November 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Is GOP Witness List For Impeachment Inquiry 'A Cry For Help'? (Cody Fenwick, November 11, 2019, National Memo)

House Republicans' request for witnesses in the impeachment inquiry reads more like a "cry for help" than an actual contribution to the investigation into President Donald Trump's conduct, argued MSNBC's Steve Benen.

He's not wrong. The list includes:

The whistleblower

"All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint"

Hunter Biden

Devon Archer, a business associate of Hunter Biden

Nellie Ohr of Fusion GPS, which directed the work behind the Steele Dossier

Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee employee who reportedly conducted research on Paul Manafort's work in Ukraine

Not one of these people will have information that could exonerate Trump from the mountain of evidence indicating he oversaw a vast bribery scheme aimed at pressuring the Ukrainian government into smearing and opening up investigations into his political rivals.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Steve Bannon Says Trump Team Saw Roger Stone as "Access Point" to Assange (Dan Friedman, 11/08/19, MoJo)

[A]ccording to bombshell testimony in federal court Friday, the Trump team did believe that it was collaborating with WikiLeaks, the organization that publicly disseminated Democratic emails that had been stolen by Russian government hackers.

The revelations came during the trial of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is accused of lying to Congress about his contacts with the Trump campaign. Stone was originally a member of that campaign; he departed in 2015 but remained an informal adviser to Trump. Steve Bannon, who became CEO of the campaign in mid-August 2016, testified Friday that campaign officials saw Stone as their "access point" to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Bannon testified that in the spring and summer of 2016, before he took over the Trump campaign, Stone had "implied" in conversations with Bannon that he was in contact with Assange. "The campaign had no official access to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, but Roger would be considered if we needed an access point, because he had implied or told me he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange," Bannon said. 

"It was generally believed that the access point to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange would be Roger Stone," Bannon said in prior grand jury testimony read in court on Friday. Bannon appeared under subpoena and said he would not have agreed to testify otherwise.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Robert Randolph And The Family Band: Raucous Rock Meets The Gospel Tradition (CARINA GIAMERESE, 11/11/19, NPR: World Cafe)

Today we present Robert Randolph and the Family Band; led by Robert Randolph, the group brings raucous rock and roll energy to the gospel tradition of Sacred Steel. Brighter Days, the literal family band's 8th studio album, was released in August; the record sizzles with the group's signature fusion of blues, rock and gospel. Randolph's anointed pedal steel playing leads the charge in this joyous, uplifting set that brings the party to the dance floor.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


A Special Relationship: The British and the Americans--Lessons from the Colonial Period (Mark Kalthoff, Imprimis)

The American political tradition began with the Mayflower Compact. Upon landing at Cape Cod and realizing that they needed to establish a temporary self-government, the 41 signers of the Mayflower Compact (originally called the Plymouth Combination) pledged themselves together into "a civil body politic." Referencing the book The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition by Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey, Kalthoff argued that the Pilgrims, who identified themselves as British subjects, meant to continue the task already begun in Britain of advancing the Christian faith. To do so, and to act in an orderly way, they took an oath and outlined the ways in which they would carry out the oath; namely, through "equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony." "The Mayflower Compact was another British influence in that it gave Americans the understanding that society precedes government, and that freedom has limits within the rule of law," Kalthoff said. "Within the freedom to self-govern are concomitant duties that involve civic participation and ongoing deliberation." [...]

The British and Americans had a shared understanding of the nature of political liberty. In Barry Alan Shain's book The Myth of American Individualism, he asserts that Colonial Americans understood self-government in terms of English political liberty: "English political liberty describes a political situation in which a majority of the people consent to the laws that would govern them, they are represented in the crafting of these laws, and when they break them they are tried by juries of their peers." English political liberty informed how the colonists lived and ruled. However, the colonists believed that their right to political representation was in the colonial assemblies, not the British parliament. "This stance, this different understanding of the nature and meaning of the British constitution, was ultimately what would sever that relationship that was so special because American liberties were British liberties at this time," Kalthoff said.

The Northwest Ordinance conserved the English inheritance of common law. The final achievement of the Confederation Congress was the creation of the Northwest Ordinance, which set up a constitution for settling U.S. territories north and west of the Ohio River. Comparable in significance to the English Magna Carta, it was a "conserving" law in that it preserved the English legal inheritance. It had American innovations, however; it outlawed slavery, and it guaranteed that every state would have a republican form of government. The Northwest Ordinance also spoke to the truths that the colonists had learned through their relationship with the British, such as providing for religious tolerance and outlining the primacy of education as necessary for "good government and the happiness of mankind." "In this organic piece of law of the United States, there is a fundamental connection between human happiness and civic flourishing and education," Kalthoff said. "The role of education is not merely to impart knowledge, but also to encourage religion and morality."

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


The Moderately Indefensible Career of Rep. Peter King (JIM NEWELL, NOV 11, 2019, Slate)

When King took back the gavel to the Homeland Security Committee in 2011, one of his first priorities was to hold hearings on "radicalization" within American Muslim communities. Trust in King's ability to hold such a hearing with anything resembling neutrality was limited, given that this was the same congressman who had claimed in 2007 that there were "too many mosques in this country, too many people that are sympathetic to radical Islam" and had also said that 85 percent of American mosques were controlled by "extremist leadership." After Trump's election, King recommended to the president-elect that he establish a federal Muslim surveillance program similar to the shameful, disbanded one run by the New York Police Department following 9/11. (King was unyieldingly defensive of any and every thing that any police officer had ever done, and he once compared NFL players kneeling in protest of police abuse to giving Nazi salutes.)

King's maximalist approach to terrorism done by Muslims showed none of the nuance he applied in the 1980s to the Troubles. Before he was Longtime GOP Rep. Peter King, he was Long Island Irish Guy Peter King. In that capacity he was a vocal defender of the Irish Republican Army, serving up such spicy moral-relativist takes as: "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it." This history resurfaced in 2011 as King was prepping his Muslim radicalization hearings, and King defended himself by noting that the IRA's acts of terrorism were over there.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Smotrich: Having Arabs in government defies Israel's Jewish, democratic nature (TAMAR PILEGGI , 11/11/19, Times of Israel)

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Monday reacted angrily to unconfirmed reports that Blue and White was working to form a minority coalition backed by the Joint List alliance of majority-Arab parties, whom he accused of being disloyal to the state.

In an interview with Army Radio, the hardline lawmaker said that most Israeli voters opposed creating a minority government that would be led by the centrist Blue and White and supported from the outside by the Joint List and the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu.

"Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and having a minority government is neither of those things," Smotrich said.

By which he means having minorities in government.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump aides are reportedly worried about John Bolton's meeting notes (The Week, November 10, 2019)

Bolton was a "voracious note-taker," one person who attended several meetings with him told Axios, filling up page after page on a legal pad. On Friday, Bolton's lawyer, Chuck Cooper, sent a letter to the House of Representative's general counsel, stating that Bolton "was personally involved" in "many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed" during the impeachment inquiry.

Bolton, Axios' Jonathan Swan writes, "probably has more details than any impeachment inquiry witness, so far, about President Trump's machinations on Ukraine." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sessions Announces Run For Senate: Republicans Haven't Pushed Hard Enough To Advance Trump Agenda (Ian Schwartz,  November 7, 2019, RCP)

Sessions said Republicans in Senate have not pushed "hard enough" to advance the Trump agenda. 

They haven't pushed it at all: it's not Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Donald Trump Jr. walks offstage after being heckled at book event -- by conservatives (The Week, 11/10/19)

The author of Triggered appears to have been triggered.

On Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, went to the University of California Los Angeles for an event promoting his new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us. Trump Jr. actually silenced himself, as he refused to take questions from the audience, which led to conservatives heckling him until he finally just walked offstage after 20 minutes.

November 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


New Poll Has Michael Bloomberg Beating Donald Trump By Six Points (JUSTIN CARUSO, November 10, 2019,daily Caller)

A new poll released Sunday shows that all top Democratic candidates are beating President Donald Trump in a hypothetical match up, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The poll, conducted by Morning Consult, showed that in a hypothetical general election match up with Trump, Bloomberg polls at 43%, while Trump polls at 37%. 21% are undecided or don't know.

Other Democratic candidates poll well against Trump too. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren beats Trump 45% to 39%, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden have similar leads.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


The Myth of the Nazi War Machine (Kevin Kallmes, 11/03/19, Notes on Liberty)

 I think it is past time that we recognize Nazism as not only immoral but also incompetent. Below, I hope to share some astonishing statistics that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the modern concept of Nazi military might is a myth.

The Allies rode in cars, the Germans rode horses. In 1939, the only transportation available to 85% of German infantry other than walking was horses. By was still 85%. In total, the US and UK produced almost 4 million general-use vehicles, compared to 160,000 German vehicles. That is a 25-fold advantage. The Allies also had 1 million infantry-supporting artillery compared to less than 100,000 for all of the Axis.

Where were the supplies? The Allies had 46 million tonnes of merchant shipping vessels to the Axis' 5 million, five times as much aluminum (key for engines and planes), and by 1943 had cut off all German access to rare metals such as tungsten, one of the key metals used in munitions, manufacturing, and electronics. The US supplied Britain and the USSR through the Lend-Lease Act with almost $700 billion (inflation-adjusted 2019 dollars) in supplies throughout the war, which is roughly double the entire German annual GDP in 1939.

The Allies swam to victory on a sea of oil. Though Rommel came within a battle of accessing the British Middle-Eastern oil fields, the Axis still had astonishingly little fuel (which they needed to power their King Tiger, which drank a gallon of gas every 700 yards, the vast Luftwaffe that put over 130,000 planes into action, and their gigantic battleship Bismark). The Axis as a whole used 66 million metric tonnes of oil, while the Allies used a billion. A 15X advantage.

The panzers were neither numerous nor superior technologically. The Mark 1 and 2 panzers that conquered France were actually less numerous and less technologically advanced than France's. While blitzkrieg and elan overwhelmed the French, even the Mark 4-the most commonly used panzer in the late war-underperformed Shermans in infantry support and reliability and were even considered inferior to the Soviet T34 by Hitler himself. Even including the outmoded Czech tanks repurposed by the Germans, they fielded only 67,000 tanks on all fronts to face 270,000 Allied tanks (with no help from Italy, with a pitiful 3,300 tanks, and Japan largely ignored mobile land armor and created only 4,500 tanks). The environment of idealogical zeal in Germany prevented a military researcher from telling Hitler about the true tank numbers of the Soviets, as Hitler himself recognized later in the war by repeating that if he had known the true number of T34's he faced, he would never have invaded. The US and USSR deployed massive numbers of upgraded Shermans and the workhorse T34s, while Germany sank huge investments into specialized and scary duds the Royal Tiger-300,000 man-hours and ten times as much as a Sherman. Only 1,300 Royal Tigers were ever produced, and their 70 tonnes of weight, constant mechanical issues, and cost undercut their supremacy in tank-on-tank duels. The US and Britain used precision bombing to inflict major tank losses on Germany, and while German tanks outfought Soviet tanks roughly 4:1, by 1945 the Soviets still had 25,000 tanks against the Germans' 6,000.

Collaboration helps both tech and strategy. The Allies worked together-the Sherman's underpowered 75mm (corrected) could be upgraded with a British gun because of interoperability of parts, and the US and Brits delivered over 12,000 tanks and 18,000 planes to the Soviets under Lend-Lease; the Germans did not even have replaceable parts for their own tanks, and the Germans never helped their Italian allies (who had lost a land invasion even to the collapsing French) develop industrial capabilities. Bletchley Park gave advance warning to US merchant convoys, but the Italians and Japanese found out that Hitler had invaded the USSR only after troops had crossed into Ukraine.

Fascism is not industrially sound. Even though the Nazis put an astonishing 75% of their GDP toward the military by 1944 and despite taking on unsustainable debt to sustain their production, their GDP in 1939 was $384 billion, roughly equal to the Soviets and $100 billion less than the UK and France combined. By the end of the war, this fell to $310 billion, compared to a whopping $1.4 trillion US GDP. However, even these numbers do not fully represent how non-mechanized, non-scalable, and non-industrial Germany was even under military dictatorship. While German science and engineering had been pre-eminent pre-WW I, the central control and obsession with infeasible, custom projects before and during the war meant that the Germans had a lower percentage of their population that could be mobilized for wartime production than their opponents, not to mention that their GDP per capita was half of that of the US, and yet the Axis still took on opponents that had productive populations five times their size.

In treating them as an existential threat we gave Communism a pass.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


GOP Rep. Will Hurd: A Ukraine quid pro quo would be "violation of the law" (Jacob Knutson, 11/10/19, Axios)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said on "Fox News Sunday" that it would be a "violation of the law" for "a president or any official" to withhold aid from a foreign country in exchange for investigations into political rivals, though he stopped short of saying President Trump had done so with Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 AM


What Kind of God Is the God of the Jews?: a review of  Jewish Theology Unbound by James Diamond (Neil Rogachevsky, 11/06/19, Mosaic)

Above all, Diamond rejects the philosophers' conception of God as utterly unchanging--"the unmoved mover," to cite Aristotle again. Instead he maintains that the biblical God is "unbound" by any fixed attributes, positive or negative; a dynamic being, God changes and advances along with humanity. In his own words, Diamond is set on exchanging "austere rational notions of [God's] perfection and immutability . . . for a vital, fluctuating God who is aided by human beings in the attainment of new cognitions and ever-developing states of self-awareness."
Jewish Theology Unboundis divided into discreet considerations of specific biblical themes that could plausibly fall under the rubric of "philosophical theology." Among the subjects it considers are the act of "questioning" God, freedom and slavery, love, death, martyrdom, political sovereignty, and the meaning and purpose of angels. Throughout, Diamond reflects on and endeavors to explain what we can coherently think and say about the dynamic God and His attributes. In particular, he focuses on the relationship between God and human beings--and Jews in particular--as the aspect most marked by creative flux.

In one example, Diamond shows how understanding God as dynamic is the only way to understand His covenant with the children of Israel. Thus, God's command to Jacob to return from exile in his father-in-law's house to his parents in Canaan expresses a double wish: to reunite Jacob with his father and to end God's own exile. Having accompanied Jacob in his wanderings, He is now eager to return to His chosen land and His beloved Isaac. Human freedom, in this case Jacob's taking action to return to the Land of Israel, is transformative at the most fundamental level since it can effect change in God Himself.

In still another biblical passage, this one from Exodus, Diamond analyzes Moses' two youthful encounters with injustice. In the first, Moses sees "an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew man," and in response looks around for an "ish," any man, who might intercede to stop the abuse. But he finds no "man," only a mass of individuals defined by their discrepant tribal groups and unwilling to be guided by their shared humanity and the obligations it imposes. In the next scene, Moses witnesses two Hebrew men fighting and asks the instigator, "Why do you strike your fellow?" This question, according to Diamond, is Moses' acknowledgement of the incompleteness of his earlier view that injustice could be solved by erasing or transcending ethnicity and tribe. Moses, in short, is evolving to become worthy of the assignment soon to be placed upon him by an evolving God.

Diamond's argument is spelled out most explicitly in a dense chapter on the meaning of God's name. Here he points to Moses' first encounter with God at the burning bush, where the prophet asks to be told His name and God answers with a Hebrew phrase that in its usual translation--"I am that I am"--seems to imply His transcendence and immutability.

But the Hebrew verbs, as Diamond points out, are cast in the future tense, "I shall be what I shall be," suggesting a deity who "evolves" along with "His creation and His creatures." This adumbrates a conception of God much closer to the mystical view later promoted by medieval kabbalists and their successors than to Maimonides' perfect, immutable being; in fact, the two are almost complete opposites.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


The Radical Equality of Christianity (Bradley J. Birzer, October 19th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

One can find an equally profound statement of equality in the final chapter of Matthew's gospel and Jesus' issuing of the Great Commission:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew, chapter 28, verses 16-20).

