February 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


Tensions quickly spiral as Democrats ramp up investigations of Trump administration (Seung Min Kim, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey February 7, 2019, wASHINGTOn pOST)

In private, Trump and his aides grew increasingly anxious and angry over Democrats' maneuvering -- sparked by news that Schiff's committee has hired at least one former White House national security official to assist in its oversight of the administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

The quickly spiraling tensions underscore how acrimonious relations between the White House and Capitol Hill will probably grow as Trump campaigns for reelection and Democrats look to exercise oversight they say was ignored in the first two years of Trump's presidency, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. 

"You're seeing the reestablishment of what is a normal function of Congress: oversight," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Oversight Committee. "It looks a little overwhelming only because you're so used to zero oversight. Zero. So to go from zero to something looks, you know, humongous, when in fact it isn't."

Darn that Constitution....

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Conservatism & the politics of prudence: On Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk & the conservative ethos. (Daniel J. Mahoney, January 2019, New Criterion)

As Kirk was careful to note, Burke never made natural right the direct foundation of political life and political judgment. That was too revolutionary and too doctrinaire, and it risked separating the rights of man from one's equally important duties as a human being and member of the social order. But he defended a traditional system of morals indebted to Aristotle, Cicero, the Fathers of the Church, and Hooker and Milton. Burke claimed no originality in this regard, as Kirk points out. But through his eloquence and fiery Irish spirit, he "put new warmth into their phrases, so that their ideas flamed above the Jacobin torches." He thus renewed old and enduring wisdom, what Kirk, following Eliot, called the "permanent things." It is in this limited sense that Burke's politics of prudence perfectly coheres with the "natural law," understood as moral verities that largely transcend historical change and cultural variation. As Greg Weiner argues in an impressive forthcoming book on Burke's and Lincoln's views on prudence, Burke believed that political judgment was essentially circumstantial but that moral truths came closer to reflecting unchanging truths about human nature and the divine and natural "constitution of things." So understood, Burke is both a partisan of prudence (not to be confused with fearful timidity or "the false, reptile prudence" that Burke denounced in the Letters on a Regicide Peace) and the moral law as articulated by the moral traditions of the Christian West and by other civilized peoples. This moral consensus is related to "the universal constitution of peoples" mentioned above. To affirm a politics of prudence is not to deny a common "moral constitution" that belongs to man as man. In that limited sense, Burke is as "universalist" as Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas. And Burke adds, as Kirk is right to observe, a note of Christian humility before the moral inheritance which is among the great gifts of classical and Christian civilization.

Kirk made two additional contributions to Burke studies, both of some significance. Kirk stressed that Burke was among the first to see the limits, all the limits, of social contract theorizing. Choice and consent play some legitimate role in politics (guided by humane and prudent judgment), but they should never obscure obligatory duties that are not a "matter of choice." Parents, citizens, neighbors, and children all have "burdensome duties" (as Burke puts it in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs) that they are obliged to carry out with grace and a sense of responsibility. Likewise, Kirk noted, Burke believed that every member of a political community was "obliged to obey the laws and sustain the state." Choice plays an important role in politics (and marriage), but it cannot be the basis of every aspect of life. Duty is as fundamental as consent. Kirk stresses the multiple ways in which Burke's conservative liberalism was decidedly un-Lockean: while defending the rights of property, Burke never believed that civil society arose from a pre-political "state of nature." Men and women are not truly born "free and independent," and the only true social contract is "between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born." That is the great primeval contract that Burke so eloquently invokes in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. In the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he sides with the classics and the Christians against full-blown modern "individualism." [...]

For Kirk, Burke was above all the prudent and humane advocate of ordered freedom. Liberty entails limitation, order demands respect for the liberty and dignity of human beings, especially those long rooted in the social and political life of a free people such as the English.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Character in Character (PETER TONGUETTE, January 24, 2019, National Review)

Among the Crosby films covered in Giddins's book, the musical comedy Holiday Inn (1942) -- the first of two in which he shared top billing with Fred Astaire -- arguably best encapsulates the star's special brand of magic. Crosby was cast as a performer whose venue welcomes the public only on holidays. Elegantly directed by the gifted Mark Sandrich, and bursting to the seams with classic songs by Irving Berlin, Holiday Inn contains many iconic Crosby moments, but his companionable, unperturbed persona comes across most clearly in his performance of Berlin's "Happy Holiday." In a beautifully staged scene, Crosby -- joined by his sweet, bright co-star, Marjorie Reynolds -- croons the tune while moving among the guests in the main lobby. As he meanders from table to table, Crosby is not so much performer as conductor -- an amiable, self-possessed orchestrator of happiness.

