October 31, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM

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State Department agrees to turn over Ukraine documents, potentially providing Democrats with impeachment fodder (Alexander Nazaryan, 10/31/19,Yahoo News)

The State Department has agreed to release documents related to President Trump's handling of aid to Ukraine, potentially providing ammunition to the impeachment probe now being conducted by Democrats in the House of Representatives.

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by American Oversight, a watchdog group affiliated with progressive causes. That lawsuit was initially filed in the spring, after Trump dismissed U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch. Since that firing, a whistleblower complaint and other developments have led to allegations Trump used $400 million in aid to Ukraine as leverage on authorities there to investigate Hunter Biden.

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


After House votes to formalize impeachment inquiry, Trump accuses Democrats of "witch hunt" (SHIRA TARLO, OCTOBER 31, 2019, Salon)

Moments after the House passed the resolution, Trump tweeted, "The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!"

His tweet was followed by a statement from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democrats of having an "unhinged obsession" with an "illegitimate" inquiry. She called the Democrats process "unfair, unconstitual and fundamentally un-American."

"The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
-- U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


John Bolton will have his cake and eat it too (Joel Mathis, October 31, 2019, The Week)

Throughout his history of public service -- particularly to the Republican Party's 21st-century presidents -- Bolton has earned a reputation as a diplomat disdainful of diplomacy, as a hawk's hawk who never met a potential war he didn't like.

But it also appears he helped trigger the current impeachment process by refusing to play along with Rudy Giuliani's shadow Ukraine policy on Trump's behalf. A former White House official has already told impeachment investigators that Bolton was so disturbed by the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden's son that he told an aide -- Fiona Hill -- to bring it to the attention of White House lawyers.

"Giuliani's a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up," Bolton reportedly told Hill.

If Bolton's testimony to House investigators falls in line with such reports, there will be an attempt to reassess his legacy: He may be a warmonger -- but he's a warmonger with a heart of gold.

Maybe. But it is also true that Bolton has long been known as a master bureaucratic infighter, uniquely able to undermine even higher-ranking officials if he disagreed with their policy goals. During the George W. Bush administration he became known for undermining then-Secretary of State Colin Powell on relations with Iran and Iraq, Syria and North Korea, and did much the same with Powell's successor, Condoleezza Rice.

Bolton's term in the Trump administration wasn't much different. He and Trump were often at odds over the president's conciliatory approach to North Korea and its nuclear arms program. And his longstanding enmity toward Iran even prompted Trump to joke frequently that Bolton was trying to push him into war. Trump finally got tired of the conflict and fired Bolton in September.

So if Bolton ends up testifying against the president, it is not necessarily a tale of a mustachioed bureaucrat taking a brave stand against power. Instead, it is probably another in a long trail of anecdotes about John Bolton doing John Bolton things -- and making life miserable for his bureaucratic rivals. It's just that his rival, in this case, is the president of the United States. Refusing to testify without a subpoena helps him have his cake and eat it too -- allowing him to stay in good graces with fellow hawkish Republicans who hate Trump's vacillating on Syria, while also allowing him to insist that his truthful testimony was legally required.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


What America Never Understood About ISIS: The West rightly decries the Islamic State's cruelty and violence--without seeing how both factored into the group's ability to control its territory. (Shadi Hamid, 10/31/19, The Atlantic)

Unlike most terrorist groups, ISIS had a distinctive interest in state-building, an interest reflected in the group's propaganda. One 2015 study found that about 45 percent of ISIS media outreach focused on building and sustaining the caliphate, with messaging on "traffic police, charity work, judicial systems, hospitals and agricultural projects." At the time, there was little to suggest that this would be sustainable. As Will McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse, once described it to me, "The caliphate may require caution, but the apocalypse requires abandon." And, indeed, today the caliphate no longer exists. But it did exist.

Before anything else, a state--or an organization that wishes to approximate a state--must be able to provide some degree of law and order. Without order, there cannot be law, and ISIS's project was very much about law. ISIS got its biggest break with the collapse of governmental authority in Syria and Iraq in the post-Arab Spring period. The extremist group could do what discredited governments couldn't: provide Syrians and Iraqis with a degree of security, which is what they came to crave the most. A Syrian in, say, Raqqa--which had been ISIS's de facto capital--might have detested the group's ideology but still supported its rule over the alternatives, because having some security was preferable to having none.

Here, oddly enough, ISIS's absolutism was a feature rather than a bug. Terror and state-building went hand in hand. After a country collapses and descends into warring factions and rampant criminal activity, any group that hopes to reconstitute order must assume a monopoly over the use of force. This means defeating any pretenders to the throne. In an already brutal war zone, brutality can, unfortunately, work. Instilling terror in the hearts of your opponents undermines their morale, making them more likely to stand down, flee, or surrender on the battlefield.

Of course, there's nothing easier for the West to do than destroy a state; nor anything harder than finding guerillas. The attempted establishment of a caliphate was a huge strategic gift to us.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


EVs like Tesla may be supercharged in 10 minutes using new Lithium-ion battery design (Rishabh Jain, October 31, 2019, IBT)

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed an electric vehicle battery that can be supercharged even faster than smartphones. The battery charges at an elevated temperature to ensure an increased reaction rate while keeping the cell cool, using the technology.

The scientists claim that their technology can endow an electric vehicle with 200 miles worth of charge in around 10 minutes. This means that one of the electric vehicles' biggest disadvantage - they need to be charged mid-journey for a long route, vis-à-vis a petrol/diesel vehicle may soon be obliterated.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Impeachment Equation (JONATHAN V. LAST, OCTOBER 31, 2019, The Bulwark)

[I] can't quite shake the sense that at some point, in the distant past, I heard a lot of talk about how elections were binary choices, and that Democrats were despicable radicals, and the Supreme Court was critical--and that all Republican voters, everywhere, had a positive moral duty to vote for any candidate the GOP put forth in a general election. No matter what.  Because the alternative was the utter and complete destruction of the Republic.

Is that . . . no longer true?

It was never true.  What Donald intuited, and the reluctance of Republicans to criticize him confirms, is that some significant portion of the GOP vote is based on nothing but racism.  That's why it is Mike Pence, not Hillary Clinton, who should be worried about Tulsi.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Roger Stone's Trial Could Be a Nightmare for Donald Trump: Will the proceedings reveal the president lied to Robert Mueller? (DAVID CORN & DAN FRIEDMAN, 10/31/19, Mother Jones)

As has been already documented, Stone, during the Russian attack on the 2016 election, repeatedly declared he was in contact with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Throughout that stretch, he sent out tweets predicting WikiLeaks would release material that would torpedo Hillary Clinton's campaign--tweets that reinforced the impression he was in communication with WikiLeaks while it was part of the Russian operation. Stone--who remained in contact with Trump and his campaign after he was ousted from his official role in the Trump 2016 effort--also privately communicated with Guccifer 2.0, an online persona created by the Russian hackers. And Stone repeatedly claimed in public that Moscow had nothing to do with the hack of the Democratic National Committee servers, echoing Moscow's propaganda. After the Russia scandal exploded, Stone changed his story and insisted that he had not been in direct touch with WikiLeaks and Assange. That is, he has essentially said he was lying and exaggerating during the 2016 campaign. He maintained it had all been "posture, bluff, hype."

Yet Mueller's report tantalizingly suggests that, in 2016, Stone directly interacted with Trump about WikiLeaks and its plans to release the documents pilfered by the Russian cyberthieves.

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Report: White House lawyer moved Trump's Ukraine transcript to classified server after staff flagged concerns (Catherine Garcia, October 30, 2019, The Week)

After learning that White House officials had concerns over President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, National Security Council legal counsel John Eisenberg proposed moving a reconstructed transcript of the call to a server used for highly classified material, restricting access to it and going against White House protocol, The Washington Post reports.

This revelation was made during Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's testimony to House investigators on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter told the Post.

From inside the bubble, one can smell the hand of Soros....

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


End the Failed Renewable Fuel Standard Experiment: Why Congress should abolish the ethanol mandate. (VERONIQUE DE RUGY | 10.31.2019, reason)

It's time for the annual congressional fight over the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. In one corner sit corn farmers and their representatives, who fight tenaciously not just to preserve the RFS but to expand it. In the other sits, well, just about everyone else. Whether you are a refiner, a consumer, an environmentalist, a free market economist, or just someone who cares about good government, there is ample reason to oppose the ethanol mandate.

Since 2005, the federal government has required that refineries blend increasing amounts of ethanol (grain alcohol) with gasoline. There are requirements for cellulosic, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels, with the rest of the mandate typically being met by corn ethanol since it is the cheapest.

The stated goals of the RFS were to reduce reliance on foreign energy and to move toward cleaner fuel sources. It falls short on both fronts.

...don't subsidize what you think you do--the market chooses better.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet the Spiritual Leader of the Hong Kong Protests: Edward Leung has barely spoken about the demonstrations from his jail cell, but he has emerged as an unlikely oracle in the eyes of demonstrators. (TIMOTHY MCLAUGHLIN, 10/31/19, The Atlantic)

It is Leung's 2016 election slogan, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times," that rings out today, one of the several chants that are now mantras for those who have taken to the streets. The phrase (or similar translations of it) is printed on flags and banners and spray-painted on walls. Detained protesters have looked into TV cameras and mouthed the words as they are taken away by the police. A video game that pits protesters against police uses the slogan as a title. Leung's supporters, some of whom speak about him in hagiographic terms, say he foresaw the direction that Hong Kong would take as Beijing sought to wield greater influence here. This month, hundreds gathered outside a Hong Kong court for Leung's appeal hearing, waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of him and briefly blocking the van transporting him back to prison.

Cast even by traditional pro-democracy champions here as radical just a few years ago, Leung's prognostications about the rapid erosion of Hong Kong's rights look to have been correct. The more confrontational, sometimes violent, means that Leung and Hong Kong Indigenous, the pro-independence political party of which he was a member, advocated in countering encroachment from mainland China are consequently gaining mainstream approval. As protesters have ramped up tactics, vandalizing businesses owned by mainland Chinese and tossing petrol bombs at police seen as loyal to Beijing, people are generally accepting of the violence, leveling blame at the authorities for the escalation. Leung's willingness to risk arrest was once seen as extreme. Now many hard-core demonstrators no longer fear police tear gas, nor does the threat of arrest deter them--more than 2,700 protesters have been arrested since June--while the most fervent openly speak of the possibility of dying in the streets. "Edward Leung and Hong Kong Indigenous planted a seed in Hong Kong politics, and now it has started to grow," Ray Wong, who founded the party in 2015, told me. "It really took some time for those Hong Kongers, for those peaceful protesters, to understand why we took this approach."

Leung is an unlikely oracle, having described himself in much less flattering terms than his supporters do today, often saying he was a loser, a nobody. The 28-year-old studied philosophy at Hong Kong University, where he was an intensely competitive lacrosse player and served as a residency-hall leader. In Lost in the Fumes, a 2017 documentary about Leung, he spoke about feeling lost at the time, having failed to graduate or get a job, at times locking himself away in his room. Then, in September 2014, he joined the Umbrella Movement protests, finding camaraderie and direction among his fellow protesters. "It seemed suddenly my life was meaningful," Leung said in the film.

Wong, 26, also participated in those protests, but over the course of the 79-day occupation grew disillusioned. When the protests ended, he founded Hong Kong Indigenous, a party championing "self-defense, more radical means of protest, and ... our unique identity as Hong Kongers," he told me. It fell into the "localist" movement, a group of political parties and activist groups holding a spectrum of ideas on Hong Kong's autonomy. The beliefs of some of these groups have at times veered into the xenohobic, with members demeaning mainland visitors as locusts invading Hong Kong.

In the past, Leung has described his idea of localism as rooted in the safeguarding of a Hong Kong identity distinct from that of mainland China, to "preserve our own narrative on the past, present, and future of Hong Kong." This idea, of keeping Hong Kong from becoming just another Chinese city, protecting it from Beijing's control, has come to drive the current protests. Polling from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in October showed that the number of people identifying as localists has more than doubled since March. Yet it is the most radical of Leung's beliefs, one that still remains fringe, for which he is most notorious: advocating for independence. "It might be very unrealistic; it might be nearly impossible," he said, "but in terms of politics, in terms of rational calculation, independence is the only way to leave this authoritarian regime," a reference to the Chinese government.

When Wong met Leung after the Umbrella Movement ended, Leung was again struggling, even contemplating suicide. Then, in July 2015, Leung took the stage at an annual protest and delivered a speech that, Wong recalled, "impressed all of our members." Hong Kong Indigenous, which had focused on street-level activism that included haranguing mainland tourists and sometimes violent protests targeting small-scale day traders from China, made the decision to formally enter mainstream politics by contesting elections.

The party's positions, as well as its youthful and at times boisterous members, put it at odds not just with pro-Beijing politicians. It also clashed with the traditional pro-democracy camp, who it felt was overly willing to compromise and did not take sufficient action. The feelings of dislike and distrust went both ways.

"I thought he was arrogant, full of himself," the pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said of her first impressions of Leung. Her feelings, she told me, softened over time, and she has visited Leung in prison on multiple occasions, most recently in September. This summer, after protesters stormed the building housing Hong Kong's legislative assembly, lawmakers were given a tour to see the damage. Inside, Mo said, was a spray-painted message calling for Leung's release. "I knew then he had become an icon," she said.

The only difference among Catalonia, Brexit, Palestine, Kurdistan and Hong Kong is which your partisan politics lead you to support and which to reject.

October 30, 2019

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Trump's Russia ambassador pick breaks with him over Ukraine phone call (NAHAL TOOSI, 10/30/2019, Politico)\

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan implicitly broke with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, telling lawmakers that it would not be "in accord with our values" for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival.

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In Praise of Sean Duffy: No, really. (CHARLES SYKES, OCTOBER 30, 2019, The Bulwark)

The former reality television star, turned congressman, turned CNN contributor has inadvertently and quite unintentionally performed a public service: He has exposed (at least for now) the limits of Trumpian indecency. [...]

Even before he resigned from Congress to assume his duties as a private sector Trumpian mouthpiece, Duffy had burrowed deep into a political culture primed to denounce the smallest signs of anything perceived as disloyalty to the dear leader. Military service, medals, decades of patriotic duty--none of these things count for anything unless you are down the Trump program, all of it, full-stop, for life.

The Vindman attacks are just the latest in a long line: Trump and his supporters have attacked Gold Star parents, POWs such John McCain, veterans such as Robert Mueller and William Taylor, even generals such as his former chief of Staff John Kelly and secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. And, with vanishingly few exceptions, the GOP has gone along with it.

So when the CNN camera went live, Duffy was in his comfort zone and rather than refuting Vindman's testimony, Duffy focused on the man's ethnic heritage, and suggested that the Jewish immigrant might have had dual loyalties:

It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don't know that he's concerned about American policy. . . . We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from . . . he has an affinity for the Ukraine.

But then--amazingly--something snapped. The attack on Vindman seemed to cross some sort of invisible line and he blowback was quick, intense, and brutal.

Duffy's CNN colleagues were the first to throw him under the bus. Anchor Brianna Keillor denounced what she called Duffy's "anti-immigrant bigotry," and noted pointedly that "it's an odd questioning of patriotism coming from Sean Duffy, the guy who spent part of his 20s on MTV's The Real World . . . while Alexander Vindman spent his on foreign deployments."

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YOU CAN MAKE A CHICKENHAWK OUT OF... (profanity alert):

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Diplomat Bill Taylor receives rock star reception in Ukraine after House testimony (Anna Schecter, 10/29/19, NBC news)

MARIUPOL, Ukraine -- More than 5,000 miles from the congressional room where he testified that President Donald Trump tried to get a foreign government to investigate his political opponents, acting Ambassador Bill Taylor took to a stage here Tuesday and was greeted like a rock star.

Taylor was applauded by hundreds of attendees and swarmed by well-wishers at an economic conference days after his stunning testimony connected the president, his lawyer and other political appointees to an effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.

The career diplomat used the opportunity to praise Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who convened the international gathering of diplomats and international business leaders in this remote eastern city near the Russian border.

"President Zelenskiy ran on two things: One was ending the war on Ukrainian terms. And the second was defeating corruption," Taylor told NBC News. "He has done some very brave things on ending the war."

"And this message here today on the investment in the East is an important component of ending the war, developing the confidence of people here and people in the nongovernment controlled areas."

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Job Approval Dips, Unfavorable Feelings Climb for President Trump (Grinnell College, October 28, 2019)

The Grinnell College National Poll (Grinnell-Selzer) shows that Trump's job approval rating has fallen three points to 40% since November 2018. It also shows that if the 2020 general election were held this week, only 38% of likely voters say they would definitely vote to re-elect President Trump, while 47% of likely voters would definitely vote for someone other than the president.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and the Questioning of an American Jew's Patriotism (Julia Ioffe, October 29, 2019, GQ)

His posting to Moscow was a sign of both trustworthiness and accomplishment. "For a Foreign Area Officer to get assigned to Moscow, that's a big deal," explains McFaul. "And then to be seconded to the National Security Council as he was, that is a minority group. They're the crème de la crème. You have to be super smart to get that job." The Atlantic Council's Daniel Fried, who designed the Obama administration's Russia sanctions when he was at the State Department, met Vindman several times when he came in to talk to Vindman's boss, the NSC's Russia director (and witness in the impeachment probe) Fiona Hill. "He was always there, he was very sensible, completely non-partisan," Fried recaled. "When I read his testimony [about President Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky], I thought, right. He didn't speculate, he only commented on what he knew about, he was thorough and methodical." Vindman, Fried says, struck him as "a Boy Scout."

In 2015, two years after hosting that dinner at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Flynn, now retired from the Army and heading up his own consulting, would attend another dinner in Moscow. Unlike the GRU dinner, which had been approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government, the 2015 event was the 10th anniversary dinner of RT, the Kremlin's foreign propaganda channel. This time, he wasn't sitting with American diplomats but next to Putin. And two years later, Flynn would be fired from his position as President Donald Trump's national security advisor for lying about a secret back channel from the White House to the Russian ambassador to Washington. He eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Vindman also saw a secret back channel from the White House to the former Soviet Union. The president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Gordon Sondland, his ambassador to the E.U., were trying to extort the Ukrainian government outside typical diplomatic communications: give us dirt on the Bidens, and we'll free up the Congressionally allocated military aid.

On July 10, 2019, Vindman, who had been born in Kiev, sat in on a meeting between the Ukrainian national security advisor and American officials, including Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker. The Ukrainians were pushing for a White House meeting with President Trump, which would be an important signal of American support in the face of the five-year war Russia has waged on Ukraine. But to Vindman's surprise, administration officials took the conversation elsewhere. "Amb. Sondland started to speak about delivering the specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short," Vindman wrote in his planned remarks to the House intelligence committee.

"Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate."

"Think about if a young officer who is trying to do the right thing is confronted with what he was confronted with in the NSC," says Zwack. "When this young officer is put in a really tough position, this is what you do. This is what you're taught to do."

And so Alexander Vindman, known to his colleagues as highly disciplined, especially about the strength of his convictions, marched over to the NSC's legal office and reported what he had just witnessed: the President of the United States using the power of American military and diplomacy for his personal political gain.

One of the NSC lawyers to whom Vindman took his complaint was his identical twin brother and fellow ROTC alum, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman.

Almost as soon as news of Vindman's planned testimony broke on Monday night, Trump's allies seized on Vindman's birthplace and language abilities as proof of his disloyalty to the United States. John Yoo, architect of the post-9/11 torture program, even went so far as to accuse Vindman of "espionage" on behalf of the Ukrainians. It was an assertion repeated by a former Republican congressman who is now a CNN commentator.

Of course, what they meant was that Vindman was not loyal to Trump, something the President himself confirmed this morning on Twitter when, without any evidence, he dismissed Vindman as a "Never Trumper." According to public records, both Vindman and his identical twin brother Yevgeny, a lawyer for the NSC, were once registered Democrats, but Zwack says he never knew of Vindman's personal political leanings in the two years he served with him. Of course, the President's defenders had no issue with Soviet-born Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two men arrested earlier this month for allegedly funneling Russian money to Republican candidates. Nor did they criticize Flynn, who regularly worked for foreign governments and pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington.

While Trump has a history of attacking anyone who questions his power, there is a particularly insidious history to questioning the loyalty of Jewish émigrés.

October 29, 2019

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Thatcher had a battle plan for her economic revolution - now the left needs one too: The Ridley Plan was a masterclass in strategising for transformative economic change. Where is the left's equivalent today? (Christine Berry, 28 October 2019, openDemocracy)

In 1977, Tory backbencher Nicholas Ridley presented Margaret Thatcher with a report unglamorously titled 'Final Report of the Nationalised Industries Policy Group' - later to become known as the 'Ridley Plan'.

Ridley, the son of a wealthy family whose coal and steel interests had been nationalised under the Attlee government, was implacably opposed to public ownership. And beneath its innocuous title, the Ridley Plan amounted to an astonishingly ruthless and hard-headed battle plan for privatisation - one which was to guide the Thatcherites' assault on the nationalised industries, and whose repercussions are still with us today.

The Ridley Plan prefigures almost all of the key moments in the long neoliberal assault on public ownership, from the open war against the miners to the privatisation "by stealth" (Ridley's own words) of the NHS. It suggests that Thatcher pick her battles, provoking confrontations in "non-vulnerable industry, where we can win" such as the railways and the civil service, while taking steps to create the conditions for eventual victory against the more powerful trade unions. It outlines a plan to prepare the ground for privatisation by introducing market measures in the running of nationalised industries (such as changes of leadership, targets for return on capital, and new incentives for managers), and fragmenting the public sector into independent units that could later be sold off.

Ridley explicitly describes this as a "long term strategy of fragmentation", "a cautious 'salami' approach - one thin slice at a time, but by the end the whole lot has still gone". In a controversial appendix entitled 'Countering the Political Threat', leaked to the Economist in 1978, he even anticipated the pitched battles of the miners' strike, highlighting the need for "a large, mobile squad of police who are equipped and prepared to uphold the law" against violent picketing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Analysis Finds Geographic Overlap In Opioid Use And Trump Support In 2016 (PAUL CHISHOLM, 6/23/18, NPR)

The fact that rural, economically disadvantaged parts of the country broke heavily for the Republican candidate in the 2016 election is well known. But Medicare data indicate that voters in areas that went for Trump weren't just hurting economically -- many of them were receiving prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

...as our attempts to excuse Trump voters.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Gun lobby tells judge its own NRATV channel was "distasteful and racist" (IGOR DERYSH, OCTOBER 29, 2019, Salon)

The National Rifle Association called its now-defunct NRATV network "distasteful and racist" in a new complaint filed in its ongoing lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, the public relations firm which operated the media outlet.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


Republicans Smear Army Vet Testifying Against Trump as a Ukrainian Spy (Jonathan Chait, 10/29/19, New York)

The Republican position is that there's no loyalty problem involved in having American foreign policy conducted by an off-the-books lawyer with no security clearance who was apparently on the payroll of the Russian Mafia. The security problem is the NSC official advising an American ally about how to deal with the goons demanding that the ally subvert the independence of its judicial system and insert itself into the American election, and also that it give the goons a little taste of the gas-import business. The Republicans' logic is that Giuliani and his sleazy clients represent "the president's interest," as Ingraham put it. And the president's interest, however corrupt or improper, is the national interest. If you are working at cross-purposes with Rudy and his thugs, you must be disloyal to America.

Either Soros or some other "shifty" character must have put him up to it...

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According to a new YouGov/Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation poll, 27 percent of American adults view Trump as the largest threat to world peace, compared with Kim (22 percent) and Putin (15 percent).

China's Xi Jinping and Venezuela's Nicol√°s Maduro are also seen as less threatening than Trump. Just 13 percent of U.S. adults polled viewed Jinping as the biggest threat to world peace, and 5 percent saw Maduro as the biggest threat. Both Jinping and Maduro have been accused of crimes against humanity this year. [...]

 A Quinnipiac University poll released on October 23 showed that 55 percent of registered voters approved of the inquiry, up 4 percentage points from the week before. The survey also found that 48 percent of voters backed Trump's removal, which was a 2 point jump from the week before. In fact, Americans are getting on board with impeaching Trump much faster than they did with President Richard Nixon.

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House impeachment vote scrambles Senate Republicans' Trump defense (MARIANNE LEVINE and BURGESS EVERETT, 10/28/2019, Politico)

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) disagreed, arguing Republicans got what they wanted and should declare victory.

"I'm glad the House has responded, and they're going to have transparent proceedings," Fischer said. "We've seen what we've wanted to see."

The conflict underscores how Senate Republicans have struggled to unite on a response to the House's fast-moving impeachment inquiry into Trump, which centers on his alleged efforts to withhold military aid to Ukraine in an effort to secure an investigation into political rival Joe Biden.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never committed to a floor vote on the measure in the first place.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nunes Aide Is Leaking the Ukraine Whistleblower's Name, Sources Say: Derek Harvey, a former intelligence analyst, has also been spreading disinformation about an aide to Adam Schiff. (Spencer Ackerman, Sam Brodey, Adam Rawnsley, 10.29.19, Daily Beast)

A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes has been providing conservative politicians and journalists with information--and misinformation--about the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the biggest crisis of Donald Trump's presidency, two knowledgeable sources tell The Daily Beast.  [...]

The whistleblower is not Harvey's only target. Another is a staffer for the House intelligence committee Democrats whom The Daily Beast has agreed not to name due to concerns about reprisals against the staffer. Harvey, both sources said, has spread a false story alleging that the whistleblower contacted the staffer ahead of raising internal alarm about President Trump's July 25 phone call attempting to get a "favor" from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to damage Trump's rival Joe Biden. In right-wing circles, contact with Schiff is meant to discredit the whistleblower as partisan. 

Given that Donald not only confessed, doubled-down and then made the same demand of China, the original whistleblowers don't matter to the prosecution.
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Franco's Victory Was Necessary, But Ultimately Meaningless (GRAYSON QUAY, October 29, 2019, American Conservative)

As I continued exploring Spain and reading about the Spanish Civil War, I began to reconsider my opinion of Franco, and the question of whether I'd have fought for his Nazi-supported Nationalists or for the Soviet-supported Republicans began to weigh upon me. On Thursday, in what is perhaps the Spanish government's most final and unambiguous repudiation of Franco's legacy yet, the dictator's remains were removed from their grand resting place at the Valley of the Fallen, supposedly a monument to those who died on both sides in the Spanish Civil War, and re-interred next to those of his wife at a family cemetery in Madrid. The issue of Franco's grave had divided Spaniards along partisan lines for years. The center-right People's Party had tacitly favored leaving the Generalissimo where he lay, while the Socialists, who currently control the government, vocally demanded that he be removed and painted anyone who disagreed as by implication a crypto-Falangist.

When I visited Franco's former tomb, I understood more fully than ever the ideology (or, more accurately, faith) that drove him and his faction and continues to inspire those who still mourn his regime. The experience made me ambivalent about his proposed exhumation. Franco was buried behind the altar of a massive basilica, hewn into the side of a mountain by a labor force composed partially of prisoners of war. Between side chapels dedicated to different branches of the Spanish military hung massive tapestries depicting scenes of apocalyptic warfare from the Book of Revelation. For the first time, I saw why Franco's supporters referred to the civil war as "La Cruzada." As one of the traditionalist Catholic meme pages I follow so unambiguously put it, Franco's rebellion was nothing less than "open war against Satanism."

The equation of communism with Satanism is no understatement. Whittaker Chambers certainly believed that when he referred to communism as "man's second oldest faith," with a creed first articulated when Satan whispered to Eve, "Ye shall be as gods." For evidence, one need look no further than the actions of the Spanish Left, who gained Orwell's approval when they burned churches and slaughtered priests, or the militant atheism of the Soviet Union, which certainly would have been replicated in Spain had Franco been defeated.

The idea that a Republican victory would have resulted in a stable, social-democratic Spain is bunk. Any apparent moderation or liberalism was a carefully crafted deception designed and executed by Stalin's Politburo to further its diplomatic goals and trick soft-hearted Western liberals into opposing Franco.

Peter Hitchens has suggested that maybe "if Franco had lost, a Stalinist Spain would have been loyal to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, joined the Axis in 1940, and tipped the balance in favor of Hitler at a decisive moment," and that is certainly a possibility. Another is that World War II would have ended with an Allied victory, but that among those victorious allies would have been a Soviet puppet state in Western Europe, complete with gulags and Stalin-esque purges that would have made Franco's White Terror, which killed an estimated 100,000 people, look like amateur hour. We barely made it through the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Spanish Missile Crisis might have destroyed us all.

For these reasons, I've come to the same conclusion as Rod Dreher: if I had to choose a side, I would have fought for Franco, but only because his enemy was evil incarnate.

Nevermind how much better their living standards were throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s & 80s, even today their GDP per capita is $39k, which only the Baltic states from the old Iron Curtain approach.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The decorated officer set to testify in the impeachment query was a Jewish refugee from Ukraine (RON KAMPEAS, OCTOBER 28, 2019, JTA) 

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council staffer set to deliver dramatic testimony confirming that President Donald Trump sought dirt on a political rival from Ukraine, is a Jewish refugee from that country when it was part of the Soviet Union.

"I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine," Vindman, an army officer and the top NSC official handling Ukraine, says in testimony posted Monday evening by the New York Times, which he is set to deliver to congressional investigators on Tuesday.

October 28, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


2020 Obamacare premiums are on track for smallest increases ever (Dylan Scott, Oct 28, 2019, Vox)

Obamacare premiums will stay flat in 2020 -- and in many of the states that have aggressively intervened to support their insurance markets, rates are going to be lower next year.

2020 is looking like a bit of a breakthrough for the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces. Nationwide, the average change in unsubsidized premiums is just a 0.1 percent increase, according to analysis by the invaluable Charles Gaba, who writes at ACASignups.net. 

That was easy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Officials cringe as Trump spills sensitive details of al-Baghdadi raid (Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee, 10/28/19, NBC News)

A few of those colorful details were wrong. Many of the rest were either highly classified or tactically sensitive, and their disclosure by the president made intelligence and military officials cringe, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The al-Baghdadi raid is the most high-profile exhibit of a reality U.S. officials have had to contend with since Trump took office: a president with a background in show business who relishes delivering a compelling narrative and deals daily with the kind of covert, life-and-death sets of facts that inspire movie scripts.

The president, as the ultimate authority on classification, can declassify any piece of government information simply by releasing it publicly. And some top U.S. officials -- including then-President Barack Obama, who signed a law to reduce the amount of classified material -- have lamented the government's tendency to over-classify information. But current and former senior U.S. officials said from the earliest days of his presidency that Trump consistently wants to make public more than his advisers think is legally sound or wise for U.S national security.

"We agonized over what we would put in his briefings," one former senior White House official said, "because who knows if and when he's going to say something about it."

"He has no filter," the official added. "But also if he knows something, and he thinks it's going to be good to say or make him appear smarter or stronger, he'll just blurt it out."

Open Source it all.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


After Three Years of Trump, Iranians Believe America Is a 'Dangerous Country' (Colum Lynch, Oct. 25th, 2019, Foreign Policy)

In the past three years, Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that oversees Tehran's foreign military operations, has emerged as the most popular figure in Iranian politics, overtaking Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who greenlighted negotiations for the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Since January 2016, Suleimani--the subject of U.S. and U.N. sanctions--has seen his favorability rating at home increase from 72.7 percent of respondents to 81.6 percent in August 2019.

Contrast that with Rouhani, the first Iranian leader in decades to speak with a U.S. president, who took a telephone call from then-President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2013. Over the same period, Rouhani's favorability rating fell from 82.1 percent to 42.3 percent. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a U.S.-educated diplomat who led the Iranian nuclear negotiations, has also seen a dip in popularity, with his favorability rating sinking to 67 percent in August 2019 from 77.5 percent in January 2016.

The poll--which we'll be highlighting as our Document of the Week--underscores breathtaking changes in Iranian views toward the United States since Trump came into office in January 2017. Iranians now overwhelming view the United States (86 percent) unfavorably, favoring relations with countries such as China (58 percent), Germany (55 percent), Japan (70 percent), and Russia (57 percent). A whopping 66 percent of Iranian respondents believe "America is a dangerous country that seeks confrontation and control."

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


House to vote on resolution establishing next steps in impeachment inquiry (SARAH FERRIS and HEATHER CAYGLE, 10/28/2019, Politico)

The House will vote this week on a resolution to formalize the next steps of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

The resolution -- which "establishes the procedure for hearings," according to a statement by Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- will mark the first floor vote on impeachment since Democrats formally launched their inquiry a month ago.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Greg Walden to retire in latest sign of GOP doubts about retaking House (JOHN BRESNAHAN, MELANIE ZANONA and ALLY MUTNICK, 10/28/2019, Politico)

The Oregon congressman is the 17 th House Republican to announce their retirement this cycle, a sign of how difficult it will be for the GOP to win back the majority in what's already shaping up as a tough 2020 election. Having President Donald Trump's name at the top of the ticket will ensure turnout among his supporters, yet it's also expected to bring Democrats out in huge numbers as well.

Walden -- a former radio station owner with a booming voice -- is well respected by colleagues from both sides of the aisle, who describe him as both a savvy politician and serious legislator who likes to dig into the nitty-gritty policy details.

Walden, a former chief of the House GOP's campaign arm who earned a reputation for party loyalty over his past two decades in Congress, has been quietly picking and choosing his battles with Trump this year, fueling speculation he might be eyeing the exits.

The Oregon Republican rebuked the president over the hugely controversial border wall project, backed Russia sanctions over Trump's objection, voted with Democrats to end the historic 35-day government shutdown and has been vocal about addressing climate change. But Walden also has stood by Trump throughout the Ukraine scandal and fallen in line on other key issues.

Walden is the fourth House GOP committee leader to call it quits this cycle. That list includes Reps. Mike Conaway (Texas), ranking member on the Agriculture Committee; Rob Bishop (Utah), ranking member on the Natural Resources Committee; and Mac Thornberry (Texas), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Be Cautious with the Precautionary Principle: Evidence from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident (Matthew J. Neidell, Shinsuke Uchida, Marcella Veronesi, October 2019, NBER Working Paper No. 26395)

This paper provides a large scale, empirical evaluation of unintended effects from invoking the precautionary principle after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. After the accident, all nuclear power stations ceased operation and nuclear power was replaced by fossil fuels, causing an exogenous increase in electricity prices. This increase led to a reduction in energy consumption, which caused an increase in mortality during very cold temperatures. We estimate that the increase in mortality from higher electricity prices outnumbers the mortality from the accident itself, suggesting the decision to cease nuclear production has contributed to more deaths than the accident itself.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Narendra Modi is damaging India's economy as well as its democracy (The Economist, Oct 24th 2019 )

To start with, Mr Modi should recruit an economic team that is based on competence and experience rather than affinity for the Bharatiya Janata Party's Hindu-nationalist ideology. It must tackle both the financial crisis and sagging demand. To fix the banking system, the banks and the lightly regulated shadow banks that have recently been lending heavily need to be stress-tested and, where necessary, the banks recapitalised. Eventually, the state-owned banks could be privatised and the shadow banks put under the same prudential regulations as other lenders.

A broader privatisation programme would give the government the money it needs to succour demand. It should make use of levers such as the national rural-employment scheme to get money to the distressed hinterland. In the longer run, the tax system, labour laws, the regulation of land-ownership and fiddly, protectionist tariffs should all be given a thorough overhaul.

Many of these items have been on the to-do list of every Indian government for decades. But the long history of stasis only strengthens the case for change. And in Mr Modi, with his vice-like grip on parliament, his reputation as a friend of business and his need to right a foundering economy, India at last has a leader with the power and the incentives to push through big reforms.

The fear is that, instead of getting to grips with the economy, Mr Modi will stop posing as a reformer and fully embrace his alter ego, as a chest-thumping Hindu nationalist. Just months into his second term, he has already abolished India's only Muslim-majority state and is threatening to expand to the rest of the country his scheme to hunt down supposed foreign interlopers in Assam. In the face of India's growing economic problems, Mr Modi's focus on communal grievances seems even more reprehensible. Alas, he may yet draw the opposite conclusion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"But my staff says they love me..."
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


We have the tools and technology to work less and live better (Toby Phillips, 10/28/19,  Aeon)

If we wanted to produce as much as Keynes's countrymen did in the 1930s, we wouldn't need everyone to work even 15 hours per week. If you adjust for increases in labour productivity, it could be done in seven or eight hours, 10 in Japan (see graph below). These increases in productivity come from a century of automation and technological advances: allowing us to produce more stuff with less labour. In this sense, modern developed countries have way overshot Keynes prediction - we need to work only half the hours he predicted to match his lifestyle.

The progress over the past 90 years is not only apparent when considering workplace efficiency, but also when taking into account how much leisure time we enjoy. First consider retirement: a deal with yourself to work hard while you're young and enjoy leisure time when you're older. In 1930, most people never reached retirement age, simply labouring until they died. Today, people live well past retirement, living a third of their life work-free. If you take the work we do while we're young and spread it across a total adult lifetime, it works out to less than 25 hours per week. There's a second factor that boosts the amount of leisure time we enjoy: a reduction in housework. The ubiquity of washing machines, vacuum cleaners and microwave ovens means that the average US household does almost 30 hours less housework per week than in the 1930s. This 30 hours isn't all converted into pure leisure. Indeed, some of it has been converted into regular work, as more women - who shoulder the major share of unpaid domestic labour - have moved into the paid labour force. The important thing is that, thanks to progress in productivity and efficiency, we all have more control over how we spend our time.

It's impossible to overstate deflation.

October 27, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Anti-Immigrant Trump Supporter Who Went Viral Yelling: 'Respect our Laws' Commits Identity Theft, Says She's Above the Law (PETER WADE , 10/27/19, Rolling Stone)

Jennifer Harrison, founder of the right-wing group AZ Patriots, was arrested in Arizona this week on suspicion of identity theft. Harrison became a viral sensation back in August after a video surfaced of her wearing a MAGA hat at a Tucson City Council meeting while protesting an immigration proposal that would prohibit police from inquiring about a person's immigration status.

Harrison's viral moment came when video captured her yelling, "Respect our laws!" among other things, during the meeting. But the video's success was mostly due to a man in a green shirt who could not stop laughing at her antics and the reaction she elicited in the room. The hashtag #greenshirtguy was born and quickly climbed Twitter's trending list.

Ironically, the law that Harrison was charged with breaking, a Class 4 felony, is most commonly enforced against undocumented immigrants who have used either used a fake name or identity in order to obtain employment, according to the Arizona Republic.

