May 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 PM


Russia's Lavrov To Meet Venezuelan Counterpart Over Unrest (rADIO lIBERTY, May 04, 2019)

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with his counterpart from Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, in Moscow on May 5 to discuss possible steps to help solve the power struggle that is crippling the South American nation.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Here Are the Alt-Right Figures Trump Thinks Are the Innocent Victims of Censorship (MOLLY OLMSTEAD, MAY 04, 2019, Slate)

In particular, Trump focused on Joseph Paul Watson, an InfoWars personality known also for his conspiracy-mongering. Trump mentioned Watson in his own tweet Friday, and he retweeted a video Watson made criticizing Facebook the next morning.

Watson's conspiracies are not harmless. While it can sometimes be hard to see the ways in which "chemtrails" and 9/11 conspiracies--conspiracy theories he supports that have been popular for many years--are harmful, his efforts to push the conspiracy theory about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich directly brought anguish to Rich's mourning family.

Besides his conspiracy-mongering, Watson is also known for his racism and sexism. He once joked that the Women's March should be renamed "handful of self-entitled, fat, ugly feminists trying to get arrested in desperate attempt to impress any man." He once said "science" proves African and Middle Eastern people have problems with "aggression" because of "low IQ." He has asserted that "there's no such thing as moderate Islam. Islam is a violent, intolerant religion which, in its current form, has no place in liberal western democracies." But the greatest harm likely has to do with his insistence on constantly amplifying absurd right-wing fake news stories without any apparent concern for the truth.

Trump also retweeted Lauren Southern, a far-right Canadian activist who has faked transitioning genders as a pretext to interview transgender activists. She claimed Black Lives Matter caused more deaths than the KKK. She showed up at an anti-rape protest with a sign that read, "There is no rape culture in the West."

Even actor James Woods, who has used slurs to describe Muslims, had his Twitter account briefly suspended because of a tweet that violated the site's rules, according to CNN Business.

The president has amplified the voices of racists, misogynists, and white supremacists on his Twitter feed before. But in a dust-up between tech companies and extremists over those extremists' right to say offensive and bigoted things on those platforms, he sided explicitly with the extremists in a shared sense of victimhood.

His presidency is nothing more than a platform for hate.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Pelosi Warns Democrats: Stay in the Center or Trump May Contest Election Results (Glenn Thrush, May 4, 2019, NY Times)

"Own the center left, own the mainstream," Ms. Pelosi, 79, said.

"Our passions were for health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government -- a simple message," Ms. Pelosi said of the 40-seat Democratic pickup last year that resulted in her second ascent to the speakership. "We did not engage in some of the other exuberances that exist in our party" -- a reference to some of the most ambitious plans advocated by the left wing of her party and some 2020 candidates, including "Medicare for all" and the Green New Deal, which she has declined to support.

Nearly five months into her second speakership, Ms. Pelosi appears to be embracing her role as the only Democrat with the power to oppose Mr. Trump. While she seems comfortable in waging battle with him, her unease about the president's behavior has only intensified since the Democrats' triumphal election.

Few people outside Ms. Pelosi's inner circle were aware of how worried she was that Mr. Trump would try to stop the opposition party from taking control of the House unless the Democrats' victory was emphatic enough to be indisputable.

"If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he's not going to respect the election," said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections.

"He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can't seat these people," she added. "We had to win. Imagine if we hadn't won -- oh, don't even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach."

In recent weeks Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat. That view, fed by Mr. Trump's repeated and unsubstantiated claims of Democratic voter fraud, is one of the reasons she says it is imperative not to play into the president's hands, especially on impeachment.

He refuses to accept even the 2016 results that seated him.

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


Trump's Surreal Phone Call With Vladimir Putin (David A. Graham, 5/03/19,  The Atlantic)

On June 13, 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 officers of the GRU, the Russian intelligence agency, with committing "large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election." Three days later, President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Speaking at a press conference beside Putin, Trump absolved Russia of any hacking.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said. "So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer."

The remarks forced Trump's approval rating, politicians' pretenses, and jaws to drop. Republicans who'd been reluctant to criticize the president were horrified to see him taking the Kremlin's word over that of his own aides and the U.S. intelligence community.

Trump repeated the sin in an hour-long phone call with Putin on Friday. 

It's not as if he's a patriot.

Posted by orrinj at 11:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:29 AM


Trump urges caution as Bolton and Pompeo tease a military intervention in Venezuela (Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak,May 3, 2019, CNN)

After US expectations were dashed this week for a transition of power in Venezuela, President Donald Trump is urging caution among senior advisers moving forward and expressing frustration that some aides are more openly teasing military intervention, according to officials familiar with the matter.

After a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, Trump also downplayed Russia's involvement in Venezuela, contradicting claims from top Trump administration officials that Moscow continues to prop up the regime there.