Typical of this biography, Giddins's account of Holiday Inn is laced with insight and detail. Astaire voiced nothing but admiration for Crosby, praising the effort he expended on a dance number in which they both appeared. "He rehearsed, he really rehearsed, and I don't think he rehearsed so much for almost anything that he did, just to get that darn dance number right," Astaire said. Other co-stars remembered a steelier side to Crosby, one of this book's ongoing themes. Walter Abel commented that "no matter how jolly or friendly he might seem, you knew there was that invisible line that you did not cross," while Reynolds -- such an affectionate on-screen partner -- was even more blunt: "To me, he was very much a man's man and later when we did Dixie he still wasn't friendly," she said. Maybe Nanette Fabray put it best: "He could kill with those steel-blue eyes."

At the same time, Crosby's coolness, both on- and off-screen, did not preclude him from serving as a repository of great warmth, as Giddins acknowledges in his superb analysis of the scene in Holiday Inn during which Crosby debuts what became one of his best-loved standards: Berlin's "White Christmas." Giddins pinpoints the scene as "a transitional moment for the Crosby persona" be­cause of its newfound tone of self-assured maturity. "In this film and especially in this scene," Giddins writes, "he personifies a hearth to which anyone might long to return."

Giddins never neglects Crosby's gift for wringing laughs from audiences -- most abundantly on view in the Road comedies with Bob Hope -- but he is at his best when tracking Crosby's cinematic maturation, which might have commenced with Holiday Inn but was certainly complete by McCarey's Going My Way, in which he played the kindly-yet-tough, devout-yet-urbane priest Father O'Malley. Best known for such thoroughly humane films as The Awful Truth and Make Way for Tomorrow (both 1937), McCarey prized spontaneity in his work to such an extent that he ran his sets more like a bar manager than a field general. "Actors might react with dread or anger when he told them to make up a line or an action as the cameras rolled, the lights blazed, and the crew looked on, fingers crossed," Giddins writes. Yet it turns out that McCarey's studied looseness was like mother's milk to Crosby, who, in a eulogy after McCarey's death in 1969, credited the filmmaker as the person most responsible for shaping his career. Elsewhere, Crosby recounted McCarey's meandering working methods. "We'd come in about nine just as we were at home -- nobody'd bother to make up -- and have coffee and doughnuts, and Leo would be playing the piano," Crosby recalled, adding that the company might break for lunch before a scene -- more often than not completely reimagined from the morning -- was shot quickly in the afternoon.

The process may have been scattershot, but in Crosby's case, the methods paid dividends: In Going My Way and its finely wrought sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's, Crosby's characterizations were richer and more complex than they had been previously. "In earlier roles he cherished the fantasy of a quiet isolation; now he is pledged to the human condition," Giddins writes of Crosby's Father O'Malley. "He is a benevolent übermensch, an infinitely resourceful Saint Fixit. You want miracles? O'Malley converts street toughs into choirboys, a cynical runaway into a loving wife, a shylock into a philanthropist, a petulant old cleric into Mother's baby boy."

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


A Sportscaster Was Arrested For Tearing The Word "Plantation" Off A Sign At His Gated Florida Community (Tom Namako, 2/09/19, BuzzFeed News)

Longtime sportscaster Warner Wolf was charged with a felony for allegedly ripping the letters for the word "Plantation" off the sign outside his gated Naples, Florida community, according to records from the Collier County sheriff's office.

One more reason to love him.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


America's policy on Europe takes a nationalist turn (Constanze Stelzenmüller JANUARY 30, 2019, Financial Times)

In Berlin, meanwhile, diplomats have been poring glumly over The Virtue of Nationalism, a book by the Israeli writer Yoram Hazony, which Mr Mitchell had told them was the key to the Trump administration's Europe policy.

Mr Hazony's book -- published in 2018 to fervent applause from conservative commentators in the US -- purports to provide the theoretical gloss on Mr Trump's tweets: nationalism as the cure to "liberal imperialism". The two main "empires" he has in mind are post-cold war, liberal-interventionist America and the EU.

