September 22, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 PM


As woman's slaying turns up heat, Iran president asks what about US police killings (AYA BATRAWY, 9/22/22, AP)

The death of an Iranian woman in the custody of the country's morality police must be "steadfastly" investigated, Iran's president said Thursday, even as he turned the tables on the country he was visiting for the UN General Assembly and asked: What about all the people killed by American police?

Can't defend the indefensible. Investigate and prosecute, just as we do our murderous police. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


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Fossil fuels make up 90% of Middle East air pollution: study (Patrick GALEY, September 22, 2022, AFP)

More than 90 percent of harmful air pollution in the Middle East and parts of North Africa comes from fossil fuels, according to research Thursday that showed the region "permanently exceeded" dangerous air quality levels.

The World Health Organization this year said the MENA region had some of the poorest air quality on Earth.

The long-standing assumption was that the smog choking most of the region's cities was primarily composed of desert sand, given their location on the world's "dust belt" where there are frequently more than 20 major sand storms each year.

In 2017, an international team of researchers set off on an epic voyage across the eastern Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal and around the Gulf, using specialised equipment to analyse air quality and particulate matter on shore.

They found that the vast majority of small particles -- which can penetrate deep into the lungs, resulting in greater health risk -- were manmade, mainly from the production and use of fossil fuels.

Tax the externalities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


US Capitol rioter and alleged Nazi sympathizer sentenced to 4 years in prison (Holmes Lybrand and Andrew Millman, 9/22/22, CNN)

"You absolutely knew what you and others were doing," McFadden said Thursday, adding that Hale-Cusanelli lied during his testimony in trial when he claimed he didn't know Congress met in the Capitol, despite telling his roommate that he was just outside the House chambers during the riot.

McFadden repeatedly castigated Hale-Cusanelli for racist commentary that "normalizes violence," pointing to the recent increase of antisemitic violence in the US.

In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued that Hale-Cusanelli should receive 78 months behind bars and pointed to his desire for a civil war and antisemitic conspiracies, saying that Jews controlled Democrats, President Joe Biden and all of government.

"It is well-established in the record at this point that Hale-Cusanelli subscribes to White Supremacist and Nazi-Sympathizer ideologies that drive his enthusiasm for another civil war and formed the basis of this Court's pretrial determination that Hale-Cusanelli was a danger to the community," prosecutor Kathryn Fifield wrote.

"What Hale-Cusanelli was doing on January 6 was not activism," Fifield added. "It was the preamble to his civil war."

It's certainly perplexing how racist/misogynist/Islamophic/anti-Semitic all these "very fine people" turn out to be.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Trump Made N.Y. Attorney General's Fraud Case Virtually Unbeatable (RENATO MARIOTTI, 09/22/2022, Politico)

When I was federal prosecutor, I frequently prosecuted bank fraud that looked similar to what Trump and his company allegedly did. I even put away a rich real estate mogul who defrauded his lender. It's not an unusual fact pattern to see. What is impressive is the sheer size of the scheme. Trump allegedly obtained $250 million via fraud over a 10-year period, and the various machinations he used to inflate the value of his holdings was extensive. James alleges that Trump exaggerated the square footage of his triplex apartment in Trump Tower, claiming it was 30,000 square feet rather than its actual size of 11,000 square feet, and therefore should be valued at $327 million rather than $80 million. It's a price, James noted, that no apartment in New York city has ever commanded.

The attorney general's lawsuit doesn't contain damning emails or text messages, the kind that prosecutors typically rely on to prove a defendant's intent. But that might not be necessary under the New York law that James cited which focuses on repeated acts of deception. (And given that his own accounting firm Mazars USA has said it won't stand by the statements it prepared for a decade, it's going to be hard for Trump to argue the valuations were proper.)

But perhaps the biggest reason James has such a winning hand is this: Trump dealt her the cards.

In early August he invoked the Fifth Amendment some 440 times during his deposition in this case. It was undoubtedly the right move for him to make because he faces criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions, and his words, even though they are ostensibly about matters unrelated to election interference could nevertheless be useful to prosecutors seeking to demonstrate his capacity for deception. Prosecutors could also use his words to bring criminal charges based on the alleged scheme that James uncovered.

