May 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM



Islamophobia Index Inches Up

A measure of the level of public endorsement of five negative stereotypes associated with Muslims in America, our Islamophobia Index inched up from 24 in 2018 to 28 in 2019. The Islamophobia Index calculates reported levels of agreement with the following statements:

Most Muslims living in the United States are more prone to violence than others.
Most Muslims living in the United States discriminate against women.
Most Muslims living in the United States are hostile to the United States.
Most Muslims living in the United States are less civilized than other people.
Most Muslims living in the United States are partially responsible for acts of violence carried out by other Muslims

Jews and Hispanic Americans Are Most Favorable Toward Muslims and White Evangelicals Least

Of all faith groups apart from Muslims, Jews score the lowest on the Islamophobia Index. A majority (53%) of Jews report having positive views of Muslims with 13% reporting negative views. In contrast, white Evangelicals score the highest on the Islamophobia Index with as many as 44% holding unfavorable opinions about Muslims, which is twice as many as those who hold favorable opinions (20%).

Analyzed by race, Hispanic Americans are five times as likely to hold favorable opinions of Muslims as they are to have negative attitudes (51% vs. 10%). In comparison, white Americans are almost as likely to hold favorable as unfavorable opinions (33% vs. 26%), whereas 40% have no opinion. Black Americans are seven times as likely to hold positive opinions (35%) as negative views (5%) of Muslims, but the majority report having no opinion (51%).

Hispanic Americans are five times as likely to hold favorable opinions of Muslims as they are to have negative attitudes.
Knowing a Muslim Linked to Lower Islamophobia

Our analysis reveals that knowing a Muslim personally is among several protective factors against Islamophobia. When a Muslim is a close friend, Islamophobia is further reduced. We found that three in four Jews know a Muslim, about half of the general public know a Muslim, but only about one in three among white Evangelicals know an American who is Muslim.

Other predictors of lower Islamophobia include Democratic leanings; knowledge about Islam; favorable views of Jews, Black Americans, and feminists; and higher income. To a lesser extent, negative views of Evangelicals are significantly linked to a lower score on the Islamophobia Index (less Islamophobia), though the correlation is weak. Notably, respondents' nativity, sex, age, education, and religiosity have no bearing on Islamophobia.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


The Justice Department Suddenly Changed Its Mind About the Constitution to Defend Trump's Businesses (KATHLEEN CLARK, 5/01/19, TIME)

When Justice Department lawyers introduce themselves in court, they proclaim a specific affiliation: "I represent the United States." That's because the Justice Department has the responsibility by statute to represent the interests of the nation. That obligation to act on behalf of the nation has also motivated the Department's legal advice on a question central to the integrity of our democracy -- until now. Recent arguments show that the Department is putting President Trump's interests before the nation's.

For more than 150 years, the Department interpreted the Constitution's "emoluments" clause to protect the government from the corrupting influence of foreign powers through gifts, emoluments and titles. The Department has issued more than 50 legal opinions declaring that the clause prohibits important federal officials from accepting anything of value -- even token gifts -- from such powers, unless Congress consents.

The prohibitions went further. Engineers and scientists who work for the federal government are prohibited from accepting any benefit (including consulting fees or travel reimbursement) that comes from a foreign government. The Department even prohibited a part-time federal employee who was also a partner in a law firm from accepting any money from the firm's legal work for foreign governments, even though he had not worked on those cases, because "the partnership would in effect be a conduit" for foreign governments. When it interpreted this constitutional clause, the Department explicitly examined whether the particular payment "would raise the kind of concern [i.e.,] the potential for 'corruption and foreign influence'... that motivated the Framers in enacting the constitutional prohibition." At every turn, the Justice Department was on the lookout to ensure that federal officials did not accept direct or indirect foreign government payments.

But starting two years ago, the Department veered away from this long track record.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr (James Comey, May 1, 2019, NY Times)

What happened to these people?

I don't know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.

Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that's at least part of what we've seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can't resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis's to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


U.S. factory activity at 2-1/2-year low, points to slowing economy (Lucia Mutikani, 5/01/19, Reuters) 

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to a 2-1/2-year low in April amid a sharp drop in new orders while construction spending unexpectedly fell in March, suggesting economic growth was moderating after surging in the first quarter.

One of the reports from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) on Wednesday showed businesses increasingly anxious that President Donald Trump's threats to close the U.S.-Mexico boarder would further disrupt the supply chain. Washington's trade war with China has created bottlenecks at factories, pushing up prices of some raw materials.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


In Venezuela, root for the people (Frida Ghitis, April 30, 2019, CNN)

The Venezuelan conflict may seem complicated, but what's at stake is simple. Sure, there are geopolitical ramifications and multiple forces at play. But above all, we should view Venezuela as a human tragedy. If you don't know who to root for as you see reports of competing forces and hear accounts of rival narratives, root for the Venezuelan people.

Rooting for the Venezuelan people means hoping that Maduro will step down peacefully, bringing to a close the most disastrous regime Venezuela has ever seen. It means recognizing that the opposition deserves to emerge victorious.

News organizations, including CNN at times on Tuesday, labeled the opposition-led revolt an "attempted coup" -- but that was not only unfortunate, it was also incorrect and harmful. Venezuela has already had a coup. Maduro and his cronies took power illegally. Maduro rigged elections, locked up opposition candidates and took control of the judiciary and every "independent" government entity.