You have to feel sorry for the Trumpbots, who hate "Socialism" but have to defend their leader being governed by Russia. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


Trump's Misguided U-Turn on the Jones Act: A waiver for natural-gas shipments would have helped to end a protectionist law long past its prime. (Editorial Board, May 2, 2019, Bloomberg)

President Trump has reportedly just rejected a waiver of the Jones Act -- the law that requires the use of vessels built in the U.S. and owned and crewed by Americans to move cargo between U.S. ports -- for shipments of liquefied natural gas. That's bad news, and not just for U.S. producers of LNG.

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 AM


US sanctions on Venezuela responsible for 'tens of thousands' of deaths, claims new report (Andrew Buncombe,  26 April 2019, The Independent US)

As many as 40,000 people may have died in Venezuela as a result of US sanctions that made it harder for ordinary citizens to access food, medicine and medical equipment, a new report has claimed.

The report, published by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) a progressive, Washington DC-based think tank, says those deaths took place following the imposition of sanctions in the summer of 2017. It said the situation had probably worsened since the imposition earlier this year, of tougher sanctions targetting Venezuela's vital oil industry, as part of the Trump administration's effort to oust president Nicolas Maduro.

"The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports," says the report, co-authored by Jeffrey Sachs, an award-winning economist based at Columbia University, and Mark Weisbrot. "This is illegal under US and international law, and treaties that the US has signed. Congress should move to stop it." long as we're honest about it.  We like to pretend that sanctions regimes just cause pressure. And we're always surprised that sanctioned nations react.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


What Thatcher got right (Oliver Wiseman, 5/04/19, CapX)

For all that Thatcherism is rightly recognised as an ideological revolution in British public life, it is important to remember its pragmatic roots. In her foreword to the 1979 Conservative manifesto, she wrote:

"This election may be the last chance we have to... restore the balance of power in favour of the people. It is therefore the most crucial election since the war... It contains no magic formula or lavish promises. It is not a recipe for an easy or a perfect life. But it sets out a broad framework for the recovery of our country, based not on dogma but on reason, on common sense, above all on the liberty of the people under the law."

What lessons does this message hold for Conservatives today?

First it is a reminder that electoral success lies in the application of Conservative policies and ideas to the problems of the day, not in fighting yesterday's battles. Securing popular capitalism in 1979 meant tackling inflation and facing down overmighty union leaders. Today I think it means solving the housing crisis and unlocking the productivity growth that will deliver higher wages and greater prosperity.

It was obviously crucial that she was able to tag team with Volcker/Reagan in crushing inflation/wage growth.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Why the anti-Israel narrative is winning, and why that matters (Fred Maroun, MAY 1, 2019, Times of israel)

The pro-Palestinian narrative is extremely powerful at the emotional level because it uses three simple facts that have a strong emotional resonance:

The large number of Palestinian refugees who are stateless and vulnerable, and who live in camps with only limited rights.

The military presence of Israel in Judea and Samaria resulting in lack of self-determination for the Palestinians and their dependency on Israel.

The conflict with Gaza that results in high unemployment, poverty, and frequent casualties among Gazans.

Declare Palestine a nation and end the war.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


The resurrection of 'new atheism': As white supremacy reigns supreme in the US, a new book seeks to bring back to the fore one of its ideological branches. (Hamid Dabashi , 5/04/19, Al Jazeera)

In March this year, a new volume called, The Four Horsemen, hit the book market in the United States. The book boasts an introduction by British comedian Stephen Fry, three essays and the transcript of the 2007 recorded discussion among four proponents of the so-called "new atheism" - Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. 

Prior to this encounter, all four had authored books arguing that religion and "holy war" pose the greatest threat to human civilisation and therefore, religiosity should not be tolerated in "Western societies".

Their works - Dawkins's, The God Delusion, Harris's, The End of Faith, Dennett's, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and Hitchens's, God Is Not Great - were all essentially written as a blind reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and all zoomed in on Islam and the Muslim world, demonstrating a remarkable ignorance of both. 

Needless to say, neither of the four was able to offer any serious historical understanding of this terror act, why it happened, what it meant, or how to prevent similar acts of wanton violence in the future. Nor did they make any intellectually challenging or noteworthy contribution to the millennia-old debate on belief and disbelief in God. 

That publishers have chosen to resurrect, today, this 12-year-old Islamophobic backslapping session advertised as a "landmark discussion about modern atheism" is indeed quite telling. With white supremacy currently flourishing in the US and elsewhere, a book on "new atheism" - a pseudo-intellectual movement that has heavily contributed to its rise - would surely sell. [...]

[I]t is quite clear from the writings of the "four horsemen" that "new atheism" has little to do with atheism or any serious intellectual examination of the belief in God and everything to do with hatred and power.  

Indeed, "new atheism" is the ideological foregrounding of liberal imperialism whose fanatical secularism extends the racist logic of white supremacy. It purports to be areligious, but it is not. It is, in fact, the twin brother of the rabid Christian conservatism which currently feeds the Trump administration's destructive policies at home and abroad - minus all the biblical references. 

