January 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Trump Storms Out of White House Meeting with Democrats on Shutdown (Nicholas Fandos and Michael Tackett, Jan. 9, 2019, NY Times)

 President Trump slammed his hand on a table and stormed out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday after Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said she would not fund a wall along the southern border, dramatically escalating the confrontation over the government shutdown.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Exclusive: Mueller Is Holding Top Secret Intelligence That Will Sink the Trump Presidency (John R. Schindler, 01/09/19, NY Observer)

What really ought to worry the president and his inner circle is what Mueller knows about the election and has yet to reveal. The Special Counsel doesn't have to disclose to suspects how it knows certain things, and it's apparent that Mueller and his investigators asked Manafort about his dealings with Kilimnik, which he lied about--and the ostrich jacket connoisseur is now trying to come clean before he gets a de facto life sentence in prison.

That Mueller knew about Manafort's 2016 dealings with Kilimnik is no surprise, given that the two men communicated frequently for many years, and the Special Counsel seized all of those communications from Manafort. But how did Mueller know about their secret Madrid meeting in early 2017, despite Manafort's denials?

The answer lies in a highly secretive intelligence program run by the National Security Agency (NSA). It's called travel tracking and its existence, like so many NSA top-secret operations, was revealed by Edward Snowden, the disgruntled agency IT contractor who fled to Moscow in June 2013 with over a million classified documents from the NSA and other U.S. spy agencies.

Travel tracking means that the NSA and its Five Eyes Anglosphere intelligence partners know who's going where by air, and when, anywhere. They can even crack into WiFi and mobile phones in flight, according to top secret-plus documents stolen and leaked by Snowden. Unless you're traveling under alias documents of the kind issued by higher-end spy services, the NSA and its close friends know where you're headed.

There ends the mystery of how Mueller and his investigators knew about Manafort and Kilimnik's off-record rendezvous in Madrid at the beginning of Donald Trump's presidency. It also means that the Special Counsel knows the truth regarding Michael Cohen's alleged summer 2016 trip to Prague to parley with Kremlin spies on behalf of his then-client, our 45th president.

"Mueller really does know everything," joked a former Intelligence Community (IC) senior official whom I've known for years. "The IC gave the Special Counsel everything we had that might be of relevance to their investigation, most of it came from NSA." Which hardly surprises, since something like 80 percent of the actionable intelligence in the IC emanates from the NSA, the world's most productive spy agency.

Fmr Fed Prosecutor: It Doesn't Get Much More 'Collusive' Than Manafort Sharing Poll Data with Kilimnik (Matt Naham, January 9th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Former federal prosecutor and current CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said Wednesday on New Day that this was a revelation with potentially serious implications. While Manafort's attorneys spent the majority of their response to Mueller's allegations arguing that the special counsel has no proof Manafort "intentionally lied," they also noticeably failed to redact information.

Here's what one of those redactions said:

In fact, during a proffer meeting held with the Special Counsel on September 11, 2018, Mr. Manafort explained to the Government attorneys and investigators that he would have given the Ukrainian peace plan more thought, had the issue not been raised during the period he was engaged with work related to the presidential campaign. Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort's mind during the period at issue and it is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed. The same is true with regard to the Government's allegation that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

In short, Manafort said that he didn't lie about sharing polling data related to the Trump campaign, he just needed his memory jogged. It wasn't the first time, however, that Manafort has been accused of offering high-level Russians insight on the Trump campaign. Manafort allegedly offered Vladimir Putin-connected Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska "private briefings" on the 2016 Trump campaign -- an oligarch he apparently owed millions of dollars.

Honig said that the detail of Manafort sharing polling data is significant.

"The campaign chair is the campaign. The campaign was sharing polling data with someone known to be connected to Russian intelligence," he said. "Is it collusion in the everyday non-legal sense before Rudy Giuliani started using the word? Sure. What could be more collusive than the top guy in a campaign with a Russian operative giving him the most sensitive data a campaign has?"

"Could it be a crime? Yes," Honig continued. "It is a federal crime to solicit or attempt to receive foreign election aid."