Teutonic brows are furrowing presumably at passages from the book such as this: "The European Union is a German imperial state in all but name . . . Should the United States ever withdraw its protection . . . a strong European executive will be appointed by Germany." Mr Hazony goes on to write that a "German-dominated EU" is an "imperial order", that "will work to delegitimise and undermine the independence of all remaining national states".

Never mind that this is spectacularly misinformed about the status of nation states in Europe or Germany's power over them and the EU. Repress, if you can, the realisation that Mr Hazony thinks the EU could succeed where the Nazis failed. And try to ignore the question implied by both Messrs Pompeo and Hazony: to what imaginary golden age of nationalism exactly should Europe's clock be turned back? 1989? 1945? 1918?

Most Europeans could list a litany of genuine ills afflicting governance in Europe at all levels that this cod-philosophical take misses by a mile. Mr Hazony blithely disregards the complexity and depth of economic, social and technological integration across national boundaries. And, of course, disassembling the EU would not solve the problem of German preponderance -- it would exacerbate it.

But the real value of this and other prescriptions for a new divide-and-rule US policy for Europe lies in the piercing new light they throw on the Trumpian mindset. The nationalism it peddles is not the inclusive, civic kind practised by, say, Canada. On the contrary, this is an ethno-chauvinist nationalism premised on the rule of a majority nation "whose cultural dominance is plain and unquestioned, and against which resistance appears to be futile", as Mr Hazony puts it. That is a framing entirely compatible with the thinking of Hungary's Viktor Orban, the Kremlin or, for that matter, Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party.

...it's a defense of the Occupation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


Ferocity, Courage, and Grace -- Remembering the Great Frank Robinson (GEORGE WEIGEL, February 9, 2019, National Review)

When 20-year-old Jim Palmer heard the ball explode off Frank Robinson's bat on the first day of spring training in 1966, he turned to the others standing around the batting cage and said, "We just won the American League." Which the Orioles did, with the man everyone called, simply, "Frank" leading the charge from Opening Day on -- and punctuating the season by hitting the first and only home run ever driven completely out of old Memorial Stadium. (The point of its exit was subsequently marked by an orange-and-black flag with one word emblazoned on it: here.) Motivated in part, one suspects, by resentment over Bill DeWitt's geriatric putdown, but even more by his own innate and fierce competitiveness, Frank Robinson had his second MVP season in 1966, winning batting's triple crown (the league leadership in batting average [.316], home runs [49], and runs batted in [122]) and leading the Orioles to a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. [...]

The Baltimore of my youth was a segregated city, psychologically and emotionally as well as legally. The human barriers began to break down in the late 1950s when the great Baltimore Colts teams led by John Unitas and Gino Marchetti featured high-quality African-American players such as Lenny Moore, Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, and Jim Parker. I remain convinced, though, that the real breakthrough from the old shibboleths and prejudices began in 1966, when Frank Robinson arrived on a Baltimore team whose undisputed star was that other Robinson, Brooks, a white southerner who had grown up in Little Rock, Ark., in the days when the U.S. Army came to town to enforce the Supreme Court's desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

It could have been tense. It wasn't. Brooks, the classic gentleman who had been American League MVP in 1964, and Frank, the fiery rebel against convention who would later break a color line and become MLB's first African-American manager, quickly became friends and allies, even kidding each other and the press about then-standard racial stereotypes and taboos. (If memory serves, Frank once deflected an impertinent reporter's question about clubhouse etiquette by saying that Brooks could borrow his used shower towels whenever he wanted; Brooks howled in laughter.) Moreover, Brooks's acknowledgment of Frank's kangaroo-court leadership sent a signal to any malcontent or bigot tempted to resent the fact that the new team leader was a proudly black man: Insubordination was out of the question. These two men -- one a titanic Beethoven, the other a graceful Haydn -- set an example of unity in diversity in the pursuit of common goals from which Baltimore (and the rest of America, for that matter) is still trying to learn.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


The SDNY Investigation Is Real Peril for President Trump (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, February 9, 2019, National Review)

As Rich Lowry and I discussed in this week's episode of The McCarthy Report, Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D, Calif.) and the chairmen of the other relevant House committees are laying the groundwork for imminent battles over the scope and disclosure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's eventual report to the Justice Department. They are opening the front into the president's family-run real-estate empire -- investigations that will seek his tax returns, probe fraud allegations raised in an explosive October 2018 New York Times report on the Trump empire's accumulation of wealth, and explore the Trump Organization's dealings with Deutsche Bank, which has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for helping Russian oligarchs launder money.

