January 9, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


New documents show government targeted NYC pastor for officiating immigrant weddings (Jack Jenkins, 1/09/20, RNS) 

New documents unearthed in an ongoing federal lawsuit indicate the U.S. government surveilled and investigated a New York pastor and immigrant rights activist over allegations that she committed marriage fraud by officiating immigrant weddings along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the cleric says she did nothing wrong and is accusing the federal government of violating her religious freedom by targeting her.

"My faith and belief in ministering to the vulnerable brought me to the border," the Rev. Kaji Douša, senior pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church in New York, told Religion News Service in a statement. "It's now undeniably clear the government targeted me for this very calling, based on the language contained in its own documents. This evidence reinforces the need for me to fight this injustice -- to stand up for my First Amendment rights and the dignity of the people I serve."

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Army general denies request by officer pardoned by Trump to have his Special Forces tab reinstated (Dan Lamothe, Jan. 9, 2020, Washington Post)

An Army general has denied a request by an officer pardoned in an open murder case by President Trump to have his Special Forces tab reinstated, setting up a potential showdown between senior defense officials and the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Yemen's warring parties conflicted over Soleimani's killing (AL mONITOR, January 9, 2020)

Houthis share a close ideology with Iran, while the Yemeni government follows Saudi Arabia's approach. Parties to the conflict in Yemen hinge on outside players, and their reactions to regional developments are analogous to those of their foreign backers.

Houthis orchestrated mass rallies Jan. 6 in Sanaa and Saada province, expressing support for Iran and denouncing the killing of Soleimani. The participants chanted anti-American slogans, calling for the expulsion of US forces from the region. They carried pictures of Soleimani and raised placards reading, "God is great. Death to America."

"The entire [Muslim] umma has the right to respond to the crime of assassinating Soleimani and [Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and all martyrs] to counter the American hegemony," said the Sanaa rally in a statement. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, a pro-Iranian group in Iraq.

​Dhaif Allah al-Shami, the information minister of the Houthi government, gave a speech before the gatherings in Sanaa, saying, "The blood of Soleimani does not belong to Iran or Iraq. Instead, it belongs to all Muslims and the free people."

The late Iranian commander is now not only a national hero for Iranians but for Yemen's Houthis, who have taken to the streets and displayed his photos.

Abu Marwan, a school teacher in Sanaa, has seen several huge photos of Soleimani in the capital Sanaa. "The ordinary people here did not know about him before his killing," he said. "Now, they have come to know about him. Houthis cherish this Iranian military commander, and they have hung his photos because Iran and Houthis have common enemies."

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


New Kansas proposal breaks impasse on expanding Medicaid (John Hanna, 1/09/20, AP )

Kansas' Democratic governor and a top Republican lawmaker on Thursday outlined a new proposal for expanding the state's Medicaid program, breaking an impasse that had allowed a handful of GOP leaders to thwart bipartisan legislative majorities.

The plan from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning would give Kelly the straightforward expansion of state health coverage that she has advocated, covering as many as 150,000 additional people.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Senate Democrats Decide to Shut Up and Let Nancy Pelosi Do Her Thing (JEREMY STAHL, JAN 09, 2020, Slate)

On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her plans clear: She's not budging. "I'll send them over when I'm ready. And that will probably be soon," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, indicating that she still wanted to see a concrete proposal from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Senate trial rules before the articles would advance. "Now we want to see what they're willing to do and the manner in which they will do it."

The Democratic senators seem to have received the message. Within hours, many of her critics seemed to fall back in line.

Feinstein on Thursday morning was still criticizing the speaker, saying, "I don't quite know what the strategy is, but it doesn't--if you're going to do it, do it, if you're not going to do it, don't. And obviously, they're going to do it so I don't understand the delay." By Thursday afternoon--after McConnell had used Feinstein's statements and those of other Democrats to attack Pelosi--she had changed her tune. "My comments on this have been misunderstood," Feinstein said, according to Politico. "She's going to send them and it's her decision."

"We have plenty to do, and the speaker will send them over when she's ready to send them over," Feinstein emphasized in an interview with NBC News.

NBC News further reported that other previously critical voices, such as Sens. Joe Manchin and Richard Blumenthal, "also took a step back Thursday, saying the decision was up to Pelosi."

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


The Boys Who Wear Shorts All Winter: The kid who refuses to wear pants is a familiar sight to parents, students, and educators--and a mystifying one. What's so great about being underdressed? (ASHLEY FETTERS, 1/09/20, The Atlantic)

Lindsey Miller first took note of the boys who refused to wear long pants when she was in grade school. At her elementary school in Maryland, a few particular boys made a habit of wearing shorts to school all winter, even though January temperatures in the mid-Atlantic state routinely drop below freezing. And it was always boys, she told me, never female students--"Girls made fun of them, but other guys cheered them on," she recalled. One kid she knew in third grade, whose name has escaped her memory in the decade-plus since, "wore basically the same pair of shorts all year," Miller, now 20, remembered.

The "one kid who wears shorts to school all year": In regions that get cold and snowy in the winter, he's a figure that's equal parts familiar and bewildering to kids and teachers alike, and his clothing choices present an annual hassle for his parents. On Twitter, where Lindsey Miller once joked about the middle-school winter-shorts boy, he is in fact the butt of a number of observational jokes, many of them from classmates and beleaguered moms and dads: "There's really this dude wearing shorts at school... IN THE WINTER." "Have kids so you can argue with tiny, opinionated people about why they can't wear shorts in winter and then coats when it's 80 degrees." Educators at a middle school and high school in Minnesota confirmed to me that they can count on having two or three of him every year, arriving at school after braving the morning windchill with bare calves. (In the interest of transparency, both were former teachers of mine, who I'm sure were perplexed to hear from me for the first time in more than a decade only to be asked about this.)

