March 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 PM


As Bernie Sanders Pushed for Closer Ties, Soviet Union Spotted Opportunity (Anton Troianovski, March 5, 2020, NY Times)

The mayor of Burlington, Vt., wrote to a Soviet counterpart in a provincial city that he wanted the United States and the Soviet Union to "live together as friends."

Unbeknown to him, his desire for friendship meshed with the efforts of Soviet officials in Moscow to "reveal American imperialism as the main source of the danger of war."

That mayor was Bernie Sanders, and the story of his 1988 trip to the Soviet Union has been told before. But many of the details of Mr. Sanders's Cold War diplomacy before and after that visit -- and the Soviet effort to exploit Mr. Sanders's antiwar agenda for their own propaganda purposes -- have largely remained out of sight.

The New York Times examined 89 pages of letters, telegrams and internal Soviet government documents revealing in far greater detail the extent of Mr. Sanders's personal effort to establish ties between his city and a country many Americans then still considered an enemy despite the reforms being initiated at the time under Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet general secretary.

They also show how the Kremlin viewed these sister city relationships as vehicles to sway American public opinion about the Soviet Union.

"One of the most useful channels, in practice, for actively carrying out information-propaganda efforts has proved to be sister-city contact," a Soviet Foreign Ministry document provided to Yaroslavl officials said.

It's good to be the Establishment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


A GOP-appointed judge's scathing review of William Barr's 'candor' and 'credibility,' annotated (Aaron Blake , March 5, 2020, Washington Post)

Below is the meat of the 23-page ruling from Walton, who was appointed by George W. Bush, with annotations and analysis in yellow.

The Court has grave concerns about the objectivity of the process that preceded the public release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report and its impacts on the Department's subsequent justifications that its redactions of the Mueller Report are authorized by the FOIA. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shares the plaintiffs' concern that the Department "dubious[ly] handl[ed] [ ] the public release of the Mueller Report." EPIC's Mem. at 40; see also id. ("Attorney General[] [Barr's] attempts to spin the findings and conclusions of the [Mueller] Report have been challenged publicly by the author of the [Mueller] Report. [ ] Attorney[] General[] [Barr's] characterization of the [Mueller] [R]eport has also been contradicted directly by the content of the [Mueller] Report."); Leopold Pls.' Mem. at 9 ("[T]here have been serious and specific accusations by other government officials about improprieties in the [Department's] handling and characterization of the [Mueller] Report[.]"). Accordingly, the Court concludes that it must conduct an in camera review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to assess de novo the applicability of the particular exemptions claimed by the Department for withholding information in the Mueller Report pursuant to the FOIA.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


How Russia Is Trying To Boost Bernie Sanders' Campaign (Tim Mak, March 5, 2020, All Things Considered)

Russia's state-sponsored messaging about Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign was more neutral in the fall.

But over the past six weeks, this coverage has shifted to mirror pro-Sanders talking points first used in the last presidential campaign, said Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, who has been monitoring Russian interference continuously.[...]

While monitoring coverage on Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik, Watts has noticed an ongoing trend: While most coverage remains neutral, Sanders receives substantially better coverage than his opponents.

According to figures released by Watts' organization, Sanders received a higher percentage of positive coverage -- more than 2 1/2 times -- than any other Democratic candidate, and even more than President Trump.

And, Watts adds, "the important part is that they [the two networks] have been more negative about everyone else."

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


Mike Bloomberg plans new group to support Democratic nominee (Michael Scherer, March 5, 2020, Washington Post)

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to form a new independent expenditure campaign that will absorb hundreds of his presidential campaign staff in six swing states to work to elect the Democratic nominee this fall.

The new group, with a name that is still undisclosed because its trademark application is in process, would also be a vehicle for Bloomberg to spend money on advertising to attack President Trump and support the Democratic nominee, according to a person familiar with the discussions, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


Trump campaign is taking lots of cash from companies profiting off opioid epidemic (Dan Desai Martin, March 4, 2020, American Independent)

Donald Trump has benefited from more than $4.5 million in campaign funds linked to the deadly opioid epidemic ravaging the nation.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised the funds from heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune as well as Stewart Rahr, former head of Kinray, a pharmaceutical distributor.

According to financial contributions flagged by American Bridge, a progressive opposition research organization, the Johnson family and Rahr donated $4,508,100 to Trump campaign efforts between late 2016 and February 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Sometimes the Obvious Thing Is True: Bernie Sanders Is Just Too Liberal (Kevin Drum, 3/05/20, Mother Jones)

Even among Democrats, there's not a majority who identify as liberal, let alone mega liberal. Maybe there will be someday when Millennials and Gen Z take over, but not today.

I know I'm a bit of a broken record on this, but the whole Bernie phenomenon is very much a part of the Twitter bubble. Or maybe it's just the "online blatherer bubble." In any case, I belong to a few progressive listservs and support for Joe Biden in those places is approximately zero. On Twitter, you'd think there were no human beings in the country who supported Biden. Even in the more traditional media, there's an assumption that Biden is just sort of a default choice for some people, but that nobody actively likes the guy.

Maybe so. But out in the real world I think there's more grass roots support for Biden than he gets credit for. It's not as loud or as enthusiastic as Sanders or Warren get, but neither is it "establishment" support, as Biden's weak fundraising shows. Rather, it comes from Biden's experience; his general likability; his optimism; and yes, some Obama coattails.