Jousting simultaneously with at least five congressional committees will exhaust the administration. Yet the more immediate threat of criminal jeopardy for the president is posed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

The SDNY has already obtained a guilty plea from Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and self-described "fixer." Two of the eight felony counts involved campaign-finance violations arising out of hush-money payments to two women who claim to have had extramarital dalliances with the real-estate magnate a decade before he became president. In the guilty plea, prosecutors had Cohen name Trump as the superior who directed him in the transactions.

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


Virginia's Racist History Clashes With New South Image (Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

"We're going to have to have a greater understanding all-around of what Virginia was like, and I'm not sure today's standards should go back 30 to 40 years ago, when people were in college," said Jerry Kilgore, a former state attorney general.

In truth, the firestorm over blackface photos is only the latest example of Virginia suffering humiliations over racism that cause pain to its residents and tarnish its well-burnished reputation. The state's ample self-regard has suffered blow after blow, in part because of its unwillingness to fully reckon with a past that, while not as violent toward its black citizens, was no less ugly than its Deep South brethren.

In 2006, then-Senator George F. Allen, a Republican, stumbled into the national spotlight by pointing a finger at an Indian-American Democrat videotaping his campaign appearance and referring to the tracker as "macaca," a slur for dark-skinned Africans.

In 2017, a simmering local clash in Charlottesville over the city's Robert E. Lee statue became a worldwide story when a white supremacist rally turned deadly. A year later, for their 2018 nominee for Senate, Republicans backed Corey Stewart, a county official who ran an even balder version of President Trump's campaign, targeting immigrants and vowing to protect Virginia's emblems of the Confederacy. (This is to say nothing of the squalid scandal involving the last Republican governor, Robert F. McDonnell, whose term ended in disgrace after he was found to have taken more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from an access-seeking Richmond dietary supplement maker.)

But the cascade of revelations here since the racist images from Mr. Northam's yearbook surfaced last Friday has stung Virginians because the blackface imagery demonstrates how deeply embedded white supremacy is in the state's not-too-distant past.

Recounting Mr. Herring's tearful confession Wednesday morning to the legislative black caucus that he had once worn blackface, a longtime state senator, L. Louise Lucas, choked up for a moment as she recalled the meeting's emotions.

"I think I would have held it together until I saw the first brother cry," Ms. Lucas said Wednesday night, long after the gathering had broken up. "It was hard to get up from the table and walk away. He said he was sorry."

Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia professor who has practiced and studied politics in Charlottesville since he arrived as a college student in the early 1970s, said this week should awaken the state.

"This collection of scandals proves beyond a doubt that Virginia has not progressed as far as it thought it has -- and it has a past it still hasn't come to terms with," said Mr. Sabato.

Perhaps that is not a surprise for a state that is still littered with Confederate iconography -- the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington will sit hard by Jefferson Davis Highway -- and just last month celebrated Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday.

"Virginia, at least we're not Mississippi!"

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


The Least Pro-Life President Ever: From war crimes to executions to murdering dissidents, Trump treats human life with contempt. (WILLIAM SALETAN, FEB 08, 2019, Slate)

Trump says the United States should deliberately target family members of suspected terrorists. Sometimes he says he'd stop short of killing them; sometimes he says he'll "leave that to your imagination." In a drone strike, the distinction is moot. It doesn't matter to Trump whether these people have done anything wrong. What matters is that by hurting them, we might deter terrorists. "With the terrorists, you have to take out their families," Trump argued three years ago. The idea, he explained, was that terrorists "may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families' lives."

In comments about other governments, Trump explicitly condones murder. During the 2016 campaign, interviewers pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin had arranged the assassinations of dissidents and journalists. Trump said he didn't care. "Our country does plenty of killing also," he retorted. "At least he's a leader, you know, unlike we have in this country." Two weeks after Trump's inauguration, during a Fox News interview, when Bill O'Reilly reminded Trump that "Putin's a killer," the president batted the question away. "We got a lot of killers," he argued. "What, you think our country's so innocent?"

