September 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


Lindsey Graham and a Dutch white nationalist were photographed smiling and laughing together (VINNIE LONGOBARDO , SEPTEMBER 8, 2019, washington Press)

The comfort level that Trump-supporting members of the Republican party now have with right-wing extremists would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago.

Since Donald Trump took office, not only have domestic neo-fascist and racist organizations like the Proud Boys and the KKK been welcomed to become part of the Republican mainstream, but previously-shunned nationalists, extremists, and far-right-wing figures haunting the European political scene have become de facto allies of Trump and his supporters as they try to overturn the liberal policies of their EU homelands.

The close ties between the Trump administration and its congressional proxies were made quite clear by a recently deleted tweet posted by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherlands' Party of Freedom, a nationalist right-wing populist party with a platform of Islamophobia that called for banning the Koran and shuttering all of Holland's mosques.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


House panel to take formal steps on impeachment probe next week (Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, September 7, 2019, CNN)

The House Judiciary Committee is prepared to vote next week on a resolution laying out the procedures for its investigation now that it is actively considering moving to impeach President Donald Trump, a major step toward formalizing its sweeping probe, according to multiple sources familiar with the effort.

The vote, which is expected to occur on Wednesday, will lay out the ground rules for conducting hearings now that the committee has publicly announced it is considering recommending articles of impeachment against Trump. It is expected to follow the precedent set in 1974 over the committee's procedures during then-President Richard Nixon's impeachment proceedings.
Sources told CNN on Friday that the resolution is expected to spell out that Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, has the authority to call hearings at either the full committee or subcommittee level in connection with its impeachment deliberations.

The resolution, sources say, is expected to make clear that future House Judiciary hearings can be conducted in ways different from most congressional hearings since the panel is considering impeachment. For instance, the resolution is expected to authorize committee staff counsels to question witnesses, something that is typically not done at congressional hearings.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


A blow to Washington... China to invest $280 billion in Iranian sectors targeted by sanctions (MEM, September 7, 2019)

China is planning to invest $280 billion in Iran's oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors that are being affected by US sanctions, according to Petroleum Economist magazine.

The energy affairs magazine quoted a senior source who was linked to the Iranian Oil Ministry, as stating that this enormous investment represents a key point in a new agreement between the two countries. This was confirmed during Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's visit to China in late August, to present a roadmap for the strategic comprehensive partnership agreement, which concluded in 2016.

According to the magazine, Beijing also pledged to invest $120 billion in Iran's oil sector and industrial infrastructure.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


GOP STRATEGISTS FEAR TRUMP'S "POCAHONTAS" THING ISN'T WORKING: Elizabeth Warren turns out to be more resilient than expected. (TINA NGUYEN, SEPTEMBER 5, 2019, Vanity Fair)
The "Pocahontas" slur, Republican insiders fear, isn't cutting it.

Several strategists tell the Daily Beast that Trump was caught off guard by the resonance of Warren's populist rhetoric--a skill set that in some ways mirrors his own, minus the mental effluvia and human rights violations--and said she might be "tougher" to compete against than he realized, repeatedly asking advisers whether they consider Warren to be a "fighter." Others confessed that, despite their best efforts to comb her record for dirt and to workshop attacks, the GOP oppo machine has been struggling to land any blows. Sure, some of Warren's proposals are pie-in-the-sky, and maybe the math is hazy, but have you listened to Donald Trump? One strategist suggested that conservative think tanks have been struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of white papers Warren has been generating. that they think the 2016 campaign worked.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


The Republicans Are Dropping Like Flies: What do retiring members of Congress know that President Trump doesn't? (Frank Bruni, Sept. 7, 2019, NY Times)

To recap: Before the 2018 midterms, 46 Republicans but only 20 Democrats decided not to seek re-election to their offices in Congress, and among those, 32 Republicans and 11 Democrats weren't doing that in order to run for some higher, different post. They were just bolting. The discrepancy between the Republican and Democratic numbers amounted to a weather forecast -- and an accurate one at that. Although Democrats didn't improve their standing in the Senate, they picked up a whopping 40 seats in the House.

Heading into the 2020 election, 19 Republicans in Congress have already announced that they won't seek another term in their current office, a number higher than at the same point two years ago. Of the 19, 17 aren't retiring from Congress to pursue some kind of political promotion. Meanwhile, only four Democrats in all are retiring from Congress. To analyze these numbers in the context of what happened in the midterms is to conclude that Republicans are limping toward a disastrous Election Day.

Maybe Trump's fortunes are untethered from his party's. Maybe, as has happened so often over the course of his charmed life, he will soar while all around him plummet, and they instead of he will suffer for his sins. His campaign associates go to jail; he goes to the Group of 7. The most principled Republicans are driven from the fold; he reigns without principle over a party that has largely bent to his wishes rather than stand up for what it purported to believe.

"Most often I'm asked why so many Republicans aren't running for re-election," Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told me. "But I ask why so many are. This isn't the cruise they signed up for." He noted that up until a few months before Trump effectively secured the Republican nomination in 2016, not a single Republican in Congress had endorsed him. The first two House members who took that icy plunge -- Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California -- are now under criminal indictment (though not for anything having to do with Trump).