Ironically, by forcing blacks, Latinos and Asians to remain Democrats, Donald keeps their party mainstream.  It is Republicans who are radical.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Public Policy Polling surveyed 872 Maine voters and found 47 percent would vote for Democratic challenger Sara Gideon this fall, compared to 43 percent for Collins, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

PPP also polled 666 Arizona voters and found 47 percent would vote for Democratic challenger Mark Kelly while 42 percent would vote for McSally, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8.

Donald's taking the party down with him, as we deserve.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Hampshire Gov Joins Legal Fight to Keep 'Obamacare' (Associated Press, March 05, 2020)

Sununu's running for a third term. His decision puts him in opposition to a group of Republican-led states and the Trump administration, which is pushing to overturn the law.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


VW Turns to Electric to Regain Momentum in the U.S. (Simon Hage, 05.03.2020, Der Spiegel)

The test laboratory is hidden away in an industrial park in Reston, Virginia, not far from the Washington, D.C., airport. Inside a corrugated metal structure, four men are sitting at folding tables and staring into their laptops. Nothing seems to disturb them as they work, and they don't even look up when the roller door at the entrance rattles open and a yellow, electric Chevrolet drives in.

The car stops in front of a row of white metal posts out of which green light is shining, thick, black cables hanging down at their sides. They're charging stations for all different brands of electric cars, from Tesla to Porsche to Chevrolet, and thousands of them are to ultimately be set up at parking lots and highway rest stops across the United States.

The man behind the wheel of the Chevrolet is named Giovanni Palazzo, and he is the head of this vast project, the name of which is mounted in black lettering on the back wall of the warehouse: "Electrify America." "We want to make the switch to electric cars as easy as possible," he says. "We want e-mobility to finally become reality in the U.S."

There is nothing in the building to indicate who is behind the multibillion-dollar project. The U.S. government? One of the tech companies based in Silicon Valley? Nope. It's an automobile producer from Germany: Volkswagen. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The dangerous pull of political tribalismWhy does believing in one thing mean signing up to an entire creed and picking a side? (JAMES MUMFORD, 3/05/20, Unherd)

[A]s I argue in my book Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes, an etch-a-sketch approach to ideology is called for. We need to start from first principles and decide, undetermined and undeterred by our historic political identifications, which positions on the weightiest moral questions align with the good.

We need to be prepared to concede that our historic ideological enemies, whichever tribe they come from, may have got it right when it comes to a particular controversy. This pick-n-mix approach is very different from carving out some amiable middle ground; it means taking substantive positions on specific issues, but from across the political spectrum. For difficult though this may be, failing to do so ensures a kind of moral stagnation we should all find unacceptable. The deals may give us mates, but they cannot deliver genuine progress.

There is something totalitarian about package deals, and having our thinking governed by the constellations of opinions which are but the product of historically contingent coalition-building. And because of this, I find inspiration in the Vaclav Havel  essay The Power of the Powerless and the Czech playwright's exhortation that "the primary breeding ground for what might be understood as an opposition in the post-totalitarian system is living in the truth". It is, he wrote, a drama "originally played out in the theatre of the spirit and the conscience of society".

Deciding where we stand as individuals on moral questions, irrespective of political parties, may not be the terminus. But it is the place to begin.

Hoffer again:

Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden...We join a mass movement to escape from individual responsibility, or, in the words of an ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed.  They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What do far-right terrorists actually believe?The far-right's idea of an international white identity is at odds with mainstream patriotism. (PAUL STOTT, 5th March 2020, spiked)

Another counterintuitive finding was that the authors of these manifestos are not patriots or even nationalists. They are white separatists, followers of an ideology obsessed by race and rooted in a transnational white identity, besieged by conspiracies they cannot control and by environmental Armageddon.

When we listen to woke academics and activists talking about 'whiteness', we see the flipside of the coin in the far right. Indeed, who else proclaims the existence of a 'white' identity except the worst elements on the left and the worst elements of the right?

Donald and Bernie are united most by their hatred of America as it is,

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox News host Sean Hannity "tailored his shows" based on suggestions from Paul Manafort: FBI memos (IGOR DERYSH, MARCH 4, 2020, Salon)

Gates and Manafort, who were longtime business partners before joining the Trump campaign, were later indicted in connection to their overseas work for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.

Gates told investigators that Hannity and Manafort had a "good relationship" and that the Fox News host was a "Trump supporter who publicly applauded Manafort's hiring."

"During the campaign, Hannity tailored his shows to the agenda Manafort suggested," the FBI memo said. "Hannity called himself a 'pundit,' not a journalist."

AKA: in-kind contributions

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Far-right Polish lawmaker: Natural selection via pogroms made Jews powerful (CNAAN LIPHSHIZ, 4 March 2020, JTA)

Janusz Korwin-Mikke made the comment in an interview for the Polsat channel last week about the coronavirus, the Do Rzeczy newspaper reported Wednesday.

"Jews are now powerful because they had pogroms," he said. "As a result of pogroms, the strongest and the most gifted survived. This is a warning to anti-Semites: That is why Jews are powerful, because they had pogroms. There are even theories that rabbis deliberately provoke pogroms precisely so that Jews survive and then there is natural selection."

The dangers of taking Darwin seriously.