Last summer, Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as man who "loves his people." Again, a Fox News interviewer challenged Trump, citing Kim's atrocious record on human rights. "He is a killer. He's clearly executing people," Bret Baier told the president. Trump responded by defending Kim: "Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people. ... If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that's 1in 10,000 that could do that." Baier persisted: "But he's still done some really bad things." Trump shrugged, "Yeah, but so have a lot of other people."

Trump doesn't just excuse Kim's butchery. He glorifies him. In September, Trump bragged at a campaign rally that Kim "wrote me beautiful letters" and "we fell in love." In October, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl pressed Trump about that boast. She reminded Trump that Kim "had his half-brother assassinated" and "presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation ... slave labor, public executions. This is a guy you love?" Trump stood by his man. "I get along with him really well," he told Stahl. "I have a good chemistry with him."

Over the years, Trump has defended other mass killers: Saddam Hussein of Iraq ("Saddam Hussein throws a little gas. Everyone goes crazy. 'Oh, he's using gas!' "), Muammar Qaddafi of Libya ("We would be so much better off if Qaddafi were in charge"), and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines (who said he'd be "happy to slaughter" that country's "3 million drug addicts"). Lately, Trump has extolled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who's implicated in the October murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


White House hunts for 'executive time' schedule leaker (DANIEL LIPPMAN and ELIANA JOHNSON, 02/08/2019, Politico)

The White House is aggressively investigating several leaks of President Donald Trump's private schedules, a source of repeated embarrassment to the White House and the president himself. [...]

Axios on Sunday published Trump's private schedules for the past three months that showed how he spent 60 percent of his time in unscheduled "executive time." Aides say he uses those time blocks to watch TV, call people, read newspapers and do other work. Based on a week's worth of these same private schedules, POLITICO had also reported in October Trump's extensive amount of free time that's unprecedented for presidents, including nine hours of "executive time" in one day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Punishing the Crime vs. Blacklisting the Soul (Jonathan Kay, 2/09/19, Quillette)

I am not a Christian. But I always have admired its emphasis on forgiveness and absolution, which are the most attractive and useful aspects of that faith. In our own age, this tradition has been co-opted by progressive secularists, who (properly) urge that our criminal-justice systems accommodate the possibility that people can change, and that we aren't stamped "good" or "evil" at birth by God's hand.

And just as Christians of yore celebrated the lowly street criminal who shed his criminal ways so that he might wander urban alleyways and country roads humbly preaching the word of God, so, too, do modern leftists reserve a special form of mercy for ex-criminals whose travails have granted them perspective on society's bowels. Quillette author Zaid Jilani, for instance, recently described a sympathetic article in The Intercept about a murderer who, having paid his debt to society, was running for council in Austin, Texas. The author, Jilani noted, argued that Lewis Conway Jr.'s life experiences made him "an important candidate, able to connect with the thousands who have been isolated and defined by previous misdeeds of theirs or others--especially in the city's minority communities, which as elsewhere are disproportionately impacted by the system." In his article, Jilani contrasted the sympathy toward Conway with the treatment of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who, of course, did not kill anyone--or, in fact, commit any crime at all--but rather stands accused of gross insensitivity and racism because of a photo of a man in blackface, and another dressed as a KKK member, included in a 35-year-old university yearbook page.

Jilani intended for this juxtaposition to show up the extraordinary hypocrisy displayed by some leftists when it comes to the treatment of past sins. But I would take the analysis one step further--for when it comes to Northam, it is not really the man's sins that are at issue--since if that were the basis of judgment, he would be excused many times over thanks to the decades of professional excellence and public service that followed his university years. Rather, what is being impugned is Northam's very soul. For one of the dominant ersatz-religious conceits of our age is that, when it comes to race, we all are marked by either purity or corruption--that is, in the language of old-timey religion, we are either heretics or believers, asleep or woke, lost or saved. And every tweet we write, every word we utter, every yearbook photo we publish shall be taken as part of the evidentiary record by which we shall be judged.

While the new religion of anti-racism has borrowed this fundamentalist take on human nature, it has very much rejected the leavening Christian tradition of forgiveness and pity. Which is why militant anti-racism now carries such a brittle, mean-spirited aspect. The subtext of the campaign against Northam is that his actions mark his soul as irredeemably stained--no matter whether the yearbook photos were from 35 years ago or last week. In the way that anti-racism promotes the idea of bigotry as a form of original sin that, once revealed, cannot ever be expunged or denied, it essentially channels the idea of hell-bound pre-destination in a way that would have earned appreciative nods from Gottschalk of Orbais.