However, the probable cause statement says that Harrison used "the identity of another by accessing an elderly victim's hotel points." She then allegedly used the points to make hotel reservations in order to attend a rock music festival.

Presumably the festival was Burning Cross?
Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Exclusive: Iraq president reveals Trump fears; warns of war, ethnic cleansing (Jonathan Swan, 10/27/19, Axios)

Iraqi President Barham Salih -- long known as a pro-American leader -- says he is no longer sure he can rely on the U.S. as an ally and may be ready to "recalibrate" Iraq's relationship with other countries, including Iran and Russia.

Why it matters: In an extraordinarily candid interview with "Axios on HBO," Salih said he still values his country's alliance with the U.S. 16 years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He wants to keep that alliance -- but made clear that the Trump administration's policies are making that difficult.

"The staying power of the United States is being questioned in a very, very serious way," Salih said. "And allies of the United States are worried about the dependability of the United States."

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Wall Street Journal Says Trump Shouldn't Be Impeached Because "He Was Too Inept to Execute" Ukraine Quid Pro Quo (ELLIOT HANNON, OCT 24, 2019, Slate)

One of the great periodic defenses of the current president is that he's too inept, too ill-informed, too bad at his job to commit the many crimes swimming through his head that he'd like to commit. The Wall Street Journal editorial board added to this mind-numbing line of defense with a staff editorial arguing Trump's attempt to engineer a quid pro quo with the Ukrainian president to aid his reelection campaign isn't actually that bad because the American president is, quite literally, "too inept to execute it."

Maybe George could tell him about the rabbit farm....

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Baghdadi assassination succeeded despite Trump, not thanks to him - US officials (Times of Israel, 10/27/10)

According to The New York Times, however, the raid had been planned for months, but Trump's recent decision to pull US troops from northern Syria "disrupted the meticulous planning and forced Pentagon officials to press ahead with a risky, night raid before their ability to control troops and spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared."

Baghdadi's death "occurred largely in spite of Mr. Trump's actions," the report said, citing military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
It also said the information about Baghdadi's general location had been provided by one of his wives, who was arrested and interrogated during the summer, as well as a courier who was similarly questioned.

This image made from video posted on a militant website on April 29, 2019, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, being interviewed by his group's Al-Furqan media outlet. (Al-Furqan media via AP)
The information about the terror leader's more specific whereabouts, the officials cited in the report said, came mostly from Syrian and Iraqi Kurds who continued to pass on the intelligence to the CIA, even after Trump announced the pullout -- a move widely perceived to have been an abandonment of the US's Kurdish allies.

If it happens on your watch you get credit.

Trump Almost Ruined the Operation Against Al-Baghdadi (David Atkins, October 27, 2019, washington Monthly)

 Per the New York Times:

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify Mr. al-Baghdadi's more precise whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements, allowing American commandos to stage an assault Saturday in which President Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi died.

But Mr. Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria disrupted the meticulous planning and forced Pentagon officials to press ahead with a risky, night raid before their ability to control troops and spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared, according to military, intelligence and counterterroism officials. Mr. al-Baghdadi's death, they said, occurred largely in spite of Mr. Trump's actions.

The officials praised the Kurds, who continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi even after Mr. Trump's decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone. The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

What this means is that Trump would have been briefed on the ongoing intelligence and the preparations for the raid. He would have known the importance of Kurdish assistance in bringing Al-Baghdadi to justice. He would have known that the operation was nearing the point where it could be safely and effectively carried out. And he chose to blindside both the U.S. military and the Kurds with a sudden withdrawal announcement anyway. As it turns out, the professionalism of the special forces and our Kurdish allies on the ground apparently led to a successful result-but it was no thanks to the president.

Posted by orrinj at 12:13 PM


Intelligence official: Iraqi intelligence paved the way for Baghdadi raid (MEMO, October 27, 2019)

Iraq's intelligence service provided the US-led coalition with the exact coordinates of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's location, paving the way for the raid that reportedly killed him, an Iraqi intelligence official told Reuters on Sunday.

The agency learned of Baghdadi's location from documents found at a secret location in Iraq's western desert after arresting an Iraqi man and woman from within his "inner circle", the official said.

"We have been constantly coordinating with the CIA, providing valuable information that the Iraqi National Intelligence Service has on Baghdadi's movements and place of hiding," the official said.

Posted by orrinj at 10:48 AM


What Comes After Capitalism?: A review of Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World, by Branko Milanovic  (Samuel Hammond, 10/27/19, Quillette)

But rather than throw out historical materialism altogether, Milanovic suggests Marx simply got the sequence wrong. Communism turned out to be the most successful in agricultural, Third World economies as a tool to vanquish feudalism, and thus lay the foundation for capitalism. This is validated by our best understanding of how countries like China and Vietnam initiated their economic development. After the Chinese Communist Party's victory in 1949, for example, China abolished quasi-feudal systems in rural areas through comprehensive land reform, and weakened clan-based social relations by imposing nuclear family structures and gender equality. "This was no less than a complete overturning of historical hierarchical relationships," notes Milanovic.

The famines spurred by China's Great Leap Forward were catastrophic. Nonetheless, the broader political centralization and reorganization of society made "a tabula rasa of all ideologies and customs that were seen as retarding economic development and creating artificial divisions among people." Western societies skipped this revolutionary step because they developed first, having overcome the feudal and familial barriers to growth in a much more gradual fashion. In this respect, the influence of Christianity is perhaps the most neglected factor in Milanovic's account.

The spread of the Western Church throughout Europe centuries before the Industrial Revolution helped dissolve extended kin-group networks through prohibitions on cousin marriage. This ultimately created the social conditions for the emergence of democracy. Evidence for Christianity's role includes empirical work by the economist Jonathan F. Schulz, which finds a strong correlation between exposure to the medieval Church and the formation of inclusive city- level institutions and urban population growth. Extending his thesis globally, Schulz even finds that the prevalence of cousin-marriages can "explain more than 50 percent of the variation in democracy across countries today."

Milanovic suggests that these two developmental histories--gradual and revolutionary--give rise to the two distinctive models of capitalism in the world today: "Liberal meritocratic capitalism" in the West, and one-party "political capitalism" in countries like China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Ethiopia. Nonetheless, the egalitarian ethos spread by Christianity is important for understanding why the West became not just liberal, but democratic. Materialist accounts only get us so far.

In a democratic society, the equality of citizenship gives each member an ownership stake in the commonwealth. Western democracies still have hierarchical organizations like corporations, but the political system is relatively flat: civil servants and elected representatives work within the bounds of a social contract. China's political system, in contrast, is itself like a top-down mega corporation. Its model of "regionally decentralized authoritarianism," in which local and provincial leaders move up the ranks by hitting performance targets, even shares similarities with the governance structure of Japanese conglomerates. The ethos of China's political capitalism is thus to treat citizens as contractual employees, rather than as equal owners with corresponding rights.

Indeed, political capitalist economies achieve spectacular growth rates by doing an end-run around the constraints of the rule of law and democratic negotiation. They prize efficient bureaucracies and the autonomy of the state, legitimized by continuously rising standards of living rather than the consent of "we the people." The corruption endemic to political capitalism may even be a feature, Milanovic argues, helping to grease the wheel of rapid development.

...the failure to ask the purpose of an economy in the first place.  When one asks the question it becomes apparent that there can be only one answer: to create wealth. This is why capitalism is the End of History.  No other social arrangement has ever delivered increasing wealth as well, nor even come close.

When we examine the implicit answers of the core question offered by various ideologies, it becomes clear why they do not ask.  Broadly speaking, what the Left promises is complete economic equality for all members of society--essentially a pre-Lapsarian state.  This is the "economy" of Abel, the hunter-gatherer, where wealth was finite and man's only role was to collect what existed.  Over and against this was the actual economy of Cain, which involved increasing wealth through endeavor. We know how Man resolved that choice. Were the Left today to ask people if they prefer a system that distributes finite wealth evenly, so that everyone is equal but impoverished, or a system where wealth grows constantly and everyone becomes wealthier, but some more wealthy than others, there is not any serious question what the answer would be.

On the other hand, what the Right promises is a return to stasis at some idealized point in the past.  We need not make this overly pejorative by citing their love for moments like the Antebellum South; it is enough to go with their idealization of something like coal-mining or textile manufacturing and the "stable communities" associated with them.  The Right's economics imagines a return to those halcyon days via ending trade, technology and immigration so that we'd be forced to return to such work. But the answer to asking a Protectionist/Nativist/Luddite if he'd be willing to mine coal by hand himself is so obvious it's no wonder the Right never asks. The ostensible benefits of a return to those days also requires that no questions be asked.  What, after all, was the actual value of a nuclear family, deep local roots, etc., when you labored 16 hours a day at a job that broke you physically and/or killed you, in order that you live in a shared poverty? The Right's nostalgia is just as addlepated as the Left's.

It is hardly surprising that it is capitalism that answers the unasked questions in the way that the citizenry would answer.  On the Leftward side, the rapid acceleration of technology and trade under capitalism is rendering an economy that requires ever less labor to create ever more wealth.  Not only has poverty been eliminated in the developed world but the lowest classes are now affluent by historical standards and even in the developing world deep poverty is disappearing.  All this is being achieved at a time when such work as is required has been made so safe and easy that women were easily accommodated into the work force, jobs have been exportable to the most backwards societies and now machines are replacing humans in the workplace.  This is only economics, so it's no utopia, but we approach an age of unlimited wealth and negligible labor.  

On the Rightward, if the hoped-for ideal is that men have more time to devote to family, neighborhood, church, community, etc., then the future they are fighting is the past they invented in their own minds. Likewise, if geographical immobility is your fetish, then a humankind that can choose to live anywhere rather than being forced to chase better-paying jobs is in the offing.  The future Okies will be able to stay in their Dust Bowl if they prefer.

Note that none of this is the panacea it first seems.  While the question of economics has been answered, there remain the political and religious questions.  Politically, the question is obviously how we equitably distribute the wealth our societies create.  Religiously, the question that remains to be answered is to what degree our sense of personal worth and fulfillment depends on employment.  These are big enough quandries to occupy us going forward. 

PODCAST: Don't Worry, Be happy with Marian Tupy (Jonah Goldberg, 10/25/19, The Remnant)

Posted by orrinj at 10:07 AM


For any national security professional, GOP stunt is a serious breach (Mieke Eoyang, October 25, 2019, CNN)

Working in any SCIF can be a challenging experience. People who work in these facilities take their security protocols very seriously, because they know the sensitivity of the information they are designed to protect. You sit behind a vault door, often in a room with no windows, surrounded by highly sensitive information that you have an obligation to safeguard. You check your electronic devices outside the room; accidentally bringing them in can trigger a reprimand, an investigation or worse -- if the violation is intentional, it could include a loss of clearance or even your job.

The SCIF for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (where I once served as subcommittee staff director) is one of the most sensitive in the nation. There, Congress conducts oversight over the nation's most sensitive intelligence programs, from electronic surveillance to covert action. The Congressional Intelligence Committees have wide-ranging authority and cover a wider range of materials than all but the most senior levels in the intelligence community. Foreign adversaries are desperate to know what happens in this room.

Further, the members of Congress themselves are highly prized intelligence targets for foreign adversaries. They often meet with officials from other governments, travel internationally and communicate with the most senior executive branch officials, including the president. Many of these members also do not come to their jobs with a background in cybersecurity, and are often confused by technology, so their security practices may not be strong. Compromising the smart phone that sits in the pocket of a member of Congress could yield insights into political strategies, foreign policy or even salacious information that could be used to manipulate or coerce that individual.

Foreign adversaries, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also particularly interested in the House's investigation into President Donald Trump's alleged attempt to extort an investigation from Ukraine by withholding military aid needed to repel a Russian invasion into their territory. Foreign adversaries surely want to know how House Republicans are reacting to the evidence presented by witnesses, assessing what those witnesses say about how Trump conducts business and what his pressure points are. Taking an easily compromised device into the room to hear the depositions is to cross a perilous line.

Republicans' absurd complaints about impeachment inquiry access are historically ignorantIn comparison to the Watergate inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff is actually being very transparent and collegial. (Michael Conway, 10/25/19, CNN)

Currently, House Republicans who are members of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees -- and there are 47 such members in total -- not only are present for the depositions, but also they can question all witnesses. Of the Republican representatives who stormed the impeachment committee hearing room Wednesday, 13 are actually members of one of those committees and had the ability to enter the room unimpeded and participate fully in the deposition.

This was not the case in the impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon 45 years ago. In 1974, the impeachment inquiry staff attorneys, not the House members, interviewed the witnesses during the initial investigation.

Much as with today's Republicans, in a public Judiciary Committee hearing on July 25, 1974 -- only days before the committee voted on articles of impeachment -- Rep. Delbert L. Latta, R-Ohio, bemoaned that the nine witnesses testifying in person to the committee in the impeachment inquiry appeared in executive session to which the public and other members of Congress had been excluded. "It was unfortunate during our deliberations that the American people were denied their right to listen to the few witnesses who appeared before this committee by a party line vote, and are now only being invited to sit in on these hearings."

A Republican on the committee, Rep. Joseph J. Marzatti of New Jersey, criticized the Democratic majority for its failure to "provide, from the beginning, for the calling of live witnesses." He criticized the fact that House members, as opposed to staff, did not question witnesses until the eve of the impeachment vote. "We did call witnesses, a total of nine, but at the end of the proceedings."

Today, the public has been promised that it will get transcripts of the depositions, and see and hear witnesses for themselves during the investigatory process.

Last week in a letter to members of Congress, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote that transcripts of the depositions would be made public subject only to redactions for the classified information discussed -- which is the reason the witnesses are testifying in a secure location in which electronic devices are prohibited -- and "[w]e also anticipate that at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public, so that the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand."

In late July 1974, Rep. Carlos Moorhead, R. Calif., complained that the impeachment inquiry staff attorneys did not take sworn depositions, but only interviewed friendly witnesses without a written record. Today, the House committees have subpoenaed a broad range of witnesses and their testimony under oath is being transcribed verbatim.

Posted by orrinj at 9:57 AM


Baghdadi Is Dead: The self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS had already lost his state, even before he reportedly lost his life. (Graeme Wood, 10/27/19, The Atlantic)

When I began speaking with ISIS supporters five years ago, they parroted all the points of propaganda that the group has since made famous. But they included one point that the Islamic State has since de-emphasized. To be a valid caliph, they said, one must have control over territory and implement Islamic law within it. A pledge of allegiance to a caliph (called bay'ah, both classically and by ISIS), they stressed, is a contract, an agreement between parties in which each offers something to the other. The caliph offers an Islamic state; his subject offers obedience. The contract evaporates when the caliph stops providing a state.

The hardest part of fighting non-state actors is finding them; and if you could trick them into founding "states" that would be much easier.  The caliphate was pretty much the ideal circumstance for us.  Just consider how easy it was to topple the Taliban.

It's why Donald withdrawing from the Middle East has real benefits for us, just not ones he understands. Re-establishing a Taliban state and a caliphate is pretty much just a matter of easy target acquisition.

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


Fox News Contributor Solomon Linked To Pay-To-Play Journalism (Eric Kleefeld, October 26, 2019, MediaMatters

Recently hired Fox News contributor John Solomon, a key player in President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani's disinformation campaign against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, is now facing further ethical scrutiny.

According to a new report from ProPublica, Solomon was involved in an apparent pay-to-play operation at The Hill, involving him courting a conservative group for a six-figure advertising deal and also quoting its director in The Hill's news content.

To his credit, at least he's cynical enough to demand cash.  The poor gullible dupes who read him swallow the nonsense hook, line & sinker.

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


I'm Proud to Be Called Human Scum (PAUL ROSENZWEIG, OCTOBER 24, 2019, The Atlantic)

 I'm a proud "Never Trumper Republican." I've been a conservative Republican most of my adult life. I joined the Federalist Society in 1983, and remain a member to this day. I have worked at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and today I work at a center-right think tank, the R Street Institute. I served as the first deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, where, I assure you, many activists did not view me as a raving liberal. And, perhaps most notable for our purposes today, I served as a senior counsel during the Whitewater/Lewinsky investigation of President Bill Clinton, which led to his impeachment in 1998.

Nevertheless, I have opposed Trump's political ambitions almost from the beginning: I warned against his election in early 2016, I deregistered from the Republican Party in May 2016 when his nomination was guaranteed, and I declined a couple of opportunities to be considered for positions in his administration. In November 2018, I helped found a group called Checks and Balances that has called for conservative lawyers to defend the rule of law against presidential assault; I've signed a letter with more than 1,000 other former prosecutors arguing that Trump has committed criminal obstruction of justice; and I've publicly called for his impeachment and removal. Though I am sure that Trump does not know me from Adam, I am confident that when he speaks of Never Trumper Republicans who are human scum, he means me.

What makes me human scum? Evidently, a belief in enduring American ideals, like the rule of law and the value of a free press. A belief in a system of governance that enshrines the principle of checks and balances in our Constitution--a system in which Congress and the judiciary serve as limits on authoritarian executive overreach.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


All the President's Women review: Donald Trump, sexual predator (Lloyd Green, 27 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

The book rests upon firsthand interviews, transcripts and prior reports. It also contains a detailed appendix that lays out its sources. Said differently, if you can actually believe Barack Obama is a crypto-Muslim born in Kenya to a cocaine-addled Martian, then opting in to at least 50% of All the President's Women should be a no-brainer.

Court records abound. It is not just the authors' word or a birth certificate. Think Summer Zervos, Michael Cohen and "Individual-1" for starters.

Despite all Trump's protestations and legal maneuvers, the lawsuit commenced in New York by Zervos, a one-time Apprentice contestant who was allegedly manhandled and defamed, proceeds apace. Since the case began in early 2017, the defendant has never submitted a sworn statement denying the substance of the complaint.

In March 2019, a New York appeals court gave its greenlight for Zervos's action to continue. Earlier this month the trial court set a 6 December discovery cut-off, with the possibility of Trump being deposed.

Practically speaking, don't bet on it. Like Bill Clinton before him, Trump will probably continue to assert that a sitting president cannot be sued, an argument rejected by the supreme court when Clinton squared off against Paula Jones. It is also possible Trump will claim that being deposed while being impeached is more than one man should be forced to bear. There, he may have a point.

More ominously for Trump, on Thursday Zervos filed a motion with the court that outlined a series of sexual assaults in late 2007 allegedly perpetrated by Trump. For good measure, the results of a polygraph are included. According to Zervos, in one instance Trump "began kissing" her "very aggressively", then pawed at her. Zervos also attached portions of Trump's calendar. Barron Trump, the president's son with Melania, was less than two years old at the time.

On top of that, there is Cohen's guilty plea that essentially paints the president AKA "Individual-1" as an unindicted co-conspirator in a campaign finance scheme to keep Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model ("Woman-1"), and Daniels, a porn star ("Woman-2"), out of the headlines. The plan worked well enough. The two women were neither seen nor heard until the presidential race was over.

Among the book's more questionable vignettes is a story of a younger Trump, nearly 40 years ago, frequenting a sex club maintained by the mob and pursuing a threesome with a porn star and a young girl. The authors have failed to find the two women or a possible black-and-white tape.

Beyond that, the building in question has since been demolished and the mob kingpin behind the club was purportedly whacked in 1986. The sole eyewitness is named John Tino, and his rap sheet includes convictions for larceny, fraud and forgery.

Yet Trump's forays into construction and casinos, his nexus to organized crime and his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein together confer a patina of plausibility on a tale that would otherwise be close to nonexistent. The authors stand by Tino.

The book also raises the possibility Trump may have left in his wake more than a few terminated pregnancies. David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer prize winner and a Trump biographer, is quoted as saying that several "name-brand" women had pregnancies and abortions courtesy of Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


'Heritage' crops aren't always better (James Wong, 27 Oct 201, The Guardian)

As the leaves begin to turn, right now is the perfect time to start ordering fruit trees and bushes to plant out. However, I implore you not to fall victim to the buzzword "heritage" in the catalogues, at least if you are looking for good flavour. It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but speaking as a botanist who has tried and tested hundreds of varieties for flavour, I can give you some good reasons why to avoid these plants.

There is the popular belief that the older the variety, the better the flavour. Harking back to a time before intensive plant breeders bred all the "goodness" out of crops, according to this narrative modern crops are watery, bland, loaded with sugar and low in nutrition. Diet gurus on Twitter warn that modern fruit is now so sugary that zoo monkeys can no longer be fed bananas. Celebrity chefs will claim modern apples have seen their sugar content double, pandering to our "insatiable sweet tooth". Food writers will even report on the "toxic truth" of grapes such as Thompson Seedless. One thing you will rarely see, however, is evidence.

It seems, today, even the subject of fruit growing can't escape our temptation to retreat to an idealised past. But these claims are easily disproved.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi believed killed, sources say: live updates (Eliza Mackintosh, James Griffiths and Joe Ruiz, October 27, 2019, CNN)

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have hailed a "successful" joint operation with the US, but did not divulge any details about what took place. 

"Successful & historical operation due to joint intelligence work with the United States of America," Mazloum Abdi, the commander in chief of the Kurdish forces in Syria, tweeted on Sunday.

SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali said the operation was "yet another proof" of the group's "anti-terror capability."

The SDF had been a key US partner in the fight against ISIS until earlier this month, when US President Donald Trump pulled American troops from Syria which led to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving the green light to launch an offensive against them.

October 26, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Several New Trump Corruption Stories Ramp Up Pressure to Impeach (David Atkins, October 26, 2019, Washington Month;lly)

The four big stories are all of a piece. First, Trump capo John Kelly wishes he had stayed on longer with the goal of preventing some of the more stupid crimes, having warned his boss that investigators would close in-which they have.

Second, it appears that the Trump administration handed a company tied to Trump's brother a $33 million contract in a decision reeking of illegal nepotism.

A company in which President Trump's brother has a financial stake received a $33 million contract from the U.S. Marshals Service earlier this year, an award that has drawn protests from two other bidders, one of which has filed a complaint alleging possible favoritism in the bidding process.

Third, it appears that Trump may have ordered the federal government to illegally steer a government contract away from Amazon on a $10 billion Pentagon computing contract because of his disagreements with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. [...]

Finally, the president's fixer lawyer is in even deeper than previously known with his just-arrested Ukrainian clients accused of illegally funneling foreign campaign contributions to Republicans from shady sources in exchange for even shadier favors.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


Trump speaks at HBCU Benedict College as students are asked to stay in dorms (Eric Connor and Carol Motsinger, 10/26/19, The Greenville News)

Protests erupted outside the 150-year-old historically black college where inside a school auditorium President Donald Trump spoke to a room filled with more political allies than students.

The event was billed as a keynote speech on bipartisan success in criminal justice reform, which the president tied to the booming economy he takes credit for and that he told his audience has helped black people more than ever before.

Benedict students, who the week prior pondered what questions they might ask the president once his surprise visit to the forum" was announced, were asked to stay in their dorms.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Block on GM rice 'has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness' (Robin McKie, 26 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

Stifling international regulations have been blamed for delaying the approval of a food that could have helped save millions of lives this century. The claim is made in a new investigation of the controversy surrounding the development of Golden Rice by a team of international scientists.

Golden Rice is a form of normal white rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world. It was developed two decades ago but is still struggling to gain approval in most nations.

"Golden Rice has not been made available to those for whom it was intended in the 20 years since it was created," states the science writer Ed Regis. "Had it been allowed to grow in these nations, millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition, and millions of children would not have gone blind."

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


The Collapse of the President's Defense (Benjamin Wittes Friday, October 25, 2019, LawFare)

President Trump's substantive defense against the ongoing impeachment inquiry has crumbled entirely--not just eroded or weakened, but been flattened like a sandcastle hit with a large wave.

It was never a strong defense. After all, Trump himself released the smoking gun early in L'Affaire Ukrainienne when the White House published its memo of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That document erased any question as to whether Trump had asked a foreign head of state to "investigate"--a euphemism for digging up dirt on--his political opponents. There was no longer any doubt that he had asked a foreign country to violate the civil liberties of American citizens by way of interfering in the coming presidential campaign. That much we have known for certain for weeks.

The clarity of the evidence did not stop the president's allies from trying to fashion some semblance of defense. But the past few days of damaging testimony have stripped away the remaining fig leaves. There was no quid pro quo, we were told--except that it's now clear that there was one. If there was a quid pro quo, we were told, it was the good kind of quid pro quo that happens all the time in foreign relations--except that, we now learn, it wasn't that kind at all but the very corrupt kind instead. The Ukrainians didn't even know that the president was holding up their military aid, we were told--except that, it turns out, they did know. And, the president said, it was all about anti-corruption. This was the most Orwellian inversion; describing such a corrupt demand as a request for an investigation of corruption is a bit like describing a speakeasy as an alcoholism treatment facility.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Indicted Giuliani Associates Were To Set Up Hannity Interview In Vienna (Julie Millican October 25, 2019, MediaMatters

CNN reported this week that two Soviet-born con men arrested while attempting to flee the country earlier this month claimed they were on their way to Vienna to facilitate an interview between Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Hannity has been at the forefront of promoting the false claim that former Vice President Joe Biden acted corruptly by withholding U.S. aid to force the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son.

And then they wonder why reality is stacked against them....

October 25, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 PM


Watchdogs inside government blast DOJ for not referring Ukraine whistleblower to Congress (Ken Dilanian, 10/25/19, NBC News)

 Dozens of inspectors general across the federal government have signed a letter repudiating the Justice Department's legal opinion that the original complaint by a CIA whistleblower about President Donald Trump's conversation with Ukraine's president did not have to be turned over to Congress.

In a strongly worded statement written by the inspector general of the Justice Department, the inspectors general portrayed the opinion by the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel as dangerously wrong and severely damaging to whistleblower protections. [...]

"I don't think I've ever seen a letter like this, and I've been doing this for a while," tweeted Danielle Brian, who directs the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group that focuses on government wrongdoing. "Pay attention: these are our Inspectors General doing their job well and warning us of wrongdoing."

Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, tweeted, "It [has] been clear since as soon as we saw the original OLC opinion on the whistleblower complaint that DOJ's analysis was designed to reach a foreordained result -- and not a neutral assessment of the ICIG's analysis. But kudos to the IGs for publicly pushing back in this letter."

To their credit, the Trumpbots kept saying the IGs would get to the truth. Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Senate Republicans Keeping Their Options Open on Impeaching Trump (Jonathan Chait, 10/25/19, New York)

Senator Lindsey Graham, who has positioned himself as one of Trump's most debased sycophants, has tried to assemble a show of support. But Graham has only been able to get 44 of the 54 Republicans to sign his resolution. And even mustering that rather tepid showing, reports Jonathan Swan, required negotiating with Mitch McConnell to soften the wording.

The votes are already there to remove him.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


How Do the Trumpists Mobilize? Around White Nationalism and Anti-Semitism (Sasha Abramsky, Oct. 25th, 2019, The Nation)

As Trump rants about "human scum" who oppose him, Political Research Associates, a Boston-based think tank that monitors domestic right-wing extremism, has released a report, in collaboration with Bend the Arc, timed to mark the first anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh last October, on the surging power of white nationalism and anti-Semitic narratives in Trump's America.

The far-right narrative that Trump has exploited to secure power contends that white Americans are facing a Great Replacement by nonwhite immigrants, and that much of this migration is fueled by money from liberal Jewish backers such as George Soros. As the impeachment inquiry has taken off, Trump, his sons, and his supporters have, as a recent Intercept report explained, turned increasingly to conspiracy theories blaming Soros--code for "liberal Jews"--for his woes.

This isn't simply distracting Noise. As the likelihood of Trump's impeachment grows, the violence-provoking language of the far right must be treated as the Signal too.

PRA researcher Ben Lorber writes, "According to PRA's review, in the two months leading up to the November 6 [2018] election, Fox News and five other leading conservative websites published a combined total of at least 345 news pieces that connected Soros and globalists to liberal causes--almost one article a day per site, on average.... By the time of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting [on] October 27, the conspiracy that Soros was funding the migrant caravan, boosted by continued mainstream exposure, had a potential reach of over 670 million on Facebook and Twitter alone."

Strip away the hate and there's nothing left.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


How a Veteran Reporter Worked with Giuliani's Associates to Launch the Ukraine Conspiracy (Jake Pearson, Mike Spies and J. David McSwane Oct. 25, 2019, ProPublica)

Last March, a veteran Washington reporter taped an interview with a Ukrainian prosecutor that sparked a disinformation campaign alleging Joe Biden pressured Ukrainians into removing a prosecutor investigating a company because of its ties to the former vice president's son. The interview and subsequent columns, conducted and written by a writer for The Hill newspaper, John Solomon, were the starting gun that eventually set off the impeachment inquiry into the president.

Watching from the control booth of The Hill's TV studio was Lev Parnas, who helped arrange the interview.

Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman were working with the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to promote a story that it was Democrats and not Republicans who colluded with a foreign power in the 2016 election. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted the duo this month on allegations that they illegally funneled foreign money into U.S. political campaigns.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Judge rules DOJ must turn over Mueller grand jury material to House Democrats (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 10/25/2019, Politico)

A federal judge on Friday ruled that the Justice Department must turn over former special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, a groundbreaking victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether President Donald Trump should be impeached for obstructing the long-running Russia probe.

In a double victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Judge Beryl Howell -- the chief federal judge in Washington -- ruled that the impeachment inquiry Democrats have launched is valid even though the House hasn't taken a formal vote on it. The decision rejects arguments by DOJ and congressional Republicans that a formal vote is necessary to launch impeachment proceedings.

Darn Constitution...

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Rudy Giuliani butt-dials NBC reporter, heard discussing need for cash and trashing Bidens: "The problem is we need some money," Giuliani says to an unidentified man during an accidental call to NBC News writer. (Rich Schapiro, 10/25/19, NBC News)

Late in the night Oct. 16, Rudy Giuliani made a phone call to this reporter.

The fact that Giuliani was reaching out wasn't remarkable. He and the reporter had spoken earlier that evening for a story about his ties to a fringe Iranian opposition group.

But this call, it would soon become clear, wasn't a typical case of a source following up with a reporter.

The call came in at 11:07 p.m. and went to voicemail; the reporter was asleep.

The next morning, a message exactly three minutes long was sitting in the reporter's voicemail. In the recording, the words tumbling out of Giuliani's mouth were not directed at the reporter. He was speaking to someone else, someone in the same room.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT (profanity alert):

When House Republicans Act Like Campus Leftists (ELIZABETH NOLAN BROWN | 10.25.2019, reason)

Like a bunch of lefty college kids shouting down a campus speaker they don't like, House Republicans have resorted to trying to deplatform House impeachment investigators.

A group of GOP House members stormed impeachment inquiry testimony this week and delayed it for five hours, huffing and puffing about how attempts to gain more information are just not fair to the president.

Left with no options to deny the weird s[***]t that President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and their cronies were doing with Ukraine (since Trump et al can't stop talking about it and new officials keep confirming things), and finding the one-note minimization (no quid pro quo) isn't impressing American voters (who increasingly back impeachment), the Trump-bootlicking wing of the GOP has started parroting the president's favorite diversion tactic: insisting (contra all evidence and the U.S. Constitution) that there's something sneaky and wrong about how House impeachment investigators are looking into things.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Offshore wind could power the world (Charles Riley, October 25, 2019, CNN Business)

Offshore wind turbines could generate enough electricity to power every home and business on Earth, according to a report published on Friday.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency published the results of what it describes as the "most comprehensive global study" of offshore wind ever undertaken, an effort that involved analyzing hundreds of thousands of miles of coastline.

The report says $1 trillion could be invested in the industry by 2040 as lower costs and government support encourage the installation of larger turbines and floating foundations that allow for deep water operations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How America's far-left could help re-elect Donald Trump: Spoiler candidates risk splitting the Democrat vote next year (EDWARD LUCE, 10/25/19, Financial Times)

But for Ms Stein, Mr Trump might still be trying to make a comeback in reality TV. A Gabbard candidacy could accomplish the same for Mr Trump next year. Little wonder that conservative influencers, such as Fox News' Tucker Carlson, have been welcoming the Hawaiian congresswoman on to their show.

Such scenarios are of little concern to America's far-left, which cheered Ms Gabbard last week for dubbing Mrs Clinton the "queen warmonger". Though a far smaller strand of the electorate, America's hard left sees things in much the same way as Jeremy Corbyn, Britain's Labour leader. In capsule, they trace the world's biggest problems to American imperialism. Barack Obama is as big a culprit as George W Bush by that measure. The latter may have invaded Iraq. But the former, in Ms Gabbard's view, attempted "regime change" in Bashar al-Assad's Syria, and overthrew Libya's Muammer Gaddafi.

Mr Trump's presidency provides two guilty pleasures for America's far-left. First, his take on America's global role is remarkably similar. In spite of his Make America Great Again slogan, Mr Trump is a foe of American exceptionalism -- the idea that the US plays a providential role in world history. Mr Trump is happiest when shocking the bourgeois with remarks about how the US has interfered in foreign elections and killed countless bystanders. The fact that some of his observations are true adds frisson. For an exceptionalist, American history is about defeating Nazism, communism and world poverty. For an anti-exceptionalist, such as Ms Gabbard, US foreign policy is about exporting perpetual war to faraway places.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On "Human Scum" and Trump in the Danger Zone: After Ambassador William Taylor's testimony, the President is freaking out about impeachment. (Susan B. GlasserOctober 24, 2019, The New Yorker)

First of all, it is quite simply the language of tyrants and those who aspire to be tyrants. Hitler called his enemies human scum, and so did Stalin. In recent years, the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, often referred to as "the Trump of South America," denounced refugees as "the scum of humanity," and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, denounced Sergei Skripal, the former spy recently poisoned by Russian agents, in Britain, as a disloyal "scumbag." The North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, with whom Trump says he has a "love affair," executed his uncle after a show trial in which he was called "despicable human scum . . . worse than a dog." Kim's regime, it should be noted, also called Trump's former national-security adviser John Bolton, who differed with the President on the subject of North Korea, a "bloodsucker" and "human scum."

The other reason to consider Trump's words this week is because of what is happening around him. In the twenty-four hours between Trump's "lynching" tweet and his "human scum" tweet, William B. Taylor, Jr., the acting Ambassador to Ukraine, offered the most damning testimony against the President yet in the month-old congressional impeachment inquiry. Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and career Foreign Service officer, was called out of retirement by the Trump Administration to serve in Ukraine after the President fired the previous Ambassador at the behest of his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Taylor flew in from Kiev in defiance of a State Department demand that he not coöperate with the House probe, and he brought with him a fifteen-page opening statement, which offered specific, detailed evidence of the pressure campaign waged by Trump and Giuliani to force Ukrainian officials to investigate the former Vice-President Joe Biden, and which discredited conspiracy theories about Ukraine's role in the 2016 U.S. election. This campaign, Taylor said, included explicitly linking Ukraine's willingness to undertake these investigations to nearly four hundred million dollars in security assistance and a Presidential meeting. Trump even personally insisted that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, announce the probes himself, to put Zelensky "in a public box." Committee sources told reporters that there were "gasps" in the room when Taylor testified. The diplomat was describing not one but multiple quid pro quos, in which Trump appeared to condition American assistance to a beleaguered, war-torn ally on actions that would be taken for his personal political benefit. Even the Senate Majority Whip, the Republican John Thune, of South Dakota, called the emerging picture "not a good one" for Trump.

The Presidential freakout of recent days can only be understood in that context. Trump is adjusting to a new political reality, one that is taking shape in a secure conference room on Capitol Hill, and it is a dangerous one for him: he now faces the very real possibility of impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate, and just in time for the start of the 2020 election year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The argument Trump doesn't want his supporters to make (Matthew Walther, October 25, 2019, The Week)

One somehow doubts that President Trump is grateful to Matthew Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, for comments he made on television recently concerning the ongoing Ukraine scandal. With his usual heedless candor, Whitaker insisted to his Fox News host on Wednesday that "abuse of power" by a president is not illegal and thus not necessarily grounds for impeachment.

This is totally true, albeit in the same sense in which "corruption" and "lying" and "being a totally obnoxious ass" are not crimes. None of these things has a statutory definition. Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, for being the real last honest man in the GOP.

Because this is really the only argument that remains available to the president and his defenders, isn't it? Whether Trump wants to admit it or not, his political fortunes now depend not on questions of fact but on whether anyone cares that he used the authority of his office to attack a political rival. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Giuliani probe snowballs (DARREN SAMUELSOHN, 10/25/2019, Politico)

The scrutiny isn't just coming from the previously known probes by FBI agents and the U.S. attorney's office based out of Manhattan, according to two people familiar with the investigation. The criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington has taken an interest in the former New York mayor, too, meaning an expansion of resources that indicates the politically sensitive probe into the president's personal attorney is both broader and moving at a faster pace than previously understood.

Adding DOJ's criminal division to the Giuliani probe is sure to place additional scrutiny on William Barr, who as attorney general has final say over all department business. Already, Barr's reputation has taken hits over his handling of the public rollout on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, with Democrats complaining he spun the special counsel's findings earlier this year to give them a pro-Trump flavor.

Giuliani's troubles aren't just his alone. He has turned members of the Trump team he's worked with over the last 18 months into potential witnesses for federal prosecutors, who are trying to unravel the tangled relationships he brought to the mix in advising the president while still juggling an international consulting business that promised proximity to the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


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Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lawyers for Ukrainian oligarch have another client: The columnist who pushed Biden corruption claims (NATASHA BERTRAND and DARREN SAMUELSOHN, 10/24/2019, Politico)

Conservative lawyers Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who this year took on as a client an oligarch at the center of the Ukraine scandal, also represent the conservative columnist who has advanced Trump-friendly claims of corruption in Kyiv.

"John Solomon has been a client of our firm for a very long time," Joe diGenova told POLITICO on Thursday.

Just in case anyone labored under the delusion that Solomon is a journalist.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White House official expected to back up diplomat's testimony over Trump push for Ukraine probe into Bidens (Manu Raju, Alex Rogers, Kylie Atwood and Pamela Brown, 10/24/19, CNN)

Tim Morrison, a top Russia and Europe adviser on President Donald Trump's National Security Council, is expected to testify before House impeachment investigators next week and corroborate key elements of a top US diplomat's account that Trump was pressing for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the Bidens before he would greenlight US security assistance, according to sources.

Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, said in extraordinary testimony on Tuesday that Trump pushed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations, including one into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, using as leverage the military aid the country sought to fight back against Russian aggression.

Morrison's testimony is expected to be significant because he is a current White House official whose name was cited 15 times in Taylor's opening statement, which Democrats view as damning for Trump.