Jesus did not say "convert all nations except those with skin tone x" or "convert all nations except for those few islands in the South Pacific." He said, "make disciples of all nations." No asterisk or caveat is included in His command. Thus, Christianity, is, by its very nature, an evangelical religion, always encountering that which it is not.

Until we Christians admit just how radical we are--how truly humane and universal our faith is--we will allow the secular forces of the world to confuse us and bewilder us. Yet, to be Christian has always been counter-cultural, antagonistic to the world, and, by its very nature and existence, it always must be.

The Bible is a bildungsroman about God.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Placebo Effect Appears Even in Pets (EMILY ANTHES, 11/07/19, The Atlantic)

In 2003, a team of researchers from several American universities launched a small clinical trial, the results of which should not have been a surprise. Of the patients taking the active drug, an anticonvulsant intended to reduce epileptic seizures, 86 percent saw their seizure frequency fall. So did 79 percent of the patients that received a sham treatment, or a placebo.

It seemed like a classic example of the placebo effect, with one notable difference: The patients were dogs.

"As I did these placebo-controlled studies and I was evaluating data, I was like, 'Oh, look, these dogs are getting better on the placebo,'" says Karen Munana, a veterinary neurologist at North Carolina State University who co-authored the study. That response had never been reported for epilepsy treatments in dogs before, she says.

At the time, double-blind placebo-controlled trials--the gold standard for evaluating new medical treatments--were relatively uncommon in veterinary medicine. But if Munana and her colleagues hadn't done one, they would have misjudged how well the drug, levetiracetam, worked. "If I had not had the placebo arm [of the study], I would've said that this drug was effective," she says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rawls & Theodicy: 'The Theology of Liberalism' (Samuel Moyn, October 30, 2019, Commonweal)

[T]wo young Harvard political theorists have come out simultaneously with two of the best treatments imaginable of the context and meaning of Rawls's epoch-making book. But the two could not be more different. In the Shadow of Justice, the exciting new leftish history by Katrina Forrester, suggests that, for all his abstraction, Rawls was offering a metaphysical gloss on the program of the right wing of the British Labour party of the 1950s, when it was seeking an increasingly market-friendly vision of socialism, one that would eventually devolve into neoliberalism. For her right-leaning colleague Eric Nelson, by contrast, Rawls is a failed early-modern theologian, whose legacy is to leave liberals without a good reason to believe that justice requires even modest redistribution. [...]

Nelson opens his book by placing Rawls's recently discovered Princeton University senior thesis, written in 1942, in the long Augustinian tradition of Christianity that denied that sinful humans could save themselves. For Augustine and his followers, Pelagianism--named after a late-antique theologian who was condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church--overstated the extent to which human beings can earn their salvation. Such a belief verged on an ideology of self-redemption of individual sinners or of humanity itself that (as Rawls put it at age twenty) "rendered the Cross of Christ to no effect." For Rawls, at the time a committed Christian who planned a career in the Episcopal priesthood before World War II service in the Pacific caused him to lose his faith, it followed that "no man can claim good deeds as his own." To contend otherwise inflated human capacity and courted sacrilegious idolatry of humanity itself.

Nelson contends that this Augustinian response to Pelagianism lurked in Rawls's defense of fair distributional justice long after he had moved on to secular philosophy. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls remarked that "no one deserves" their social ascendancy and the natural gifts--intelligence or industriousness--with which they achieved it. The fact that one person was endowed with them and another not was "morally arbitrary." A theory of justice aiming at fairness rather than fortune would reject any sense that people deserved their class position. Some redistribution from the rich to the rest was therefore just.

What Nelson does with this parallel between Rawls's Christian senior thesis and his mature theory of redistribution is more contentious. Demonstrating that most founders of the liberal tradition were Pelagians, he insists that it is difficult to reconcile Rawls's rejection of moral arbitrariness with the politics he hoped to advance.

"Liberalism," writes Nelson, "began as a theodicy." By this he means that for the major liberal thinkers in the early-modern period, the attempt to justify the ways of God to men almost always included the belief that God is unfailingly good. It is their own autonomy that leads humans, if they choose not to conform to God's plan, to introduce evil into the world on their own. What made for the correlation of Pelagianism with liberalism is that the theological defense of human freedom--including freedom to err--implied that individuals should be allowed politically to seek perfection on their own, without the interference of states or sects. Liberalism was born out of the insistence that, since agents were free enough to save themselves, they had to be left alone enough to have a chance to do it.

Mr. Nelson's imagined difficulty arises only because--as happened with Rawls--commentators insist on stripping the founders of liberalism of their Christianity.  Thus, Marxists and Libertarians alike can only consider Locke's Second Treatise on Government, which is fairly silent on providing for the common good in its attempt to secure property, and must ignore the First:

But we know God hath not left one man so to the mercy of another, that he may starve him if he please: God the Lord and Father of all, has given no one of his children such a property in his peculiar portion of the things of this world, but that he has given his needy brother a right to the surplusage of his goods; so that it cannot justly be denied him, when his pressing wants call for it: and therefore no man could ever have a just power over the life of another by right of property in land or possessions; since it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty. As justice gives every man a title to the product of his honest industry, and the fair acquisitions of his ancestors descended to him; so charity gives every man a title to so much out of another's plenty, as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise...

And an even more fundamental error occurs when they insist that Locke chose Reason over Revelation in the first place:

So much virtue as was necessary to hold societies together, and to contribute to the quiet of governments, the civil laws of commonwealths taught, and forced upon men that lived under magistrates. But these laws, being for the most part made by such who had no other aims but their own power, reached no farther than those things, that would serve to tie men together in subjection; or at most, were directly to conduce to the prosperity and temporal happiness of any people. But natural religion, in its full extent, was nowhere, that I know, taken care of by the force of natural reason. It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that 'tis too hard a task for unassisted reason, to establish morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundations, with a clear and convincing light. And 'tis at least a surer and shorter way, to the apprehensions of the vulgar, and mass of mankind, that one manifestly sent from God, and coming with visible authority from him, should, as a King and law-maker, tell them their duties, and require their obedience, than leave it to the long, and sometimes intricate deductions of reason, to be made out to them: such strains of reasonings the greatest part of mankind have neither leisure to weigh, nor, for want of education and use, skill to judge of. We see how unsuccessful in this, the attempts of philosophers were, before Our Saviour's time. How short their several systems came of the perfection of a true and complete morality, is very visible. And if, since that, the Christian philosophers have much outdone them, yet we may observe, that the first knowledge of the truths they have added are, owing to revelation; though as soon as they are heard and considered, they are found to be agreeable to reason, and such as can by no means be contradicted. Every one may observe a great many truths which he receives at first from others, and readily assents to, as consonant to reason, which he would have found it hard, and perhaps, beyond his strength to have discovered himself. Native and original truth, is not so easily wrought out of the mine, as we who have it delivered, ready dug and fashioned into our hands, are apt to imagine. And how often at fifty or threescore years old, are thinking men told, what they wonder how they could miss thinking of? Which yet their own contemplations did not, and possibly never would have helped them to. Experience shows that the knowledge of morality, by mere natural light (how agreeable soever it be to it), makes but a slow progress, and little advance in the world. And the reason of it is not hard to be found in men's necessities, passions, vices, and mistaken interests, which turn their thoughts another way. And the designing leaders, as well as the following herd, find it not to their purpose to employ much of their meditations this way. Or whatever else was the cause, 'tis plain in fact, that human reason unassisted, failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never, from unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the law of Nature. And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the new testament, will find them to come short of the morality delivered by Our Saviour, and taught by his apostles; a college made up, for the most part, of ignorant, but inspired fishermen.

Though yet, if any one should think, that out of the saying of the wise heathens, before Our Saviour's time, there might be a collection made of all these rules of morality, which are to be found in the Christian religion; yet this would not at all hinder, but that the world, nevertheless, stood as much in need of Our Savior, and the morality delivered by him.

Locke could not render a system of Rational morality himself and nor could anyone else, putting paid to the notion that we can save ourselves if "left alone".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Western style 'democracy' in Africa is just a way of pushing the neoliberal agenda (Damola Adejumo-Ayibiowu, 6 November 2019, openDemocracy)

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent rise of 'good governance' as a development strategy is more than a coincidence. In his famous article The End of History, the American political analyst, Francis Fukuyama, proclaims that the end of the cold war is "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." Such statements clearly indicate the readiness of liberalism protagonists to resist any ideology contrary to theirs. It is not a surprise, therefore, that since the 1990s, good governance has become a prescription of the World Bank for all development challenges facing African countries. Notably, the current good governance agenda is mainly a democracy cum neoliberal framework.

The argument for democracy may be very strong for African countries, many of which have had long histories of military rule, unfair elections, unaccountable leaderships, inadequate service delivery, and popularized corruption. Many scholars particularly argue that the lack of democracy is the main cause of poverty in Africa. But despite the implementation of donor's good governance reforms, corruption, poverty, and other challenges continue in Africa. Moreover, the wave of democratization which swept across Africa in the 1990s mainly paved the way for multiparty elections without improving the welfare of African poor masses who queue for hours to cast their votes. 

Now add capitalism and protestantism and you've got the agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Before Martin Luther, there was Erasmus - a Dutch theologian who paved the way for the Protestant Reformation (Katherine Little, 10/29/19, The Conversation)

Although Erasmus was sympathetic to Luther's critique of church corruption, he wasn't ready for the kind of radical changes that Luther demanded.

Erasmus wanted a broad audience for his books, but he wrote in Latin, the official language of the church. Latin was a language that only a small number of educated people, typically priests and the nobility, could read.

Erasmus had criticized the church for many of the same problems that Luther later attacked. In one of his most famous books, The "Praise of Folly," he mocked priests who didn't read the Bible. He also attacked the church's use of indulgences - when the church took money from people, granting them relief from punishment for their sins in purgatory - as a sign of the church's greed.

When Luther started getting into trouble with church authorities, Erasmus defended him and wrote him letters of support. He thought Luther's voice should be heard.

But he did not defend all of Luther's teachings. Some, he felt, were too divisive. For example, Luther preached that people are saved only by faith in God and not by good deeds. Erasmus did not agree, and he did not want the church to split over these debates.

Throughout his life, Erasmus forged his own approach to Christianity: knowing Christ by reading the Bible. He called his approach the "Philosophia Christi," or the philosophy of Christ. He thought that learning about Jesus' life and teachings would strengthen people's Christian faith and teach them how to be good.

...then we are the gods.

November 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Trumpkins Accused Him of Being the Whistleblower. They Were Wrong. (Will Sommer,  11.08.19, Daily Beast)

Former Obama White House staffer R. David Edelman woke up Thursday to a bizarre new reality: Many people on the pro-Trump internet were convinced that he was the anonymous whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment proceedings. 

And then the death threats started. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Don't Ban Fracking -- Pass A Carbon Tax Instead (Steve Chapman, November 8, 2019, National Memo)

Some of the candidates, unfortunately, are enamored of the old command-and-control approach to environmental protection: forbidding this and requiring that. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris support a ban on fracking, a method that has greatly increased U.S. oil and gas production. Almost all the candidates would end new oil and gas leases on federal lands. Raising vehicle fuel economy standards and setting a deadline for all vehicles to achieve zero emissions are common ideas.

These proposals all suffer from the same flaw: dictating purported solutions from on high, with little regard for side effects, instead of devising incentives for creative, inexpensive remedies. This approach guarantees that the cost will be higher than necessary and results worse.

It appeals to politicians, though, because it allows the illusion that major progress can be made without any sacrifice by voters, except maybe those who frack for a living. The assumption is that if people realize environmental improvement is not cost-free, they will run screaming from the room.

That theory has prevailed for decades. So I am startled but pleased to discover that this year, many Democratic candidates have decided to treat voters as intelligent people who can be persuaded to embrace optimal remedies.

The best of all is a carbon tax, which would raise the price of different fossil fuels to reflect the harm they do. Among the candidates who favor it are Sanders, Warren and Harris, as well as Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro.

It would advance these purposes without draconian regulations, inflexible bans or cumbersome bureaucracy. The money collected could be rebated to every American -- yielding a net tax increase of zero.

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 AM


THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHARLES WILLEFORD--MIAMI'S WEIRD, WONDERFUL MASTER OF NOIR: For years he searched for a subject worthy of his talents. Then he found Miami and the '80s. Crime fiction would never be the same. (CRAIG PITTMAN, 10/18/19, CrimeReads)

Orphan, hobo, painter, poet, boxer, book critic, decorated tank commander, actor, truck driver, teacher, author and inveterate prankster--Charles Willeford led a life that could provide him with a zillion stories, each one touched with his distinctive view of the world. He spent three decades cranking out pulp fiction classics like Pick-Up and Cockfighter that earned him very little money and hardly any notice from the critics.

Then, in 1984, he wrote a poker-faced comic thriller called Miami Blues that suddenly made him a hot commodity. He followed it up with three more off-kilter books about his unlikely hero, the leisure-suit-wearing Sergeant Hoke Moseley of the Miami Police. On the strength of those four books, the Atlantic magazine dubbed him "the unlikely father of Miami crime fiction."

One of the Hoke Moseley sequels was called Sideswipe. His widow Betsy says that not long after that book came out, Willeford got a package in the mail. When he opened it, he found a hardbound copy of Sideswipe that someone had shot. Accompanying the book was a note, written in all-caps, saying "It's a crime to charge $15.95 for s[***]t like this." It was signed, "A Dissatisfied Customer."

When Willeford mentioned this to some friends they became concerned for his safety. One asked, "Have you alerted the FBI?" He replied, "No, it's always good to get feedback."

There are plethora of Willeford anecdotes, but I think that one might be my favorite. (Incidentally, Mrs. Willeford recalled that the book had been shot once, but a 1988 news story said five times. Fortunately the Broward County Public Library has Willeford's papers, so I checked with them. Librarian Erin Purdy sent me photos showing that that copy of Sideswipe had SIX bullet holes.)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Founding Deists and Other Unicorns (JAMES BRUCE, 10/28/19, Law & Liberty)

The Enlightenment is, of course, a heavyweight contender for the title of Most Influential to the Constitution. Matthew Stewart, for example, claims that Benedict de Spinoza was the architect of the political philosophy that flowered in the United States, and that John Locke was the acceptable face of the movement. Hall calls such an adventure in revisionist history "pure fantasy."

Few scholars claim Spinoza for the American founding. Many more claim Locke, and so, Hall turns his attention to him. In a sentence, the reports of Locke's influence have been greatly exaggerated. Donald S. Lutz's survey of 15,000 works from 1760 to 1805 says only 2.9% of citations reference Locke, in contrast to 34% of all citations referencing the Bible. (And Hall notes that, if anything, "Lutz undercounts references to the Bible because he excludes from his sample political sermons that do not contain references to secular authors. If he had included these sermons, references to the Bible would have absolutely dwarfed any other grouping of texts.") This difference in frequency should not surprise us: Locke's Second Treatise was first published in the United States in 1773 and was only republished in 1937--hardly what one would expect for the seminal political work by a leading figure of the British Enlightenment who was supposed to have substantial influence on the American founding. "If Locke's works were late to arrive on America's shores," Hall writes, "the Bible was virtually omnipresent from the first days of the Puritan settlement."

Let's consider one concrete case in order to illustrate Hall's method. In 1784, Patrick Henry proposed a bill to tax individuals for the support of their local churches. James Madison wrote his celebrated Memorial in the summer of 1785 in the hopes of preventing the bill's passage that autumn. On a standard telling of the American story, an Enlightenment Madison saved the country from religious fanatics. Is that, in fact, what happened?

