December 13, 2019

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At White House Hanukkah party Trump hails pastor who says Jews going to hell (RON KAMPEAS, 12/13/19, JTA)

Robert Jeffress, a pastor who has said Jews and other non-Christians were destined for hell, was a guest at US President Donald Trump's Hanukkah party. [...]

"Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell," he said in 2009.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called out the Trump administration last year for inviting Jeffress to give the convocation at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM

INCEL-IN-CHIEF (deviance alert):

Trump Doesn't Think Much of Young Women (Zak Cheney-Rice, 12/13/19, New York)

Far from aberrant, Trump's impulse to diminish young girls in particular by characterizing their accomplishments as worthwhile primarily in terms of whether their outward appearance pleases him is part of a pattern. His misogyny is well documented: From his leering behavior at Miss America events to the myriad accusations of sexual assault he faces, not to mention his proud declaration that he grabs women by the genitals unprompted, loom as large over his presidency as they did his 2016 campaign. And despite his repeated denials of physical misconduct, Trump's rhetoric indicates an almost uniformly reductive view of women that privileges how they look above all else. His criticism of Thunberg's seriousness is scarcely different from men on the street imploring women passersby to smile for them. This outlook is no more apparent than in how he's spoken about his own daughters. In a 2006 interview on The View, he said he would "perhaps" date Ivanka Trump were she not related to him. In a 1994 interview with Robin Leach, he was asked which traits then 1-year-old Tiffany Trump inherited from her parents, himself and Marla Maples.

His response, via HuffPost:

"Well, I think she's got a lot of Marla, she's a really beautiful baby," said Trump, who sat next to Maples. "She's got Marla's legs. We don't know whether or not she's got this part yet, but time will tell," Trump added, while cupping his hands to his chest to indicate breasts.

On the subject of girls and what makes them notable, Trump has been fairly consistent throughout his adult life. A man who proudly anticipates his infant daughter's breast size while sitting next to her mother on national TV should surprise no one by criticizing a 16-year-old Time magazine cover star on the basis that she looks too glum. Perhaps less predictable is that casting pejoratives against children would become such a reliable line of attack for conservatives who lack substantive responses to the issues on whose behalf those children advocate. 

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Abbas urges Arab Israelis to vote for Knesset: They can have 'major influence' (ADAM RASGON, 12 December 2019, Times of Israel)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently asserted that Arab Israelis would become a "major influencer" in Israel's politics, if only they would turn out for national elections at similar levels as they do for municipal votes.

He also expressed criticism of Arab Israelis who he said shun the elections in Israel because they consider the Knesset to be a "Zionist council," and lashed out at members of the majority-Arab Joint List party for quarreling over what he described as "trivial matters."

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The Strange History of the Black Hebrew Israelites, as Group is Tied to Jersey City Murders (Mark Potok, Dec. 12, 2019, Daily Beast)

Perhaps the most bizarre thing about Black Hebrew Israelism is the way it mirrors, with only a change in color, the ideas of Christian Identity. Identity is an important white supremacist theology practiced in many Klan groups, along with other entities like the once-important Aryan Nations. Its hardline version describes Jews as the offspring of a literal sexual union between Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, always at work on behalf of their progenitor, Satan.

Black Hebrew Israelism is not the only strand of organized black anti-Semitism in America. The largest black hate group, the Nation of Islam, does not traffic in bible stories but it is heavily anti-Semitic, with its leaders offering a string of vicious comments about Jews along with falsely accusing them of being the primary purveyors of the transatlantic slave trade.

Bizarrely, the Jersey attack came the same day it was reported that President Trump was expected to sign an executive order that effectively treats Jews as a "nationality" rather than a religious group -- despite the undisputed fact that Jews are not a single ethnicity. The vast majority of Jews, for instance, accept that Ethiopian Jews, who are black, are in fact Jewish.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Another GOP state senator won't seek re-election (Times Union, Dec. 11, 2019)

For the fourth time in two weeks, a state Senate Republican incumbent has announced they won't seek re-election in 2020.

Wednesday morning's news came from Rochester-area Sen. Joe Robach, who has served in the chamber since 2003. [...]

Democrats won a significant majority in 2018, taking back control of the chamber for the first time since 2010. The GOP's prospects for recovery next year face the challenge of expected high voter turnout in a blue state during a presidential election year.

Since Thanksgiving, three other GOP senators have made the same announcement: George Amedore of Rotterdam, Betty Little from the North Country and Michael Ranzenhofer of western New York.

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Bevin pardons a KY man convicted of beheading a woman and stuffing her in a barrel ( DANIEL DESROCHERS, 12/12/19, Lexington Herald-Leader)

It's not clear if Betty Carnes was killed by asphyxiation or by the eight blows to her head that Delmar Partin delivered with a metal pipe. The coroner couldn't tell which killed the mother of three first, but it was very clear that her head was then chopped off and placed on her lap in a 55-gallon barrel that was destined for a toxic waste site.

On Monday, departing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned and commuted the sentence of Partin, who was convicted of killing her at the factory where they both worked in Barbourville in 1994.

In his order, Bevin said he pardoned Partin because potential DNA evidence had not been tested. [...]

The prosecutor on the case, Tom Handy, said he hasn't been this angry in a long time. He called the governor's pardon "mystifying." [...]

In the Partin case, Handy painted the picture of a grisly murder, one where no blood was found because Partin used a hook meant for hunting alligators to cut off the blood flow to Carnes' head.

Partin and Carnes worked together at the Tremco Plant in Barbourville and had been having an affair that she had recently ended.

"He hated her so much and he wanted to punish her with her looking at him before he cut her head off," Handy said. "The evil is unimaginable."

There's nothing more on-brand than Donald and his minions raging at women, or girls.

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Anti-Semitism and Brexit shatter Corbyn's dreams of global far-left revolution (ALICE RITCHIE and ROBIN MILLARD, 12/13/19, Times of Israel)

[T]he wider public failed to warm to him, a situation made worse by his refusal to take a position on Brexit and accusations of anti-Semitism and sympathizing with terrorists.

With two seats left to declare, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives inflicted Labour's worst loss since 1935.

One of the first results emphasized Labour's woes, with the former safe seat of Blyth Valley in a one-time mining area in northeastern England voting Tory for the first time in its history.'d better have an attractive personality.

December 12, 2019

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China accuses US of double standards on anti-Muslim bigotry, counterterrorism (Aysha Khan, 12/12/19, RNS)

Hua dismissed those concerns during China's Foreign Ministry daily news conference Tuesday.

"Certain people in the U.S. show unusual concern over Uighurs in China's Xinjiang, but they seem to forget that the United States is the only country that issued a Muslim ban," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Federal judge rules American Samoans are US citizens by birth (Priscilla Alvarez,  December 12, 2019, CNN)

A federal judge in Utah said Thursday that American Samoans are US citizens and should be issued new passports reflecting that.

"This court is not imposing 'citizenship by judicial fiat.' The action is required by the mandate of the Fourteenth Amendment as construed and applied by Supreme Court precedent," wrote Judge Clark Waddoups in the US District Court for the District of Utah. [...]

American Samoa has been a US territory since 1900. Those born in the other US territories -- Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Marianas -- all get citizenship at birth, but that was determined by statute in Congress. No such law exists for American Samoa.

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Greta Thunberg changes Twitter profile to mock Trump tweet (Deutsche-welle, 12/12/19)

Greta Thunberg, fresh off being named Time magazine's Person of the Year, has changed her Twitter biography to reference the most recent unprovoked critique of the 16-year-old by US President Donald Trump.

"A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend," says the climate activist's profile, using almost the exact same words Trump did in response to her winning Time magazine's Person of the Year win.

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Report: Trump's Ukraine Extortion Scheme Was Financed by Russia (Jonathan Chait, 12/12/19, New York)

Trump and his allies insist he has actually pursued a hawkish line in Ukraine. "Mr. Trump didn't withhold military aid to Ukraine, and even if he had he would have merely been returning to Barack Obama's policy of denying lethal aid," argues a Wall Street Journal editorial. "No one has done more to limit Russia's ability to engage in mischief than President Trump," insists Representative Matt Gaetz in a Fox News segment retweeted by the president.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors charged yesterday evening that Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump who represented him in Ukraine, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest. Which is to say, Trump's Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.

Parnas met repeatedly with Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Parnas claims Trump pulled him aside at last year's White House Hanukkah party and personally directed his activities in Ukraine. That allegation remains unproven. What is proven, though, is that Parnas met with Trump numerous times (there are photographs), was Giuliani's official business partner, and represented himself to Ukrainians as an agent of both Trump and Giuliani.

Rudy has worked as Trump's lawyer for "free," but Parnas paid him half a million dollars for his work. If Parnas himself was being paid by Russian sources, this means the Russians were essentially subsidizing Trump, paying for the work themselves so he didn't have to lay out a dime of his own money.

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New rocket attack targets Iraq base housing US troops (AFP, 12/12/19)

Two rockets were fired at a military base near Baghdad airport housing US troops, the 10th such attack since late October, the Iraqi army said on Thursday.

There were no casualties in the overnight attack, which follows one on the same base on Monday that wounded six members of Iraq's elite US-trained counterterrorism force, two of them critically, the army said.

It's not interfering when we do it.
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DOJ IG Michael Horowitz: Investigation into anti-Clinton FBI leaks "continues to this day" (IGOR DERYSH, DECEMBER 12, 2019, Salon)

"Rudy Giuliani and others appeared to receive highly sensitive leaks from the New York FBI field office, leaks that likely contributed to Director Comey's public announcement he was reopening the Clinton investigation days before the election," Leahy said. "What can you tell us about the New York field office's leaks to Rudolph Giuliani and others?"

"We were very concerned about that," Horowitz said, adding that his office has been investigating the alleged leaks. "This continues to this day. We are investigating those contacts."

Horowitz said that his office learned that some FBI employees "violated FBI policy," adding that "we have some investigations ongoing."

These leaks would obviously have been politically motivated, unlike the technical errors on the FISA warrant.
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Judaism is not a nationality: Trump's executive order will lead only to US Jews feeling unsafe and strangers in a land we have called home since we came in 1654 (Michael Harvey, DEC 11, 2019, Times of Israel)

 As CNN reports:

The move would trigger a portion of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin, according to senior administration officials. The Department of Education can withhold federal funding from any college or educational program that discriminates based on race, color or national origin, according to the Civil Rights Act. Religion is not covered in that portion of the law so the administration would have to interpret Judaism as a nationality in order to potentially punish universities for violations.

While there are many conversations to be had about anti-Semitism on college campuses, the criticism of Israel, and free speech, what most Jews should be concerned about is the move by a governmental body defining Judaism. It is certainly possible that the move to define Judaism as a nationality was made in good faith, the repercussions are complicated and dire.

For one, it is not the role of any country or government to define Judaism. In Jewish history, when Jews have been defined as a race, a religion, or a nationality, it has not been for positive reasons; rather, quite the opposite. Jews have been "classified" as certain types throughout the centuries in order to marginalize and remove citizenship. Additionally, Jews do, and should, feel uneasy when a government makes laws about them at all. From the Laws of Constantine (337-361) to the Nuremberg Laws (1935), governments have targeted Jews with laws and definitions for unsightly purposes. Even if President Trump's order was meant with good intentions to curb anti-Semitism, it very well may lead to a misunderstanding of what Jews in America are, and create more problems than solutions.

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Andrew Yang's Campaign Fires Staffer Over Alleged Misconduct As Alyssa Milano Pulls Out of Fundraiser (Julia Arciga & Scott Bixby, Dec. 11, 2019, Daily Beast)

Andrew Yang's 2020 campaign fired an unnamed staffer over alleged misconduct that first surfaced publicly when actress and #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano announced she would be pulling out of a fundraiser for the Democratic presidential candidate over the incident. [...]

The candidate's remarks came one day after Milano announced in a Twitter thread that she would be pulling out of a Dec. 21 fundraiser for Yang over "repeated allegations of sexual misconduct" made by a campaign staffer against another staffer that were allegedly "not appropriately addressed."

"While I have not endorsed any candidate, I do believe Andrew Yang is a good man with progressive, smart, interesting ideas," she wrote. "But this issue is too important and too prevalent. The buck stops at the top."

No wonder the Trumpbots hate her.

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">One by one today, Republicans took turns condemning the FBI&#39;s use of surveillance powers they long supported.<a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) <a href="">December 11, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

The fun part will be when all the same people whine about surveillance failures after the next terrorist attack--if it's by Salafists, not Nationalists.

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Justice Dept Inspector Urges Change To Allow Probe Of Attorney General (Cody Fenwick, December 11, 2019, Alternet)

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) elicited an important and revealing response from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Wednesday when she raised the prospect of Attorney General Bill Barr's potential wrongdoing.

Harris noted that one of Barr's ongoing investigations was "launched to do the bidding of President Trump, [and] has two objectives: One, to undermine the integrity of our intelligence community; the goal, to cast doubt on the finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to benefit the Trump campaign. And two: to intimidate the men and women of our intelligence committee by suggesting that our national security professionals will face serious consequences if they investigate wrongdoing on the part of this president or his operatives."

She said that Horowitz has an obligation "to investigate misconduct committed by the attorney general of the United States, who is doing the bidding of the president to undermine our intelligence community. I trust you take that duty seriously."

Horowitz said that he takes it seriously but that he's legally prevented from looking at the misconduct of DOJ lawyers, which includes the attorney general himself.

"The law has to change, senator," Horowitz said. 

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Trump blocks UN from scrutinising North Korea human rights record for second year in a row (Kate Ng, 12/11/19, The Independent)

This will be the second year in a row the US has failed to support scrutiny by the UN into North Korea's human rights violations.

The move signals a continued desire by President Donald Trump to cajole the hermit kingdom into giving up its nuclear and missile programmes, reported Foreign Policy.

White House persuades Congress to ease up on Saudi Arabia (Bryant Harris, December 11, 2019, Al Monitor)

While both amendments had some degree of bipartisan support, Democrats agreed to remove the substantive impact of each Saudi provision from the final version of the bill during negotiations with the Republican-held Senate. Al-Monitor has learned that Republican negotiators successfully fought to keep the Saudi provisions out of the final defense bill after the White House marked it as a red line.

Oppression of despised groups is the goal of Donald's policies.

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After long delay, lawsuit by Sandy Hook families against gun maker Remington Arms will go to trial in 2021 (Dave Altimari, 12/11/19, HARTFORD COURANT)

A lawsuit by nine families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings against the company that made the gun used in the massacre will go to trial in September 2021.

On Wednesday lawyers for Remington Arms and the families agreed to the date after nearly two hours of haggling before Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. Remington sought a court date in 2022 while Attorney Josh Koskoff, who is representing the families, wanted September 2021.

Bellis said the case has been on the docket too long -- the lawsuit was originally filed in 2015 -- to wait until 2022.

Filing suits--against owners and manufacturers--after every gun incident can raise the costs to an intolerable level.

December 11, 2019

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Who are the Black Hebrews, the group linked to Jersey City shooter? (RON KAMPEAS, 11 December 2019, Times of Israel)

Are they anti-Semites?

Not generally. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies some Black Hebrew Israelites as a hate group, naming one branch in particular, the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. A 2008 report from the center warned that extremism within the movement was on the rise.

"Although most Hebrew Israelites are neither explicitly racist nor anti-Semitic and do not advocate violence, there is a rising extremist sector within the Hebrew Israelite movement whose adherents believe that Jews are devilish impostors and who openly condemn whites as evil personified, deserving only death or slavery," the SPLC said. [...]

Extremist Black Hebrew Israelites hate whites. But some have claimed that the rise of far-right groups is empowering black extremists.

The Southern Poverty Law Center told the Forward last month that black extremism, manifest through groups like Black Hebrew Israelites, is feeding off the rise in white nationalist extremism and attracting recruits.

Tom Metzger, a white supremacist leader, once called the movement "the black counterparts of us."

All Nationalism is the same.
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Prosecutors say Giuliani associate Lev Parnas hid $1 million payment from Russia (Zachary Basu, 12/11/19, Axios)

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York asked a judge on Wednesday to revoke bail for Lev Parnas for making false statements about his assets, including a $1 million payment he allegedly received from Russia in September.

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Ukrainians: Trump Just Sent Us 'a Terrible Signal' (Betsy Swan, Dec. 11, 2019, Daily Beast)

People working closely with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have been in contact with Trump administration officials over the past several weeks discussing the relationship between the two presidents, according to four people with knowledge of the talks. Based on those conversations, Ukrainian officials came to expect that Trump would make a statement of support before Zelensky met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in France for peace talks. A statement might even come via Twitter, they said they were told. 

"Through all the signals we got, we firmly believed there would be a statement," a senior Zelensky administration official told The Daily Beast. 

But as Saturday and Sunday ticked by, there was only silence from the White House. Even as Ukrainian officials have publicly been loath to criticize Trump's pressure campaign on their country, frustrations with Washington have quietly percolated. And last weekend, they were especially acute. 

The novel Trumpist theory that it's not a crime if you do it publicly. Though, in fairness, the Right loves Vlad so it hates Ukraine.

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You Wanted Same-Sex Marriage? Now You Have Pete Buttigieg. (Shannon Keating, December 11, 2019, Buzz Feed News)

To me, and to a lot of other gay progressives -- from ACT UP activists to the queer wing of the DSA -- that moment in March made it suddenly and disappointingly clear that Buttigieg's rise was made possible by a gay civil rights movement that has focused above all else on marriage equality and assimilating LGBTQ people into the mainstream. In lieu of working toward a radically different vision of a more just society, Gay Inc. agreed to settle for the same bad deal that unwealthy straight people already have.

In general, Buttigieg makes the case that gay people like him, and like me, deserve to belong -- in our families, in our churches, and in our communities -- just as much as straight people do. He's right; we do deserve to belong. But Buttigieg is also effectively arguing that queer people's rights should derive from the very institutions we've only recently gained (tenuous) access to, like marriage and the job market. He's insisted that universal coverage for things like pre-K, Medicare, and college education -- policies I believe in, which would guarantee coverage to every individual, regardless of their marital or employment status -- isn't only financially impossible, but wasteful and unnecessary. (Why rely on the state when you've got private corporations or the conservative-approved nuclear family?)

It's not all that surprising, then, that I or other progressive voters who might have been initially optimistic about the prospect of a viable queer candidate quickly soured on Buttigieg after the brief thrill of his early rise. Since March, the mayor has steadily shuffled toward an open spot in the center of the field, and pivoted to attacking further-left candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for what he positions as their pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic plans for gun law reform, universal free college, and Medicare for all. This week, he released the names of his clients from his time working as a consultant at McKinsey following intense public scrutiny over his involvement at the firm. But the disappointment -- and even anger -- of the "Let's Get Buttigieg To Quit" faction is different, and much more specific, than general progressive frustration with a more moderate candidate.

For decades now, queer radicals "against equality" have argued that, from marriage to the military, "seeking inclusion in a system that's based on institutional and economic exploitation is an unacceptable path forward." LGBTQ people, particularly the most marginalized among us, will never thrive in a country powered by capitalism, the military-industrial complex, and mass incarceration. But they -- we -- are clearly a minority within a minority.

...than the way homosexuality was stripped of its transgressiveness and institutionalized.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


Kelly leads McSally in Arizona Senate race: poll (REID WILSON, 12/11/19, The Hill)

 Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), leads among women by a 53 percent to 38 percent margin, while McSally leads among men by a smaller 51 percent to 41 percent margin.
Kelly holds a 10-point lead in Maricopa County, which contributes about 60 percent of the statewide vote. Only one statewide candidate in recent memory has won Arizona without carrying Maricopa. 

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Michelle Obama Talks Bond with George W. Bush After Controversy Over Him Sitting with Ellen: 'Our Values Are the Same' (Adam Carlson, December 10, 2019, People)

"Our values are the same," she said of herself and President Bush. "We disagree on policy, but we don't disagree on humanity, we don't disagree about love and compassion. I think that's true for all of us -- it's just that we get lost in our fear of what's different."

Speaking with PEOPLE in a recent at-home interview, Hager said much the same when asked about the debate.

"I personally, and I think so many of us, miss a time where people who have different opinions get along," she said. "And I yearn for that. I want my kids to realize that we live in a world when people are think tons of different things and we treat everybody with respect and kindness."

The UR had even learned enough in his later years to be an effective chief-of-staff.

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Bougainville votes overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea (Deutsche-Welle, 12/11/19)

Almost 98% of the 181,067 votes cast backed independence for the Melanesian island. 

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Trump campaign video with Thanos shocks artist who created villain: 'How sick is that?' (The Week, 12/11/19)

Comic book writer and artist Jim Starlin, who created Thanos in 1973, told The Hollywood Reporter that the tweet irked him. "After my initial feeling of being violated, seeing that pompous fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego, it finally struck me that the leader of my country and the free world actually enjoys comparing himself to a mass murderer," he said. "How sick is that? These are sad and strange times we are going through. Fortunately, all things, even national nightmares, eventually come to an end."

Let's give Donald credit for a personal insight about what he represents.
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Trump to define Judaism as a race or nationality in executive order for college campuses (The Week, 12/10/19)

Since the relevant federal law, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, doesn't mention religion, the Trump administration is effectively defining Judaism as a race or nationality -- both protected under Title VI, along with "color."

Extremely on brand.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Judge blocks Trump from using billions in Pentagon funds to build border wall (Orion Rummler, 12/11/19, Axios)

A federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction on Tuesday blocking President Trump from using a national emergency declaration to reprogram $3.6 billion in funding for military projects toward building the border wall.

Why do our elites hate racism and defend the rule of law?