Morrison also listened to the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader, CNN reported earlier this month. His testimony would be the first from someone who heard the call directly. A transcript of the call was released by the White House but was not a full verbatim.

There is no defense to offer, may as well order pizza...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Now House Republicans Hate The Rules They Made (Joe Conason, October 24, 2019, National Memo)

The Republicans complain that the impeachment inquiry chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), is occurring behind closed doors, that the president's counsel cannot cross-examine witnesses and that their party is somehow excluded from fair participation in the proceedings. Coming from lawyers, as most of them are, this indignant whining is phony; they all know that these hearings are investigative, like a grand jury proceeding. There will be plenty of time for open hearings and, should Trump be impeached, a Senate trial with a full defense.

According to the Democratic members present in those closed hearings, the Republicans on the relevant committees hardly ever show up. Whenever they do drop in, most of them waste time on conspiracy theories and other nonsense -- which isn't doing the president any favors, but fully displays their intellectual laziness.

What the Republicans also know -- but aren't telling their bamboozled voters -- is that the Democrats are conducting the impeachment inquiry under rules that the Republican majority approved in January 2015.

For instance, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), today insists the impeachment inquiry shouldn't proceed unless the Republicans are permitted to issue subpoenas -- but the rule that awards subpoena power exclusively to the majority is precisely what he and his cronies approved four years ago. Minority Whip Steve Scalise compares the inquiry's closed hearings to "the Soviet Union," a bit of demagoguery in which he conveniently forgets his own role in approving that rule.

No doubt McCarthy and Scalise can recall, but hope everyone else will forget, how they used those rules in 2016 to engineer an inquisition into Benghazi that was -- as the dim McCarthy admitted on television -- designed to drive down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. 


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Long Journey of Charlie Parker's Saxophone: The newly acquired instrument, played by the father of bebop, is on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture ( Allison Keyes, 10/24/19, SMITHSONIAN.COM)

In August of 1955, Chan Parker, the widow of legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker, was in a rowboat in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, trying to save the legacy of the love of her life.

Roiling flood waters were rising in the wake of Hurricane Diane, and Parker, just months after the death of one of the fathers of bebop, was determined to get the important things out as water threatened their house located on a peninsula in Lumberville.

"She couldn't save him in life, but she could save his remains," says Chan Parker's daughter Kim, who was 9 at the time. The now 73-year-old is Charlie Parker's stepdaughter, and the two were fierce guardians of the memory of the man known by many as "Bird."

"All the water came up overnight . . . and we had to escape. But my mother kept going back," Kim Parker recalls. "At every opportunity, she went back because she had to get things out of that house and what she got out of the house belonged to Bird . . . which was two horns, the contracts, the paperwork, the history and the memories."

The memories were of her life with a man described as brilliant, seminal, an innovative musician who helped change the shape of jazz as the world knew it, whose soaring, intricate improvisations continue to influence musicians today. One of those horns, the last saxophone he owned, recently went on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The King Super 20 Alto sax is as beautiful, and unique, as the man who made it sing.

October 24, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Trump records 'strongly corroborate' sex assault claims, accuser says (AARON KATERSKYandJAMES HILL, Oct 24, 2019, ABC News)

"In particular the Trump Organization has produced copies of Defendant's calendar entries and itineraries from late 2007 through early 2008 - the period in which Ms. Zervos reported she met with and was assaulted by Defendant," the court filing states.

One document that Zervos says she got from the Trump Organization to support her claims includes itinerary documents that show Trump flew from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on Dec. 21, 2007, and stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel for two nights, including when Zervos has alleged Trump "grabbed and sexually assaulted her in his Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow."

Zervos also included a copy of an email that she said was sent to the Fox News tip line with the subject line "Trump hit on me."

"I was on the Apprentice. After the show was completed, Trump invited me to a hotel room under the guise of working for him. He had a different agenda. Please contact me to speak further as I have tried to make contact," the email stated, according to the court filing.

There is an additional piece of evidence Zervos is seeking, an unspecified nine-page document the Trump Organization has designated confidential. Zervos has asked the judge to force the Trump Organization to lift the designation.

"Defendant evidently is aware that the documents at issue closely corroborate Plaintiff's detailed account of their interactions," her court filing said. "That is not a valid reason for Defendant to use the Confidentiality Stipulation to continue to conceal the truth."

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


Fox News Judge Andrew Napolitano obliterates GOP talking points about "secret" impeachment hearings (MATTHEW CHAPMAN, OCTOBER 24, 2019, Salon)

"Let me tell you what I did, Kilmeade, I read the House rules," said Napolitano. "And as frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors, the hearings for which Congressman Schiff is presiding, they are consistent with the rules."

"They can make up any rules they want," scoffed Kilmeade.

"They can't change the rules," said Napolitano. "They follow the rules. When were the rules written last? In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner. And who enacted them? A Republican majority."

"What do the rules say?" said Earhardt.

"The rules say this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry can be done in secret," said Napolitano. "What happened in the Nixon impeachment? My former boss. I was his page in the House of Representatives. Peter Rodino, instead of holding the hearings in secret, interviewed the witnesses in secret. Congressman Henry Hyde in the Clinton impeachment, witnesses interviewed in secret and presented in public. Congressman Schiff, with a different set of rules, chooses to do initial set of interviews in secret."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Report: Sondland Could Face Perjury Referral (Cody Fenwick, October 24, 2019, Alternet

State Department official Bill Taylor delivered a shot of adrenaline to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Tuesday, providing testimony to the House of Representatives that was more detailed and damning that even many of the White House's fiercest critics anticipated. But in addition to powerfully strengthening the case that Trump engaged in a serious abuse of power and potential criminal wrongdoing in the Ukraine scandal, it raised the possibility that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland may have broken the law in his previous testimony to Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Study: US air pollution deaths increased by 9,700 a year from 2016 to 2018 (Dylan Matthews, Oct 24, 2019, Vox)

Air pollution is killing more people during the Trump administration than it was under President Obama. Air pollution was responsible for 9,700 more deaths in 2018 than it was in 2016, according to a new paper by economists at Carnegie Mellon. [...]

This is despite the fact that there's a large and growing body of research implicating fine particle pollution in everything from lower school test scores to lower work productivity to deaths (particularly in the elderly). Just in 2019 alone, studies have come out associating particulate pollution with violent crime, lower GDP, childhood stunting in India, and increased mortality.

We have decades of experience preventing this kind of pollution through regulatory action, and the emerging evidence base suggests that doing so could save lives, prevent crime, and grow the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


There Was A Tense Exchange Between One Of Trump's Top Immigration Officials And An Asylum Officer (Hamed Aleaziz, 10/23/19, BuzzFeed News)

In a tense exchange during a staff meeting on Wednesday, a leader of the union representing asylum officers pressed acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli about controversial agreements the Department of Homeland Security signed to send asylum-seekers to Central American countries, as well as Cuccinelli's unwillingness to meet with the union.

The back-and-forth, described by witnesses to BuzzFeed News, is the latest episode in a fraught relationship between hardline acting director Cuccinelli and the asylum officers union, which has pushed back and criticized multiple immigration policies during the Trump administration. Wednesday's town hall was the first meeting between Cuccinelli and USCIS staffers from across the country since his appointment this summer.

America can't return to decency fast enough.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Impeachment is closing in on Trump, so Republicans are throwing a tantrum (Joel Mathis, October 24, 2019, The Week)

The point of this charade wasn't transparency or due process. It was disruption.

President Trump and his allies have never had much use for America's laws and institutions. As impeachment draws near, though, it is increasingly clear that for Trumpist members of the Republican Party, we have now entered the "that's a nice Congress you have there -- be a shame if anything happened to it" phase of the proceedings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Super Trumpy MLB Umpire Tweets He's Buying AR-15 to Fight "Civil War" in Case of Impeachment (ELLIOT HANNON, OCT 24, 2019, Slate)

Major League umpires, you'd assume, would be sticklers for the rules, but not veteran ump Rob Drake. As the World Series was kicking off in Houston on Tuesday, the 10-year veteran tweeted out his own violent, anarchic thoughts on the impeachment inquiry currently underway in the Capitol. "I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020."

Which is the point of the gun.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Four in five EU coal plants are unprofitable -- report (Deutsche-welle, 10/24/19)

The London-based think tank analyzed the numbers behind every coal plant in the EU, concluding that 79% of the electricity-generating power stations are running at a loss. 

"EU coal generators are haemorrhaging cash because they cannot compete with cheap renewables and gas and this will only get worse," said Matt Gray, co-author of the report.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Making of a White Supremacist Myth: Why the far-right pushes the lie that black Americans fought as Confederate soldiers (SCOTT W. STERN, October 24, 2019, New Republic)

On April 19, 2019, a man--who, in his profile picture, wears a hat emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag--posted in a Facebook group called "Black Confederates and Other Minorities in the War of Northern Aggression," which has more than 2,000 members. "Heads up y'all there's gonna be a book coming out in sept saying black confederates are a myth," he wrote. "Be prepared to give a negative review on amazon when it's released." "I damned sure will," another man immediately replied.

Within this online community, the publication of Kevin M. Levin's excellent book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth, is nothing less than a declaration of war. In the last several decades, Levin writes, a growing number of people have begun to accept as fact claims that between 500 and 100,000 black soldiers fought in racially integrated units in the Confederate Army. There are hundreds of web sites, legions of online communities, and whole books devoted to perpetuating these claims. Billboards reading "75,000 Confederates of color?" have recently appeared in Missouri, and one fourth-grade Virginia history textbook asserted that "thousands of Southern blacks fought in Confederate ranks." Although it is difficult to measure the pervasiveness of this narrative, one study from 2013 found that 16 percent of students at a Virginia university believed that "blacks fought for the Confederacy."

Yet, as Levin patiently explains, this is totally untrue--predicated on a misreading and misunderstanding of historical documents, as well as outright lies and manipulations. The myth of black Confederates enables white supremacists to portray the Civil War inaccurately as a struggle over states' rights, not slavery; as a fight for Southern liberty, not for oppression. This in turn justifies their retrograde and racist politics in the present. To those who have embraced this myth, Levin's book is a terrifying prospect, and for good reason. Searching for Black Confederates is a bracing corrective, a slender yet vital volume in the growing library of texts dedicated to dispelling white supremacist talking points.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Vermont has 3rd lowest murder rate in US (Vermont Business Magazine, 10/23/19)

Vermont reported the 3rd lowest murder rate (1.8) compared to other states. This was 3.1 points below the national average of 4.9 homicides per 100,000 individuals, according to a new report from safewise.com(link is external). In fact, the three states from Northern New England had the lowest murder rates.

Each of these states reported a murder rate of less than half that of the national average of 4.9 homicides per 100,000 people. But, perceptions do not match these low rates with nearly 50% of individuals worrying about murder in their everyday lives.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump calls Republicans who don't support him 'human scum' (Catherine Garcia,
October 23, 2019, The Week)

On Wednesday, President Trump raged against his perceived enemies in the GOP, tweeting that the "Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!"

A few hours later, Trump directed his ire at staffers. "It would be really great if the people within the Trump Administration, all well-meaning and good (I hope!), could stop hiring Never Trumpers, who are worse than the Do Nothing Democrats," he tweeted. "Nothing good will ever come from them!"

Own it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM




The pension reform is seen as key to shoring up public finances and restoring confidence in Brazil's sluggish economy, which emerged from a recession in the last quarter. Investors have been following the reform saga closely because the country's spending on social security is among the highest in the world. Last year, it accounted for 44 percent of the federal government's budget and 8.6 percent of gross domestic product. 

Without the reform, the country's pension outlays would balloon to 17 percent of GDP in the next four decades, according to official data. The pension reform has already been priced in by Brazil's financial markets. 


Rog√©rio Marinho, the government's social security secretary, says the reform -- which will increase retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women, from 56 and 53, respectively -- represents an 800 billion real ($194 billion) in savings over the next decade, plus 270 billion real of ancillary savings over the same period. 

"This is a big number. It is a good result," says David Beker, chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in S√£o Paulo. The pension reform should prevent the government's debt ratio from rising over the coming years -- a concern in a country where gross public debt could have topped 120 percent of GDP "if reforms are not implemented," the International Monetary Fund warned in July. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Pressed Ukraine's President to Act Out a Fake News Script, Live on CNN (Robert Mackey, October 23 2019, The Intercept)

BEFORE AGREEING TO release nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine, President Donald Trump extorted a promise from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to appear on American television and act out a script prepared for him by Trump's aides, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday. [...]

But once the Ukrainians became aware that the much-needed security assistance Trump had personally held up might never be delivered, Zelensky, who was an actor and comedian before entering politics this year, agreed to play his part in a ruse intended to lend credibility to baseless conspiracy theories about Biden and other Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The President Has No Defense (Renato Mariotti, 10/23/19, Politico)

It's hard to overstate how much damage the testimony of William Taylor, the U.S. envoy to Ukraine, inflicted on President Donald Trump's defense in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

On its face, Taylor's testimony Tuesday established the quid pro quo that Trump has denied for weeks. But more importantly, Taylor's detailed notes of the "highly irregular" policymaking that he witnessed over the summer provide a road map to future testimony that could be even more harmful. Republicans have already begun to retreat from their "no quid pro quo" line, but they will have to keep retreating, because Taylor has almost single-handedly decimated the few witnesses who have provided some testimony that is favorable to Trump.

If I were one of the president's lawyers, I would counsel him to admit the obvious--essentially to plead guilty and admit this was, in fact, a quid pro quo--and try and convince Congress and the public that it is not as bad as it looks. In my experience, defendants who stubbornly try to deny the obvious in the face of overwhelming evidence rarely convince anyone.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nunes protégé fed Ukraine info to Trump (NATASHA BERTRAND, 10/23/2019, Politico)

A protégé of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes was among those passing negative information about Ukraine to President Donald Trump earlier this year, fueling the president's belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.

Kashyap Patel, a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February, was so involved in the issue that at one point Trump thought he was in charge of Ukraine policy for the National Security Council, according to congressional testimony by Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs whose portfolio included Ukraine.

Brennan and Clapper have to be running Devin as an agent.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Faced with the most damning impeachment testimony yet, Republicans go into full clown mode (JON HEALEY, OCT. 23, 2019 , LA Times)

The problem with the storm-and-tweet tactic is so obvious, I feel silly even pointing it out. The secret sessions are the preliminaries, designed to figure out whether the allegations made by the as-yet unnamed whistleblower had a basis in reality. Once the committees have established the evidentiary baseline, they will switch to public sessions involving many of the same witnesses. The purpose of the secret sessions is at least twofold: to try to prevent witnesses in the first phase from coordinating their testimony, and to have a record of sworn testimony that can be used to prevent witnesses from changing their stories when the hearings go public.

In other words, the secret sessions will soon give way to public ones. And what will the Republican protesters say then? Perhaps they'll focus on the fact that the full House hasn't voted on whether to conduct an impeachment inquiry, but the more we hear from witnesses like Taylor, the more difficult such a vote becomes for Republicans, and the easier for swing-district Democrats.

Wednesday's stunt may slow down the march toward a resolution, but it won't stop the inquiry. Eventually, every member of Congress is going to have to decide what to do about the facts laid out by Taylor and the others who've been deposed, including Sondland. And while the choices are too consequential to be easy for any member, they are particularly challenging for Republicans.

October 23, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 PM


Attorney for indicted Giuliani associate says evidence in case could be subject to executive privilege (The Week, 10/23/19)

A lawyer for Lev Parnas, one of two associates of Rudy Giuliani accused of illegally funneling money into U.S. elections, told a federal judge on Wednesday some of the evidence collected in his client's case could be subject to executive privilege.

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Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


ICE officer who drove truck into Jewish protesters won't be charged with a crime (JTA, 10/23/19)

A grand jury declined to indict a former US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer who drove his truck into a row of Jewish protesters at an ICE detention center.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


House Republicans May Have Committed Some Light Treason (JIM SWIFT, OCTOBER 23, 2019, The Bulwark)

If you've never been in a SCIF, and 99.9 percent of Americans have not, it's basically like being put in a rubber room prison that's wrapped in a Faraday Cage. The whole point of the SCIF is that nothing gets in and nothing gets out that isn't planned and accounted for. There are a few hundred of these facilities scattered throughout official Washington--the FBI, CIA, and Pentagon obviously need them--but only a couple on the Hill.

You are not, under any circumstances, supposed to bring electronic devices into a SCIF. You can understand why. Members of Congress are not like the president, getting their phones rigorously checked by security personnel for signs of compromise. The device protocol for the average member of Congress aren't that much more security-conscious than your mom's.

So, in an effort to defend President Trump, Gaetz and company stormed the SCIF to disrupt the hearing and they didn't just byob their own devices--they used them to show off on Twitter. [...]

[A]s Mieke Eoyang, a former congressional staffer who worked on national security issues, put it this way: House Republicans endangered national security in an attempt to cover for President Trump.

In fairness, Mr. Sondland already perjured himself because he didn't know what honest witnesses were saying, so you can see why the Trumpbots want to try and protect other loyalists.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 PM


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Capitulation to Jewish Settlers Has Enabled Violence Against Soldiers, Defense Officials Say  (Yaniv Kubovich, Oct 23, 2019, Ha'aretz)

Officials in the defense establishment say that Israel's military policy in the West Bank is often dictated by settlement leaders 'to benefit the Jewish population' rather than by security considerations. [...]

The officials added that settler leaders have put heavy pressure on the government, thereby undermining the army's status in the territories and enabling violence against members of the security services.

"It's expressed as an atmosphere that everything's allowed," said one senior officer involved in the defense establishment's conversations with government officials.

In recent years, defense officials said, settlement leaders have gained more power over the government, and they have waged a persistent battle against the defense establishment's policies through their representatives in the Knesset. This has led the government to capitulate to settler interests at the expense of defense considerations, the officials said.

What government?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Whines That Senate Republicans Are Failing Him on Impeachment and Not Owning Nearly Enough Libs (Sam Stein, Asawin Suebsaeng, Justin Baragona, 10.23.19, Daily Beast)

[H]is top allies should come in to run interference. In particular, there is growing frustration that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not yet called hearings into the issues that sparked Trump's interest in Ukraine: Joe Biden's alleged and unfounded attempts to aid a business whose board his son sat on as well as  a conspiracy theory that links Ukraine with 2016 election meddling. 

"Senate Republicans don't have to defend Trump on everything, they just have to do their jobs," said one senior Trump operative. "Part of that is holding hearings, calling witnesses, and forcing testimony on the misdeeds we already know about--Ukraine's interference in the 2016 election against Trump, the Clinton campaign paying foreign sources to fabricate a dossier against Trump, the politically driven Kavanaugh smear campaign, the son of the former vice president influence-trading overseas, Adam Schiff trying to obtain dirt on Trump from the Ukrainian embassy, and more. What good is controlling half of Congress if Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff get to run the whole show anyway?"

The complaints have come from the top down. One source who spoke to Trump in the past two weeks said that the president wondered aloud why Republican lawmakers couldn't be more like people such as Tom Fitton--the Judicial Watch president who Trump regularly watches on Fox and often excitedly tweets about--when defending him against the impeachment inquiry. And in public, Trump has increasingly let his dissatisfaction with Republican Senate leadership and others be known.

They may as well hold show trials; it's not as if they have any decency or honor left to squander.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Support for impeaching Trump soars among independents - Reuters/Ipsos poll (Chris Kahn, 10/23/19, Reuters)

The Oct. 18-22 poll showed public opinion continued to shift as Americans digested a flurry of news over the past several weeks stemming from the congressional impeachment inquiry and Trump's decision to pull troops from northern Syria.

Overall, 46% of Americans said they supported impeachment and 40% said they opposed it.

Support for impeachment was relatively steady among Republicans and Democrats over the past week but it surged among independents, a group that includes people who neither identify as Democrats nor Republicans and do not favor either party when they vote.

Among independents, 45% said in the latest poll they supported impeachment and 32% said they opposed it, the strongest level of support recorded in more than a year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Lord Acton Can Teach Us about Nationalism (KAI WEISS, 10/17/19, Law & Liberty)

A little-known 1862 work called Nationality by Lord Acton can perhaps shed new light, too, on the topic. For Acton, there are two types of nationality: the one of 1688, the other of 1789, i.e., English or French nationalism, which "are connected in name only, and are in reality the opposite extremes of political thought."

French nationalism arose during the French Revolution, though this version would wreak havoc for much longer in Europe and still, some would argue, does to this day. Acton's main issue with this type of nationality is its utopian and idealist character, by elevating one's imaginary construct of the nation above anything else.

As all readers of Edmund Burke know (and Acton was certainly among them), the revolutionaries of 1789 broke not only with the ancien regime but with any tradition, with any notion of a history of France, that had existed before. Instead, a fully new concept would have to be implemented, though this "was no longer France, but some unknown country to which the nation was transported." As "every effaceable trace and relic of national history was carefully wiped away, ... France was no longer bounded by the limits she had received from the condemned influence of her history." A vision of French greatness in which this nation was to be more glorious than anything else was to be made a reality. On the path to this French greatness, the centralized power had the legitimacy to get rid of everything that stood in its way.

For the first time in history, "the notion of an abstract nationality" was expressed, as "nationality became a paramount claim, which was to assert itself alone," and which "was to prevail at the expense of every other cause." And as those in power were striving to national greatness, all others, that is, those that compose the nation, were made subject to an absolute ruler - it was more important to reach this ideal than anything else.

This "modern theory of nationality," as Acton called it, could eventually go much further down the path of despotism. To achieve this arbitrary conception of the nation, everything not considered fitting to it would need to be swept away. In a remarkable prediction of what would happen if this theory was to be taken to its extreme, Acton said that the extermination -- or at least servitude -- of what was deemed an inferior race would be the consequence. This eventually happened in fascist Germany, where, with the goal of achieving national supremacy and uniting the Germans -- everyone else, every un-German element would have to make way -- as well as other nations whose land and resources were deemed essential for German hegemony. In this sense, Hitler was a nationalist.

There is, however, another version of nationality for Acton, one that is liberal - and "its model would be England." This theory, "which represents nationality as an essential, but not a supreme element in determining the forms of the State," is described by Acton as follows:

It is distinguished from the other [the French version], because it tends to diversity and not to uniformity, to harmony and not to unity; because it aims not at an arbitrary change, but at careful respect for the existing conditions of political life, and because it obeys the laws and results of history, not the aspirations of an ideal future. While the theory of unity makes the nation a source of despotism and revolution, the theory of liberty regards it as the bulwark of self-government, and the foremost limit to the excessive power of the State.

This concept of nationhood arises from the past, building off of the nation's successes and learning from its mistakes. It is backward looking because it cherishes its history and doesn't bulldoze over traditions but prides itself in them. It is also progressive, though, in the sense that it wants to carry on this history, though with humility to the whole, not by pursuing a utopian ideal. This community comes into being naturally, from the bottom-up, indeed, from the heart of each individual, where one sees it as one's obligation to care for one's fellow people because the individual realizes he or she is part of a tradition that precedes them. Edmund Burke famously referred to this as "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born."

Perhaps most importantly, this nation has to constitute a bulwark for liberty, not against it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Once a point of pride, Trump name reportedly scrubbed from New York ice rinks (Mario Koran, 22 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

 The Trump organization has removed the president's name from his two New York City ice skating rinks in Central Park. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Donald Trump appears to be getting the cold shoulder from his own ice skating rinks, after the Trump organization reportedly took the unusual step of removing the president's name from the two Central Park businesses ahead of the holiday season.

First reported by the Washington Post, city officials said the decision to remove Trump's name in recent weeks was taken by the Trump organization but that the company has not offered a reason. His company still owns the skating rinks, which is among his oldest businesses, but it's the first time Trump's own organization has attempted to downplay the connection between the president and his businesses.

He is his own Confederate statue.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Taliban fighters in makeup: Barbican to show rare pictures (Mark Brown, 23 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

They are probably the least likely men to ever be willingly pictured in heavy makeup, painted nails and holding plastic flowers against a kitsch background of Swiss Alpine chalets.

But pictured they were, all gun-toting Taliban fighters often holding hands and posing for photographs which will be shown in a UK exhibition for the first time next year, the Barbican has announced.

The photographs were found in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2002 by the Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak.

They are "visually arresting," said Barbican curator Alona Pardo, and remarkable because they are real. "These are not constructed photographs, these men have chosen to have the photographs made and present themselves to camera like that. It just shows you the agency of images to destabilise our perceptions."

Most likely.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tulsi Gabbard is getting a boost from conservatives online (Sara Fischer, 10/22/19, Axios)

Comments by Gabbard condemning members of her own party have garnered her lots of attention from far-right figures, which explains some of the increased attention she is receiving on platforms like Reddit, 4chan and Gab.  [...]

Between the lines: "We are seeing commentary pushing the idea of a Yang/Gabbard ticket, especially on 4chan," says Storyful Senior Journalist Catherine Sanz, who pulled the data.

Gabbard has gained traction among prominent Yang Gang fan pages, per Sanz.
Caroline Orr, a research analyst and reporter, noted via Twitter yesterday that Tulsi-related hashtags "are getting boosted by YangGang, which is made up of a lot of MAGA fans."

October 22, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 PM


EXCLUSIVE: We Asked Every Senator In The GOP About Impeachment. Seven Ruled It Out. (JUSTIN CARUSO AND HENRY RODGERS, October 22, 2019, Daily Caller)

The Caller contacted all 53 Republican Senate offices Monday and Tuesday to ask if senators would rule out voting to remove Trump from office, and received a variety of responses-seven senators explicitly rejected impeachment in their statement.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM


An American Muslim imam's letter to the American Sikh community (Omar Suleiman, 10/22/19, RNS) 

When Hurricane Katrina struck my hometown of New Orleans in 2005, I was tasked with leading a major Muslim relief effort. While Katrina brought many sights I won't forget, one of the most enduring and treasured was members of United Sikhs, a humanitarian and civil rights nonprofit, bolting this way and that across the floor of the Superdome, which had been turned into a massive shelter, assisting distressed people with a zeal unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

This despite the fact that the Sikh community in New Orleans is minimal, and I can't recall seeing a single Sikh Katrina victim in any of the shelters.

In fact the Sikhs, though they are the fifth largest faith group in the world, number only a few hundred thousand members in the entire U.S., most of whom live around New York City and in California. But in this rising climate of xenophobia, especially Islamophobia, they have become easy targets. Bigots often mistake Sikhs for Muslims due to their highly visible turbans, beards and scarves.

Despite the real harm this has caused Sikhs, they have consistently refused to throw the Muslim community under the bus by simply distancing themselves from Islam.

You may have seen the video of Canadian New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, a candidate for prime minister, being heckled by a protester in 2017 for trying to "push Shariah" and being in "bed with the Muslim Brotherhood." His brother, Gurratan Singh, also a member of Parliament, went viral last month for how he handled an Islamophobic heckler outside a Muslim convention.

Gurratan tweeted afterward, "I will never respond to an Islamophobe by stating, 'I am not a Muslim.'"

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Feds Charge Trump Donor Imaad Zuberi With Hiding Work as Foreign Agent (Erin Banco & Pilar Melendez, 10.22.19, Daily Beast)

A Los Angeles financier who donated $900,000 to President Donald Trump's inaugural committee has admitted to falsifying records to hide his work as a foreign agent while he lobbied prominent U.S. government officials, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Shah Zuberi, 49, also known as "Imaad Zuberi," has agreed to plead guilty to three counts in a criminal information for allegedly making almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions, engaging in various lobbying efforts, and evading taxes, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Trump reportedly claimed to be 'in charge of the Hatch Act' (The Week, 10/22/19)

Back before his June rally in Orlando, Trump was pushing to bring Cabinet officials along to the event, which would launch his 2020 campaign, people present during the conversation tell the Journal. But Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reportedly warned Trump against it, telling him it could result in violations of the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from engaging in certain political activities. Cabinet officials and reelection launch rallies would likely fall under that designation.

But Trump reportedly didn't care, telling Mulvaney "I'm in charge of the Hatch Act" while surrounded by other top aides. He then called Mulvaney "weak," the people in the room tell the Journal.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


The Supreme Court Is Poised to Strike Down a Major Obama-Era Agency (ILYA SHAPIRO, October 21, 2019, National Review)

Worst of all, the CFPB exercises significant executive power, in addition to elements of legislative and judicial functions, in its field of consumer-finance regulation. This creates serious constitutional problems for an agency that is unaccountable to the political branches -- and, thus, to the people. The Constitution does not permit the unaccountable CFPB to exert such significant and varied power over an important aspect of American life.

Numerous lawsuits have rightly called the CFPB into question. In 2016, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when he was still a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, joined that attack. In PHH Corp. v. CFPB, he wrote that "other than the president, the director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States government, at least when measured in terms of unilateral power." In his opinion in that case, Kavanaugh found the CFPB to be unconstitutional, before the "nuclear" D.C. Circuit reversed him en banc.

As long as the CFPB's constitutionality remains in doubt, businesses and individuals will struggle with how to conduct themselves in relation to the agency's mandates. And that goes for all the other ostensibly independent agencies whose regulatory tentacles have entangled the American economy in recent decades -- such as the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found unconstitutional just last month.

Earlier last week, the Supreme Court heard argument regarding a related constitutional defect with the financial-oversight board that Congress created to restructure Puerto Rico's debt. As I wrote in discussing that case, "constitutional structure is important; it's what ultimately secures our liberties and ensures that we have the rule of law, rather than man -- whether that be the president or the group of men and women in Congress, or both in collusion against our founding document."

Seila Law is thus a great case for resolving some of the problems of constitutional structure that recent legislation has introduced into our government. The Supreme Court should hold that the CFPB has insufficient checks on its power and send Congress back to the drawing board.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Bernie Sanders defends Tulsi Gabbard against Hillary Clinton's "outrageous" Russian asset allegation (SHIRA TARLO, OCTOBER 22, 2019, salon)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dismissed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's suggestion that fellow 2020 hopeful Tulsi Gabbard was a "Russian asset" as "outrageous."

Bernie Sanders' Trip To The Soviet Union Exposes Socialism's Blind Spots (Miriam Elder, July 11, 2019, Buzzfeed News)

In 1988, Ronald Reagan visited Moscow to finalize a key arms treaty as US-Russian relations continued to warm in what would be the waning days of the Cold War.

Just a couple weeks later, Bernie Sanders and nearly a dozen other Vermonters called a press conference to talk about their own recent trip to the Soviet Union -- 10 days in three cities, visits to schools and factories, and an authentic banya session, complete with vodka and patriotic singing. Sanders gushed about the Moscow Metro and the low price of theater in Yaroslavl, with which he was working to set up sister city status with Burlington, of which he was mayor. Reporters asked how much that would cost, and if anyone they met over there had thoughts about Sanders being a socialist (not realizing, perhaps, that by that time in the Soviet Union any ideological fervor was long gone). And then, just as everyone was ready to pack it in, a reporter asked, kind of quietly: "Of anybody you met, was anyone familiar with Vermont?" The reporter continued: "When you said you're from Vermont, they said, 'Oh yeah, Solzhenitsyn,' right?" [...]

By the time Sanders visited the USSR, though, Solzhenitsyn's stark accounts of the Gulag and Soviet cruelty had helped open a schism within the intellectual left about how to reconcile the brutal legacy of communism with the dream of socialist revolution. And by then, the American political visit to the Soviet Union had a long, tortured history of truth, belief, and deception. For decades, the USSR courted American dissidents -- many of whom had deep, correct criticisms of the US government's racist subjugation of black citizens -- and presented many with a false view of Soviet egalitarianism.

What were the odds that one of the most prominent Soviet dissidents was living in, of all places, Bernie Sanders's small state? The world felt bigger in the '80s, distances larger and borders harder to pierce. The country was split between those who thought the USSR posed the gravest threat to US security and values, and those who thought that was wildly overblown. Solzhenitsyn refused to be boxed in. In 1975, he gave two major speeches to the AFL-CIO denouncing communism (in Washington, he was introduced as "the single figure who has raised highest the flame of liberty"). Three years later, he gave the commencement address at Harvard -- a rousing call to the pursuit of truth but also a vicious indictment of his new home, with its ruthless capitalism and inequality, its addiction to pop culture, the flaws in its press and politicians. No one knew what to make of this man, who seemed to have harsh words for everything but God (he was deeply Russian Orthodox) and non-Soviet Russia (he was supremely nationalistic, which fueled accusations of anti-Semitism later in life, which his supporters denied).

"Truth seldom is pleasant," Solzhenitsyn told the Harvard graduates. "It is almost invariably bitter."

When Sanders returned from the Soviet Union, he talked of how impressed he was with what he felt to be people's openness to criticize their own society, but Solzhenitsyn remained blacklisted, his work banned, his exile in force. Five months after Sanders got back, the Kremlin's top ideologist said that "to publish Solzhenitsyn's work is to undermine the foundations on which our present life rests."

Despite living just a couple hours away from each other, Sanders and Solzhenitsyn never met.

Cultivating an Asset: How Donald Trump became the perfect candidate for Russia's assault on American democracy. (The Moscow Project)

Following its established playbook, Russia has increasingly interfered in the politics of traditional opponents throughout the West in the hopes of undermining democracy and stability from within. Donald Trump was a political novice with a longstanding public admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a penchant for advancing conspiracy theories. He espoused isolationist policies and had potentially compromising financial relationships with Kremlin-aligned oligarchs. He also had few apparent scruples and was running against a woman Putin considers among his main adversaries. Trump was simply an ideal candidate for the Kremlin to back. There is also reason to suspect that Russia began cultivating Trump as an asset long before his campaign for president, a common tactic the Kremlin pursues with people it suspects may be useful in the future.

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Ex-ICE Chief on Congress and Border Security: 'They've Done Nothing' (Fred Lucas, October 22, 2019, Daily Signal)

"It's a shame in this day in America when the government of Mexico has done more to secure our border than the Democratic leadership of the Congress," Thomas Homan, former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Tuesday at The Heritage Foundation's annual President's Club meeting in Washington.

 "That is just a stone cold fact," Homan said during a panel discussion on immigration reforms. "They have done nothing."

Always bet on the Deep State--the 80% of Americans who oppose closing the border.

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Trump admin considering Chad Wolf, an architect of family separation, for DHS chief (Julia Ainsley, Katy Tur and Laura Strickler, 10/22/19, NBC News)

"Announce that DHS is considering separating family units, placing the adults in detention and placing minors under the age of 18 in the custody of HHS as unaccompanied alien children," Wolf wrote, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that would later be called on to shelter more than 2,800 children separated from their parents in 2018.

Also included on the list were policies that would speed up the deportation of children (which has not come to pass) and require immigrants to seek asylum in Mexico (which has since been announced).

Donald has to keep his 20% on board or there's no one left for him to depend on. Luckily, they're easily purchased.

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Anonymous Trump official who wrote New York Times op-ed has a book coming out (Jake Tapper, October 22, 2019, CNN)

The anonymous senior Trump administration official whose 2018 New York Times op-ed was called treasonous by President Donald Trump has written a new book about Trump titled "A Warning" that will be published next month, CNN has learned.

CNN has exclusively obtained a cover of the book, which has been a closely guarded secret until now and will be released November 19 by Twelve, a division of the Hachette Book Group. The author will remain anonymous, and sources familiar with the book tell CNN that "elaborate precautions have been taken to protect the author's identity."

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Proud Boys Maxwell Hare, John Kinsman Sentenced to Four Years for Upper East Side Brawl (Kelly Weill, 10.22.19, Daily Beast)

Two members of the far-right group the Proud Boys were sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday, over their involvement in a Manhattan brawl last October. Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman were convicted this summer of attempted gang assault, attempted assault, and riot during an attack on anti-fascists after a speech by the Proud Boys' founder Gavin McInnes. Hare and Maxwell claimed they fought in self-defense, but security footage obtained by The New York Times revealed that Proud Boys initiated the attack. The footage shows Hare charging at and punching anti-fascists. A cellphone video from after the attack shows Hare and others boasting about attacking a "foreigner." 

Trumpism is as Trumpism does.

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US' top diplomat Taylor was told Trump wanted aid withheld until Ukraine said it would investigate Biden (Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox, Kylie Atwood and Gloria Borger,  October 22, 2019, CNN)

The Top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor testified Tuesday that he had been told President Donald Trump would withhold military aid to the country until it publicly declared investigations would be launched that could help his reelection chances -- including into former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a copy of Taylor's opening statement obtained by CNN.

"During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election," according to the testimony.

Sondland told Taylor he'd also made a mistake earlier by telling the Ukrainian officials that a White House meeting with Zelensky "was dependent on a public announcement of the investigations," Taylor said.

"In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance," Taylor testified.

He testified that Trump wanted Zelensky "in a public box" by making a public statement about ordering the investigations.

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The embarrassing epilogue to the media's obsession with Hillary Clinton's emails (Ian Millhiser  Oct 22, 2019, Vox)

The State Department's report reaches two broad conclusions. Clinton's "use of a private email system to conduct official business added an increased degree of risk" that classified information would be compromised. But "there was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information."

In 2016, the State Department's inspector general also determined that Clinton's Republican predecessors, Secretaries Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, also received classified information on their personal email accounts.

So Clinton committed the same mistake committed by her predecessors -- Powell reportedly advised Clinton to use a personal email account for non-classified communications shortly after Clinton became secretary -- and the State Department's report found no systemic mishandling of information. [...]

As CJR later summarized this research, the Berkman Klein Center "found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal." Indeed, emails so dominated coverage that "the various Clinton-related email scandals--her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks--accounted for more sentences than all of Trump's scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions."

Meanwhile, CJR researchers Duncan J. Watts and David M. Rothschild did a deep dive into how the New York Times covered 2016, and their findings are just as stark. "Of the 1,433 articles that mentioned Trump or Clinton," during the last 69 days of the 2016 campaign, "291 were devoted to scandals or other personal matters while only 70 mentioned policy, and of these only 60 mentioned any details of either candidate's positions."

One-hundred fifty of these New York Times articles, moreover, appeared on the paper's front page. Of these, only 16 discussed policy in any way, "of which six had no details, four provided details on Trump's policy only, one on Clinton's policy only, and five made some comparison between the two candidates' policies." By contrast, the Times ran 10 front-page articles on Clinton's emails in just six days, between October 29 and November 3.

The overarching impression created by this reporting, in other words, was that the emails were more important than all of the policy questions facing voters in 2016 -- questions like whether millions of Americans would lose health care, whether the United States would bar immigrants because of their religion, and who would control the Supreme Court.

...Donald performed worse in the primaries than any other eventual nominee and lost to Crooked Hillary by three million votes.  Which is why Mitch will remove him.