But taking the Fifth has severe consequences in this case. Unlike in a criminal case, in a civil proceeding like the suit brought by James, the jury will likely be instructed they can infer that when Trump took the Fifth, his answer would have been adverse to him. Trump's repeated insistence that James' politically motivated suit left him no choice will not withstand the effect of the jury inferring that Trump broke the law and has no good answer to the questions he was asked.

That essentially screws Trump and his family in this case. It is no coincidence that James put in her lawsuit that when Trump was asked whether he "had an ongoing agreement from at least 2005 to the present with Mr. Weisselberg, Mr. McConney and others to prepare the Statement of Financial Condition in a manner that included false and misleading valuation statements, Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to answer."

In a civil case like this one, that's the ballgame. Trump, his son Eric, and others took the Fifth hundreds of times and they can expect James and her team to throw that back in their faces to prove their case. All of the other evidence is just supporting corroboration. The testimony of Trump and his family -- or lack thereof -- is the centerpiece.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Saudi lobbyist oversees millions in dark money GOP campaign donations: Experts question former Sen. Norm Coleman's role as both foreign agent for Riyadh and Republican fundraiser. (Eli Clifton, 9/22/22, Responsible Statecraft)

Last year, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, one of the Republican Party's biggest fundraisers, had a request for 30 Republican congressional staffers. Coleman had helped many of their bosses' campaigns in his role atop an organization that raised and spent over $165 million in the 2020 election cycle.

"At this time," wrote Coleman, "the Kingdom would appreciate if your Member of Congress would publicly welcome this step and call out the Houthis for their continuous obstruction of the political process." He was promoting a Saudi ceasefire initiative in Yemen that the Houthi rebels ultimately rejected. The rebels demanded that any such agreement would require the Saudis to fully lift the blockade of Yemen, which had contributed to more than 370,000 deaths.

His ask -- "on behalf of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia" -- wasn't an isolated request. Coleman wrote over 1,000 emails to House and Senate staffers in 2021 and 2022 as part of his paid work for Saudi Arabia. Coleman and several of his law firm colleagues are registered as foreign agents of the Kingdom. The emails, as well as the details of the $175,000 per month contract between Saudi Arabia and Hogan Lovells, the law firm, are all contained in filings submitted to the Justice Department. The contract is part of the Saudi government's robust lobbying operation that saw the kingdom spend $21 million last year to gain influence in Washington, according to public filings.

Why did you think they oppose energy independence after all. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers: Illegal Immigrants Are Still 'Wisconsinites' (Alana Goodman, September 22, 2022, Free Beacon)

Wisconsin's Democratic governor Tony Evers said he considers illegal immigrants to be "Wisconsinites" just as much as lawful residents, according to newly unearthed video from 2019.

During a speech to the Voces de la Frontera's Migration is Beautiful Masquerade Gala in 2019, Evers said he does not differentiate between illegal immigrants and lawful residents of Wisconsin.

"No matter your immigration status, if you call Wisconsin home, you're a Wisconsinite," Evers told the group.

What else would you call them?

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


A Forgotten Champion of Religious Liberty: Dirck Coornhert's 1582 Synod on the Freedom of Conscience speaks to our polarized age. (Joseph Loconte, 9/16/22, Law & Liberty)

The unifying thread to the Synod is the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. Gamaliel reminds the Reformed delegates, for example, that their Catholic adversaries are members of the same human family. They "are fellow human beings who, just like us, prefer to be kindly tolerated rather than violently forced." No follower of Jesus, Gamaliel insists, can escape the ethical core of his teaching: "This law applies to both, indeed to all parties. We are all subjected to this law and I wish fervently that we would all act in accordance with it."

The Union of Utrecht (1579) had enshrined freedom of conscience as the basis of the Dutch Republic; no one was to be punished because of his religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the Reformed Church held an official religious monopoly and prohibited or penalized non-conforming faiths. Coornhert himself had been muzzled by the authorities for criticizing Reformed ministers in print, and he devotes an entire session in the Synod to defending freedom of the press and freedom from censorship. As biographer Gerrit Voogt summarizes it, for Coornhert "free debate and disputation were the lifeblood of a healthy republic."