Any creed, religious or secular, that organizes humanity into categories of good or evil based not on actions, but on their mere thoughts or the presumed state of their soul, is disposed toward Inquisition and social panic--since our thoughts are invisible to others, evil can lurk in our unconscious minds, and all that matters is whether our cast of mind puts us on the right side of history. (Such attitude was on display, certainly, in the response to Irish actor Liam Neeson's recent confession that, almost 40 years ago, he once had roamed the streets looking to provoke a violent confrontation with a black man. The confession was rendered freely in the spirit of encouraging self-awareness of our dark emotions, and no real crime is alleged to have taken place. But promotional events associated with his new film were canceled anyway.) In a society that distinguishes the sin from the sinner, on the other hand, recitals of past misdeeds and impure thoughts are tolerated, and even encouraged--as with the Christian tradition of confession. For it is understood that we all share the same goal of preventing malign imaginings from being translated into action.

Liam Neeson started a vital debate. To condemn him is to end it: The actor's candid admission tells us a lot about racial bias. We should seize this moment to learn more  (John Barnes,  8 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

When I was asked in an interview yesterday whether I would forgive Neeson if he had actually killed an innocent black man I was stumped. Of course I couldn't? But then I considered how I would feel about a young black kid living in inner city London who gets caught up in the wrong crowd and ends up killing someone with a knife. A young man living in a society in which he feels that he has no opportunities? This is not an excuse for murder but maybe I can see how this young man's environment has pushed him towards this path.

Neeson went on to talk about the bigotry and racism still present in Northern Ireland when you scratch the surface. It shows that, 20 years after the end of the Troubles, there are still conversations that need to be had.

The commentary on Neeson so far reads as if he'd been clandestinely recorded glorying in a secret hatred of black people, not, as is the case, freely giving on-the-record comments. This is not Mel Gibson on a drunken antisemitic tirade. This was a story purposely told to a journalist in which he explicitly explained that he was horrified about thinking this way. He could have kept this whole story to himself and we would be none the wiser.

The fight against racial bias in society will not be won by hounding Liam Neeson or boycotting his films. It will be won by allowing honest discussions about why people hold biased views and exposing the flawed logic behind them.

One of the curious implications of these moral panics is that those of us who are judging others are ourselves without sin.  This is obviously inane. And just as we would like to forgiven our own, we ought to be able to forgive those who are ashamed of and seek forgiveness for their sins.

On the other hand, we ought punish vigorously those who are shameless.

Governor Northam, for instance, tried apologizing when he thought he was in the yearbook picture, but then decided to brazen things out when he determined that his episodes of blackface were not actually memorialized in the specific photo.  Brett Kavanaugh and his friends, meanwhile, acknowledge drinking so excessively that they can not possibly have remembered all their behaviors and treating young women like meat, yet he was incapable of accepting any responsibility for himself, even if a younger self. Elizabeth Warren has created a mess for herself by trying to defend the fact that she has Indian heritage when the question is whether she tried gaming the system by using such lineage to give herself an advantage over the people who affirmative action is designed to benefit (Hint: not middle-class white girls).  

What Mr. Neeson has admitted to is certainly worse than wearing blackface, but, because of his own behavior now, more forgivable.  He is genuinely ashamed, repentant and is sharing it unbidden because he knows it to be morally instructive.  He deserves our thanks, not our opprobrium.  And he represents a standard that we should apply generally as the hunt goes on for the sins of our youth: stand up, take responsibility, express some acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and you regret it, and describe what you have learned and what we all apply in our own lives from the lesson.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Trump cornered on border wall (ELIANA JOHNSON, BURGESS EVERETT and GABBY ORR 02/07/201, Politico)

Inside the White House, the Trump team is increasingly aware that the president is trapped.

Facing a Republican Party unwilling to back another government shutdown or a national emergency declaration to build his border wall, President Donald Trump is in an unfamiliar position, according to multiple White House officials and lawmakers: prepared, potentially, to accept a compromise foisted on him by Congress.

Only a few days ago, Trump called a committee tasked with hammering out a border-security deal "a waste of time."

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


'My whole town practically lived there': From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years (Joshua Partlow, Nick Miroff and David A. Fahrenthold February 8, 2019, Washington Post)

The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, including six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were employed at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. All of them said that they worked for Trump without legal status -- and that their managers knew.

