January 11, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Beijing's man lost by a shocking landslide in Taiwan's presidential election (Isabella Steger, 1/11/20, qUARTZ)

Though the polls showed Tsai was the favorite to win, her large margin of victory was unexpected. A result made more shocking following the drubbing her party received in local elections a little over a year ago. In November 2018, the independence-leaning DPP lost seven of the 13 cities and counties it had held to the China-friendly Kuomintang. The result was seen as a rebuke of Tsai's economic and social policies.

Then the Hong Kong protests happened. Taiwanese watched in fear as Beijing responded to the protests with force and violence, shattering any belief that the "one country, two systems" model by which Hong Kong is governed could ever work in Taiwan. Tsai has consistently supported the Hong Kong protests, and has allowed about 60 protesters who fled to extend their temporary stays in Taiwan, even though local law does not allow them to gain asylum.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Misenchantment: a review of 'The Enchantments of Mammon' by Eugene McCarraher    (David Bentley Hart, January 6, 2020, Commonweal)

In McCarraher's telling, capitalism as it has taken shape over the past few centuries is not the product of any kind of epochal "disenchantment" of the world (the Reformation, the scientific revolution, what have you). Far less does it represent the triumph of a more "realist" and "pragmatic" understanding of private wealth and civil society. Instead, it is another kind of religion, one whose chief tenets may be more irrational than almost any of the creeds it replaced at the various centers of global culture. It is the coldest and most stupefying of idolatries: a faith that has forsaken the sacral understanding of creation as something charged with God's grandeur, flowing from the inexhaustible wellsprings of God's charity, in favor of an entirely opposed order of sacred attachments. Rather than a sane calculation of material possibilities and human motives, it is in fact an enthusiast cult of insatiable consumption allied to a degrading metaphysics of human nature. And it is sustained, like any creed, by doctrines and miracles, mysteries and revelations, devotions and credulities, promises of beatitude and threats of dereliction. 

the problem with this view is obvious.  Let us suppose a simple thought experiment: all we know of Family A is that they have been devout since 1776 and have tithed 10% of their income to the church every year; all we know of Family B is that they are capitalists and have invested 10% of their income in broad market indexes for those same years.  We can not know whether either Family today is happy, healthy  or wise, which is to say that their faith has been rewarded, spiritually, nevermind materially.  Nor can we know whether Family B is healthy, happy and wise or whether they are miserable; we do, however, know that they are wealthy.  Their calculation has been entirely sane, though not sufficient.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Sympathy for the Devil in the Cultural Moment of 1969 (ALEXANDER RILEY, 1/08/20, Public Discourse)

Just a few days before Woodstock, the Manson murders were taking place on the other side of the country in California. Lebo's consideration of this dreadful piece of 1969 is admirable, emphasizing some of the broader connections of Manson's insanity to the '60s musical counterculture. Still, he fails to connect as fully as he might all the sinister dots linking Manson, the deeds of his "Family," and the rest of the counterculture he inhabited.

In a December 1968 interview with the title "I Live With 17 Girls," the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson described his relationship with a number of Manson's female cult members--"space ladies," in his terms--whom he was thinking of launching in a musical career. Through them, he met their "guru, a guy named Charlie who'd recently come out of jail after twelve years." Manson, Wilson went on, had "drifted into crime, but when I met him, I found he had great musical ideas. We're writing together now. He's dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him." Wilson let members of the Manson Family live in his Sunset Boulevard home, and he introduced Manson to Terry Melcher, the music producer son of Doris Day. Manson later dropped by Melcher's home unannounced, but Melcher had moved. The new resident was Sharon Tate, who turned him away. Manson did not forget this spurning.

Charles Manson did not become a famous musician, and his failure in the music industry motivated some of his monstrous rage. A Beach Boys' song, "Never Learn Not to Love," was a rewritten version of a Manson composition titled "Cease to Exist," and the lack of a songwriting credit greatly angered him. When the Beatles' White Album was released in November 1968, Manson heard it as a call to violent social revolution through assassination, murder, and race war.