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


Iranian Leader Calls Trump Officials 'First Class Idiots' During Pompeo Mideast Tour (Davis Richardson • 01/09/19, ny oBSERVER)

...they're third rate at best.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


What was the president really saying last night? (Jeffrey Salkin, 1/09/19, rELIGION nEWS sERVICE)

Did you watch the President's speech last night?

If so, then you might have noticed something.

Its main theme was fear. Fear of "them." Fear of being overrun. Fear of crime. Fear of drugs. Fear of....

Whatever else you might want to say about his speech, whatever other inquiries you might want to make into the veracity of his remarks, that was what was going on.

Pure, unadulterated fear. His speech was a binder bulging with fears.

Fears have a way of becoming pathological. When that happens, they become phobias.

Phobias have a way of migrating into hatred -- to the extent that we often confuse phobia with hatred, as in homophobia, Judeophobia...

Oh, right.

Xenophobia. The fear of foreigners/the hatred of foreigners.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Why Would Any Man Not Want to Be Bald? (Edith Zimmerman, 1/09/19, The Cut)

[I] say, objectively, why would any man resist going bald? It's so attractive, it boggles my mind. If I were a guy, I'd be excited. I'd kneel beside my bed at night and pray for it. Baldness signals testosterone (well, complicatedly), wisdom, and manliness; why would anyone fight that? I know we're all different, but honestly why would anyone have any other opinion on this topic?

Bald guys are hot. Bald guys are no-nonsense, bald guys have other things to think about. Bald guys aren't using a bunch of hair supplies, bald guys have more time to spend doing attractive and useful things, like building houses and making jokes. Bald guys are magnificent. Bald guys seem to have seen something more of life. Bald guys know things, if you know what I mean.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Trump's National Address Escalates Border Wall Fight (Peter Baker, Jan. 8, 2019, NY Times)

[P]rivately, Mr. Trump dismissed his own new strategy as pointless. In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors hours before the address, he made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas, but was talked into it by advisers, according to two people briefed on the discussion who asked not to be identified sharing details.

"It's not going to change a damn thing, but I'm still doing it," Mr. Trump said of the border visit, according to one of the people, who was in the room. The trip was merely a photo opportunity, he said. "But," he added, gesturing at his communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, "these people behind you say it's worth it."

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


TV: Shin Bet chief warns a 'foreign country' is trying to influence elections (Times of Israel, 8 January 2019)

The head of the Shin Bet security services warned that a foreign state "intends to intervene" through cyberattacks in Israel's national elections in April, local television reported Tuesday.

Though Nadav Argaman's statements Monday were made during an event hosted by Friends of Tel Aviv University attended by a large crowd, Israel's military censor is barring from publication much of what he said, according to Hadashot TV news.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Can religious and civil marriage coexist in Israel? (Nechama Goldman Barash, AN 9, 2019, Times of Israel)

[T]here is a growing crisis on several fronts, religious, national, cultural and social, democratic and a growing demand for a change in the policy towards civil marriage in Israel. In the aftermath of the immigration from the former Soviet Union, there are hundreds of thousands of citizens who cannot marry in Israel because they are not recognized as halakhically Jewish. There are also a considerable number of couples who are not able to marry according to Jewish law and there are thousands of Israeli citizens who are recognized as Jewish, but choose to travel to Cyprus or elsewhere to marry. There are also an increasing number who want to marry in a Jewish but not Orthodox ceremony, who are forced to break the law when they choose a Reform or Conservative rabbi to perform the ceremony.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Trump Wants Trade Deal With China to Boost Stocks, Sources Say (Jenny Leonard , Jennifer Jacobs , Saleha Mohsin , and Shawn Donnan, January 8, 2019, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump is increasingly eager to strike a deal with China soon in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war, according to people familiar with internal White House deliberations. [...]

Inside the White House, some key economic advisers are campaigning for a quick resolution to the trade conflict to help soothe battered markets. The S&P 500 Index has fallen about 8 percent since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a 90-day truce at a Dec. 1 meeting in Argentina.