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The Great Debate: Chiang Kai-shek's Role in 21st Century Taiwan (James X. Morris, October 29, 2018, The Diplomat)

The debate over where Chiang fits into Chinese and Taiwanese history has many factions. Some believe he was the only leader capable of holding off an invasion of Mao's People's Liberation Army in the 1950s, and without martial law the island would have been infiltrated by saboteurs. Some argue Chiang was a distracted adventurist who got in over his head, which cost him China. Others believe he was a leader who was given a bad hand repeatedly and could only play the cards he was dealt. Kerr wrote how many Western governments were prepared to write Chiang off in the late 1940s, their consular offices in China anticipating a Communist takeover of the mainland and eventually Taiwan. The Korean War helped Chiang's fortunes.

Despite his wartime nickname "Cash My Check," in Washington there existed a significant Taiwan lobby, and Chiang's wife, U.S.-educated Soong Mei-ling, was his strongest diplomatic asset. The Truman Doctrine of containment demanded Chiang's Republic of China could not fall to Mao.

At the end of World War II, Taiwan came under the control of the Republic of China, headed by Chiang. Kerr writes about the initial excitement of Taiwanese to become a leading part of the new China. Prior to 1945 they had been living modernized lives as part of the Japanese Empire. At the retrocession of Taiwan to the mainland, Kerr describes Taiwan as the only place in all of the Republic of China where one could find elevators. The hopes of the Taiwanese were soon dashed as carpetbaggers from the mainland seized authority over the island's industries, self-rule was revoked in favor a special KMT-dominated Governor-General administration, and infrastructure and wealth on the island was plundered for a failing war effort. After less than two years under the Nationalists, protests led to the 228 Incident.

In 1948, the Nationalists placed all of mainland China under a general martial law. This was extended to Taiwan in 1949 in preparation for the Herculean task of evacuating some 2 million Nationalist soldiers, officials, and elites from the mainland to Taiwan. The mainland was lost, but for the 2 million mainlanders, Chiang was a hero. For the next 38 years, as the Taiwan Strait remained a flashpoint, Taiwan remained under martial law. The White Terror, a period coterminous with military rule, saw the arrest and imprisonment of more than 100,000 on the island and the executions of an estimated 3,000 to 4,000. Native Taiwanese and mainlanders were both targets. Disappearances under martial law were common, and memories of late night knocks on the door and the sounds of firing squads along riverbanks are still very real.

Not only did he preserve the conditions that allowed an easy transition to democracy but an economy that is three times China's in GDP per capita. 

December 10, 2019

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Trump attacks handpicked FBI director for accepting results of inspector general report on Russia (IGOR DERYSH, DECEMBER 10, 2019, Salon)

President Donald Trump lashed out at his handpicked Christopher Wray on Tuesday after his handpicked FBI director did not put a positive spin on a Justice Department inspector general report that refuted many of his allegations about the origins of the Russia probe. [...]

"I don't know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn't the one given to me," the president tweeted. "With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!"

It was not the first time Trump complained that his FBI chief had not touted the administration's talking points. When Wray broke with Trump and Barr earlier this year by saying he would not use the term "spying" to describe the FBI's dealings with the Trump campaign, the president slammed him for giving a "ridiculous answer."

Washington Post columnist and political science professor Brian Klaas noted that Trump's remarks were an example of "how disinformation works."

"The president invents conspiracy theories which are amplified by Fox News & Republicans trying to get on Fox News," he tweeted. "Then, a neutral report debunks the conspiracy theories, but they all just lie and pretend it vindicates them instead. Rinse, repeat."

Former State Department official Richard Stengel urged others to "speak out like Director Wray."

"It shouldn't take such courage to simply speak the truth like Director Wray, but other Republicans and political appointees must follow his lead," he wrote on Twitter. "Follow the law."

Multiple current and former Trump administration officials told Axios' Jonathan Swan that Trump "would like to" fire Wray but "can't stomach the trouble of firing another FBI director."

Fun to listen to the Trumpbots claim vindication while Donald and bob Barr raise at the conviction.
Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Donald J. Trump Pays Court-Ordered $2 Million For Illegally Using Trump Foundation Funds  (Attorney General's Press Office)

New York Attorney General Letitia James today released the following statement after Donald J. Trump was forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds at the Trump Foundation for political purposes:

"Not only has the Trump Foundation shut down for its misconduct, but the president has been forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain. Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president's abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law. Funds have finally gone where they deserve -- to eight credible charities. My office will continue to fight for accountability because no one is above the law -- not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States."

There are no bad reasons to impeach him.

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The Case For Impeachment Is Overwhelming (DANIEL LARISON, 12/10/19, The American Conservative)

The case for Trump's impeachment seemed quite strong more than two months ago, and the evidence provided to the House's impeachment inquiry has strengthened it further. The president's abuse of power is not in dispute. It is clear that he used the powers of his office in an attempt to extract a corrupt favor for his personal benefit, and this is precisely the sort of offense that impeachment was designed to keep in check. It doesn't matter if the attempt succeeded. All that matters is that the attempt was made. It is also undeniable that he has sought to impede the investigation into his misconduct. The president has committed the offenses he is accused of committing, and the House should approve both articles of impeachment.

The president doesn't have a credible line of defense left. That is why his apologists in Congress and elsewhere have been reduced to making increasingly absurd and desperate claims. The president's defenders want to distract attention from the fact that the president abused his power, violated the public's trust, and broke his oath of office, but these distractions are irrelevant.

The central question at the heart of this matter has always been whether we will tolerate the president corruptly using the powers of his office for personal benefit. The president's defenders have answered loudly that they will tolerate corruption of the presidency. If we have any respect left for the Constitution and the rule of law, it is imperative that the president is not allowed to escape without facing serious consequences for his abuses. This is important not only to hold the current president in check, but it is also necessary to warn future presidents that such corruption will not be permitted to flourish.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Obamacare had an unusually good day at the Supreme Court: As many as six justices appeared bothered by a Republican effort to undercut the Affordable Care Act. (Ian Millhiser  Dec 10, 2019, Vox)

Maine Community involves about $12 billion in payments owed to health insurers under a program known as "risk corridors." Obamacare's risk corridors program sought to encourage insurers to enter an uncertain new market by agreeing to reimburse a portion of their losses if the insurance company set premiums too low.

After many insurers agreed to sell plans on the Obamacare marketplace, Congress enacted a provision in an appropriations bill -- a provision known as a "rider" -- seeking to prevent the government from making most of the payments under the risk corridor program. The question in Maine Community is whether the government is still obligated by the Affordable Care Act's original promise to make these payments, or whether the rider effectively ended the requirement.

A bipartisan mix of justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Justice Samuel Alito, all had difficult questions for Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the insurers. Ginsburg, in particular, asked whether Obamacare's language, which provides that the government "shall pay" its obligations under the risk corridor program, also permits the insurance companies to sue the government if the money is not paid.

Yet only Alito appeared to be a certain vote against the insurers. By the end of arguments, six justices -- Roberts and Ginsburg, plus Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett Kavanaugh -- all appeared likely to rule in favor of the insurers. Neither Justice Clarence Thomas nor Justice Neil Gorsuch spoke up during the session.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


The South is the epicenter for officers killed by felony gunfire in 2019, FBI data shows (Julia Jacobo, December 10, 2019, ABC News)

Twenty-two police officers in the Southern United States have been killed by guns used by offenders in 2019 -- more than the rest of the United States combined, according to data from the FBI.

Nine officers were killed by felony gunfire in both the West and the Midwest, two were shot and killed in Puerto Rico and none were killed in the Northeast, according to the FBI's Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted program.

The point of their gun policies is that people should be able to kill John Law.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Only About 3% Of Americans Actually Fought About Politics On Thanksgiving (Ariel Edwards-Levy, 12/09/19, HuffPo)

Just 16% of Americans who had a Thanksgiving dinner say politics came up at all this year. Only 3% say things devolved into an actual argument ― a number so trifling that the sample size for a few follow-up questions about the nature of the fights was actually too small to report on.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. backs out of UNSC meeting on North Korea's human rights (Japan Times, DEC 10, 2019)

The United States changed its mind and is now refusing to sign a letter that would have authorized the U.N. Security Council to hold a meeting Tuesday on the human rights situation in North Korea, diplomats said Monday.

Without support from the United States, European and other countries that wanted the U.N.'s most powerful body to discuss human rights in North Korea can't go ahead because they are now one vote short of the minimum nine "yes" votes required, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Are Trump supporters anti-Muslim? (George Hawley, December 4, 2019, Brookings)

In other papers in this project, we learned about increasingly powerful political parties dedicated to immigration restrictions, of well-known political entrepreneurs focused entirely on restricting Islam's influence in European societies, and of right-wing populist governments consolidating their power. Although further right-wing populist victories in Europe are not inevitable, in recent years these movements have effectively shifted the political conversation in their own direction. Many mainstream parties have begun to embrace talking points once relegated to the far-right.

This is less the case in the U.S. Trump's victory has not fundamentally changed the Republican Party or led to substantively significant immigration policy changes. Trump's electoral base furthermore does not seem particularly concerned about Muslim immigration as such -- which is not to say it is especially tolerant.

We can reasonably criticize President Trump for promoting anti-Muslim prejudice, and he may have played a role in promoting these attitudes. A recent poll published by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding showed a small but statistically significant increase in its Islamophobia index over the last year. A poll conducted by the think tank New America additionally found that Republicans are especially likely to view Muslims with suspicion. On the other hand, we should remember that, on average, Republicans have long been likely to express negative views of Muslims and Islam. We should therefore investigate whether we saw a spike in these attitudes after Donald Trump entered the political arena. In my own analysis of the American National Election Survey data, I found little evidence that this occurred. In the 2012 survey, the mean feeling thermometer score for Muslims among all Republican identifiers was about 38. In the 2016 survey, conducted after then-candidate Trump called for a total ban on Muslim immigration, the mean score among all Republican identifiers was a bit higher -- about 45. This is not a definitive finding, of course, but it does indicate that President Trump has not ushered in an unprecedented era of anti-Muslim animus, even among Republicans.

In my own interviews, I came across no subjects seriously concerned about the "Islamification" of the United States. Such sentiments exist in this country, and there is a large audience for Islamophobic rhetoric. However, this particular fear is apparently less politically significant in the U.S. than in Europe. This is likely because Muslims remain a very small percentage of the U.S. population, and are only a small part of the ongoing and dramatic demographic change occurring here. In much of Europe, Muslim immigration is a key source of demographic shifts, and thus of great concern to European nativists. In the U.S., Muslims are just one small part of the broader phenomenon.

Even if anti-Muslim sentiments are just as strong in the U.S. as elsewhere, there are compelling historical reasons to doubt the long-term sustainability of any right-wing populist movement in the United States. Political expressions of these kinds of right-wing sentiments have rarely led to successful long-term organizations. These movements typically form around the personality of a charismatic politician, and then recede from political significance after that politician is defeated or otherwise fades from the scene. Although they had different agendas and styles, this was the case with George Wallace, David Duke, Ross Perot, and Patrick Buchanan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Lighthouse: New England Dread Meets Greek Myth (MARK JUDGE, 12/09/19, Law & Liberty)

The film could be a tale of a man slowly going crazy, or it could be an old New England nautical folk tale about the inscrutability and danger of the sea, or it could be a clever story that brings together a god and a man from ancient Greek mythology. Not being completely clear on the answer is part of the intrigue of the film, which is the work of a young director who over two movies has tapped into what one critic calls "New England dread." A New Hampshire native, Eggers is fascinated with the history of New England, particularly the supernatural history. His first feature The Witch, set in 1630, features period language and was called "perhaps the most painstakingly realized film ever made about colonial Massachusetts, with all the austerity, religious hysteria, and demon goats that implies." "New England is where the European white Protestant culture has been around for the longest," Eggers recently said. "I grew up in a clapboard house in the middle of the woods, and my grandpa lived in a house from the 1740s. You're around creepy stone walls, it's just-it's everywhere. I mean, Paul Revere's house looks pretty creepy."

This cold, haunting Northeastern aesthetic saturates the film. Two men, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), have a four-week assignment at a lighthouse on a small island off the coast of New England. Thomas is a briny tyrant right out of Moby Dick who occupies Ephraim's days with endless chores, all the while preventing the younger man from access to a close-up view of the heavenly glow at the top of the lighthouse. The previous assistant, Thomas explains, went mad because he "saw some enchantment in the light." This film earns the appellation of horror because of its portrayal of a slow descent into madness. The fading ship at the opening was just the beginning, as Ephraim soon begins to second-guess his sanity because he is seeing things, including a mermaid who emits a siren wail that Ephraim finds both irresistible and terrifying.

This is only Eggers' second feature, but the director shows masterful control here. Every creak in the lighthouse itself sounds authentic, and the sweeping rain sounds are so punishing they threaten to spill into the theater. The actors are shot in tight, claustrophobic places. Sound designer Damian Volpe deserves an Oscar for his work, especially for the jarring foghorn noise that shakes Ephraim throughout the film. Actors Dafoe and Pattinson are both excellent.

A key to discovering what is going on in The Lighthouse comes from researching the screenwriters, Eggers and his brother Max. They based the dialogue in the film on passages out of Herman Melville, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Louis Stevenson, and writings by the New England novelist and poet Sarah Orne Jewett. Thomas seems to relish this farrago of New England writers and primary sourced journals from workers at the time. Barking his words behind a wet and bushy beard (for example: "Damn ye! Then let two strike ye dead, Winslow! Hark!"), Dafoe's character is a force of nature here, and his performance could be considered over-the-top until the viewer realizes that he may indeed be playing a god. (Spoilers ahead, so stop reading if you want to see the film fresh).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Explains Trump's Twisted Embrace Of Saudi Arabia? (Daniel Larison, 12/10.19, American Conservative)

We are daily becoming aware of the extent of the administration's corruption, and we still do not fully know the role of foreign money and influence from these countries in shaping the administration's policies. If a president consistently puts the interests of another government ahead of American interests, there is probably something else going on beyond extremely bad foreign policy judgment. Trump's absurd pro-Saudi bias is not inexplicable, but it is still in need of a fuller explanation. 

The Sa'uds oppress Muslims.  Full stop.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump to meet Lavrov, 2 years after he reportedly divulged Israeli intel to him (Times of Israel, 12/10/19)

According to a Vanity Fair report, Trump revealed details of a daring top-secret mission into northern Syria by Israel's Mossad spy agency and elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit in a May 2017 meeting with Russian officials, sticking a dagger into the robust Israeli-American intelligence-sharing apparatus.

December 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


A Perennial Congressional Candidate Beloved by Trump World Was Just Arrested on Stalking Charges (Will Sommer, Dec. 09, 2019, Daily Beast)

A perennial Republican House candidate whose doomed bids against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) have become a cause celebre on the right was arrested Saturday on three felony charges. 

Businessman Omar Navarro has leveraged his frequent campaigns against Waters to become a prominent voice on the far-right, earning more than $1 million in campaign contributions and the backing of Trumpworld figures like controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, and Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn. 

Despite that support, Navarro lost both his 2016 and 2018 runs against Waters by more than 50 percentage points each. Faced with unanimous voter rejection, Navarro has chosen to run again in 2020. But now, he faces significant legal troubles related to alleged stalking of his ex-girlfriend.

appealing to the Trumpbots is about hating the right people: Latinos, Muslims, Jews, women...

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM

PITY THE FLUFFER NUTTERS (profanity alert):

Justice Department Watchdog Crushes Trumpworld's Deep State Dreams: We were told Russia was a hoax, the president was persecuted by Obama, and the real traitors would be locked up. So much for all that. (Rick Wilson, 12/09/19, Medium)

For months, President Trump and his allies have been salivating over a report from the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, outlining what they expected would be a tale worthy of a John Le Carre novel. Taking a cue from Trump, Fox News and a constellation of right-wing media have promised us the report would reveal the smoking guns in the Deep State's plot to destroy the president. The report, a product of Trump's insistence that his servile Department of Justice investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, would unleash the hounds of hell on the Democrats, the Obama administration, and the intelligence community.

Well, the report's finally been released and the results are underwhelming, to put it mildly. Burn this phrase, lifted directly from the report, into your mind: "No evidence political bias influenced the decision to open the Russia probe." As has happened time and again, Trump's ludicrously overwrought promise -- that this was to be a tentpole of his ongoing (and entirely imaginary) war against the Deep State -- was followed by an utterly underwhelming outcome.

The vast enterprise of formerly conservative media outlets now dedicated to trafficking in baroque QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories in defense of Trump will try their best to polish this turd into a diamond, but the chances are slim they'll be able to convince even their own audience of credulous Trump rubes and conspiracy nuts this report means all that much.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


So Much for the Deep State Plot Against Donald Trump (GARRETT M. GRAFF, 12.09.2019, Wired)

Shocking precisely no one who has been paying attention to the facts, the IG report finds in broad strokes that the FBI's investigation of Trump's campaign in 2016 was properly predicated, opened under correct evidentiary procedures, and conducted lawfully. Horowitz did find at least 17 violations of various Justice Department procedures--relating to FISA surveillance applications for Trump campaign adviser Carter Page--but nothing that would give credence to the Trump's long-running grievance that the entirety of the US government was out to get him in 2016.

Instead, Horowitz concludes, the FBI was rightly troubled by the signals it picked up in 2016 that Russia had nefarious designs on that year's presidential election. The FBI had an "authorized purpose" to launch the investigation, Horowitz says, which was briefed to bureau leaders and designated a "sensitive investigative matter." The FBI's use of confidential sources was appropriate, and there is no "documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation" played a role in the case. One by one, Horowitz undermines the key conspiracy talking points of Trumpland--including that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was approached by a CIA plant.

That said, Horowitz does find the numerous failures in the Page surveillance applications troubling enough to merit a review of the FBI's FISA procedures more broadly. "Although some of the factual misstatements and omissions we found in this review were arguably more significant than others, we believe that all of them taken together resulted in FISA applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case," the report states.

Perhaps more than anything, the IG report concludes that the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation was beset by the normal problems of government, large bureaucracies, and team projects, more incompetence and rushed work than conspiracy. At multiple junctures, Horowitz's report stresses that the errors it found were accidental rather than malicious--although, he argues, that should be no excuse.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


A nation's remarkable recovery of trust (The Monitor's Editorial Board, 12/09/19, CS Monitor)

Take it from a country that knows - it is possible to restore lost trust.

On Dec. 9, a day designated as International Anti-Corruption Day, a new Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, hailed his country's latest step in battling corruption. For the first time, Greece will have a single, independent body to probe government wrongdoing. The so-called Transparency Authority, Mr. Mitsotakis said, will also help restore the qualities needed in public life to regain Greece's credibility.

The new graft-busting agency is one more milestone in Greece's odyssey to redeem its reputation. A decade ago, the government admitted it had been lying about the size of the national debt. Instead of being 3.7% of gross domestic product, it was more than 15%. The falsification of official data shook financial markets and almost broke up the European Union's single-currency zone.

Europe's economy spiraled into recession. Its leaders then worked hard to instill a culture of integrity in Greece along with providing it with massive bailouts - the largest ever to a country on the brink of bankruptcy.

That work is steadily paying off. Almost every political party now supports open and rational economic policies, such as creation of the new anti-corruption agency. The government is running a budget surplus that is verifiable. This year, the Athens stock exchange could be the world's best performer. Greece is again borrowing from financial markets on very favorable terms. And its economic growth could reach 3% next year.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Paul Volcker, the Fed chairman who reined in runaway inflation, dies at 92 (DON LEE, DEC. 9, 2019, LA Times)

When Volcker, a Democrat, was appointed in the summer of 1979 by President Carter to become the Federal Reserve's 12th chairman, the nation had lived for years with high inflation, caused in part by oil crises stemming from geopolitical and economic shocks.

Consumer prices were soaring at an annual rate of more than 13% that year. And Americans had become almost numb to the problem: families reacted by making purchases before their money lost value, and businesses routinely bumped up prices and wages.

Volcker wasn't alone in viewing this as inherently unstable for the economy or in thinking that the Fed needed to lift short-term interest rates to rein in runaway inflation. But few had advocated -- or anticipated -- the kind of quick and tough medicine that the new chairman would administer.

Within days of taking office, Volcker began the first of what would be repeated efforts to reduce the money supply and ratchet up interest rates, which would climb to more than 20% in 1981.

The aggressive policy made borrowing costs very expensive, and many feared that Volcker's bold strategy would prove to be too costly. In fact, the economy fell into recession, first in mid-1980 and then again in 1982.

Volcker came under withering criticism. Consumers decried the double-digit unemployment. Lawmakers from both parties vilified the Fed as an enemy of America.

Businesses went even further. Some plastered "Wanted" posters of Volcker and his colleagues. Farmers drove their rumbling tractors along Constitution Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C., near the Fed's marbled building, and home builders dumped piles of two-by-fours at the central bank to show their unsold lumber and the housing market's woes.

"This guy was berated by an awful lot of people, and day after day he just shrugged," Lyle E. Gramley, who watched Volcker's steely performance while serving as a Fed board governor in 1980-85, said in 2014. "He was one very tough guy." (Gramley died in 2015.)

Volcker's approach carried a heavy political price for Carter, contributing to his landslide defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Carter acknowledged as much in a statement issued Monday through the Carter Center: "Paul was as stubborn as he was tall, and although some of his policies as Fed chairman were politically costly, they were the right thing to do," he said. "His strong and intelligent guidance helped to curb petroleum-driven inflation, easing a strain on all Americans' budgets. We are grateful for his service to our country."

In the early 1980s, as the recession deepened, the Reagan White House grew anxious as well, with some top aides deriding Volcker and seeking to pressure him to back off.

But as George P. Shultz, Reagan's economic advisor and secretary of State from 1982 to early 1989, recollected, none of that mattered because Volcker had Reagan's backing.