It is too easy now, especially given a certain political predilection, to see this as a wholly distinctive and idiosyncratic reading of the cultural temperature of the moment.

Quentin Tarantino's new film is a stinging rebuke to the romanticization of the '60s, right down to the title's implication that they were unAmerican.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Bruce Springsteen's "Rhinestone Cowboy": The Bard of Authenticity Salutes Cheesy Seventies Style (Kyle Smith, January 10th, 2020, The Imaginative Conservative)

Mr. Springsteen hardly every sings others' songs (it's the only cover in the movie). He doesn't sing this one with a smirk or a wink. Why did he choose this one to wrap up the movie? I think it's a sly confession. Glen Campbell and Bruce Springsteen are not so far apart as they appear.

One of these two men lived a reckless rock-and-roll life as though he expected never to see 40. The other was a relative Romney. As a British tabloid once put it, with delightful concision: "Glen Campbell's dark side: Cocaine binges, booze addiction, three failed marriages and eating squirrel to stay alive." Campbell had eight children with four women, one of whom he married when she was 15 (and pregnant by Campbell, who was 17). That's straight out of "The River." Campbell was more of a Springsteen character than Mr. Springsteen.

At the time of "Rhinestone Cowboy" Campbell was a cocaine fiend. He was freebasing, too. Sometimes he would snort the white stuff while he had the Bible open on his table. In the Eighties, his relationship with Tanya Tucker was chaos; during his affair with her he busted up his room at the Plaza Hotel in New York and did $1,200 worth of damage. Tucker said he hit her so hard he knocked out two of her front teeth. In 1981, after a dispute on an airplane, he told an Indonesian gentleman, "I'm going to call my friend Ronald Reagan and bomb Jakarta." Campbell became a born-again Christian and said he kicked the bad habits, but they kicked back. As late as 2003, he earned himself ten days in prison after being busted for drinking and driving in Phoenix. When asked his name, he said, "Glen Campbell, the Rhinestone Cowboy." He insisted he wasn't drunk but had merely been "over-served" via a Coke he did not know also contained rum. He tried to knee a cop in the thigh.

Campbell's songs (which he didn't write) were not about desperation and woe, but his life was. For Mr. Springsteen it was the reverse; the darkness in his songs is strictly make-believe. This would have been obvious to anyone paying attention, but should you doubt it, I refer you to Springsteen on Broadway, in which Mr. Springsteen admits he made it all up, using the following words: "I made it all up." He went to the movies and borrowed from features such as Thunder Road (1958) and Badlands (1973). In 1987, his album Tunnel of Love reflected frankly on his (brief, unwise) first marriage, to Julianne Phillips, and in his 1992 song "Better Days" he drops a reference to being "a rich man in a poor man's shirt," but for the most part what Mr. Springsteen has been doing his whole career is speak through fictional characters -- gangsters and losers and Tom Joad. He never raced cars. He was never a street punk. He never saw the inside of a factory. "Standing before you is a man who has become wildly and absurdly successful writing about something about which he has had absolutely no personal experience," he said in the Broadway show. How could it be otherwise? He's been a rich man since his early thirties. He lives on a 380-acre estate in New Jersey, when he isn't at his $60 million property in Benedict Canyon. His daughter is an equestrian. If Mr. Springsteen were being frank, "The River" would be about a Mississippi of money.

No one should feel cheated, though. Mr. Springsteen is a creative artist, and he spent most of his career carefully refining his greatest creation: "Bruce Springsteen."

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


New Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows Americans view Obama as 'more effective' than Trump on Iran (Andrew Romano, January 10, 2020, Yahoo News)

According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Americans are evenly divided over President Trump's decision to kill Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, but a plurality of the public opposes Trump's overall approach to the Islamic Republic and believes his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama was more effective in dealing with Tehran.

Conducted from Jan. 8 to 10 -- after Iranian ballistic missiles struck Iraqi bases in retaliation without causing American casualties and Trump declared that "Iran appears to be standing down" -- the poll found that 42 percent of Americans opposed Trump's approach to Iran (versus 36 percent who supported it). Forty percent said Trump was wrong to withdraw from the Obama administration's nuclear treaty with Tehran (versus 35 percent who said he was right), while 41 percent said Trump has been less effective on Iran than Obama (versus 34 percent who said the current president has been more effective).