Not at all. Hall notes that "an earlier evangelical petition" received far more signatures, by a margin of 4,899 to 1,552 (out of 10,929 Virginians who signed any petition on the matter). That petition said Henry's bill was "contrary to the spirit of the Gospel" and that the church was not helped "when Constantine first established Christianity by human laws." Lest we think Madison's Memorial spawned the other petitions, including this evangelical one, Hall notes that the evangelical petition was written at least seventh months before Madison wrote his Memorial. Furthermore, Madison's Memorial itself includes "a number of overtly religious arguments," suggesting a broader purview than the unaccompanied Enlightenment. And let's be clear: almost half the Virginians who signed a petition signed the evangelical one, thereby endorsing its Christian appeals for religious freedom. The Memorial by itself, based on its share of signatories, could not have carried the day. The evangelical petition, all by itself, could have.

Why? Concerns for religious liberty did not commence in the 1780s. William Penn, writing in 1675, said "force makes hypocrites, 'tis persuasion only that makes converts." Though Quakers could not testify in criminal trials in England until 1828, Quakers could do so in Rhode Island as early as 1647, due to an enacted law that allowed them to offer "solemn profession or testimony" instead of an oath. To be clear, Spinoza and Locke were teenagers in 1647; though undeniably precocious, they were hardly the inspiration for Rhode Island's religious accommodation.

In addition to concrete cases, Hall considers the question of broad support for Christianity itself. That makes sense. After all, a basket of disparate ideas does not a Christian founding make. So Hall considers the founders' self-conscious support of religion. Following James Hutson, he delivers a founders' syllogism. Here are the premises: republican government requires a moral citizenry; morality needs religion. The conclusion is thus that republican government requires religion. And Hall goes further. "When America's founders spoke about 'religion,'" he writes, "virtually all of them--even those most influenced by the Enlightenment--meant Christianity." He quotes Chief Justice John Marshall to great effect: "Christianity and religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity."

Not everyone believed the syllogism, of course. But few championing a godless founding would find them all comfortable bedfellows. "For instance, in one remarkable case, slavery led John Rutledge of South Carolina to reject the almost universal consensus that religion and morality should inform public policy." And, besides, most founders did endorse the syllogism: "Examples of founders insisting that religion is necessary for morality, and that both religion and morality are necessary for republican government, could be multiplied almost indefinitely." the Christianity of Locke's political philosophy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nuclear fusion is 'a question of when, not if' (Matt McGrath, 11/06/19, BBC)

[P]erhaps the major excitement comes from private companies. They are usually smaller, nimbler, and they develop by making mistakes and learning from them quickly.

There are now dozens of them around the world, raising funds and pushing forward often with different approaches to fusion than that seen in Iter and in the UK.

Here's a brief sample of some different approaches to fusion.

First Light: This company originated in the University of Oxford and was founded specifically to address the urgent need to decarbonise the global energy system. Their idea involves firing a projectile at a target that contains hydrogen atoms. The shockwave from the impact of the projectile creates a shockwave that crushes the fuel and briefly this reaction will produce plasma that is hotter than the sun and denser than lead.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems: A private company created by former Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) staff, CFS has raised significant funding of over $100m. It is focusing on developing a Tokamak system but its key innovation is in superconducting magnets. They hope to build powerful enough magnets so they can build smaller and cheaper Tokomaks to contain the plasmas required to generate fusion.

TAE Technologies: With backing from Google and other high tech investors, this California-based company is using a different mix of fuel to develop smaller, cheaper reactors. They want to use hydrogen and boron as both elements are readily available and non-radioactive. Their prototype is a cylindrical colliding beam fusion reactor (CBFR) that heats hydrogen gas to form two rings of plasma. These are merged and held together with beams of neutral particles to make it hotter and last longer.

US Navy: Worried about how to power their ships in the future, the US Navy has filed a patent for a "plasma compression fusion device". The patent says that it would use magnetic fields to create "accelerated vibration and/or accelerated spin". The idea would be to make fusion power reactors small enough to be portable. There's a lot of scepticism that this approach will work.

One of the main challengers with ambitions to make fusion work is a company based in British Columbia, Canada called General Fusion. Their approach, which has gathered a lot of attention and backing from the likes of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, combines cutting edge physics with off the shelf technology.

They call their system "magnetised target fusion".

This approach sees a hot gas plasma injected into a ball of liquid metal inside a steel sphere. It is then compressed by pistons, much like in a diesel engine.

"The pistons all fire simultaneously and collapse the cavity with the fuel inside," said Michael Delage, the company's chief technology officer.

"So at the peak of that compression when the fuel bursts into fusion reaction, it is surrounded on all sides by liquid metal so the energy goes into the metal and you take this hot liquid metal and boil water, make steam and make electricity."

General Fusion say they hope to have a working model within five years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Massacre That Spawned the Alt-Right: Forty years ago, a gang of Klansmen and Nazis murdered five communists in broad daylight. America has never been the same. (SHAUN ASSAEL and PETER KEATING, November 03, 2019, Politico)

The communists planned to begin their march at noon, moving from the housing project to a local shopping center. But just after 11:20, a caravan filled with real Klansmen and Nazis surprised them, snaking through the neighborhood's narrow byways. As the protesters stood their ground, a man in a white T-shirt leaned out the passenger window of a canary-yellow pickup truck, and yelled, "You asked for the Klan. Now you got 'em!" The station wagon behind him carried four Nazis. Seven more vehicles followed, carrying nearly 30 more men, including an Imperial Wizard of the Klan.

What happened next took just 88 seconds, but still reverberates 40 years later. In a confrontation where white supremacists began firing pistols, rifles and shotguns, and with television cameras rolling but police nowhere to be found, five communists were shot dead in broad daylight. Ten others were injured, some left to lie bleeding in the streets.

But that November morning became momentous for more than the grotesque video footage that still lives on the Internet: The Greensboro Massacre, as it became known, was the coming-out bloodbath for the white nationalist movement that is upending our politics today.

Before Greensboro, America's most lurid extremists largely operated in separate, mutually distrustful spheres. Greensboro was the place where the farthest-right groups of white supremacy learned to kill together. After November 3, 1979, it was suddenly possible to imagine Confederate flags flying alongside swastikas in Charlottesville. Or a teenager like Dylann Roof hoarding Nazi drawings as well as a Klan hood in his bedroom while he plotted mass murder.

Today, white nationalism is closer to the mainstream of American politics than ever before. The far right's fears about "replacement" of the white race and outsider "invasions" have become standard tropes at conservative media outlets, and its anger is routinely stoked by the president of the United States. At the same time, right-wing violence is on the rise: Far-right terrorists accounted for the overwhelming majority of extremist murders in the U.S. last year, according to a January report by the Anti-Defamation League.

The seeds for this iteration of white supremacy were planted 40 years ago in Greensboro, when the white wedding of Klansmen and Nazis launched a new, pan-right extremism--a toxic brew of virulent racism, anti-government rhetoric, apocalyptic fearmongering and paramilitary tactics. And this extremism has proven more durable than anyone then could imagine.

...which folks get hysterical about Antifa fighting back.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Unplugging PG&E Is Easier Said Than Done: Who can--or even wants--to take over this burning hellscape? (Marisa Endicott, 11/06/19, MoJo)

As California finally takes control of the fires that have been burning for weeks, PG&E is--and will continue to be--in the hot seat. It seems likely that transmission equipment from the utility, which supplies power for roughly 40 percent of Californians, sparked the recent Kincade fire, a blaze that pushed over 180,000 people from their homes in and near Sonoma County, destroyed 374 structures, and burned almost 78,000 acres. As many as 16 fires burned across the state over the past several weeks, and at the same time PG&E was intermittently cutting power to millions of people--a practice the company's CEO predicts will continue for another decade. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and hasn't been shy about calling out the company for it's mismanagement and incompetence. 

This has put PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy in January over its role in other recent wildfires, in the crosshairs of just about everyone--customers and legislators, as well as the governor--and state officials are looking desperately for a savior to rescue the crumbling grid and the flailing utility.

But right now, it's really difficult to foresee what the future holds for PG&E--and more broadly for energy across California. Newsom has hinted the government, if it's not satisfied with the pace of bankruptcy proceedings, could step in and try to take control of PG&E, but he also recently called on Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway to make a bid for the company. (Berkshire Hathaway's energy subsidiary is deeply invested in utility companies and renewables in California and several other states.) The governor has also been open to the idea of municipalities taking over their own power management, which some of the cities themselves have echoed. At the same time, in ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, PG&E's shareholders are fighting its bondholders, who've formed an alliance with fire victims, for control.   [...]

Whoever ends up in charge of PG&E, it's important to remember that the utility giant didn't hit rock bottom on its own--and, accordingly, a better future system will almost certainly need more than new ownership. People have long criticized PG&E's uncomfortably close ties with former Gov. Jerry Brown's administration and the revolving door between the California Public Utilities Commission and the utilities it regulates. PG&E has spent over $31 million on lobbying in California since 2001, over $8 million of which was spent in 2018. "The regulatory model holds a fair amount of blame" for the current situation, Geesman says. But, "I don't think this is a problem where you can rationalize, 'Well, I'll just appoint better people.' You really need to focus more on changing that system rather than the individuals responsible for administering it."

"It's pretty easy to hypothesize from your office on Wall Street that you could just hire better managers and potentially slice and dice that $20 billion revenue stream. Wolves have an innate ability to sense protein."
Regulators have failed to hold PG&E accountable in many instances. For example, utilities can use funds from the PUC for certain needs like maintaining equipment, but once they have the money, "very rarely does the commission actually attach strings to that money," Wall Street Journal energy reporter Rebecca Smith explained on KALW's "Your Call." "I think this has allowed the company to do whatever it wanted." Neglecting to adequately spend on maintenance and equipment over time is one of the biggest criticisms leveled against PG&E. It's unclear if that kind of (or lack of) oversight would push another company to behave better. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Phenomenology's Influence in the West (GRAHAM MCALEER, 10/31/19, Law & Liberty)  

Continental philosophy is housed in Europe, with a few exceptions. It is the exceptions that kick off the argument of Edward Baring's Converts to the Real: Catholicism and the Making of Continental Philosophy. Baring, who teaches history at Drew University, observes that philosophy in the British Isles, in Scandinavia, and in America's vast university system, is mostly analytic. The exceptions in the United States are Catholic universities and seminaries, where Continental philosophy is typically taught. [...]

If Cartesian subjectivism was about the projection of human reason, it had hit significant bumps along the road. The French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon left a bad taste and the Industrial Revolution spread squalor. Widespread was the belief that human willfulness brought ruination, and Romanticism potently encouraged the idea of a return to the ideals of nature, community, and craft culture last seen in the West in the Middle Ages. Thomistic metaphysics strongly affirmed a sacral universe, and the hunt was on in Catholic circles for an intellectual partner to help update Aquinas and bring his basic insights into conversation with the modern sensibility.  Husserl's method of inquiry and desire to reaffirm objectivity seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Seemed to, is an important part of the story. Catholics started to teach Husserl's phenomenology in their colleges, but there would arise a problem. One of the truly great philosophers, Husserl was productive until the end of his life. And in his later work, he backtracked, thinking Descartes was right, after all. Husserl was also inspirational, and radically influenced two Catholics, Heidegger and another German philosopher, Max Scheler (1874-1928). Together, this triad make the core of phenomenology. To this day, their thinking is the benchmark of Continental philosophy. The problem for Catholicism, as wonderfully explained by Baring, is that Heidegger and Scheler did not remain Catholic. The Church had made common cause with a method that seemed to attract Catholics and then promptly alienate them.

We avoided untold damage by sticking to faith instead of adopting Reason.

November 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Batteries vs. Blackouts: 1,100 Homes Powered Through Vermont Outage With Storage (JULIAN SPECTOR, NOVEMBER 07, 2019, GTM)

Home batteries proved their resilience value during Vermont's Halloween blackout.

A major rain and wind storm struck the state at the close of October, knocking out power to some 115,000 customers. Among those affected, 1,100 homes managed to keep the lights on thanks to pilot programs specifically designed to promote resilient backup power with energy storage. The battery backup service lasted nine hours on average, but the longest instance stretched to 82 hours.

The event offers a timely data point for other jurisdictions mulling the use of home batteries for resilience. Northern California community power purchasers yesterday requested proposals for home batteries to keep customers powered during the region's fire-season safety shutoffs. Such a model remains cutting-edge, but Vermont utility Green Mountain Power has shown it can be done effectively.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 AM


Russia Laughs: Is He "Their" President Or Ours? (Joe Conason, November 7, 2019, National Memo)

"Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?" asked popular talk show host Vladimir Soloviev. Figures like Soloviev frequently apply that possessive (and protective) adjective to Trump, whom they discuss as if he were literally owned by a foreign state.

Of course, the Russians understand our system well and feel reasonably confident that even if the House votes to impeach Trump, he will survive a Senate trial. In the Daily Beast, Olga Skabeeva, host of that Russian 60 Minutes show, is quoted making a confident prediction: "A Republican majority in the Senate won't allow the president whom we elected, wonderful Donald Trump, to be sent off. It's impossible. He has 90 percent support in the Republican Party."

In that same article, another prominent Russian media figure is even more candid. According to film producer Karen Shakhnazarov, who frequently appears on Russian TV: "They say Trump is making Russia great. That's basically accurate. The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States. America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa ... So when they say that Trump is weakening the United States -- yes, he is. And that's why we love him ... The more problems they have, the better it is for us."

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


Trump's immigration policy is in disarray: The president campaigned on bold immigration actions, but infighting, confusion and dysfunction have hampered his ability to follow through on those promises (ANITA KUMAR, 11/08/2019, Politico)

Key pieces of his agenda are stalled. Top aides are feuding. And there's worry that the very issue that swept President Donald Trump into office in 2016 could help cost him his reelection in 2020.

Nearly three years into office, Trump's attempts to match the lofty campaign promises he made on immigration are in disarray -- the wall remains largely unbuilt, so-called sanctuary cities are still receiving federal money and birthright citizenship remains intact. And over at the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, a bitter dispute recently erupted over who should head the agency tasked with enacting Trump's immigration policies, leading some frustrated aides to plot ways to circumvent federal law and push for the leader of their choice.

The danger for Donald is that the 20% core that supports him only cares about the racism. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


House Republicans appear to be throwing Giuliani, Sondland, and Mulvaney under the bus to save Trump (Peter Weber, 11/08/19, The Week)

House Republicans have now started "sowing doubts about whether Sondland, Giuliani, and Mulvaney were actually representing the president or freelancing to pursue their own agendas," the Post reports. This is just one theory Republicans are testing out -- others include that Trump didn't have "corrupt intent," that quid pro quo's are commonplace, and that Trump is too incompetent to carry one off. "In a sign of how the GOP is scrambling, however, many of those theories run counter to each other," the Post notes.

Yes, it was a crime but I didn't mean it, am too stupid to effect it or had my staff do it.  Besides, Ukranians are scum....

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 AM

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


Hayek, Republican Freedom, and the Universal Basic Income (MATT ZWOLINSKI, NOVEMBER 6, 2019, Niskanen)

Hayek's devotion to the ideals of free markets and limited government is well-known. His most famous book, The Road to Serfdom, argued that economic and political liberties are tightly connected, and that liberal democracies cannot safely curtail the former without also endangering the latter. His later works, especially The Constitution of Liberty, set forth a positive vision of a free society centered on the idea that individuals should be left largely free to act on the basis of their own values and beliefs, rather than those of government regulators or planners, in both the personal and economic dimensions of their lives.

While everybody knows that Hayek saw himself as a champion of individual freedom, few understand the precise nature of the freedom that Hayek sought to defend. Unlike many libertarians, who understand freedom primarily in terms of non-interference or respect for property rights, Hayek subscribed to a republican theory in which freedom consists of being able to live one's life "according to [one's] own decisions and plans, in contrast to ... one who was irrevocably subject to the will of another." [...]