The former employees who still live in New Jersey provided pay slips documenting their work at the Bedminster club. They identified friends and relatives in Costa Rica who also were employed at the course. In Costa Rica, The Post located former workers in two regions who provided detailed accounts of their time at the Bedminster property and shared memorabilia they had kept, such as Trump-branded golf tees, as well as photos of themselves at the club.

The brightly painted homes that line the road in Santa Teresa de Cajon, many paid for by wages earned 4,000 miles away, are the fruits of a long-running pipeline of illegal workers to the president's course, one that carried far more than a few unauthorized employees who slipped through the cracks.

Soon after Trump broke ground at Bedminster in 2002 with a golden shovel, this village emerged as a wellspring of low-paid labor for the private club, which charges tens of thousands of dollars to join. Over the years, dozens of workers from Costa Rica went north to fill jobs as groundskeepers, housekeepers and dishwashers at Bedminster, former employees said. The club hired others from El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala who spoke to The Post. Many ended up in the blue-collar borough of Bound Brook, N.J., piling into vans before dawn to head to the course each morning.

Their descriptions of Bedminster's long reliance on illegal workers are bolstered by a newly obtained police report showing that the club's head of security was told in 2011 about an employee suspected of using false identification papers -- the first known documentation of a warning to the Trump Organization about the legal status of a worker.

Other supervisors received similar flags over the years. A worker from Ecuador said she told Bedminster's general manager several years ago that she entered the country illegally.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


TERRIFIED AIDES SAY AMY KLOBUCHAR IS JUST LIKE TRUMP: Rumors about the senator's alleged temper are exploding into public view just as she prepares to make a 2020 announcement. (TINA NGUYEN, FEBRUARY 8, 2019, Vanity Fair)

With less than 48 hours remaining until Amy Klobuchar is expected to announce a presidential run, the "Minnesota nice" senator is grappling with not one, but two deeply reported articles alleging that she is verbally abusive, creating a fraught office environment fueled by fear. "I've always been taught that your true character shows in how you treat those with less power than you, especially behind closed doors," one former staffer said in a BuzzFeed report published Friday. "The way Sen. Klobuchar behaves in private with her staff is very different than when she's in the public eye, and that kind of cruelty shouldn't be acceptable for anyone." Earlier in the week, the Huffington Post published a similar story, alleging that at least three people had turned down the opportunity to manage Klobuchar's campaign due to her reputation for cruelty and repeated emotional abuse.

Klobuchar's alleged temper was not unknown in Washington. Last year, The New York Times noted that, "On Capitol Hill, Ms. Klobuchar's reputation is not all sweetness and light." A March 2018 article in Politico described Klobuchar as among the "worst bosses in Congress," with the highest office turnover rate in the Senate. But the new details reported by BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, if true, are particularly damning.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM



The issue is that many see Trump himself as the problem. "Trump is hated by everyone inside the White House," a former West Wing official told me. His shambolic management style, paranoia, and pattern of blaming staff for problems of his own making have left senior White House officials burned out and resentful, sources said. "It's total misery. People feel trapped," a former official said. "Trump always needs someone to blame," a second former official said. Sources said the leak of Trump's private schedules to Axios--which revealed how little work Trump actually does--was a signal of how disaffected his staff has become.

White House Communications Director Bill Shine has told friends he's angry that Trump has singled him out for the bad press during the government shutdown. "Bill is like, 'you're the guy who steps on the message more than anyone,'" said a Republican who's spoken with Shine recently. Economic adviser Larry Kudlow has told people he's probably got six months left. "Larry's really tired of it all," a source close to Kudlow said.

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What's driving a lot of the frustration is that Trump, now more than ever, runs the West Wing as a family business.

The family business is used to catastrophic failure, but there's no one to bail them out.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Trump Defies Congressional Deadline on Khashoggi Report (Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt, Feb. 8, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump refused to provide Congress a report on Friday determining who killed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, defying a demand by lawmakers intent on establishing whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was behind the grisly assassination.

Mr. Trump effectively bypassed a deadline set by law as his administration argued that Congress could not impose its will on the president. Critics charged that he was seeking to cover up Saudi complicity in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for The Washington Post.

Even without cash changing hands, a white Nationalist has no interest in punishing someone for killing and oppressing Arabs/Muslims