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Sudan races for peace, then democracy: An incomplete democratic revolution has wisely focused on talks to end armed movements to unite Africa's third-largest country. (CS Monitor Editorial Board, January 10, 2020)

Sudan, which is Africa's third largest country, is in the midst of a democratic revolution, the result of a nationwide uprising a year ago that led to the ouster - and later conviction for corruption - of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir. An interim ruling council, which includes still-distrusted military figures, promises democratic elections in 2022. Yet that goal is hardly achievable without peace across a divided land of 40 million people.

Mr. Hamdok, who holds a Ph.D. in economics, took office in August and quickly set an ambitious target of negotiating "comprehensive" peace agreements with five armed movements by mid-February. Last September, all groups signed on to a "Declaration of Principles" that lays out a pathway for talks. So far, with the help of Western countries as well as Ethiopia and South Sudan, most of the negotiations are largely on track.

The reason, claims Mr. Hamdok, is that the armed groups are responding positively to his promised "pillars" for peace. These include economic growth, better security, accountability for human rights abuses, uplift of marginalized groups, and a focus on root causes for conflict, such as land grabs and religious repression. [...]

Yet Hamdok says his first priority is spreading a culture of peace, bringing reformers and rebels together. Only then, after shaping a common Sudanese identity, can the country's democratic revolution be complete.

If you can't secure the regime you don't get to remain democratic.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Man who tackled London attacker with tusk says Trump is 'feeding terror' (Robert Booth, 10 Jan 2020, The guardian)

The man who used a narwhal tusk to tackle the London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan has accused Donald Trump of "feeding terror" with his belligerent Middle East policy, warning it will breed more murderous attackers like the one he and others faced.

In his first interview since Khan killed two people and injured several more at a criminal justice conference on 29 November, Darryn Frost said the US president's decision to assassinate General Qassem Suleimani would cost lives and added: "The next generation of terrorists will rise as a direct result of these actions and we must condemn them now."

Speaking in detail about his ordeal for the first time, Frost, 38, a civil servant working for HM Prisons and Probation, revealed how he tackled Khan alongside two convicted men, using an ornamental tusk to stab Khan through the abdomen, and pinned him to the ground, despite believing that he was wearing an explosive device.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Trump angered by House ally's push to limit his authority on Iran (Josh Dawsey, Jan. 10, 2020, Washington Post)

It was a risky move that surprised the president and showed rare fissures in a Republican Party that Trump has firmly controlled. Trump fiercely complained about Gaetz after aides informed Trump that his office had sent the email backing the resolution, which was pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Trump's team lobbied heavily against the nonbinding resolution.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


MAGA Socialite Sentenced to 1 Month in Prison for Fraud (Tracy Connor, Jan. 11, 2020, Daily Beast)

A Trump-loving socialite was sentenced to one month in prison this week for stealing her elderly mother's Social Security benefits. Karyn Turk, a former Ms. Florida and self-styled conservative pundit, pleaded guilty but is appealing, according to the Sun Sentinel. Prosecutors said the 47-year-old pocketed $43,000 worth of checks that should have gone to the nursing home caring for her dementia-stricken mother, who has since died. The day she was sentenced to federal prison and five months of house arrest, Turk posted a photo on Instagram of herself posing in front of Mar-a-Lago.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Iranian Military Apologizes For Shooting Down Ukraine-Bound Flight, Cites 'Human Error': Report (CHUCK ROSS, January 10, 2020, Daily Caller)

The Iranian military apologized Friday for shooting down a commercial airliner bound for Ukraine, and blamed "human error" for launching the missile that took down the airplane, according to Iranian state media.

"The plane was accidentally hit by a human error, which unfortunately results in the martyrdom of dear compatriots and the death of a number of foreign nationals," the military's general staff said in a statement published by the Islamic Republican News Agency.