Although Coornhert emphasized the inner life of faith over traditional Christian doctrine, he was never flippant about religious belief or the desire to honor the teachings of the Bible in public life. The antidote to false or controversial teaching, he believed, was not state-sanctioned crackdowns. Rather, the remedy was "to kill the heresy by means of the truth"--that is, to discuss and debate the meaning of the Scriptures. If the goal was to lead people into a deeper commitment to Christ, he reasoned, "what weapons could then be more useful or necessary to you than the power of God?"

The Synod doesn't explain how a multi-confessional state might function. But it articulates political principles that would supply the building blocks for a more liberal society. In a striking passage, Coornhert quotes a Reformed author who wrote that because men and women are spiritual beings by nature, no authority could "drive religion from the heart," the realm over which God retains exclusive authority:

The prosperity of the kingdom requires solid and sincere concord among all inhabitants. Now we can only have solid concord when all inhabitants enjoy common and equal rights, and this especially in religion. That is why the king should embrace all his subjects with a common and equal love, and this especially in the greatest and weightiest matter of all, religion. It is rooted so deep in people's hearts that one could not find a better or more lasting seal of concord anywhere.

We must not miss the radical quality of the Synod's argument. The unquestioned assumption in Coornhert's day, held by Protestants as well as Catholics, was that the prince should use his political authority to uphold the teachings of the favored, established religion. This meant enforcing doctrinal conformity and punishing dissenters--with civil penalties, prison, banishment, or execution. It was an article of faith that the alliance of church and state toward this end was the only hope of establishing political unity and social peace.

Yet Coornhert reproves Lutherans, Reformed, and Catholics alike for forbidding each other's teachings whenever they gain political power and "have the magistrate on their side." He then flips the argument for stability on its head. If the prince seeks political security, he must not play favorites in matters of religion: "But wise politicians call inequality among the inhabitants or citizens of a country a pestilence to the commonwealth, as by the same token equality is the strongest bond of concord and stability."

In a way that almost no one in the West had ever attempted, Coornhert made a biblical argument that the flourishing of the state depended upon the principle of equal justice: Every person, regardless of religious belief, must enjoy equal rights under the law.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Illuminating Truth & Beauty: The Choral Music of Samuel Adler (Michael De Sapio, September 17th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

Gloriae Dei Cantores (singers to the glory of God) is a choir based in Orleans, Massachusetts, along Cape Cod. Their mission statement declares their aim to "illuminate truth and beauty through choral artistry, celebrating a rich tradition of sacred choral music from Gregorian chant through the twenty-first century." The ensemble's more than fifty recordings, made during their nearly 35 years of performing, bears witness to this wide and catholic repertoire and commitment to values spiritual and artistic.

One of the ensemble's frequent collaborators over the years has been composer Samuel Adler. Adler, who was born in 1928 and turned 94 this year, is something of a national treasure: a living link to the midcentury American musical "school" of Aaron Copland (who was among his teachers). He has particularly concentrated on sacred choral music, and the album To Speak to Our Time gathers together several of his pieces for choir and organ from a long career.

The centerpiece of the album is To Speak to Our Time, a cantata composed in 2018 for the eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, the infamous Nazi atrocity against the Jews. It is an event which Adler experienced firsthand. The booklet notes to the CD recount the remarkable story of how he escaped Germany with his father on that very night in 1938. I could hardly improve upon the description:

"Samuel Adler was ten years old--huddled with his father in the balcony of the Mannheim synagogue. He didn't know if he would survive. He saw the lights; he heard the crashing glass; he smelled the acrid smoke of gunfire; and tasted the burn in the air. This night was an invasion--Kristallnacht. What stood between the frightened pair and possible capture or even death, was the collapse of a pipe organ in that balcony where they were hiding, which allowed them to escape. When Adler recounts this story, he leaves no doubt that his life was spared for a purpose.... Today, at ninety-four years of age, there are few composers whose music is more perfectly positioned to speak to our time."