In other words, the Boy Who Wears Shorts All Winter is a highly recognizable but largely inscrutable character, and when I asked parents, teachers, child psychologists, and a former B.W.W.S.A.W. himself to try to explain what exactly motivates such a plainly impractical clothing choice, they all offered different answers.

the question answers itself if you reverse it: why do they people who bundle up the most always talk about how cold it is?

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Exclusive: Americans say Soleimani's killing made US less safe, Trump 'reckless' on Iran (Susan Page, 1/09/20, USA TODAY)

Americans by more than 2-1 say the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani has made the United States less safe, a nationwide USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds, amid broad concerns about the potential consequences ahead.

A majority of those surveyed, by 52%-34%, called Trump's behavior with Iran "reckless."

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Occam's Election: The simplest answer is also the most likely. Why is everyone discounting it? (JONATHAN V. LAST  JANUARY 9, 2020, The Bulwark)

[T]he most likely scenario for 2020 is that the vice president for the last sitting Democratic president--who has led the primary field by a wide margin from the moment he declared--will win his party's nomination.

And then what?

Again, let's stipulate that on any given Tuesday, yadda yadda yadda. But we have some pretty clear polling data on what to expect in a Trump versus Biden election.

Biden has led Trump in all but three of the head-to-head polls taken this cycle. That's 61 polls showing Biden leading, three polls showing Trump leading.

This is not an artifact of Trump just having a bad run. Right now Trump's job approval is at 45 percent, which is just about the highest it has ever been. Biden is still leading him by an average of 5 points.

And that's just the national number.

When you go to state-level polling, Biden's position is also strong: His starting point is roughly 268 votes in the Electoral College where Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina are the toss-ups. Biden has had small, but consistent, leads in North Carolina, Florida, and Wisconsin. And remember: This is before Democrats have coalesced around their nominee and while Trump is on a relative upswing.

And Donald's at 42%.
Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


'He is our O.J.': POLITICO readers explain why they're standing with Trump during impeachment. (JOHN F. HARRIS, 01/09/2020, Politico)

For Keith Swartz, who is 66 years old and runs a recruiting firm based in Tacoma, almost anything includes a president he regards as "manic, uneducated, illogical," and also "essentially a horrible person....vulgar, amoral, narcissistic."

Wait, this a defense of Trump? Yes, hang on. He's done a fine job on the economy, in particular, in the face of a Democratic opposition that has bent rules and abused process for three years in an implacable bid to thwart him. "To those of us who support what he has accomplished," Swartz concluded, "it feels like he is our O.J."

That's right: O.J. Simpson, not previously a conservative hero. In his 2016 promises to "Make America Great Again," Trump did not invoke the racially riven Los Angeles of the 1990s as his model. But Swartz's admirably forthright comparison--with biased media and unscrupulous Democrats serving as proxies for racist cops--captured the spirit of many replies.

The metaphor also echoed for me, since I began covering national politics (after a stretch as local reporter) just as the sordid O.J. melodrama was underway--with no premonition on my part that the deeply embedded malice and competing perceptions of reality on display in that case would come to define our public culture broadly.

Of course, black Americans are historically oppressed, so sticking it to the man is mildly understandable.  The oppressors adopting the same whinge is embarrassing. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


By killing Qassem Suleimani, Trump has achieved the impossible: uniting Iran (Dina Esfandiary,  7 Jan 2020, The Guardian)

Ordinary people continue to be squeezed by Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign, with no prospects for improvement. This, along with general discontent, led to significant protests in November 2019. These caught the government off guard, but didn't prevent it swiftly crushing the demonstrations and enacting a nationwide ban on the internet that lasted five days. That response, unsurprisingly, further entrenched the discontent. Trump's killing of Suleimani, however, has put those concerns on the back burner. Instead, Iranians have adopted a "better the devil you know" approach: unifying across the spectrum, even to the point of standing behind their government, in order to resist increasing US aggression.

And this means that, while Suleimani's loss is a significant blow for Iran, the strike by the US was in one sense a gift to the Iranian government. It could never have dreamed of achieving such unity in difficult times otherwise.

The assassination has also had the effect of bringing together a divided elite, at least for the time being. Leading figures from the conservative and reformist camps spoke in unison, from the supreme leader, who vowed "revenge", to the former presidential candidate and leader of the Green movement, Mehdi Karroubi, still under house arrest, who reportedly expressed his condolences. Even the former foreign minister of Iran under the shah, Ardeshir Zahedi, described Suleimani as a "patriotic and honorable soldier who was a son of Iran".

The US withdrawal from the nuclear deal already meant that moderates had been forced to harden their positions. The Rouhani administration, for example, could no longer actively support dialogue with the US, instead cautiously calling for discussions on the condition that all sanctions were lifted beforehand. Today, even that position has become difficult. Who in the political establishment can expend political capital suggesting rapprochement with the US after what it has done and, importantly, after the level of public mourning? The answer is easy: no one.

With the killing of Suleimani, Trump has accomplished what no one in the Iranian elite thought possible: he has united a fractured, exhausted and desperate Iranian public in a show of unity.

"Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you."