It's the discipline of the markets.

Now join TPP.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Italy's Populist Revolution Is Gone in 480 Seconds (Ferdinando Giugliano, January 9, 2019, Bloomberg)

It took Italy's populists just eight minutes to renege on one of their flagship stances. On Monday night, the coalition government gave its go-ahead to a bank bailout, saying it is willing to recapitalize Banca Carige, a troubled mid-sized lender, if needed.

The plan smacks of hypocrisy. For years, the Five Star Movement has accused its political opponents of using public money to help the banks instead of supporting ordinary citizens. Most important, it may not work. It's not clear that Italy can inject public money into Carige without breaking the European Union's state-aid rules.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Whoppers Sizzle in Land of Steak as Burger King Surges in Brazil (Gerson Freitas Jr, January 9, 2019, Bloomberg)

Brazil, known for its unique steak houses and premium beef exports, is seeing a growing appetite for a different type of meal, Burger King's 680-calorie whopper.

Burger King is opening a new site in Brazil every three to four days, said Iuri Miranda, chief executive officer of BK Brasil SA, the world's fastest-growing restaurant operator by revenue. With 736 sites since 2011, BK Brasil is challenging McDonald's Corp. for Brazil's fast-food crown. McDonald's, which opened its first restaurant in Rio de Janeiro in 1979, has 939 in place.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Trump Has Defeated Himself (David Frum, 1/08/19, The Atlantic)

"Leverage: don't make deals without it." The words appeared under Donald Trump's byline on page 55 of the 1987 best seller The Art of the Deal. Trump did not write them, and he seems not to have understood how to apply them. In this budget shutdown, Trump discarded his leverage from the very start, by declaring for the cameras that the budget shutdown was his decision, his responsibility. When the shutdown began to hurt, Trump and his surrogates hastily tried to transfer the onus--but it was too late. Everybody knew that it was Trump's doing, and that it was done for reasons rejected by large majorities of Americans.

The idea of invoking "emergency powers" was a last grasp for the leverage Trump had already abdicated, and it had to be abandoned for fear of what the courts and public opinion would say.

After the January 8 Oval Office address, little doubt remains of how this shutdown will end. Sooner or later--probably sooner--it will end the way Trump's threats of nuclear war upon North Korea ended: with a sudden Trump about-face. It is now only a matter of time. The polls will arrive over the next hours. Democrats and Republicans will both see that Trump did not move public opinion in his favor. They might see that Trump could not even motivate very many Americans to watch him. The panic slowly building among congressional Republicans will boil. Trump, trapped without a decent exit in a predicament of his own making, will yield everything and get nothing.

Neither Fred nor Vlad can bail him out this time.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Why Unpaid Federal Workers Don't Just Strike During a Shutdown: The law prohibits federal employees from walking off the job--even if they're not being paid. (RUSSELL BERMAN, 1/09/19, The Atlantic)

Eric Young is the president of the union that represents the approximately 30,000 employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons who are working during the government shutdown.

Young's members, scattered at 122 facilities located in largely rural areas across the country, aren't being paid and don't know when their next paycheck will come. Like the leaders of virtually every federal-employee union during the past three weeks, he has condemned the shutdown and its toll on innocent workers as "unconscionable."

"My personal opinion," Young told me over the phone from his office in Alabama, "is that it constitutes involuntary servitude."

Neither Young nor any of his partners in union leadership will urge their members to do the one thing that would seem most natural for employees facing the same treatment in the private sector: If they don't pay you, stay home.

"We can't call or advocate for a strike," Young said.

Since the enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, federal employees have been legally prohibited from striking.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Educated Americans Paved the Way for Divorce--Then Embraced Marriage: The countercultural revolution of the 1960s and '70s didn't get rid of the institution of marriage. It transformed it along class lines. (ELI J. FINKEL, JAN 8, 2019, The Atlantic)

Almost nobody anticipated what happened next. After 1980, the likelihood of divorce among college-educated Americans plummeted. Despite their loosened romantic and sexual values, educated liberals became more dedicated to family stability and intensive parenting. They did adopt the beliefs that marriage is optional and divorce is acceptable, but in their personal lives, they also sought to build and sustain an egalitarian, mutually fulfilling marriage. Today, educated liberals certainly value individuality and self-expression, but they tend to pursue family stability as a primary means of realizing those values.