"He put a political umbrella in effect on Paul," Shultz said in an interview with The Times in 2014, adding that Reagan and others in the administration knew that a solid economy depended on getting control of inflation.

Although Reagan and his Republican Party lost a number of congressional seats in the midterm elections in 1982, the next year, the nation's inflation rate -- which had peaked at nearly 15% in 1980 -- was brought down to about 3%. And the economy began a growth spurt that would last to the end of the decade.

"Paul could think long and act on that basis," Shultz said.

Presidents Carter and Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher provided the cover, but it was the bankers who had to steer the policies that broke inflation and gave us the boom we continue to live in.  Godspeed, Chairman. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Trump dossier author Christopher Steele had a "friendly relationship" with Ivanka: report (IGOR DERYSH, DECEMBER 9, 2019, Salon)

The anticipated report on the Russia investigation conducted by the Department of Justice's inspector general revealed that Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Trump dossier, had a "friendly" relationship with one of President Donald Trump's family members.

That family member was subsequently revealed as Ivanka Trump by ABC News, and the inspector general's report said that Steele denied having a bias against then-candidate Donald Trump when he wrote the dossier.

"He stated that if anything he was 'favorably disposed' toward the Trump family before he began his research, because he had visited a Trump family member at Trump Tower and 'been friendly' with [the family member] for some years," the report reads.

"He described their relationship as 'personal' and said that he once gifted a family tartan from Scotland to the family member," the report continues.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 3:22 PM


Recorded 55 years ago today at Rudy Van Gelder's studio: 

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


DOJ Report Has Trump Fanboys Quivering With Anticipation (Justin Baragona & Will Sommer, Dec. 09, 2019, Daily Beast)

All of which could become a bit awkward for right-wing media types who have been consumed with political fantasies and thirsting for vindication over the promise that Horowitz's report contains damaging revelations about the Justice Department and the Obama administration. It could prove even more embarrassing for QAnon fans who have become convinced that Horowitz's report will set off mass arrests against top Democrats.

Many of Trump's most loyal boosters and sycophants at Fox News have long promised that Horowitz's report was not only going to expose FISA abuses and reveal that the Russia investigation was a politically motivated hoax by the Obama administration, but would also lead to actual jail time for those in the Deep State.

There's a reason we are the elite.  The notion that these yokels could expose us is actually just another silly idea we planted.  Wait'll we reveal that Q is Sidney Blumenthal.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Man Behind the Right Wing's Favorite Conspiracy Theories: Meet David Booth, the fake news peddler who is helping Russia spread its lies. (SETH HETTENA, December 9, 2019, New Republic)

No one is sure where President Trump got the idea that the Democratic National Committee's hacked server was hidden in Ukraine. As the impeachment saga unfolds, even the president's most ardent defenders, from Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, would rather talk about quid pro quos or revive the discredited claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election--anything to avoid discussing an evidence-free case that borders on lunacy. In her powerful testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hill, a former White House foreign policy adviser, characterized the story of the "missing" server as one of the fictions propagated by Russia's security services, and Trump's own staff had made a point of debunking it for the president. Nevertheless, in his fateful phone call of July 25, when the president asked Ukraine's newly elected president to "do us a favor" and track down the DNC server, U.S. foreign policy was officially replaced by a conspiracy theory.

As tends generally to be the case with most of the overheated conspiracy theories lighting up the internet and our political culture at large, the story of the Ukraine-based server is something of an urban legend for the digital age--caroming across our badly warped systems of news delivery from some great Oz-like font of right-wing misinformation, and just as abruptly alighting on our president's diplomatic to-do list. Internet anonymity hides the identities of those behind the curtain who push this and scores of other coordinated assaults on consensual reality, from the insane anti-Semitic libels that inspire­ armed young men to march into synagogues and open fire, to the unhinged speculations of the mysterious "Q" who posts cryptic messages revealing Trump's secret war against a cabal of pedophiles in the American government and Hollywood.

There are exceptions, however. In a handful of cases, it's possible to trace some of the most destructive theories back to their source. Take, for example, the conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was killed in 2016 by a "hit team"; or the campaign seeking to tar Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, as deeply tied to the CIA; or the report that the bones of children were found on Jeffrey Epstein's island--all these myths lead back to one person. In each of these cases, we can confidently trace the confabulation in question to a man named David Lawrence Booth.  

A 64-year-old retired chemical plant control-room operator, Booth is one of the world's foremost purveyors of conspiracies and fake news. Writing under the nom de plume of Sorcha Faal on his website What Does It Mean, Booth and his wife have spent the past 15 years cooking up fabricated tales of impending war, government cover-ups, looming financial collapse, alien arrivals, Satanic acts, earthquake weapons, man-made hurricanes, global apocalypse, and "deep state" machinations of all descriptions. On his website, Booth has falsely suggested that he is an officer in the Mossad or the CIA. The truth about his life is equally fascinating--Booth happens to have been the youngest person ever to attempt to hijack a plane in the U.S.--and an examination of his past, with its links to both Russia and Russian disinformation campaigns, opens a rare window into how and why someone can be drawn into the world of conspiracies.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


American Education's Great Stagnation: Despite higher spending, achievement has flatlined (Charles Fain Lehman - DECEMBER 9, 2019, Free Beacon)

American schoolchildren's educational attainment has stagnated in the 21st century, according to data from two recently updated assessments of reading, math, and science skills.

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released in November, and from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), released Tuesday, indicate that American kids have seen minimal improvement in their academic abilities since the early to mid-2000s.

It's obviously wrong to give NCLB all the credit, but the fact that despite the massive increase in Latino children we've been able to maintain test scores is remarkable.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Expresses Anti-Semitic Sentiments Before a Jewish Audience Again (Matt Stieb, 12/09/19, New York)

In February 2017 -- in case past and future comments proved otherwise -- newly inaugurated President Trump told reporters: "I am the least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen in your entire life." The sweeping pronouncement from the president, who once suggested that Jews might be committing fake hate crimes in order to make him look bad, has not stood the test of his presidency.

On Saturday, speaking before the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, President Trump engaged in the anti-Semitic trope of a Jewish obsession with wealth. Discussing Senator Elizabeth Warren's plan for a wealth tax, he said that Jews in the audience should "be my biggest supporters because you'll be out of business in about 15 minutes." Trump incorrectly said that the plan -- which requires households to pay an annual 2 percent tax on every dollar of net worth over $50 million -- would take "100 percent of your wealth away" and that "you're not going to vote for the wealth tax."

He doubled down on the bigoted tropes, broadcasting a harmful claim about Jewish business dealings. "A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well, you're brutal killers," Trump said. "You're not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice." He then switched gears, engaging in the ancient, yet enduring anti-Semitic claim surrounding Jewish loyalty, which he also evoked in August.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In the US, the 'groyper army' seeks to make anti-Semitism mainstream (RON KAMPEAS, 12/09/19, Times of Israel)

At events around the country, groypers have heckled mainstream conservatives and asked provocative questions -- often about Israel, immigration and LGBTQ rights -- in an effort to unmask them as "fake" conservatives and "frauds." Named for a more grotesque version of the cartoon Pepe the Frog, which has been coopted by white nationalists, the goal appears to be to move conservatism closer to white nationalism, according to Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

In an interview last year, Fuentes said he avoids the term "white nationalist" for purely tactical reasons.

"The reason I wouldn't call myself a white nationalist -- it's not because I don't see the necessity for white people to have a homeland and for white people to have a country," Fuentes said. "It's because I think that kind of terminology is used almost exclusively by the left to defame and I think the terminology and the labels that we use -- I don't think that we can look at them outside of the context of their connotations in America."

The strategy appears to be bearing some fruit. In April, Ann Coulter retweeted a Fuentes tweet on immigration. Michelle Malkin, a Fox News regular, criticized efforts to silence groypers, who she described as "truth-tellers." that the Trumpbots are Racist in Name Only, which is completely unfair.

December 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


The 2020 Democrats and the New Politics of Gun Violence: The movement for tighter gun legislation has been revitalized, and supporting gun control is not the risk it once was. (Margaret Talbot, 12/08/19, The New Yorker)

Public support for stricter gun laws is substantial, and growing. This isn't surprising in a country as haunted as ours is by gun violence. As of December 6th, there have been more mass shootings in the United States in 2019--three hundred and ninety-one--than there have been days in the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a research organization that tracks these incidents. (The G.V.A. defines a mass shooting as one involving a minimum of four victims.) At the beginning of this school year, TuffyPacks, a company that makes "bullet-resistant" backpacks for schoolchildren, reported that its sales were up three hundred per cent. The C.E.O. told USA Today, "A lot of parents go, 'This is a great product and a great idea' and the other half go, 'What a sad world that we have to think about this for our children.' " And, after decades of increasing longevity, Americans are dying at younger ages, a phenomenon in which the rising number of suicides--made possible, in many cases, by easy access to guns--plays a key role.

Despite the relentless efforts of special-interest groups such as the National Rifle Association to defeat virtually any gun regulation, many Americans will no longer accept a brittle and suspect interpretation of the Second Amendment at the expense of human lives. A Fox News poll taken in August, after the killings in El Paso and Dayton, showed that two-thirds of Americans favor a ban on assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. In a survey of likely 2020 voters, conducted earlier in the summer by the polling group GQR, more than one in four said that their views on guns had changed during the past five years, and, of those, seventy-eight per cent said that they had shifted toward stronger laws curbing guns. Asked if they would support a voluntary-buyback program of the kind that Australia instituted in 1996, encouraging people to give up their assault-style weapons, forty-two per cent of the likely voters said that they "definitely" would, and twenty-nine per cent said they "probably" would. Other polls have shown overwhelming support for universal background checks and gun-owner licensing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


Different Drums: a review of 'Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice' & 'Judy' (Rand Richards Cooper, November 9, 2019, Commonweal)

In 1964, at the age of eighteen, Ronstadt moved to Los Angeles, where she joined the exploding folk-rock scene (the movie makes an excellent companion piece to Echo in the Canyon, featuring many of the same places and faces). With Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards she formed the Stone Poneys, quickly becoming known for her mini-skirted, barefooted performances at The Troubadour and other clubs. In 1967 the group did a cover of the Mike Nesmith song "Different Drum," turning it into a hit on their second album. The Poneys originally performed it to a slow-paced, minimal accompaniment that Ronstadt far preferred to the highly orchestrated, up-tempo version the record company released (she was wrong, as she admits fifty years later, with a laugh), and the difference in the two versions nicely glosses the era's transition from folk to rock, the song's mellow folky mournfulness (which echoed the original 1965 rendition by the Greenbriar Boys) transmogrified into pop exuberance. 

After "Different Drum," music execs clamored for Ronstadt. Leaving the group to go out on her own, she proceeded to become the first female mega pop star, racking up five platinum records and no fewer than ten Grammys, and was the first singer ever to be No. 1 on country, pop, and R&B lists simultaneously. Though hugely successful, Ronstadt spurned the personal craziness and decadence of the rock-star lifestyle; making music always remained the whole of it. Her brashness as a performer notwithstanding, she was in fact modest, and prone to persistent doubts about her ability as a singer. (Her manager, Peter Asher, recalls that if Ronstadt saw two people in the front row of a concert whispering to one another, she worried they were saying she wasn't good enough.) Yet once she started singing, those doubts disappeared, vaporized by her voice with its vaulting range, its flexible but always recognizable timbre, its intermittent adornments of vibrato, and its ability to imbue a pop lyric with fierce longing. She was the kind of powerful singer who filled the air and commanded the room.

A rewarding turn in Ronstadt's career, and in the movie, comes at the peak of her fame, when she decided to drastically change her tune and explore interests outside the range of pop music--unexpected efforts that followed the lines of her parents' musical passions. She made three albums of songbook standards with Nelson Riddle, the famed bandleader she grew up listening to. She appeared in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in New York's Shakespeare Festival. And in 1987 she released Canciones de mi Padre, a collection of traditional Mexican songs of her childhood, which became the all-time top-selling Spanish-language album in the United States. As Ry Cooder comments, these quixotic undertakings were brave moves for a pop singer to make. "Her career from then on," Cooder observes, "was music companies telling her she couldn't do it, then her doing it anyway, and the music companies jumping on board just as it took off." You have to love Ronstadt's sheer enthusiasm for music. As the singer herself says, many of her choices "didn't fit anywhere but my heart." We even see her singing with the Muppets on Sesame Street.

Almost in passing, the film captures a quiet feminism, reminding us that Ronstadt rose to prominence in a male-dominated profession in which casual misogyny and the crass exploitation of women were rampant. Her collaborations with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris reverberate with shared pride and pleasure in their accomplishment: strong voices, strong women. And comments Ronstadt offered as a young singer--interviewed on the beach in front of her Malibu home by an even younger Cameron Crowe--include penetrating insights into both the strutting misogyny and the heedless self-destruction of the male rock-star persona. In a later scene, asked on a TV talk show about her willingness to perform in apartheid South Africa, she bristles, then launches into a notably astute analysis of the moral shortcomings of other nations, including the United States.

The Ronstadt who emerges from The Sound of My Voice is not merely a supreme pop diva, but a fearless experimenter and a passionate lover of music. Though she eventually ran into health trouble (a closing and poignant scene shows a faltering attempt to sing in her living room with a musician nephew), she emerges as one of the least troubled pop stars ever, and confronts her setbacks with settled serenity. The film is worth watching merely for its parade of hits--"You're No Good," "When Will I Be Loved," "Blue Bayou," "Love is a Rose," "It's So Easy," "Heat Wave," "Desperado," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"--many of which originated with other groups, and several of which I had forgotten. But for me the high point of the film is seeing Ronstadt sing one of her Mexican ballads, performing with a full orchestra, in a wildly kitschy mariachi outfit. As she belts the song out with fierce, delighted passion, nimbly mastering the complicated Spanish lyrics, you realize you are in the presence not only of a supremely gifted singer, but an irrepressible human being.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


The Battle for the GOP Starts in Georgia (Josh Kraushaar, 12/03/19, national Journal)

On paper, Loeffler is a GOP dream candidate. She's a successful businesswoman, hails from the vote-rich Atlanta suburbs, owns a WNBA team, and has the ability to self-finance an expensive campaign. A longtime GOP donor (including to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign), she hails from the establishment wing of the party. But the same credentials that make her more electable are also drawing hackles from the president and some of his top lieutenants.

Trump wanted Kemp to pick conservative Rep. Doug Collins, one of his closest allies in the House, for the vacancy. Collins, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, had been openly campaigning for the seat. Collins reflects the Trump playbook: He's a partisan fighter defending the president from impeachment, hails from a heavily Republican rural district, and has a near-perfect conservative voting record in Congress.

Loeffler's pathway to winning the special election would be through improving the GOP's standing with women and suburbanites, while making inroads with nonwhite voters. A Collins campaign would rely on rallying the base in a state that still leans Republican, despite recent Democratic gains. Trump, his son, and prominent allies like Sean Hannity have all been championing Collins' candidacy.

What's ironic about Kemp's apparent decision to tap Loeffler is that he won his own election by running a Collins-esque, base-first campaign. Kemp ran as an unwavering Trump ally during his insurgent campaign last year, boasting about his support for gun rights and his hard-line stance on illegal immigration. He wouldn't have won the primary without Trump's surprise endorsement. Without strong GOP turnout in rural counties, he would have risked falling short of Stacey Abrams in the closely contested governor's race.

But Kemp recognizes that Republicans can't win future elections in his diversifying state without appealing to suburban voters in the diverse, fast-growing Atlanta suburbs. He appreciates that deteriorating GOP support among women would be politically devastating to the party in Georgia.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Exclusive: Head of Jewish Democratic Council of America denounces Trump speech as anti-Semitic (MATTHEW ROZSA, DECEMBER 8, 2019, salon)

The executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America told Salon on Sunday that President Donald Trump's recent comments about Jewish voters continue "what has been a very negative stereotype of Jews and money and power."

"He has said in the past that he wants Jews to be the ones counting his money," Halie Soifer told Salon. "He has repeatedly made references to what has been a very negative stereotype of Jews and money and power." After saying that "I think that he must believe it, and that is why he continues to repeat it," Soifer noted that Trump was repeating claims that he has made when "typically speaking extemporaneously, and clearly he's speaking from his heart. It's clear that there's quite a bit of hatred in it." Soifer also criticized Trump for having "views of Jews as driven largely by money, which is why he said at this events that Jews have no choice but to support him, referring to tax cuts."

She added that Trump said "those who don't support Israel, they should -- and this is not a direct quote -- but essentially, they should leave. And then we saw hateful figures like Ann Coulter retweet that video and suggest that Jews are unpatriotic, that they don't love America either. That is a good example of how the president's hatred is amplified by others in the media to continue to spread these anti-Semitic tropes. And this is exactly why anti-Semitism and white nationalism have grown during his presidency."

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Democrats, GOP move in opposite directions on Russia views (Dante Chinni, 12/08/19, NBC News)

In February of 2015, Gallup data showed that more Democrats held a favorable view of Russia (26 percent) than did Republicans (19 percent). But by February of 2019, those numbers had reversed, with 30 percent of Republicans saying they held a favorable view of Russia -- an 11-point increase from 2015. And only 17 percent of Democrats said they had a positive view, a nine-point drop.

There is likely a near 100% overlap of support for Vlad with opposition to immigration, Islam, etc., in the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


People hate shopping for health insurance (Bob Herman, 12/03/19, Axios)

Reality check: During any insurance program's annual enrollment period, most people end up staying with the status quo, if it's an option, instead of picking a new plan.

Fewer than one out of 10 seniors voluntarily switch from one private Medicare Advantage plan to another, according to new research from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The same holds true for Medicare's private prescription drug plans.

Most employers don't usually change insurance carriers, often out of fear of angering workers, and keep plan options limited.

Employees, after several reminders from HR, usually default to what they had.

Fewer than half of people in the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces actively re-enroll in new plans, even though the market was designed for comparison shopping.

Medicaid enrollees in some states have no say in the private plans they get.

Between the lines: Buying health insurance -- a $20,000 decision for the average family -- is more complicated than buying furniture.

Which is why the GOP is so out of touch on healthcare.  People don't choose a plan, they get stuck in one by the employer who's paying for it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:56 AM


Fox News Poll: Biden has edge over Dems in Nevada, bests Trump by 7 points (Dana Blanton, 12/08/19, Fox News)

Fifty-three percent of Nevada voters rate the economy positively, including 22 percent calling it excellent.  For comparison, 14 percent of voters nationally rate the economy as excellent.

Meanwhile, more disapprove (52 percent) than approve (45 percent) of the job Trump is doing. His 45 percent approval roughly matches his 2016 vote share, as Hillary Clinton won the Silver State 48-46 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM

IT'S NOT A pROGRESSIVE PARTY (profanity alert):

How the Cool Kids of the Left Turned on Elizabeth Warren (RUAIRÍ ARRIETA-KENNA, 12/08/2019, Politico)

It wasn't so long ago that you could read an article in Jacobin that argued, "If Bernie Sanders weren't running, an Elizabeth Warren presidency would probably be the best-case scenario." In April, another Jacobin article conceded that Warren is "no socialist" but added that "she's a tough-minded liberal who makes the right kind of enemies," and her policy proposals "would make this country a better place." A good showing by her in a debate this summer was seen as a clear win for the left in the movement's grand ideological battle within, or perhaps against, the Democratic Party. Even staff writer Meagan Day, probably the biggest Bernie stan on Jacobin's masthead, found nice things to say about Warren.

No more. A selection of Jacobin headlines from November: "Elizabeth Warren's Head Tax Is Indefensible," "Elizabeth Warren's Plan to Finance Medicare for All Is a Disaster" and "Elizabeth Warren Is Jeopardizing Our Fight for Medicare for All." In October, a story warned that a vote for Warren would be "an unconditional surrender to class dealignment." Even a recent piece titled "Michael Bloomberg? Now They're Just F[****]g with Us" went out of its way to say that Warren is insufficiently confrontational to billionaires.

Bernie is the only Progressive and he's conspicuously not a Democrat.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


For the Israeli right, Jewish-Arab partnership is the stuff of nightmares: As far as Israel's right is concerned, the very real possibility that the country will be led by a Jewish-Arab partnership is the greatest threat of all. (Eli Bitan December 7, 2019, +972)

In such a government, the ultra-Orthodox parties wouldn't be able to deliver on their campaign promises of gender segregation and ending public transportation on the Sabbath. The secular majority in the Knesset could make regulations for civil marriage, and possibly undo the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on religion in the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was charged with bribery, fraud and breach in late November, wouldn't be able to secure immunity and might even have to resign. Policies regarding Palestinians could be decided by those outside the settler enterprise.

Even though the center-left bloc has much to gain, while the right has more to lose, the heads of the right-wing parties are doing all they can to form a unity government. In speeches, interviews and press releases they describe it as the need of the hour, the people's will, the reasonable and right thing to do. Netanyahu even agreed to be a member of such a government under the leadership of the head of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, merely five months after its establishment. [...]

As far as Israel's right is concerned, the "demon" -- the urgent concern they will present to their voters -- is this: the now very real possibility that the country will be led by a Jewish-Arab partnership. Such cooperation can begin with limited support from the Joint List, the majority-Palestinian party, and continue with an agreement on base lines, then manifest in achievements on the ground, and so on. This is the very development that would collapse the right's empowerment in Israel.

Such a partnership signals a new political agenda: it undoes the segregation and animosity between Jews and Palestinians. It brings light after many years of political darkness that resulted in poor Jews, occupied Palestinians and fearful ultra-Orthodox, mediated by those seeking conflict and oppression. Jewish-Arab partnership is the highlight of the September elections, and it's what's preoccupying right-wing leaders now.

The daily war against such partnership is in full swing. It's taking place on billboards with Arabic letters removed, in hospital departments, in student groups, in colleges and universities, in acceptance committees and cultural events, and in the enactment of the Jewish Nation-State Law.