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Trump administration says Obamacare plan premiums to fall  (Reuters, 10/22/19) 

Monthly premiums for an average 2020 Obamacare health insurance plan will fall about 4 percent from this year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Trump administration, which has tried to dismantle the program. [...]

The total number of issuers will rise to 175 from 155 this year and two states will have a single issuer in 2020, down from five in 2019 and 10 in 2018.

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Superhero films are 'cynical exercise' to make profits for corporations - Ken Loach (Andrew Pulver,  22 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

Ken Loach has joined the chorus of auteur directors criticising superhero movies, saying they have "nothing to do with the art of cinema".

Loach spoke to Sky while promoting his new film, Sorry We Missed You, an account of the breadline existence of a gig-economy delivery driver in Newcastle.

Loach said of superhero films: "I find them boring. They're made as commodities ... like hamburgers ... It's about making a commodity which will make profit for a big corporation - they're a cynical exercise. They're a market exercise and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema."

Michelangelo is branded a 'multi-millionaire' miser (Bruce Johnston, 30 Nov 2002, The Telegraph)

Michelangelo was a thoroughly dishonest multi-millionaire miser who slept in his boots despite his great wealth, according to a new study.

Although the artist was known to be reasonably well off, new research suggests that he was fabulously wealthy. Michelangelo left an estate worth 50,000 florins - about £35 million in today's money.

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Trump's quest for vengeance against John Brennan (NATASHA BERTRAND and DANIEL LIPPMAN, 10/22/2019, Politico)

As part of that investigation, Barr and John Durham, the federal prosecutor he appointed to conduct it, have been probing a conspiracy theory for which there is little if any evidence, according to several people with knowledge of the matter: that a key player in the Russia probe, a professor named Joseph Mifsud, was actually a Western intelligence asset sent to discredit the Trump campaign -- and that the CIA, under Brennan, was somehow involved.

Trump, meanwhile, has become "obsessed" with Brennan, who frequently gets under the president's skin by publicly questioning his mental acuity and fitness for office, according to a former White House official. On Brennan, "it was always, 'he's an idiot, he's a crook, we ought to investigate him,'" this person said, characterizing Trump's outbursts.

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State Dept. officials comply with House impeachment subpoenas, defying White House order (CONOR FINNEGAN, Oct 21, 2019, ABC News)

The White House has ordered administration officials not to comply with subpoenas from the three House committees that have launched an impeachment probe against President Donald Trump. For the most part, from the Office of Management and Budget to the Department of Energy to the Vice President's office, officials have abided by that command.

But five current and former officials from the State Department have not. Defying the White House directive and instead complying with the House subpoena, they have each testified about Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani's effort to pressure Ukraine's new president to open investigations that would favor him politically, including by withholding $392 million in security assistance and removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. [...]

"They're taking a professional risk, and they're doing so for the sake of their public duty," said Ambassador Daniel Fried, a Foreign Service officer and veteran diplomat who served as ambassador to Poland under Bill Clinton, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe under George W. Bush, and special envoy for closing Guantanamo Bay under Barack Obama.

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Fractured Nation: Widening Partisan Polarization and Key Issues in 2020  (PRRI Staff, 10.17.2019)

Favorability and Approval

President Trump's net favorability ratings are at the lowest point since he took office in 2017. Only about one in three (35%) Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the President, and 64% say they have an unfavorable opinion, for a net rating of -29%. A plurality (48%) of Americans say they have a very unfavorable opinion of Trump, the highest since he took office. [...]

Trump Could Lose More Support Than He Might Gain [...]

While most who disapprove of Trump are set in their ways, Americans who approve of Trump's job performance are more open to the idea of changing their mind: Two-thirds (66%) say he could do something to lose their approval, while 33% say there is nothing he could do to lose their approval. Republicans (42%) are about twice as likely as independents (20%) to say there is virtually nothing Trump could do to lose their approval. [...]

Donald Trump's Behavior and the Presidency

Nearly three in four (73%) Americans say they wish Trump's speech and behavior were more consistent with past presidents, but opinion is polarized.  [...]

Almost two-thirds (65%) of Americans say that Trump has damaged the dignity of the presidency, while 35% say he has not. [...]

Trump's Impact on White Supremacist Groups and Violence

A majority (57%) of Americans say Trump's decisions and behavior have encouraged white supremacist groups. Fewer than one in ten (6%) say he has discouraged white supremacist groups, and around one in three (36%) say his behavior has not had an impact either way. These views have remained largely unchanged since 2018 when 54% said he encouraged white supremacists, 5% said he discouraged white supremacists, and 39% said his decisions and behavior did not have an impact.

...who don't disapprove of his conduct.

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Trump viewed Ukraine as adversary, not ally, witnesses say (LISA MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK, 10/22/19, AP) 

Behind closed doors, President Donald Trump has made his views on Ukraine clear: "They tried to take me down."

The president, according to people familiar with testimony in the House impeachment investigation, sees the Eastern European ally, not Russia, as responsible for the interference in the 2016 election that was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

It's a view denied by the intelligence community, at odds with U.S. foreign policy and dismissed by many of Trump's fellow Republicans, but part of a broader skepticism of Ukraine being shared with Trump by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his key regional ally Viktor Orban of Hungary.

Thus, a Russian asset.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



[W]hat is even more interesting are the small but significant remarks and tweets she has made over the past two months. They indicate how she would differentiate herself from Trump on domestic and foreign policy. 

On the economy: Haley tweeted on Sept. 12 "this can't continue," in response to a headline about how the budget deficit topped $1 trillion in just 11 months. While she didn't directly blame the president, she further raised eyebrows with a follow-up tweet emphasizing "we don't have an endless bank account."

On democracy: Speaking at Elon University in North Carolina on Sept. 27, Haley said she is most concerned about the freedoms of speech, press and religion on college campuses. Furthermore, Haley has tweeted several times about shared values with Hong Kong and praised the House on the recent passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

On foreign policy: She immediately called out Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria as a "big mistake." [...]

Haley has played this all correctly, should the opportunity present itself. Having left the administration at the right time, she has laid out a clear contrast on key issues but hasn't directly confronted Trump enough to anger his core supporters. As far as the vice president goes, he will carry the stench of everything Trump has done.

Make no mistake about it, should Trump not run for any reason, there will be a Republican stampede to get behind Haley -- leaving Pence to eat her dust.

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Is Brett Kavanaugh the New Scalia--or Just Another Kennedy? (BOB SULLIVAN, 10/21/19, Crisis)

Justice Kavanaugh is now in his second term on the Court. Through his first term, he voted with Chief Justice John Roberts 95 percent of the time, and he voted with Justice Stephen Breyer more often than with Gorsuch or Thomas, and voted with ultra-liberals Ginsburg and Sotomayor just as often as he voted with the arch-conservative Thomas. SCOTUS-watchers have noticed the similarity in the judicial ideologies of Roberts and Kavanaugh, referring to Kavanaugh as Roberts's wingman or calling their relationship a "bromance."

And what, exactly, is Kavanaugh's voting record so far? In a word: mixed. Kavanaugh voted with the conservative justices in the case of June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, which would have allowed a new pro-life law in Louisiana (which requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital) to take effect without a stay during appeal.

However, he sided with the liberal justices in declining to hear the case Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. The State of Kansas attempted to withdraw public funding from Planned Parenthood on suspicion that they were harvesting organs from aborted babies. Planned Parenthood sued, insisting that they had a constitutional right to taxpayer monies provided by Medicaid.

Apparently, Kavanaugh was so certain that Planned Parenthood was in the right that he refused even to hear the case. "What explains the court's refusal to do its job here?" Justice Thomas asked in his dissent. "I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named 'Planned Parenthood'." Ginsberg and Sotomayor may be expected to take a bullet for the nation's largest abortion provider--but Kavanaugh?

By looking at the small number of Supreme Court decisions during Kavanaugh's first term, one can see that he has landed on both sides of the issue on cases where abortion is involved in some way. In other words, it's by no means clear that he's a reliable conservative even on life issues.

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Justin Trudeau's victory is a death knell for Canada's fledgling far-right (Martin Patriquin,  22 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

[I]n defeating Conservative party, the Liberals have instead called into question the direction of conservativism in Canada. The Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, himself a social conservative, was decidedly uncomfortable discussing issues of abortion, same sex marriage and climate change.

Though Scheer's plan to scrap Trudeau's carbon tax was popular in Canada's oil-producing regions, it put him at odds with public opinion across the country. As a result, the party failed to gain momentum in either Quebec or the vote-rich confines of suburban Ontario.

And the election was also a veritable death knell for the country's fledging far right party, the People's Party of Canada. Its leader, former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, adopted the tone and substance of Trumpian nativism, decrying multiculturalism and promising to decrease immigration. Formed just over a year ago, the PPC ran a nearly full slate of candidates, yet failed to win a single seat.

October 21, 2019

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The Impeachment Investigation Might Get Its Most Damning Testimony on Tuesday (Greg Walters and Cameron Joseph, Oct 21 2019, Vice News)

"As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Taylor texted former U.S Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in early September, according to previously released messages.

House Democrats now have a golden opportunity to press Taylor about exactly what was said on that July 25 phone call -- and for his take on the "crazy" diplomatic overture.

Taylor was sent to Kyiv in June to serve as the top American diplomat to Ukraine on a temporary basis after the abrupt ouster of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May.

Yovanovitch's removal came at the urging of Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney. Her sudden recall to Washington alarmed career State Department officials, who have been deeply critical of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not supporting her more forcefully in the face of what's been widely seen as a right-wing smear campaign against her in the media.

Taylor's appointment to replace Yovanovitch made sense, on paper: He was already deeply familiar with Ukraine, having served as U.S. ambassador in Kyiv from 2006 to 2009. Prior to returning to Kiev, he was working in D.C. as executive vice president for the U.S. Institute for Peace.

But he hardly fit the profile of someone prepared to work with Giuliani's back-door pressure campaign on Ukraine, and appeared to clash with his counterparts, Sondland and Volker.

Taylor's text messages suggest he was deeply uncomfortable with their discussions.

He warned Sondland and Volker that Ukraine's president was sensitive to his country "being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics."

At another point, he raised the prospect of quitting if aid to Ukraine wasn't released.

Multiple former State Department officials who spoke with VICE News described Taylor as a straight-shooting, non-partisan career diplomat.

Taylor is "very loyal to public service and he knew Ukraine inside and out," and would be "outraged" by the notion that military aid to Ukraine "was tied to the notion of an investigation into our election, either 2016 or into the Bidens," Tara Sonenshine, a former undersecretary of State in the Obama administration who worked closely with Taylor, told VICE News.

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NBCUniversal Exec Ron Meyer Isn't the First Collector to Be Duped by a Fake Rothko (Helen Holmes, 10/21/19, The Observer)

For earnest art enthusiasts looking to grow their collections, the dangers are as numerous as the upsides. There's always the chance that you'll be able to acquire a timeless piece that makes you happy, but the possibility that you'll be heartlessly hoodwinked into investing in a cleverly disguised dud seems worryingly likely. The latter scenario is the one that's allegedly befallen Universal Studios vice chairman Ron Meyer, who's filed a $10 million lawsuit against two art dealers, Jamie Frankfort and Susan Seidel, who he claims tricked him into buying a forged Mark Rothko painting almost twenty years ago in 2001, as The Art Newspaper reported.

If you thought it was a work of art for twenty years, what has changed? 

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The Chicago Black Sox and baseball's rule of law (JOSHUA GREGOR, October 14, 2019, Acton)

John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian, points out in this article that "the scandal was a cataclysmic event in the game's history not because it was the first time anyone had cheated, but because it was the first time the public knew about it." According to Thorn, attempts to fix the Series had already been made in 1903, 1905, 1914, 1917 and 1918 - fully a third of all the World Series played before the Black Sox debacle - in addition to countless such efforts in less important games. Gambling and baseball were anything but strangers to one another. The Chicago fix, though, brought the sport's darker side out into the open and convinced team owners that they needed to do something to restore their credibility with the public. Ultimately their solution was a new office of Commissioner of Baseball, someone who had no financial interest in the game and would provide real enforcement of the rules. In the words of National League president John Heydler, "We want a man as chairman who will rule with an iron hand....Baseball has lacked a hand like that for years. It needs it now worse than ever." The "iron hand" they found was that of an Illinois federal judge named Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

In a recent podcast, david Pietrusza dispelled many of the myths surrounding the scandal.  The best bit being his argument that the players were rather well paid but cheated because Wilson's income tax was taking too much of their money!

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Jeffrey Toobin expresses regret over 'mistakes' in Clinton email coverage (MICHAEL CALDERONE, 10/21/2019, Politico)

The New Yorker and CNN's Jeffrey Toobin now says he devoted too much attention in 2016 to Hillary Clinton's private email server, becoming the first big-name journalist to acknowledge having second thoughts about the story since a State Department probe cleared Clinton of serious breaches of rules on Friday.

Imagine looking in the mirror and having to accept that you've been Devin Nunes's stooge?

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Placebo effect can be a social thing (Paul Biegler, 10/21/19, Cosmos)

Researchers have found the placebo effect, where a medical treatment with no active ingredient still works, is "contagious" and can be passed on from doctors to patients.

The finding, reported in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, suggests doctors with a stronger belief in their treatments may enact a self-fulfilling prophecy, unwittingly delivering more effective medicine.

The placebo effect is well established. Simply believing an injection will take pain away can make it work, even when the syringe is just full of saltwater.

Those expectations drive powerful changes in the brain, releasing the body's own internal pain killers or "endogenous opioids", which then faithfully deliver up the result.

But the researchers, led by Luke Chang from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, US, were intrigued by evidence that the beliefs of the "treater" can also influence whether something works.

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A Textbook Evolutionary Story Is Wrong: For 50 years, researchers have thought that moths evolved ears to detect the ultrasonic calls of attacking bats--but a new study shows that ears came first. (ED YONG, 10/21/19, The Atlantic)

The standard version of the tale--the one told in textbooks and hundreds of scientific papers--goes like this. Millions of years ago, bats evolved a kind of sonar, allowing them to perceive the world by making high-pitched calls and analyzing the rebounding echoes. This ability, known as echolocation, allowed them to pick out and pick off flying insects, even in total darkness. In response, moths repeatedly evolved ultrasonic ears that could detect bat sonar, giving them time to make evasive maneuvers. An evolutionary arms race began.

Scientists have been studying this ancient battle for 50 years, but they've been laboring under a critical misunderstanding for all that time. A team of researchers led by Akito Kawahara of the University of Florida has now shown that moth ears almost always evolved before bat sonar. They came first, by at least 28 million years. Their original purpose is unclear--but spotting bats wasn't it. "I think it's going to be a bit of a bombshell for the field," Kawahara says.

"Most of the introductions I've written in my papers are wrong," adds Jesse Barber of Boise State University, who has studied bats and moths for years, and was involved in the new study.

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The Trump administration likes to say it "stands with the Iranian people," a claim that was reiterated this week by the State Department's lead diplomat on Iran--Brian Hook--in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Yet a deluge of reports have shown how increasingly oppressive U.S. sanctions are harming ordinary Iranians and leading to drug and food shortages.

In late September, just two months after Hook appeared in a video outlining a series of "facts" on how U.S. sanctions don't target humanitarian goods, the Trump administration squeezed the Iranian people even harder. The administration took a deliberate step to eviscerate remaining humanitarian exemptions to Iran sanctions by designating the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) under U.S. counterterrorism authorities.

Even before the designation, Hook's claims to care for Iranian civilians were already in doubt. After all, while the exemptions were in place, they provided little assurance to international banks, which were too fearful of big fines for unwittingly violating the sanctions to bother with humanitarian transactions. The risk simply outweighed the profit.

However, the designation of the CBI appears to be deliberately designed to strangle off humanitarian transactions with Iran that have already been curtailed by the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 

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Kurdish bystanders reportedly hurled rotten fruit at U.S. soldiers leaving Syria (The Week, 10/21/19)

Kurdish bystanders reportedly hurled rotten fruit and stones at U.S. military vehicles as they made their away to the Iraqi border, where a number of troops will reportedly continue to work toward preventing the Islamic State's resurgence.

The Kurds consider the withdrawal from northern Syria a major betrayal, as it left Turkey an opening to invade the region. At one point the U.S. convoy was blocked by demonstrators, one of whom held a sign that read "To the U.S. Army who are leaving northeast Syria now tell your children that the children of the Kurds were killed by the Turks and we did nothing to protect them," The Wall Street Journal reports.

The catastrophe when we bailed on our Vietnamese allies had many fathers, this betrayal only one:

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Netanyahu: Relying on Arab MKs endangers Israel's security (MEMO, October 20, 2019)

"Establishing a minority government leaning on the Joint List is an anti-Zionist move that endangers our security," he warned.

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Exclusive: Mitt Romney's Trump indictment (Mike Allen, 10/21/19, Axios)

On race: "The places where I would be most critical of the president would be in matters that were divisive, that appeared to be appealing to racism or misogyny. And those are the kinds of things I think that have been most, most harmful long term to the foundation of America's virtuous character."

On Trump's personal life: "He has elements, I'm sure, of honor in his life. And there's things that I think are not honorable. And I mention that because of the payment to a porn star for sexual relations outside of marriage. Look, I'm one of those who believes that we have a responsibility to be honorable and faithful to our wives."

On calling on China to probe Joe Biden: "We certainly can't have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is, after all, against the law."

On abandoning the Kurds: "A very dark spot in America's history. We should never abandon our friends." [...]

On character: "People will recognize that character really is important in our leaders and that it's important for our leaders to do things that unify us, that welcome people who come here legally as immigrants, that in no way signal to anybody in America that they're less of an American because of where they came from or their sexual orientation or their race or their religion."

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Russian cyberattack unit 'masqueraded' as Iranian hackers, UK says (Helen Warrell in London and Henry Foy in Moscow, 10/21/19, Financial Times)

A Russian cyber espionage unit has hacked Iranian hackers to lead attacks in more than 35 countries, a joint UK and US investigation has revealed.

The so-called Turla group, which has been linked with Russian intelligence, allegedly hijacked the tools of Oilrig, a group widely linked to the Iranian government, according to a two-year probe by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre in collaboration with the US' National Security Agency. The NCSC is part of GCHQ, the digital intelligence agency.

The Iranian group is most likely unaware that its hacking methods have been hacked and deployed by another cyber espionage team, security officials involved in the investigation said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Video Shows Man in MAGA Hat Blasting Anti-Trump Protesters With Bear Repellent (PETER WADE , 10/21/19, Rolling Stone)

A video posted to YouTube shows a man wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat approaching the anti-Trump protesters and then dousing the crowd with a steady stream of what police say was bear repellent.

October 20, 2019

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'Texodus' Bodes Badly for Republicans (GEORGE WILL, October 20, 2019, National Review)

Hurd, who is not foreswearing public life, insists, "I'm just getting started." Might he come back to electoral politics? "For sure." His "passion" is "the nexus between technology and national security." He is, however, saying goodbye to the rigors of the "DC to DQ" tours that have regularly taken him to the far reaches of his district. For you effete coastal residents who are unfamiliar with the delights of flyover country, DQ means Dairy Queen. Hurd meets gatherings of constituents at DQs because "every town has one and everyone knows where they are."

In 2018, he was one of just three Republicans to win a district carried by Hillary Clinton. (She won his by three points.) His House race was the nation's fourth-most competitive: He won by 926 votes. But, then, his largest victory, in 2016, was by just 3,051 votes. His district, which includes 23 percent of Texas' land and extends from San Antonio's fringe to New Mexico's border, is the state's largest, encompassing all or parts of 29 counties and 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is 58,000 square miles -- almost as big as Georgia and larger than Illinois and 25 other states. It is 69 percent Hispanic, and just 4 percent African American.

Hurd, an articulate, assertive 6'4″ former CIA operative, and the only African-American Republican in the House, thinks voting trends "are moving so fast" that 2020 "has nothing to do with 2016." Just as "U.S. economic and military dominance are no longer guaranteed," neither is Republican dominance in Texas, a state that is hardly immune to national trends.

In the 2016 U.S House of Representatives elections, no Republican incumbent from Texas lost and only one was elected with less than 55 percent. In 2018, two lost and ten received less than 55 percent. In 2016, four incumbent Republicans in Texas' House were defeated and only four won with majorities under 55 percent. In 2018, there were eight losers and 16 won with less than 55 percent. John Cornyn, who recently stepped down as the second-highest Republican leader (majority whip) in the U.S. Senate, has won three terms with majorities of 55.3 percent, 54.8 percent, and 61.6 percent but seems headed for a more competitive race next year. No wonder Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says Texas is "ground zero" for Democratic attempts to strengthen their hold on the House.

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM


Red Flags All Over for Senate Republicans (Josh Kraushaar, 10/20/19, National Journal)

Buried in the Washington drama of impeachment, corruption, and foreign policy chaos this past week was a ground-shaking bit of news: New polling and fundraising figures show that Mitch McConnell's hold on the Senate majority is looking awfully precarious. Indeed, the pathway for a narrow Democratic takeover of the upper chamber is looking clearer than ever.

Four Republican senators were outraised by their Democratic challengers in the third fundraising quarter, with three of them representing battleground states (Iowa, Maine, and Arizona) that Republicans will need to win to maintain power. And in North Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis raised only $1.2 million, an underwhelming sum for a senator facing a credible primary threat and an expensive general election ahead. All four swing-state senators also are viewed unfavorably by their constituents according to new quarterly Morning Consult polling, underscoring the sudden shift in support away from Republicans.

In Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst failed even to hit the million-dollar mark in fundraising, a financial baseline of sorts for senators running for reelection. She was outraised by a Democratic outsider, businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who raised $1.1 million despite facing a contested Democratic primary and refusing donations from corporate PACs.

As her fundraising has slowed, Ernst's support back home has also declined. The Morning Consult tracking poll found Ernst with an underwater job-approval rating of 39/43, with more independents viewing her unfavorably than favorably. That's a shift from her net-positive job approval over the spring, which stood at 42/38.

Donald Trump comfortably carried her state in 2016, but since then, Iowa farmers have taken a serious hit from the president's trade war. Both Gallup and Morning Consult have found his support sinking in the state, with a March Des Moines Register poll showing even 28 percent of Iowa Republicans believing the tariffs have hurt the state's agribusiness.

Donald is all cost, no benefit.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


 CREW STATEMENT ON G-7 DORAL ANNOUNCEMENT (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, 10/19/19)

"President Trump's decision to award the G-7 Conference to his own property was outrageous, corrupt and a constitutional violation. It was stunningly corrupt even for a stunningly corrupt administration. His reversal of that decision is a bow to reality, but does not change how astonishing it was that a president ever thought this was appropriate, or that it was something he could get away with.

The President's reversal shows that pressure works, that those fighting to hold the line for an ethical government can still sometimes dial down his corruption. The president deserves no plaudits for doing the right thing only after public outcry forced him not to do the wrong thing. This was one corrupt conflict of interest. He's racked up well over 2,000 of them. So we'll keep fighting. Even late on a Saturday night."

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Donald Trump's presidency continues its bizarre degeneration: The republic must stand up to the wanton misuse of American power (The editorial board OCTOBER 18 2019, Financial Times)

The oddest moment of a surreal week even by Donald Trump's standards was when the US president extolled America's ties with ancient Rome. Mr Trump surely did not mean to spark thoughts of Caligulan dissolution. His actions this week nonetheless conjured up images of a capricious Roman emperor. The peak was the release of a letter in which Mr Trump begged Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to kill thousands of Kurds. "Let's make a deal!", Mr Trump urged his Turkish counterpart, "Don't be a tough guy!" Mr Trump proclaimed the next day a great one for civilisation after he persuaded Mr Erdogan to call a brief pause in Turkey's invasion of the Kurdish-held areas of Syria.

In reality, Mr Trump was abandoning America's hardiest regional ally, which has lost 11,000 lives fighting Isis. The Kurds "were no angels", he said. What happened on a faraway border was of no concern to America. It would be tempting to mark Mr Trump's abject manoeuvre as his nadir. As Mitt Romney, the Republican senator, said: "What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history." But there is little basis to suppose the president has hit the bottom.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Netanyahu, Gantz condemn settler violence against IDF soldiers  MICHAEL BACHNER and JACOB MAGID, 10/20/19, Times of Israel)

A soldier was lightly injured by rock-throwing during the clashes overnight Saturday-Sunday near the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, the army said. The riots involved some 30 settlers who hurled stones at troops and punctured tires of military vehicles, according to the IDF.

The army responded by using riot dispersal means and firing their guns in the air.  No arrests have been made.

October 19, 2019

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What Hunter Biden did on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma (Polina Ivanova, Maria Tsvetkova, Ilya Zhegulev, Luke Baker, 10/19/19, Reuters)

Interviews with more than a dozen people, including executives and former prosecutors in Ukraine, paint a picture of a director who provided advice on legal issues, corporate finance and strategy during a five-year term on the board, which ended in April of this year.

Biden never visited Ukraine for company business during that time, according to three of the people.

They also said that his presence on the board didn't protect the company from its most serious challenge: a series of criminal investigations launched by Ukrainian authorities against its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, a multimillionaire former minister of ecology and natural resources. [...]

In an interview with Reuters in September, former Ukraine prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said Hunter Biden's position on the board when his father was vice-president raised no red flags. "From the point of view of Ukrainian law, (Hunter Biden) didn't violate anything," Lutsenko said.

Ukraine's new general prosecutor Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who took over in August, said he was not aware of any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. His office announced on Oct 4 that it was reviewing 15 previous investigations related to Zlochevsky but no decision had been taken on how to proceed against him or people related to him.

October 18, 2019

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Biden expands edge in U.S. Democratic nomination race: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Chris Kahn, 10/18/19, Reuters) 

The Oct. 17-18 opinion poll found that 21% of Democrats and independents said they would vote for Biden in statewide nominating contests that begin next year, up 3 percentage points from a similar poll that was conducted at the end of September. [...]

According to the poll, 16% of Democrats and independents said they would support U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and 15% said they would back U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, received about 5% support in the poll, and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke both received 3%.

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 PM


Why Firing Mick Mulvaney Is Riskier Than Keeping Him (ELAINA PLOTT, PETER NICHOLAS, 10/18/19, The Atlantic)

A former White House official said Trump "will be feeling the pain of having pushed out [former National Security Adviser John] Bolton at a very inopportune time. He won't make the same mistake with Mulvaney, however frustrated he may be with him. Now, their interests are aligned. They sink or swim together."

It's a line of thinking that has come to permeate the West Wing, and it marks a significant shift in how Trump is beginning to view his relationship with his staffers. For the past two and a half years, the White House has operated like a radio perpetually set on scan, with Trump sampling staffer after staffer in search of those whose rhythms match his own. Indeed, as Mulvaney told us earlier this year, it's made for a West Wing whose atmosphere is dictated by one particular maxim: "He could fire any of us tomorrow."

With the backdrop of impeachment, however, some White House staffers could feel more secure in their jobs than even their boss--and that's perhaps especially true of Mulvaney. As Democrats move forward in their investigation, they're looking for star witnesses, those officials in Trump's inner circle who could speak authoritatively as to whether Trump pressured a foreign power to open investigations into both the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden. And should Trump discard an adviser in his preferred manner--hastily announce the news on Twitter, then trash the person's reputation--he or she may decide to become said star witness.

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 PM


Students tackle gunman at California high school, police say (ELLA TORRES, Oct 16, 2019, ABC News)

La Habra High School went on lockdown Tuesday morning after a student yielded a .22 caliber gun in the school, according to a statement from La Habra police.

However, two freshmen in the class ran up to him, wrestled him and got the weapon out of his hands, Sgt Jose Rocha told ABC News on Wednesday.

"It was the students who tackled him," Rocha said.

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Wisconsin students walk out to protest racial slur firing (TODD RICHMOND, Oct 18, 2019, The Associated Press)

Students at a Wisconsin high school skipped class Friday and marched through the streets of the state capital to protest the firing of a black security guard who was terminated for repeating a racial slur while telling a student not to call him that word.

Scores of Madison West High School students walked out of class around 10 a.m. to protest the firing. A WISC-TV livestream of the walkout showed what appeared to be scores of students marching through the streets. They walked to the Madison school district offices and marched laps around the building, chanting "Hey-hey, hey-ho, zero tolerance has got to go!" and "Do Better!"

Posted by orrinj at 2:52 PM


Hillary Clinton says Russians are 'grooming' a 2020 candidate for third-party run (MEG CUNNINGHAM and BEATRICE PETERSONOct 18, 2019, ABC news)

"They're also going to do third-party again. And I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far..." Clinton told David Plouffe on "Campaign HQ", a podcast run by the 2008 Obama campaign manager.

They've obviously been feeding her oppo research before debates.

Posted by orrinj at 2:48 PM


Trump Writes Unhinged 'Legal' Letter Demanding That CNN Pay Him Money (Jonathan Chait, 10/18/19, New York)

This week, right-wing hoaxster James O'Keefe launched the latest of his series of secretly recorded videos, which purport to prove various conservative conspiracy theories but fail. The new version involves a CNN contractor recording employees grumbling about various complaints about the network, none of which establish the plot O'Keefe set out to prove, and some of which suggest the opposite (an employee complains that CNN covers Trump rallies but not Biden ones, which are too boring).

Even some of the conservative movement's dimmest stars came away unimpressed. The project nonetheless seems to have left an impression on Donald Trump, a devoted follower and purveyor of nearly all the right's conspiracy theories, a fanatical devotee of cable news, and, incidentally, the president of the United States. Trump has directed his lawyer to threaten a lawsuit against CNN on the basis of O'Keefe's flimsy video.

Donald's defenders at this point most resemble American Communists who had Hitler's back until Stalin gave them the red light.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Trump's former personal lawyer says Rudy Giuliani has 'gone off the rails,' has a secret Ukraine ledger (The Week, 10/18/19)

"Does Rudy Giuliani have any evidence or records that could resolve what he was doing with Ukraine?" Melber asked, and Goldberg dropped a potential bombshell: "Yes, there's a book that he kept of all the contacts that he made while in the Ukraine. It hasn't been subpoenaed thus far, it hasn't come to light, and I tell you that if the subpoena is issued for that book that he prepared, it will redound to the detriment of Donald under an agency kind of concept, that Donald will be responsible for all the things that he did. And Giuliani did a lot of the things that he's used to doing while he was a prosecutor."

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Points of Progress: Costa Rica's electricity was 99% renewable in 2019 (Lauren Littell, Riley Robinson , 10/18/19, CS Monitor)

The country will get more than 99% of its electricity from renewable sources this year, according to the country's National Center for Energy Control. Excluding transportation, which still relies on fossil fuels, this means Costa Rica will have run on at least 95% clean electricity for five consecutive years. In 2018, about 73% of its electricity came from hydropower, 16% from wind, 9% from geothermal power, and less than 2% from biomass and solar panels. Part of the country's emissions-reduction strategy is to promote biking and walking throughout its capital, San José, and to use fully electric trains by 2050.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Time of War: Arthur Honegger's Symphony No. 2 (Michael De Sapio|September 19th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Honegger (1892-1955) wins my vote for the most unsung composer of the 20th century. Although often associated with Les Six, the insouciant group of French composers that included Francis Poulenc, Honegger pursued a quite different path--a style equally German and French, more open to Romantic feeling and informed by a social consciousness. Honegger insisted that he did not write "pure music"--i.e., music that is simply about music and nothing else (a view that set him apart somewhat from the objectivist Stravinsky). On the contrary, his works are often closely tied to extra-musical ideas, sensations, and events--whether it be Pacific 231, his depiction of a steam locomotive, or his great oratorio Joan of Arc at the Stake. Yet whatever passions that may boil on its surface, a Honegger piece has clarity and logic at its core. Dissonance is used, not gratuitously, but with expressive purpose. Everything comes polished with an elegant sheen. As one critic wrote: "In Honegger's harmonic world the tragedy is never permanent. Sooner or later something bucolic and sweet pops up like a flower in a bombsite."

That's an apt description of Honegger's Symphony No. 2 for Strings, written in 1941-2 during the Nazi occupation of Paris and premiered in May, 1942, in Zurich, Switzerland. From the opening bars, the work evokes the soul-crushing deprivation and gloom that Honegger and his countrymen experienced. The pared-down orchestra (strings only) suggests the bleakness of black-and-white newsreels. The first movement alternates slow and fast music: a sobbing viola motif followed by a dynamic, bounding subject in the cellos that is treated to an intense and angry development. In the symphony's central, elegiac slow movement, the pain has subsided into a dull ache. Energy returns in the final movement, vivace, suggesting the defiance of battle.

And then something extraordinary happens. In the last minute of this bustling finale, Honegger brings in a solo trumpet, playing a chorale tune that blazes amid the busy and agitated counterpoint of the strings and ends the symphony on an unexpected note of triumph. If I'm not mistaken, this "chorale tune" is an invention of Honegger's, but it sounds like countless Lutheran hymns that Honegger's idol, Bach, might have used as a base. The effect is like a sudden shaft of light--a stark contrast to the dissonance and rhythmic turmoil that preceded it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


We Fight Fascists by Daniel Sonabend review (Daniel Trilling, 16 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

Against this background, a small circle of Jewish demobbed soldiers decided to take matters into their own hands and physically prevent fascist groups from spreading their message. The 43 Group, as it came to be known (the origins of the name are murky, but according to Sonabend it either refers to the number of people present at its founding, or the address at which the name was chosen), was somewhere between a community defence organisation and a private spy agency. Its members carried out surveillance operations on the far right, disrupted their meetings and rallies by heckling or pelting the speakers, and - most controversially - assaulted fascist activists, either in street scuffles or in targeted beatings under cover of darkness. The group only lasted a few years, formed in 1946 and disbanded in 1950 shortly after Mosley's Union Movement disintegrated. But it made a lasting impact: Sonabend estimates that as many as 2,000 people passed through its ranks, including a young Vidal Sassoon, future celebrity hairdresser, and set the template for antifascist action in postwar Britain. When the far right made its reappearance in the 1960s, this time with Caribbean, African and Asian communities as its primary target, it was confronted by activists whose tactics were similar to those of the 43 Group - a tradition that continues today.

Through interviews with veterans, and material from antifascist and Jewish community archives, Sonabend vividly reconstructs this story. It has the elements of a political thriller, with stakeouts, sabotage and subterfuge taking place on suburban streets, in West End nightclubs and Lyons' Corner Houses. Sonabend, a London-based historian, gets a little bogged down in detail (after a while, one anecdote of a punch-up starts to sound much the same as another) but he provides enough political and social context to convince us why these events matter, and what their resonances might be today. The fascist agitators are both threatening and pompous, with the genocidal implications of their ideas - purity of race and nation, a culture of violence, absolute submission to authority - jarring with the pettiness of their immediate circumstances. People like this are a joke until, suddenly, they're not.

Sonabend evokes a fearful and insecure mood among Jewish communities in Britain at the end of the war. People who had fought against Hitler were returning home to face not only growing awareness of the Holocaust, but the possibility that the hatred that underpinned it had survived on their doorstep. (In 1945, for instance, hundreds of residents of Hampstead in north-west London signed a petition opposing the local resettlement of Jewish refugees.) For some, the 43 Group's physical resistance to fascism was not just about defence, it was a way of regaining lost pride. "If it achieved nothing else," one veteran said, "it gave Jewish ex-servicemen the sense of pride that we are a people, that we can defend ourselves, and we're not just running away." For others the fight was not so much about Jewish identity as a wider antiracist struggle: the 43 Group's newspaper reported on lynching in the US, segregation in South Africa and political persecution elsewhere in the world.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Abortion tied to sharp decline in women's mental health (RYAN JASLOW, SEPTEMBER 1, 2011, CBS NEWS)

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 877,000 women, including 164,000 who had an abortion. They found women who had an abortion experienced an 81 percent increased risk for mental problems.

Women who had an abortion were 34 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, 37 percent more likely to experience depression, 110 percent more likely to abuse alcohol, 155 percent more likely to commit suicide, and 220 percent more likely to use marijuana.

October 17, 2019

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Trump's legal team is reportedly 'stunned' after Mick Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo (Kathryn Krawczyk, 10/17/19, The Week)

"If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us," a senior DOJ official said in a statement to reporters Thursday. This comes after another DOJ official told reporters they "have no idea what [Mulvaney] is talking about."

But over on President Trump's personal legal team, things aren't going so well. "I think people are a bit stunned," one person familiar with the team's thinking told CNN. Another source called Mulvaney's briefing "not helpful," per CNN. Trump's top attorney Jay Sekulow, meanwhile, briefly said "the legal team was not involved in the acting chief of staff's press briefing."

...one might think he'd seen enough and decided to end this presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


Majority of Americans Support Removing Trump Through Impeachment, Echoing Nixon Polls (TIM DICKINSON , 10/17/19, Rolling Stone)

This is the highest level of support found for removing Trump since the Ukraine scandal broke. In fact, backing for Trump's impeachment has far surpassed the public support for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and is edging into territory not seen since the 1970s, when Nixon stepped down from the presidency after support for impeachment spiked at 58 percent. "The level of support for Trump being impeached and removed," Gallup reports, "is higher than it was for Nixon in all but the final poll before he resigned."

Much as we'd like Nikki for VP, she ought to primary Mike Pence instead.
Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


New Research Says Workers Are Wasting 60 Percent of Their Time. Here's What To Do About It (Rebecca Hinds 10/17/19, Inc.)

The fact that "work about work"-- checking email, searching for information, sitting in unproductive meetings-- consumes our time spent in, and increasingly outside, the workplace, should come as no surprise to most workers. The study, based on a 2019 qualitative survey commissioned by Asana and Sapio (full discloser: I work for Asana) among 10,223 global knowledge workers--workers whose job centers on knowledge and information-- found that the time spent on work about work consumes much of workers' days. 

And it seems that work about work is an even more soul-sucking experience than we realize. Global knowledge workers think they spend over a third of their time on work about work, yet, in reality, they spend nearly double that time--60 percent--on work about work.

Unproductive meetings are a major contributor. According to the research, workers waste 103 hours each year--or 13 full working days--in unproductive meetings. Surely that time would be much better spent on a two and a half week vacation. 

That's after spending 60% of our time on stuff totally unrelated to the job.