Poorer, less-educated Americans, especially those without a high-school degree, have exhibited the opposite trend. Although they are no less likely to cohabitate today than in previous eras, they are less likely to marry. When they do marry, they are less satisfied and more likely to divorce.

Social analysts have offered three major explanations for these marital difficulties. The first--that less-educated Americans have lost respect for the institution of marriage--is refuted by data. The psychologists Thomas Trail and Benjamin Karney conducted a definitive study asking Americans to indicate their agreement with the statement that "a happy, healthy marriage is one of the most important things in life." The agreement rates were virtually identical among Americans of all income and education levels--and quite high all around.

The second explanation is that poorer, less-educated Americans have a different, perhaps faulty, vision of how an ideal marriage should work. Given the marital turmoil that started in the 1960s, it was reasonable to hypothesize that different segments of American society would arrive at different visions of the optimal marriage, and that some of these visions might be more conducive to happiness and longevity than others. But here, too, the best evidence suggests that most Americans, across income and education levels, have adopted a new marital ideal in which spouses look to each other not only for love, but also for self-expression and personal growth. Most Americans agree, for example, that "understanding each other's hopes and dreams" is essential for a successful marriage--much more important than having sufficient savings, sharing values, or having good sex. Americans today want a partner who can help bring out their best self.

The third explanation is that building and sustaining a marriage that meets these lofty aspirations typically requires substantial investments of time, attention, patience, and responsiveness, investments that are harder for poorer, less-educated Americans to make. When life happens--when the car breaks down or a ligament snaps--they are at greater risk for unemployment, eviction, and destitution. They tend to have less control over their schedules and less money to pay a babysitter, so they may struggle to get regular time alone with their spouse. When they find such time, they are more likely to arrive to the conversation feeling emotionally depleted from other stressors, and the topics of discussion--how to stretch the money this month, how to wrangle child care with a demanding work schedule--are often thornier. The evidence is generally supportive of this third explanation: a major reason why the marriages of poorer, less-educated Americans are struggling is that economic realities make it difficult to live up to the new cultural ideal. This struggle is leading many to opt out of marriage altogether and, for those who opt in, to make the path to marital success more challenging.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 AM


How Trumpism Actually Made Americans More Favorable Toward Immigrants: The more the president decries immigration, the more Americans support it (Brendan Nyhan, Oct 26, 2018, Medium)

Strikingly, however, public opinion data suggest that Trump has failed to convince the public on immigration and has even helped to turn the public against his positions -- an effect that may grow stronger as his anti-immigration campaign intensifies.

The evidence suggests Trump has failed to convince most Americans to support his views on immigration. Since he took office, for instance, the number of Americans who say immigration is a good thing for the country has reached record highs in Gallup polls. The increase is expectedly most pronounced among Democrats, who typically react negatively to positions that Trump takes, but it's also noticeable among Republicans. Similarly, he is proposing immigration restrictions that a majority of Americans oppose. Polling shows that approximately six in 10 Americans are against building a U.S.-Mexico border wall, a figure that has been stable since fall 2016, and approximately seven in 10 support allowing undocumented residents to stay and apply for citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


The question Trump's border wall speech didn't answer: Why now? (Philip Klein, January 08, 2019, Washington Examiner)

He's been president for nearly two years, and up until last week, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. At any point during that two years, Republicans could have passed a bill to fund the border wall, and he could have gotten at least $5.6 billion.

Republicans were ready to use the reconciliation process, allowing the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority, to repeal and replace Obamacare. They successfully used the procedure to pass a massive tax cut. They certainly could have found a way to use it to put some money into building a border wall had Trump actually fought for it earlier in his administration.