For right-wing parties, there is a direct link between the cycles of violence in Gaza, the settler enterprise, and quashing any hope for peace; and between supporting  authoritarian leaders around the world and the racial segregation against Palestinians here. A Jews-only politics is one in which the right always wins. Striving for a unity government -- even at the expense of stopping annexation and laws on religion and "loyalty" -- is worth it for the right, even if just to slide the possibility of Jewish-Arab partnership off the table.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


Suburban Legend: Contrary to the media narrative, an urban resurgence has not come at the expense of other communities. (Steven Malanga, Autumn 2019, City Journal)

For more than a decade, leading urbanists and their media disciples have touted the idea that a resurgence of cities was occurring at the expense of suburbs, a trend that amounted to a historical reversal of American living preferences. The revival of some central business districts and the gentrification of old industrial neighborhoods into hip new urban enclaves fed a back-to-the-city narrative, while an exodus of the poor into nearby suburbs and a Great Recession-era plunge in housing values sparked conjecture that the classic suburb was in decline. Much of this narrative is anecdotal, however, or relies on selectively chosen data. Comprehensive research on hundreds of urban and suburban neighborhoods over the last four decades, published earlier this year, tells a different story. While the demographics of cities and suburbs are changing, the suburbs have continued to outperform urban neighborhoods on multiple economic and demographic variables, solidifying their hold on American wealth and status. The good news is that the urban revival in many places is real. The better news is that it hasn't come at the expense of other communities.

The terms "city" and "suburbs" are often used imprecisely. To get at the heart of the way communities are changing, Harvard researcher Whitney Airgood-Obrycki examined the nation's 100 most populous metropolitan areas in detail--classifying census tracks within each area as either urban, inner-ring suburb, or outer-ring suburb. She also subdivided suburban communities based on when they were developed: pre-World War II, postwar, and modern. Airgood-Obrycki then graded each neighborhood on factors like income levels, education, occupations of residents, and housing values, and tracked communities' progress over time.

What the data yield is illuminating. Most of the nation's "high-status" communities--neighborhoods in the top quartile of economic and demographic performance--are suburban. And the suburbs' advantage over cities has increased over time, from 68 percent of the top-performing neighborhoods in the 1970s to 74 percent by 2010. Incomes are considerably greater, moreover, among suburban communities that rank among the highest-status neighborhoods than among city districts that also fall into that category. At the same time, the suburbs have done a better job of holding off decline. Among areas that have seen average household incomes shrink, the declines have been deepest in city neighborhoods, not struggling suburban areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the suburbs maintained their advantage to some degree because of development. Some of the biggest gains recorded in the study came in newer suburbs. By contrast, older suburbs--typically, inner-ring areas closest to cities--accounted for fewer gains.

The most effective anti-poverty/educational reform program would be to move inner city residents to the suburbs. Of course, the prospect of minority kids attending our kids' schools is why the idea of just busing is greeted with such hysteria.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


In Baghdad, protesters wary amid growing atmosphere of suspicion (Middle East Eye: 7 December 2019)

"There are good people here, but also bad people, drunk people and people on drugs. Each person does what he likes," said Mohamed, a protester at a bookstand near Tahrir Square. "It's the same with the Molotov cocktails being used by some protesters, which is really wrong, especially because some of us just want to carry the Iraqi flag."

Mohamed accused troublemakers at the demonstrations of increasingly using what started out two months ago as largely peaceful protests as a cover for their own ends. 

"At night, some people come with knives and light weapons and try to destroy the protest from within," Mohamed said. "We don't know what to do, and there's no one here to say what's wrong and what's right."

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


After Stephen Miller's white nationalist views outed, Latinos ask, 'where's the GOP outrage?' (Suzanne Gamboa, 12/07/19, NBC News)

It wasn't the content of White House adviser Stephen Miller's leaked emails that shocked Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, but the silence of her Republican colleagues that has followed.

Miller is the architect of President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policies that have separated children from parents, forced people seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico under squalid conditions, instituted the Muslim ban and poured money from the military into border wall construction. The administration is currently under fire for the deaths of migrant children and teens who have died while in government custody.

In a trove of emails provided to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, Miller cited and promoted white nationalist ideologies of white genocide, immigrants as criminals and eugenics, all of which were once considered fringe and extreme. White nationalists embrace white supremacist and white separatist views.

Three weeks after the emails were made public, Miller still is in the White House. Only Democrats have called on the White House to rid itself of white nationalism.

"It really has been jarring (that) the president's enablers and Republicans have not stood up and said, Mr. President, this is unacceptable," Escobar said in an interview. "I would implore my Republican colleagues to join us in calling for Stephen Miller's resignation," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


R Is For Republican -- And Russian (Cynthia Tucker, December 8, 2019, National Memo)

Because Trump has completely taken over the Republican Party, so has Putin. His GOP lackeys are going around repeating the discredited propaganda that Putin must have whispered into Trump's ear: that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this month, on NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), insisted that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election to assist Hillary Clinton. Newsman Chuck Todd, the astonished host, pointed out that U.S. intelligence experts had given lawmakers a briefing to warn them that the lie about election interference by Ukraine was "a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine."

Kennedy told Todd he had not attended that briefing. It probably would not have mattered, anyway. Kennedy already had his directive: Go forth and spew the lies that Russia has given Trump and Trump has given to his lapdogs. If that isn't treason, what is?

Putin could not have wreaked so much havoc without help from other sources -- some, perhaps, unwitting. During the 2016 presidential campaign, American journalists enthusiastically spread details of stolen emails that were damaging to Clinton and to Democratic Party elites, though it is now clear that some were likely stolen by Russian hackers. Then there is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who ignored President Barack Obama's warnings that Putin's propagandists were abusing his internet infrastructure. Still, of all Putin's accomplishments inside our country, his takeover of the Republican Party is the most staggering -- and the most dangerous.

...Mitch just wants election help.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


New drive to honor Europe's forgotten Muslim soldiers (Deutsche-Welle, 12/08/19)

The giant Menin Gate in the Belgian town of Ypres echoes with the mournful tune of the Last Post played by buglers from the local fire brigade.

The ceremony, watched by hushed school groups, has been repeated every night at eight o'clock since 1928 apart from the years of German occupation during the Second World War. It commemorates soldiers who fought and died for Britain in the First World War.

The walls of the gate are covered with the names of 54,607 soldiers who were killed in Belgium and have no known grave. Among them are 412 soldiers from India including Muslims such as Bahadur Khan of the 57th Wilde's Rifles, who fell during the First Battle of Ypres on October 28, 1914, and Nur Alam of the 40th Pathans, killed on April 26, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres. 

The role played by these soldiers and their 2.5 million fellow Muslims who fought for Britain, France and Russia in a war not of their making has been under-researched in comparison with the extensive accounts of Western troops in poems, diaries and histories.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Katz says military strike to stop Iran remains 'an option' (Times of Israel, 12/08/19)

Israel is prepared to attack Iran militarily if sanctions don't force it to curtail its nuclear program and attacks on Israel, Foreign Minister Israel Katz told an Italian daily over the weekend.

Asked by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on Friday if a military strike on Iran were a possibility, Katz affirmed "it's an option. We will not allow Iran to produce or obtain nuclear weapons. If the only option left to us is the military option, we'll act militarily."

The central fact of the iran hysteria is that they have nukes targeted at them but none aimed at anyone.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Massive leak debunks UK Labour's claim it is dealing with anti-Semitism (MICHAEL BACHNER , 12/08/19, Times of Israel)

Documents refuting claims by Britain's Labour party that it is adequately dealing with rampant anti-Semitism within the party have been leaked and were reported Sunday, days before the country's general election.

The leaked files from the main UK opposition party's internal disciplinary department show that many Labour members, several of whom had called for the extermination of all Jews, remained in the party for months and even over a year and were given a lenient punishment or none at all, according to The Sunday Times.

Speaking to Israeli-American group, Trump slams Jews who 'don't love Israel enough' (JOSEFIN DOLSTEN, DECEMBER 7, 2019, JTA)

President Donald Trump slammed American Jews who he said did not sufficiently "love Israel."

"So many of you voted for the people in the last administration. Some day you will have to explain that to me because I don't think they like Israel too much," the president said Saturday evening at the Israeli-American Council's annual conference.

December 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Horowitz report expected to clear FBI of misdeeds in Russia probe (MARTY JOHNSON, 12/07/19, The Hill)

The Justice Department's report that is expected to conclude that the FBI's federal investigation into potential links between Russia and President Trump's 2106 campaign wasn't politically motivated will be released Monday. 

Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who wrote the report, is said to have found that there was enough evidence to justify the FBI wiretapping Carter Page, Trump's former campaign adviser who reportedly had contact with Russian officials multiple times.

People familiar with the report told the Los Angeles Times that the contents of the report will not only exonerate the FBI but also largely dismiss claims from the Trump administration and its allies that the federal agency broke the law in search of evidence and purposely went after Trump's campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Tucker Carlson's New Crush: The Fox News host goes full anti-Semite in his latest rant, a love letter to Henry Ford (Liel Leibovitz, December 7, 2019, The Tablet)

On a ten-minute-long segment of his show earlier this week, Tucker Carlson lamented the state of American capitalism. "During the last gilded age, 125 years ago," he told his viewers, "America's ruling class may have been ostentatiously rich, but it was still recognizably American." He checked off a few of that class's most luminous names--Carnegie, Rockefeller, et al--before stopping to heap praise on one man in particular: Henry Ford.

"In January of 1914," Carlson lectured, "Henry Ford more than doubled the prevailing factory wage, to a then-astounding five dollars for an eight hour day. Ford didn't have to do it, but his company was succeeding and he thought he should. Some historians trace the creation of the American middle class to Henry Ford's decision."

Among other things historians trace to Henry Ford is The International Jew, a 91-article series he had his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, publish. The Jewish plan, Ford's paper enlightened its readers, was "to control the world, not by territorial acquisition, not by military aggression, not by governmental subjugation, but by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange." Adolf Hitler called Ford an inspiration and kept a portrait of the American industrialist by his desk.

Over on Fox News, the admiration flowed along the same path on Carlson's show. Unlike the all-American Ford, the TV host continued, our nation today was being ravaged by one greedy moneyman in particular: venture capitalist Paul Singer.

In contrast to past and Protestant paragons of American civic-mindedness, Carlson thundered, Singer made his wealth "feeding off the carcass of a dying nation," rapaciously robbing hard-working and industrious folks in America and the world over by acquiring their enterprises and sucking their lifeblood.

you don't have to scratch much of the veneer off a Trumpbot before you get to the traditional hates.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Special report: The coming health care collision (Sam Baker, 12/07/19, Axios)

Health insurance through an employer -- the way most Americans get it -- costs an annual average of almost $23,000 to cover a family. That's enough to buy a new Volkswagen every year.

While those costs keep rising, Americans' life expectancy is falling.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


Sock It To Me: In Praise Of An Evergreen Holiday Gift (Scott Simon, December 7, 2019, Weekend Edition)

It's the holiday gift for when you can't think of what else to give. Good for old, young, women, men, north, south -- NPR even sells 'em! Socks. And they are having their moment. "Socks have gone through their ups and downs and have had very very many different moments in the fashion world, and there's certainly a resurgence today, as you have probably noticed," says Steven Frumkin, a dean at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "People want to make a statement, and one of the nice ways of doing it is to have a pair of socks that says something."

...than a pair of Darn Tough socks.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Trump's Plot To 'Investigate The Investigators' Is A Flop (Jefferson Morley, December 7, 2019, National Memo)

For months, the names of Michael Horowitz and John Durham have figured in the pounding rhythms of right-wing media in which a heroically afflicted president faces down his perfidious enemies. A steady drumbeat of reports from Fox News, echoed by President Trump and Republican loyalists in Congress, proclaimed these two obscure Justice Department officials would get to the bottom of an alleged conspiracy against the Trump presidency.

They would, in Trump's words, "investigate the investigators." It was oh so promising.

"I will tell you this," Trump blustered on October 25. "I think you're going to see a lot of really bad things," he said. "I leave it all up to the attorney general and I leave it all up to the people that are working with the attorney general who I don't know. ... I think you'll see things that nobody would've believed."

Horowitz, as the DOJ inspector general, had the narrower assignment. He was tasked with investigating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants issued to intercept the communications of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz had to answer the question: Was Page targeted for political reasons, perhaps based on the famous "Steele Dossier"?

Durham, a senior U.S. attorney in Connecticut, has a broader brief: to review the FBI's decision to open an investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians in 2015. Durham was selected for the job by Barr.

For those inclined to believe Fox News and the president, the "deep state cabal" that allegedly targeted Trump was running scared. In early October, Fox News reported that "Barr and Durham traveled to Italy recently to talk to law enforcement officials there about the probe and have also had conversations with officials in the U.K. and Australia about the investigation." From this report, the Daily Caller imaginatively extrapolated that Durham's probe had expanded to include "looking at the activities of foreign intelligence agencies." (One British official told the Independent that Barr and his minions asked, "in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services.") On October 22, the Washington Examiner said Durham was "scrutinizing four key figures"; the Spectator, a right-wing British magazine, claimed former CIA director John Brennan was in "Durham's crosshairs."

And so on.

Trump's words, ironically, are coming true. Horowitz, it is now reliably reported, found that the Trump/Fox News talking points about a "deep state" conspiracy against Trump are, in fact, "things that nobody would've believed."

Horowitz's report, says USA Today, is "expected to conclude the FBI was justified in launching its two-year inquiry into the Trump campaign and possible ties to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election."

The Washington Post reports that Durham has already disappointed Trump.

you'll have to excuse Donald and the Trumpbots for being so hysterical this week, their fever dreams are breaking.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Gov. Laura Kelly's approval rating in Kansas tops President Donald Trump's (Tim Carpenter, Dec 6, 2019, Topeka Capital-Journal)
Kansans participating in a statewide political survey expressed greater satisfaction with the job performance of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly than Republican President Donald Trump, who finds himself underwater in the deeply red Midwest state.

The annual survey by Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs showed 44.1% were satisfied with the president who easily carried the state three years ago and that 44.3% were dissatisfied with the investigation-tarnished president.

Kelly, who took office in January after eight years of GOP leadership in the governor's office, held support of 52.7% surveyed. At the same time, 26.4% were dissatisfied with her performance as Kansas' chief executive.

On Friday, Kelly said she would continue to operate in a bipartisan manner to "rebuild the state and ensure that everyone has a seat at the table."

"Kansans value strong schools, safe roads, fiscally responsible policies and they expect their elected officials to work together," she said. "I ran for governor of this great state because I share these same values. And, it is how I've governed since taking office."

In 2016, Trump captured 56.6% of the vote in Kansas to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's 36%, a gap of 20.6 percentage points. Kelly prevailed in the November 2018 election by winning 48% of the vote compared to Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach's 42.9%.

All the battlegrounds are red.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Trump's Approval Rating Should Worry Republicans (Jonathan Bernstein, December 4, 2019, Bloomberg)

[T]hrough 1,048 days, his average approval rating is back to being the very worst of the polling-era presidents. According to FiveThirtyEight, he's at 41.6%; the next worst at this point was Barack Obama at 44%. Disapproval ratings tell an even worse story: At 53.5%, Trump is the only president through 1,048 days topping 50% (with Obama again the next-worst at 49.7% and no one else above 42%).

This is dangerous territory for Republicans. Even if Trump rallies between now and November, it may be too late to help his party much. Candidate-recruitment season is already well underway, and those updates at Inside Elections mostly reflect how certain seats are becoming easier for Democrats to defend or harder for Republicans to hold based on decisions by politicians who are anticipating a tough contest for the president's party.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Schiff: Pence aide provided new impeachment evidence -- but VP's office classified it (ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 12/06/2019, Politico)

A national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence submitted additional classified evidence to House impeachment investigators about a phone call between Pence and Ukraine's president, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff revealed Friday.

In a letter to Pence, Schiff (D-Calif.) asked the vice president to declassify supplemental testimony from the aide, Jennifer Williams, about Pence's Sept. 18 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, arguing that there is no "legitimate basis" to keep it secret.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Loving the "other" (Greg Weeks, Dec 4, 2019, St. Loiuis Post-Dispatch)

New York Magazine's Intelligencer ran an article titled, "The Trump-Loving Town and Its Favorite Undocumented Immigrant." The author interviewed some of the Bluff's residents who got to know him. They were impressed both by Garcia's hard work ethic and his compassion for others, such as mowing lawns for the elderly free of charge.

"He changed me," one person said. Another added, "I didn't grow up around people like him, but if the world had a few more people like him, the world would be a better place."

This has no doubt initiated an inner struggle among some of these residents. How do you reconcile a get-tough policy of blanket deportations when you know that people like Garcia -- who make the world a better place -- will be sent back?

Dealing with such a conflict can lead to plowing under the barrier to simple human compassion. Stereotypes fly when you have the opportunity to get to know a person.

I am proud of the people in Poplar Bluff who played the Good Samaritan to Alex. Giving him food, shelter, a job and respect. They reached out to someone different from themselves and gave him a chance. It doesn't matter what political party you're from. It matters what's in your heart. And they, in turn, were rewarded by a broader world view that welcomes the stranger.

It is wrong to stoke fear of the stranger in our midst or on our border. The people from my hometown demonstrated that the surest antidote to ungrounded fear is risk-taking love, which treats people as persons and not as labels.

Speaking of labels, perhaps the most inaccurate of all is the label "stranger." There are really no strangers, as if they're from another planet. We are all on this planet. We all share the amazing human experience.

It's not a burden or obligation to welcome a fellow traveler; at least an innkeeper provided a stable for Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem. It's a privilege, and getting to know their stories and personalities enables us to live more deeply in our own lives. If we work on including and learning, not excluding and judging, we might be surprised by the number of Alex Garcias in our midst.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


The Rise of the New House Labels Is Reshaping Retail (Shira Ovide, November 4, 2019, Business Week)

Store brands have come a long way from blah boxes of knockoff Cheerios: Americans are increasingly piling their virtual and IRL shopping carts with in-store brands of everything, whether coffee, batteries, suit jackets, or midcentury modern sofas. Because stores don't have to hand over part of each purchase price to Coca-Cola Co. or Levi Strauss & Co., they're often able to sell their own brands for less--and make more money.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


The secret of creating happy societies (Sam Wren-Lewis, 12/07/19, The Conversation)

More recently, New Zealand introduced its first "wellbeing budget," with a focus on improving the wellbeing of the country's most vulnerable people.

Such initiatives tend to broadly agree over the conditions required for a happy society. According to the World Happiness Report, there are six key ingredients for national happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity. Scandinavian countries--which typically top the global happiness rankings (Finland is currently first)--tend to do well on all these measures.[...]

The more we focus on our list of desired things, the more we fail to see what really matters. When we are certain of the things that make us happy, and urgently try to achieve them, we fail to appreciate the value of the things we already have and the multiple unknown opportunities we have yet to discover. When things inevitably go wrong in our lives, we blame others or ourselves instead of learning from what happened.

Psychologists are beginning to understand the limits of this. Happy individuals tend to have humility as well as certainty; curiosity as well as urgency; and compassion as well as blame.

We can apply these same lessons on a national scale. Creating a happier society requires not just promoting what matters, but also promoting the capacities for discovering what matters.

We know this on an institutional level. In education, we know that it is important to promote curiosity and a love of learning as well as good exam results. In academia, we know that, although we can discover important scientific truths, almost all of our current scientific theories might be surpassed by other theories and we should remain open minded. We know that the appeal and relevance of religious institutions depends on balancing dogmatic teachings with mystery and curiosity--order and faith on the one hand, openness and flexibility on the other.

Creating a happy society does not just depend on creating the right conditions. It also depends on creating the right institutions and processes for discovering those conditions. The irony is that members of the happy society described at the beginning of this article--who tend to be at ease, untroubled, quick to laugh, expansive and self-assured--are probably less focused on what makes them happy and more focused on exploring what really matters--with humility, curiosity, and compassion.

Eliminating the labor component from wealth production will not only relieve economic stress but afford time to focus instead on what matters spiritually.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


American freed by Iran in prisoner exchange (NAHAL TOOSI, 12/07/2019, Politico)

An American graduate student who had been detained in Iran for more than three years has been freed after the Trump administration agreed to a prisoner exchange with Tehran. [...]

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, meanwhile, tweeted out a picture of himself and Soleimani in a plane, with the phrase "going home." He also confirmed Wang's release in another tweet.

Iran is ideally positioned to exploit Donald's desperation for any kind of foreign policy deal.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


The quest for national sovereignty (Deutsche Welle, 12/07/19)

Bougainville, an island of just 250,000 inhabitants, belongs to Papua New Guinea -- but it may not be for long. The tiny Pacific island has held an independence referendumand, according to experts, Bougainville's residents look set to overwhelmingly back the nonbinding vote. The results are expected later this month. 

While independence movements like those in Catalonia and Scotland have made headlines in Europe lately, independence referenda and movements are much more widespread in Oceania and the surrounding area today. East Timor, previously annexed by Indonesia, was the first country in the region to gain independence in the 21st century.

"There is one thing that unites all pacific island states: namely their colonial past," said Hermann Mückler, a professor of social and cultural anthropology at Vienna University.

...the reality is that support for Transnationalism--outside the sphere of trade--is virtually nonexistent: all of the forces are centrifugal..

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Report: NH growing older, more diverse (DAVID CORRIVEAU, 12/07/19, Valley News)

As of July 1, 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 1,356,458 people lived in New Hampshire, about 3% more than than the 2010 Census had counted.

Many of those who have been moving in -- from abroad as well as from other states -- "have been better educated than those leaving and thus increase the state's store of intellectual capital," Johnson wrote. "Even during the worst of the (recent) recession, New Hampshire had a net gain of migrants with a college degree or more." [...]