Posted by orrinj at 1:57 PM


Things Aren't Getting Better for 2020's Most Vulnerable Senate Republicans ( ELI YOKLEY, October 17, 2019, Morning Consult)

According to Morning Consult's latest quarterly Senator Approval Rankings based on nearly 534,000 responses from registered voters collected July 1 through Sept. 30, Republicans representing Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa all saw their net approval -- the share of voters who approve of a senator's job performance minus the share who disapprove -- decline between the second and third quarters of 2019.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who has already faced a cascade of negative advertising, saw a drop of 9 percentage points -- the biggest decline in net approval for any senator. The slide places her underwater with Iowa voters (39 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove) for the first time and among the 10 most unpopular senators in the country.

Iowa voters of all partisan leanings soured on the first-term senator, but GOP voters were most likely to take a dimmer view of her job performance. Her net approval dropped by 13 points among Republicans, compared with respective 9- and 7-point drops among Democrats and independents. 

Ernst is not the only Republican up for re-election next year with a home-state approval below 40 percent: Among the vulnerable incumbents, Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are all below that threshold following a quarter where each saw little movement.

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Researchers from Columbia and Rutgers crunched the data and found no bias from The New York Times in its Trump coverage (Alyssa Meyers, 10/17/19, bUSINESS iNSIDER)

"Main political figures were talking about it, so I really thought The New York Times would turn out to be biased," said Dalal, a professor at Columbia's applied analytics program and statistics department. "The rhetoric is all about media bias, so you think there might be some truth to it."

But the study found the opposite: The New York Times does not appear to be biased in its coverage of Trump and in its news coverage generally.

While there's no definitive way to measure what is true and false in the reporting of news, researchers were able to analyze writing style in order to determine whether an article was written more favorably or unfavorably using a system called sentiment analysis, Dalal said.

In order to conduct the analysis, researchers collected 1,058 New York Times articles published over 38 days and paired each with a story from Reuters about the same topic published within the same 24 hours.

"We chose Reuters for this purpose since it is an international news agency with a policy of neutral writing and a customer base of media across the entire political spectrum," the researchers wrote in the study.

Dalal and his team used code packages in R and Python to calculate a sentiment score for each story, which indicates if content is more positive or negative.

For instance, a sentence with words like "happy," "satisfactory," or "good" would be considered favorable, while words like "failure" indicate a negative sentiment, researchers wrote in the study. The codes understand modifiers as well, so a sentence that includes "not happy" would be correctly labeled as unfavorable. 

Results showed that front page stories from both outlets had the same sentiment scores, meaning there was no overall difference in the favorability of front page news between The Times and Reuters. 

The Times tended to be more positive in its coverage of business and slightly more negative in international and national news articles than Reuters. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


Most Iranians Still Reject Pompeo's Preposterous Demands (DANIEL LARISON ‚ÄĘ October 16, 2019, American Conservative)

There appears to be broad public support for Iran's foreign policy overall. 74% believe the attacks on the Abqaiq facilities in Saudi Arabia were very or somewhat justified. 61% say that Iran should keep military personnel in Syria. 59% think that if the IRGC were withdrawn from Iraq and Syria that it would just encourage the U.S. to extract more concessions. There is still broad popular support for remaining in the Non-Proliferation Treaty with 74% saying that it is a good idea to be part of the treaty.

66% see America as "a dangerous country that seeks confrontation and control," which is 20 points higher than the result to the same question in 2005. That increase in perceiving the U.S. as a dangerous threat is presumably linked to the hostility that our government has shown towards their country in the last few years. Given the unrelenting economic warfare that the U.S. has waged on them for more than a year, it is remarkable that the number agreeing with this statement isn't higher.

80% of Iranians say that sanctions have had a great negative impact (48%) or a somewhat negative impact (32%) on the economy. A broad majority of Iranians see sanctions as being responsible to some degree for their economic problems, and almost half of the population sees them as having a very significant effect. When asked if sanctions have had a negative impact on the lives of the people, the number goes up to 83% with 57% saying that they have had a great negative impact. If we want to understand what the Iranian people want and how U.S. policy affects them, we should start listening to what they tell us.

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U.S. Imperial Delusion in the Middle East:: Willfully ignorant of its weaknesses, Washington still thinks it holds sway over smaller allies and adversaries in the Gulf. )GEOFFREY ARONSON , October 16, 2019, American Conservative)

[I]nstead of horsewhipping Iran and its Houthi allies, Washington and its Saudi ally have suffered a series of  ignominious blows that have advanced the impression that Trump, for all his bluster, is, in fact a paper tiger, hawking expensive weapons unsuited to the "war between war" expertise of the Iranians and their allies and no more willing than his predecessor to use force to protect Washington's Arab allies.  

Washington pronounced itself "locked and loaded" after the downing of a U.S. drone by Iran in June. And it looked on in disbelief as a well-coordinated attack on Saudi oil facilities in September went undetected by U.S. intelligence and undefended by U.S. weapons supplied to Riyadh. In the former incident Washington eschewed a military response for more sanctions--a policy instrument that has become Washington's default almost everywhere. In the latter, the Pentagon has decided to do more of the same, sending more Patriots and U.S. forces to operate them, the modern day version of shutting the barn door after the horses have escaped.. 

Both are merely stopgap measures that do nothing to address the hollowness of American security policies in the Gulf, promoted not because of their effectiveness, but rather because no one can think of anything better to do. 

Little wonder then that Vladimir Putin, together with the presidents of Turkey and Iran, had a nice laugh at Washington's expense, in a public mocking of the failure of U.S. supplied weapons to prevent the attack on Saudi oil facilities.

"All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Erdogan did when he bought Russia's latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system,"  Putin remarked, prompting laughter from President Hassan Rouhani alongside him.

Like a modern day Gulliver, the Trump administration has been all but immobilized by the modulated, well-considered military challenges from Iran.

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Trump picks Colorado Springs author of Illuminati books for education board (JUSTIN WINGERTER, October 16, 2019, Denver Post)

A Colorado Springs lawyer appointed by President Donald Trump to a federal education board is a prolific author of self-help Illuminati books whose education company has been accused of handing out certificates to undeserving applicants.

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White House says G7 summit will be at Trump's Doral resort in Miami (Axios, 10/17/19)

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Federal investigation of Rudy Giuliani includes counterintelligence probe (Evan Perez, Sara Murray and Shimon Prokupecz, October 16, 2019, CNN)

For months, investigators looking into Rudy Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine have dug into everything from possible financial entanglements with alleged corrupt Ukrainian figures to counterintelligence concerns raised by some of those business ties, according to people briefed on the matter.

The counterintelligence part of the investigation indicates that FBI and criminal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking at a broader set of issues related to Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, than has been previously reported.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Day 1,000: Trump unbound, unfiltered (Mike Allen, 1016/19, Axios)

A one-page letter from Trump to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (read it below) sounded fake when it first surfaced on Twitter, but was real: "Let's work out a good deal! You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy -- and I will. ... Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I will call you later."

During a meeting with the congressional leadership in the Cabinet room, according to a senior Democratic aide who provided a readout, Trump said that Jim Mattis, a four-star Marine general and Trump's first defense secretary, was "the world's most overrated general. ... You know why? He wasn't tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month." [...]

Trump had said in the Oval Office earlier about the withdrawal from Syria that endangered our longtime allies, the Kurds: "Syria may have some help with Russia, and that's fine. It's a lot of sand. They've got a lot of sand over there. So there's a lot of sand that they can play with. But we were supposed to be there for 30 days; we stayed for 10 years. And it's time for us to come home. ... The Kurds are much safer right now ... They're not angels, if you take a look."

The House voted 354-60 to condemn Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.

...his supporters have no excuse.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


Why Earl Scruggs was the Beethoven of the banjo (Emma John, 11 Jan 2019, The Guardian)

Scruggs was the most influential banjo player there has ever been: he was banjo's Bach, Beethoven and Bob Dylan all rolled into one. He pioneered the three-finger style of picking responsible for the sound you hear whenever you think of the instrument's fleet-fingered, jangling sound. Until then, banjo players was played in the traditional "clawhammer" style - Scruggs's use of the third finger allowed him to play the driving arpeggios that we associate with banjo music today.

And it was his virtuosity that brought banjo to the forefront of the newly emergent country music of the 1940s, where it had previously been an instrument of accompaniment (just like the guitar, or, as they say in the mountains, gee-tar). That new music was bluegrass, and Scruggs made banjo its defining sound. As the comedian Steve Martin wrote last year, in a tribute to his bluegrass mentor: "Few players have changed the way we hear an instrument the way Earl has, putting him in a category with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, and Jimi Hendrix." Scruggs's legacy is a sound that Martin could describe in just one word: "Unmistakable".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This Trump adviser made up a fake economist and everyone is baffled (Sirena Bergman , 10/16/19)

Turns out that one of the main economic experts quoted in Navarro's books is actually a made-up character named Ron Vara - a pretty obvious anagram for 'Navarro'.

According to The Chronicle Review, Navarro has quoted "Vara" a dozen or so times in six books, and credits him as a Harvard economist and investor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican voters prefer Elizabeth Warren's tax plan to Trump's, new poll shows (The Week, October 15, 2019)

Those polled were presented with a graph that showed prospective income tax rates for people of different incomes under each plan, but the candidates' names were nowhere to be seen.

Per the poll, Warren's plan -- which would aggressively tax the wealthy at higher rates than lower-income people -- was the most popular and considered the fairest overall, even among Republican voters, 35 percent of whom preferred Warren's compared to 29 percent who favored Trump's regressive tax rate.

October 16, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Erdogan says he can no longer 'keep track' of Trump's tweets (AFP, 10/16/19)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could no longer "keep track" of the tweets by his US counterpart Donald Trump as tensions mount over Ankara's operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, in comments published Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Appeals court to hold rehearing on Trump hotel lawsuit (DENISE LAVOIE, 10/16/19,  AP)

A federal appeals court will reconsider a ruling from a three-judge panel that threw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel.

There is no bad reason to impeach him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Parents of teen killed in crash allegedly involving US diplomat's wife meet Trump, but decline to see suspect (Ivana Kottasov√° and Maija Ehlinger, 10/16/19, CNN)

Speaking to British TV station Sky News, Harry Dunn's mother Charlotte Charles said Trump told the family during their White House visit that Sacoolas was waiting in another room and was willing to meet them.

Charles said "the bombshell was dropped" shortly after the meeting began. "Anne Sacoolas was in the building and was willing to meet with us," she told Sky News.

Charles said the family refused the meeting. She said they "would still love to meet with her but it has to be on our terms and on UK soil."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Fearing US abandonment, Kurds kept back channels wide open (MATTHEW LEE and SARAH EL DEEB, 10/16/19, AP) 

When Syria's Kurdish fighters, America's longtime battlefield allies against the Islamic State, announced over the weekend that they were switching sides and joining up with Damascus and Moscow, it seemed like a moment of geopolitical whiplash.

But in fact, the move had been in the works for more than a year. Fearing U.S. abandonment, the Kurds opened a back channel to the Syrian government and the Russians in 2018, and those talks ramped up significantly in recent weeks, American, Kurdish and Russian officials told The Associated Press.

"We warned the Kurds that the Americans will ditch them," Russia's ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, told Russia's Tass news agency on Monday.

The switch in allegiances is a stark illustration of how American foes like Russia and Syria are working steadily to fill the vacuum left by President Donald Trump's retreat in the region.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's latest rage tweet blows up in his face as 'Impeach the Pres' becomes top trending Twitter topic (Brad Reed , 10/15/19, Raw Story)

In a tweet posted on Tuesday afternoon, Trump argued that Democrats can't possibly impeach him because of the strength of the American economy.

"MORE PEOPLE WORKING TODAY IN THE USA THAN AT ANY TIME IN HISTORY!" the president wrote. "Tough numbers for the Radical Left Democrats to beat! Impeach the Pres."

Other Twitter users quickly latched onto the final phrase in the president's tweet and made it the No. 1 trend in the United States, as seen in the following screen capture.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


State Department official told to lie low after raising complaints about Giuliani (Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox, October 15, 2019, CNN)

State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent told lawmakers on Tuesday that he had been told by a supervisor to lie low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine undermining US foreign policy, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior member of the House Oversight Committee.

Connolly, a Virginia lawmaker, said Kent described Giuliani's campaign to oust the US ambassador to Ukraine outside of the State Department channels as having "undermined 28 years of US efforts to try to promote the rule of law in Ukraine."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Pete Sessions subpoena is tied to his effort to oust Ukraine ambassador, contemporaneous campaign donation (The Week, 10/16/19)

In May 2018, about the time Parnas and Fruman pledged to raise $20,000 for the congressman, Sessions wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo complaining about Yovanovitch and echoing conservative allegations that she was biased against Trump. Yovanovitch, who testified last week in the House impeachment inquiry, was abruptly recalled to Washington a year later after a concerted campaign by Giuliani, Fox News hosts, and conservative media.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies: The president's businesses made themselves appear more profitable to lenders and less profitable to tax officials. One expert calls the differing numbers "versions of fraud." (Heather Vogell Oct. 16, 2019, Pro Publica)

Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump's businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender -- and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings' property tax.

For instance, Trump told the lender that he took in twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities during the same year, 2017. He also gave conflicting occupancy figures for one of his signature skyscrapers, located at 40 Wall Street.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Turkey rebuffs Trump call for Syria ceasefire as Russia fills power vacuum after U.S. exit (Deirdre Shesgreen and Kim Hjelmgaard, Oct. 16, 2019, USA Today)

"They say 'declare a ceasefire.' We will never declare a ceasefire," Erdogan told reporters on flight back from Baku late on Tuesday where he attended a regional business summit in Azerbaijan's capital. 

The Trump administration is scrambling to contain the escalating domestic and international fallout from President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, a move that paved the way for Turkey's assault on Syrian Kurdish fighters who it considers to be terrorists. U.S.-led coalition forces have for the last several years successfully partnered with Syrian Kurds to fight the Islamic State group. 

E=verybody opposes nationhood for somebody, though Donald has the Hong Kong, Palestine, Kurdistan trifecta to his credit.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar to Endorse Bernie Sanders. Will It Matter? (RYAN BORT , 10/16/19, Rolling Stone)

Ocasio-Cortez's admiration of Sanders is well-documented (she volunteered for his campaign in 2016 before deciding to run for Congress), and it was anticipated she would at some point endorse him for president. The fact that it's happening on Saturday should provide a much-needed jolt for Sanders, whose campaign now seems to be in a precarious position. After months of polling roughly even with Elizabeth Warren -- and not that far behind Joe Biden -- he has started to lag behind the duo in recent weeks. As of Tuesday night, RealClearPolitics notes that he is polling at an average of 15.6 percent, compared to Warren's 23.4 percent and Biden's 29.4. At the beginning of September, Sanders was leading Warren, 17.0 to 16.3. Concerns about Sanders' health following his heart attack earlier this month haven't helped, either. An Economist/YouGov poll released last Wednesday found that his "electability" had dropped 8 points in the week since he was sidelined.

It's a godsend for Elizabeth Warren, demonstrating that AOC is part of a marginal movement, not a leader of the party.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rudy Giuliani Pushed Trump to Remove Turkish Opposition Leader From U.S.: Report (Matt Stieb, 10/16/19, New York)

Rudy Giuliani probably doesn't need to become entwined in a second international scandal, considering that he's under criminal investigation for his role in Ukraine, and that he texted reporters on Tuesday stating that "no one" is representing him following his split with his lawyer and former Watergate prosecutor Jon Sale. But according to a report from the Washington Post, in 2017, he pushed the president to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah G√ľlen from his compound in Pennsylvania so often that White House aides, according to the paper, "worried that Giuliani was making the case on behalf of the Turkish government."

With the G√ľlen push -- and a previously reported effort to pressure former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to stop the prosecution of a Turkish-Iranian trader -- the accusation that Giuliani has been running a shadow foreign policy shop gains momentum, as he draws himself into the scrutiny surrounding the Trump administration's convenient bending to Turkish interests.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why China fears sending the tanks into Hong Kong (Howard W French, 16 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

From here, Beijing's choices in Hong Kong will not grow easier. The ultimate option, of course, is to mount a police or military intervention from the mainland in order to put down the protests. But at what cost? Hong Kong would lose forever its status as a global, cosmopolitan city, a goose that lays golden eggs for China. Since Deng Xiaoping introduced capitalism to China, Hong Kong has served as a critical business and investment portal for the country: a place where foreign companies feel it is safer for them to be based because of the independent judicial system and a banking structure that allows the free conversion of currencies and unlimited international transfers. As China has grown vastly richer it has become less dependent on Hong Kong for such purposes, but lots of investment into China still passes through the city.

A takeover of Hong Kong by force would also destroy Beijing's proposition - tattered as it may already be - that Taiwan should accept unification with China on the basis of one country, two systems. Recent events in Hong Kong have already strongly lifted the election prospects for the governing party in Taiwan, whose leader Tsai Ing-wen favours continued defiance of Beijing.

Most unpredictable, though, is how this will play in China itself. A catastrophic crackdown in Hong Kong could go very badly for Xi, a leader who has tried to project an aura of resolve and near infallibility. Today Beijing trumpets that its 1.4 billion people stand united in their opposition to Hong Kong's democracy movement. But that is a claim only sustainable in an environment of suffocating media control in China.

If mass arrests or tanks were used to crush a protest movement aimed at securing democratic concessions, members of China's own large and growing middle class would begin to see this not just as a defeat for Hong Kong, but as a loss for their own society as well.

October 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Trump Suspects a Spiteful John Bolton Is Behind Some of the Ukraine Leaks (Asawin Suebsaeng & Sam Stein, 10.15.19, Daily Beast)

In recent weeks, numerous leaks have appeared in the pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other major papers and news outlets detailing the president's attempts to enlist foreign leaders to help dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and also aid Trump's quest to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's concluded investigation. And as is his MO, the media-obsessed president has been fixated on not just the identity of the whistleblower behind the internal complaint that brought this scandal to the fore, but also on who, exactly, has been namelessly feeding intel to the press.

In the course of casual conversations with advisers and friends, President Trump has privately raised suspicions that a spiteful John Bolton, his notoriously hawkish former national security adviser, could be one of the sources behind the flood of leaks against him, three people familiar with the comments said. At one point, one of those sources recalled, Trump guessed that Bolton was behind one of the anonymous accounts that listed the former national security adviser as one of the top officials most disturbed by the Ukraine-related efforts of Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney who remains at the center of activities that spurred the impeachment inquiry.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


Deep patriot state keeps America safe (Brian Greenspun, Oct. 13, 2019, Las vegas Sun)

They come from every region of the country and from all walks of life, but they share several core beliefs.

They want the law to be obeyed. They understand that political norms exist for a reason. They belong to all manner of political parties, but in their jobs and in their lives they act in a nonpartisan manner. They act as Americans first and make simple demands of leaders -- don't break the rules, don't abuse your power for personal benefit, value the nation and respect the Constitution.

These are the hundreds of millions of Americans who would best be described as the deeply patriotic state.

This is the same group that conspiracy theorists and other fringe groups call the deep state, but the reality of it is 180 degrees different. These American patriots aren't out to destroy the country, but rather to preserve it.

Some are government employees who work in selfless anonymity to make the lives of Americans more free, more safe and more prosperous. Some are political organizers and community advocates who put themselves in full public view to promote social equality and improve the quality of life for all Americans. And most are voters who don't necessarily share their political views with others, but quietly contribute their time and money to candidates and causes supporting the idea of the American dream.

But whether they're working on the front lines or behind the scenes, their common bond is a passionate appreciation for the foundational institutions and values that hold this nation -- so brilliantly conceived by our Founding Fathers over 250 years ago -- together.

And Donald and the bots were right to be afraid.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Trump's impeachment barricade crumbles: Key witnesses are ignoring Trump and delivering bombshell testimony (KYLE CHENEY and ANDREW DESIDERIO, 10/15/2019, Politico)

Donald Trump's impeachment blockade has collapsed.

The president's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill -- the first White House official to cooperate in Democrats' investigation of the Ukraine scandal -- has sketched for lawmakers a trail of alleged corruption that extends from Kiev to the West Wing. In dramatic testimony on Monday, she roped in some of Trump's top advisers as witnesses to the unfolding controversy.

And on Tuesday, a senior State Department official, George Kent, appeared on Capitol Hill to testify about his knowledge of the episode despite an attempt by administration lawyers to block him, according to a source working on the impeachment inquiry. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for his testimony Tuesday morning, and Kent complied.

It's the latest evidence that the White House's stonewalling against congressional requests for documents and testimony is crumbling -- and Democrats are feeling a new sense of momentum.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fusion GPS Founders to Publish Book on Trump's Ties With Russia (DANIEL POLITI, OCT 14, 2019, Slate)

The co-founders of a political research firm who found themselves embroiled in a national scandal and intrigue due to their claims about President Donald Trump's ties to Russia will be publishing a book next month that promises to be explosive. Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump will be published Nov. 26 co-written by Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. [...]

In the book, the authors chronicle "their high-stakes investigation and their desperate efforts to warn both the American and British governments, the FBI and the media, to little avail," notes Penguin Random House. "After four years on his trail, the authors' inescapable conclusion is that Trump is an asset of the Russian government, whether he knows it or not."

Mr. Steele was limited by his sources. Donald, the media, Mueller, the courts and Congress have fleshed out the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


FPU-Herald Poll: Michelle Obama would enter NH primary as frontrunner (JULES CRITTENDEN , October 14, 2019, Boston Herald)

"If Michelle Obama were to enter the race, it would change things dramatically," Myers wrote. "Twenty-six percent of Democrats would vote for her, making her the new frontrunner. Under this scenario, Obama (26%) would lead Warren (20%), (Biden (20%) and Sanders (15%). She would take away 4 points from Warren, 4 points from Biden and 7 points from Sanders." [...]

The FPU-Herald poll has some news that might disgruntle President Trump.  He still strong among Republicans, with his overall 81 percent job approval, down 2 points from early September.

"However, the percentage of Republican voters who would vote for Trump if the primary were held today was 88 percent a month ago, and 71 percent today, a 17-point decline," Myers wrote. "Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld's support increased from 3 percent in early September to 14 percent today." Myers said Weld's growth appears to be coming from independents who are moving away from Trump.

They really need to start adding Mike Pence to their presidential polling.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Says Border Wall More Important Than Defending Kurdish Allies (Dan Desai Martin, October 14, 2019, National Memo)

"Some people want the United States to protect the 7,000 mile away Border of Syria, presided over by Bashar al-Assad, our enemy," Trump wrote on Monday. "At the same time, Syria and whoever they chose to help, wants naturally to protect the Kurds. I would much rather focus on our Southern Border which abuts and is part of the United States of America."

For the Trumpbots that's not even a choice: dead Muslims are a bonus.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Former Aide Hill: Trump Ran Ukraine Policy To 'Personally Benefit' Himself (Cody Fenwick, October 14, 2019, Alternet.

Fiona Hill, a former top White House adviser on Russia, revealed to congressional investigators on Monday that President Donald Trump conducted policy toward Ukraine for his personal benefit, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

She reportedly said that the president used his attorney Rudy Giuliani to a "run shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit" himself.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Beto's Muslim ban (Washington Examiner, October 14, 2019)

O'Rourke's proposal would, of course, affect all of the largest Christian denominations. Punishing the Catholic Church would come easy to him, as he could just call up the Catechism. But what about all the thousands of independent churches? Would President Beto O'Rourke dispatch IRS agents to listen in on homilies? Or maybe his FBI would run sting operations, sending same-sex couples to ask for Pastor Todd's blessing and bringing down the hammer if Pastor Todd demurs.

Yes, plenty of Christian and Jewish congregations and denominations have embraced same-sex marriage. But that actually makes the impact of his plan more perverse.

O'Rourke wants to enact a proposal that would disproportionately discriminate against Muslims. To our understanding, there is not a single sect in Islam that recognizes marriages between two men or between two women.

The Left is the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Owl Killings Spur Moral Questions About Human Intervention (Associated Press, Oct. 15, 2019)

In almost all ways, the barred owl is the spotted owl's worst enemy: They reproduce more often, have more babies per year and eat the same prey, like squirrels and wood rats. And they now outnumber spotted owls in many areas of the native bird's historic range.

So in a last-ditch effort to see whether they can save spotted owls, federal officials are resorting to killing hundreds of federally protected barred owls.

The problem, of course, is that they crossbreed, you're just killing owls to "save" owls. It's another form of Replacement hysteria.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bolton warned lawyers over 'hand grenade' Giuliani's Ukraine pressure -- report (AFP, 10/15/19)

The White House's alleged effort to pressure Ukraine alarmed former US national security adviser John Bolton so much that he alerted a lawyer, his former aide said on Monday, according to US media.

Bolton also warned that US President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has emerged as the point man in the president's alleged drive to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, is "a hand grenade who's going to blow everyone up," his aide Fiona Hill told lawmakers, according to the New York Times.


October 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Pence Says Trump Spoke to Erdogan and Asked for Immediate Ceasefire (REUTERS, 10/14/19)  

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday said President Donald Trump had spoken to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and asked for an immediate ceasefire in Syria.

"The United States of America did not give a green light for Turkey to invade Syria," Pence said to reporters in front of the White House.

Has he asked Nikki to serve as VP yet?

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Poll shows sharp gender divide over Trump approval (Zachary Halaschak, October 14, 2019, Washington Examiner)

A new poll shows that President Trump's approval among women is starkly lower than among men.

A Quinnipiac survey released Monday shows that 61% of women disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job, while 35% approve. That stands in contrast to men, 48% of whom approve of Trump and 46% of whom disapprove, marking a 15% difference in disapproval by gender.

Overall, 41% of voters approve of Trump with 54% expressing disapproval with his presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM

THE RED HAT IS THE RED FLAG (profanity alert):

About That Trump Video (JONATHAN V. LAST,  OCTOBER 14, 2019, The Bulwark)

Last week I wrote a column asking if this--the underwater poll numbers, loss of the House, impeachment, awful reelection prospects, abandonment of America's allies--is what Trump supporters had signed up for.

If you watch all the way through the shooting and killing in the video, at the 2:50 mark the fake Trump turns to the camera and smiles and the creator of the video drops in different music--here he's replacing the original Kingsmen score. The music is DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win."

Which goes something like this:

"All I do is win, win, win no matter what."

Then Trump freezes with his Pepe smile and a pair of 8-bit sunglasses floats down onto his face.

The video is the answer to my question: This--the video--is what Trump voters signed up for.

They don't care about Syria, or tariffs, or the Russians, or the Wall, or anything else that we traditionally think of as policy goals. They don't even care about judges or abortion or free trade.

They care about hurting their domestic enemies.

Not all of them, to be sure. Maybe not even a majority of them. But for a percentage of them that is greater than zero, a video about Trump killing politicians and celebrities and journalists they don't like isn't a regrettable side-effect of Trump's presidency.

It's the entire point of Trump's presidency.

Not without gunning down, immigrants, Muslims, blacks, etc. en masse.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Devin Nunes and the Power of Keyword Signaling: From "crisis actor" to "collusion hoax," conservatives use SEO terms gamed by right-wing media outlets, propelling a polarized internet. (Francesca Tripodi, 10/14/19, Wired)

[I] Googled a few key phrases used in both of Nunes' speeches. The results demonstrate how politicians and pundits can exploit data voids to create ideological information silos. During each hearing, Nunes describes "the Russia collusion hoax." When you search for "collusion hoax," the links returned support the position that investigations into the president are bogus. The top links are from a story in The New York Post published just last week that Dems are trying to block Barr's probe into the "Russian collusion hoax" and a link to Amazon to purchase a book titled The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump, by Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett.

Strategic signaling also drew attention to what the Mueller report did not focus on. On June 12, Nunes noted that the report had not procured any "useful information on figures who played key roles in the investigation such as Joseph Mifsud," a Maltese academic and figure in the George Papadopoulos case, "or the Democrat paid operative, former spy Christopher Steele," the British intelligence officer behind the now notorious pee tape allegations. In the days following Nunes' remarks, the search returns were primarily conservative content published anywhere between two weeks to 12 minutes before Nunes' speech. In addition to traditional conservative sources like Fox News, Washington Examiner, and National Review, there are also digital-first sources like the Daily Caller and the Daily Wire, as well as stories posted from more dubious publications like the Epoch Times.

In his most recent hearing Nunes mentions Nellie Ohr, the wife of former high-ranking Justice official Bruce Ohr. As I've detailed in previous writing and in my testimony before the Senate, when you search Nellie Ohr online, her name exists in an ideological vacuum, because only conservative media producers consider her a newsworthy topic. In his June 12 remarks Nunes argues that not only did the report prove false, it failed to investigate links between Democrat operatives at Fusion GPS and Russians, "in fact no comment on Fusion GPS at all." On September 26, Nunes furthered this conspiracy telling Congress that "Serhiy Leshchenko was a source for Nellie Ohr, wife of Department of Justice official Bruce Orh, as she worked on the anti-Trump operation conducted by Fusion GPS and funded by the Democrats." When you Google "Serhiy Leshchenko Nellie Ohr," the top news stories are by the Daily Caller, a right-wing news and opinion website founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, and the Epoch Times. A simple search for "fusion gps" or "Nellie Ohr" leads users down a rabbit hole of allegations, misinformation, and QAnon conspiracy theories. These findings are not exclusive to Google. When you enter in the names of "Joseph Mifsud," "Nellie Ohr," or "Christopher Steele" into DuckDuckGo, the information returned is also primarily from conservative sources.

These findings reveal that existing studies on algorithms, filter bubbles, and misinformation online are missing a crucial component regarding the problem of political polarization, specifically data focused on how we access news and information. Epistemological frameworks can lead us into algorithmic rabbit holes. Understanding keyword signaling is an essential part of studying political polarization. While most focus on how output (e.g., search results or social media newsfeeds) keeps us in filter bubbles, more research is needed on how inputs are manipulated for political gain. This level of sophistication highlights how conservative groups systematically work to optimize their content for search and social media. 

You pretty much need to keep a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion available to figure out the Bubble's obsessions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Women still get fired for being pregnant, as Elizabeth Warren says she was in 1971 (Leslie Albrecht, Oct 14, 2019, Market Watch)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's story about being fired early in her career because she was pregnant may sound like an artifact from a less enlightened era, but pregnancy discrimination is alive and well today.

A conservative political website disputed Warren's claim recently after it found public meeting minutes that appeared to contradict Warren's account. The site also noted that Warren's story about leaving her teaching job has changed over the years. But Warren -- a Democrat from Massachusetts who's vying for the Democratic nomination -- stuck by her claim in an interview with CBS News. She then urged other women to share their stories of pregnancy discrimination on Twitter TWTR, +2.07%.

"This was 1971, years before Congress outlawed pregnancy discrimination -- but we know it still happens in subtle and not-so-subtle ways," she wrote.

Indeed, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978, but more than 40 years later, discrimination against pregnant workers is still "incredibly common," said Alex Baptiste, policy counsel at the National Partnership for Women & Families. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fielded more than 2,000 complaints of pregnancy discrimination in 2018.

"It impacts people across industry, pay scale, race, ethnicity, background -- it can happen in any work environment and in any state," Baptiste said.

Some of the country's biggest employers, including Walmart and UPS, have run afoul of pregnancy discrimination laws, and a 2018 New York Times investigation explored its presence across sectors, from financial firms to factory floors.

Pregnancy discrimination can be as overt as an employer firing a worker when they find out she's pregnant, but it also includes less explicit forms of unfair treatment, like not letting a pregnant worker have a water bottle near her work area, Baptiste said. "All of these things have real consequences and affect a pregnant workers employment, earnings and opportunity," she added.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Wedding Guests Took Down Gunman Who Shot Bishop and Bride, Police Say (Alberto Luperon, October 13th, 2019, Law & Crime)

A man is accused of shooting a bishop and bride at a New Hampshire church on Saturday, authorities said. Dale Holloway, 37, faces a count of first-degree assault, according to the state attorney's office in a CNN report. Some of the people are personally connected to an alleged murder that happened earlier this month.

Prosecutors said Holloway opened fire at the New England Pentecostal Ministries in Pelham, shooting 75-year-old bishop Stanley Choate in the chest, and the 60-year-old bride Claire McMullen in the arm. Mark Castiglione, 60, who was identified as the groom, was hit in the head by an object, authorities said. Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark told reporters that guests "basically gang-tackled" the shooter.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


Trump has delivered what Russia wants in Syria -- at zero cost -- and 'Putin likely can't believe his luck' (Mitch Prothero, 10/14/19, Business Insider)

Syrian President Bashar al Assad -- backed by his Russian patrons -- moved Monday to exploit the collapse of the US military presence in northeastern Syria by driving troops into the previously autonomous region managed by a Kurdish-dominated militia that had been under American protection for the last five years.

The unlikely sequence of events began last weekend after President Donald Trump ended US opposition to a Turkish offensive into Syria during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan. The call ended both the US mission to fight ISIS and to reduce Iranian and Russian influence in war-shattered Syria. It left Tehran, Moscow and Damascus with a huge victory that required little more than watching the American presence disappear on its own. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 AM


'Church of Fake News': Donald Trump depicted shooting the media in bizarre meme (SBS, 10/14/19)

An internet meme that depicts Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times has reported.

In the clip, the US president's head is superimposed on a man opening fire inside the "Church of Fake News" at people whose faces have been replaced with the logos of outlets including CNN, the Washington Post and NBC TV.

October 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Top Military Officers Unload on Trump: The commander in chief is impulsive, disdains expertise, and gets his intelligence briefings from Fox News. What does this mean for those on the front lines? (MARK BOWDEN,  NOVEMBER 2019, The Atlantic)

For most of the past two decades, American troops have been deployed all over the world--to about 150 countries. During that time, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have experienced combat, and a generation of officers have come of age dealing with the practical realities of war. They possess a deep well of knowledge and experience. For the past three years, these highly trained professionals have been commanded by Donald Trump.

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To get a sense of what serving Trump has been like, I interviewed officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees. Among the officers I spoke with were four of the highest ranks--three or four stars--all recently retired. All but one served Trump directly; the other left the service shortly before Trump was inaugurated. They come from different branches of the military, but I'll simply refer to them as "the generals." Some spoke only off the record, some allowed what they said to be quoted without attribution, and some talked on the record.

Military officers are sworn to serve whomever voters send to the White House. Cognizant of the special authority they hold, high-level officers epitomize respect for the chain of command, and are extremely reticent about criticizing their civilian overseers. That those I spoke with made an exception in Trump's case is telling, and much of what they told me is deeply disturbing. In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president. Trump's pronouncements and orders have already risked catastrophic and unnecessary wars in the Middle East and Asia, and have created severe problems for field commanders engaged in combat operations. Frequently caught unawares by Trump's statements, senior military officers have scrambled, in their aftermath, to steer the country away from tragedy. How many times can they successfully do that before faltering?

Posted by orrinj at 10:29 AM


Federal Judge Rules Trump Violated Law To Fund Border Wall (Cody Fenwick, October 13, 2019, Alternet)

"We are thrilled with the judge's decision that the president cannot take money Congress appropriated for other purposes and spend it for purposes Congress specifically rejected," the Niskanen Center said about the ruling on Twitter. "Niskanen has been a part of a team of lawyers working pro bono to represent El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights in a suit against President Trump's emergency declaration."

The ruling noted that an appropriations bill that Trump himself signed into law in February said:

None of the funds made available in this or any other appropriations Act may be used to increase, eliminate, or reduce funding for a program, project, or activity as proposed in the President's budget request for a fiscal year until such proposed change is subsequently enacted in an appropriation Act, or unless such change is made pursuant to the reprogramming or transfer provisions of this or any other appropriations Act.

But when Trump signed that law, he also signed a proclamation that declared an emergency at the southern border, which he used to justify taking military funds to pay for a border wall. However, the judge found that the proclamation was itself unlawful because it violated the provision of law quoted above. The judge notes that the border wall was is clearly a "project," and the border wall itself was a part of the president's proposed budget. The language of the law thus makes it clear that it should thus not receive an increase in funding by presidential fiat.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Trump threatens to sue top Democrats Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi amid impeachment inquiry (Kate Sullivan, Nikki Carvajal and Jeremy Diamond,  October 12, 2019,  CNN)

President Donald Trump threatened on Saturday night to sue top congressional Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi amid the House impeachment inquiry into the President.

...you'd think he'd understand how discovery works by now and that there's no way he could survive it.  That's why his staff could not let him speak to Mueller.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Putin says a new Syrian constitution should guarantee all groups' rights: Arabiya (Reuters, 10/13/19) 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said any new constitution that is drawn up for Syria should guarantee the rights of all ethnic and religions groups. Putin was speaking in an interview with Arab broadcasters, including Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, on his first visit to Saudi Arabia in over a decade.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Ambassador to E.U. to testify he doesn't know why Ukraine aid was held up (Josh Lederman, 10/12/19, NBC News)

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will testify to Congress next week that he did not know why United States military assistance to Ukraine was held up nor who ordered it, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland's testimony before the House next week.

Sondland will say that he "relied on the president's assurances in good faith and passed these along" when he texted Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, the person said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Whistle-Blowing: Scott McLemee reviews the timely Whistleblowers: Honesty in America From Washington to Trump by Allison Stanger. (Scott McLemee, September 27, 2019, Inside Higher Ed)

When and where "whistle-blowing" entered the vernacular is unclear, but Stanger finds it used in newspapers only in the early 1970s. A search of JSTOR seems to confirm this. The first reference to whistle-blowing in a scholarly paper appeared toward the end of 1973 in Public Administration Review, where it was defined as "turning over evidence of organizational malfeasance to the media and interested parties." The authors identified it a weapon of "the organization guerrilla" -- someone who responded to bureaucratic inertia or malfeasance by "transforming the hierarchical components of the organization; in other words, diffusing power throughout the system." The concept of the organization guerrilla did not catch on, but that of the whistle-blower did; the latter expression appears in JSTOR with great frequency starting in 1976.

But what Stanger identifies as "the world's first whistleblower protection law" was in place almost two centuries earlier. The Continental Congress passed it in July 1778, in response to the situation created by Esek Hopkins, the commander in chief of the Continental Navy. Besides his record of insubordination and self-dealing, Hopkins had retaliated against a number of officers who petitioned for his removal from command. Among other things, they objected to his torture of British POWs. Hopkins had two of his critics arrested and sued others for libel. Besides stripping him of his commission, Congress proclaimed:

It is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.

October 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Bernie Sanders draws contrast with Elizabeth Warren: 'She is a capitalist through her bones. I'm not.' (ADAM KELSEY, Oct 12, 2019, ABC News)\

With Sen. Elizabeth Warren continuing to climb in Democratic presidential primary polls, in part, at the expense of his own campaign, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in an interview on Saturday with ABC News' "This Week," explicitly highlighted a key difference in their core economic philosophies.