While the right-wing conservatives favour the "Judeo-Christian" canard (the idea that the "Judeo-Christian civilisation" is superior to all others), the liberals opt for "new atheism" (or the idea that "secular" Western societies are superior to all others). Both, however, are in perfect agreement about their perceived white supremacy, which supposedly gives them the right to wreak havoc across the world as they please. That is - they are the two faces of that same cheap imperialist coin.

And just as religious white supremacy encourages individual and state-sponsored violence against those perceived as "inferior", so does its "new atheist" version. Historically, the "liberal atheists" have always eagerly joined their "Christian conservative" brethren in the battle call in advance of any US aggression anywhere in the world. 

However, this is, not to say that such deadly fanaticism occurs only in the US (and by extension Europe). Militant Islamism and extremist Zionism have the same exact roots. If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Osama bin Laden are the symbols of Muslim fanaticism, Meir Kahane, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ayelet Shaked, and Naftali Bennett are the prime examples of the Zionist equivalent, while the "four horsemen", along with Steve Bannon, Mike Pompeo et al are the flag bearers of secular-Christian imperialism in full power.  

In the raging battle between these hateful, toxic ideologies, they thrive and feed off of each other. Caught in the crossfire of this clash of ignorance and barbarity, are billions of human beings - Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists - who pay the price with their lives. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Five well-known 2020 Democrats descend on Texas, signaling the state's growing influence in the primaries (PATRICK SVITEK, MAY 3, 2019, Texas Tribune)

The dueling events helped kick off a weekend in which Texas was set to be close to the center of the national political universe, with five declared and potential presidential candidates swinging through in a sign of the state's growing influence in the nominating process. In addition to O'Rourke and Buttigieg, the state received a visit Friday from Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial nominee who has kept the door open to a White House bid. And later in the weekend, two other declared candidates were scheduled to make stops: O'Rourke's fellow Texan, Julián Castro, as well as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

For some of the Democrats, the weekend was first and foremost an opportunity to raise money in Texas, long an ATM for presidential contenders. But the addition of some less private events signaled that they are at least seeing the benefit of starting to build goodwill -- or in the Texans' case, shore up goodwill -- with the party faithful here 10 months before the state's primary.

O'Rourke's Fort Worth rally was particularly wrought with political significance. It was his first visit as a presidential candidate to Tarrant County, the state's biggest reliably red county, which he flipped last year in his closer-than-expected loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Before launching into his 2020 stump speech, O'Rourke addressed a more urgent matter: the mayoral election Saturday in Fort Worth. Deborah Peoples, the chairwoman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, is challenging incumbent Betsy Price, one of the few remaining GOP big-city mayors. She is vying for an unprecedented fifth term. [...]

The presidential contest was not the only 2020 election that factored into Friday's events. Abrams helped rally Annie's List supporters to flip the Texas House -- where Democrats are nine seats away from the majority -- as the group made a push to raise $50,000 for the cause at the luncheon.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Report: PM mulling law to allow more than one minister per portfolio (Times of Israel, 5/04/19)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, working to satisfy the many demands of the six parties that are set to form his coalition, may ask MKs to approve legislation allowing more than one minister per government portfolio, a TV report said Friday.

Sadly, the Deep State in Israel has values that are the opposite of ours, particularist instead of universalist.
Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Ex-mob prosecutor says Trump's talk with Putin was a 'get your stories straight call' like she used to hear on wiretaps (Bob Brigham, 03 MAY 2019, Raw Story)

The former chief of the organized crime and racketeering unit at the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York explained on MSNBC Friday how President Donald Trump's call with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin reminded her of what she used to hear listening to mob wiretaps.

MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah was interviewed on "Deadline: White House" with Nicolle Wallace.

"Official after official, when brought up to Capitol Hill, has bemoaned the fact there's no top-down order to tell Russia to stay out of our democracy," Wallace noted.

"There's no order," Rocah agreed. "He's doing the opposite."

"This phone call between Trump and Putin today reminded me of what we would call -- when we were on wires of criminals and listening to their conversations and they didn't know it -- the 'get your story straight call,'" Rocah replied. "They would do something, they didn't know we were listening to them after whatever crime they just committed, they robbed a bank or whatever, then they're on the phone, sort of talking, kind of sort of in code, but it's a yeah, 'when we went to the store earlier and I bought the milk,' you know, they're making their cover story, congratulating each other, patting each other on the back, saying 'it's all good, we made it, we didn't get caught.' That's what this reminded me of."

"If you look at the obstruction that Trump, I think, clearly committed, it was obstruction of the investigation into Russia, not just Trump, but into Russia's actions," Rocah suggested. "And that's what this phone call was about."

...Donald also had to let Vlad know he doesn't care about VZ, it's just politics.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


Trump's bipartisan infrastructure plan already imperiled as Mulvaney, GOP lawmakers object to cost (Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis May 3m, 2019, Washington Post)

A $2 trillion infrastructure deal outlined this week by President Trump and top Democrats is already losing momentum, as the president's own chief of staff is telling people inside and outside the administration that the effort is too expensive and unlikely to succeed.

it's like Bob Alexander never even bothered to hire Dave.