Johnson reports that the decline of the white majority from 95.1% in 2000 to 90% in 2018 represents "a doubling of the proportion of the state that is minority, from 61,600 ... to 136,000, and this growth accounted for two-thirds of the small increase in the entire population" over those 18 years.

Johnson added that Hispanics now account for 3.9% of Granite Staters, to 2.9% for Asians and 1.4% for African Americans, living particularly "in the Concord-Mancheser-Nashua urban corridor, as well as in the Hanover-Lebanon region and in a few areas of the Seacoast," he wrote.

People of color of child-bearing age are repopulating at a much higher rate than their white peers in the state.

"In all, 15.5% of New Hampshire's children belonged to a minority population in 2018," Johnson wrote. "As we look to the future, the proportion of New Hampshire's population that is minority will continue to grow."

December 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


A Saudi Military Trainee Killed 3 People In Florida In The Second Shooting At A Navy Base This Week  (Julia Reinstein & Otillia Steadman, BuzzFeed News)

Three people were killed and eight others injured when a trainee from the Saudi Arabian Air Force opened fire at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida early Friday.

Two people died at the scene, and another died after being transported for treatment. At least seven others were taken to local hospitals. Officials said the shooter was also killed.

Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


Staff fired, protest planned after Bettendorf forum features far-right nationalist (GIANG NGUYEN, UPDATED AT 07:43PM, DECEMBER 5, 2019, WQAD)

BETTENDORF, Iowa -- Iowa congressional candidate Bobby Schilling has fired his campaign political coordinator. The blowback comes after an immigration forum at a church in Bettendorf on Monday that featured a far-right activist with links to nationalists. [...]

Athena Galbraith, a Davenport mom, was not at the event, but learned about it in the media. She said she felt compelled to speak out.

"It was scary that it hit close to home." She said her concern was not just Fuentes' presence, but the general rhetoric against immigrants at the forum.

"They were issuing hate statements against immigrants and illegal immigrants."

"If you're Christian, if you go to church, you know that everything that was said that night goes against everything you know, as far as Christianity. This is not the place for that. The Quad Cities are a diverse beautiful inclusive community. This is the place we celebrate each other's differences, we don't hate."

She plans to organize a protest against hate on Sunday at 9am at Pleasant View Baptist Church.

Pastor Ed Hedding of Pleasant View Baptist Church said a last-minute venue cancellation led to his church being used for the forum.

"We did not plan nor organize the event. Nicholas Fuentes' presence was a surprise to us and the entire audience. His veiled speech masked ideas that are quite unchristian and unsupported by Pleasant View Baptist Church," he said in a statement.

Based on his NumbersUSA score, there's no reason he wouldn't invite Fuentes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"We made it up": Ex-Infowars editor says he published lies about Muslim community to spread hate (IGOR DERYSH, DECEMBER 6, 2019, Salon)

The day before Jones interviewed then-candidate Donald Trump on his show in 2015, Owens wrote that he traveled to Islamberg, a Muslim community in rural upstate New York, where Jones had instructed him to investigate what he called "the American Caliphate."

Though the Muslims that lived in the community had not been connected to any violence and some had publicly denounced ISIS, Jones wanted to push the far-right rumor that the community was a "potential terrorist-training center," Owens wrote.

Owens said he and a reporter tried to lie their way into the settlement but were unable to get in after the community had come under threat. Days before the trip, the FBI had issued an alert for a man named Jon Ritzheimer, who had threatened a terrorist attack against Muslims.

After a law enforcement agent called to confirm their identities, Jones wanted to spin the incident as "an attempt to intimidate us into silence," Owens wrote.

"He even went so far as to include Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, in the purported conspiracy, claiming he wanted to abolish the Second Amendment -- and that somehow intimidating us would achieve that," he added.

Owens and the reporter did speak to a nearby sheriff and mayor, who both told them that the people of Islamberg "were kind, generous neighbors who welcomed the surrounding community into their homes, even celebrating holidays together."

"The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones's audience," he wrote. "We ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative."

Infowars soon published headlines like "Shariah Law Zones Confirmed in America," "Report: Obama's Terror Cells in the U.S.," and "The Rumors Are True: Shariah Law Is Here!"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How John Solomon Undermined Journalism: He been acting as a political operative, not a reporter. (Nancy LeTourneau, December 6, 2019, Washington Monthly)

I first noticed stories by Solomon when I began tracking down the origin of the smears about the Clinton Foundation. He wrote volumes spreading those lies. As it turns out, one of his sources was Victoria Toensing, a pattern that has persisted to the current impeachment hearings about Ukraine. At the time, Toensing was representing an undercover FBI informant who claimed he could blow the whistle on Clinton corruption.

What we eventually learned is that the Justice Department determined that they had "serious credibility concerns" with Toensing's client and that there were inconsistencies between his testimony and the documents they had obtained as part of their investigation.

You might, however, notice a pattern here when I point out that, while Solomon was collaborating with Toensing, the same lies about the informant were being repeated by Trump on Twitter and by Representative Devin Nunes on Fox News. The cast of characters looks very familiar, doesn't it?

Solomon went on to write about the Trump-Russia investigation. He specifically focused in on the Steele dossier and often quoted anonymous sources that sounded an awful lot like members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Since March, Solomon has been writing articles related to Giuliani's Ukrainian racket - including smears against Ambassador Marie Yavanovitch, claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, and attacks on the Bidens. He admitted that Lev Parnas is the one who connected him to the source of much of his material--former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko.

Documents shared with congress by the State Department inspector general give us an inside look at how these kinds of stories were coordinated.

Included in the roughly 50-page packet was an email from Solomon to Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas previewing an article he'd written that was not yet published...

After that email became public, Solomon claimed he was simply fact-checking the piece before it was published. But Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas are not mentioned in the article, raising the possibility that the trio, who had been working to find evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens in Ukraine, had been working directly with Solomon on the story.

In other words, Solomon was running the article by his handlers to get their input and/or approval prior to publication.

Just as we saw with the efforts to smear the Clinton Foundation, the team of Toensing and diGenova would sign on as lawyers to represent people who had dirt on Trump's opponents to sell, usually in exchange for favorable treatment by Trump's Justice Department. Parnas or Toensing connected those people with Solomon, who wrote the stories that were spread by Devin Nunes, Donald Trump, and a whole host of right wing news outlets. In the midst of all of that, Solomon was also a client of Toensing and diGenova.

He really should have just gone to work at Fusion if this is what he wanted to do for a living instead of journalism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Schiff: No, We Didn't Subpoena John Solomon's Phone Records (Sam Stein, Dec. 05, 2019, Daily Beast)

Patrick Boland, the top spokesman for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast on Thursday that investigators "did not subpoena call records for any member of Congress or their staff... or for any journalist," including--Boland added--the committee's ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) or John Solomon, a columnist formerly of The Hill whose reporting formed much of the public case for Rudy Giuliani and others to do their muckraking in Ukraine. 

"Any questions about the fact that Members, congressional staff, or journalists appear in call records released by the Committee should be directed at those individuals, who were in contact with individuals of investigative interest to the impeachment inquiry," Boland added. 

In the impeachment report released on Tuesday, a number of call logs were made public showing conversations between Giuliani, officials at the White House and other agencies, and Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani's who is now indicted on campaign finance violations. The records appear to have been obtained via a subpoena of AT&T, which released a statement on Wednesday saying that it is "required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement agencies."

The report indicates that all of the call records obtained by the committee belonged to Parnas or Giulini. Every call mentioned in the report includes one or both of them. And the numbers assigned in the report's footnotes to each document that AT&T produced to the committee appear sequential and grouped according to calls involving Parnas and Giuliani--in the case of the latter, numbers 02131 through 02139, and for the former, 00909 through 00914.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The World Is Getting Better. It's Just That No One Tells You About It. (JIM GERAGHTY, December 5, 2019, National Review)

Turning our attention to the American economy, you've heard about the low unemployment rate. What you may not have heard is that the workforce participation rate for those between 25 and 54 years old is up to 80.1 percent -- the highest since early 2007.

If that's eleven, then twelve would be the U.S. Census Bureau's latest report on income and poverty, which came out in October. That report found real median family income up 1.2 percent from 2017 to 2018, real median earnings up 3.4 percent, the number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.3 million, and the poverty rate declined from 12.3 percent to 11.8 percent, with 1.4 million people leaving poverty.

Thirteen: Despite predictions that Amazon was going to put bookstores out of business, the number of independent bookstores keeps rising each year -- the most recent figures are 1,887 independent bookselling companies running 2,524 stores.

Fourteen: The cost of lithium-ion batteries is down about 87 percent over the past decade -- which makes electric vehicles a more cost-effective option for transporting goods and people.

We were solemnly assured battery prices would never fall, just like 3D printers would only ever make shower curtain rings....

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Will Europe Ever Trust America Again? (Ivan Krastev, 4th December, 2019, ECFR)

[E]uropean liberals have come to understand that American democracy no longer produces a consensual politics with a predictable foreign policy. The change of president means not only a new figure in the White House but also, in fact, a new regime. Were the Democrats to triumph in 2020 and a Europe-friendly president to take the helm, there is no guarantee that in 2024 Americans will not elect a president who, like Mr Trump, will see the European Union as an enemy and will actively try to destabilise relations with Europe.

The self-destruction of the American foreign policy consensus was powerfully demonstrated not only during the recent impeachment hearings, which have seen the politicisation of policy towards Ukraine, but also by the fact that the spectre of Russian subversion did not provoke a bipartisan allergic reaction. When Trump voters were told that President Vladimir Putin of Russia supported their candidate, they started admiring Mr Putin rather than abandoning Mr Trump.

To be fair, Europe faces no external threats and can safely disarm completely.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Yes, Trump is guilty of bribery (Richard Blumenthal, Dec 4, 2019, The Herald News)
When presidents trade public actions for political favors, the proper punishment is not a matter of opinion; it's a matter of law. President Donald Trump solicited a bribe. And the Constitution makes clear that a president who engages in bribery "shall be removed from office." In fact, along with treason, it is one of only two crimes specifically mentioned as conduct that would necessitate impeachment and removal.

Before I joined the Senate, I spent decades in law enforcement deciding when bad conduct rises to the level of illegality. Any good lawyer starts with the legal text, and when the Constitution was drafted, bribery was defined broadly as any "undue reward" for a public action. As illustrated during the House impeachment inquiry, which moves to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a political investigation ginned up to reward Trump for providing needed military aid would certainly fit the bill.

But even under the narrower definition of bribery currently in the criminal code, Trump's actions clearly qualify. Federal law defines bribery as the solicitation of "anything of value personally" by a public official "in return for" an official act. It also specifies that a bribe can be a reward for an act the public official would have done anyway. In short, merely soliciting a bribe is bribery.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In shift, State's Hook says Yemen's Houthis independent from Iran (Laura Rozen, December 5, 2019, Al Monitor)

In a shift that analysts said reflects progress in Saudi talks with Yemen's Houthi rebels to end the Yemen war, State Department Iran envoy Brian Hook said today that Iran does not speak for the Houthis, whom he described as playing a more constructive role in issuing a cease-fire proposal.

"We should recall that the Houthis proposed a cessation of missile and air attacks with Saudi Arabia just days after the Iranians struck Saudi oil installations on Sept. 14," Hook told journalists at the State Department. 

Likewise, Britain was independent from us when we beat the Nazis for them.

December 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Why IBM Is Joining the Corporate Chorus Calling for a Carbon Tax (Katherine Dunn, December 3, 2019, Fortune)

A carbon tax as a concept is far from new--it's been doing the rounds in Washington since at least the early 1990s, when a similar policy was proposed during the Clinton Administration. Some major companies, including ExxonMobil, have incorporated the possibility of such a tax into their long-term planning since at least 2013. What's different now is that the idea of a carbon tax continues to gain widespread momentum in the U.S. business community--even as the country's policy on climate change has broadly been rolled back under the Trump administration.

Padilla says IBM backs the escalating carbon dividends plan proposed by the Climate Leadership Council, a conservative-leaning industry group, which starts at $40 per ton of CO2 emissions and increases every year at 5% above inflation. The revenue from that tax will be returned as a dividend to all Americans and will exceed what the public would pay in higher energy costs, the Council says.

The system advocated by the Council has also been backed by four former chairs of the Federal Reserve--Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker--alongside a wide slate of economists, who argue that it would be more efficient in reducing emissions than regulations.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Ohio finds 77 illegal ballots among nearly 4.5M cast in 2018 (Chandelis Duster, December 5, 2019, CNN)

The announcement from Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose -- coming after years of GOP warnings of massive voter fraud -- means that of the 4,496,834 ballots cast in Ohio on November 6, 2018, just .002% of them were illegal. [...]

LaRose acknowledged "both voter fraud and voter suppression are exceedingly rare and certainly not as systemic as some claim."

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


It doesn't look like anyone can find evidence that the Trump campaign was set up in Russia probe (Jen Kirby, Dec 5, 2019, Vox)

Even the prosecutor personally selected by Attorney General Bill Barr to review the Russia probe couldn't find evidence to back up right-wing conspiracy theories about the origins of the investigation.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Connecticut US Attorney John Durham, whom Barr tapped in May to examine the origins of the Russia inquiry, said he doesn't have evidence to back up the allegation that the FBI planted an informant to "spy" on the Trump campaign.

He reportedly told that to Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Justice Department's independent watchdog, who is carrying out a separate investigation from Durham. Horowitz's long-awaited report on the Russia probe is expected on Monday.

Reports have suggested the inspector general's report will criticize the FBI's handling of some matters relating to the Russia probe, including the alleged falsification of a document by an FBI attorney in the wiretapping of a former Trump aide.

But Horowitz is also expected to broadly say the FBI met the bar to launch the investigation, and that federal law enforcement did not pursue the probe because of political bias against Trump.

The report is also supposed to discredit this idea that the FBI placed informants or spies within the Trump campaign. Trump and his GOP allies have claimed that law enforcement illegally "spied" on the campaign so it could launch an investigation to damage Trump. They argue that this makes the entire Russia investigation illegitimate, or in the president's parlance, "a hoax."

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


Former Infowars editor recalls Alex Jones threatening to ban laughter (The week, 12/05/19)

Josh Owens, an ex-video editor for Infowars, has written a piece in The New York Times Magazine describing bizarre behind-the-scenes details about working for the fringe conspiracy theorist, such as that Jones allegedly once dumped a bag containing an employee's pet fish in the trash, "wildly" stabbed a moldy water cooler, ripped blinds off the wall, yelled at employees to hit him, regularly removed his shirt, and "threatened to send out a memo banning laughter in the office," with his reasoning apparently being that "we're at war."

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Why Nancy Pelosi doesn't hate the president and prays for him instead (Thomas Reese, 12/05/19, RNS) 

Pelosi strongly rejected the question, which she saw as an insult to her faith and her upbringing.

"I don't hate anybody," responded Pelosi. "I was raised in a Catholic house. We don't hate anybody, not anybody in the world. Don't accuse me of hate."

Being accused of hatred was, in Pelosi's mind, the same as accusing her of being a bad Catholic.

"As a Catholic, I resent your using the word 'hate' in a sentence that addresses me," she said. "I don't hate anyone."

Hatred was not part of her upbringing, she said. "I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love."

On the contrary, she said, she always prays for the president. "I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time."

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


National-religious leaders call on Netanyahu to quit (Danny Zaken December 5, 2019, Al Monitor)

In the Nov. 29 edition of Makor Rishon, the leading newspaper of the religious Zionist movement, editor Haggai Segal published a column under the headline, "Time to resign." In it, he wrote, "The right cannot wait. Time is against us in a terrifying way ... [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's] enemies have already succeeded in defeating him, so if he doesn't want them to defeat the entire right, he has no choice but to surrender, instead of dragging us into a new election."

A third election would be salutary.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Republicans angry, concerned about Schiff release of phone records (Byron York, December 04, 2019, Washington Examiner)

The Intelligence Committee Democrats' Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry report, released publicly Tuesday, included records of some phone calls by presidential lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, Nunes, journalist John Solomon, Fox News host Sean Hannity, indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, National Security Council aide and former Nunes staffer Kash Patel, lawyer Victoria Toensing, and unidentified people at the White House and Office of Management and Budget.

The published records consisted only of the two parties on each call, plus the date and duration of the call. No content from any call was released.

Schiff subpoenaed AT&T and Verizon for the information. Sources involved in the matter have only minimal information of exactly what Schiff did, but they believe the chairman subpoenaed a total of five phone numbers -- it is not clear who each number was associated with -- from which the published information was taken.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


California's economy will grow faster than the nation's, UCLA forecast predicts (MARGOT ROOSEVELT, DEC. 5, 2019, LA Times)

California's economic growth will slow next year, but it is likely to outshine that of the nation overall, as Golden State employers boost payrolls, according to a new UCLA Anderson School forecast. [...]

California's major population regions experienced job growth above 2% this year, except for Sacramento and Los Angeles. The U.S. outside of California experienced just 1.35% growth, the same as Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, the forecast noted, the high cost of housing and the Trump administration's immigration restrictions threaten to hamper growth in the Golden State. Many California businesses ranging from Silicon Valley tech firms to the Central Valley farms to Los Angeles' restaurants and hotels rely heavily on immigrant labor.

Growth rates vary in different parts of the job market, the forecast notes. High-value-added sectors, such as information, professional and business services, and construction, grew more slowly in recent months. Hiring in government, temporary and administrative services, private education and durable goods manufacturing grew more quickly.

Two bright spots: California's logistics industry, propelled by its giant Southern California ports, and its booming tech sector are likely to continue to grow faster than those industries in the rest of the nation.

In 2020 and 2021, the forecast predicts average unemployment rates of 4.3% and 4.6% respectively. In October, California joblessness stood at 3.9%, the lowest rate since 1976, when the state changed its statistical methodology, adding new data to its calculations.

The UCLA economists expect state payrolls to grow in 2020 and 2021 by 1.9% and 0.9% respectively.

At the same time, real personal income is forecast to grow by 2.1% and 1.9% in 2020 and 2021, reflecting a changing mix of employment in California and a tight labor market in high-wage occupations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Turley's Weak Critique: The legal scholar's case against impeaching Trump doesn't hold water. (BENJAMIN PARKER  DECEMBER 4, 2019, The Bulwark)

1) In making the case that the factual record is incomplete, Turley suggested that the Democrats should issue more subpoenas. That would be a more helpful suggestion if the White House weren't currently blocking key figures in the Ukraine scandal--including former National Security Advisor John Bolton, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and others--from complying with congressional subpoenas. Turley also never made clear what kind or amount of additional information would bridge the gap between what he considers unsubstantiated assertions and what he conceded would be an impeachable offense.

2) Regarding the offenses President Trump is accused of: Back when President Clinton was facing impeachment, Turley argued that an act didn't have to meet the definition of a crime to be impeachable, as Paul Rosenzweig pointed out to The Bulwark today. Rosenzweig, a former lawyer on Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation staff, noted by email: "Twenty years ago, Professor Turley wrote that a crime did not have to be committed for an action of the President to be an impeachable offense." Today, though, Turley insists that for an action to count as bribery under the impeachment clause, it must satisfy the legal definition of the criminal offense of bribery--"an opinion," Rosenzweig says, "that is manifestly wrong, if only because the impeachment clause was written before we created federal criminal law." So, Rosenzweig asks of Turley, "What changed? One suspects that the only relevant change was the party affiliation of the President. Situational ethics are . . . situational."

3) Even if Turley were correct in his contention that the impeachment hearings have so far not allowed the president's supporters to make their case, the president's lawyers could have defended him in the hearings today, if only President Trump hadn't declined the opportunity to let them do so.

The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were able to point out each of the flaws in Turley's testimony. The other three panelists, too, were happy to explain why Turley's interpretation was wrong.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's tariffs are coming to a store near you. It turns out Mexico won't pay for those either. (Evan Siegfried, 12/04/19, NBC)

Instead, their cost -- initially paid by the company producing the good -- is passed on to you and me: the consumer. Companies who sell goods subject to tariffs raise their prices in accordance -- which in turn means that the cost is being passed on to us, the consumer, via what is a shadow tax. (That is basic capitalism.)

And it is not just French wine that will be seeing its price increase: Everything from luxury items to durable goods -- such as food and clothing -- imported from a multitude of countries throughout the world will be subject to these new taxes ultimately paid by Americans.

So not only will there be political ramifications for the president and those who support the trade war, but, and more important, there will be economic consequences that will affect all Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DOJ Inspector General Horowitz has reportedly shot down another GOP theory about the Russia probe (The Week, 12/04/19)

Horowitz reportedly contacted Durham to ask if he had uncovered any evidence that Joseph Mifsud, a shadowy Maltese professor who told Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, was secretly a Western intelligence asset. "Durham said he had no such evidence," the Post reports. "U.S. officials suspect that Mifsud has ties to Russian intelligence," but Papadopoulos has claimed "he believes Mifsud is some type of Western intelligence asset and that he was set up." U.S. intelligence agencies also reportedly told Horowitz he was not one of their assets.

Trump's allies have latched on to that theory as proof the Trump-Russia investigation was launched on false pretenses. According to reports from people who have read drafts of Horowitz's report, he concluded that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, though he also uncovered some irregularities in the FBI's applications for surveillance warrants. CBS News reports that the issue he focused on was whether the FBI withheld exculpatory information when renewing those warrants.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why black voters never flocked to Kamala Harris (MAYA KING, 12/04/2019, Politico)

Months later, with Harris out of the 2020 race and Cory Booker lagging in the polls, the only black candidates in the field are set to miss the next Democratic debate -- but Biden, the candidate getting by far the most backing from African American voters, will be center-stage thanks to their support in polls.

