern of his errors is instructive.

Take l'affaire JFK, in which Hersh, accepting papers that allegedly belonged to the late President, was duped into believing that Kennedy was beholden to mob boss Sam Giancana and blackmailed by Marilyn Monroe. In Reporter, Hersh dispenses with the entire episode, one of the most seminal of his career, in a handful of pages. A 1997 account in the New Yorker by David Samuels, however, paints a more satisfying--and more troubling--picture. [...]

Why would a reporter fudge the facts? And why, given Hersh's record for running into trouble with the truth, would venerable publications like the New Yorker continue to employ him?  The answer to all these questions is the same: It's because, in Hersh's worldview, it's always 1969, there's always a secret war going on, and the American military is always seeking for the next target to destroy. There is always another target for Hersh's permanent adolescent rebelliousness, which took on the form of an infantile left-wing radicalism and is what years ago led New York Times' editor Abe Rosenthal to refer to Hersh, playfully one supposes, as "my little commie."

Often, this forever-hippie worldview comes off as entertaining. In his seminal March 2012 Commentary takedown of Hersh, James Kirchick dug up an interview that Hersh gave the Progressive in 1997. "It was easy to go to war against the Vietnamese," Hersh opined then. "I thought in the 1992 campaign Bill Clinton might be the first president since the end of World War II to actually bomb white people. But I was disappointed, as usual. He found it easier to go after the Somalians. Just like Ronald Reagan found it easy to go to Grenada, and Bush found it easy to go to Panama, to the Third World, or to people of a different hue. There seems to be some sort of general pattern here." That Clinton had in fact bombed Serbia, a European country inhabited by Caucasians, did little to cure Hersh of his vision of America's perpetual malignant racism.

Put a man like that in continuous proximity to our national security apparatus, and you hardly need a John le Carré to dream up a scenario or six in which the idealistic journalist with an impressive capacity for ignoring facts that contradict his wishful thinking gets played by his unnamed sources. Believing anything a source would tell him merely to preserve the source, Hersh is an intelligence officer's dream reporter; all you have to do is make sure that the story you tell him hints at some sort of official American malfeasance, and he's bound to buy into the tale, no matter how tall.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Why [the President] Must Resign Or Be Impeached  (Mike Pence)

News flash to the major media networks: we live in a constitutional republic. We are governed by written constitution which defines, among other things, the rights, privileges and responsibilities of high office with great clarity. Under Article II, Section 1 the executive power of the United States of America is vested in the President. In the oath of office proscribed, a president commits to faithfully execute the office and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. 

While the office brings with it the duties that attend the administration of the government, as President Herbert C. Hoover wrote, "The Presidency is more than executive responsibility. It is the inspiring supreme symbol of all that is highest in our American ideals." When a president fails to fulfill his oath of office, as is the case where the law is broken in a big way or a small way (another way of saying high crimes or misdemeanors), the Constitution provides for a mechanism whereby the legislative branch might impeach him. 

This may seem drastic to the average American. It is. Our founders intended it to be so because they intended the President of the United States to be the center of the government of the United States. Other constructs were considered, including the appointment of a prime minister-like president by the legislative branch, but all were rejected in favor of a strong and elected President. Alexander Hamilton defended this concept in 'The Federalist' writing, "the Executive is a leading characteristic in the definition of good government... it is essential to the steady administration of the law." Hamilton also cautioned against long suffering where a President failed to meet this high standard, writing, "a feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of government. A feeble Executive is but another name for a bad executive; and a government ill-executed... must be proclaimed a bad government."

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


The Voters Who Will Decide the Midterms (Henry Olsen, Aug. 6, 2018, NY Times)

"Romney-Clinton" voters are generally the sort of highly educated, affluent, more moderate voters who disapprove of Donald Trump. The most recent Voter Survey shows Mr. Trump had less than a 20 percent job approval rating among them; nearly 70 percent of these formerly Republican voters disapprove of his job performance. And they are taking this dislike with them to the voting booth. Forty-three percent say they will vote for Democrats this fall; only about 20 percent intend to back Republicans.

These voters are very important for the battle for the House. Democrats need to pick up 24 House seats to get a majority, and Republicans hold 25 seats in areas that Hillary Clinton carried. Mitt Romney won the districts of 13 of those seats in 2012, and his margin of defeat was smaller than Mr. Trump's in another nine. Democrats simply cannot retake the House unless they get a lot of these voters to stick with them when Mr. Trump isn't personally on the ballot.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Fact and Fiction About the Amendment of the Israeli Supreme Court's Jurisdiction Over West Bank Cases (Elena Chachko, Amichai Cohen  Monday, August 6, 2018, LawFare)

The Israeli legislature has taken another step toward blurring the lines distinguishing the Israeli legal system from the one that exists in the West Bank. The Knesset recently passed an amendment that transfers original jurisdiction over certain cases concerning the West Bank from the Supreme Court of Israel (in its capacity as the High Court of Justice) to the Administrative Affairs Court in Jerusalem (a subdivision of the Jerusalem District Court). The amendment's proponents, chiefly the right-wing Jewish Home party, have publicly asserted that it would make it more difficult for the Supreme Court to order the removal of illegal West Bank outposts and settlements. But a look at the amendment's language reveals that it actually does something quite different. [...]