Hayek's republican political theory provides one of the main theoretical foundations for his strong support of free markets. Although many contemporary republican theorists have been either overtly hostile or at best lukewarm toward the market economy, Hayek saw correctly that market competition can serve as one of the most effective guarantors of republican freedom.

The essence of market competition is the existence of alternatives, and the right to say "no" to offers that fail to serve one's interests at least as well as one of those alternatives. In a competitive labor market, an employer who tries to force an employee to do something she doesn't want to do is constrained by that employee's ability to quit and find a job elsewhere. A used car dealer who would like to take advantage of a buyer by charging an unfairly high price is similarly constrained by the presence of a competing dealer next door. In general, the more competitive a market is, the more prices and other terms of agreements will be regulated by the impersonal forces of supply and demand, and the less any particular market agent will be able to impose her particular will on her partner in exchange. All market actors are constrained by the general, impersonal rules of the market. But those same rules generally work to prevent any market actors from achieving a position of dominance over others.

Similarly, it is largely because Hayek views competition as such an effective check on coercion that he views government power with suspicion. After all, government is the only institution within society to claim and generally possess an effective monopoly on the use of force. And this monopoly on force is often used to establish and maintain other monopolies: on roads, on the delivery of regular mail, on the creation and enforcement of criminal law, and so on. Because individuals who value these services have nowhere else to go, they are often left with no practical alternative to compliance with the government's demands. 

Moreover, as legal rules become more numerous and complex, as ordinary individuals become unable to know in advance what actions are permitted and which are prohibited, as law enforcement becomes practically unable to enforce all the rules that they could, in theory, enforce, the extent of individual discretion within government increases, and so too does the possibility of arbitrary coercion. In that case, individuals are no longer required to comply with "the law," but with the edicts of a bureaucrat behind a desk, or an officer behind a badge. When the agents of the state are granted a practically unchecked power to apply the law (or not) in whatever way he sees fit, individuals are no longer fully free.

When Free Markets Aren't Enough

But while Hayek's republicanism provides strong support for the ideals of free markets and limited government, it also provides a criterion for determining when those institutions are not enough. Market competition generally protects the consumer against predation by unscrupulous sellers, but this protection can be undermined by collusion and natural monopolies. Similarly, competition in the labor market might protect workers from exploitation when those workers have an adequate range of alternatives available to them, but fall short when those alternatives are limited either by features of the local economy (a lack of jobs) or by characteristics of the employee (e.g. limited skills or lack of mobility).

In order to protect individual freedom in these circumstances, Hayek believed that some governmental action was both necessary and appropriate. Indeed, Hayek took great pains even in his most partisan work, The Road to Serfdom, to distance himself from a dogmatic opposition to government action, writing that "nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire." Hayek believed that government had a legitimate (though delicate) role to fill in preventing and/or regulating monopolies. He believed that government had important work to do in the areas of sanitation, health services, and public works. And, most strikingly of all, he believed that it was not only permissible but necessary for government to redistribute income in order to provide a social safety net that would ensure "a certain minimum income for everyone, or a certain floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself."

The great lie we on the right tell ourselves is that a man with no wealth can enjoy freedom.  Of course, the corresponding lie on the left is that a man with no freedom can enjoy wealth. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


Secret chats involving Republican lawmaker reveal fresh evidence of plots and paranoia (Jason Wilson, 8 Nov 2019, The Guardian)

The messages from the chat group, exchanged between October 2017 and October 2018, show Shea's network includes other serving, former and aspiring rightwing politicians from Idaho and Washington, alongside activists associated with militia groups, anti-environmental causes, and pro-gun activism.

They also show participants, including Shea, preparing for economic and societal collapse even as they campaign for the secession of eastern Washington from the remainder of the state.

The messages provide a rare insight into the inner workings - and paranoia - of the so-called patriot movement, whose members have participated in standoffs with the federal government in Nevada and Oregon, and whose far-right beliefs have been controversially promoted by Shea.

Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at the progressive Western States Center, said of the chats: "The chat messages reveal Shea acting more like a militia leader than an elected official. His conspiratorial and violent mindset are on full display. If it was not already clear, Shea has demonstrated that he is unfit for public office. Now it's time for his colleagues in the Washington house of representatives to hold him accountable."

The red hat is the red flag.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 AM


Book by 'senior official': Trump is volatile, incompetent, makes racist comments (AP and TOI STAFF, 11/08/19, Times of Israel)

The book describes racist and misogynist behind-the-scenes statements by Trump and says he "stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information." [...]

The author says Trump routinely ignores intelligence and national security briefings, leading foreign governments to see him as a "simplistic pushover" who can be easily manipulated.

The book describes senior officials waking up in the morning in a "full-blown panic" over comments the president made on Twitter the night before.

"It's like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him," the anonymous author writes. "You're stunned, amused, and embarrassed all at the same time."

November 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:11 PM

THE OPPOSITE OF ANTIFA (profanity and trumpology alert):

Members of violent white supremacist website exposed in massive data dump (DAN GOODIN - 11/7/2019, Ars Technica)

Editor's note: this article discusses a hate group's uses of racist language that may be hard to read.

Private data for Iron March, a notorious website for violent white supremacists, has been published online in a stunning leak that exposes a trove of detailed information on as many as 1,000 or more members. The 1GB SQL database appears to contain the entirety of the site's information, including user names, private messages, public posts, registered email addresses, and IP addresses.

The leak was posted on the Internet Archive on Wednesday by an anonymous individual using the handle antifa-data.

The red hat is the red flag.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


American optimism, longevity, and the role of lost hope in deaths of despair (Carol Graham, November 7, 2019, Brookings)

We are the only rich country in the world where mortality rates are going up rather than down. And that is driven by preventable deaths due to suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol related disease-so-called deaths of despair.

The first step toward solving this is to understand who is unhappy and why, since we know pessimism shortens lives. As Kelsey O'Connor and I show in a new paper based on historical data for the U.S published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, optimists have longer and better lives. My research with Sergio Pinto, meanwhile, finds that middle aged, less than college-educated white men in the U.S. are the least hopeful cohort, and, not coincidentally, are also the group that is most likely to die of deaths of despair. In contrast, poor Blacks and Hispanics, who are objectively worse off, are much more optimistic and resilient.

UBI is inevitable because white men don't have a work ethic.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


State Department official says Trump wanted Zelensky to mention 'Clinton' in investigation announcement (The Week, 11/07/19)

A transcript of the testimony of Europe adviser George Kent was released Thursday. In it, Kent discusses how U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland "was pushing" to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky give a television interview in which he would announce a "willingness to pursue investigations" involving Burisma, the gas company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son served on the board, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Kent also testifies that he heard that, based on Sondland's discussions with Trump, it appeared Trump "wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to [a] microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Top diplomat says U.S. abandoned Kurds to "catastrophic" Turkish assault (Dave Lawler, 11/07/19, Axios)

The U.S. "didn't try" to stop the "catastrophic" Turkish invasion of northern Syria last month, according to a sharply critical internal memo sent by a top U.S. diplomat and obtained by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The diplomat, deputy U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition William Roebuck, said the U.S. had abandoned its Kurdish allies to a Turkish onslaught that involved "war crimes and ethnic cleansing." Those concerns have been widespread in the Pentagon and State Department but not stated publicly by senior officials. Roebuck sent the memo on Oct. 31 to the U.S. envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey.

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Evidence in Stone case: Trump may have had "direct role" in team's leverage of Russian interference (SHIRA TARLO, NOVEMBER 7, 2019, Salon)

The calls were reportedly disclosed by prosecutors on the first day of arguments in the criminal trial of Roger Stone, a longtime associate and informal adviser to the president, who faces charges of lying to federal investigators about his efforts to connect with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors said Stone spoke to Trump six times during the summer of 2016, including on the day the Democratic National Committee announced it was hacked. The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian intelligence officers released tens of thousands of emails stolen from Democrats to WikiLeaks, which were disseminated at critical points during the campaign cycle in an attempt to boost Trump's campaign and hurt his rival: Hillary Clinton.

"The phone records are the first concrete suggestion that Trump may have had a direct role in his campaign's effort to benefit from Russia's hidden hand in the election," wrote Sharon LaFraniere, an investigative reporter at The New York Times. "At the very least, the calls and other evidence underscored the eagerness of senior campaign officials and other Trump associates to reap the rewards of what the former special counsel Robert Mueller later called a sophisticated and alarming covert Russian influence operation."

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Trump: We should keep Syria's oil. The Pentagon: Nope. (Alex Ward, Nov 7, 2019, Vox)

[T]rump was clear about who that oil would belong to: "We're keeping the oil -- remember that," he told a gathering of Chicago police officers in late October. "I've always said that: 'Keep the oil.' We want to keep the oil. Forty-five million dollars a month? Keep the oil."

Unfortunately for Trump, it seems the US military isn't so keen on that idea -- perhaps because stealing Syria's oil could constitute a war crime. On Thursday, the Pentagon's top spokesperson told reporters in no uncertain terms that the US would not be keeping any of the revenue from those oil fields.

"The revenue from this is not going to the US. This is going to the SDF," Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, using an acronym for the Kurdish-led, US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces.

I checked with others in the government to ensure that was actually the policy. Turns out that it is. "The SDF is the sole beneficiary of the sale of the oil from the facilities they control," a senior administration official told me.

If we had a legitimate president, such behavior would be treasonous.

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President Donald Trump ordered to pay $2M to collection of nonprofits as part of civil lawsuit (AARON KATERSKYNov 7, 2019, ABC News)

President Donald Trump has been ordered by a New York State judge to pay $2 million to a group of nonprofit organizations as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit stemming from persistent violations of state charities laws.

The payment is the final resolution to a case brought by the New York attorney general's office after the Trump Foundation held a fundraiser for military veterans during the 2016 campaign. was that Donald was guilty of what the GOP claimed Hillary had done.

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Bolton prepared to testify in impeachment probe pending court ruling - report (TOI STAFF and AP, 11/07/19, Times of Israel)

Former US national security adviser John Bolton is reportedly willing to testify in the Trump impeachment inquiry about the administration's involvement in Ukraine, if a federal court resolves a constitutional dispute between the White House and Congress.

Bolton could be a star witness for the Democrat-led House inquiry, and his testimony would go against strong opposition from the White House.
He would likely confirm previous witness accounts of the Trump administration's efforts to push Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden and his son in exchange for military aid, according to a Thursday report from The Washington Post, citing "people familiar with his views."

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The case for amnesty: why it's time to offer citizenship to illegal immigrants (The Spectator, 9 November 2019)

There is an unspoken truth about British life: we have two classes of citizen. The first are those born or formally settled here, who have all the rights and protections of the law. Then there are perhaps a million others who may have lived here with their families for years but without the proper documents. They can be our neighbours, work in our shops, contribute to our economy -- yet they do not have the same basic protections and are far more vulnerable to exploitation. These are the so-called illegal immigrants, and it is past time to offer them amnesty.

Britain has become the most successful melting pot in Europe, absorbing 2.5 million people over this decade without the far-right backlash seen in much of the continent. A recent Pew study showed that Brits are more likely than any other Europeans to say that migrants make the country -stronger. This is why the Windrush scandal was so damaging to the Tories. To deport people who have been living here peacefully for years because they did not have documentation was not just inhumane but fundamentally un-British. The same principle applies to a great many people who could be considered illegal migrants.

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Then there's the issue of of his properties becoming synonymous with corruption, racism, misogyny, insanity and some possible light tax fraud. In May, we learned that tenants in New York's Trump Tower were selling their condos at a loss just to escape the taint by association, and a new report from the Washington Post shows the president's Chicago hotel is suffering a similar fate, thanks to the stench du Trump:

Profits fell 89% from 2015 to 2018, from $16.7 million to $1.8 million, according to documents filed with Cook County, Ill. Trump's hotel struggled even as other Chicago hotels held steady or thrived. "Performance of [the Trump hotel] is clearly disassociated from that of its competitive set," the company's lawyers said in a letter to the county seeking to lower the hotel's taxes. The lawyers said the problem was a reaction to Trump's politics. They even quoted a line from a 2018 Washington Post article, in which one small-time investor described the effect of Trump's candidacy on his buildings thusly: "Then the Embarrassment came."

At the Chicago hotel, former employees said they saw the decline up close. It began in 2015, when Trump's rise as a hard-right politician began to alienate the rich, urban customers to whom the hotel catered. Then came election night. "A [supervisor] walked by me real fast and said: 'Oh, my God, he just won Michigan. It's over,' " said Connor Buhagiar, a waiter who worked in the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant, Sixteen. Inside the bar, Trump supporters were cheering. Outside, however, "I looked out the window and looked back down Michigan Avenue, and I saw a line of protesters coming, already," to picket the hotel, Buhagiar said.

In addition to the Chicago property, business at Trump Doral in Miami is also reportedly in "steep decline," which a tax consultant hired by the Trump Organization attributed to the "negative connotation...associated with the brand." The company has also lost contracts with hotels in Manhattan and Toronto. And in a sign that even people inside the family business know the name is dragging down profits, virtually every mention of "Trump" has been stripped from two Central Park ice rinks.

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Trump-backed allegations against Biden 'not credible,' testified US official now touted by Trump (MIKE LEVINE, Nov 7, 2019, ABC News)

"The definitive account on all of this is the one from Ambassador Volker," one of Trump's staunchest allies, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told reporters on Wednesday morning.

Around the same time, Trump tweeted a "thank you" to Volker for his testimony, a transcript of which was released by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

But whatever Volker's testimony means for Trump's possible impeachment, the career diplomat's account explicitly undercuts the specific allegations against Biden that Trump and his allies have been pushing online and on TV for months.

"No evidence was brought forward to support (the allegations)," Volker, Trump's special envoy to Ukraine until two months ago, testified under oath. "I thought they were very self-serving and not credible."

Every bit of the Ukraine approach was obstruction of justice.

November 6, 2019

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EPA watchdog slams agency head as his chief of staff refuses to comply with investigations (REBECCA BEITSCH - 11/06/19, The Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) independent watchdog criticized agency head Andrew Wheeler for his resistance to addressing his chief of staff's refusal to cooperate with investigations.

A letter released Wednesday from EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) outlines multiple instances in which Ryan Jackson, Wheeler's chief of staff, refused to turn over documents or answer questions as the watchdog investigated how EPA officials obtained advance copies of outside testimony designated for lawmakers.

"The particularly serious or flagrant problem I am reporting concerns two instances of refusal to fully cooperate and provide information to the [inspector general], one during an audit and one during an administrative investigation. They center on a single employee -- Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson," wrote acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan in an Oct. 29 letter that was released Wednesday. 
The "Seven Day Letter," a term used to describe the process used to notify Congress of serious roadblocks to investigations, outlines both the ways Jackson tried to sideline investigators, as well as Sheehan's repeated attempts to discuss the matter with Wheeler.

"Mr. Jackson's cooperation has been patiently sought multiple times over protracted periods by OIG auditors and investigators. Auditors asked of him merely a brief email reply. Investigators requested to interview him. Both matters, after Mr. Jackson's repeated delays and refusals, were elevated, in writing, to you and/or other senior agency leaders in a final hope for cooperation," Sheehan writes.

These IGs seem to serve a different function than the Trumpbots were promised, exposing corruption instead of covering it up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Green jobs now employ 10x more people than fossil fuel: The green market is growing exponentially. But will the U.S. seize the economic opportunity? (MOLLY HANSON, 06 November, 2019, Big Think)

According to a pair of economic researchers in the United Kingdom, the United States green economy now employs 10 times more people than the fossil fuel industry.

And that isn't to say that the fossil fuel industry hasn't been growing. In fact, from 2015 to 2016, the fossil fuels industry, which includes coal, oil, and natural gas, employed approximately 900,000 people in the U.S. according to government figures. But the two British researchers -- they are based at University College London -- found that over the same period this was eclipse

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Suburban revolt boosts Democrats on Election Day in the age of Trump: Analysis (RICK KLEIN and KENDALL KARSON, Nov 6, 2019, ABC News)

On Tuesday, Democratic statewide and local candidates from Virginia through Kentucky, Iowa and Pennsylvania saw their vote margins boosted by suburban voters -- and women in particular -- overcoming the allure of Trumpism in a range of races.