That collective choice by black voters so far in this campaign has been one of the most misunderstood dynamics of the Democratic primary. Harris' campaign and others initially expected South Carolina, with its majority-black Democratic electorate, to be a source of strength for her. But Biden has prevented any other candidate from breaking through there this year, even as his poll numbers have flagged in other, whiter early primary and caucus states.

A review of public polling and interviews with black strategists, activists and Democratic officials explains why African American voters have largely gotten behind non-black candidates: a medley of concerns about Harris' and Booker's electability, their authenticity and their campaign styles, all of which prevented them from effectively challenging Biden's enduring -- and, to some, surprising -- strength among African Americans.

"The affinity voters in these groups feel for Joe Biden is deep and strong, rooted in his relationship with Barack Obama, who is the ultimate validator," Buttigieg pollster Katie Connelly wrote in a July report, obtained this fall by McClatchy, that garnered attention for probing how Buttigieg's sexual orientation was affecting his chase for African American voters. "The power of the Obama association with these voters" was paramount, Connelly added.

December 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Odd the way conservatives had faith that the bureaucrats would pursue these investigations honestly while the Right insisted they'd adopt Vlad and Donald's line.
Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


"WINNING CAMPAIGNS HAVE A MESSAGE": THE SELF-SABOTAGING OF KAMALA HARRIS: Playing to Twitter and the political press, testing new messages seemingly every week, the perfect candidate couldn't help but get lost. (PETER HAMBY, DECEMBER 4, 2019, Vanity Fair)

It was obvious that women of color would be key to the Harris campaign, a theme you'd have to be blind to miss. Throughout that day, and during the campaign, her identity was the message. At her launch the campaign offered two versions of its "For the People" signage: one in conventional red, white, and blue, and another in purple, yellow, and red, a thoughtful homage to Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to run for president in 1972. Harris's campaign stressed then, and every day after, that being a black woman would make her the obvious choice for primary voters in South Carolina and beyond, where African Americans comprise much more of the electorate than in Iowa and New Hampshire. [...]

An unfortunate byproduct of Twitter's chokehold on elite discourse is that it forces otherwise smart people to focus so deeply on niche arguments and savvy takes that we often forget things that used to be rather obvious in politics. Among them: Winning campaigns have a message. It's not a complicated or sexy piece of analysis, but the four Democratic front-runners--Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg--have all defined for voters and the media why they are running for president and what separates them from other choices on the ballot. Regardless of ideology or background, they can answer the question in a tidy and easy-to-understand fashion. No other Democrat besides Andrew Yang has done so. The front-runners have organizing principles. They get attention without relying on "moments." They can raise money. Their policies, personality, talents, and biography all gel together in a way that makes sense. Their ability to explain why they are each running for president gives them a permanent safe harbor-- an ability to change the subject, to go on offense, to ignore the utter smallness of Twitter, and to beat into the brains of voters an uncomplicated framework that they can carry with them to the caucus precinct or ballot box come Election Day.

Harris failed to do any of these things. Much like her slogan--"For the People!"--Harris came off as standing for everything and hence nothing. Her shifting positions on Medicare for All, abolishing private insurance, federally mandated busing, and elements of the Green New Deal reinforced the percolating idea that she was too calculating and too political--like Clinton before her--with no principled core beyond winning the next election. Her ideological squishiness offended Sanders ideologues, who roasted her for changing positions on a Sanders-crafted Medicare for All bill that she rushed to endorse in 2017. Her stumbles gave comfort to Warren supporters, who smartly understood that Harris and Warren voters are actually pretty similar: college-educated women who like the idea of a woman running for president. Harris staffers and surrogates, preoccupied with the permanent soul suck of Twitter and elite opinion, spent time complaining about sexism and publicly fighting with reporters, blaming the media for "erasing" Harris even after she had tumbled to low single digits on her own merits. Warren's campaign never engages in those fights: Its candidate has a message that prevents them from getting sucked into internet quicksand and squabbles over left-wing purity tests. On many days it felt like Harris's first and only audience was the political press and self-appointed Twitter pundits, not voters. Few people would say the same about Biden, Sanders, Warren, or Buttigieg, who are squarely focused on Iowa along with their own media strategies. Their poll numbers reflect it.

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


George Zimmerman sues family of Trayvon Martin, publisher, prosecutors for $100 million (DOUGLAS HANKS, DECEMBER 04, 2019, Miami Herald)

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted of homicide charges in the 2012 fatal shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, is suing Martin's family, prosecutors and others involved in the case he claims rested on false evidence, according to a copy of the suit sent to the media Wednesday.

Zimmerman is represented by Larry Klayman, a high-profile legal crusader tied to conservative causes and the founder of Judicial Watch before splitting with the activist group.

Conservatives like to try and absolve ourselves of blame for Donald by pretending we had no idea our allies on the Right were so racist.  But the defeat of W's immigration reform, the Tea Party and the celebration of Zimmerman murdering Trayvon left no doubt about who we were in bed with.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


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State lawmaker's comments raise questions about Texas GOP's ability to compete in a diverse state (Erica Grieder, Dec. 3, 2019, Houston Chronicle)

"He's a Korean," Miller said of Jetton. "He has decided because, because he is an Asian, that my district might need an Asian to win. And that's kind of racist in my mind, but anyway, that's not necessary, at least not yet."

Miller surmised that Chan, who he has never met, decided to enter the fray "probably for the same reason."

"He has not been around Republican channels at all, but he's an Asian," he said. [...]

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, swiftly rescinded his endorsement of the incumbent's bid for re-election. His spokesman John Wittman explained that the governor deemed Miller's comments "inappropriate and out of touch with the values of the Republican Party."

Linda Howell, the chair of the Fort Bend County GOP, expressed concerns about Miller's ability to represent such a diverse district in a statement asking Miller to consider withdrawing from the race. And Miller himself acknowledged their validity, in his own statement that afternoon.

"I do not want to be a distraction for my party or my constituents, and therefore have decided not to seek re-election," he said, after apologizing to Jetton, Leonard, and his supporters.

What Miller's GOP critics have not acknowledged, however, is that Republicans across the nation have been fretting about the kind of demographic change that has already happened in Texas, a "majority-minority state" since early in the 21st century. Many of them seem to have a sense that diversity is inevitably a threat to their party's future prospects.

"He represents the old traditional Texas GOP that you saw for much of the last 20 years, especially in Fort Bend," said Jay Kumar Aiyer, a political scientist based in Houston. "He thinks the party tapping a younger minority candidate is giving into political correctness, and not the reality of the district and county being so diverse."

But that reality is not a threat to Republicans such as Jetton or Chan--not because they are Americans of Asian descent, but because they have shown a commitment to representing a diverse district, and have, as candidates, focused on issues of interest to the entire community, such as public education, transportation, and infrastructure.

And Miller's downfall illustrates that his weakness is not a function of the much-discussed demographic changes in Fort Bend County, but of his own struggles to respond to such changes as a more effective leader might.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What if Democrats Have Already Won Back Enough White Working-Class Voters to Win in 2020? (Joshua Holland, Dec. 4th, 2019, The Nation)

Since the 1980s, Democratic candidates have proven that they can win elections while losing whites without a college degree by a significant margin. Obama won 36 percent of their votes in 2012. Bill Clinton averaged 41 percent in his two victories. And in 2020, the candidate will likely need to win a smaller share of white people without a degree, because that group has long been declining as a share of both the electorate and the broader population. According to Gallup, their share of the population has declined by three percentage points since 2014. And a study released by the Center for American Progress in October projects that next year their share of the electorate will be 2.3 points lower than it was in 2016.

The reality is that the Democratic candidate is unlikely to do as poorly with this group as Hillary Clinton did. In 2016, despite winning the national popular vote by a significant margin, she won just 28 percent of these voters, according to Pew, and that wasn't enough to deliver Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. According to a data set that combines survey and voter registration data with election results, Clinton lost non-college-educated whites by a 28-point margin in 2016, significantly worse than Obama's 10-point deficit in 2008 or his 21-point gap in 2012.

A similar analysis looking back further found that Al Gore lost working-class whites by 17 points in 2000, and they went for George W. Bush over John Kerry by 23 points in 2004. Clinton also fared significantly worse among this group in 2016 than Democrats did overall when Republicans crushed them in midterm waves in 2010 (by 23 points) and 2014 (by seventeen points).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Kremlin Dismisses Climate Change as the World Heats Up (Natasha Doff,  
December 4, 2019, Bloomberg)

The slow pace of Russia's shift away from carbon is increasingly risky as the European Union, the biggest buyer of the country's oil and gas, prepares a plan to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050. A key proposal is a carbon tax on energy imports into the EU, which the Center for Environmental Investments, a Russian research house, says could cut Russia's energy exports by a third in the coming decade.

With prices for renewable energy in some places below those for power from burning carbon, some forecasters predict oil demand will start falling within five years, about a decade earlier than Russia planned for. That could render obsolete a dozen multibillion-dollar oil and gas projects in Siberia and the Arctic. "Russia risks being caught out by the speed of change," says Kingsmill Bond, a strategist at Carbon Tracker, a London researcher that estimates major energy companies must reduce production by a third by 2040 to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal of the Paris Agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions. "They're anticipating that everything is going to be fine for the foreseeable future."

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Malmö crime at lowest level in two decades - so why do people still feel so unsafe? (The Local, 4 December 2019)

Crime in Malmö has reached its lowest level in 20 years, but still almost three quarters of the southern city's inhabitants feel worried about being exposed to crime, according to an annual safety survey. [...]

A local police chief in northern Malmö, Andy Roberts, said that an unbalanced depiction of Malmö in the media also contributed negatively to residents' perceived safety.

"There are often dark newspaper columns about Malmö, we shouldn't underestimate the image and the psychological impact that creates. There is really a lot of focus on the negative, both in the mass media and from police," said Roberts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


IDF admits it fudged ultra-Orthodox enlistment tallies for years (MICHAEL BACHNER, 12/04/19, Times of Israel)

The Israel Defense Forces admitted Wednesday that it had published inflated numbers of ultra-Orthodox enlistment for years, after a report in Hebrew-language media claimed officers had purposely lied to cover up slumping recruitment tallies.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, officials in the army department responsible for tracking enlistment numbers in the Haredi community have been lying about how many of them join up, doubling and even tripling the tally, to make is seem like the military was meeting the quotas set by the law.

December 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Court sides with Congress in battle for Trump's bank records (LARRY NEUMEISTER, 12/03/19, AP)

A federal appeals court in New York handed President Donald Trump another legal defeat, ruling Tuesday that Congress can see his banking records for investigations into possible foreign influence in U.S. politics or other misdeeds.

A panel of 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges said two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, should comply with subpoenas from the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees seeking records related to Trump's business ventures.

The court said Congress was acting within its constitutional authority to investigate a series of significant issues, including whether Trump was "vulnerable to foreign exploitation."

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Lev Parnas' lawyer publicly shames Devin Nunes for not recusing himself from impeachment hearing (Kathryn Krawczyk, 12/03/19, The Week

On Tuesday, and after weeks of impeachment hearings, the House Intelligence Committee released its report on President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. It revealed Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani made calls back and forth between Ukrainian operatives and the White House, and even that one of the committee's top members engaged with one of the Ukrainians Giuliani had tasked with digging up damaging information on Democrats.

Call records obtained by the committee show Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) talked multiple times with Lev Parnas, one of the two indicted operatives Giuliani sent to Ukraine to research about the Bidens. Parnas' lawyer responded to this revelation by condemning Nunes for not recusing himself from the impeachment investigation.

Yeah, but a couple bureaucrats sent each other mash notes!
Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


I Me Mind: The unending quest to explain consciousness (MICHAEL ROBBINS, 12/03/19, Book Forum)

THE HARD PROBLEM, DAVID CHALMERS CALLS IT: Why are the physical processes of the brain "accompanied by an experienced inner life?" How and why is there something it is like to be you and me, in Thomas Nagel's formulation? I've been reading around in the field of consciousness studies for over two decades--Chalmers, Nagel, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Jerry Fodor, Ned Block, Frank Jackson, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Alva Noë, Susan Blackmore--and the main thing I've learned is that no one has the slightest idea.

the English-speaking world is uniquely unbothered by the problem.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


The scientific case for eating bread (Markham Heid, December 8, 2018, Quartz)

Bread has long been a foundational part of the human diet, but a revolt against it has been building for years--and seems to be reaching a crescendo. Today, many regard bread as a dietary archvillain--the cause of bigger waistlines and the possible origin of more insidious health concerns. Popular books and health gurus claim that bread and the proteins it harbors can cause or contribute to foggy thinking, fatigue, depression, and diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to cancer.

But go digging through the published, peer-reviewed evidence on bread and human health, and most of what you'll find suggests that bread is either benign or, in the case of whole-grain types, quite beneficial.

"We have conducted several meta-analyses on whole-grain consumption and health outcomes like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality," says Dagfinn Aune, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. "When looking at specific sources of grains, whole-grain bread, whole-grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, and wheat bran were all associated with reduced risks."

Asked if bread should be considered a "junk" food, Aune says the opposite is true. "Whole-grain breads are healthy, and a high intake of whole grains is associated with a large range of health benefits," he says, citing links to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and mortality. In fact, his research has found that eating the equivalent of 7.5 slices of whole-grain bread per day is linked with "optimal" health outcomes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:57 PM


North Carolina's new House districts will likely give Democrats 2 more seats (The Week, 12/03/19)

Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics revised its predictions for four North Carolina House races on Tuesday, all in districts currently held by Republicans. Three of those districts moved left, while two of them shifted soundly into Democrats' favor. All in all, that amounts to a likely two-seat gain for Democrats in North Carolina come next year, with a slight chance to grab a third.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


There Has Been No Retrenchment Under Trump (DANIEL LARISON, 12/03/19, American Conservative)

Paul MacDonald and Joseph Parent explain in detail that Trump hasn't reduced U.S. military commitments overseas:

But after nearly three years in office, Trump's promised retrenchment has yet to materialize. The president hasn't meaningfully altered the U.S. global military footprint he inherited from President Barack Obama. Nor has he shifted the costly burden of defending U.S. allies. To the contrary, he loaded even greater military responsibilities on the United States while either ramping up or maintaining U.S. involvement in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. On practically every other issue, Trump departed radically from the path of his predecessor. But when it came to troop deployments and other overseas defense commitments, he largely preserved the chessboard he inherited--promises to the contrary be damned.

MacDonald and Parent's article complements my earlier post about U.S. "global commitments" very nicely. When we look at the specifics of Trump's record, we see that he isn't ending U.S. military involvement anywhere. He isn't bringing anyone home. On the contrary, he has been sending even more American troops to the Middle East just this year alone. 

Other than caging immigrants, inspiring shootings, betraying freedom fighters, returning the GOP to minority status and damaging the economy, there's little evidence Donald is president.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Macron Uses Toddler Reverse Psychology Trick to Fool Trump Into Supporting NATO (Jonathan Chait, 12/03/19, New York)

And now Trump is lashing out at Macron. "NATO serves a great purpose," he declared today. "And I hear that President Macron said NATO is 'brain dead.' I think that's very insulting to a lot of different forces ... When you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to 28 -- including them -- 28 countries."

Manipulating children into doing what you want by pretending to demand they do the opposite thing is a trick most parents learn to use. It usually stops working around the age of 5.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


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Newly released documents shed light on Mueller-Trump meeting (Dareh Gregorian, 12/02/19, NBC News)

In the interview, according to the notes published by BuzzFeed News, Rosenstein described feeling "angry, ashamed, horrified and embarrassed" at how the abrupt firing of then-FBI director James Comey on May 9, 2017 was handled. "It was also humiliating for Comey," his interviewers quoted Rosenstein as saying.

Rosenstein said he spoke to Mueller, a former FBI director, about becoming special counsel the next day.

He had a separate conversation with Mueller and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 13 to see if Mueller would be interested in returning to his old job as director, the notes say.

"Mueller informed them he did not want to be interviewed for FBI director position," but told them his views about "what should be done with FBI," the document says. "Sessions thought Mueller's comments were 'brilliant,'" Rosenstein is quoted as saying.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bernie splits from Warren with embrace of far-left foreign leaders (ALEX THOMPSON and HOLLY OTTERBEIN, 12/03/2019, Politico)

In a race in which their domestic agendas are viewed as very similar, Sanders' and Warren's foreign policy views mark a clear line of distinction. Left-wing leaders around the world see an ally in Sanders -- Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recently thanked him for his "solidarity" and Bolivia's ousted Evo Morales called him "hermano Bernie Sanders" -- but have not publicly embraced Warren the same way.

"Bernie is the only candidate who has a comprehensive foreign policy vision to stand up to the growing movement of anti-democratic authoritarianism worldwide and find solidarity with working people around the world who, in many cases, share common needs," said Josh Orton, Sanders' national policy director. 

It's the difference between a Socialist and the Democratic Party.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


From crying "witch hunt" to a guilty plea, calls for Trump ally Duncan Hunter to resign immediately (JULIA CONLEY, DECEMBER 3, 2019, Salon)

Government watchdogs on Monday called for Rep. Duncan Hunter's immediate resignation after it was reported that the California Republican would change his "not guilty" plea to "guilty" in the case of his alleged campaign finance violations.

The earlier you joined Team Trump the more likely you are a criminal.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inequality is exploding, except that it might not be (James Pethokoukis, December 2, 2019, AEIdeas)

A long piece in The Economist about inequality research ("Economists are rethinking the numbers on inequality") ends with this question: "Will this flurry of new research change people's minds about inequality?" Well, maybe some change among some academics, probably not much among most activists or politicians. As for the latter, too much of the current political environment seems driven by the idea that massive inequality signals "late capitalism" and the end of the American Dream as we know it. Mostly on the left, but also on the populist right.

But even if minds are hard to change, perhaps strong evidence can at least make certain beliefs less strongly held. Has income inequality surged to record levels? As the below chart shows, adjusting for taxes and transfers  finds the income share of America's top 1 percent "has barely changed since the 1960s," The Economist points out.

On the other hand, everyone's quality of life has improved dramatically.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stefanik's impeachment dive into Trump's MAGA nihilism reveals dark Republican future (Reed Galen, 11/26/19, USA Today)

Like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California before her, Stefanik's transformation from thoughtful conservative to frontline Trump defender should worry lifelong Republicans, NeverTrumpers and conservative-leaning independents. They once claimed an ideal, if built only on one-liners. That foundation has been shed and shredded, replaced by the GOP's increasing nihilism.

We're already seeing the electoral consequences of this shift within the Republican Party. Last year, Cruz survived by a hair against a hard charge by then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke. And while Cruz survived to tilt at more deep-state windmills, many suburban Texas Republicans in the House and legislature were turned out of office.

Just this month we've seen important wins in three Southern states go to Democrats. The Virginia suburbs handed the state legislature to the Democrats for the first time in nearly 20 years. While Republican Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky was thoroughly unpopular, his defeat was not preordained. Nor was Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' reelection in Louisiana. Had Trump been perhaps only half as ugly as he is, Richmond, Frankfort and Baton Rouge would be firmly in Republican hands.

Go for broad appeal:If 2020 Democrats want to beat Trump, they shouldn't ignore moderates and indulge the left

Much of what we see from Stefanik and her ilk, beyond the easy path of the Dark Side, is a fear of Trump's vaunted "base." Today, this group makes up about 40% of the country. The urban core detests him.

The suburbs are experiencing a different version of white flight as college-educated white voters flee the GOP. The irony for Trump's congressional minions is that they've chosen to plant their flag in a decidedly eroding coastline: political lemmings waiting for that final leap.

As with the Left, but I repeat myself, it is the America we have that they hate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Watch a GOP congressman learn Ukrainians don't own CrowdStrike live on CNN
(The Week, 12/03/19)

Cuomo got Weber to acknowledge that Russia -- not Ukraine -- hacked the DNC server in 2016. "Nobody has ever suggested as a matter of fact that Ukraine had anything to do with that," Cuomo said. "The only person who has suggested it, in the ugliest of ironies, is Vladimir Putin. He made up a story about Ukraine wanting to go after Trump, and now members of your own party are parroting it." Weber tried to counter with a series of questions, starting with whether CrowdStrike investigated the hack for the Democrats. "Yes," Cuomo said.

"Is CrowdStrike in part owned by a Ukrainian?" Weber asked. "No," Cuomo replied. "Really?" Weber said. "That's not the information that we have." "You have bad information," Cuomo said, adding that Trump's former homeland security advisers Tom Bossert called the Ukraine conspiracy theory a joke and U.S. intelligence, the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller all corroborated CrowdStrike's conclusion that Russia hacked the DNC's servers.

To be as ignorant of reality as a Trumpbot requires careful cultivation.

December 2, 2019

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Republicans in turmoil as redistricting looms (ALLY MUTNICK, 12/02/2019, Politico)

The GOP group charged with winning state legislatures is in turmoil -- sparking concerns that the party is at risk of blowing the next round of redistricting.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has seen an exodus of top staff in recent months, has lagged behind its Democratic counterpart in fundraising and is struggling to explain why its new president, Austin Chambers, was also moonlighting as a general consultant for Louisiana businessman Eddie Rispone's failed bid for governor.

The troubles come on the cusp of a crucial opportunity for the party to amass political power for the next decade: the 2020 state-level elections, which will determine which party controls the process of redrawing the political maps for the next decade.

Republicans are reeling after major 2019 losses in Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana -- as Democrats are organizing and fundraising at a record-breaking clip. Led by former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder, they are working to prioritize state-level races after getting clobbered in the post-2010 redistricting.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Prosecutor who aided Giuliani's hunt for damaging details on Biden fired in anti-corruption purge (IGOR DERYSH, DECEMBER 2, 2019, Salon)

Kostiantyn Kulyk, one of Giuliani's earliest contacts in Ukraine, was given a dismissal notice last week after failing to show up for an exam that was part of a review process for prosecutors held over from the previous administration, The Washington Post reported. More than 500 prosecutors have been fired as part of the review.