"There are differences between Elizabeth and myself," Sanders, I-Vt., said in an interview with ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that will air Sunday morning. "Elizabeth, I think, as you know, has said that she is a capitalist through her bones. I'm not."

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Exclusive: Giuliani associate linked to Yanukovych's stolen cash (Will Jordan, 10/12/19, Al Jazeera)

Semyon Kislin, a business associate of Donald Trump who is due to give evidence at the US president's impeachment inquiry on October 14, tried to obtain millions of dollars that Ukrainian prosecutors deemed stolen, Al Jazeera can reveal.

Kislin is a long-time friend of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The Ukraine-born businessman donated to Giuliani's political campaigns in the 1990s. 

In January last year, Kislin lobbied the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to help him unlock millions of dollars that had in fact been seized in a major criminal inquiry.

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 AM


This is a local newscast, not Adam Schiff.
Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


Women Know How to Do This Now: Elizabeth Warren's pregnancy discrimination "scandal" explains how identity politics have changed since 2016. (CHRISTINA CAUTERUCCI, OCT 09, 2019, Slate)

Warren explained that the difference was simply the result of her decision to open up more once she went into politics. CBS also found two retired teachers who worked at Warren's school at the time and affirmed that there was a "rule" that expectant teachers had to step down around the fifth month of pregnancy. A year after Warren's departure, the Associated Press wrote that a new state rule would prevent pregnant teachers from being "automatically forced out of New Jersey classrooms."

In other words, the evidence supports Warren on this. But there's more to say about the fact that she started telling the anecdote differently around the time she started running for office. It's possible that Warren didn't interpret her dismissal as pregnancy discrimination in 1971, or that, with no grounding in progressive politics, she didn't see it as a noteworthy injustice. It's even more likely that when she explained her career path to others, as she did in her 2007 interview at the University of California, Berkeley, she didn't want to be seen as a victim. Some may see Warren's rephrasing as the mark of a lie or as a cynical play for political points. I see it as an indicator of the changing ways stories of gender-based mistreatment get told in mainstream politics.

To be taken seriously as leaders in politics and business, women have historically been told to project strength and power, to play down any parts of their histories that might encourage voters to imagine them as fragile, exploitable, or overtly female. Just last year, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait argued that Sens. Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand were falling into a "victim trap" by presenting themselves, or allowing themselves to be presented, as people who've experienced sexism. "Within the ecosystem of the left, demonstrating that you have suffered harassment or microaggressions is a big win," he wrote. "But among the country as a whole, the dynamic is very different." A woman may find it harder to convince the nation she's "a figure of presidential stature," Chait went on, if voters think of her as someone who needs protecting, rather than as a protector.

Here's the interesting thing about the response to this Warren "scandal," though: Women responded not with sympathy for a woman who's suffered, or with general fist-shaking at the patriarchy. They related to Warren with deep-seated anger, born of personal experience. They flooded Twitter with stories of pregnancy and the workplace. Some said they'd been demoted or passed over for promotions when it became clear that they were expecting. Some repeated diminishing comments they'd heard from managers when they'd showed up visibly pregnant to job interviews. Some shared the stories of their mothers, who were ushered out of the workforce when they became parents in the years before pregnancy discrimination was outlawed nationwide in 1978. Others told of mistreatment that still afflicts pregnant working women, or any working woman of reproductive age, given that employers suspect she might get pregnant, someday.

By a few minutes after midnight on Wednesday morning, Warren had turned some of these anecdotes into a campaign video. "It's important to tell these stories," she said to the camera, after reading a few of the tweets. "This is how we make real change. We do it together." It had taken her just over a day to turn the initial allegations that she was lying into a rallying point for political action.

We get the incel influence in the Right, but do they not even know any women?
Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM


"Medicare for All" Is Not a Winning Platform: Thursday's debate shows Warren and Sanders are in trouble. (WILLIAM SALETAN, SEPT 13, 2019, slate)

A big fight has opened up in the Democratic presidential race. It's between "Medicare for All"--a single-payer system that would abolish and replace private health insurance--and a "public option," which would offer a Medicare-style alternative to private insurance plans but wouldn't abolish them. This fight could well decide the nomination. Health care is a huge voting issue: It's universal, it has enormous personal financial consequences, and for many, it's a matter of life or death.

Two candidates near the front of the pack, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, are defending Medicare for All. The rest of the field, by and large, is defending some kind of public option. Judging by Thursday night's debate in Houston, Warren and Sanders are in trouble.

The public option is, of course, Medicare for All. The argument for a market plan ignores how markets behave.  Your employer isn't going to pay for your private insurance when you have a public option and employees aren't going to turn down larger paychecks in exchange for a private option. Democrats just need to make-believe better.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To? (Lisa Lerer, Oct. 12, 2019, NY Times)

On podcasts and online videos, in interviews and twitter feeds, alt-right internet stars, white nationalists, libertarian activists and some of the biggest boosters of Mr. Trump heap praise on Ms. Gabbard. They like the Hawaiian congresswoman's isolationist foreign policy views. They like her support for drug decriminalization. They like what she sees as censorship by big technology platforms.

Then there is 4chan, the notoriously toxic online message board, where some right-wing trolls and anti-Semites fawn over Ms. Gabbard, calling her "Mommy" and praising her willingness to criticize Israel. In April, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, took credit for Ms. Gabbard's qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates.

Brian Levin, the head of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, said Ms. Gabbard had "the seal of approval" within white nationalist circles. "If people have that isolationist worldview, there is one candidate that could best express them on each side: Gabbard on the Democratic side and Trump on the Republican side," Mr. Levin said. [...]

While Ms. Gabbard has opposed recent military interventions in the Middle East, she has developed relationships with leaders known for their authoritarian tendencies. She touts her support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has empowered Hindu fundamentalists at great cost to India's minorities.Ms. Gabbard also met with Egypt's strongman leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, during a 2015 trip to Paris with Dana Rohrabacher, a former Republican congressman known for his ties to Russians.

Most controversially, she has repeatedly defended the brutal Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who she met in January 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Kamala's Fake Lover: Jacob Wohl Told Me It Was for a Spike TV Show: The duo behind botched smears against Elizabeth Warren, Robert Mueller, and Pete Buttigieg have truly outdone themselves. (Will Sommer, 10.11.19, Daily Beast)

[L]ike past efforts to manufacture sexual claims against Trump foes--from Robert Mueller, to Pete Buttigieg, to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)--the Harris charade fell apart quickly. 

The pair's bogus accuser--26-year-old Sean Newaldass--told The Daily Beast on Friday that he had no idea the event in which he alleged that he was in a romantic dalliance with the Senate was real. That's because Newaldass had met Wohl and Burkman by replying to an ad posted on Craigslist seeking a "male actor" for "performance art." When he showed up at Burkman's Virginia home and delivered his lines alleging an affair, Newaldass was under the belief that the press conference was actually an audition for a Spike TV show. He said he had no idea that Harris was a politician. Indeed, he assumed she was a fictional person. 

"I thought I was acting for a role in a movie, like a role in a TV series," Newaldass said. "I thought everything was staged, I'm thinking everyone is an actor." 

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


MIDDLE CLASS RACISM (John Russo and Sherry Linkon 10/11/2019, New Geography)

We've been making presentations and talking regularly with reporters and about working-class voters - by which they almost always mean white working-class voters - since 2007. We study class and race in Youngstown, Ohio, a racially-segregated deindustrialized community, so reporters called then to ask whether white industrial workers would vote for an African American or a woman. Now they're asking why white working-class people would be drawn to Trump's anti-immigrant, racist, and sexist bravado.

We could say plenty about the complicated relationship between racism and the working class, but we also know two things. First, although Trump does attract significant support from the working class, but his real base is the middle- and upper-class. Second, while his white working-class fans might respond with open approval to Trump's racist appeals, his more educated, better-off real base embraces it, too.

In reality, the base for Trump, and the core of the Republican Party, is whiter, more rural, older, and more religiously conservative than Democrats. They are also richer. Democrats benefit from what some have called the "diploma divide," winning more votes from people with college degrees, the most commonly-used basis for pollsters to talk about class, but Republicans take the lead - as Trump did in the 2016 vote - among those with incomes of $50K or more. It's simply not true to Trump's appeal comes primarily from economically-insecure voters.


The sad reality is that many voters don't just tolerate the President's nasty remarks because they appreciate his tax cut or his anti-abortion, pro-business Supreme Court nominees. Both racist attitudes and an investment in the racist policies that reinforce inequality in this country also appeal to many voters who, we'd like to think, ought to know better.

In part, Trump's racism appeals because it violates the social rules that many white middle-class people resist. Since at least the 1990s, they've been hearing that they have to be careful what they say about women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, and that rankles. Some genuinely don't get why it's racist to call a black Congressman's district "rat-infested" or to suggest that Representatives of color should go back to the troubled countries they supposedly came from. When critics call these statements racist, many white middle-class people hear a different message: it's never acceptable for white people to criticize people of color. As Kevin M. Kruse suggested in a New York Times op-ed, Trump voices the resentment many white voters - of all classes -- feel about not being able to say what they think. For many, Trump's statements reassure them that they are not racist, they're just not "PC."

On the most recent edition of The Remnant podcast, Jonah Goldberg talked about how Donald had to have his arm twisted by staff to distance himself from David Duke.  As it turned out, he understood the GOP better than his aides. Within the party there is no down-side to his racism and it took little effort to make it the brand.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


US Joins Russia To Block UN Condemnation Of Turkish Military Strike (Frank Dale, October 11, 2019, National Memo)

According to the Washington Post, as well as a report from Turkish state-run media, the 15-nation U.N. Security Council failed to issue a joint statement condemning Turkey's incursion into the Kurdish region of Syria after the United States and Russia objected.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Defying Trump, ex Ukraine envoy tells impeachment probe he pushed to oust her (MARY CLARE JALONICK, MATTHEW LEE and ALAN FRAM, 10/12/19, Times of Israel)

Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors Friday for more than nine hours as part of the House Democrats' impeachment investigation. Her prepared remarks were obtained by The Associated Press. She left without answering questions.

New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, said Yovanovitch occasionally had to leave the room because she was overcome with emotion as she was "recounting how she was thrown to the wolves" in Ukraine.

"It is clear to me that she was fired because she was a thorn in the side of those who sought to use the Ukrainian government for their own political and financial gain - and that includes President Trump," Maloney said.

Lawmakers leaving the meeting would not provide specifics from the confidential deposition. But they indicated that Yovanovitch was providing information that would help with the impeachment inquiry.

"It was compelling, it was impactful, it was powerful and I just feel grateful for the opportunity to have received that information," said Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, who flew in from Washington state for the interview. He said the eight hours he was there "went like a New York second."

Yovanovitch "set a very powerful, courageous example," said Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey.

Republicans leaving the meeting focused their criticism on Democrats, arguing that the president's lawyers should be able to attend the hearings and cross-examine witnesses.

Former Ukraine Ambassador's Testimony Blasts Trump And Cronies (Alex Henderson, October 12, 2019, AlterNet)

She said that the pressure to have her removed as ambassador came directly from the president:

I met with the Deputy Secretary of State, who informed me of the curtailment of my term. He said that the President had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.

Although Yovanovitch was fired from her post as ambassador to Ukraine, she has continued to work in the U.S. State Department and risked her job by testifying on Friday. Regardless, Yovanovitch spoke her mind, and she stressed that hurting loyal diplomats only encourages "bad actors" and enemies of U.S. interests who will "see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system."

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani under investigation for lobbying violations: report (Times of Israel, 10/12/19)

One of the Times' sources says the investigation is related to Giuliani's efforts to undermine former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Two Florida businessmen tied to Giuliani were charged Thursday with federal campaign finance violations. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, had key roles in Giuliani's efforts to launch the Ukrainian corruption investigation against Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, a main Trump rival, and his son Hunter. According to the indictment against the men, they agreed to raise $20,000 or more for a US congressman to seek his "assistance in causing the US Government to remove or recall the then-US Ambassador to Ukraine."

Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate the baseless corruption allegations against Biden and his son, who was involved with a gas company there.

October 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


'Bigoted Nonsense': Sen. Ben Sasse Condemns Beto's Call To Strip Churches Of Tax Exempt Status For Opposing Same-Sex Marriage (Paul Bois, 10/11/19, DailyWire.com)

During the CNN LGBTQ town hall on Thursday night, 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke openly stated that he would seek to strip religious institutions of their tax-exempt statuses if they opposed same-sex marriage. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) immediately denounced this policy as "bigoted nonsense."

"This bigoted nonsense would target a lot of sincere Christians, Jews, and Muslims," wrote Sasse in a statement released Friday. "Leaders from both parties have a duty to flatly condemn this attack on very basic American freedoms. This extreme intolerance is un-American. The whole point of the First Amendment is that ... everyone is created with dignity and we don't use government power to decide which religious beliefs are legitimate and which aren't."

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


"Repugnant to the American Dream": A Judge Just Blocked Trump's Plan to Target Poor Immigrants (Noah Lanard, 10/11/19, MoJo)

An 1893 cartoon titled "Looking Backward" depicts the irony of American immigrants turning away additional newcomers. The caption reads: "They would close to the new-comer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over."

In a written decision filled with unmasked contempt, a federal judge blocked on Friday a Trump administration policy designed to punish poor and working-class immigrants. The "public charge" rule, which was set to take effect on Tuesday, would deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to use public benefits, to which they are legally entitled. 

District court judge George Daniels was unusually critical of the arguments the Justice Department used to justify radically reinterpreting what it means to be a public charge, a part of federal immigration law that dates back to 1882. "In short," Daniels wrote, "defendants do not articulate why they are changing the public charge definition, why this new definition is needed now, or why the definition set forth in the Rule--which has absolutely no support in the history of U.S. immigration law--is reasonable." (A California district judge court issued a second injunction on Friday that, unlike Daniels', does not apply nationwide.)  

Daniels wrote that the rule released by the Department of Homeland Security in August "is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification." He continued, "It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility." [...]

The judge was particularly critical of a section of the rule that penalizes immigrants who do not speak English. "The United States of America has no official language," Daniels noted. "Many, if not most, immigrants who arrived at these shores did not speak English. It is simply offensive to contend that English proficiency is a valid predictor of self-sufficiency."

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


More Potential Whistleblowers Are Contacting Congress: The first two officials who came forward about the president's pressure campaign on Ukraine seem to be just the beginning, according to Hill sources. (Spencer Ackerman, Sam Brodey, Sam Stein,  10.11.19, daily Beast)

One knowledgeable source said that the daily accumulation of revelations about Trump's willingness to use U.S. foreign relations for his personal political benefit has prompted more people to approach Congress. Two associates of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani have been arrested and charged with campaign-finance violations arising from their Ukraine dirt-digging effort. The Financial Times reported that Trump China adviser Michael Pillsbury said he received "quite a bit of background" on Joe Biden's son after Trump publicly called for China to aid his domestic political prospects. The Washington Post reported that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, and Trump attempted to quash a prosecution of a Turkish national--represented by Giuliani and important to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan--for violating Iran sanctions.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


U.S. court backs House request for Trump's financial records (Jan Wolfe, 10/11/19, Reuters) 

In a blow to President Donald Trump's efforts to block oversight of his business dealings, a U.S. court on Friday backed a House of Representatives request for the Republican's financial records including tax documents.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Copenhagen's race to be the first carbon-neutral city (Derek Robertson, 11 Oct 2019, The Guardian)

Radical and far-reaching, the scheme dared to rethink the very infrastructure underpinning the city. There's still not a climate project anywhere else in the world that comes close.

And, so far, it's working. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 42% since 2005, and while challenges around mobility and energy consumption remain (new technologies such as better batteries and carbon capture are being implemented), the city says it is on track to achieve its ultimate goal.

More significant still is that Copenhagen has achieved this while continuing to grow in traditional economic terms. Even as some commentators insist that nothing short of a total rethink of free-market economics and corporate structures is required to stave off global catastrophe, the Danish capital's carbon transformation has happened alongside a 25% growth in its economy over two decades. Copenhagen's experience will be a model for other world cities.

The sentiment that lies behind Arc's conception as a multi-use public good - "hedonistic sustainability" - is echoed by Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, former mayor of Copenhagen for the environment and the man originally tasked, back in 2010, with making the plan a reality.

It's as if innovation drives growth...
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After Fox News released poll that made Trump mad, Barr reportedly met with Rupert Murdoch (The Week, 10/11/19)

Attorney General William Barr and media mogul Rupert Murdoch had a private meeting on Wednesday night, not long after Fox News released a poll showing that 51 percent of voters are in favor of impeaching Trump and removing him from office, The New York Times reports.

...argues the AG should be a mere political henchman?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Canada: 'An election about nothing' leaves many uninspired (Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, 10/10/19, Al Jazeera)

In just under two weeks, millions of people in Canada will cast their votes for the country's next parliament.

And while election posters adorn street lamps, leaders trade barbs in televised debates, and campaign stops are organised from coast-to-coast, in many ways the election has failed to capture the attention of would-be voters.

"A lot of people really do feel that at some level, this is an election about nothing," said Lisa Young, a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.

...nothing divides the two parties on policy; there's just partisanship for identity sake and these are Canadians for goodness sake. Trudeau is just a blander Mitt Romney.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'An extraordinary feeling': Iran women attend football match (Al Jazeera, 10/10/19)

Waving flags and snapping selfies, thousands of Iranian women on Thursday attended a football match freely for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the country over its controversial stadium restrictions.

Elated female fans wore the national green, white and red flag around their shoulders and over their hair as they streamed into a tiny section of Tehran's 80,000-capacity Azadi Stadium for Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

"We are so happy that finally we got the chance to go to the stadium. It's an extraordinary feeling," Zahra Pashaei, a 29-year-old nurse who has only known soccer games from television, told the Associated Press news agency. "At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this."

For nearly 40 years, Iran has barred female spectators from entering football and other sports stadiums, with clerics arguing women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

...once they've seen Pele...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


NBC: Trump's former Russia aide set to give revealing testimony on Giuliani, Sonland (Josh Lederman, Carol E. Lee and Kristen Welker, 10/10/19, NBC News)

Fiona Hill, who was until recently President Donald Trump's top aide on Russia and Europe, plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News.

Hill's appearance next week before Congress has stoked fear among people close to the president, said a former senior White House official, given her central role overseeing Russia and Ukraine policy throughout most of the Trump administration.

October 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Trump budget office political hire controlled freeze on Ukraine aid (CAITLIN EMMA, 10/10/2019, Politico)

Several alarmed White House career budget staffers alerted House appropriators when the Office of Management and Budget last summer placed a political appointee in charge of a hold on $400 million in foreign assistance to Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


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Vatican Forcefully Denies Claim Pope Francis Said Jesus Was Not God (Paul Bois, 10/10/19, DailyWire.com)

According to Catholic News Agency, Scalfari, who has interviewed the pope on several occasions, said he discussed the topic of Jesus' divinity sometime in the past. He allegedly challenged Pope Francis about church teaching by noting several scriptures of Christ expressing agony, which apparently led Scalfari to believe that Jesus was not divine. In response, Pope Francis allegedly told him, "They are the definitive proof that Jesus of Nazareth, once he became a man, even if he was a man of exceptional virtue, was not a God."

Immediately after the article went public, the Vatican issued a rather tepid statement denying Scalfari's claims, saying it was not a "faithful account" of what Pope Francis said.

That Christ suffered and sinned is the hardest miracle for Christians to accept.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Lindsey Graham dishes on Trump in hoax calls with Russians (NATASHA BERTRAND, 10/10/2019, Politico)

Graham also mentions Trump's personal interest in a "Turkish bank case" in the call that appears to refer to a U.S. case involving Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and client of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Trump had asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017 to help persuade the Justice Department to drop the Zarrab case. [...]

According to U.S. prosecutors, Zarrab and others used the Turkish bank Halkbank to "launder billions of dollars-worth of Iranian oil proceeds, ultimately creating a slush fund for Iran to use however it wished -- the very harm that U.S. sanctions were put in place to avoid." A senior banker at Halkbank was found guilty of working to evade sanctions on Iran, and Halbank itself could still face fines by the Treasury Department.

Zarrab also had ties to the Turkish government, according to a memo written in 2016 by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and was "engaged in a massive bribery scheme... paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars" to facilitate his transactions.

Erdogan, wary of corruption being revealed in open court, fiercely lobbied high-level Obama administration officials for Zarrab's release after his 2016 arrest, the Washington Post reported at the time. At one point he even asked Vice President Joe Biden to have Bharara fired. Erdogan also sent his justice minister at the time to meet with then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and argue that the case was "based on no evidence."

In the hoax call, Graham suggested that the president would try to help Erdogan regarding that case as best he could.

Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM


Donald Trump, outfoxed once more (Jacob Heilbrunn, October 10, 2019, Spectator USA)

[I]t seems clear that Trump's combination of wrathfulness and aggrievement, truculence and indignation, is likely to result in a Vesuvius-like display of emotional fireworks when he speaks, or, to put it more precisely, bellows, at a rally in Minneapolis this evening, where his adoring congregants will gather to soak up his great and unmatched wisdom. Trump doesn't just have the polls to worry about. The polls are merely the reflection, not the source, of his current woes. Even as he tries to assert monarchical powers on behalf of the presidency and his retainers warn about attempts at 'regicide' by congressional Democrats, Trump himself has to be feeling a growing sense of unease at the silence of a number of Senate Republicans, not to mention the arrest of two Ukrainian associates of Rudy Giuliani. Both Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were charged today with violating campaign finance laws in an attempt to influence American elections and foreign policy, were apparently also at the heart of Giuliani's attempt to concoct investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden in Ukraine two other men were also indicted on counts of conspiracy, false statements and falsification of records). Giuliani has not commented on the pair. Their arrests will only heighten the avidity of House Democrats to depose them about their activities in Ukraine. According to the Wall Street Journal, this duo gave $325,000 to a pro-Trump super-PAC America First in 2018. The Washington Post reports, 'Last year, the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center filed a still-pending complaint with the FEC over the donation, alleging that it appeared to be a straw donation that masked the identity of the original contributor.'

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


How the Synagogue Shooting in Germany Fits Into a Global Pattern of Far-Right Terrorism (RAJAN BASRA , BLYTH CRAWFORD AND FLORENCE KEEN, 10/10/19, TIME)

What at first sight may appear as an isolated attack in an obscure German city is anything but. The manifesto the attacker posted online -- as well as his comments during the livestream -- make clear that this is just the latest in a series of interconnected far-right terrorist attacks that have taken place across the world. It follows on from attacks in Pittsburgh (United States), Christchurch (New Zealand), Poway (United States), El Paso (United States) and Bærum (Norway), attacks that have killed 85 people in total over the last year. All of them speak to the same audience of white nationalists online, hoping to inspire them to commit their own acts of violence.

Of those, the March 2019 Christchurch massacre in New Zealand -- which left 51 worshippers dead in two mosques -- has proven to be most influential. Wednesday's attack in Germany featured many of the same hallmarks: the use of a livestream, the stated aim of a mass-casualty attack with "high score" kill counts, the posting of an online manifesto, the use of meme music and the language of relatively obscure internet image boards.

Beyond the similar modus operandi, the Halle shooter also invoked the unifying grand narrative of white-nationalist terrorism today: the "white genocide" conspiracy theory. This is the idea that a Jewish conspiracy is orchestrating the mass immigration of non-whites into Europe and North America with the ultimate aim of destroying the white population. Euphemistically labeled "the great replacement," this was cited as motivation by the Christchurch, Poway, and El Paso shooters. And the Halle attacker explicitly referred to this in his live stream, blaming Jews for feminism, declining birth rates, and mass immigration, as well as denying the Holocaust.

There are, however, differences. While the Christchurch shooter wanted to kill as many Muslims as possible, he also had secondary and tertiary aims: for New Zealand and the United States to ban guns (the reaction), causing people to rise up (the counter-reaction). He said he hoped to have "accelerated" that process. New Zealand did ban assault rifles following the Christchurch massacre, though there was no popular uprising as Tarrant anticipated. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Two Soviet-Born Men Linked To Giuliani Arrested In New York For Campaign Finance Violations (Radio Liberty, October 10, 2019)

Two businessmen from the former Soviet Union have been arrested for allegedly breaking U.S. campaign finance laws.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office said on October 10 that Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas and Belarusian-born Igor Fruman, who are associated with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were apprehended in New York.

According to a federal court filing in New York, the two men conspired to "funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office."

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 11:05 AM


Happy birthday, Monk

Today would have been the 112th birthday of Thelonious Monk. I've written before about Monk and his central mportance to the development of the harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary of modern jazz. So, today's post is just to recommend some things to listen to.

To hear Monk playing, check out this wonderful concert recording from 1971 concert featuring Monk and one of his fellow co-creators of bebop, Dizzy Gillespie. Monk's continuing influence as a composer is astounding. It's hard to find a new jazz album or to attend a live concert that doesn't include at least one of Monk's tunes in the set list. Taking this idea to the extreme, pianist Frank Kimbrough (and a quartet of multi-instrumentalist Scott
Robinson, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Drummond) has recorded ALL of Monk's 70 compositions. This was my favorite album of 2018 and one I'm still listening to regularly.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Record Number of Americans Say International Trade Is Good for the US Economy ( Brendan Helm, Research Assistant; Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy; Alexander Hitch, Research Associate, 10/09/19, The Chicago Council)

83 percent of Americans think international trade is good for American companies, a 25 percentage point increase from when it was last asked in 2016.

Nearly nine in ten Americans (87%) say that international trade is good for the US economy, the highest recorded in Chicago Council Surveys since the question was first asked in 2004.

63 percent of Americans now believe trade deals between the United States and other countries benefit both sides, up from 50 percent in 2017.

Americans are deeply divided on whether to increase tariffs on Chinese products with 47 percent supporting it and 51 percent opposing it.

77 percent of Americans favor complying with World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings against the United States.

If Donald declared war on cancer, 70% of Americans would be pro-tumor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rudy Giuliani Sent Trump On A Wild Goose Chase With A Bunch Of Fake Internet Nonsense (Ryan Broderick, 10/09/19, BuzzFeed News)

While Giuliani's fixation on Ukraine dates back to 2017 and he spent the spring of 2018 using Spygate talking points to discredit the former FBI director Robert Mueller's probe, he didn't really start his anti-Ukraine social media campaign until March 22 of this year -- the day Mueller submitted his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General Bill Barr. Giuliani most likely resurrected it as a tool to disparage Mueller's resulting report. This time, he began to focus heavily on a Ukrainian connection.

"Pay attention to [Dan Bongino] for an analysis of some real collusion between Hillary, Kerry and Biden people colluding with Ukrainian operatives to make money and affect 2016 election," Giuliani tweeted.

Bongino, a far-right radio host and former secret service agent, made a name for himself as a conservative commentator around Spygate. He wrote a book about the conspiracy in October 2018 and has made it the focus of his website, podcast, and Twitter account. In September 2018, Matt Palumbo, a writer who works with Bongino, created a Spygate "character" chart, which spread across Reddit and 4chan.

About a week after he name-dropped Bongino, Giuliani shared an article on Twitter from Fox News contributor Sara Carter. It was an aggregation of an opinion piece written by the Hill's John Solomon, which has gone on to shape much of the conservative news coverage -- and rattled his now-former colleagues. The Hill piece centered around allegations made by Kostiantyn Kulyk, the deputy head of Ukraine's prosecutor general's International Legal Cooperation Department, that claimed Ukrainian law enforcement had evidence that Democrats attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. Kulyk's allegations, collected in a seven-page dossier, ricocheted across US media and together with lines from interviews by Ukraine's then-prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, a bedrock of the Spygate conspiracy began to take shape.

Even though Giuliani had waited until shortly before the Mueller report's release to start beating the Spygate drum publicly, according to notes submitted to Congress by Lutsenko this week, the two had actually already met months before, in January, when Giuliani had asked Lutsenko to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden's connections to Ukraine.

The nonsense you pump into the bubble is supposed to bamboozle the yokels, not the leader of your movement.

October 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Trump Pressured Rex Tillerson to Help End DOJ Prosecution of Rudy Giuliani's Client: Report (Jerry Lambe, October 9th, 2019, Law & Crime)

President Donald Trump in 2017 reportedly pressured former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his help in convincing the Department of Justice to drop a criminal case against one of Rudy Giuliani's affluent foreign clients, according to a Wednesday report from Bloomberg.

Trump allegedly requested Tillerson's help in convincing the DOJ to cease prosecuting Reza Zarrab, 34, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader. It reportedly happened during a meeting in the Oval Office in front of several witnesses. As part of his reported request, Trump asked Tillerson to speak with Giuliani about the case.

According to the report, which was sourced from three people familiar with the interaction, Tillerson rejected Trump's request and then promptly repeated his protestation to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, explicitly stating that the president's request was illegal.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Two Weeks In, Impeachment Is Becoming More Popular (Nathaniel Rakich, 10/09/19, 538)

According to our average, 48.8 percent of people support impeachment, while only 43.6 percent don't support it.1 That's an increase even from last week, when the share of people who supported and opposed impeachment were roughly the same. What's changed? Early this week, we got a couple new, high-quality polls that showed a majority of Americans in favor of an impeachment inquiry. Most notably, a Washington Post-Schar School poll found that 58 percent of Americans agreed with the House's decision to start an impeachment inquiry, and only 38 percent disagreed with it. And an Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll found that 55 percent approved of the House's decision and 44 percent disapproved.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Armed conspiracy group will defend Republicans at Minneapolis Trump rally (Pete Kotz, 10/09/19, City Pages)

The group was launched in 2009 after--not coincidentally--we elected a black president. Its beliefs roughly mirrored the conspiracy theories of the day: that the black guy was preparing to invoke martial law. That he would take away your guns. That he would relegate patriots to detention camps. [...]

The president of a suburban Cleveland chapter got 20 years for stockpiling bombs. Another member was imprisoned for tweeting violent threats about attacking the Oklahoma state government over taxes. Still another was convicted of raping his 7-year-old daughter.

The group has shown up heavily armed at the Ferguson, Missouri protests and Cliven Bundy's Nevada standoff with the federal government. So bringing them to Minneapolis is a bit like dumping lighter fluid on a national forest.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


By a 27-Point Margin, Voters Back Warren's Plan to Tax 'Excessive' Lobbying (MATT BRACKEN, October 9, 2019, Morning Consult)

Beyond the Massachusetts senator's specific strategy, general proposals to limit government lobbying enjoy broader -- and more bipartisan -- support.

A Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted among 1,991 registered voters from Oct. 7-8 -- just days after Warren unveiled her plan -- asked voters whether they would support the proposal, which calls for a tax on corporations that spend more than $500,000 per year to lobby the government in favor of their causes. A 49 percent plurality of respondents backed Warren's plan, while 22 percent said they were opposed. The poll has a margin of error of 2 percentage points. [...]

Removing Warren -- and the specifics of her plan -- from the equation, however, resulted in stronger support across the board for anti-lobbying measures. Asked whether they supported or opposed proposals to limit government lobbying, 3 in 5 voters said they backed such plans.

There was essentially no difference in support for curbing lobbying based on party affiliation: Sixty percent of Republicans said they favored proposals to limit government lobbying, while 59 percent of Democrats and independents said the same. 

Just rewrite corporation law to ban lobbying.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Donald Trump Allegedly Hid Behind a Tapestry to Grope a Woman at Mar-a-Lago in the Early 2000s: In an exclusive excerpt from All the President's Women, Karen Johnson, one of 43 women with new allegations against the president, tells her story. (Adrienne Westenfeld, 10/09/19, esquire)

If you thought the Access Hollywood tape was the opening salvo in the story of Donald Trump's transgressions against women, think again. In All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy draw on over 100 interviews, many of them exclusive, to craft a detailed history of Trump's relationships with women, stretching back to his childhood and education as well as his rise through real estate, entertainment, and politics. What emerges from the authors' reporting is a portrait of a predator who hides behind wealth and institutional power to frequently harass and abuse women.

While the president has publicly faced allegations from two dozen women, this book reveals another 43 allegations of alleged inappropriate behavior, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russian agents said 'we made America great' after Trump won presidency, Senate report reveals (Chris Baynes, 10/09/19, The Independent)

The Kremlin-directed Internet Research Agency (IRA) flooded social media with "false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls" to exploit divisions in a bid to improve the Republican candidate's prospects, the report said.

Its activity was "overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump" and to the detriment of his opponent Hillary Clinton's campaign, Republican-led group concluded.

The committee said it had obtained communication in which an IRA "information warfare operative" spoke of having a "sleepless night" after the US went after polls on 8 November 2016.

The employee said: "When around 8am the most important result of our work arrived, we uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne ... took one gulp each and looked into each other's eyes.

"We uttered almost in unison: 'We made America great.'"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Prague city council moves to axe partnership with Beijing (Reuters, 10/09/19) 

Prague city council voted on Monday to cancel a partnership agreement with Beijing after it failed to remove an article requiring it commit to the "one China" principle, which refers to China's stance that Taiwan and it both belong to one China. [...]

"For us this is also a gesture that we do not want to declare subservient attitude to the authoritarian regime in China."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Justice Department labels Devin Nunes' claim on Russia a conspiracy theory (KEVIN G. HALL, OCTOBER 08, 2019, McClatchy)

A talking point used by some leading Republicans to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe has been labeled a conspiracy theory by Justice Department prosecutors. [...]

Nunes, Meadows, President Donald Trump and other conservative voices had alleged, without evidence, that the deal benefited Hillary Clinton and her family run Clinton Foundation. Clinton looked the other way and did not oppose the deal, they alleged, because of contributions made to the foundation. [...]

In the jury selection documents for Lambert's trial, made public Monday, Justice Department prosecutors proposed two subsections (V and VII) that each fall under the heading, "Unrelated Conspiracy Theories."

"Although this is a case involving an alleged criminal conspiracy with a Russian official, this case has nothing at all to do with the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or alleged collusion between the Donald Trump Presidential Campaign and Russia, or alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections. I repeat: that investigation has nothing at all to do with this case," reads one item in the lengthy jury instruction proposed by attorneys working for Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. He is a former deputy to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversaw Mueller's probe.

A subsequent proposed item of jury instruction noted, "This case also has nothing at all to do with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, or the approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (or "CFIUS") of the Russian government's acquisition of a company called Uranium One and certain uranium rights in the United States. I repeat: those issues have nothing at all to do with this case."

That Hur's office proposed these instructions under the label of conspiracy theories calls into doubt allegations that Lambert was tied in any way to the Uranium One deal.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Unpaid bills pile up in Trump rallies' wake (ANITA KUMAR and QUINT FORGEY, 10/08/2019, Politico)

In city after city, across the nation, Trump has failed to pay local officials who provide thousands of dollars' worth of security assistance to the president's campaign during his Make America Great Again rallies.

In total, at least 10 cities have complained that the campaign has not reimbursed them for services provided by local police and fire departments, totaling more than $840,000, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity in June. [...]

It isn't the first time Trump, a businessman with a global real estate empire, has faced accusations that he didn't pay his bills. The complaints from local governments echo decades of accusations by private contractors who claim that Trump didn't adequately compensate them for their work before he was sworn into office.

At least 60 lawsuits and more than 200 liens detailed allegations that Trump and his companies failed to pay various businesses and scores of employees for their work, according to an investigation by USA Today in 2016. Those who claimed they were stiffed by the future president included bartenders, painters, real estate brokers and others.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's biggest defenders in Congress reportedly knew nothing about move to block diplomat from testifying (The Week, October 8, 2019)

Not in the room where it happens.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why This German State Says 'Jawohl' to Migrants (Alison Langley, OCT 09 2019, OZY)

Atiq Ur-Rahman did everything he was asked to do when he arrived in Germany as a refugee from Pakistan in 2015. He learned German and got a job working in a restaurant. But what he believes also helped him was that he was lucky enough to be assigned to the state of Baden-W√ľrttemberg.

When nearly a million immigrants crossed the German border that year, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel allocated each state a portion of refugees to share the burden. States took care of the migrants as they saw fit. But while in many other parts of Germany, the initial welcome toward refugees dissipated, Baden-W√ľrttemberg -- home to some of Germany's biggest manufacturing giants -- is turning the migrants into valuable engines for its economy.

Baden-W√ľrttemberg fine-tuned existing programs -- offering, for instance, women-only language classes with child care that also teach about German culture. Catholic charity Caritas runs refugee homes scattered across Stuttgart, the state capital. The organization, which receives funding from both the state and the city, also helps traumatized refugees settle in. Another of its projects supports victims who need protection.

And starting this month, the state is partnering with Deutsche Bahn, which for years has struggled to find train drivers, to teach the skill to asylum-seekers. Apprentices will earn $2,300 (2,100‚ā¨) per month during their schooling with Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft, the local train and bus network in Karlsruhe, the state's second-largest city. Each class will include 15 migrants.

For an industrial hub like Baden-W√ľrttemberg -- home to auto majors Porsche and Mercedes and multinational corporations like Bosch, SAP and BASF -- the approach makes sense, says Gari Pavkovic, head of the Department for Integration Policy of Stuttgart. Aging Germany has an estimated shortage of more than a million skilled workers. [...]

"If people don't come, then companies like Porsche or Mercedes can't produce here," says Pavkovic. "It's not a humanitarian motive. It's a purely economic motive. We do well when we have an open dynamic business and export region."

The competition to lure immigrants is the future, not walls.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Syria's territorial integrity must be preserved: Russian ForMin (Reuters, 10/09/19)

October 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Inside the White House's effort to contain Ukraine call fallout (Pamela Brown, Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, October 8, 2019, CNN)

By the time President Donald Trump's line with Volodymyr Zelensky went quiet, the scramble began.

In the hours and days after the Ukrainian President signed-off -- "Thank you Mr. President, bye-bye" -- nervous word spread among national security aides about the contents of the July 25 call, an early show of worry that Trump's request for an investigation into Joe Biden was far from the "perfect" conversation he now insists transpired.

The scramble and fallout from the call, described by six people familiar with it, parallels and expands upon details described in the whistleblower complaint. The anxiety and internal concern reflect a phone conversation that deeply troubled national security professionals, even as Trump now insists there was nothing wrong with how he conducted himself. And it shows an ultimately unsuccessful effort to contain the tumult by the administration's lawyers.

At least one National Security Council official alerted the White House's national security lawyers about the concerns, three sources familiar with the matter said, a detail that had not been previously disclosed. Those same lawyers would later order the transcript of the call moved to a highly classified server typically reserved for code-word classified material.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Michael Cohen expected to be brought to NY to meet with investigators (Mark Morales, October 8, 2019, CNN)

Prosecutors met with Cohen shortly after they opened their investigation into whether the Trump Organization violated a New York state law involving false business records. Investigators are exploring whether the real estate company falsified its records in describing the reimbursement to Cohen for the payments.