The results cost Republicans full control of the state government in Richmond for the first time in a quarter century. They also left the GOP governor of Kentucky trailing a Democrat by some 5,000 votes -- in a state Trump carried by 30 points in 2016.

The results serve as a counterweight to the unquestioned popularity of Trump inside a large swatch of his Republican base. It raises questions about Trump's reelection, as well as the more immediate politics of impeachment, as Republicans confront a changed electoral landscape.

"The Trump presidency has generated a much deeper level of hostility that has been very helpful to Democratic candidates," Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, told ABC News. "There are demographic changes in the suburbs ... there's more racial and ethnic and age diversity in the suburbs, they're not as Republican as they used to be."

"The results on Tuesday might well be seen as a warning sign for Republicans thinking about suburban voters and 2020 around the country," he added.

High Opioid-Use Counties Voted Trump in 2016 (Elizabeth Hlavinka, June 22, 2018, Med Page)

Counties with the highest rates of chronic prescription opioid use were far more likely to back Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, a new study of Medicare claims data found.

Trump took 59.96% of the vote in the 693 counties with opioid prescription rates significantly higher than the national average among counties, compared with 38.67% of the vote in the 638 counties with rates significantly lower than the mean, reported James Goodwin, MD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch Sealy Center on Aging, and colleagues in JAMA Network Open. [...]

Monnat, who was not involved in the current study, reported shortly after the 2016 election that Trump also over-performed in counties with the highest rates of drug-, alcohol- and suicide-related mortality, all of which are tied together by pessimism, frustration and despair, she said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Stone Trial Opens With Information Indicating Donald Trump May Have Lied to Robert Mueller (DAN FRIEDMAN & DAVID CORN, 11/06/19, MoJo)

"The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad," lead prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said in his opening statement on Wednesday. "The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump."

One of the key points Mueller investigated was whether the Trump campaign had interacted with WikiLeaks or Russian intermediaries in 2016 when Moscow was using WikiLeaks for its operation to subvert the US presidential campaign (which was mounted in part to help Trump win). Trump refused to be questioned in person by Mueller and his investigators. Instead, he agreed to answer written questions on a limited number of subjects. Several of the queries Mueller submitted to Trump focused on whether he was ever told Stone had been in touch with WikiLeaks and whether he or anyone associated with his campaign had spoken to Stone about WikiLeaks. In his written response, Trump replied, "I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with any of the entities named in the question regarding the content or timing of release of hacked emails." He also noted, "I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign." And Trump, who has boasted of possessing a prodigious memory, claimed to have "no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016" and Election Day. The impression Trump provided: as far as he knew, he and his campaign had had nothing to do with Stone and WikiLeaks.

Mueller's report characterized Trump's responses as "inadequate." Zelinsky's opening statement suggests Stone's trial could show Trump's statements were false. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Palestinian elections are looking likely, and may be spectacularly bad for Abbas (Avi Issacharoff , 11/06/19, Times of Israel)

Hamas had originally demanded that both elections be held on the same day but it later relented, agreeing to Fatah's suggestion that the presidential elections be set for three months after the parliamentary one, providing that an actual date be set.

Hamas, it seems, is willing to take quite a few risks and make more than a few concessions to make sure elections take place.

Hamas's relatively conciliatory position on the elections has taken Fatah and Abbas by surprise. According to Palestinian sources, the plan to promote elections came from Abbas's office but was designed to embarrass Hamas.

Abbas and his advisers believed that once he issued a call for parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Hamas would refuse, thus allowing Abbas to state that elections will be held only in the West Bank -- where Fatah believes it has an actual chance of winning.

After Haniyeh's announced that he welcomed the initiative, Fatah upped the stakes and Abbas demanded that the parliamentary elections be based on party slates and not geographical representation.

Hamas again surprised Fatah and agreed, for one main reason: The Islamic terrorist group believes that it can win in the West Bank, potentially by a landslide, given the dwindling support Fatah has among Palestinians there.

W's greatest mistake in the Middle East was not embracing the democrats.

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The More We Learn, the Worse Things Look for Trump: Republicans insisted that the full account would vindicate the president, but that's not how it's worked out. (David A. Graham, 11/05/19, The Atlantic)

[T]he transcripts show Republican members using their time in depositions erratically, trying to throw up various process-related roadblocks and working the refs. Representative Scott Perry asked Yovanovitch about the intelligence practice of "unmasking" and whether her staff was involved, puzzling the ambassador. In one peculiar exchange, Mark Meadows asked Yovanovitch where her nickname, Masha--a common Russian nickname for Maria--comes from.

Finally, the release of the testimony vindicates the Democratic claim that witnesses ought to be heard in private to avoid coordinating testimony. (This was, in point of fact, Intelligence Committee Republicans' claim, under former Chairman Trey Gowdy, before it was Democrats'.) Sondland told investigators he'd conferred with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "refresh [his] memory," yet Sondland submitted his addendum, including the explosive quid pro quo claim, only after other witnesses contradicted his claims.

The Trumposphere often operates on an esoteric argument that if only all the facts were revealed, the totality of the evidence would clearly show that the president was innocent and that his detractors are the guilty ones. A version of this faith animated the Republican demand for full transcripts. Now that the transcripts are being released and aren't yielding exoneration, it should--but won't--prompt a reevaluation of this esotericism.

Instead, GOP leaders have simply swapped out their talking points.

"I don't know that you need all the transcripts," Representative Jim Jordan said Monday. "Like I've said, the facts have always been there, the facts have been clear from the get-go."

The problem for Trump is that Jordan is probably right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brazil's Massive Tax Code May Face Moment of Reckoning (Simone Iglesias and Murilo Fagundes,  November 5, 2019, Bloomberg)

At 7.5 tons, it's heavier than an African elephant.

At more than 7 feet, it's taller than LeBron James.

At 41,266 pages, it's about 85 times longer than the collected stories of Franz Kafka.

Vinicios Leoncio spent more than 1 million reais ($250,100) to assemble a volume of Brazil's tax code to demonstrate the absurdities of the system. For fun, he perches on top of his creation. "It's an attempt to make the stupidity of the Brazilian tax legislation visible," says the tax lawyer.

Fresh off its success in winning congressional support for a landmark pension overhaul, the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has set its sights on revamping the tax code, a goal that has eluded prior governments. The lower house and the Senate have put forward their own plans. Vice President Hamilton Mourao promised on Oct. 23 that a new system will be in place by the middle of next year.

The stakes are high. Brazil's tax burden is close to 33% of gross domestic product, almost 10 points higher than the Latin American average. A sweeping simplification could boost GDP by 10% over 15 years, according to an analysis by the Center for Fiscal Citizenship, a São Paulo-based think tank.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump betrayed America. Soon the public will hear from patriots who defended it.: 
The Ukraine call was one piece of a larger operation to redirect US foreign policy to benefit Trump's personal interests, not the national interest. (Adam Schiff, 11/05/19, USA Today)

The interviews we have conducted have been thorough, professional and fair, with over one hundred members from both parties eligible to attend -- including nearly 50 Republicans -- and equal time allotted for questioning to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and staff. In line with best investigative practices first passed in Congress by the Republicans who now decry them, we have held these interviews in private to ensure that witnesses are not able to tailor their testimony to align with others at the expense of the truth.

Over the past several weeks, dedicated, nonpartisan public servants have come forward to share what they know about the president's misconduct based on what they witnessed over the course of months, describing and corroborating key details and events regarding U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine. Nearly all have testified despite efforts by the White House to prevent them from telling their story. These career civil servants, diplomats and veterans of our armed services are American patriots and shining examples of what it means to defend and protect our Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats won across the Philadelphia region as Republicans are fading even on friendly turf (Michaelle Bond and Vinny Vella, November 6, 2019, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Democrats won political control of the once-legendary GOP stronghold of Delaware County, part of what appeared late Tuesday to be a Republican wipeout across the Philadelphia region and in other elections around the country.

It was the first time since at least the Civil War that Democrats won control of the Delaware County Council. They not only won a majority, but also swept Republicans off the governing body entirely. Democrats won a majority on the Chester County Board of Commissioners for the first time in history, in the only suburban Philadelphia county where Republicans still outnumber Democrats. In Bucks County, Democrats were on track to capture the Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1983.

November 5, 2019

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Democrats just pulled off a huge upset, winning Virginia's state legislature (Ella Nilsen, Nov 5, 2019, Vox)

After 20 years of Democrats being out of power in the Virginia House of Delegates, a blue wave has swept the state capitol in Richmond.

Democrats pulled off a major upset on Tuesday night, winning both the state House and state Senate. This ensures a party trifecta: The party is in the majority in both legislative chambers, and is led in the state by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. Decision Desk called both races as of 9:30 pm Tuesday.

Mitch is not going to sacrifice his majority on the altar of Donald.

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Sondland reverses himself on Ukraine quid pro quo (ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 11/05/2019, Politico)

Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry, told a top Ukrainian official that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the beleaguered U.S. ally would "likely" be held up unless the country's government announced investigations of President Donald Trump's political rivals -- a major reversal from his previous closed-door testimony.

The acknowledgment of a potential quid pro quo is an explosive shift that threatens to upend claims by the president's allies that military aid was not used as a bludgeon to advance his domestic political interests .

which is why you don't take initial testimony publicly. For criminals, speaking is a perjury trap.

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How Is a Wealth Tax Like a Cigarette Tax? (Neil Irwin, Nov. 5, 2019, NY Times)

The United States government taxes people's income not because it wants them to earn less income, but because it is a way to raise a lot of money. States tax retail sales not to discourage people from buying stuff, but because it is a relatively efficient way to fill state coffers to pay for things like public schools and state highways.

But for some taxes, discouraging the thing being taxed is at least partly the point. Tobacco taxes are intended not just to raise money, but also to increase the prices of cigarettes so that fewer people smoke. A tax on carbon emissions would be intended to reduce carbon emissions.

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Lindsey Graham says he won't read House deposition transcripts (Zachary Basu, 11/05/19, Axios)

It's the Trumpbots only remaining defense.

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Rand Paul demands outing of CIA officer at Trump rally: "We now know the name of the whistleblower" (IGOR DERYSH, NOVEMBER 5, 2019, Salon)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claimed that Republicans have learned the name of the Ukraine whistleblower at a Trump rally in Kentucky on Monday -- and demanded that the media print the name.

If the Libertarians stand for anything it's...trying to stifle reports of government misconduct? Rand will pay any price and bear any burden for the only couple years of isolationism he'll ever experience.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US growth of Islam creates need for religious scholars (JEFF KAROUB and NOREEN NASIR, 11/05/19,  Associated Press)

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) -- "Brothers and sisters," the seminary instructor tells his class, don't believe in God because of your parents' beliefs but because "you know why God exists."

The challenge spurs a discussion about beliefs. But more than Imam Mohammad Qazwini's interesting delivery, deep understanding of Islam and his formal training at a seminary in the holy city of Qom, Iran, have drawn them to this suburban Detroit classroom just off the large prayer room of a mosque.

He speaks their language -- literally.

An increasing number of U.S. Muslims want guidance from religious instructors who they can understand linguistically and culturally. The Quran, Islam's holy book, is written in classical Arabic, but many of the students aren't well-versed in the language. Qazwini navigates the intricacies of Arabic effortlessly -- in the everyday English they use, opening a door for many of the students and meeting an increasing need.

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A year from Election Day, Democratic presidential contenders extend leads over Donald Trump: POLL (GARY LANGER, Nov 5, 2019, ABC News)

While former Vice President Joe Biden now leads Trump by 17 percentage points, other Democratic contenders show the most improvement: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' advantage vs. Trump has gone from a non-significant 6 points in July to 12 in September to 17 now. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's has gone from 7 to 11 to 15 points.

Imagine selling your dignity and then losing your seat anyway.  

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How to Deal with a Declining Russia (JOSEPH S. NYE, JR., 11/05/19, Project Syndicate)

In 1959, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously boasted that the Soviet Union would overtake the US by 1970 or 1980. Instead, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving a significantly shrunken Russia, with three-quarters of the USSR's territory, half its population, half its economy, and one-third of its military personnel. Its GDP is only $1.7 trillion, compared to $21 trillion for the US. In 1989, the Soviet economy was twice the size of China's; today, Russia's GDP is one-seventh that of China. Moreover, Russia is heavily dependent on energy exports, with high-tech products accounting for only 11% of its manufactured exports (compared to 19% for the US).

While language, history, and labor migration provide Russia with some soft power in its near-abroad, few foreigners elsewhere watch Russian films, and Russian universities are not ranked among the top global 100. The political institutions for an effective market economy are largely missing, and robber-baron state capitalism lacks the kind of effective regulation that creates trust. The public health system is weak, and average Russian life expectancy, at 72 (male and female), is five years shorter than in Europe. United Nations demographers project that Russia's population may decline from 145 million today to 121 million by mid-century.

Many futures are possible, but at this point, Russia is a "one-crop economy" with corrupt institutions and serious demographic and health problems. Former President Dmitri Medvedev laid out plans to surmount them, but little was implemented and pervasive corruption has made modernization difficult. While Putin has been a successful tactician in restoring Russia's presence on the world stage, he has not been a skillful strategist in addressing the country's long-term problems.

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Trial of Trump crony Roger Stone promises political drama (ASHRAF KHALIL, 11/05/19, AP)

Stone, a longtime friend of the president's, briefly served on Trump's campaign but was pushed out amid infighting with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Though sidelined, he continued to communicate with Trump and stayed plugged into his circle of advisers.

The indictment says Stone, who was arrested by the FBI in a raid at his Florida home, repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks in 2016 with campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone's conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the weeks before Trump beat Clinton.

After WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the indictment says, a senior Trump campaign official "was directed" to contact Stone about additional releases and "what other damaging information" WikiLeaks had "regarding the Clinton campaign." The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.

Stone also is accused of threatening New York radio host Randy Credico in an effort to prevent Credico from contradicting Stone's testimony before the House intelligence committee.

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Inside Adam Schiff's Impeachment Game Plan (Jason Zengerle, Nov. 5, 2019, NY Times)

[S]chiff, who is 59, has rapidly come to occupy a unique and privileged place in the Democratic firmament. His Ukraine investigation has now been invested with all the hopes and dreams that Democrats once placed in the special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia probe. In Schiff, a 10-term congressman from the Los Angeles area, Democrats believe they have found a more reliable vessel than the cipherlike Mueller and an opportunity for a do-over of sorts. While Mueller allowed himself to become a punching bag -- remaining silent for two years as Trump relentlessly delegitimized his investigation as a "witch hunt" -- Schiff has no qualms about hitting back. Where Mueller painstakingly avoided drawing any conclusions from his investigative findings -- punting the question about whether Trump broke the law by obstructing justice to Attorney General William Barr -- Schiff is prepared to embrace the actionable consequences of his work. "Mr. Mueller saw his limitations as a chain-of-command guy at the Justice Department, and he went as far as he thought he could go," Pelosi told me, noting that Mueller was hemmed in by an Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. "Mr. Schiff is dealing with two things: the Constitution of the United States and the truth."

Both of which are deadly for Donald.

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Warren's Perpetual Medicare Head Tax Is Unworkable and Bad (Matt Bruenig,  November 1, 2019, 3P)

[B]owing to the stupid media discourse on this, Warren put forward a financing proposal that is clearly unworkable and bad. The proposal is as follows:

Employers will be required to pay an "Employer Medicare Contribution" equal to 98 percent of their per-employee health care costs in the year prior to Medicare for All's implementation. This will mean that initially some employers pay more than others since that is already the case in the status quo. But over time, each employer's contribution will be gradually converged to the average Employer Medicare Contribution until every qualifying employer is paying the same amount per employee.