Kulyk has denied meeting Giuliani, but his former associates say he prepared a seven-page dossier, which was passed along to Giuliani, according to The Post.

The former prosecutor later appeared in a report by The Hill's John Solomon, to whom Giuliani fed dubious claims to fuel the debunked narrative that Biden had a prosecutor terminated while he was investigating a Ukrainian firm that employed his son. Kulyk also helped fuel what former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch described as a Giuliani-led smear campaign to get her fired. The prosecutor told Solomon that Yovanovitch blocked him and other officials from getting a visa to travel to the U.S. to share information about his findings.

Giuliani told The Blaze host Glenn Beck last month that he used Solomon to push the claims in the U.S. Senior State Department official George Kent also testified last month that Solomon's reporting, "if not entirely made up in full cloth," was filled with "non-truths and non-sequiturs."

That feeling when everything you whole-heartedly believe is non-truth.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


UN: Israeli occupation costs Palestinians $48 billion (MEMO, December 2, 2019)

A UN report found that the fiscal cost of Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people in 2000-2017 period is estimated at $47.7 billion, or three times the size of the Palestinian economy in 2017, reports Anadolu Agency.

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Senate panel look into Ukraine interference comes up short (NATASHA BERTRAND, 12/02/2019, Politico)

[T]he Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee thoroughly investigated that theory, according to people with direct knowledge of the inquiry, and found no evidence that Ukraine waged a top-down interference campaign akin to the Kremlin's efforts to help Trump win in 2016.

The committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, said in October 2017 that the panel would be examining "collusion by either campaign during the 2016 elections."

But an interview that fall with the Democratic consultant at the heart of the accusation that Kyiv meddled, Alexandra Chalupa, was fruitless, a committee source said, and Republicans didn't follow up or request any more witnesses related to the issue.

The Senate interview largely focused on a POLITICO article published in January 2017, according to a person with direct knowledge of the closed-door hearing, in which Chalupa was quoted as saying officials at the Ukrainian Embassy were "helpful" to her effort to raise the alarm about Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort in 2016.

"If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with," she said at the time. She cautioned, however, that the embassy was "very careful" not to get involved politically because of the bipartisan support Ukraine has traditionally enjoyed from U.S. lawmakers. As the POLITICO article noted, there was "little evidence" of a "top-down effort" by the Ukraianian government to sabotage Trump's campaign. And the article did not allege that Poroshenko "actively worked" for Clinton, as Kennedy claimed.

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


Historians uncover fourth Soviet spy who stole US atomic secrets in WWII (RICH TENORIO, 12/02/19, Times of Israel)

As a mushroom cloud illuminated the sky over the top-secret Trinity test site in New Mexico, an engineer named Oscar Seborer was part of a United States Army unit monitoring seismological activity at the site.

But, it turns out, Seborer was not merely a technician and has recently been named as a fourth Soviet spy at Los Alamos in a recent paper, joining Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, and David Greenglass in an alleged espionage ring. And while there is no established link between the spy rings, Greenglass' sister was notably the ill-famed Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed along with her husband Julius Rosenberg in 1951, after a controversial espionage trial.

The paper, "Project SOLO and the Seborers: On the Trail of a Fourth Soviet Spy at Los Alamos," was written by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes for Studies in Intelligence -- a publication of the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


How to Get Solar Power on a Rainy Day? Beam It From Space (Daniel Oberhaus, 12/02/19, Wired)

Like fusion energy, space-based solar power seemed doomed to become a technology that was always 30 years away. Technical problems kept cropping up, cost estimates remained stratospheric, and as solar cells became cheaper and more efficient, the case for space-based solar seemed to be shrinking.

That didn't stop government research agencies from trying. In 1975, after partnering with the Department of Energy on a series of space solar power feasibility studies, NASA beamed 30 kilowatts of power over a mile using a giant microwave dish. Beamed energy is a crucial aspect of space solar power, but this test remains the most powerful demonstration of the technology to date. "The fact that it's been almost 45 years since NASA's demonstration, and it remains the high-water mark, speaks for itself," Jaffe says. "Space solar wasn't a national imperative, and so a lot of this technology didn't meaningfully progress."

John Mankins, a former physicist at NASA and director of Solar Space Technologies, witnessed how government bureaucracy killed space solar power development firsthand. In the late 1990s, Mankins authored a report for NASA that concluded it was again time to take space solar power seriously and led a project to do design studies on a satellite system. Despite some promising results, the agency ended up abandoning it.

In 2005, Mankins left NASA to work as a consultant, but he couldn't shake the idea of space solar power. He did some modest space solar power experiments himself and even got a grant from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program in 2011. The result was SPS-ALPHA, which Mankins called "the first practical solar power satellite." The idea, says Mankins, was "to build a large solar-powered satellite out of thousands of small pieces." His modular design brought the cost of hardware down significantly, at least in principle.

Jaffe, who was just starting to work on hardware for space solar power at the Naval Research Lab, got excited about Mankins' concept. At the time he was developing a "sandwich module" consisting of a small solar panel on one side and a microwave transmitter on the other. His electronic sandwich demonstrated all the elements of an actual space solar power system and, perhaps most important, it was modular. It could work beautifully with something like Mankins' concept, he figured. All they were missing was the financial support to bring the idea from the laboratory into space.

Jaffe invited Mankins to join a small team of researchers entering a Defense Department competition, in which they were planning to pitch a space solar power concept based on SPS-ALPHA. In 2016, the team presented the idea to top Defense officials and ended up winning four out of the seven award categories. Both Jaffe and Mankins described it as a crucial moment for reviving the US government's interest in space solar power.

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An interview with historian Gordon Wood on the New York Times' 1619 Project (Tom Mackaman, 28 November 2019, World Socialist web Site)

Gordon Wood is professor emeritus at Brown University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, as well as Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, and dozens of other books and articles on the colonial period, the American Revolution and the early republic.

Historian Gordan Wood speaks with WSWS about American Revolution and the NYT 1619 Project

Q. The claim made by Nikole Hannah-Jones in the 1619 Project that the Revolution was really about founding a slavocracy seems to be coming from arguments made elsewhere that it was really Great Britain that was the progressive contestant in the conflict, and that the American Revolution was, in fact, a counterrevolution, basically a conspiracy to defend slavery.

A. It's been argued by some historians, people other than Hannah-Jones, that some planters in colonial Virginia were worried about what the British might do about slavery. Certainly, Dunmore's proclamation in 1775, which promised the slaves freedom if they joined the Crown's cause, provoked many hesitant Virginia planters to become patriots. There may have been individuals who were worried about their slaves in 1776, but to see the whole revolution in those terms is to miss the complexity.

In 1776, Britain, despite the Somerset decision, was certainly not the great champion of antislavery that the Project 1619 suggests. Indeed, it is the northern states in 1776 that are the world's leaders in the antislavery cause. The first anti-slavery meeting in the history of the world takes place in Philadelphia in 1775. That coincidence I think is important. I would have liked to have asked Hannah-Jones, how would she explain the fact that in 1791 in Virginia at the College of William and Mary, the Board of Visitors, the board of trustees, who were big slaveholding planters, awarded an honorary degree to Granville Sharp, who was the leading British abolitionist of the day. That's the kind of question that should provoke historical curiosity. You ask yourself what were these slaveholding planters thinking? It's the kind of question, the kind of seeming anomaly, that should provoke a historian into research.

The idea that the Revolution occurred as a means of protecting slavery--I just don't think there is much evidence for it, and in fact the contrary is more true to what happened. The Revolution unleashed antislavery sentiments that led to the first abolition movements in the history of the world.

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When Harry Met Sally, They Both Should've Run (Noah Berlatsky, 12/02/19, Splice)

When Harry Met Sally, directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron, is getting a 30th anniversary screening this month. It remains an iconic romantic comedy--for reasons that are understandable, but depressing.

In a good romantic comedy, you fall in love with both characters as they fall in love with each other. Pride and Prejudice is a delight because it's impossible not to be swept away by Elizabeth Bennett's sly wit, or Darcy's stiff but sincere gallantry. In His Girl Friday, Hildy (Rosalind Russell) and Walter (Cary Grant) compete in flights of dazzling verbiage to make you swoon in admiration. [...] A romantic comedy has to create characters that you want to spend time with. If it can't do that, it's a failure.

Or so you'd think. Yet, When Harry Met Sally hangs its romance on two of the least appealing main characters Hollywood has ever commanded audiences to embrace.

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What happens when people win this basic income raffle? They have time find meaning in their lives (JULIA HOTZ, 12/02/19, FastCompany)

The idea started five years ago when Michael Bohmeyer, then a 29-year old web developer, crowdfunded his own salary. In an interview with The Local, Bohmeyer said that year helped him improve his health, read more often, join nonprofit projects, and recognize the importance of "time over money." So, rather than wait on a politically unmotivated Germany to do it, Bohmeyer launched an independent basic income campaign to help others recognize their "great potential."

Since then, more than 150,000 individuals have donated to Mein Grundeinkommen's online fund--which will have awarded nearly 500 basic incomes by the end of 2019. The process works like a raffle; any person anywhere in the world, for no fee at all, can register to receive €1000 (about $1,100) per month for a year.

"It's kind of a reset button for people in the middle of their life," says Steven Strehl, Mein Grundeinkommen's Platform Development Associate. "Most people continue to work, but when they do, they can take a step back, look at themselves, and analyze what's going on." [...]

About half (47%) say the basic income has helped them reimagine their work as a contribution to society, and even greater majorities say it's made them less anxious (80%), and more energetic (81%), courageous (80%), and curious (60%). Though only four surveyed winners either changed or quit their jobs, more than half say that the basic income allowed them to continue their education, and 35% say they've since become more "motivated" at work.

Tonći Vidović, another winner, is among the re-"motivated." As a 48 year-old freelance software developer living in Bournemouth, England, he says he's never short of work, but sometimes has the opposite problem. "I'm in this business because I enjoy doing it, but the reason I haven't been enjoying it is because I have this pressure to keep my family alive."

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Will Iran's 50% gas price hike pay off for the economy? (Bijan Khajehpour,  December 1, 2019, Al Monitor)

There were three key economic drivers to change the fuel pricing system in Iran: to contain smuggling, reduce energy consumption and improve the government's financial position.

As the introduction of fuel cards a year ago indicated, the government was concerned about fuel being smuggled into neighboring countries, which also facilitates money laundering. There are diverse data on the quantity of smuggled fuel, but based on an average estimate of 20 million liters of gas and diesel being smuggled out daily, and benchmarking the old gas price against the new higher one of 30,000 rials, the annual damage to the Iranian economy would have been about $1.3 billion. On top of that, in most cases, revenues generated through smuggling return to the country in the form of imported goods, hence functioning as money laundering for perpetrators. Such smuggling also imposes a heavy burden on local industries and employment in the country. 

As for energy consumption, the debates that took place in advance of the 2010 law on removing subsidies produced one key conclusion: The only path to containing consumption in the transportation sector would be through fuel prices. Later studies showed that in the Iranian year 1390 (which started March 21, 2011), fuel consumption in the transportation sector declined by 9.2% compared with 1388, the last year in which old subsidized prices prevailed through the whole year.

Obviously, the relationship between fuel consumption and price isn't linear; there are many other factors involved including the availability of public transportation, fuel efficiency and the increased use of vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas. Nonetheless, there is a degree of price sensitivity and the government hopes the higher prices will reduce consumption. According to Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, the country has recorded a 20 million liter decline in daily consumption of gasoline since the price hikes.

One of the main objectives of the latest reforms is to improve the government's overall financial position by reducing the cost of subsidizing people's fuel purchases. According to Vice President Mohammad Nobakht, who heads the government's Management and Planning Organization, the fuel price hikes will annually inject an additional 300 trillion rials ($2.6 billion at the free market exchange rate) into state coffers, which officials said would then be allocated to citizens in the form of cash handouts. At the same time, the government has revamped the handout system to increase payments to the poorer social classes and discontinue those for richer families. Some 60 million citizens (about 73% of the population) will receive the new higher monthly payment, which has been adjusted based on the number of family members.

Even if the government allocates all of the new resources to cash handouts, it will still benefit from the expected decline in smuggling and, more importantly, the opportunity to export fuel to neighboring markets. In fact, officials in the Ministry of Petroleum expect the country to be able to generate $5.5 billion in annual revenues from exporting the surplus fuel that will be freed as a result of reduced consumption and reduced smuggling activity. This would compensate for some of the loss of crude oil exports as a result of US sanctions.  

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Are you as grateful as you deserve to be? (Richard Gunderman, 11/26/19, The Conversation)

As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming and convivial of all habits - that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Research shows that grateful people tend to be healthy and happy. They exhibit lower levels of stress and depression, cope better with adversity and sleep better. They tend to be happier and more satisfied with life. Even their partners tend to be more content with their relationships.

Perhaps when we are more focused on the good things we enjoy in life, we have more to live for and tend to take better care of ourselves and each other.

When researchers asked people to reflect on the past week and write about things that either irritated them or about which they felt grateful, those tasked with recalling good things were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and actually visited their physicians less.

It is no surprise that receiving thanks makes people happier, but so does expressing gratitude. An experiment that asked participants to write and deliver thank-you notes found large increases in reported levels of happiness, a benefit that lasted for an entire month.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Georgia governor set to buck Trump on Senate appointment (ALEX ISENSTADT and MELANIE ZANONA, 12/01/2019, Politico)

[K]emp has held firm. Those close to the governor say he believes Loeffler will help the party appeal to suburban and female voters who've drifted from the GOP since Trump took office.

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Ron DeSantis isn't on Donald Trump's TV anymore. That's on purpose. (Steve Contorno, 12/01/19, Tampa Bay Times)

DeSantis' absence from Fox News is a drastic shift in media strategy. DeSantis' allies say it's intentional, allowing the governor to avoid questions that could suck him into polarizing partisan battles and divert him from his new job of governing 21 million residents. [...]

It's smart for a governor to sidestep national political fights, said Adam Goodman, a longtime media consultant for Florida Republicans, and it seems to be working. Early in his first term, DeSantis has ridden a spate of positive reaction to his proposals on the environment and teacher pay to become one of the country's most popular governors.

"If I had to lay out a branding game plan for Ron DeSantis as a relatively new member of the gubernatorial class, I would take the plan they've been on and double down," Goodman said. "Build a resume of achievement, which is something public leaders are in short supply of these days. Then, he can say he's all action, less talk."

But DeSantis' exodus from the national airwaves comes at the most perilous moment of the Trump presidency. As the impeachment investigation marches forward in the House of Representatives, DeSantis is no longer on the front lines defending Trump, who is known to keep tabs on who has his back -- and how they perform on TV.

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The White House Says Nursing Home Regulations Are Too Tough (Ina Jaffe, November 30, 2019, Weekend Edition)

SIMON: These are proposed changes. What might change if they're approved?

JAFFE: Well, one proposal that's attracted a lot of attention would change the way antipsychotic drugs can be prescribed. Now, Scott, these are drugs that are approved for treating serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia. They also come with a black box warning that says they can raise the risk of death in older people with dementia. But in nursing homes, that's usually who gets them. It's a practice that's widely criticized. So the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, has spent years trying to get nursing homes to reduce the use of antipsychotics. But critics say the proposed new rule would actually make it easier to prescribe them.

SIMON: Why would the government make it easier to do something they've been discouraging?

JAFFE: Well, currently, if a nursing home resident gets a new prescription for an antipsychotic, it can't be renewed after two weeks without a doctor's exam. But under the proposed rule, the doctor could keep renewing the prescription without seeing the patient again for a month or two. This has been condemned by elder rights organizations like the Long Term Care Community Coalition. Their executive director, Richard Mollot, told me that the physician he's consulted also condemns the proposal.

RICHARD MOLLOT: What he said was that no other insurance company would ever accept that a doctor didn't have to see a patient before continuing a prescription for medicine. But CMS is saying now that that's OK for nursing homes in this very vulnerable population. And people die from this. They're affected so catastrophically.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White House won't take part in first House Judiciary impeachment hearing (ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 12/01/2019, Politico)

Nadler had asked Trump to indicate by Sunday whether the president himself or a White House attorney would attend Wednesday's hearing, an offer that Democrats said was an attempt to afford due process to Trump as he faces a likely impeachment vote before the end of the month.

The President having confessed, released transcripts of the crime and repeated it in public, there is no defense to offer.

December 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 PM


Lisa Page Speaks: 'There's No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All' (Molly Jong-Fast, Dec. 1st, 2019, Daily Beast)

By February 2016, she was working on one of the most important investigations at the FBI-the Hillary Clinton email case. "We knew that the case was going to get picked apart," she says. "And we know there's not a person on the FBI team or the DOJ team who thinks this is not the right result. There is no case to be brought here. But it's very busy. It's very intense. Director [James] Comey was very clear he wanted this completed as soon as humanly possible and outside of the political environment. So there was a real focus to get it done before the conventions that were happening that summer. And so that's what we did." 

"But her emails" would soon give way to an actual threat to national security, one that existed not in the fever dreams of Fox and the Breitbart comments section, but in the real, dangerous world the FBI exists to protect us from, where things like foreign meddling in our elections takes place: strong evidence of Russian interference in the election on behalf of Trump.

"There are two things that happen in the late summer of 2016," Page says. "The first, of course, is that the FBI gets the predication [courtesy of loose-lipped George Papadopoulos], which starts the Russian investigation. We learn about the possibility that there's someone on the Trump campaign coordinating with the Russian government in the release of emails, which will damage the Clinton campaign." 

"Predication" sounds mild for what it really means; in the summer of 2016, the FBI and the intelligence community were seeing increasing signs from a variety of intelligence sources and programs (that Page cannot and will not discuss due to classification reasons) that members of the Trump campaign were tied to a variety of Russian intelligence services, and that the Russian Federation was in the midst of trying to manipulate the 2016 United States election with a sweeping information warfare and propaganda effort. As The New York Times reported on Nov. 22, "U.S. intel services concluded, and have told Senate Republicans, that Russia mounted a massive disinformation campaign to implicate Ukraine in 2016 meddling and hide its own role."

At the end of July 2016 Page finds herself transitioning from one investigation, the Hillary Clinton email inquiry, to another the Russian government disinformation probe. The president is not under investigation, but the FBI is trying to determine if someone associated with his campaign is working with Russia.

"We were very deliberate and conservative about who we first opened on because we recognized how sensitive a situation it was," Page says. "So the prospect that we were spying on the campaign or even investigating candidate Trump himself is just false. That's not what we were doing." 

From summer 2016 to spring 2017, Page worked for McCabe, who had become deputy director. They were very busy, but things were largely normal. And then, on May 9, 2017, FBI Director Comey was fired. What was that like?

"It was horrible," Page said. "It was a devastating moment at the FBI. It was like a funeral, only worse, because at least when someone dies, you get to come together and celebrate and talk about that person. He was still alive. But he was inaccessible to us. It jolted the ranks and the investigation. It was so abrupt. He was there one day and gone the next."

Was that very unusual?

"Well, I mean, all of it was!" she replied. "The FBI director had just been fired. Yes, it was totally within the authority of the president, but it was unprecedented and unimaginable given the circumstances. The president fired him with the knowledge that, of course, we were investigating Russian contacts with his campaign. I mean, it just gave the aura of an obstructive effort."

Page would have probably just been another FBI lawyer if it wasn't for the extraordinarily politicized environment and a President who had a habit of attacking career government employees.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list ranks the 150 top-selling titles each week based on an analysis of sales from U.S. booksellers. 

1. A Warning by Anonymous

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">"It would be a mistake to view Trump's pardons as stemming from a deep reverence for the military...Rather, he views these crimes as acts of nationalist solidarity against Muslims, against whom crimes are not simply acceptable but praiseworthy." <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) <a href="">December 1, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>
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As Iraq bloodshed spreads, Sistani calls for early elections (Ali Mamouri, November 29, 2019, Al Monitor)

"Given the difficult circumstances the country is going through and the clear failure of the authorities in dealing with the last two months' developments, the parliament that formed the current government is invited to reconsider its options and act in the interest of Iraq," Sistani's representative Sayyed Ahmad Safi said during the Nov. 29 Friday prayer. He went on, "The parliament is invited to accelerate the preparation of the new electoral legislation package in a way that satisfies the people and then hold free and fair elections whose results sincerely reflect the will of the Iraqi people."

Sistani slammed the government for attacking the protesters and preventing them from making their reform demands. He also warned that Iraq's "enemies" are working to spread chaos in the country and push it to civil war so as to bring back the "disgusting dictatorship."

In a similar statement on Nov. 28, controversial Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr also urged Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign before Iraq follows in Syria's footsteps.

Sistani's statements were clear, leaving no choice for the government and the parliament but to give in to the protesters' and Sistani's demands.

Only two hours after Sistani's statements, Abdul Mahdi announced that he would hand his resignation to the parliament very soon.

Several political parties in the parliament have expressed support for dismissing the government and moving forward with new elections under a new electoral law, among them Qais Khazali's Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Haider al-Abadi's Nasr Coalition, Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party and Muqtada Sadr's Sairoon.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Fusion GPS Founder: Spreading Corruption Is Kremlin Foreign Policy (Andrea Bernstein, December 1, 2019, Pro Publica)

[WNYC's Andrea Bernstein]n: In the last three years, what have we learned that is either confirmed, or refuted, or somehow changed in your understanding of Trump and business dealings with the former Soviet Union?

Simpson: I mean, most simply that he is in business with a lot of people who are in organized crime and that he -- in some cases -- clearly knew that. And I'd say that's the broadest observation you can make about it.