Except, of course, that Republicans down-ticket outpolled Donald in 2016 by enough to drag him over the finish line.  Their recognition that the weight is too heavy to bear removes his only support. It's a virtuous cycle.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Why is billionaire George Soros a bogeyman for the hard right? (BBC, 7 September 2019)

He's a Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist who has given away $32bn. Why does the hard right from America to Australia and from Hungary to Honduras believe George Soros is at the heart of a global conspiracy, asks the BBC's Mike Rudin.

One quiet Monday afternoon last October in leafy upstate New York, a large manila envelope was placed in the mailbox of an exclusive country mansion belonging to multi-billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The package looked suspicious. The return address was misspelt as "FLORIDS" and the mail had already been delivered earlier that day. The police were called and soon the FBI was on the scene.

Inside the bubble-wrapped envelope was a photograph of Soros, marked with a red "X". Alongside it, a six-inch plastic pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and a black powder.

More than a dozen similar packages were sent to the homes of former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats.

None of the devices exploded. The FBI traced the bombs to a white van covered in pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, parked in a supermarket car park in Florida.

Immediately the right-wing media claimed it was a "false-flag" operation intended to derail President Donald Trump and the Republican campaign, just two weeks before the crucial US mid-term elections.

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: "Fake News - Fake Bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?" Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh added: "Republicans just don't do this kind of thing."

Soon the internet was awash with allegations that the bomb plot was a hoax organised by Soros himself.

President Trump condemned the "despicable acts", but when a member of the audience at a White House reception shouted "Soros! Lock him up!" the president seemed amused. [...]

But it was Donald Trump's election victory that took the attacks on Soros to a new and dangerous level.

Eight months into Trump's presidency, in August 2017, neo-Nazis held a torchlit procession in Charlottesville, Virginia. Clashes with counter-protesters ended in tragedy, when a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Among US right-wingers it was soon claimed that the violence was orchestrated and financed by Soros, in order to tarnish the reputation of President Trump. And they said the key to the secret plot was a man called Brennan Gilmore, who filmed the car being driven into the counter-protesters. Right-wing radio host Alex Jones claimed Gilmore was paid $320,000 a year by Soros and was part of a deep-state coup to oust the president. [...]

Last autumn thousands of migrants left Honduras bound for the USA, just a month before the mid-term elections that threatened to weaken Republican control of Congress.

Immediately the so-called migrant caravan was blamed on Soros. Fox News repeatedly broadcast claims that Soros wanted open borders and unrestricted immigration.

Jack Kingston, a former Republican Congressman, told me: "It is a very organised effort and somebody is behind this, somebody is paying for some of this and it would be typical of George Soros to get involved in that."

For his part, President Trump retweeted a video that claimed to show cash being handed out to people in Honduras to "storm the US border", with a suggestion that the cash might have come from Soros.

When asked outside the White House whether Soros was funding the migrant caravan, he replied: "I wouldn't be surprised. A lot of people say yes."

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Syria says joint U.S.-Turkish patrols violate country's sovereignty (Reuters, 9/08/19) 

Syria condemned on Sunday joint U.S.-Turkish patrols in a border strip in the northeast of the country, saying it was a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty, an official statement said.

Someone hasn't bee paying attention to the war.  It's a free-fire zone.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Immigration agents arrest Houston father and community activist lauded by the city after he invited ICE to a town hall (Lomi Kriel, Sep. 6, 2019, Houston Chronicle)

Roland Gramajo organized a community town hall in Sharpstown last month to allay residents' fears after a tense few weeks this summer when President Donald Trump's promises of widespread raids alarmed immigrants and their families across the nation.

The 40-year-old father of five American children has long been a devoted community activist, advocating particularly on behalf of his Guatemalan countrymen. In 2018, Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Gramajo's birthday of May 17 as the advocate's official day in the city for being a "true leader with an exceptional drive to improve the quality of life" in Houston.

Gramajo invited representatives with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to attend the Aug. 18 community event, which also featured U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat.

The agency declined.

At the event, Garcia and others noticed three white men who acted suspiciously, taking videos and photographs of the mostly Hispanic crowd.

Three weeks later, on Sept. 5, Gramajo was driving to work when immigration agents stopped him and took him into custody. The agency said in a statement that Gramajo had been deported to Guatemala in 2004 and had returned, which is a felony. It reinstated his old deportation order.

Activists and community leaders who know Gramajo said they find it odd how he suddenly landed on the agency's radar after 15 years of living here illegally following that deportation. They said his arrest is the latest instance of the Trump administration deporting longtime immigrants with deep American roots, rather than focusing on serious criminals and violent offenders.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


Televised debates a new step in Tunisia's young democracy (Tarek Amara, Angus McDowall, 9/08/19, Reuters) 

Eight presidential candidates stood behind their podiums aiming to impress Tunisian voters on Saturday evening in the young democracy's first ever televised election debate.

Although Tunisia has held elections twice since throwing off autocratic rule in the 2011 revolution which triggered the "Arab Spring" uprisings, democracy is still taking root and such direct questioning of all the candidates is a novelty.