Employers with less than 50 employees would be exempt from the Employer Medicare contribution both initially and forever.

Independent contractors (and the companies who hire them) will also be exempt from the Employer Medicare contribution both initially and forever.

Bad Distribution

What Warren is proposing here, in ordinary fiscal language, is a Medicare Head Tax. This is a departure from the normal Medicare Payroll Tax proposals. The distributive difference between them is that the Medicare Payroll Tax charges a specific percentage of each worker's earnings, while the Medicare Head Tax charges a specific dollar amount per worker.

If we value jobs, no one should be taxed on the basis of providing them. 

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Study: New immigrants less likely to use prescription opioids (NORA DOYLE-BURR, 11/04/19, Valley News)

A recently published study by a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center anesthesiologist has found that new immigrants to the U.S. are less likely to use prescription opioids than native-born Americans.

Dr. Brian Sites, who is also a professor of anesthesiology at the Geisel School of Medicine, said the results published in the journal JAMA Network Open last month point to a cultural factor in the use of opioids. Because of that, Sites said he thinks the response necessary to address the problem of opioid use will need to take culture into account.

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Enemies within': Left-wing leaders slam government inaction on settler violence (Times of Israel, 11/05/19)

Left-wing leaders on Tuesday lambasted what they said was government inaction in the face of ongoing settler violence directed at security forces in the West Bank, and called for enforcement and punitive action against law-breakers.

Security forces were stoned near West Bank settlements in two separate incidents on Monday in attacks attributed to hardline settler youth.

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Omar emphasizes Sanders' Jewish background in endorsement at Minnesota rally (MARCY OSTER, 11/05/19, Times of Israel)

Sanders also has been critical of Israel during his campaign and said he would "absolutely" consider cutting US aid to Israel to pressure its government to change its policy, specifically on settlements.

Omar in her endorsement at the rally emphasized Sanders' Jewish faith.

"I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide," the Muslim congresswoman said. "The acknowledgment of pain and suffering is personal for both of us. The fight for human rights is undeniable. And when we recognize injustices of the past and present, whether it is genocide against Jewish people, Armenians or Rwandans or Bosnians or Native Americans or more."

November 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Exclusive: Ukraine to fire prosecutor who discussed Bidens with Giuliani - source (Polina Ivanova, Ilya Zhegulev, 11/04/19, Reuters) 

Ukraine plans to fire the prosecutor who led investigations into the firm where Joe Biden's son served on the board, a central figure in the activity at the heart of impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump, a source told Reuters.

Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged meeting the prosecutor, Kostiantyn Kulyk, to discuss accusations against the Bidens.

The decision to sideline someone who played an important role in Giuliani's efforts to find out damaging information about the Bidens comes as Ukraine has tried to avoid getting drawn into a partisan fight in Washington.

now get him to the safe house with Mifsud.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Taxes Are Surprisingly Similar in Texas and California (Kevin Drum, 11/04/19, Mother Jones0

The LA Times tells us today that conservatives are leaving California for "redder pastures."  [...]

The state that conservative Californians are allegedly flocking to is Texas, and for your average middle-class worker or retiree its taxes are surprisingly similar to the People's Republic of California. Here's the comparison from the good folks at ITEP:

If you're poor, California has lower taxes. If you're rich, Texas has lower taxes. But if you're middle class, there's barely any difference. You'll pay about 8-10 percent of your income in state and local taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Historian: New evidence shows FDR's bigotry derailed many Holocaust rescue plans (MATT LEBOVIC, 11/04/19, Times of Israel)

Not only was US president Franklin Roosevelt perfunctory about rescuing Jews from the Nazis, but he obstructed rescue opportunities that would have cost him little or nothing, according to Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff.

FDR's role in preventing the rescue of European Jewry is detailed in a new book called, "The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust."
Published in September, Medoff's book includes new archival materials about the relationship between Roosevelt and Rabbi Stephen Wise, who the author sees as a sycophantic Jewish leader used by Roosevelt to "keep the Jews quiet."

Wrote Medoff, "Franklin Roosevelt took advantage of Wise's adoration of his policies and leadership to manipulate Wise through flattery and intermittent access to the White House." In return for visits to the White House and Roosevelt calling him by his first name, Wise undermined Jewish activists who demanded the administration let more Jewish refugees into the US.

According to Medoff, Roosevelt's policies toward European Jews were motivated by sentiments similar to those that spurred him to intern 120,000 Japanese Americans in detention camps as potential spies.

"Roosevelt used almost identical language in recommending that the Jews and the Japanese be forcibly 'spread thin' around the country," Medoff told The Times of Israel. "I was struck by the similarity between the language FDR used regarding the Japanese, and that which he used in private concerning Jews -- that they can't be trusted, they won't ever become fully loyal Americans, they'll try to dominate wherever they go."


Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Exclusive: Giuliani associate now willing to comply with Trump impeachment inquiry - lawyer (Aram Roston, 11/04/19, Reuters) 

Lev Parnas, an indicted Ukrainian-American businessman who has ties to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is now prepared to comply with requests for records and testimony from congressional impeachment investigators, his lawyer told Reuters on Monday.

Parnas, who helped Giuliani look for dirt on Trump's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, is a key figure in the impeachment inquiry that is examining whether Trump abused his office for personal political gain.

His apparent decision to now work with the congressional committees represents a change of heart. Parnas rebuffed a request from three House of Representatives committees last month to provide documents and testimony.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Sanders and Warren Have to Tame Nancy Pelosi: The House speaker is building road blocks against Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. (Jeet Heer, 11/04/19, The Nation)

Nancy Pelosi, America's most powerful elected Democrat, made clear in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday that she has little use for the party's swing to the left, saying, "What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan."

"Remember November," Pelosi insisted. "You must win the Electoral College." On health care, Pelosi was more set on defending past gains than on pushing forward. "Protect the Affordable Care Act," she argued. "I think that's the path to health care for all Americans." She claimed that "the Affordable Care Act is a better benefit than Medicare." Pelosi was equally dismissive of the Green New Deal: "There's very strong opposition on the labor side to the Green New Deal because it's like 10 years, no more fossil fuel."

In policy terms, Pelosi insisted that she would maintain pay-as-you-play rules, which would hamstring any effort to borrow money to pay for new spending. Pelosi is adamant that "we cannot just keep increasing the debt."

In setting environmentalism against jobs as well as using the deficit to set limits on future spending, Pelosi sounds more like a Republican than a Democrat. 

she's the most conservative member of either party leadership.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Ukraine's Push to Cultivate Trump From the StartInside Ukraine's Push to Cultivate Trump From the Start (Mark Mazzetti, Eric Lipton and Andrew E. Kramer, Nov. 4th, 2019, NY Times)

Mr. Poroshenko's campaign included trade deals that were politically expedient for Mr. Trump, meetings with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the freezing of potentially damaging criminal cases and attempts to use the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as a back channel.

From the start, Mr. Poroshenko's aides also scrambled to find ways to flatter the new American president -- advising their boss to gush during his first telephone call with Mr. Trump about Tom Brady, the star New England Patriots quarterback whom Mr. Trump has long admired.

An examination of the first year of Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine shows how the White House also saw the relationship as a transactional one that could help Mr. Trump politically.

Mr. Poroshenko, so eager to gain favor as Russian-backed separatists were escalating a fight against the Ukrainian military, did his part to encourage this belief. He helped plant the seeds for Mr. Trump's July quid pro quo request to his successor, Volodymyr Zelensky -- a request that prompted the impeachment inquiry into whether he manipulated American policy toward Ukraine for personal gain.

Mr. Poroshenko's strategy yielded results. The Trump administration reversed an Obama-era moratorium on sales of lethal weapons that Ukraine sought for its fight against the separatists in the country's east.

Near the end of 2017, just as the government in Kiev was trying to get final approval from the Trump administration on the sale of the Javelin anti-tank weapons, Mr. Poroshenko's prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, had begun freezing cases in Ukraine relevant to the Mueller investigation, including an inquiry tracing millions of dollars that Ukrainian political figures paid to Mr. Manafort.

Now, impeachment investigators are examining the two years of interactions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Poroshenko, according to a congressional Democrat. And Mr. Zelensky's team is researching back-channel communications between Ukrainian officials and Americans from both political parties going back to 2017, according to a Ukrainian with knowledge of the effort.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hillary Clinton leads Trump in a new Fox News poll. Yes, in November 2019. (The Week, 11/03/19)

A Fox News poll released Sunday did not have great news for President Trump. His approval rating was 42 percent, with 57 percent of registered voters disapproving of his job performance and 46 percent strongly disapproving. A year before the 2020 election, he is behind all of the top-tier Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden (51 percent to 39 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (46 percent to 41 percent), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (49 percent to 41 percent). Even worse, Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, who isn't even running, 43 percent to 41 percent.

November 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 PM


Confusion reigns over US plan to 'secure the oil' in Syria as commanders await orders (Barbara Starr and Nicole Gaouette, 11/02/19, CNN)

Nearly three weeks after President Donald Trump ordered troops out of northern Syria, publicly declaring he was taking "control" of the oil and sending troops and armored carriers to protect it from ISIS, US commanders lack clarity on the most basic aspects of their mission, including how and when troops can fire their weapons and what, exactly, that mission is.

The lack of precise orders means troops are on the ground while critical details are still being worked out -- exactly where they will go, when and how they will stay on small bases in the area, and when they go on patrol.

Perhaps most crucially, there is no clarity about exactly who they are operating against in the oilfields.

That's essential information for troops on the ground and in the air to understand circumstances in which they are permitted to fire their weapons. It's also crucial for military planners to understand how many US combat ground forces and aircraft are needed, the official said.

The precision that's lacking is vital for military commanders, who need specific, legal orders that are not subject to interpretation in moments of crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Making Moral Mistakes Mandatory (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, November 3, 2019, National Review)

The leading anti-immigration voice in our country belongs to my friend Mark Krikorian of the Mayflower Krikorians. Two of the most prominent voices associated with our dotty new blood-and-soil nationalism are linked to the surnames Buchanan and Ahmari. My colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty calls himself a nationalist, too -- a nationalist in the cause of at least two nations, by my count. That's two Irishmen, an Iranian, and an Armenian, three of them Catholics and all four of them gentlemen who, if earlier generations of so-called nationalists had had their way, would be admiring these United States from afar.

Funny old world.

On Friday, I appeared opposite Sohrab Ahmari on a panel hosted by the William F. Buckley Program at Yale. He argued that the main duty of the state is not to protect liberty but to achieve the good, biblically defined. That's what he said when he showed up, anyway -- he was a little bit late owing to the fact that the state he would entrust to do God's work here on Earth cannot quite manage to make the trains run on time, a fact that you might think would be of some interest to a bantamweight Mussolini.

Mr. Ahmari, who is the op-ed editor of the New York Post (where I write about twice a month), is a Catholic convert, as am I. (I suppose I identify as "Puritan curious" these days; it must be that book on the Presidents Adams.) I have never met a Catholic convert who is not a fan of A Man for All Seasons, and Mr. Ahmari reminds me a little bit of the young idealist of whom Thomas More says: "We must just pray that when your head is finished turning, your face is to the front again." National Review is a magazine that in its early days boasted a collection of freshly reformed Trotskyites, doctrinaire libertarians, and militant Catholic anti-liberals, but to my knowledge none of them was all three at the same time, whereas Mr. Ahmari can run through that cycle in a three-day weekend. I will be happy for him when his jackboot phase has ended, but who knows where he will land?

You can bet it will not be in a place close to my sometime colleague David French. If you have followed recent intramural conservative factional politics, then you will know that Mr. Ahmari has a bizarre and unseemly obsession with David French, who is a leading conservative critic of the Trump administration and its sycophants. Trump's admirers like to say, "He fights!" Trump of course is a medical marvel, having had the only case in recorded medical history of bone spurs that healed without any medical intervention whatsoever, a miracle that was witnessed right around the time the Vietnam draft was coming to a close. French served in Iraq without any compulsion and has dedicated much of his career to literally making a federal case of it when Americans' religious liberties are violated by various peckerwood city councilmen and mealy-mouthed deans. But he is almost unfailingly polite, and thus Mr. Ahmari et al. heap scorn upon what they call "David Frenchism." But when Mr. Ahmari recently was fool enough to get on the other side of David French in an actual debate, the stuttering and incoherent mess to which he was promptly reduced was evidence enough (superfluous, in fact) that David Frenchism is made of sterner stuff than our newly minted young nationalists had thought.

Jonah Goldberg has noted a haunting emptiness when he hosts Nationalists like Yoram Hazony on his podcast and confessed mystification at why that is.  And when Andy Smarick was on Matt Lewis and the News he repeatedly stated that Trumpism would fade after Donald leaves because it isn't a coherent philosophy.  The absence in both cases, like the incoherence of Mr. Ahmari and the First Things claque is a function of advocating what is essentially the politics of bigotry in an America where it has long gone out of whatever fashion it once had.  

Donald has, of course, not managed to do anything legislatively, but he has been able to attempt a few things using Executive power and we can easily see what they have in common.  He opposes trade with places like China and Mexico.  He opposes Muslim, African and Latino--in particular--immigration. And he opposes honoring American military and treaty commitments irrespective of the harm to South Korea, the Kurds, the Palestinians, Iran, etc.  On the other hand, he endorses things like the totalitarian regime in North Korea, the oppressive Wahhabi Sa'uds, Xi trampling Hong Kong, and so forth.  Wherever possible he has tried to negatively affect non-White and non-Christian peoples.  His entirely coherent philosophy is nothing more, nor less, than White Nationalism.  Those defenders of his share the ideology.  But they are reduced to stuttering and incoherent messes because they can't actually go on stage or on air or into print and express their hatreds forthrightly.  Mr. Ahmari's obsession is with the entire tradition of Conservatism, which is so annoyingly writ large for him in the decency of a David French.   

It tells us all we really need to know that even with Nationalism at its high tide, the advocates are too ashamed to discuss it openly.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


Trump Slams California Governor, Threatens to Cut Off Wildfire Aid to the State (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 03, 2019, Slate)

President Donald Trump once again threatened to cut off federal aid to California as the state tries to battle numerous wildfires, directly criticizing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for his "terrible job of forest management." In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Trump went on to suggest the federal government won't be giving California any more aid to help fight the wildfires. "Every year, as the fire's rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more," the president wrote.

Why not implement a public works/infrastructure program to clear the lines immediately and bury them gradually?

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Trump Is Beijing's Best Asset (PAUL HAENLE, SAM BRESNICK ,  Oct. 15th, 2019, Foreign Policy)

[F]or China, Trump's weaknesses are more important than his bluster. During numerous off the record discussions with Chinese government officials and scholars, we are finding that an increasing number are hoping for Trump's reelection next year. At a time when China's political influence and military capabilities are growing, they argue that in spite of his anti-China bluster, Trump has afforded Beijing the space to expand its influence across Asia and, more importantly, comprehensively weakened Washington's global leadership. From a zero-sum standpoint, many Chinese have concluded that Trump's policies are strategically very good for China in the long run.

These thinkers believe that Trump, by polarizing U.S. domestic politics, damaging Washington's international credibility and traditional global stewardship, and undermining long-standing alliance arrangements, has presented Beijing with its "greatest strategic opportunity since the end of the Cold War," as Yan Xuetong, one of China's foremost strategic thinkers, put it.

These Chinese thinkers see Trump as a dog with a big bark but little bite. He tested Beijing's patience by accepting a phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, in what the Chinese viewed as a violation of the "One China" policy, shortly after his election in 2016. Trump publicly questioned whether he would stick with the policy before saying he would, but he also said he would have to check with Chinese President Xi Jinping before taking another call with Tsai. Though the administration has greenlighted some arms sales to Taiwan, whether Trump would back Taipei were Beijing to attack remains doubtful, especially given his mercenary attitude toward U.S. military power.