Bernstein: You're talking about something we've learned in the last three years?

Simpson: Actually, some of it dates back before that. I mean, the start of our inquiry was really just into his business and whether he was a good businessman, whether he was as rich as he said he was. Then one of the first things we came across was Felix Sater. Frankly, it was no great investigative coup. I just was reading old New York Times clips.

And there was an article about this guy with this criminal past who appeared to be close to Donald Trump. And that set me off looking into court records to see what else I could find out about [Sater]. And eventually it became clear that this guy was indeed really close to Trump. His family is Jewish, but they're from Russia. He immigrated to the United States as a child. His father had a criminal history, seemed to be involved in some sort of organized crime activity. So that was the beginning. That was the first dot in what turned out to be a long dot connecting exercise.

Bernstein: So let's just back up one second. For people who don't know or really understand what Fusion GPS is, what is it?

Simpson: I left The Wall Street Journal in 2009. I had a really great job as a free-range investigative reporter, and I tended to cover financial crime, international organized crime. But the business was changing, the newspaper was changing. It had been acquired by News Corp. And I decided it was time to try something else. And I thought about what I really loved about journalism. And the thing that stayed with me over the years and never got old was the reporting aspect of digging into stuff and trying to figure out what was going on. So I decided to try to set up a business where I could continue to do that.

We set up Fusion in 2010 and began marketing our services as acquirers of reliable information for people who need information to make decisions -- figure out why they're not winning in a contract competition, to help them manage a complex piece of litigation. And, as it turned out, it's a useful service that is in demand and is economical for a lot of clients, given the other alternatives, like using a paralegal or someone else to collect documents. I mean, you know, we collect documents, that's essentially what we do for the most part.

Bernstein: How do you sort of square the idea of doing research for hire with the journalistic practice that you're carrying out?

Simpson: Well obviously a newspaper has a special status in our society as a sort of independent entity and struggles to be fair and impartial. And obviously, if you're working for a private company, the relationship is different. However, the service that we sell is neutral in the sense that what we promise people is that we will acquire the information they need to make a decision.

We don't sell outcomes. We gather information. And part of the pitch when we talked to a new client is: Please don't tell us what you think is happening or what you want to try to prove or any of that. Let us just hoover up all the information and we'll tell you what we think is happening.

Bernstein: So you say in your book -- and you've talked about -- how most of your clients are litigation clients. How did you end up with a Trump assignment?

Simpson: Well, I spent most of my adult life in Washington, much of it covering politics, political corruption campaigns and elections. So I know a lot of people in that world on both sides. So in 2012 when the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney, some people on the other side asked us to look into his business career -- how much taxes he paid, whether he shipped jobs overseas, that sort of thing. And we were able to produce a lot of interesting, reliable material that was in the public domain but not easy to find.

In 2015, along comes another tycoon who wants to be the Republican nominee for president. And we thought, well, you know, we did this four years ago. It was a lot of fun. Let's see if someone wants us to do it again. In this case we thought of doing it in the Republican primaries instead of in the general election. So the natural client would be someone on the Republican side who wanted to stop Donald Trump.

Bernstein: And that was your client?

Simpson: That was, yeah. We reached out to a Republican friend of mine and I said, "Hey, would you guys be interested in procuring some research on Donald Trump's business career? You know, his lawsuit, how he treats his employees, his multiple bankruptcies," that sort of thing.

Bernstein: At that time, did you have an idea where the research would take you?

Simpson: Absolutely none. It was, I mean, the way we structure our agreements with most clients is that it's a 30-day agreement.

You did not have to sign a long-term contract and basically you get to taste the cooking and if you like it you can keep going. So it was originally just a 30-day assignment to write up, you know, what we could find on his business career and an overall assessment. It was an amazing sort of first month.

I had never, ever seen so many lawsuits involving one person in my life. There was just so much litigation. It was really unbelievable. But in general, the litigation was over his lousy business practices. I mean, he's just a dishonest person. He doesn't pay his vendors. He goes bankrupt repeatedly. He misstates the financial condition of his properties. And in the beginning it was just a picture of a guy who was not a reliable person and not a good businessman.

Bernstein: Now you had done -- as a journalist -- a number of stories on Paul Manafort. Long before he went to work for Trump.

Simpson: So when Peter [Fritsch] and I worked together in the Brussels bureau of The Wall Street Journal -- from about 2005 to 2008 -- what was fresh and new in Europe at the time was Russian organized crime and kleptocracy and the transition of the former Soviet Union to market economies.

A lot of criminal groups were sort of seeping eastward or moving up in their own countries and getting in legal trouble, having problems with Western law enforcement, needing influence in the West. And one of the first people to recognize that this was a booming market for his talents was Paul Manafort. And so he began doing political consulting in Ukraine working for Russian oligarchs. And part of that work was in fact exercising influence on their behalf in Washington. [...]

Bernstein: One of the things, I think, that people have reacted to since the release of the dossiers [is the idea that] Putin has some big thing on Trump's business. And I mean, we know a lot more. We know, for example, that they were secretly negotiating a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow and asking the Kremlin for favors during the presidential campaign. But I don't think that we understand, like: Is there some incredibly bad business deal gone wrong or is there something else that Putin has that we should be looking for that's still out there? What do you think?

Simpson: I think we definitely don't know the whole story. I think that we can make a couple of observations. You know, one of the big ones is what you referred to, which is Trump was negotiating a secret business deal to do a development in Russia while running for president, and he hid that fact from the American people. That is kompromat. That's the definition of kompromat. Kompromat is not sexual blackmail. It's a shared secret. Any shared secret that is embarrassing, incriminating. So if I know something about you -- and you know I know -- then I got kompromat on you. So --

Bernstein: And that's a Russian term, kompromat.

Simpson: Correct.

Bernstein: And it's used all the time in Russian politics.

Simpson: All the time. So [Steele's] primary concern was that the Russians had kompromat on Trump. And you know, he's clearly right. They did have kompromat on Trump. We didn't know what it was, or what all of it was. But this was one of the possibilities. It's in the original early memos. Whether there's more, and whether it also involves money, we don't know. He's gone to great lengths to prevent people from finding out what else there might be there. I'll add parenthetically that, you know, Peter and I sort of saw things a little differently than [Steele] and Orbis with regard to the famous pee tape, which was, you know, it seemed just to be unprovable.

And from my perspective, sex is probably the one thing you can't blackmail Donald Trump over. 'Cause he seems to want everyone to know that he engages in lots of sex. So, you know, I think [Steele's] training as an intelligence professional caused him to focus more on that than we did.

Bernstein: You have said that this -- what's now known as the dossier -- this collection of memos was raw intelligence and that people have misunderstood it. In fact, in the book, you outline some pretty colorful language that was used when it was released. You were not happy.

Simpson: Absolutely not.

Bernstein: Why?

Simpson: Well, so you know, Peter and I worked at The Wall Street Journal most of our careers, and it was a very exacting place. And you know, you would do so much reporting that would end up on the cutting room floor before you publish anything. And when we deliver our work to clients, it is like a term paper. It's got footnotes, it's got supporting documentation.

And things like this, they go into the research, but they're not intended to be read by anyone, including our clients sometimes. It was professionally horrifying. It was also reckless, we think, because it seemed as if very little consideration was given to the possibility that -- if this document was true -- whether they were going to get some people killed.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Report: Newsweek Reporter Fired After Inaccurate Report On Trump's Thanksgiving Plans (Summer Concepcion, November 30, 2019, TPM)

A Newsweek reporter was reportedly fired shortly after inaccurately reporting on President Trump's Thanksgiving plans.

On Thursday morning, Newsweek political reporter Jessica Kwong initially published an article with the headline "How is Trump spending Thanksgiving? Tweeting, golfing and more," before Trump's surprise visit to Afghanistan was announced publicly.

It's the difference between reporting on the Administration and working in it.

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An adult view of monarchy (Mark Le Fanu, November 2019, The Critic)

The magnificence touched on here and in other scenes -- for example, the extended Coronation sequence at Westminster Abbey in Season One -- is an important if not essential aspect of the impact, one could almost say the meaning, of the series. For what is a monarchy without magnificence? Republicans, and not just republicans, complain about how much it must cost in real life to keep the whole show on the road. But this is to fail to see (or else to see only too clearly) that without a certain amount of extravagance there wouldn't be a monarchy worth talking about. Its mystique is tied up in some complicated way with the wealth that sustains it, and with the beauty, the settings and the ceremonial it draws upon.

In a democratic age such as ours, it is strange, perhaps, that we continue to be impressed by such things, but there it is: we are children in such matters. I think it is good that the writing of The Crown takes all this for granted. The lavishness of the monarchical mise en scène is neither politicised nor satirised. By all rights, the conspicuous consumption of the royals (on a truly grand scale) should be out of bounds in an epoch of equality. Yet, deliberately it seems to me, the series hasn't over-emphasised this side of the matter.

 A similarly magisterial neutrality, or evenness of tone, is observable in Morgan's approach to the show's dramatis personae. He wants to demonstrate, in each case, the human complexity of the make-up of the inhabitants of the institution. They are absolutely not to be portrayed as marionettes. While one or two characters seem not to be liked under any circumstance (I am thinking of the show's portrayal of Harold Macmillan and, oddly enough, of the Queen Mother), the series as a whole specialises in enabling us to see even the most monstrous instances of arrogance and privilege in contexts that fail to rule out generous doses of broad human sympathy.

How else are we to explain the curiously wistful pathos surrounding characters as reprehensible as the Duke of Windsor, Princess Margaret (together with her bisexual husband Tony Armstrong-Jones) and Prince Philip? Their actions are one thing; their frailties -- their demons -- another. In each case, the writing of the series encourages them to emerge as fully-rounded human beings.

At the centre of the series is the Queen herself, incarnated in the first two seasons by the luminously beautiful actress Claire Foy (the role is about to be taken over by Olivia Colman). What praise could be eloquent enough to encompass the elegance, irony, wisdom and discretion of this performance of Foy's? Such acting, of course, can't be conceived of without appropriate writing to sustain it, and here I would argue Morgan excels himself.

There are two things that needed to be got right and he gets them right. On the one hand there is the Queen's private life -- her ordinary affections: her hopes, troubles and disappointments in the midst of a complicated family nexus. On the other hand - subliminally present, so to speak, at all times -- is her conception of the meaning of the institution she heads, and how that is to be put into practice in each of her actions and decisions.

Her behaviour overall is never less than principled: the steeliness of her will, combined with the gentleness of her general demeanour, has been immensely moving at all times. She gives orders crisply, but at the same time, as incarnated by Foy, she is the most wonderful listener and questioner. Meanwhile, the series as a whole derives a kind of immense ongoing pathos from the strand of the narrative which shows the monarch -- daringly, one might think (how can the writers know the truth of the matter?) -- attempting to attract, to rekindle, and to keep up the affections of an ever-ready-to-roam husband. Will Colman, I wonder, be able to maintain the exquisite delicacy of this posture?

Faithfulness, then, is a mainstay -- the mainstay -- of the Queen's character as presented in The Crown. And faith too, in the more religious sense. An episode in Season Two shows her saying her prayers at night, kneeling by her bedside. It is an extraordinary conception: how many of us, after all, keep up this ritual after childhood?

That the Queen should be pictured engaged in intimate private devotion is one of the most original strokes of the series so far. For it silently makes the connection that, in order for the institution to have meaning and heft, there needs to be some kind of belief in the sacred. To put it another way, monarchy doesn't make sense without religion. It is an extraordinarily sophisticated aspect of the series, in the midst of the varied populist pleasures it offers, to understand this notion of anointed obedience so perfectly, and at the same time to put it across to the audience with such clarity.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM



 As the two of them spar over questions of faith and reason it feels like a spiritual striptease, with each character becoming increasingly vulnerable. It would be easy to supply rationalizations were Bouchard and Acosta to give in to the resulting mutual attraction. They're both attractive, her husband is AWOL, Acosta hasn't yet taken a vow of celibacy. Would it be so wrong?

That question exemplifies the lines Evil draws between the familiar situations of day-to-day life and the inscrutable, possibly cosmic, roots of evil and suffering. If the Church is just another, deeply flawed, employer, then the flirtation between Acosta and Bouchard might be just another workplace romance frowned upon by HR. In this context, however, it might be a weak spot ripe for diabolical exploitation. An apparent resurrection might be an unexpected artifact of unconscious systemic racism; a Boss-from-Hell might in fact be under the influence of a devil. The mysteries of digital technology and the Internet give grim plausibility to what once seemed like obvious paranoia. Is the voice coming from that virtual assistant an impersonal algorithm, a malicious hacker, or something worse? The serial killer might not be possessed, but what if the person chatting with him on 4chan is? The line between the human and the demonic is a fuzzy one, particularly in the case of Bouchard's professional rival, Leland Townsend. His description of the eventual fate of a teenage boy he hopes to have tried and convicted as an adult is so monstrous and yet so utterly convincing that even hardened skeptics might ask whether possession isn't a real possibility.

Whether it's the mysteries of technology or the inscrutable malice of the people around us, Evil explores the individual's sense of powerlessness. However problematic, the Catholic Church, as represented by Acosta, Bouchard, and Shakir, is proffered as hope when scientific reason offers little. As one woman explains, she and her family "aren't good Catholics," but she's called upon the Church because she's exhausted every other option in dealing with a nine-year-old son whose behavior, whether psychopathic or demonic, is terrorizing his family. Believers or not, viewers can't help but hope that Acosta, Bouchard, and Shakir will succeed in helping. It's to the show's credit that it offers no false assurance that they will. By the end of the fourth episode, the team of investigators have, at best, a 50% success rate. Ultimately, the fear that inspires Evil is that they, and the deeply flawed Church for which they work, will fail.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


It's a Wonderful Time to Be Alive (MICHAEL TANNER, November 27, 2019, National Review)

We can debate who -- if anyone -- is responsible, but we can't argue with the fact that unemployment is down and wages are up. Unemployment is at the lowest level since 1969. There were 2.3 million more full time, year-round workers this year than last. And those workers are earning more. Median earnings for full-time workers rose by more than 3 percent last year. Since 2009, average hourly earnings for all employees is up 5.6 percent, while real average weekly earnings rose by 6.9 percent.

Inequality remains a big political issue, but poverty rates continue to decline. In 2018, the official Census Bureau poverty measure fell to just 11.8 percent, down a full half percentage point from the year before, and the lowest rate since 2001. Using other, arguably more accurate poverty measures shows even better results. Consumption-based poverty measures put the real poverty level at as low as 2.8 percent.

Of course, too many people still struggle, but we are doing our best to help them. Last year, Americans donated $427 billion to charity, and more than 63 million people gave their time and talent to help others -- over 8 billion volunteer hours.

Politicians also like to conjure up images of crime and carnage. But we are safer today than we've been in decades. Violent crime has declined by 51 percent since 1993, while property crime has declined by even more (54 percent). The United States still imprisons far too many people -- almost twice the incarceration rate of any country except the Seychelles. However, between falling crime rates and criminal-justice reform, 100,000 fewer Americans will spend this Thanksgiving in prison than did ten years ago.

Health care is another issue the politicians fight over, and with good reason. Our health-care system is deeply flawed for many reasons. Yet we are healthier than ever. Infant mortality has declined by 14 percent since 2007. Death from cancer has dropped from 168 per 100,000 people in 2000 to just 146 per 100,000 today. More Americans are exercising and eating healthfully, and smoking is at the lowest level since 1965.

Even in those areas where we still have improvement to make, we should not ignore how far we've come. Racism and other forms of bigotry are still far too prevalent, but let's remember how much progress we've made. The alt-right and their fellow travelers are noxious and noisy, but they are still a tiny minority. The worst forms of overt discrimination have largely been consigned to the dustbin of history, and there is a growing push for still more fully realized justice and equality. Within my lifetime, both interracial and gay marriage were outlawed. Today all Americans are free to marry the person they love. Almost 9 percent of Americans have two or more races in their background. It may be halting and uneven, but we are making progress toward a more inclusive society.

It's a popular pundit pastime to pretend that our current politics are complicated, but they're really as simple as the fact that classical liberalism has prevailed in the economic and cultural spheres, contra the dreams of Socialists and Nationalists.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


In possible climate breakthrough, Israel scientists engineer bacteria to eat CO₂ (SUE SURKES , 11/29/19, Times of Israel)

In a remarkable breakthrough that could pave the way toward carbon-neutral fuels, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have produced a genetically engineered bacteria that can live on carbon dioxide rather than sugar.

The extraordinary leap -- reported Wednesday in Cell, and quickly picked up by prestigious publications such as Nature -- could lead to the low-emissions production of carbon for use in biofuels or food that would also help to remove excess CO₂ from the atmosphere, where it is helping to drive global warming.

Within our kids' lifetimes, scientists will be trying to figure out how to artificially pump CO2 into the atmosphere to replace what we put there for tens of thousands of years.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Hamilton Recalls the American Ideals History Failed to Deliver: Don't miss your chance to see Miranda's masterpiece this holiday season (JIM SHAHENON NOVEMBER 29, 2019, Consequences of Sound)

Hamilton is not a "hip-hop musical," nor is it an unconventional piece that changes the very essence of musical theater. Viewing it through either prism is a setup for disappointment, confusion, and statements like, "This isn't rap." If anything, the core of the story and its structure is classic Broadway through and through. What makes it special is how those conventions are reinvigorated through the use of musical forms atypical of the theater experience.

That influence takes the shape of '90s NYC hip-hop and R&B-rooted pop. Those are the sounds that Miranda listened to as a kid in Washington Heights. But he also grew up with his parents' record collection of Broadway cast recordings. It's the way those two seemingly disparate cultures, urban and theater music, are seamlessly incorporated that make Hamilton sound so bold.

Just take a look at its primary anthem, "My Shot". The vehicle through which Alexander Hamilton reveals his mental acuity and intense drive to create a legacy, even if it kills him, is referential to both Notorious B.I.G. AND "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. "My Shot" is the most obvious past-present musical convergence, but you can hear that marriage of ideas throughout the soundtrack, whether it's "The Story of Tonight" sung by Hamilton and his cohorts or "Satisfied", the heartsick ballad sung by Hamilton's sister-in-law. The tunes are hooky like pop songs for sure, but ultimately they are very much show tunes. They just happen to be as beholden to the melodic sensibilities of Shawn Carter as those of Stephen Sondheim.

This convergence of past conventions and mores with the real world's cultural present permeates throughout the story and particularly in its casting. In fact, more than any sort of devotion to its titular character or fealty to the Founding Fathers, Hamilton is really about how history can be viewed through a modern lens.

The New York City of Hamilton mirrors the New York City of today, a city teeming with possibilities and diversity of opinion and people. This is reflected in the dialogue of Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, and military leaders of the late 18th century, and it's connected to the current moment by having these words expressed by a multi-racial cast.

For some, this diversity is seen as a needed shot in the arm to a form of entertainment that, aside from West Side Story, is viewed as a cultural fiefdom for white America. To others, however, it's seen as a cover for what is, once again, a story that deifies the accomplishments of white men. The former perspective is technically accurate, just very, very narrow in scope. As for the latter, that criticism has some validity, but ultimately misses the mark. And the casting is a large reason why.

Having actors of color portray Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Aaron Burr (to name a few of the historical figures presented onstage) and speak to issues of freedom sends a message. It compels you, the viewer, to reconcile the fact that the words of the men credited with founding America weren't matched by their deeds. Seeing a second-generation Puerto Rican immigrant play Alexander Hamilton or a first-generation Nigerian-American as James Madison is symbolic, a message that America exists and persists because of the efforts of oft-marginalized people striving to reach an American ideal that its leaders and founders failed to live up to themselves. Hamilton the real man is the protagonist of Hamilton, but the actual heroes are his ideals and passions as embodied by a skin that doesn't receive enough recognition for possessing the same qualities attributed to historical icons.

Of course, the Founders did not consider the work of America to be done once the ideal was enunciated.  It is the job of every generation to work towards its realization, here and abroad.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Ultra-Orthodox enlistment in IDF plummeted in 2018 -- report (Times of Israel, 12/01/19)

Ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF declined precipitously in 2018 in the first drop in more than a decade, with 2018 seeing a 20 percent decrease in the number of Haredi recruits over the previous year, according to the Haaretz daily, which saw as-of-yet unreleased recruitment figures gathered by the IDF's Manpower Directorate,

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun military service, which is mandatory for other Jewish Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions from the army in favor of religious seminary studies.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Make a killing in the Upper Valley's cookie-based economy with 2019 walks and swaps (ELEANOR KOHLSAAT, 12/01/19, Valley News)

A holiday dessert table wouldn't be complete without a platter of assorted Christmas cookies. Shortbread, pecan sandies, chocolate crinkles, sugar cookies, spritz -- everyone has their favorites.

But with all the other preparations going on, only the most dedicated bakers have time to make all those different kinds of cookies. Fortunately, there are a number of upcoming cookie walks and cookie exchanges where you can find cookies to suit every taste.

While the goal of both walks and swaps is the same (you go home with cookies!), the two events are conducted differently.

At a cookie walk, participants bring their own containers, select the cookies they want from a variety of offerings, and then pay by the pound.

At a cookie exchange, each person bakes and brings one type of cookie, and everyone leaves with an assortment of all the different varieties. No money changes hands.

At both events, bakers may be asked to share their recipes, or at least to list their ingredients for the benefit of those with dietary restrictions.

Certain other rules may apply. For instance, at the cookie exchange taking place at Weathersfield Center Church from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Dec. 14, each participant is responsible for bringing two dozen cookies -- one dozen to sample at the party, and one dozen to swap. All contributions must be baked from scratch. Mixes, commercial ready-to-bake cookies and no-bake types (such as Rice Krispies treats) are not allowed.