In 2017, Trump had just won the presidency and building a wall was a significant part of his platform. At the time, he had significant political capital among Republicans, who would have been reticent to defy him on such a central issue.

Instead, he waited until now to make a firm stand, at a time when his party just lost control of the House and he has zero leverage over Democrats, whose base expects maximum resistance.

There are many possible explanations for why Trump waited until now to make his stand. But the most straight forward is this is the downside of having an "outsider" president. Trump's supporters loved that he wasn't a typical politician, that he came from a business background, and that he shot from the hip. But translating campaign rhetoric into tangible policy success as president takes a lot more organization, competence, and discipline than Trump has demonstrated. So the most likely outcome of the current shutdown fight is that Trump will end up politically damaged, but with nothing to show for it. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


US Chamber of Commerce demands end to government shutdown (Katelyn Caralle, January 08, 2019, Washington Examiner)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called on President Trump and Congress to reopen the government.

"The shutdown is harming the American people, the business community and the economy," the conservative-leaning group's executive vice president Neil Bradley wrote in a letter Tuesday. 

In the letter, Bradley listed challenges U.S. businesses, companies, and citizens were facing without all the agencies of the federal government being fully operational.

"[T]he adverse consequences of the shutdown are wide and growing," the letter said. Although it did recognize the "broken immigration system" in the U.S., the Chamber said that the situation for American citizens and businesses would only get worse if the shutdown continues.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


REVEALED: How Gulf states hatched plan with Israel to rehabilitate Assad (David Hearst, 8 January 2019, Middle East Eye)

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have hatched a plan with Israel to welcome Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab League to marginalise the regional influence of Turkey and Iran, Middle East Eye can exclusively reveal.

The diplomatic initiative was agreed at a secret meeting held in a Gulf capital last month which was attended by senior intelligence officials from the four countries including Yossi Cohen, the director of Mossad, Gulf sources with knowledge of the meeting have told MEE.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Proud Boy Member Accused of Murdering His Brother With a Sword (Will Sommer, 01.09.19, Daily Beast)

A self-proclaimed member of the far-right Proud Boys group who also believes in the QAnon conspiracy theory allegedly murdered his own brother with a sword.

Prosecutors say Buckey Wolfe, 26, killed his brother in Seattle on Sunday night by stabbing him in the head with a four-foot long sword.

Wolfe, who prosecutors say exhibited signs of mental illness, called police himself after the murder and claimed he thought his brother was a lizard, according to The Seattle Times. When detectives arrived, he reportedly believed they were also lizards. Wolfe has been charged with second-degree murder.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

(SAM) HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM (profanity alert):


Trump's aides fear he has given himself no way out. "The president put himself in a box," the former official in touch with the White House told me. "The problem is there's no endgame. Right now the White House is at a seven on the panic scale. If this thing goes on past the State of the Union they're going to be at an 11." Another prominent Republican close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Trump's handling of the shutdown as "total f[***]ing chaos."

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, installed in the job just before Christmas, may already be looking at escape routes. Unlike his long-suffering predecessor, John Kelly, Mulvaney has indicated he's prepared to walk away if things go south with the president. "Mick has both eyes open," said a person who spoke with Mulvaney recently. "So far, Trump has been more DIY than ever before. It's a continuation of where things left off with Kelly. Mulvaney is not going to stick around and get ground up." Before Christmas, Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told people that Mulvaney wouldn't last long, according to a person who spoke with Lewandowski. Last night, The New York Times reported Mulvaney is interested in becoming president of the University of South Carolina.

A growing number of Americans blame Trump for shutdown: Reuters-Ipsos poll (Chris Kahn, 1/09/18, Reuters) 

The national opinion poll, which ran from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7, found that 51 percent of adults believe Trump "deserves most of the blame" for the shutdown, which entered its 18th day on Tuesday. That is up 4 percentage points from a similar poll that ran from Dec. 21 to 25.

Another 32 percent blame congressional Democrats for the shutdown and 7 percent blame congressional Republicans, according to the poll.