Beijing has already gained significantly from Trump's term in office. Despite prosecuting trade spats with India and the European Union, as well as China, the administration has largely given up on using World Trade Organization courts to litigate trade complaints and has blocked appointments to the organization's Appellate Body. These actions not only get in the way of the world's most important trade dispute settlement system but also embolden other countries to ignore international law.

When not damaging global governance institutions and mechanisms that helped establish the United States as the world's preeminent superpower, Trump's antipathy toward trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership has afforded China an opening.

While Trump is shredding the cooperative trade agreements that have been central to U.S. international economic policy, Beijing is in the late stages of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a deal that would tie China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members into the world's largest trade bloc. If that agreement is ratified, the United States will be left out of the two largest global free trade deals, the other being the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated among 11 countries involved in the original Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. This would add insult to injury, as China already trades more with every major Asian economy than the United States does.

...let's call the whole presidency off...

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Kashmir: Independence activists draw inspiration from German reunification (Deutsche-welle, 11/03/19)

"We believe that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany are an inspiration not only to us but to all freedom movements in the world. Like the pre-reunification Germany, Jammu and Kashmir has also been split into two territories, and a wall (LoC) was erected to divide the same people," Toqeer Gilani, the president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, told DW. He added that "if Germany can be reunited, so can Kashmir."

"The post-World War II Germany was also forcefully divided by global powers. It was propagated that the division was necessary due to the 'ideological differences' between East and West Germany. We also experienced this in Kashmir," Gilani said.

Some experts say that although the German and Kashmiri dynamics are not totally similar, the "independent Kashmir" movement can still take inspiration from the German reunification success.

"As we approach the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should rejoice that people can overcome adversity and divisions. The people of Kashmir will take inspiration from what happened in Germany 30 years ago. A group of people has been kept apart by force," Shaffaq Mohammed, a British-Kashmiri MEP (Member of European Parliament), told DW.

Ali Raza Syed, the chairman of the Kashmir Council, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, says that just as in pre-reunification Germany, families are divided in India- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmirs. "They have the same culture, the same language. I think the German reunification inspirations can be applied to Kashmir," Syed told DW.

"You can threaten people, you can torture them, but you cannot govern a country out of fear," Mohammed said, referring both to the India-imposed lockdown in Kashmir and the oppression in the former German Democratic Republic, or GDR.

"If Kashmiris want to be independent of both India and Pakistan, it is their right," the Liberal Democrat MEP added.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Central and eastern Europeans are mostly happy with progress since 1989 (The Economist, Oct 31st 2019)

No empire in history has disintegrated as quickly or as bloodlessly as the Soviet one, in the remarkable year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. A period of carnage in Romania the following month was the only grisly counter-example. Yugoslavia, never a part of that empire, followed a tragically different path; but for the rest of central and eastern Europe, though clearly imperfect, the past 30 years have been a time of marvels.

Standards of living for most of the region's peoples have vastly improved, and most of them know it. New polling by the Pew Research Centre shows that 81% of Poles, 78% of Czechs and 55% of Hungarians agree that this is the case. Only Bulgarians on balance take a gloomy view, with just 32% of them thinking that their standard of living has improved since 1989. Development has been patchy, but for every depopulating and ageing rustbelt in eastern Europe there is a booming industrial region, a tech cluster or a services centre desperate for more workers.

...what good is the End of History?

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Mueller Documents: Manafort Pushed Ukraine Hack Theory, RNC Tied to Wikileaks (The Associated Press and Haaretz, Nov 03, 2019)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pushed the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee servers, Manafort's deputy told investigators during the special counsel's Russia probe. The unsubstantiated theory, advanced by President Donald Trump even after he took office, would later help trigger the impeachment inquiry now consuming the White House.

Notes from an FBI interview were released Saturday after lawsuits by BuzzFeed News and CNN led to public access to hundreds of pages of documents from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The documents, which tie the Republican National Committee to Wikileaks, included summaries of interviews with other figures from the Mueller probe, including Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


A people without a state (The Week, November 3, 2019)

Who are the Kurds?

A tough mountain people, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East -- after Arabs, Persians, and Turks -- and have their own distinct culture and language. Nearly all are Sunni Muslims, but they have many tribes and are far from a monolithic group. Over the centuries, they have handed down their traditions through music, with bards singing folktales and stories of Kurdish feats in battle. Spread out mostly over four countries and now numbering some 30 million, the Kurds have pressed time and again for a homeland since the 19th century, only to have their hopes dashed when great powers broke their promises. Several times since the 1970s, the U.S. gave them military aid to fight a common foe, and then abandoned them, leaving thousands of Kurds to be killed and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. As a Kurdish proverb says, the Kurds have "no friends but the mountains."

Why don't they have a country?

After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, victorious Western powers agreed in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres to create a Kurdish state. But three years later, in the wheeling and dealing over the boundaries of modern Turkey, Britain and France dropped their demand for a Kurdish homeland, and Kurds were left as large minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, with small minorities in the Caucasus. All the nations where Kurds now live are opposed to granting them a homeland or true autonomy -- ­particularly Turkey.

While entering WWI at all was a mistake, choosing to lose it was catastrophic.  Nearly all modern wars are a function of Wilson preferring his utopian League to the salutary decolonization of the Third World.  A people who think themselves a nation are one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Fox News Guest Invited to Talk About Military Dogs Blurts Out Jeffrey 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' (Connor Mannion, Nov 2nd, 2019, Mediate)

Watters was finishing up his segment on Watters' World with Mike Ritland, who is the founder of the Warrior Dog Foundation. The nonprofit is dedicated to finding homes for military dogs that are no longer in service and in need of a home.

Ritland asked if he could offer a PSA about military dogs as news coverage swirls about the dog who helped take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"The remarkable nature of these dogs and them being highlighted in news creates a huge demand by people that frankly shouldn't have them. If you see the coverage and you decide I want one of these dogs either buy a fully trained and finished dog from a professional or don't get one at all," Ritland said.

"Epstein didn't kill himself," he added.

"Alright," Watters said, at first not apparently realizing what Ritland just said. Watters then started laughing and said "OK."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Children were told to 'build the wall' at White House Halloween party (Jana Winter, Hunter Walker and Caitlin Dickson-,Yahoo News•November 2, 2019, Yahoo! News)

 A Halloween party on Oct. 25 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building featured candy, paper airplanes and -- concerning for some attendees -- a station where children were encouraged to help "Build the Wall" with their own personalized bricks.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


A stunning confession from a Deep State member subverting the constitutional republic (Thomas Lifson, 11/02/19, American Thinker)

Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller describes what I call his confession, responding to a question from the moderator:

"There is something unique you have to agree that now the impeachment inquiry is underway, sparked by a complaint from someone within the intelligence community, it feeds the president's concern, an often used term about a 'deep state' being there to take him out," Margaret Brennan, the moderator for the event, asked McLaughlin.

"Thank God for the 'deep state,'" replied the former spook, who served as acting director at the CIA in 2004.

Laughter and applause greeted this endorsement of "tak[ing] out" an elected president.

McLaghin kept on digging when the applause died down:

"Everyone here has seen this progression of diplomats and intelligence officers and White House people trooping up to Capitol Hill right now and saying these are doing their duty and responding to a higher call," said McLaughlin, who has also served as CIA deputy director.

"With all of the people who knew what was going on here, it took an intelligence officer to step forward and say something about it, which was the trigger that then unleashed everything else," he said.

Consider for a moment the implications of his term "higher call."

Mr. Lifson can consider it for a moment; they pledge to consider it every moment of every day:

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Trump defends border wall design after report smugglers are sawing through it (CHRISTIAN VASQUEZ, 11/02/2019, Politico)

"We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it's easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it's very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in," Trump told reporters at the White House.

A Washington Post report published Saturday said smugglers have repeatedly sawed through newly built sections of the wall using a widely available cordless reciprocating saw that costs as little as $100. Gangs are also using makeshift ladders to scale the barriers, the Post reported.

Poor guy thought they'd behave more like his followers and not seek to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Democracy Is on the March, Not in Retreat (Pankaj Mishra, November 2, 2019, Blooomberg View)

But one political shock after another revealed that, as Tocqueville wrote, people in the democratic age "have an ardent, insatiable, eternal, invincible passion" for equality, and that "they will tolerate poverty, enslavement, barbarism, but they will not tolerate aristocracy." This intolerance is again evident in the furious anti-elite revolts in the West today.

It is even more strikingly manifest in the postcolonial world, which since the Arab Spring has hosted the world's biggest mass upsurges.

Those above the age of 40 can recall a time in Asia and Africa when extreme deference, if not fear, marked the relationship between rulers and the ruled, rich and poor, and upper and lower classes and castes. Assured of immunity, the wealthy and powerful got away with murder -- sometimes literally. A small, incestuous elite stole from the state's coffers and splurged in London, New York and Paris, boosting the profits of real estate agents, Harrods and Bloomingdale's, not to mention party planners and glamorous escort services.

A reminder of those good times for the Suhartos, Bhuttos and Mubaraks of the Third World is provided today by Lebanon's recently departed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who allegedly showered a $16 million gift on a bikini model he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles. 

Even in India, supposedly the world's largest democracy, a single family dominated politics for decades, including a loyal few in its network of patronage but excluding countless others. Visitors marveled at the infinite forbearance of the degraded and suffering millions, wondering why they did not mutiny against their cruel masters.

Social hierarchies finally began to crack faster from the 1990s, with broader politicization and the growth of literacy, satellite television channels and digital media. Massive street protests against a corrupt ruling elite in India in 2011 were the first sign that Indian society and politics were about to be radically transformed.

Indeed, the protests set the stage for Narendra Modi, who rose to power denouncing venal and inept dynasts and claiming to represent their victims. Likewise, massive social unrest over bus fare hikes in Brazil paved the way for Jair Bolsonaro.  

There is no guarantee that the current upsurge against ruling elites won't empower demagogues. In late 19th century Europe, far-right and anti-Semitic movements also hijacked the demand for democracy, marginalizing left-leaning and liberal parties.

The practical challenge, now as much as then, is how to make mass democracy compatible with individual liberty -- how to find political and economic institutions capable of deploying the tremendous energy of social mobilization for the larger good.

One of the things that perplexed the Times in the referenced story is the increasing failure of social protests movements, but that too is simply a function of democratization.  Occupy, the Green Movement, the Tea Party, the Yellow Vests, etc., are rebelling against democracy, so they are naturally seen as illegitimate.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Mueller interview notes obtained by CNN show Trump's push for stolen emails (Katelyn Polantz, November 2, 2019, CNN)

President Donald Trump and other top 2016 Trump campaign officials repeatedly privately discussed how the campaign could get access to stolen Democratic emails WikiLeaks had in 2016, according to newly released interview notes from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

CNN sued the Justice Department for access to Mueller's witness interview notes, and this weekend's release marks the first publicly available behind-the-scenes look at Mueller's investigative work outside of court proceedings and the report itself. Per a judge's order, the Justice Department will continue to release new tranches of the Mueller investigative notes monthly to CNN and Buzzfeed News, which also sued for them.

A retelling of events from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who served alongside campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is the fullest detail revealed by the Justice Department yet on discussions within the Trump campaign as it pursued damaging information about its Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


New report shows once-coveted UFC demographic has gotten old ... fast (Ryan Harkness  Jun 7, 2017, MMA Mania)

A new report from Sports Business Journal has the median age of UFC television viewers pegged at 49 years old. That's far outside the desirable -- and incredibly marketable -- "Men Aged 18-34" demographic that the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion used to score 10 years ago.

Here's the report:

The study, conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal by Magna Global, looked at live, regular-season game coverage of major sports across both broadcast and cable television in 2000, 2006 and 2016. It showed that while the median age of viewers of most sports, except the WTA, NBA and MLS, is aging faster than the overall U.S. population, it is doing so at a slower pace than prime-time TV.

And they still booed him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 AM


US white supremacist arrested in Norway (Deutsche Welle, 11/02/19)

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and the newspaper Dagbladet identified the man in custody as Greg Johnson, a far-right publicist based, according to Associated Press, in Seattle. [...]

The US Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist and hate groups, lists Johnson as the "editor-in-chief of the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, an epicenter of 'academic' white nationalism."

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Bennett warns a third election will 'collapse' the right (MICHAEL BACHNER, 11/03/19, Times of Israel)

Bennett said Saturday that he would be prepared to sit in the opposition if a Likud-Blue and White unity government is formed, telling Channel 12: "If I am an obstacle to forming a government, I release Netanyahu from any commitment to me and to the New Right and am ready to sit in the opposition. The main thing is to get a government established."

Leaders of rival Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party have claimed the premier's bloc is preventing them from forming a government. Netanyahu has insisted on negotiating on behalf of all 55 MKs; Blue and White has said the stance is a transparent ruse to ensure Gantz cannot form a government, dooming Israel to yet another election.

On Sunday morning, Bennett further warned in an Army Radio interview: "If we reach elections for the third time we will see a historic collapse of the right-wing bloc. We will find ourselves with a full-blown left-wing government."

Bennett's fellow New Right member Ayelet Shaked echoed that sentiment, also in an Army Radio interview, saying that "if we reach third elections, the right-wing rule is in danger. We could end up with a left-wing government."

November 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


EXCLUSIVE UNH/LCV POLL: OVER 70% OF NH RESIDENTS SUPPORT MOVE TO 100% CLEAN ENERGY (Rob Werner, October 31, 2019 , league of Conservation Voters)

Released today, two exclusive questions fielded for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) in the University of New Hampshire's Fall 2019 Granite State Poll found that the vast majority of New Hampshire residents support a move to 100% clean energy by 2050 and that many self-identified New Hampshire Democrats and Independents don't think the presidential candidates are talking about climate change enough in the 2020 campaign.

The poll was fielded between October 4 and October 17, 2019 and surveyed 507 randomly selected New Hampshire adults. LCV worked with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center to ask:

1. Do you favor or oppose moving to 100% clean energy, such as solar and wind energy, by 2050? and

2. Do you think the Democratic candidates for President are talking about climate change in the presidential campaign too much, about the right amount, or not enough?

Granite State voters care deeply about the climate crisis. An October CNN/UNH poll found that climate change/the environment is the #1 issue, tied with health care, that is "most important to [Democratic primary voters'] vote in the presidential primary." And New Hampshire voters don't just think climate change is important -- they want action on climate and they want to hear more from the presidential candidates. The LCV/UNH poll found that 71% of New Hampshire residents favor moving to 100% clean energy by 2050

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


George Soros: 'Brexit hurts both sides - my money was used to educate the British public': The philanthropist who has spent billions promoting democracy talks populism, Trump and powerful enemies (Shaun Walker, 2 Nov 2019, The Guardian)

These days, the distance between Trump and Soros is about much more than personality and aesthetics. The president has become the most powerful among a global chorus of rightwing critics focused on Soros's philanthropic efforts, which fund a broad range of causes they dislike, from minority rights and protecting refugees to liberalising drug policy and combating hate speech. Soros has long had enemies - largely, authoritarian leaders who were wary of his efforts to promote and protect democracy; more recently, this has been amplified by the antisemitic conspiracy theories that ooze from the darker corners of the internet.

It is now rare for a week to go by without a populist politician painting Soros as a ruthless Bond villain with nefarious plans to reshape the planet. Last year, Trump suggested that Soros might be paying illegal migrants to come to the US; in Turkey, President Erdoğan has called him "a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them"; in Italy, Matteo Salvini has claimed Soros wants the country "to become a giant refugee camp because he likes slaves". Last month, Soros's financial support for the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group led Jacob Rees-Mogg to call him the "Remoaner-in-chief" in parliament. Nigel Farage has called him "the biggest danger to the entire western world".