Adler's cantata has texts in four different languages: German, Hebrew, Latin, and English. What strikes you in sampling Adler's music, and his comments on it, is his sincere universality and ecumenical spirit. Born and raised Jewish and the son of a cantor, Adler worked for many years in Christian churches and he has set texts from both the Old and New Testaments. His Choral Trilogy, my favorite of the works on this album, sandwiches a text from Romans between two texts from the Psalms. There is a beautiful spiritual progression in both the texts and music of this triptych. The first movement sets "Why have you forsaken me," the words of Psalm 22 which Jesus appropriated on the Cross. The desolate mood of the opening of this movement gives way to an affirmation of divine authority at the end: "For dominion belongs to God, and He rules over all the nations." The second movement sets a well-known text from Romans, Chapter 8: "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us," providing a hopeful answer to the question posed in the opening movement. Finally, the last movement dances with the jubilant text of the penultimate Psalm: "Sing to the Lord a new song, sing His praises in the assembly of the righteous," with music that the CD booklet likens to a Jewish village dance.

Adler's music harkens back to the classic midcentury sound of Copland, Piston, Hindemith, Randall Thompson. It's what we might describe as conservative modernism, using harmonic and rhythmic innovation in the interest of expanding and building upon tradition. In interviews Adler has emphasized the importance of knowledge and craft in musical composing. He may be one of the last representatives of this neoclassical approach, standard in the U.S. in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, before postmodern sensibilities came to the fore. True to the neoclassic aesthetic, this music induces a sense of contemplative calm and order. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


Phil Scott doesn't expect unannounced migrants but makes 'contingency plans' (Ethan Weinstein, Sep 21 2022, VT Digger)

In response to a question at his weekly press conference Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott said that while he didn't anticipate unexpected migrants, "we are working on contingency plans."

"We want to welcome as many people as we can into the state. We think that's part of the answer," he said. "But we'd like to have a little bit of lead time in order to accomplish that."

Pressed further about the nature of those plans, Scott pointed to possible emergency housing options.

There are "a number of different areas that we're looking at, whether it's in some of our campuses that have closed, and whether it's some of the existing campuses that might have some space, as well as other initiatives that we have," he said. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Upholding Justice Department, 11th Circuit Panel Spanks Cannon Hard (Lucian K. Truscott IV, September 22 | 2022, National Memo)

Only 48 hours after the Trump legal team filed its response to the Justice Department's request that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals end the restrictions imposed on the 100 folders of highly classified documents, that appeals court -- citing legal precedent after precedent after precedent -- eviscerated the order handed down by Florida District Court Judge Aileen Cannon and ruled in the government's favor.

She's literal cannon fodder. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


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Over 1,300 arrested in Russia as military call-up ignites widespread protests (Times of Israel, 9/22/22)

More than 1,300 people have been arrested at demonstrations across Russia against President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group said Wednesday.

The OVD-Info monitoring group counted at least 1,332 people detained at rallies in 38 different cities across the country after Putin's morning address to the nation.

The protests were the largest in Russia since demonstrations that broke out following the announcement of Moscow's invasion in February.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Rashida Tlaib says progressives can't be pro-Israel, drawing fire from own party (RON KAMPEAS, 9/22/22, JTA

It's an argument that has percolated for years and now members of Congress are duking it out: What fits better into the "progressive" portmanteau, supporting or opposing Israel?

US House Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is Palestinian-American and the only member of Congress who opposes Israel's self-definition as a Jewish state, said Tuesday that there was no room in the progressive movement for supporters of what she called Israel's "apartheid" government.

"I want you all to know that among progressives, it's become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel's apartheid government, and we will continue to push back and not accept that you are progressive except for Palestine," Tlaib said in an online forum organized by American Muslims for Palestine.

Heck, you can't be a small "d" democrat and support racial nationhood.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Operatives linked to DeSantis promised to fly migrants to Delaware -- but left them stranded (SARAH BLASKEY AND NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 , Miami Herald)

A black, luxury SUV with tinted windows pulled into a parking space along the side of a drab, two-story La Quinta motel planted on the northwestern edge of 12 lanes of highway that loop around downtown San Antonio. 