Cohen is one of several people with knowledge of the payments who would be of interest to investigators, but he has credibility issues for any potential case. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress.

Prosecutors are also pushing for Trump's tax records with the theory being that the documents will provide definitive proof of where money has been allocated, unveiling if there was any masking of payments that was a deliberate falsification, the official said. Cohen is not looking to trade information for a lighter sentence, the official said. He is coming forward with information and meeting with officials without any limitations, the official said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Five Radical Climate Policies That Most Americans Actually Like: Most registered voters are in favor of spending trillions on weatherized buildings and renewable-energy infrastructure. (ROBINSON MEYER, OCT 7, 2019, The Atlantic)

Here are the five climate policies with the most support:

1. A national recycling program for commodities

During World War II, the federal government encouraged Americans to save and pool commodities--including paper, steel, and rubber--so that they could be recycled and turned into new ships, planes, and guns. Sanders proposes launching a similar program today for clean energy. It would seek to reduce the cost and blunt the environmental impact of the huge build-out of wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries that he proposes.

The idea is overwhelmingly popular, with 64 percent of registered voters in support and only 16 percent opposed. Americans of every race, age, and religion overwhelmingly support the idea. So do six in 10 white men, and a majority of self-described born-again Christians.

2. $1.3 trillion to weatherize every home and office building in the United States

At least three different Democratic climate plans--proposed by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Governor Jay Inslee (whose plan has been largely adopted by Warren), and Sanders--have promised to boost federal spending on weatherizing homes and buildings. Sanders's plan calls for more than $2 trillion in grants to help families improve their home's energy efficiency.

The idea is very popular. Six in 10 voters support spending more than $1 trillion "to weatherize homes and buildings to make them more energy-efficient and reduce energy bills." A smaller majority of voters older than 65 also support the proposal.

3. $1.5 trillion for a massive federal build-out of renewable energy

Sanders promises to build out enough wind, solar, and geothermal energy to power every home and business in the United States by 2030. Such a plan would cost $1.5 trillion, he says, and it would be possible to execute under the existing legal powers of the Energy Department.

While the poll didn't ask Americans if they would support that legal maneuver, a large majority of voters said they were ready to foot the bill for the plan. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they would strongly or somewhat support $1.5 trillion in federal spending to build out renewables. Among white voters without a college degree--a group that normally breaks Republican--the idea found 52 percent in support.

4. A climate adjustment fee on environmentally destructive imports

Warren has proposed imposing a "border carbon adjustment" on imports that require high levels of carbon emissions. This policy could help American climate policy from "offshoring" carbon pollution into China and India, supporters say, and it would encourage American cement- and steelmakers to invest in greener ways to make their products.

For now, at least, Americans love the idea. Sixty percent of respondents strongly or somewhat supported the idea, while only 23 percent opposed it. (About one in five Americans still aren't sure what to think.)

But among working-class voters, the idea was one of the most popular proposed. Fifty-five percent of people without a college degree liked the idea, a level of support that did not change across white and nonwhite respondents. Voters from families making less than $60,000 a year also supported the idea at about that level.

5. "Economic Nationalism for Climate Change"

This summer, Warren announced her plan for "economic patriotism," a policy agenda that actively aims to boost American jobs and industry. Its first plank is a green-manufacturing scheme that pledges $2 trillion over the next 10 years. In short, Warren seeks to revive industrial policy.

This poll asked about "economic nationalism," which it described as a plan to "aggressively encourage large American manufacturing firms to specialize in solar panels, wind turbines, and other climate-friendly technologies."

The proposal commanded majority support, with 53 percent overall in support and 30 percent in opposition.

Conservative politicians and media figures can be forgiven for being nervous about how being anti-Donald puts them out of step with some portion of the GOP and on the same side as liberal Democrats.  It is an uncomfortable position.

But there is a fundamentally dishonest two-step that they engage in to try to stifle the dissonance.  As Matt Lewis talked about on The Bulwark Podcast Monday, you attack AOC and company to compensate for attacking Donald.  The other one, which host Charlie Sykes indulges in, is to talk about how much you'd love to support a Democrat against Donald, but the party is just becoming so extreme you can't.  You pair this with talk about how they're blowing their chance to win because they're so far out of the mainstream.  Of course, this is simply false.  On issues from gun control to health care to the Electoral College to immigration to the Green New Deal, the voters agree with the "radical Left" anywhere from 60-40 to 80-20.  There are legitimate reasons to oppose the prospect of a President Warren or Harris, but the notion that they are unelectably radical is nonsense.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Dick's Sporting Goods destroys $7.4 million worth of guns ( LAURA M. HOLSON, 10/08/19, SBS)

Edward W. Stack, the chief executive of Dick's Sporting Goods, said in an interview this week that his company had destroyed more than $7.4 million in military-style, semiautomatic rifles and was reviewing whether it would continue to sell guns in its more than 720 stores.

Mr. Stack was speaking with CBS Sunday Morning while promoting his new book, It's How We Play the Game.

"So many people say to me, you know, 'If we do what you want to do, it's not going to stop these mass shootings,'" Mr. Stack told CBS. "And my response is: 'You're probably right. It won't. But if we do these things and it saves one life, don't you think it's worth it?'"

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


DOJ: If Watergate Happened Today, We'd Block Evidence From Congress (JEREMY STAHL, OCT 08, 2019, Slate)

"It seems incredible that grand jury matters should lawfully be available to disbarment committees and police disciplinary investigations and yet be unavailable to the House of Representatives in a proceeding of so great import as an impeachment investigation," Sirica noted in his ruling. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit at the time refused to block Sirica's ruling. Just this year, in a separate case called McKeever v. Barr, the D.C. Circuit Court upheld Haldeman v. Sirica, saying that it read the case "as fitting within the Rule 6 exception for 'judicial proceedings.' "

So the case law appears settled. But Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department is still seeking to prevent the release of that material to Congress, citing the 6(E) exception and newly arguing the old position of the Watergate criminals: that impeachment is not a judicial proceeding.

Ultimately, the DOJ's position would place the president essentially above the law: The DOJ has held that the president can't be indicted, and if Congress can't access evidence of presidential malfeasance as part of an impeachment inquiry, then there would virtually be no legal mechanism for holding him to account.

Howell wondered repeatedly why the government had taken this position in contradiction to its stance in every past judicial and presidential impeachment.

"I am curious about why I am here and why you all are here in front of me," Howell said.

The DOJ's position also implies that the Watergate impeachment should not have happened, or at the very least that Congress should not have had access to the critical grand jury evidence that provided it with the "road map" to conduct that impeachment.

After lengthy and critical questioning of both sides, Howell finally got down to the nub of the issue. She asked DOJ attorney Elizabeth Shapiro if the government believes Sirica's ruling to release the Watergate evidence was "wrongly decided."

"If that case came today a different result would be obtained," Shapiro responded. "If that same situation would be presented today, we would not be able to do the same thing."

"Wow, OK," Howell responded in apparent astonishment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM

60-40 NATION:

Majority of Americans Back Trump Impeachment Probe, WSJ/NBC Poll Finds (Aaron Zitner, Oct. 8, 2019, WSJ)

Some 55% of poll participants said Congress should take up the Ukraine matter, with 31% supporting the House impeachment inquiry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched last month and an additional 24% saying enough evidence exists already for lawmakers to remove Mr. Trump from office.

By contrast, 39% said Congress shouldn't hold an impeachment inquiry and should allow Mr. Trump to finish his term as president.

GOP senators will vote to remove just to try and save their majority.

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


Highlighting hypocrisy reduces anti-Muslim sentiment: Study finds a better way to play the blame game. (Mark Bruer, 10/07/19, Cosmos)

Researchers have found an effective weapon for fighting anti-Muslim sentiment: our innate dislike of hypocrisy.

It seems most of us detest being exposed as hypocrites even more than we loathe groups we blame for acts of violence.

A study of more than 600 people in Spain has shown that many who harboured hostility towards Muslims softened their views when they were shown to be hypocritical, and that this effect lasted for at least a year.

The findings support the researchers' proposal that "collective blame hypocrisy intervention" is a useful tool for reducing animosity and violence between groups of people who blame each other for the world's ills.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Sondland, key witness in Ukraine probe, blocked from testimony in midnight call (Michael Isikoff, 10/08/19,Yahoo News)

The State Department waited until 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday to tell U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to show up for his scheduled deposition with three House committees later that morning, the ambassador's lawyer told Yahoo News. [...]

"It is hard to overstate the significance" of Sondland's testimony as well as that of other State Department officials, said Schiff in a hastily called meeting with reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

"The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the functioning of a coequal branch of government."

There are literally no facts in dispute in this process.
Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Brutal new poll shows 3 in 10 Republicans support Trump impeachment push (The Week, 10/08/19)

A 58 percent majority of Americans say House Democrats were right to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, and a 49 percent plurality say the House should vote to remove him from office, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Tuesday morning. [...]

[2]8 percent of Republicans said they support the House impeachment investigation -- a 21-point jump from a Washington Post/ABC News poll in July -- and 18 percent of Republicans want the House to "vote to remove Trump from office."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


RealClear Media Has a Secret Facebook Page to Push Far-Right Memes (Kevin Poulsen & Maxwell Tani, 10.07.19, Daily Beast)

The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears, The Daily Beast has learned.

Called "Conservative Country," the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption "Just sitting here waiting on Beto." Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama's "ties to Islam" or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe.

Everyone knows how to appeal to the Trump supporters.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Polls begin to signal rising impeachment threat to Trump (John Harwood, 10/07/19, CNBC)

Last week's Monmouth University poll showed signs of movement within a broader portrait of stability. Buoyed by backing from 86% of Republicans, Trump's approval rating remained unchanged: 41% of Americans approved of his job performance, 53% disapproved. At the same time, the share of Republicans backing a House impeachment inquiry doubled to 16% from 8% in August.

A CBS News poll found 23% of Republicans backing an impeachment probe. In a USA Today survey, 30% of Republicans called it "an abuse of power" for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Even if they haven't broken with their party's president, those Republicans pose a particular danger to Trump, who once bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York without losing support.

"The willingness to hear this out is a sign that you're not a Fifth Avenue Republican," says GOP strategist Liam Donovan.

Others susceptible to change include the roughly 15% of voters who already disapprove of Trump but don't yet back impeachment. This group consists largely of political independents, with some Democrats and a smaller number of Republicans as well.

College-educated whites -- who disdain Trump but so far feel less strongly about impeaching him -- represent a special vulnerability. If House Democratic investigators can persuade wavering Republicans that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in return for a Biden investigation, observes GOP pollster Whit Ayres, "then it's a different ballgame."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rep. Adam Schiff, Trump's Nemesis, Is 2-0 So Far on Impeachment (Fred Lucas, October 07, 2019, Daily Signal)

The California Democrat is 2-0 on the impeachment battlefield so far, after leading a panel that secured House impeachments of two federal judges in 2009 and 2010, respectively. One judge's ouster was completed over a month's time, while the process for the other took two years to wrap up. 

Schiff also led the prosecution team in the Senate trials, which saw one judge removed from office and the other resign before the trial got far. 

Only 15 federal judges in U.S. history have been impeached, and Schiff played a key role in two of those cases. 

Now, the congressman whose 28th Congressional District includes West Hollywood, Burbank, and parts of Pasadena is among the leading figures in what could be the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history: President Donald Trump for his interaction with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Evangelical Christian leaders are 'absolutely appalled' Trump would 'betray' Syria's Kurds (The Week, 10/07/19)

Pat Robertson, the 89-year-old host of 700 Club and an evangelical ally of Trump's, had maybe the most biting response. "I am absolutely appalled that the United States is going to betray those democratic in northern Syria, that we possibly are gonna allow the Turkish to come in against the Kurds," he said Monday.

Robertson called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "a thug" and criticized Saudi Arabia's leaders as well, but his focus was Trump. "The president who allowed [Jamal] Khashoggi to be cut in pieces without any repercussions whatsoever is now allowing the Christians and the Kurds to be massacred by the Turks," he said. "And I believe -- and I want to say this with great solemnity -- the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen"

Fittingly, the mandate of heaven is Chinese, not Christian.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


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Book: Trump raged against refugees from Somalia in private meeting (Priscilla Alvarez, 10/07/19, CNN)

In the first few months of his administration, President Donald Trump asked then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke why he could not ban refugees from "f*****g Somalia" in a bout of rage at his Bedminster golf club.

The episode, detailed in the new book titled "Border Wars," reveals the President's belief that people from Somalia posed a danger to the US. Months earlier, Trump targeted foreign nationals coming to the US from eight countries, including Somalia, in his "travel ban" executive order.

"Both he and [Stephen] Miller seemed to have a particular dislike for Somalia, often citing it or its nationals when they spoke of the potential dangers of refugees and other immigrants," the book states.

They're black and Muslim.  Add female and you have the Right's pathological reaction to Ilhan Omar.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jerry Falwell Jr. settles Miami court case over South Beach 'pool boy' venture (DOUGLAS HANKS, OCTOBER 07, 2019, Miami Herald)

In a federal court filing, Falwell and the young lawyer who sued him, Gordon Bello, said they have settled the case for an undisclosed "monetary sum" that Falwell, the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, will pay Bello, a legislative aide for the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Bello sued in 2017, claiming he was promised a stake in the South Beach hostel that a Falwell family entity purchased in 2013 for $4.7 million. Bello, 28, claims he and his father, Miami builder Jett Bello, pitched Falwell on the hostel idea after being introduced by Giancarlo Granda, a high school friend of the younger Bello's.

Granda had met Jerry and Rebecca Falwell while they were vacationing at the Fontainebleau and he was working as what the Bello lawsuit later described dismissively as a "pool boy."

Granda befriended the Falwells, flew with them on corporate jets and, in 2012, traveled to Liberty to meet a famous keynote speaker there: future president Donald Trump.

October 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 PM


Fox News in Disarray as Hosts Struggle to Digest Trump's Betrayal of the Syrian Kurds (Robert Mackey, October 7 2019, The Intercept)

"What a disaster, I mean, the president's statement through Stephanie Grisham is, you know, 'We defeated the caliphate, the caliphate's destroyed.' We would not have done that without the Kurds, who did all of our fighting," Kilmeade said to his stunned co-hosts on the morning show. "Now we're saying, 'Okay Turks, go wipe them out, or force them out.' What kind of message is that to the next ally that wants to side with us?" he asked.

When another of the show's hosts, Steve Doocy, tried to defend Trump, saying, "I think the president is doing exactly what he wants to, because he has made from the get-go very clear, campaign promises-" Kilmeade interrupted to ask sarcastically, "to release ISIS fighters?"

Later in the morning, the show's hosts looked deeply uncomfortable as Sen. Lindsey Graham, another regular Trump supporter, lambasted Trump's decision as "impulsive."

"I hope I'm making myself clear, how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view," Graham added. "This to me is just unnerving to its core. To say to the American people ISIS has been destroyed is not true."

Doocy once agains tried, without much force, to argue Trump's corner, telling Graham, "Senator, there are a lot of military families who would like to see our personnel come home."

Later Monday morning, the hosts of "America's Newsroom," Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith, looked taken aback when Fox Middle East correspondent Trey Yingst offered a clear and unstinting description of Trump's about-face as a broken promise.

"Bill, the Kurds had an agreement with the Americans: help the West battle ISIS in exchange for protection of their people. This was a promise made by President Trump, and a promise that today, according to the White House, will not be kept." Yingst reported live from Jerusalem.

The Humiliation of Lindsey Graham (CHARLES SYKES October 07, 2019, Politico)

[T]his was at the heart of Graham's Bargain.

Graham told himself: by staying close to Trump, he could influence him and prevent horribly bad decisions. Others made the same calculation, but Graham made the uber-tradeoff, because the stakes were so high. What did it matter if he had to endure temporary embarrassments, abase himself on cable television, or even become a political punchline, if he could stop Trump from impulsive decisions regarding Russia or North Korea? Or Syria?

The world saw Graham as a craven, cringing Uriah Heep. Graham saw himself as someone who could save the world, or at least the Kurds.

Graham calculated: If he didn't play golf with Trump and indulge his penchant for pillow talk, Trump would be putting and chatting with Rand Paul, listening to the counsels of isolationism, appeasement and international amorality. He was not simply the adult in the room; he was the adult BFF in the room, who would temper Trump's worst instincts.

And then came Trump's decision.

Despite Graham's compulsive turd-polishing of the last few years, Trump didn't even consult him before making the decision to abandon the Kurds. Graham, who had given up so much self-respect to prevent just this outcome, was not even in the room. He didn't even get a text.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM



"President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something--but we are not getting something," the National Security Council source told Newsweek. "The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that's the bottom line."

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman: Trump wrong to seek help from Ukraine, China (Darrel Rowland, 10/07/19, The Columbus Dispatch)

The Ohio Republican also disputed Trump's characterization of an ousted Ukrainian as an aggressive battler of corruption, whom the president asserts was fired because he was digging into Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings. Portman was part of a bipartisan group of senators who wrote a letter to the Ukraine president in 2016 seeking reforms in the prosecutor's office; today, Portman said the senators believed the prosecutor wasn't doing nearly enough to root out corruption -- not because he was doing too much.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Judge tosses a Trump lawsuit to keep his taxes secret (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 10/07/2019, Politico)

In a 75-page ruling on Monday, Judge Victor Marrero, also issued a sharp rejection of longstanding Department of Justice opinions that say a president cannot be indicted or criminally prosecuted while in office, calling their conclusions "not warranted" or backed up by the authority of the courts.

Marrero said Trump's claim of "absolute immunity" from criminal proceedings is counter to the intent of the framers of the Constitution, who rejected an executive with the limitless power of a monarch. Marrero described the president's argument as "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values."

In addition, the effort by Trump to scuttle the city prosecutor's subpoena would protect any potential accomplices from facing justice while Trump remained in office, Marrero noted -- a sweeping claim of immunity that could result in Trump and his allies being above the law. Similar arguments have been soundly and repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court and other federal judges, he ruled.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rabbinate DNA tests seek Jewishness in the blood, become a bone of contention (MARISSA NEWMAN , 10/07/'19, Times of Israel)

The two ink-smudged, Soviet-era documents were the only official proofs they had of their Jewishness. The rest was memory and ash.

In 2000, Dinara Haya Isteleou and her mother, Galiya Rozendorf, immigrants to Israel from Kazakhstan, approached a rabbinical court in the central city of Bat Yam. They came under happy circumstances: to obtain a verification of Jewishness as part of a marital license application for Isteleou's upcoming wedding, which in Israel must be overseen by the state's Orthodox authorities, the Chief Rabbinate.
They left in tears, their evidence deemed a brazen forgery. A higher rabbinical court confiscated the papers and later fined them NIS 7,000 ($2,000) as a penalty. In protest, Isteleou never paid.

"They summoned my mother, and yelled at her there, 'How dare you say you're Jewish. You aren't Jewish.' In short, they laughed at her. She left there in tears. It was a... nightmare, disappointment, and we suffered, my mother and I. We didn't know how we could prove we're Jewish. We didn't know whom to turn to," she said.

In the wake of that devastating hearing, the bride-to-be and her mother, who had immigrated to Israel five years earlier, joined some 400,000 Israelis, primarily from the former Soviet Union and their descendants, whose Jewishness remains officially unrecognized or cast in doubt, a product of the parallel civil and rabbinical legal systems of the country. [...]

The introduction of two kinds of genetic testing in state rabbinical courts over the past few years -- one that seeks Ashkenazi Jewish markers through mitochondrial DNA by comparing it to databases, and one to confirm a family tie  -- flew under the radar at first, but erupted into a massive uproar in March when several cases hit the headlines.

The testing has been pilloried by activists representing immigrants, by scientists, and by politicians as a chilling, pseudoscientific development more suited to eugenics-crazy Nazi Germany than the Jewish state, and that dangerously risks turning Jewishness into a racial, rather than religious or national, identity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Capitalism Is Helping Us Use Less Stuff. No, Really.: We're getting more efficient about resource use because of, not in spite of, the world's dominant economic system (Andrew McAfee, 10/06/19, Medium)

How are capitalism and tech progress now getting us more from less? To get answers to these important questions, let's start by looking at a few recent examples of dematerialization.

Fertile farms

America has long been an agricultural juggernaut. In 1982, after more than a decade of steady expansion due in part to rising grain prices, total cropland in the country stood at approximately 380 million acres. Over the next 10 years, however, almost all of this increase was reversed. So much acreage was abandoned by farmers and given back to nature that cropland in 1992 was almost back to where it had been almost 25 years before. This decline had several causes, including falling grain prices, a severe recession, over-indebted farmers, and increased international competition.

A final factor, though, was the ability to get ever-more corn, wheat, soybeans, and other crops from the same acre of land, pound of fertilizer and pesticide, and gallon of water. The material productivity of agriculture in the United States has improved dramatically in recent decades. Between 1982 and 2015 over 45 million acres -- an amount of cropland equal in size to the state of Washington -- was returned to nature. Over the same time potassium, phosphate, and nitrogen (the three main fertilizers) all saw declines in absolute use. Meanwhile, the total tonnage of crops produced in the country increased by more than 35%.

Thin cans

Tin cans are actually made of steel coated with a thin layer of tin to improve corrosion resistance. They've been used since the 19th century to store food. Starting in the 1930s, they began also to be used to hold beer and soft drinks.
In 1959 Coors pioneered beer cans made of aluminum, which is much lighter and more corrosion resistant than steel. Royal Crown Cola followed suit for soda five years later. As Vaclav Smil relates, "A decade later steel cans were on the way out, and none of them have been used for beer since 1994 and for soft drinks since 1996. [. . .] At 85 g the first aluminum cans were surprisingly heavy; by 1972 the weight of a two-piece can dropped to just below 21 g, by 1988 it was less than 16 g, a decade later it average 13.6 g, and by 2011 it was reduced to 12.75 g."

Manufacturers accomplished these reductions by making aluminum cans' walls thinner, and by making the sides and bottom from a single sheet of metal so that only one comparatively heavy seam was needed (to join the top to the rest of the can). Smil points out that if all beverage cans used in 2010 weighed what they did in 1980, they would have required an extra 580,000 tons of aluminum. And aluminum cans kept getting lighter. In 2012 Ball packaging introduced into the European market a 330 ml can that held 7.5% less than the U.S. standard, yet at 9.5 g weighed 25% less.

Gone gizmos

In 2014 Steve Cichon, a "writer, historian, and retired radio newsman in Buffalo, NY," paid $3 for a large stack of front sections of the Buffalo News newspaper from the early months of 1991. On the back page of the Saturday, February 16, issue was an ad from the electronics retailer Radio Shack. Cichon noticed something striking about the ad: "There are 15 electronic gimzo type items on this page. [. . .] 13 of the 15 you now always have in your pocket."

The "gizmo type" items that had vanished into the iPhone Cichon kept in his pocket included a calculator, camcorder, clock radio, mobile telephone, and tape recorder. While the ad didn't include a compass, camera, barometer, altimeter, accelerometer, or GPS device, these, too, have vanished into the iPhone and other smartphones, as have countless atlases and compact discs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Former Trump Organization executive says she expects President Trump will resign (Clare Duffy, 10/07/19, CNN Business)

A former Trump Organization executive says she thinks President Donald Trump may resign rather than face possible removal from office by impeachment.

"He does a lot of things to save face," Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization vice president, told CNN's Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources Sunday.

"It would be very, very, very bad for him to be impeached," Res said. "I don't know that he'll be found guilty but I don't know that he wants to be impeached. I think that's what this panic is about. And my gut [instinct] is that he'll leave office, he'll resign. Or make some kind of a deal, even, depending on what comes out."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brooklyn Nets owner, Alibaba co-founder Tsai decries Houston Rockets GM's Hong Kong tweet (Josh Horwitz, 10/07/19, Reuters) 

Joseph Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said that the damage from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong's protesters "will take a long time to repair." [...]

"Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for citizens of China," he wrote.

"The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China, is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country's sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable," he added.

If the league is too craven to speak then the fans and players should do so.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Major Policy Shift, U.S. Will Stand Aside As Turkish Forces Extend Reach In Syria (SCOTT NEUMAN, 10/07/19, NPR)

The White House announced late Sunday that Turkey is ready to launch an offensive in Northern Syria and that U.S. forces will stand aside, likely renewing fears that America is abandoning Kurdish allies who stood on the front line in the years-long fight against ISIS.

A two-paragraph statement released by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that President Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken by telephone and that "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation in Northern Syria."

"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," it added.

Ankara considers many of the Kurds to be terrorists who are allied with Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. However, U.S. forces on the ground in Syria recruited and trained the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which bore the brunt of the fighting on the ground against Islamic State fighters, assisted by U.S. air strikes.

October 6, 2019

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2nd whistleblower comes forward after speaking with IG: Attorney (JAMES GORDON MEEK and ANNE FLAHERTY, Oct 6, 2019, ABC News)

A transcript released by the White House of Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy showed Trump asking a "favor" of the foreign leader and pushing him to launch an investigation into the Biden family. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukraine energy company while his father Vice President Biden led policy on Ukraine during the Obama administration, leading some to question whether there was a conflict of interest or impropriety.

"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son," Trump told Zelenskiy at one point, offering the assistance of his attorney general. He later adds "a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."

Text messages later obtained by Congress showed top U.S. diplomats dangling the possibility of a summit of the two leaders in Washington on the condition that Ukraine agrees to announce an investigation. The Ukraine government never did. The text messages were provided in congressional testimony last week by one of the diplomats, Kurt Volker, who has since resigned.

It is illegal for anyone to receive something of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election, according to the Federal Election Commission. While it is not immediately clear whether Trump or other U.S. officials broke the law in its handling of Ukraine, that might not matter. The Constitution allows for Congress to decide what constitutes an impeachable offense.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


The differences between UK and US governments: a brief guide (History Extra, October 1, 2019)

At the heart of the American constitutional founding is an irony: although they railed against the overbearing executive power of the British monarch, they ended up creating an executive presidency with far more power than the king or queen of England was ever to have again. The US Constitution most closely resembles the British constitution of the early 17th century before parliament started asserting its sovereignty - a process that has continued right up to the Supreme Court's decision on proroguing.

Had George offered America its own parliament, the world would be a better place today.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Sec. Rick Perry Explains 'Expansive Relationship' With Ukraine: 'God as My Witness Not Once Was Biden Mentioned' (Jennifer Wishon , 10/04/19, CBN)

"I never heard, and I talked to the president about this," he told CBN News. "I had a conversation with - a phone call - with Rudy Guiliani about it. I've talked to the previous ambassador. I've talked to the current ambassador. I've talked to Kurt Volker, Gordan Sondland, the EU ambassador- every name that you've seen out in the media and not once, not once as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name - not the former vice president, not his son ever mentioned. Corruption was talked about in the country but it was always a relatively vague term of, you know, the oligarchs and this and that and what have you."

Perry said he "got very comfortable" that President Volodymyr Zelensky's and his team were committed to cleaning up corruption in their country and helping the county move forward economically.

"Our interest was always and still is trying to help Ukraine become as independent as it can be from an energy standpoint. They've been held hostage by Russians, by Russian gas. The Russians literally have cut the gas off to Ukraine. They have attacked their utilities with cyberattacks," he noted.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Channelling the Malthusian Roots of Climate Extremism (Michael Shellenberger, 10/04/19, Quillette)

The most doctrinaire and apocalyptic forms of modern "environmentalism" are simply a repackaging of the ideas of Thomas Malthus, the 19th-century British economist who thought that there were too many poor people out there--particularly poor Irish people--and that the ethical thing to do was let them die. "Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits," he wrote, "and court the return of the plague."

Unlike Swift, Malthus was no satirist. He was making a utilitarian argument: If we let the poor reproduce they would just end up creating more suffering in the future. (Indeed, the British government and media used Malthus' ideas to justify the policies that led to mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1849.) The LaRouchian protestor who spoke at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's thursday event channeled Malthus' horrifying logic faithfully. And in a more polite form, environmentalists channel it themselves when they urge that poor countries shoot themselves in the foot economically so that the world might be a greener place.

After World War II, prominent American progressives drew on Malthus' ideas to oppose development aid and nuclear energy, and promote coerced sterilization. Cheap energy, prominent scientists feared, would lead to overpopulation, deplete scarce resources, and destroy the environment. Humankind "would not rest content until the earth is covered completely, and to a considerable depth, with a writhing mass of human beings, much as a dead cow is covered with a pulsating mass of maggots," the chemist Harrison Brown wrote in his 1954 book, The Challenge of Man's Future.

Anti-humanist ideas came full bloom in Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich's 1969 Sierra Club book, The Population Bomb, which depicted poor people in India as animals "screaming...begging...defecating and urinating." Two decades later, the United Nations seemed to embrace elements of neo-Malthusianism in a report called Our Common Future. Rather than move to fossil fuels and nuclear, the UN experts opined, poor nations should instead use wood fuel more sustainably. And "wood-poor nations must organize their agricultural sectors to produce large amounts of wood and other plant fuels." (Ironically, the lead author of Our Common Future was Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, a nation which just a decade earlier had become fabulously wealthy thanks to its abundant oil and gas reserves.)

Malthusian hysteria has become embedded in all sorts of extremist sects. Indeed, two recent mass shooters--one in El Paso, Texas, and the other in Christchurch, NZ--echoed some version of the apocalyptic rhetoric of Malthusian environmentalists. Yet Malthusian environmentalists are preaching a debunked creed, for their prophet wrongly predicted that famines and resource scarcity would become common features of a densely populated world. Instead, technology has outpaced increases in population and consumption--so that today we face the prospect of reducing the total amount of natural resources (including land) required to sustain us.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Border-Wall Climbing Competition to Take Place at Red River Gorge, October 11-12 (Rick Weber | October 4th, 2019, Rock and Ice)

Many in the climbing community were amused a couple weeks ago when our POTUS held a press conference at a section of his latest  border wall design--a series of parallel square steel posts with a 5-foot-high plate at the top. "This wall can't be climbed," he stated. Newsweek reported that the President boasted about how "the federal government tested the structure by having 20 skilled mountain climbers attempt to climb it," and no one could.

No one in our climbing community knows any of these 20 mountaineers. I doubt if they exist. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


The U.S. Government Keeps Too Many Secrets  (MIKE GIGLIO, OCTOBER 5, 2019, The Atlantic)

[W]hen so much information among the vast U.S. national-security apparatus is classified without good reason, it exacerbates a culture of secrecy that is vulnerable to abuse. There is little oversight, Goitein said, when it comes to determining whether a decision to classify something was the right one--while decisions not to classify something can lead to heavy penalties. Most cases of overclassification are the result of simple habit, convenience, or an overabundance of caution, but this helps to create a climate that enables the use of excessive secrecy to hide things that are politically problematic or to cover up wrongdoing. That's allegedly what happened with the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which put Trump on the path to an impeachment inquiry. "The system is set up to fail," Goitein told me. "It's based on skewed incentives and lax accountability, and that's why abuses like this become possible."

During the call, according to a reconstructed transcript later released by the White House, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate discredited allegations surrounding Joe Biden and his elder son's work in Ukraine. This came as Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid. According to the whistle-blower complaint that brought the contents of the call to light, about a dozen U.S. officials were listening in on the phone conversation. (On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed reports that he was one of them.) But the call took place behind a wall of government secrecy. The notes and transcripts from it, as is common practice with calls between the president and foreign leaders, were classified. Then, according to the complaint, White House officials, allegedly wise to the troubling nature of Trump's remarks, moved the record of the call to a special computer system typically reserved for military and intelligence matters so sensitive that they require a code word, to prevent it from leaking.

Revealing the scandal required the whistle-blower--reportedly a member of the CIA who was detailed to the White House--to go through a bureaucratic process that was vulnerable to interference by the executive branch.

This series of events might suggest that the system worked: In the end, the details of the call became public. But it also underlines the risk of the same predisposition toward secrecy that leads to overclassification. U.S. officials are used to having their dealings walled off from scrutiny--and to making sure that classified information doesn't see the light of day.

The problem of overclassification--and of a fetishization of secrecy more generally--spans administrations. While Trump's rants against leakers are well known, the Obama administration oversaw a much quieter crackdown on them, prosecuting a record number.

Open source everything and subject it to normal market forces.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Israel's struggle over Jewish identity (The Week, October 6, 2019)

Israel's Jewish population is united in the belief that Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. Beyond that, though, there are deep divisions among secular Jews, the ultra-­Orthodox, and the religious Zionists, and the conflict shapes political arguments over Israel's future as a democracy. Israelis are about 60 percent secular or traditional; about 12 percent Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, adhering to strict observance and gender segregation; and perhaps 9 percent religious Zionist, believing that Jews have a divine mandate to rule all the lands of ancient Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza. The other roughly 20 percent of citizens are Israeli Arabs -- mostly Muslims with a small number of Druze and Christians. While religious Zionists have largely driven Israeli policy in the past decade by forcing expansion of West Bank settlements, it is the special status of the Haredim that currently dominates Israeli politics -- particularly the exemption from military service that the ultra-Orthodox have traditionally enjoyed.

What do the Haredim believe?

The Haredim maintain separate communities, following strict Jewish law and rejecting modern customs. Many do not support the existence of an Israeli state, but believe that Jews must wait for the Messiah to come and end their exile. Some Haredim refuse to vote, although most ultra-Orthodox men do accept the small government stipend they get for studying the Torah. 

Who is qualified to officiate a halakhic marriage? (Elli Fischer, OCT 6, 2019, Times of Israel)

At the tail end of an election season in which matters of religion and state featured prominently in the campaigns of several major parties, Israel's High Court of Justice convened to deliberate the marriage of Noam Oren and his wife, who wed under a Šł•uppah and through the vehicle of kiddushin, "in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel" - albeit outside the auspices of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. They made this choice in view of the agunah problem, desiring to sign a prenuptial agreement and to make their kiddushin conditional; their intent was to foreclose any possibility that their marriage would leave the woman "chained" to an unwanted marriage and subject to the caprices of a recalcitrant husband.

The wedding was officiated by Rabbi Dr. Michael Avraham, and the Jerusalem Beth Din, headed by Rabbi Avraham Dov Levine (who, sadly, recently passed away), approved its validity. After the wedding, the couple turned to the Rabbinate to register as a married couple in the eyes of the state. However, the state rabbinical courts, which have jurisdiction over such matters, determined that there is an "uncertain kiddushin." In its own words: "This, on one hand, refrains from declaring the couple to be married, and on the other hand, imposes restrictions on the couple that are akin to those of a married couple."

The rabbinical court explained its ruling by saying that the officiating rabbi, a well-known and highly-esteemed Torah scholar, was not authorized by the Chief Rabbinate to conduct weddings, and he therefore cannot be considered as one who "knows the nature of writs of divorce and kiddushin" (Kiddushin 6a).

October 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 PM


Scoop: Trump pins Ukraine call on Energy Secretary Rick Perry (Alayna Treene, Jonathan Swan, 10/05/19, Axios)

[H]e then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: "Not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant," one source said, recalling the president's comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source's recollection. [...]

Another source on the call said Trump added that "more of this will be coming out in the next few days" -- referring to Perry.

Posted by orrinj at 10:28 PM


Susan Collins calls Trump's invitation to China 'completely inappropriate' (Nick Schroeder, 10/05/19, BDN)

AUGUSTA, Maine -- U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, joined two other GOP senators in criticizing the president this week after he publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate a political opponent while talking to reporters outside the White House this week.

The Maine senator was unequivocal in her statements, which came after a firefighters memorial service in Augusta on Saturday morning, joining Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Ben Sasse, R-Nevada, in breaking rank with GOP support for the president.

"I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent," Collins said. "It's completely inappropriate."

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Justice Department hasn't interviewed key Russia probe witnesses (NATASHA BERTRAND, 10/05/2019, Politico)

For months, President Donald Trump's allies have been raising expectations for prosecutor John Durham's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, predicting that he will uncover a deep state plot to stage a "coup" against the president.

Durham "is looking at putting people in jail," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News host Sean Hannity in July. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said Durham is about to unleash "a pile of evidence" that will "debunk" everything House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has proclaimed for "the last two years."

"Stuff is going to hit the fan" when Durham is done "investigating the investigators," said Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera. "If indictments are warranted, U.S. Attorney John Durham will be bringing them," wrote conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.

But in the five months since Attorney General Bill Barr tapped Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia probe, and whether any inappropriate "spying" occurred on members of the Trump campaign, he has not requested interviews with any of the FBI or DOJ employees who were directly involved in, or knew about, the opening of the Russia investigation in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.


Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Rep. Devin Nunes Makes the Case for Trump's Impeachment During Botched Interview (Colin Kalmbacher, October 5th, 2019, Law & Crime)

Midway through the Examiner interview, Nunes says something interesting and surprisingly-if accidentally-on point. Per that report:

Nunes indicated that he would take issue with Trump and Giuliani if they purposely tried to pressure Ukraine, or other foreign governments, to unearth opposition research on Biden for political purposes. "If a president just randomly was parachuting his personal attorney down into countries where he thought he could get some dirt on political opponents ... that might be questionable," he said, but added, "That's not what this is."

The problem here, however, is that Trump and Giuliani are both accused of doing exactly what Nunes has described above.

Because Rudy shouldn't just get to walk away with the Fredo role...
Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Tucker Carlson Criticizes Trump for Ukraine Call: "No Way to Spin This as a Good Idea" (DANIEL POLITI, OCT 05, 2019, Slate)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized President Donald Trump for calling on Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. Although Carlson does ultimately defend the president, it marked a rare case in which the Fox News host does anything but staunchly support the commander in chief. "Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden," Carlson said in a column he co-authored with fellow Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel. "Some Republicans are trying, but there's no way to spin this as a good idea."

The president's actions were characteristic of the president, they said. "Like a lot of things Trump does, it was pretty over-the-top," Carlson and Patel wrote. "Once those in control of our government use it to advance their political goals, we become just another of the world's many corrupt countries. America is better than that."

No one is accusing Donald of being American.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Echoing Trump, Russian TV Casts Joe Biden and Kurt Volker as Villains of Ukraine Saga (Robert Mackey, October 4 2019, the Intercept)

MOST AMERICANS HAD never heard of Kurt Volker, the State Department's former special representative for Ukraine negotiations, until Thursday, when he provided Congress with text messages proving that the Trump administration did tell Ukraine's new president that he would only be invited to the White House if he agreed to publicly back an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.