As a reporter based in eastern Europe, I have had a ringside seat to the political hostility Soros has faced over the years. I spent a decade in Russia, where Vladimir Putin blamed him for organising revolutions in neighbouring countries; in 2015, his philanthropic foundations were banned from the country as a "threat to state security". Last year I moved to Budapest, the city of Soros's birth, where the far-right Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, had taken Soros-baiting to a new level, erecting thousands of billboards featuring a cackling Soros, warning Hungarians not to let him "have the last laugh".

Now I sit opposite a somewhat frail, elderly man wearing a maroon cardigan, and it feels like a Wizard Of Oz moment. Is this really the power-broker feared by the world's nationalists? Soros turns 90 next year, and his face is creased with age, a distinctive banana-shaped fold of skin under each eye. He has lost much of his hearing, and visitors are given a microphone that connects directly to his hearing aid. He speaks hesitantly, often needing a few seconds to find the right word, and there is a hint of annoyance in his eyes during the pauses - as if the brain is irritated at the mouth for not articulating its thoughts fast enough. But appearances can be deceptive: Soros still maintains a busy work and travel schedule, splitting his weeks between Manhattan and upstate New York with his third wife Tamiko, and spending several months a year on the road.

What sustains him, I ask, particularly given the recent intensity of the attacks he has faced? "It challenges me and therefore it energises me," he says with a smile, in his still-strong Hungarian accent. "When I look at the list of people, or movements, or countries who are attacking me, it makes me feel I must be doing something right. I'm proud of the enemies I have."

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


'It's like nothing we have come across before': UK intelligence officials shaken by Trump administration's requests for help with counter-impeachment inquiry  (Kim Sengupta, 11/02/19, The Independent)

[T]he information being requested has left allies astonished. One British official with knowledge of Barr's wish list presented to London commented that "it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services".

The UK, in particular, has been viewed by Trump followers, especially far-right conspiracy theorists, as a deep source of woes for the president.

The claims that Trump was the Muscovian candidate for the White House effectively began to take shape after a meeting in May 2016 between Alexander Downer, the then Australian high commissioner in London, and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign, at a bar, the Kensington Wine Rooms in west London.

Downer passed on what he had heard to Australian officials, who shared it with the ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation), who in turn got in touch with the FBI. They then officially launched their investigation the following month. [...]

But it is Christopher Steele who is the particular bête noire of Trump followers and they blame his report for starting the FBI investigation into Russian interference.

The House Intelligence Committee, then under Republican control, decided however that it was the Papadopoulous information which was the trigger. The same conclusion was separately drawn by the staff of the then Republican chair of the committee, Devin Nunes.

Trump loyalist Nunes, who his hometown newspaper in California has called "Trump's stooge", had to step down at one stage over allegations that he was colluding with the White House during the House investigation. He had, in the past, tried to carry out his own "Barr-Lite" version of investigating the investigators.

In August 2016, two staffers from the Nunes-run House Intelligence Committee suddenly turned up from the US at the London office of Steele's company, Orbis. Not finding him there, they went to the office of his lawyer and demanded to see him.

The timing of the visit was of importance. Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, carrying out separate Russia investigations, were making progress in their attempts to speak to the former MI6 officer. The two men had come with the aim, it was suspected, of intimidating Steele. Nothing discernible appears to have resulted from their trip.

Julian Assange is another UK connection in the narrative. A year before Trump won the election Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, had told his colleagues in WikiLeaks, the organisation he founded, in a Twitter group chat that Hillary Clinton was a "bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath" and it would be better if the Republicans could seize power. WikiLeaks subsequently disseminated emails stolen, as multiple investigations have established, from Democratic Party computers by Russian hackers. Assange is in prison in the UK facing extradition to the US for alleged espionage offences.

A number of Trump associates have been under investigation by Mueller for their links to Assange. These include Roger Stone, a long-term and close advisor to the US president who was arrested last January. He goes on trial next week on charges of lying to congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

There have also been claims that Trump supporters not known to have been investigated by the special counsel had held clandestine meetings with Assange.

Glenn Simpson, whose Washington-based investigations firm hired Steele to compile the Trump report, told a US congressional inquiry in January that Nigel Farage was a more frequent visitor to Assange than was known and that he had passed data on to Assange on "a thumb drive".

Farage had long boasted of his closeness to Trump. On Thursday, speaking to Farage on his LBC show, the US president advised Boris Johnson to form an alliance with the Brexit Party leader to fight the coming UK general election.

The former Ukip leader visited Assange at the embassy in 2017 after returning from a trip to the US. The news of the visit broke after a member of the public saw him go into the building.

...what choice do the loyalists have but to obstruct justice?
Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM

60-40 NATION:

Memo: Polling Medicare for All (Sean McElwee & John Ray, 11/01/19, Data for Progress)

Senator Warren's Medicare for All financing plan, that doesn't raise taxes on the middle class, is supported by a 57-30 percent margin among voters, and it is supported by a 53-32 percent margin among independents as well. Fully 1 in 3 Republicans support this financing plan as well 

Voters clearly support the goal of universal health coverage, with 59 percent of voters saying they would be more supportive of legislation if they thought it would achieve universal coverage. Seventy-four percent would be more supportive of Medicare for All if they knew it eliminated uncertainty as to whether or not a patient could see any doctor without worrying about their coverage

Opponents of Medicare for All tend to have more comprehensive coverage already and therefore likely do not perceive any benefits to them of moving to a different system. In contrast, those with less coverage or with more uncertainty about their current coverage favor Medicare for All

A Democrat running on Medicare for All would defeat Trump in a hypothetical election matchup, a finding consistent across repeated experiments using multiple vendors

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


Fox News Poll: Record support for Trump impeachment (Dana Blanton, 11/01/19, Fox News)

A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. In July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal, while 5 percent said impeach but don't remove him, and 45 percent opposed impeachment. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


Trump Administration Loses a Sanctuary City Case--Yet Again (ILYA SOMIN |THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY | 11.1.2019, reason)

For over two years, the Trump administration has been trying to force "sanctuary cities" to assist federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants by imposing various new conditions on federal grants to state and local governments that refuse to comply. And throughout that time, courts have repeatedly ruled against the administration's plans, on the ground that only Congress can authorize conditions on federal grants to state and local governments. The executive is not permitted to make up his own conditions in an attempt to pressure states into doing his bidding.

The latest such defeat for the administration came yesterday, in a decision issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, addressing a lawsuit brought by the City of Los Angeles seeking to overturn the administration's attempt to impose three immigration-related conditions on recipients of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants for law enforcement agencies.

November 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


The Best Trump Defense (RICH LOWRY, November 1, 2019, National Review)

The best defense Republicans can muster is that nothing came of it. An ally was discomfited and yanked around for a couple of months before, ultimately, getting its defense funding.

All of this bears some resemblance to Trump's alleged obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation. He hated the investigation and wanted it to go away, and even plotted against it, but at the end of the day, Robert Mueller did his work. More specifically, the Ukraine mess is lot like Trump's order, or purported order, to then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. After drama, internal contention, and tragicomedy, nothing happened.

Brought to you by the People's Committee to free Ramzi Yousef!

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Trump clearly deserves impeachment - His defense grows increasingly weak and silly (Jason Nichols, 10/31/19,  Fox News)

Evidence of Trump's impeachable conduct when he pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate potential Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden is so overwhelming that there is little Republicans can do to refute it. So they've taken to complaining about unfairness in the impeachment process - an absurd argument, but all they've got to work with.

The truth is that the impeachment process approved by Democrats Thursday is fair to Republicans, in that it allows them to issue subpoenas and question witnesses. And the process is fair to Trump as well.

The most important point is that Democrats have outmaneuvered Republicans at every turn on the road to impeachment in the House - and impeachment now appears very likely.

Before Thursday's full House vote in support of an impeachment inquiry of Trump, Republicans mostly complained that no such vote had been held, and also objected to the fact that the House Intelligence Committee was interviewing witnesses behind closed doors.

Thursday's vote and the Democratic commitment to public hearings destroyed those Republican talking points. But Republicans keep complaining anyway, saying the full House vote should have been taken earlier and raising every technical objection they can think of in a desperate move to derail the impeachment train that is clearly picking up steam.

Unless you're an extreme partisan and blind follower of Trump who will defend him no matter what, the GOP complaints don't hold up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Syria's Assad calls Trump the 'most transparent president' (QUINT FORGEY, 11/01/2019, Politico)

"All American presidents commit crimes and end up taking the Nobel Prize and appear as a defender of human rights and the 'unique' and 'brilliant' American or Western principles," he continued, "but all they are is a group of criminals who only represent the interests of the American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others."

Assad asserted that Trump, however, "speaks with transparency to say, 'We want the oil,'" adding: "What do we want more than a transparent foe?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


A new study shows that even the poorest immigrants lift themselves up within a generation (Nicole Narea, Nov 1, 2019, Vox)
The adult children of immigrants, almost universally, show more upward economic mobility than their peers whose parents were born in the United States. Indeed, a new working paper by Stanford University's Ran Abramitzky; Princeton University's Leah Platt Boustan and Elisa Jácome; and the University of California Davis' Santiago Pérez finds that this is especially true for the lowest-income immigrants and remains true for the most recent cohorts for which data is available.

Drawing from census data, publicly available administrative data, and federal income tax data, they traced the income levels of millions of fathers and sons over time dating back to 1880. The children of immigrants climbed higher in the income rankings than those born to US natives across history and in 44 of the 47 sending countries they studied.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GOP has mainstreamed white nationalist anti-Semitism: One year on from the Pittsburgh shooting, it's clear that the Trump administration and the GOP, along with their media boosters, have helped create the climate for lethal white nationalist anti-Semitism to thrive. (Ben Lorber, 10/31/19, +972)

We're all used to this pattern by now. White nationalists continue to commit deadly attacks against Jews, immigrants and other minorities, while right-wing leaders continue to deflect from this reality, and instead falsely portray progressive leaders and social movements, from Ilhan Omar to the Women's March, as the chief threats to American Jews. Now, more than ever, we need to understand and confront the threats posed to Jews and other minorities, and multiracial democracy as a whole, by white nationalism and the forces of Trumpism.

It is with this in mind that my organization, Political Research Associates, has just released a new report, "Taking Aim at Multiracial Democracy: Antisemitism, White Nationalism and Anti-Immigrant Racism in the Era of Trump," in collaboration with Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish advocacy group. The report highlights growing white nationalist anti-Semitism in the United States and its amplification by right-wing elected officials, Fox News, and segments of the general public, from the time of the Pittsburgh shooting up to the present.

Since 2016, the United States has seen a frightening escalation of anti-Semitism across the right. This has taken many forms, ranging from Trump's anti-Semitic campaign ads and claims of Jewish "disloyalty" to Republican rhetoric scapegoating George Soros and "globalists," the rise of the internet alt-right movement, white nationalist street mobilizations like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and deadly and attempted violence, vandalism, and arson targeting synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. This anti-Semitism is intimately connected to racist and exclusionary rhetoric, policy and violence against non-white immigrants and other minorities.

White nationalists hold the racist belief that non-white "others" are intrinsically inferior. They also imagine Jews as the shadowy architects behind a strategy to undermine white civilization and carry out the "meticulously planned genocide of the European [white] race," in the words of the Poway synagogue shooter. White nationalists believe Jews are orchestrating this so-called "white genocide" by encouraging non-white immigration and engineering a slew of progressive forces, from the civil rights, feminist, and LGBTQ rights movements to multiculturalism, "political correctness," and more.

These ideas don't just exist on the fringes of the right. White nationalist anti-Semitism is increasingly echoed and reinforced, in dog-whistle form, by prominent right-wing elected officials and media pundits, including Trump himself. These right-wing leaders echo the demonization of liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros and the "globalist" or "cosmopolitan" elite as hidden masterminds of non-white immigration and various "liberal" causes, from present-day impeachment proceedings against Trump to the "migrant caravan" during the 2018 midterms, Black Lives Matter protests, and more. When right-wing leaders voice this rhetoric, it legitimizes anti-Semitic conspiracies while granting it a massive public forum, contributing to a climate that encourages white nationalist attacks on Jews and other minorities.

None of these tactics are new. From early 20th-century Tsarist Russia to Nazi Germany, conservative and ultra-nationalist leaders and social movements have long propagated the fantasy of a scheming, immensely-powerful Jewish cabal that covertly manipulates world affairs. While many forms of oppression "punch down" by declaring groups of people inferior based on race, class and gender, modern European-derived anti-Semitism claims to "punch up" at an imagined secretive, elite class of Jews. In so doing, right-wing leaders and social movements use anti-Semitic scapegoating during times of intense inequality and instability in order to deflect popular discontent and discourage it from challenging the inequitable policies they uphold and benefit from.

As we explain in "Taking Aim at Multiracial Democracy," this anti-Semitism doesn't only threaten the safety and vibrancy of Jewish communities. It also bolsters and amplifies racist rhetoric and exclusionary policy against immigrants, communities of color and other marginalized groups. It serves as an effective scaffolding for full-frontal attacks against progressive movements, and multiracial democracy as a whole.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox News departure: Catherine Herridge joins CBS News, saying 'facts matter' (Brian Stelter, 11/01/19, CNN Business)

In another major defection from the newsroom of Fox News, Catherine Herridge is joining CBS News as a senior investigative correspondent.

Herridge, Fox's chief intelligence correspondent, was a founding employee of Fox News in 1996 and a leader in the network's Washington bureau.

She was in talks to join CBS before Shep Smith, also a founding Fox employee, resigned on October 11 in the middle of a multi-year contract, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. [...]

In a statement released through CBS, Herridge also invoked the importance of facts, but in a way that could be interpreted as a criticism of Fox: "CBS News has always placed a premium on enterprise journalism and powerful investigations," she said. "I feel privileged to join a team where facts and storytelling will always matter."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


40 years on, embassy hostage crisis still haunts US-Iran ties (AFP, 11/01/19) 

Gary Sick, an American official who dealt with the hostage crisis at the time, said the incident was "probably the single best explanation for why we're in the sort of impasse we are right now."

"If you look at everything Iran has done or we have done in the meantime, the kind of punishment that is being meted out to Iran is totally disproportionate," he told AFP in Washington. [...]

The 2015 accord had promised to open up Iran's economy to the world after years of isolation, in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.

Its unravelling made some in Tehran see Washington as untrustworthy in negotiations -- but many young Iranians still see talks as the only way forward.

"I, like the rest of my generation, believe we have never had a problem with the American people," said Khadijeh, a 19-year-old student in Tehran.

The issue is with the US administration's consistently negative policies against Iran, she said, dressed in the long chador gown worn by conservative Iranian women.

"We have tried everything, whether it was fighting or peace... but (America) does not accept anything," she said.

Students who took part in the embassy takeover have voiced similar sentiments.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, was a 20-year-old medical student at the time of the hostage crisis.

She became a key spokesperson for the students, thanks to her fluent English.

Despite her past, Ebtekar was a firm supporter of her government's efforts to rebuild ties with the West through the 2015 nuclear deal, she told AFP in a 2016 interview.

She said she regretted the isolation that followed, but remained unrepentant -- the students had been convinced the US was preparing a coup to reverse the revolution.

"The incident certainly had a cost, but the cost was less than its benefit," Ebtekar told KhabarOnline news agency last year.

Another then-student, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, who later became a reformist politician, in 2014 apologized for the hostage-taking.

"We just wanted to occupy the embassy for 48 hours, and I don't agree with sanctifying the move and thinking we should chant 'Death to America' forever," he said.

Over the decades, some politicians on both sides have wanted to move on, most notably Iran's former reformist president Mohammad Khatami and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

But the crisis scarred the US psyche. According to Sick, now a professor at Columbia University, that helps explain Washington's persistent hard line.

You'd think our helping Saddam slaughter them and shooting down a passenger jet would have balanced the books, nevermind 40 years of sanctions.  We're long past the point where we're just being petulant.