REAGAN APOLOGIZED TO IRAN FOR DOWNING OF JETLINER (Molly Moore and Bill McAllisterJuly 6, 1988, Washington Post)

President Reagan said yesterday that he apologized to Iran on Sunday for the USS Vincennes' shooting down of an Iranian passenger jet over the Persian Gulf that killed all 290 persons aboard and declared that reparations or compensation to the families of victims are "a matter that has to be discussed."

Reagan, a White House spokesman disclosed yesterday, sent a five-paragraph diplomatic note expressing "deep regret" to the Iranian government on Sunday, shortly after U.S. military leaders learned that the guided-missile cruiser had destroyed the Iran Air A300 Airbus after mistaking it for an Iranian F14 fighter plane.

The president's message sought to assure the Iranian government that the attack was an accident, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


FBI Director Tells Surveillance Court He 'Deeply Regrets' Failures In Carter Page FISA Process (CHUCK ROSS, January 10, 2020, Daily Caller)

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the federal surveillance court in a letter Friday that he "deeply regrets" the bureau's many errors in the process to obtain surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

"The FBI has the utmost respect for this Court, and deeply regrets the errors and omissions identified by the OIG," Wray wrote in a letter to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

A judge on the FISC ordered the FBI on Dec. 17 to respond by Friday with a roadmap on how the bureau plans to address the problems identified in a Justice Department inspector general's (IG) report regarding applications for warrants to wiretap Page. [...]

Wray, who took over the FBI more than a month after the fourth and final Page FISA had been approved, said that one remedy he plans to implement will be to use the Page FISA as a case study in training sessions that FBI personnel will be required to undergo.

"FBI personnel will be instructed on the errors and omissions that were made in the Carter Page FISA applications and associated processes," Wray said.

The training will include a test "to confirm that personnel understand the expectations and the materials," as well as certification for FBI employees who have completed the training, he added.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Vermont GOP governor affirms refugee welcome, seeks more (WILSON RING, 1/10/20, Associated Press)

Vermont's Republican governor has reaffirmed the state's commitment to accepting refugees from across the world and says he would like to return the number of people arriving in the state to the levels before President Donald Trump took office.

In a letter to the president and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Gov. Phil Scott said the state has welcomed almost 8,000 refugees since 1989 and that before Trump took office, the state was accepting about 325 to 350 a year.

In fiscal year 2019, Vermont took in 115 refugees, said Amila Merdzanovic, of the Vermont office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

"Vermont's refugee communities have made countless contributions to our state," said Scott's letter to the president, which was dated Monday and released by the governor's office to those who asked for it. "Refugees help ensure a healthy sized and diverse student population. They help employers fill open positions, contributing to the community and local economy, and pay federal, state and local taxes."

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


We Found Major Trump Tax Inconsistencies. New York's Mayor Wants a Criminal Investigation. (Heather Vogell Jan. 10, 2020, ProPublica)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that he had asked Manhattan's district attorney to investigate discrepancies ProPublica and WNYC revealed last fall between what President Donald Trump's company reported in filings to city tax officials and what it reported in loan filings. The discrepancies made his properties seem more profitable to a lender and less profitable to the city's tax authorities.

After ProPublica published its findings, de Blasio said Friday, the city decided to examine the issues. That process resulted in one matter being turned over to the district attorney in November. De Blasio said he made the referral "because there is a possibility of a criminal act having been committed." The referral related to Trump's historic downtown skyscraper at 40 Wall Street, a city spokeswoman added.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


White House Considering Major Travel Ban Expansion (Associated Press, January 10, 2020)

The White House is considering dramatically expanding its much-litigated travel ban to additional countries amid a renewed election-year focus on immigration by President Donald Trump, according to six people familiar with the deliberations.

A document outlining the plans -- timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump's January 2017 executive order -- has been circulating in the White House. But the countries that would be affected if it moves forward are blacked out, according to two of the people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the measure has yet to be finalized.

It's unclear exactly how many countries would be included in the expansion if it proceeds, but two of the people said that seven countries -- a majority of them Muslim -- would be added to the list. 

Every Republican who claims they couldn't vote Donald but couldn't bring themself to vote Hillary supports the Musliim Ban.  He has to bring it back.