The last relatively fair elections came in 2015. That's when the opposition won an overwhelming two-thirds of the seats in Congress. Maduro and his acolytes then stripped the legislature of all its powers.

In last year's presidential election, Maduro, whose approval rating has barely budged above 20%, somehow won with nearly 70% of the vote. It was a sham, but he took office in January.

That's when Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president, in keeping with the Venezuelan constitution. He vows to call new elections and fully restore the constitutional order as soon as Maduro is out.

Rooting does not suffice.  Marco Rubio should be preparing a massive economic package to help them as soon as the regime falls. And it should be advertised as a model for other failed states.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Can Washington rethink Iran? (Jason Rezaian, April 30, 2019, Washington Post)

While U.S. officials and commentators always pay lip service to the Iranian people, the reality is that both the regime in Tehran and the administration in Washington see Iranians as collateral damage in their power struggle. Actual insight into the lives of Iranians remains mysteriously absent.

The "Rethinking Iran" program spans a wide range of topics, from Iran's Jewish community to the fashion industry. And yes, politics is part of the mix as well.

In the absence of direct contact with Iran and Iranians, such gatherings fill an important void -- and particularly at a moment of growing tensions. We need scholars and commentators who can claim some actual knowledge of contemporary realities in Iran to inform the discussion, and the SAIS program aims to do this.

" 'Maximum pressure' aims to bring Iran to its knees in the minimum amount of time," Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group's Iran project director, said in his opening comments, in reference to the Trump administration's strategy for dealing with Tehran. That was about as succinct and accurate a description of White House Iran policy as you will find.

But it isn't only the current White House that finds itself almost entirely cut off from the realities of the country. We also needed windows into Iran during the Obama administration, but they were few even back then.

The situation improved a bit as President Barack Obama launched his policy of engagement in the run-up to the nuclear deal. A flurry of journalists, scholars, investors and tourists arrived in Tehran and began to reimagine a country that had been reduced by the American imagination to hollow stereotypes.

The dividends of this period were varied. The most important, in my opinion, was a shift in how ordinary Americans viewed Iran. For the first time, we managed to start separating the Iranian people from their leadership. In my book about my imprisonment in Tehran, I write about this period at length, because I was there chronicling it from up close in a way that few other observers had an opportunity to do.

This was no full opening, no reversal of course for an authoritarian regime that counts on the supposed word of God to maintain its power. But neither was it business as usual.

The run-up to the nuclear deal was a period when Iranians felt empowered to speak their minds and make demands. The most urgent concern was the incredible damage caused by years of sanctions on the country's economy.

People were focused less on their freedom and civil rights -- as previous rounds of protest I witnessed in 2003 and 2009 were -- and more on the desire for a better economic future. I saw firsthand how economic turmoil has the effect of diverting a people's political aspirations toward self-preservation.

That period was short-lived. Now, once again, the Iranian people have their backs against the wall, and we again lack real insight into what's happening there.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-Justice Department officials are shocked Mueller put his displeasure with Barr down in writing (Peter Weber, 5/01/19, The Week)

"We are conditioned not to 'go to paper,'" Chuck Rosenberg, who was Mueller's counsel as FBI director, told Politico. "There are times you get mad, or frustrated, and think someone is making a bad decision. But you pick up the phone and call them. I think I only went to paper a handful of times in 20 years at the Justice Department. In the time I worked for Bob in the FBI, I can't think of a time he did that."

Former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich called the letter "an extraordinary move" for Mueller, who "doesn't do things like this. Apparently he didn't appreciate having his hard work falsified." Former U.S. attorney Harry Litman said that "for the laconic and obedient Mueller, it's almost like lighting yourself on fire in front of the DOJ."

We already knew members of Mueller's team were upset with Barr's characterization of their work, but "what we didn't know until today is that Mueller was pissed," legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN Tuesday night. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman had another explanation: "Muller seems to have learned the lesson that a lot of people who have been around Donald Trump's world learned -- and Mueller knows, because almost all of them were witnesses for him -- that you have to put everything down on paper. This was not enough to just voice his concerns privately to Barr, there had to be a letter documenting it, and it's a stunning letter." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Two Scoops of Vanilla With Extra Vanilla on Top (JOSH VOORHEES, APRIL 30, 2019, Slate)

It is hard to imagine a more conventional start to a presidential campaign than the one Joe Biden has put together. The 76-year-old kicked things off with a video in which he spoke directly to the camera about "what makes America, America." He followed that with a string of endorsements from establishment politicians and a big-ticket fundraising dinner with corporate lobbyists. He then sat down for his first extended interview Friday on the soft-focus set of The View. At his first rally Monday, at a union hall in Pittsburgh, he stepped on stage to the same Bruce Springsteen song used by Barack Obama for his 2012 reelection effort. The speech that followed was heavy on timeless stump filler--"When I travel this country and I meet people like all of you..."--and light on surprises.

Biden's strategy is so conventional that it can look boring, particularly for journalists like myself who have a professional bias toward things that are new and different, and it looks the same to an activist base trying to shake up the status quo. But Biden's uncreative approach looks like something else to those Democrats most desperate to defeat Donald Trump: comforting.

He'll be a disastrous president too, but in the normal way.