A woman with straight, light-colored hair got out of the rented Infiniti. She took the outdoor stairs, walked to the far end and knocked on the doors to rooms 243 and 241, where a group of Venezuelan asylum-seekers had spent five anxious days waiting. 

She brought them food and a message: They were being sent to Delaware. The bus to the airport would be leaving at 5 a.m. the next day -- Tuesday, Sept. 20 -- she said, according to interviews with six migrants housed at the hotel. 

The migrants didn't know that they were being swept up in an operation that bore striking similarities to one organized the week before by operatives for Gov. Ron DeSantis that ended with 48 Venezuelan migrants dropped off on a Massachusetts island. 

Or that the trip to Delaware being dangled would never happen. 

They also didn't know that an anonymous source close to DeSantis would suggest to NBC News that a planned charter flight from San Antonio to Delaware -- that was destined for an airport not far from President Joe Biden's summer home, according to flight records, and dominated cable news on Tuesday -- was canceled without explanation and then used to "punk" journalists and Democrats and keep the "spotlight" on immigration. 

If so, the migrants interviewed by the Herald were the butt of the joke. They thought they were going somewhere.

...leaving them stranded there is needlessly cruel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


The American security state comes home: Biden is cynically weaponising democracy (ARTA MOEINI AND DAVID CARMENT, September 22, 2022, unHerd)

Seen together, Biden's speeches highlight the often-overlooked synergy between domestic and foreign policy: his rhetoric depicts his administration's war against the amorphous spectre of  "MAGA fascism" at home and its stated goal of militarily defeating autocracies abroad as two sides of the same coin. These speeches could ensnare sceptics on all sides of the spectrum, enmeshing them in false equivalencies. Deny the Establishment's liberal internationalist foreign policy and risk being brandished as one of the "extremists" at home; defend America's civil liberties and due process toward January 6 rioters, and you are in league with Vladimir Putin. This is troubling for any critic of US policy in Ukraine or Taiwan right now, especially the voices of anti-interventionism on the Left. Such voices are already under pressure to conform to the party line and self-censor their restrained positions for fear of being associated with Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.

Cynically?  Opponents of Ukraine and Taiwan in favor of Putin and Xi are enemies of democracy. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


John Train, Paris Review cofounder and Cold War operative, dies at 94 (Alex Traub, 9/22/22, New York Times)

Yet he was also an operator in high finance and world affairs who, by one researcher's account, had ties to U.S. secret services. Mr. Train founded and ran a leading financial firm devoted to preserving the money of rich families, and he worked to support the mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The multifariousness of his career defies definition, but one quality did underlie his many activities. Mr. Train exemplified the attitudes and values of the exalted class he was born into: the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the postwar era. He was globe-bestriding but also self-effacing, erudite but also pragmatic, cosmopolitan but also nationalistic, solemn at one moment and droll the next.

"His WASPiness was so old school, and it's long gone now," his daughter Nina said. "Some of his friends were the last of that ilk. He lived and breathed it. He didn't change one bit, right through the '60s." [...]

By his early 40s, Mr. Train was himself a white-haired master of the financial universe who wore a bow tie and pinstripe suit. But he had not grown up excessively. He was still capable, for instance, of defending his interest in names in a 1976 Paris Review article that argued that the North would have lost the Civil War if Ulysses Grant had been given a first name with less "panache."

Mr. Train's other oddball preoccupations that led to books included "remarkable words with astonishing origins," "mots justes and indispensable terms" and "remarkable occurrences" (in 1895, for instance, only two cars existed in Ohio, and, Mr. Train claimed, they collided).

He treated his political interests less jokingly. A committed cold warrior, he wrote for The Wall Street Journal about military affairs. He became concerned that the conspiracy-monger Lyndon LaRouche was a "possible Soviet agent," Mr. Train's longtime assistant Sara Perkins said in a phone interview, and he convened meetings at his home for journalists, law enforcement agents and others in government to raise awareness about research he had done into LaRouche.