As leaders of the Jewish Home party, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have repeatedly stated, the amendment primarily serves to advance the so-called "normalization of Judea and Samaria." It deviates from the longstanding convention that Knesset legislation only applies within Israel's sovereign territory. Legal adviser Bligh underscored this issue during the parliamentary committee deliberations, noting that the amendment would be the first time that Knesset legislation specifically refers to Jordanian planning and construction law applicable in the West Bank. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Beyond the Stigma: 'The next wave of gun safety' (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM, 8/05/18, New Hampshire Union Leader)

Ralph Demicco still remembers the "sinking feeling" nine years ago when he learned that three customers who had purchased guns from his Hooksett shop had used them to kill themselves -- all unrelated deaths and all within a six-day period.

"It was just shocking," he said. 

In the years since, Demicco, former owner of Riley's Sport Shop, has been part of a band of strange bedfellows dedicated to improving gun safety. The New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition has promoted trigger locks, and created a suicide prevention campaign for gun shops that has become a model for the nation.

Now they want to enlist firearms instructors to promote suicide awareness.

The coalition, which includes public health and firearms experts, put together a video for instructors to use in their classes. It depicts a despondent man whose wife has left him and taken his beloved dog. When family members come to his home to check on him, they convince him to let them hold onto his gun for a time -- and to call a suicide hotline together.

The group hopes the video will prompt important conversations about gun safety.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Is Japan Becoming a Country of Immigration?  (Yunchen Tian and Erin Aeran Chung, 8/02/18, Foreign Affairs)

As the only advanced industrial democracy that has closed its borders to unskilled migrant labor since the end of World War II, Japan has long been viewed as hostile to immigration. Although the number of foreign nationals in Japan has grown at a rapid pace in recent years--from 850,000 in 1985 to almost 2.6 million in 2017--foreign residents still make up less than two percent of the total population, compared with between eight and 25 percent in western European countries. And only one-fifth of Japan's foreign workers hold visas explicitly intended for labor immigration, which is restricted to the highly skilled.

Japan's aging population, however, is creating a demand for foreign labor. Japan's population peaked at 127.8 million in 2004 and has fallen by over 1.5 million since then, and its working-age population has dropped by over ten million since 1997. Nationwide, the ratio of job openings to applicants now stands at around 1.6, the highest it has been since the height of the so-called economic miracle over four decades ago. Workers in construction and mining, caretaking, food service, hospitality, and retail are in particularly short supply. In July 2018, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents the country's small- and medium-sized businesses, reported that around 65 percent of members had difficulty meeting labor requirements despite wage increases.

In the face of these shortages, the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shifted toward a greater openness to foreign workers, although the word "immigration" remains taboo.

Immigrants are in the driver's seat and will be able to demand benefits in exchange for emigrating, including housing.

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Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Sacha Baron Cohen and Joe Arpaio have an amazingly inappropriate chat about Trump (Peter Weber, 8/06/18, The Week)

OMGWhizzBoyOMG appeared to win Arpaio over when he said he had a large gun collection himself, to prepare for the coming "race war."

Cohen shifted the conversation to President Trump, appearing surprised that Arpaio knows the president. And things got weird, fast. Arpaio said it "wouldn't surprise me" if Trump "had a golden shower," and when Cohen asked if Trump would give him a "golden shower," Arpaio said, "If he sees this and the way you're speaking, he's going to like you, because you think like he thinks." OMGWhizzBoyOMG's use of a creative malapropism for manual labor appeared to throw Arpaio off, because when Cohen asked if Arpaio would accept a certain kind of sexual favor from Trump, Arpaio responded, "I may have to say yes." 

They're all willing to in exchange for race war. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Lawyer Explains: His Client Trump Misled Him (Tommy ChristopherAugust 6, 2018, Shareblue)

First, Stephanopoulos showed video of Sekulow denying that Trump had anything to do with the bogus cover story -- and reminded Sekulow that White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later admitted that Trump "weighed in" about the Trump Tower cover story, but that he "certainly didn't dictate" it.

Finally, Stephanopoulos reminded Sekulow that Trump did, in fact, dictate the statement -- as Trump's own legal team, including Sekulow, eventually admitted.

"So why did you deny President Trump's involvement?" Stephanopoulos asked. "When did you learn that the denial wasn't true?"

Sekulow first tried to make excuses about having been new to the case at that point.

But then he finally admitted that he made a "mistake" because Trump gave him "bad information" about Trump's own role in the coverup.

"I had bad information at that time, and made a mistake in my statement," Sekulow said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Democrats surging on eve of pivotal special election (ALEX ISENSTADT 08/05/2018, Politico)

The entire Republican Party machinery has converged on this suburban Columbus district for a furious eleventh-hour campaign aimed at saving a conservative House seat and averting another special election disaster.

But in the final days ahead of Tuesday's election, signs were everywhere that Democrats are surging -- from recent polling to the private and public statements of many Republicans, including the GOP candidate himself. The district has been reliably red for more than three decades, but the sheer size of the Republican cavalry made clear how worried the party is about losing it. [...]

The all-out push underscores the GOP's trepidation about the final special election before the midterms. A loss, following startling Republican defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would offer more evidence that a blue wave is on the horizon. And it would further fuel fears of what's becoming evident: that Democrats are simply more amped up, even in areas that have long been safely Republican.