But the part-time diplomat and Washington lobbyist was already famous in Russia, where he was described on state-run television this week as "an evil demon." Volker, viewers of the Kremlin-controlled channel were informed, was a deep-state actor who had prolonged the war between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists by pushing a distracted Donald Trump to arm Ukraine's military with Javelin anti-tank missiles.

The Russian state broadcaster's reports from Washington -- which are made available with English subtitles on YouTube -- offer Americans a rare opportunity to see the world as the government of President Vladimir Putin wants it to be seen and understood. It is a worldview that in many ways echoes the conspiratorial, paranoid musings of far-right American pundits featured on Fox News.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


A Pro-Trump Conspiracy Group Planted A Fake Climate Activist Who Suggested "Eating Babies" At An AOC Town Hall Meeting (Tasneem Nashrulla, 10/04/19, BuzzFeed News)

Ocasio-Cortez later tweeted that she was concerned the woman at the town hall was "suffering from a mental condition" and that she wanted to treat her with compassion. She also admonished right-wingers on Twitter for mocking the woman.

After the video went viral, a group called LaRouche PAC -- which is affiliated with people with a long history of peddling unfounded conspiracy theories that has now turned pro-Trump -- took credit for planting the woman at the town hall meeting in an attempt to "troll" Ocasio-Cortez and mock the climate change crisis.

The fringe group, founded by conspiracy theorist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., who died earlier this year, believes climate change is a hoax and compares carbon dioxide reduction policies to "genocide."

Just when you think the Trumpbots can't sink any lower they end up being Larouchie tools.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM

THE RED HAT IS THE RED FLAG (profanity alert):

Being Donald Trump: Inside the World Where Conspiracies Are Reality: What reality looks like from inside Trump World. (TIM MILLER,  OCTOBER 4, 2019, The Bulwark)

At the center of the case is the U.S. intelligence community. We already know through private communications that FBI employees Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, and Lisa Page wanted to "protect the country on many levels" from the possibility of a President Trump. They even texted on government phones about a "secret society" they had created. Also, since the election the heads of the FBI and CIA--James Comey and John O Brennan--have become #Resistance warriors. So Trump World assumes that they must have shared the views of the "secret society." It is the belief of Trump World that these individuals and/or their associates masterminded the entire plot--with Brennan as the ringleader.

Trump World believes that this conspiracy's first step was to fabricate a basis for an investigation into Trump some time during the Spring of 2016, just as he was sealing the GOP nomination. It was then that the intelligence chiefs worked with their partners in the Clinton campaign to hire Steele, who would serve either as their ally in fabrication or an unwitting dupe to be used as part of their efforts to launch the investigation.

Next they brought friends from the international intelligence community into the conspiracy. Using a shadowy Italian agent named Joseph Mifsud--who has Russian ties, making him an excellent head fake--and Australian ambassador Alexander Downer, they entrapped low-level Trump staffer George Papadopoulos in a brilliant scheme where Mifsud offered phony Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. He did this knowing that Papadopoulos would brag about this highly secretive and illegal offer in a meeting with Downer a month later. Downer then relayed the "intelligence" (wink wink) back to the Americans who had positioned it there in the first place.

Like a skilled LAPD officer/Fox News analyst, the intel agencies had successfully planted the evidence they needed to begin the greatest witch hunt ever conducted outside of Salem. But, despite having this information in May, the investigation of Donald Trump couldn't start until something happened to precipitate it. So the intelligence community sat on their evidence for two months, patiently waiting for the moment to strike.

That opportunity came in July, when Wikileaks began releasing highly damaging information about Hillary Clinton--the candidate the intelligence community was ostensibly trying to help.

Wait, what?

This is one piece of the theory I haven't been able to puzzle out. When the intelligence community was planning this brilliant trap to frame Trump, how did they know that the Wikileaks emails would be coming a few months later and could be used as a pretext to spring the trap?

I suppose it's possible that they had a counter-intel informant in Russia. But that doesn't make much sense, because Trump World keeps saying that Russia wasn't involved in any of this. Plus--as we'll see shortly--having a source in Russia would have negated the need for the Crowdstrike cover-up.

Trump World has its own theory: Both Hannity and Trump's lawyers (Giuliani and Jay Sekulow) have suggested that the intelligence community had a mole inside the DNC who knew that the email servers had been breached. But rather than report this breach in an attempt to stop the damaging emails from being published (which would have been a much bigger help to Clinton) they murdered the leaker and then allowed the emails to be published as part of the sting to nail Trump. (This is the elevator pitch for the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.)

The final possibility is that the intelligence community used an ally--perhaps Ukraine?--to hack the DNC in a false-flag operation against the Clinton campaign so that they could later pin the breach on Trump and Russia.

Admittedly, it's all quite confusing. But in order to believe that it was the American Deep State waging war against Trump (and not the Russians trying to help him) you have to believe one of those three scenarios. (Let's all hope Bill Barr and John Dunham get to the bottom of this with their investigation into the origins of the witch hunt.)

Regardless of how it happened, though, the Wikileaks dump was the opportunity the intelligence community needed.

First they went through appropriate channels at the FBI--so as not to blow their cover--and presented the Papadopoulos intel and the dossier so that they could begin a formal investigation against Trump.

Next, using the dossier, they got a scam FISA warrant to monitor Trump consultant Carter Page, who had previously been recruited as an asset by Russian intelligence.

And then President Obama was brought in on the operation.

As Trump would later say, Obama "tapped my wires." It is unclear why Obama and the intelligence community didn't simply target Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, who was also a Russian asset and might have had more relevant information for the high-stakes wire-tapping. But leave that aside for the moment.

The FISA warrant was for Carter Page. But Trump World thinks there was more going on than just this surveillance. During a discussion on Hannity this week, Lindsey Graham left the door open to the possibility that the intelligence cabal also brought in Italian, British, and Australian assets to outsource additional spying on Trump so that they could circumvent American law.

Why people already breaking so many laws--including possibly murdering Seth Rich--would get cold feet about conducting illegal surveillance doesn't make a ton of sense. But no matter. The point is that after a great deal of effort, the intelligence community finally had Trump right where they wanted him: He was the nominee and now it was time for the conspirators to execute the operation.


As Obama, Comey, Brennan, and the rest scoured the globe for allies in their effort to derail Trump, they zeroed in on a particular eastern European nation well situated to be the lynchpin of their conspiracy.

Ukraine, having recently been invaded by Russia, was primed to participate in an effort to frame the Russians for the elaborate crime being committed by the American intelligence community (and the American president).

Conveniently, the cabal had a DNC consultant named Alexandra Chalupa who was willing and able to be the go-between between the American intelligence community and the Ukrainians. And that was just the beginning of their list of assets.

They had knowledge of Paul Manafort's actions in the country, through the anti-Russian elements of the Ukranian government.

They had a secret funder in George Soros.

And, as an added bonus, the Obama administration also had leverage over Ukraine, thanks to yet another conspiracy--this one headed up by the Vice President Joe Biden.

And then folks wonder that Trumpbots are crazy enough to commit mass shootings?  

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Fawning on Putin and haranguing Theresa May: Trump's 'troubling' calls to world leaders revealed by White House officials (Peter Stubley, 10/05/19, The Indepoendent)

Donald Trump "fawned" on dictators, "harangued" the leaders of longstanding allies and hectored one to help him win Nobel Peace Prize, White House sources have claimed.

According to reports, the US president repeatedly cast doubt on Russian involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attacks during a phone call with Theresa May.

The US president disputed the UK's conclusion that it was "highly likely" President Vladimir Putin's government orchestrated the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018.

"Trump was totally bought into the idea there was credible doubt about the poisoning," an official told The Washington Post. "A solid 10 minutes of the conversation is spent with May saying it's highly likely and him saying he's not sure."

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Ron Johnson says he was blocked by President Trump from telling Ukraine foreign aid was coming (Molly Beck, Patrick Marley and Eric Litke, 10/04/19, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was blocked by President Donald Trump in August from telling Ukraine's president that U.S. aid was on its way amid accusations Trump was withholding it until the eastern European nation investigated his political rival.    

Trump rejected Johnson's request after also refusing in May to back new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Oshkosh Republican said Friday.

"I was surprised by the president's reaction and realized we had a sales job to do," Johnson said during a constituent stop in Sheboygan. "I tried to convince him (in August) to give me the authority to tell President Zelensky that we were going to provide that. Now, I didn't succeed."

Johnson told reporters Trump said he was considering withholding the aid because of alleged corruption involving the 2016 U.S. election. Johnson stood by the president, saying he was sympathetic to his concerns and didn't see any bad motives on his part.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Erdogan says Turkey plans military operation east of Euphrates in Syria  (Reuters, 10/04/19) 

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey will carry out an air and ground military operation east of the Euphrates River in Syria, his most direct indication of an incursion since Ankara and Washington decided to establish a "safe zone".

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


U.S. diplomat thought it was 'crazy' to withhold Ukraine aid: texts (Patricia Zengerle, 10/04/19, Reuters) 

A top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine thought it was "crazy" to withhold military aid for the country as it confronted Russian aggression, according to evidence presented on Thursday in an impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


CIA's top lawyer made 'criminal referral' on whistleblower's complaint about Trump conduct (Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley, 10/04/19, NBC News)

 Weeks before the whistleblower's complaint became public, the CIA's top lawyer made what she considered to be a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower's allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

The move by the CIA's general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, meant she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later declined to open an investigation.

The phone call that Elwood considered to be a criminal referral is in addition to the referral later received as a letter from the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community regarding the whistleblower complaint.

October 4, 2019

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Trump's impeachment polling is historically unprecedented (Harry Enten, 10/04/19, CNN)

Impeachment actions usually start off as being unpopular with the American public. After the House voted to start an impeachment inquiry of Clinton in October 1998, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 45% approved and 53% disapproved.

But with Trump, those numbers are reversed. In an average of polls taken since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry last week, 51% support an impeachment inquiry. A minority, 44%, are against it.

When it comes to impeaching and removing Trump from office, the difference is even more dramatic. An average of polls taken since early last week shows that 46% support impeaching and removing Trump from office. That's about equal with the 45% who are against such an action. [...]

More amazingly, more Americans are in favor of impeaching Trump now than they were at a similar time during the House's investigation of Nixon in 1973 and 1974.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to start an impeachment inquiry of Nixon in late October 1973. This was following the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, in which Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire an independent prosecutor looking into the Watergate scandal. A Gallup poll taken in the immediate aftermath found that just 38% felt that Nixon should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency. The majority, 53%, said that he shouldn't.

Even after two dramatic events, the public was apprehensive about impeaching and removing Nixon.

resistance to impeachment is natural in a democracy; after all, we're essentially indicting our own judgment.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Fighting Calls for Impeachment, Trump Intensifies Anti-Semitic Rhetoric. We Cannot Ignore It. (Mehdi Hasan, October 4 2019, the Intercept)

Don Jr.'s tweets provoked a rare response from Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who referred to his invocation of Soros, a left-leaning Jewish billionaire, as an "anti-Semitic trope" and a "dangerous" insinuation.

Dangerous indeed. On October 22, 2018, Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc sent a pipe bomb to the Westchester, New York, home of Soros. Six days later, white nationalist Robert Bowers murdered 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue because he believed that wealthy U.S. Jews were conspiring bring "invaders in that kill our people," an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory endorsed by the president of the United States. "A lot of people say" that Soros funded the migrant caravan, Trump irresponsibly claimed only three days after the Pittsburgh massacre.

So why isn't there more outrage over Trump's blatant and dangerous anti-Semitism, in the specific context of this impeachment inquiry? Why has his nasty, conspiratorial and Jew-baiting response to it not been a bigger story?

One reason is that Trump's anti-Semitism is nothing new. He was an anti-Semite when he accused U.S. Jews of being dumb and disloyal. He was an anti-Semite when he praised neo-Nazis as "very fine people." He was an anti-Semite when he referred to comedian Jon Stewart as Jonathan Leibowitz. He was an anti-Semite when he kept -- no joke -- a book of Hitler's speeches next to his bed. So we have become inured to his anti-Semitism, just as we have become inured to his anti-Muslim bigotry and his anti-black and anti-Latino racism.

Another reason is the cynical and partisan weaponization of anti-Semitism by the right to attack the left -- especially the likes of Reps. llhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib - aided and abetted by a lazy liberal media. (Can you imagine the reaction if Omar had called, say, Trump's Jewish Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin "shifty" or a "savage"?)

But we cannot afford to give Trump a pass on this. "As the impeachment inquiry escalates," Beinart writes, "Trump's anti-Semitic rhetoric probably will too." Remember: The president's paranoid and cultish online supporters have already begun promulgating mad conspiracy theories to try and protect their hero from being impeached and, as Vox's Jane Coaston has observed, "an environment where conspiracy theories flourish and find new ground is the perfect environment for anti-Semitism itself to flourish and find new acolytes," especially because "anti-Semitism itself is a conspiracy theory."

Hate crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions in the U.S. rose by 37 percent during Trump's first year in office. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Adam Schiff Is the Right Man for the Moment: A clinical and focused approach is called for in the face of Trump's theatrics and distraction. (Margaret L. Taylor, Oct. 4, 2019m, NY Times)

News of a whistle-blower complaint about Mr. Trump's July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine changed all of that. The drama that ensued put Mr. Schiff in the driver's seat -- not because the call specifically addressed intelligence matters, but because the whistle-blower just happened to work in the intelligence community. A whistle-blower from the State Department with access to similar witnesses and facts could just as easily have submitted the complaint to a different committee.

Mr. Schiff is a stickler for process. When the whistle-blower approached him and his staff, they did precisely the right thing: They directed the whistle-blower to obtain legal counsel and file the complaint through the appropriate channels laid out in the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.

Mr. Schiff went public only after receiving a letter from the intelligence community inspector general indicating the acting director of national intelligence had not followed process requirements outlined in the law. The president can concoct all the conspiracy theories he wants, and Lindsey Graham and others may pick up the tune, but Mr. Schiff played it by the book.

Speaker Pelosi tagged Mr. Schiff as the lead on gathering facts on the Ukraine issue in anticipation of an impeachment vote. For now, Mr. Nadler has stepped into the background -- eventually, any articles of impeachment would go through his committee first. But Mr. Schiff is quarterbacking speedy efforts of his own staff and also two other committees, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Reform, that Ms. Pelosi has directed to assist in the effort.

Mr. Schiff is setting the tone and strategy of the inquiry, quickly setting up depositions of key witnesses and warning the administration that obstruction and delay could form the basis for a distinct article of impeachment similar to one approved by the Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon in 1974.

In short, Mr. Schiff is the man of the moment -- and, without knowing it, he has been preparing for it for the past two years. As chairman, he followed Devin Nunes of California, whose handling of the committee's Russia investigation was specious and included cloak-and-dagger visits to the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Trump pushing nations for Biden probe is 'wrong and appalling': Romney (Reuters, 10/04/19)

"When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China's investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated," Romney said on Twitter. "By all appearances, the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."

Sasse breaks with Trump's call for probe: 'Americans don't look to Chinese commies for the truth' (JORDAIN CARNEY, 10/03/19, The hill)
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) pushed back strongly on Thursday night against President Trump's suggestion that the Chinese government investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
"Hold up: Americans don't look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that's a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps," Sasse said in a statement to the Omaha World-Herald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Constitutional Scholars: Warren's Lobbying Tax May Violate Constitution (Yuichiro Kakutani, OCTOBER 4, 2019, Free Beacon)

Other scholars echoed von Spakovsky's concerns. Michael Barone, a resident fellow at the pro-free market American Enterprise Institute, said he could "see an argument that says this proposal would penalize the exercise of First Amendment rights," comparing it to "a confiscatory tax on newspaper." Trevor Burrus, a research fellow for the libertarian Cato Institute's constitutional studies center, concurred, saying "Sen. Warren has essentially proposed a tax on that fundamental right." He accused the Democratic presidential hopeful of attempting to "squelch political speech."

"She pushed for stricter regulations on banks and home loans, and then pushed--'lobbied' one might say--for the creation of the CFPB," Burrus said. "In short, Warren apparently believes in lobbying when she does it, or when it is done for causes she believes in. Her lobbying tax proposal would very likely be declared unconstitutional. The Constitution doesn't permit transparent attempts to squelch political speech."

Other legal scholars said the proposal would be appropriate. Ilya Shapiro, director of Cato's Constitutional Studies Center, said the lobbying tax is above board. While the policy might be misguided, Shapiro said, it is no different from excise taxes--taxes on goods and services--that are legal and imposed on those who purchase legal aid, political advertisements, and other speech-related services.

"Assuming there's federal jurisdiction in the first place--meaning that it affects interstate commerce--I don't really see a constitutional problem with it," he said. "There's special kinds of taxes on different kinds of products, alcohol for example, around the country. So this would be just one more of those."

...just ban lobbying activity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rick Perry is reportedly stepping down as energy secretary (Peter Weber, 10/03/10, The Week)

Perry, a former Texas governor and two-time Republican presidential candidate, has kept an unusually low profile for a member of Trump's Cabinet, and he has avoided scandals that have tarred or forced out several other Cabinet secretaries. He recently got embroiled in the Ukraine scandal, though there is no indication he played any role in the effort to press Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier Thursday, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) dinged Perry for recently launching an artificial intelligence office at the Energy Department that could potentially benefit his wife, Anita.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet the Hawkish Liberal Think Tank Powering the Kamala Harris Campaign (BRANKO MARCETIC, 10/04/19, In These Times)

If you liked Hillary Clinton's foreign policy, you can keep it.  

That's the message many Democratic voters are receiving this election, as they prepare to pick a contender from the gradually winnowing field of candidates to take on Donald Trump in 2020. And the reason is the continuing influence of a think-tank called the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

The influence of CNAS on the 2020 election, at this point, is being channeled through the campaign of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has drawn heavily from its ranks to fill her line-up of foreign policy advisors. But given its status as the go-to fountainhead of Democratic foreign policy ideas, there is every chance its alumni could be part of another future Democratic administration.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to Investigating Biden (Kenneth P. Vogel and Michael S. Schmidt, Oct. 3, 2019, NY Times)

Late Thursday, House Democrats released a series of texts between Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that also showed that officials in both countries understood that Mr. Trump would not grant Mr. Zelensky an Oval Office meeting he was seeking until Ukraine agreed to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by the American side. [...]

The drafting of the statement, which came in the weeks after the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, was an effort to pacify Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani and to normalize relations between the two countries as Ukraine faced continuing conflict with Russia. Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker believed that Mr. Giuliani was "poisoning" Mr. Trump's mind about Ukraine and that eliciting a public commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue the investigations would induce Mr. Trump to more fully support the new Ukrainian government, according to the people familiar with it.

The texts released by House Democrats late Thursday night corroborated this characterization.

In the hours before the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Volker texted Mr. Yermak that he had "Heard from White House" that "we will nail down date" for the official Oval Office visit coveted by the Ukrainians, "assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate" the claims that Ukrainian officials tried to sabotage Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign.

October 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Trump raised Biden with Xi in June call housed in highly secure server (Kylie Atwood, Kevin Liptak, Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Gloria Borger, 10/03/19, CNN)

During a phone call with Xi on June 18, Trump raised Biden's political prospects as well as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who by then had started rising in the polls, according to two people familiar with the discussion. In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.

The White House record of that call was later stored in the highly secured electronic system used to house a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine's President and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint that's led Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

...if you go after my opponents?"

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Rudy Fingers Trump for Firing Ambassador in Ukraine Plot (Jonathan Chait, 10/03/19, New York)

The whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the Ukraine scandal alleges that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was fired because Rudy Giuliani and his allies had attacked her as hostile to President Trump and his goal of ginning up an investigation of Joe Biden. But the report had to connect some dots. It had no direct evidence that Trump had fired her over the Biden investigation.

Now there is evidence. It comes from, of all people, Giuliani himself. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the Trump lawyer admits that -- the language is the Journal's characterization -- "in the lead-up to Ms. Yovanovitch's removal, he reminded the president of complaints percolating among Trump supporters that she had displayed an anti-Trump bias in private conversations. In Mr. Giuliani's view, she also had been an obstacle to efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter."

So Giuliani's account heavily suggests that Trump decided to fire Yovanovitch because she was standing in the way of their plan to pressure Ukraine to go after Biden. 

...that Rudy is being run by the Deep State?

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Unfit for Office: Donald Trump's narcissism makes it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires. (GEORGE T. CONWAY III, 10/03/19, The Atlantic)

No president in recent memory--and likely no president ever--has prompted more discussion about his mental stability and connection with reality. Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly is said to have described him as "unhinged," and "off the rails," and to have called the White House "Crazytown" because of Trump's unbalanced state. Trump's former deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, once reportedly discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, the Constitution's provision addressing presidential disability, including mental disability.

Rosenstein denies that claim, but it is not the only such account. A senior administration official, writing anonymously in The New York Times last September, described how, "given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment"--but "no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis." And NBC News last week quoted someone familiar with current discussions in the White House warning that there is "increasing wariness that, as this impeachment inquiry drags out, the likelihood increases that the president could respond erratically and become 'unmanageable.'" In September, a former White House official offered a similar assessment to a Business Insider reporter: "No one knows what to expect from him anymore," because "his mood changes from one minute to the next based on some headline or tweet, and the next thing you know his entire schedule gets tossed out the window. He's losing his shit."

Even a major investment bank has gotten into the mix, albeit in a roundabout way: JPMorgan Chase has created a "Volfefe Index"--named after Trump's bizarre May 2017 "covfefe" tweet--designed to quantify the effect that Trump's impulsive tweets have on interest-rate volatility. The bank's press release understatedly observed that its "volatility fair value model" shows that "the president's remarks on this social media platform [have] played a statistically significant role in elevating implied volatility."

The president isn't simply volatile and erratic, however--he's also incapable of consistently telling the truth. Those who work closely with him, and who aren't in denial, must deal with Trump's lying about serious matters virtually every day. But as one former official put it, they "are used to the president saying things that aren't true," and have inured themselves to it. Trump's own former communications director Anthony Scaramucci has on multiple occasions described Trump as a liar, once saying, "We ... know he's telling lies," so "if you want me to say he's a liar, I'm happy to say he's a liar." He went on to address Trump directly: "You should probably dial down the lying because you don't need to ... So dial that down, and you'll be doing a lot better."

That was good advice, but clearly wishful thinking. Trump simply can't dial down the lying, or turn it off--even, his own attorneys suggest, when false statements may be punished as crimes. A lawyer who has represented him in business disputes once told me that Trump couldn't sensibly be allowed to speak with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, because Trump would "lie his [**]s off"--in effect, that Trump simply wasn't capable of telling the truth, about anything, and that if he ever spoke to a prosecutor, he'd talk himself into jail.

Trump's lawyers in the Russia investigation clearly agreed: As Bob Woodward recounts at length in his book Fear, members of Trump's criminal-defense team fought both Trump and Mueller tooth and nail to keep Trump from being interviewed by the Office of Special Counsel. A practice testimonial session ended with Trump spouting wild, baseless assertions in a rage. Woodward quotes Trump's outside counsel John Dowd as saying that Trump "just made something up" in response to one question. "That's his nature." Woodward also recounts Dowd's thinking when he argued to Trump that the president was "not really capable" of answering Mueller's questions face to face. Dowd had "to dress it up as much as possible, to say, it's not your fault ... He could not say what he knew was true: 'You're a [***]ing liar.' That was the problem." (Dowd disputes this account.) Which raises the question: If Trump can't tell the truth even when it counts most, with legal jeopardy on the line and lawyers there to help prepare him, is he able to apprehend the truth at all?

Behavior like this is unusual, a point that journalists across the political spectrum have made. "This is not normal," Megan McArdle wrote in late August. "And I don't mean that as in, 'Trump is violating the shibboleths of the Washington establishment.' I mean that as in, 'This is not normal for a functioning adult.'" James Fallows observed, also in August, that Trump is having "episodes of what would be called outright lunacy, if they occurred in any other setting," and that if he "were in virtually any other position of responsibility, action would already be under way to remove him from that role."

Trump's erratic behavior has long been the subject of political criticism, late-night-television jokes, and even speculation about whether it's part of some incomprehensible, multidimensional strategic game. But it's relevant to whether he's fit for the office he holds. Simply put, Trump's ingrained and extreme behavioral characteristics make it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


The Snake-And-Alligator Border Moat: A Budget Analysis (PETER W. SINGER, 10/03/19, Defense One)

Workforce Costs: While there is no Government Services Administration standard for alligators, preliminary research indicates a unit cost of approximately $150 for hatchlings and $2,000 for adults. We may be able to supplement this with lower-cost alligators sourced from police auctions. (Another idea: a gator bounty could have a positive ancillary effect on "Florida Man" turnout for the 2020 election.) For planning purposes, we should assume an initial Alligator Border Guard force of 19,540 alligators, sustainably split between adults and hatchlings, for an initial buy of $21,005,500. At roughly $6.80 in shipping costs per pound, transportation costs will require another roughly $40,447,800.

For the 1,954,000-member Snake Border Guard, the optimal force laydown should mix water moccasins (for maximum water effectiveness) and brightly colored coral snakes (for maximum visual deterrence). The present price per snake is approximately $350, generating a cost of $683,900,000. Unfortunately, snakes have a limited life span, meaning after the initial purchase, we will have to pay this same fee seven years from now. But that is a problem to be solved by another president, hopefully Ivanka.

Additional Cost Elements: One challenge of adding a dangerous animal-based border guard is that it introduces three additional cost elements. Snakes and alligators do not require a salary, but do require food. There is an argument that our new guard force will be able to subsist on the flesh of illegal immigrants, but there is no guarantee that we will have the proper distribution of family members of sufficient size and weight (especially problematic are the small children) to sustain the new border system.

Therefore, we should plan that each member of the Alligator Border Guard unit will require roughly 300 pounds of food a year. Gator food pellets price at approximately $13 per pound, costing $76,206,000 per year. The snakes can exist on smaller amounts of food. Frozen rats come in at roughly $149 per pack (available on Amazon, but not Amazon Prime, so we'll have to wait a week), yielding a cost of $291,146,000 each year.

Unfortunately, for all its experience at holding children in cages, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is not trained or equipped to maintain so many animals in cages. Care for the snake and alligator force will require at least one specialist per mile. Presently, the average starting salary of a zoologist is $38,212, which, adding in expected costs and benefits, comes to $130,665,934 per year.

Finally is the ever problematic health care issue, for which Obama is to blame. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


The Ukraine Whistle-Blower Did Everything Right (BRIAN BARRETT, 10.03.2019, Wired)

"I've been working with whistleblowers for 40 years," says Tom Devine, legal director at the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower protection and advocacy organization. "I've never seen a disclosure which was handled more flawlessly, and more scrupulously followed the rules, than this one." [...]

In fact, House Intelligence staffers did exactly what they were supposed to do in these situations: tell the whistle-blower to lawyer up, and submit a complaint to an inspector general. That's their long-established role in the whistle-blower ecosystem. "Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican- and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community," Intel Committee spokesperson Patrick Boland said in a statement. "Consistent with the committee's longstanding procedures, committee staff appropriately advised the whistle-blower to contact an inspector general and to seek legal counsel."

What also gets lost is that these interactions happen all the time. "The intelligence committees are approached by prospective whistle-blowers several times a month, probably. That is not unusual," says Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who focuses on national security issues. "Folks who are talking about coordination, as if this is some kind of inherently dodgy activity, are just revealing that they're not very familiar with intelligence or how this works."

If anything, Schiff and the whistle-blower went out of their way to follow appropriate channels. There's a constitutional argument, Sanchez says, that Congress could have accepted the report itself, rather than redirect it through the prescribed whistle-blower channels. Instead, Schiff's team appears to have followed the statute to the letter.

Other attacks on the whistle-blower's credibility and process are similarly misinformed. A recent news report erroneously claimed that the intelligence community until recently required that whistle-blowers have first-hand knowledge of events. This has already been debunked repeatedly, though that didn't stop Trump from amplifying the bogus information. The upshot: The form in question was updated in August 2019, but has allowed for second-hand knowledge of events since long before that.

As it should! Cries of "hearsay" have dogged the whistle-blower complaint since it first came out. Trump's defenders have sought to illegitimatize its contents because the author was not, for instance, on the controversial phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It's yet another canard.

"That assertion is a shameless legal bluff," says Devine. "We'd eliminate 95 percent of law enforcement activity if agencies couldn't investigate on the basis of hearsay evidence. The point of an investigation is to see how decisively the initial leads can be confirmed and corroborated."

Fortunately for all involved, the White House itself has provided that corroboration, in the form of a call transcript that lines up neatly with the whistle-blower's assertions. The hearsay argument is moot, because the underlying facts have already been proven correct.

...one could hardly expect them to know how to do the right thing and properly.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Trump seized on a conspiracy theory called the 'insurance policy.' Now, it's at the center of an impeachment investigation. (Ben Collins, 10/03/19, NBC)

An anonymous post from March 2017 on the far-right 4chan message board teased a conspiracy theory that would eventually make its way to the White House.

"Russia could not have been the source of leaked Democrat emails released by Wikileaks," the post teased, not citing any evidence for the assertion.

The post baselessly insinuated that CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that worked with the Democratic National Committee and had been contracted to investigate a hack of its servers, fabricated a forensics report to frame Russia for election interference. The 4chan post was published three days before then-FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

And that was how it started. That post is the first known written evidence of this unfounded conspiracy theory to exonerate Russia from meddling in the 2016 election, which more than two years later would make its way into the telephone call that may get President Donald Trump impeached. (Federal law enforcement officials have repeatedly made it clear that Russia unquestionably did meddle in the election.)

In the years that followed the original 4chan post, at least three different but related conspiracy theories would warp and combine on the fringes of the internet, eventually coalescing around Ukraine's supposed role in helping Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Ukraine wasn't originally part of the theory, but in July, Trump floated CrowdStrike's name during a call with the president of Ukraine as just one piece of a convoluted conspiracy accusation. That phone call is now at the center of a congressional investigation and impeachment inquiry into whether the president abused his power for political gain.

"I would like to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike ... " Trump said on the call, according to a White House summary. "I guess you have one of your wealthy people. ... The server, they say Ukraine has it."

To even people who have followed these theories closely, Trump's call felt detached from any sense of logic.

"It's a whole new mountain of nonsense," said Duncan Campbell, a British digital forensics expert who investigated the original claim about CrowdStrike.

This omnibus conspiracy theory has been frequently referred to on far-right blogs, Fox News and recently by the president as the Democrats' "insurance policy," a reference to the supposed setup as a way to impeach the president if Trump were to win the election.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Rudy Giuliani was reportedly warned he got 'untrustworthy' dirt on the Bidens (Kathryn Krawczyk, 10/03/19, The Week)

The testimony was held behind closed doors, but the two sources say Volker "said he tried to caution Guiliani that his sources, including Ukraine's former top prosecutor, were unreliable," per the Post. Volker also reportedly said he told Ukrainians to stay out of U.S. politics.

ABC News also reports that Volker shared text messages with Congress to other top American diplomats, which read "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Posted by orrinj at 2:49 PM


Neo-Nazi coast guard officer pleads guilty to gun and drug charges (Associated Press,  3 Oct 2019)

In a February court filing, prosecutors said Hasson "intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country". They also said he had espoused extremist views for years and drafted an email in which he said he was "dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth".

Prosecutors claimed Hasson drew up what appeared to be a hitlist that included the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Network TV journalists Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC and CNN's Chris Cuomo and Van Jones were also mentioned.

Hasson also targeted two supreme court justices and two social media executives and searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes of searching firearm sales websites, according to prosecutors.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


John Bolton's Revenge Tour: The former national security adviser trashes Trump's foreign policy as rumors swirl about Ukraine leaks. (CURT MILLS ‚ÄĘ October 3, 2019, American Conservative)

Often hailed as a lawyer, scholar and diplomat, Bolton is something else--a Republican. He volunteered for Barry Goldwater's doomed 1964 campaign during his youth. He is so strident a free marketeer that he even told Edward Luce of the Financial Times in 2007 that he identified as a "libertarian." While his foreign policy says otherwise, he's not going over to a political party on second base with socialism.

What Bolton needs now is an old favorite: regime change. He needs the Trump presidency to end. This has spurred the rumor du jour in America's capital city, that Bolton is somehow behind the leaks that have led House Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

A former senior National Security Council official told me that after early Trump administration leaks, the White House took extraordinary means to ensure state secrecy. The New York Times in recent weeks detailed just how elaborate these measures were, and just how closed the circle around Trump is--at least as it pertains to seeing or hearing any details of what the president says to foreign leaders by phone.

The cloud of suspicion around Bolton is enormous. A former senior administration official characterized Bolton as "THE witness for the prosecution." That the scandal has now ensnared Pompeo, his friend-turned-enemy who listened in on the call with Ukraine's president, is just the cherry on top. Pompeo is vying to be Henry Kissinger as Democrats look to create more John Ehrlichmans.

Which all begs the question: Is John Bolton Deep Throat?

It's too delicious that the guy brought in to topple the Iranian regime topple Donald instead. Every step of the WoT has benefitted our Shi'a allies.

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The Origins of the Ukrainian Conspiracy Theories (Nancy LeTourneau, October 3, 2019, Washington Monthly)

Back in July, Buzzfeed reporters wrote an in-depth profile of the two men who arranged for both Shokin and Lutsenko to meet with Giuliani in order to bring their allegations to the attention of the Trump administration: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Both men were born in the Soviet Union and had immigrated to the United States -- Parnas in 1976, when he was 4, and Fruman as a young adult.

Both eventually settled in South Florida, where Parnas worked for three stockbrokerages that were later expelled by regulators for fraud and other violations -- though he was never individually charged -- and racked up nine court judgments for failing to pay loans and other debts. One of his businesses, Fraud Guarantee, set up to help people safeguard against fraud and other financial crimes, was evicted in 2015 for not paying the office rent, records show.

Fruman, 53, continued to make his money in Ukraine, running an export business that ships goods to and from the United States and a boutique hotel in Odessa -- long known as a hub for both tourism and organized crime. One of his investments, a milk canning plant, was declared bankrupt seven years ago over debts that reached nearly $25 million.

Given that these two men are not only fraudsters, but bad fraudsters, it might seem surprising that last year they began pumping big dollars into the coffers of Trump super PACs and Republican campaigns. For example, in May 2018, a company owned by Parnas and Furman, Global Energy Producers, made a $325,000 donation to America First Action, a political action committee supporting Trump's re-election. ABC News reported that "the company has no listed office address or phone number, no announced deals or contracts, and a bare bones one-page website that features only a countdown clock that long ago ticked down to zeros."

Because of a lawsuit alleging fraud brought against Parnas, he was forced to turn over bank records "that showed a company he owned had received a payment of $1.26 million from the client trust account of a lawyer specializing in real estate and foreign investments." The donation to America First Action was made two days later and within a week, Parnas and Furnam posted a photo of themselves at breakfast with Donald Trump Jr. at the Beverly Hills Polo Lounge.

the least surprising aspect of the Trump years is how the Right became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vlad Putin: he's a white Nationalist who particularly enjoys repressing Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


MGM Resorts To Pay Up To $800 Million In Las Vegas Shooting Settlement (Bobby Allyn, 10/03/19, NPR)

MGM Resorts International has agreed to pay up to $800 million to settle thousands of liability claims stemming from the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, lawyers announced Thursday, almost exactly two years after the massacre.

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Republican Senators Pushed for Ukraine Reforms at Same Time as Joe Biden (Audrey McNamara, 10.03.19, Daily Beast)

A 2016 letter sent by Republican members of the Senate Ukraine Caucus echoes calls for reforms to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office and judiciary that were made by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The letter, signed by Republican senators Rob Portman, Mark Kirk, and Ron Johnson, as well as several Democrats, urged the former Ukrainian president to reform the country's government to address longstanding corruption, including the removal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. "Succeeding in these reforms will show Russian President Vladimir Putin that an independent, transparent and democratic Ukraine can and will succeed," reads the letter. "It also offers a stark alternative to the authoritarianism and oligarchic cronyism prevalent in Russia...We similarly urge you to press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's Office and judiciary."

Yeah, but they're a bunch of RiNO's who were in Hunter's pocket!

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


House Democrats Are So Focused on Ukraine That They're Overlooking Another Impeachable Offense: It's an allegation that Trump committed a stunning act of betrayal. (David Corn, 10/03/19, Mother Jones)

Last Friday night, the Washington Post published a stunning article reporting that during an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Trump was unconcerned about Moscow's attack on the 2016 presidential election. Trump noted the Russians that their assault on the United States was no big deal because the United States did the same in other countries, according to three former officials. It was at this meeting that Trump, as had been previously reported, revealed highly classified information to his Russian visitors and said that his firing of FBI chief James Comey the previous day had relieved "great pressure" on him. Yet Trump's comments dismissing the importance of the Russian attack--which, according to the US intelligence community, was mounted in part to help Trump win the White House--now stands as the most significant moment of that gathering, where Trump and the two Russians were photographed smiling. 

The Post noted that after this discussion, White House officials took steps to keep Trump's comments from becoming public, and limited distribution of a memo summarizing the conversation to only a few officials with the highest security clearances. The memo was kept from officials who normally would have access to this sort of report.

Posted by orrinj at 11:04 AM


Trump says China should investigate Bidens (Axios, 10/03/19)

REPORTER: What exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens on the phone call?

TRUMP: Well I would think if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. How does a company newly formed and all these companies -- by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens. Because nobody has any doubt that they weren't crooked. That was a crooked deal 100%

Yeah, but Adam Schiff!

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Trump tweets overwhelm GOP impeachment defense (David M. Drucker, October 03, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Trump's tweets and public comments from personal attorney Rudy Giuliani often diverge from party messaging and catch Republicans on Capitol Hill off guard. That makes it difficult for them to defend Trump from a Democratic impeachment inquiry that they believe stands on weak political grounds.

"The president's tweets and the, 'What planet are they on?' defenses from his staunchest supporters not only actively hurt making substantive defenses the president will need, they also send a [bad] message to voters," said Republican operative Doug Heye, a former House GOP leadership aide.

It's hard to narrow down, but isn't the best part of the clownshow when the Trumpbots accuse people of lying and then Donald comes out and admits he engaged in the alleged wrongdoing?  After all, his poor lickspittles are still trying to discredit the whistleblower when the transcript confirms everything he alleged.

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Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Perilous times for Trump: By 45%-38%, Americans support impeaching him over Ukraine, poll finds (Susan Page, 10/03/19, USA TODAY)

[4]4%-35%, those surveyed say the Senate, which would then be charged with holding a trial of the president, should convict Trump and remove him from office.

...if we set a standard that we are willing to impeach someone just for: racist business practices; racist politics; racist policies; sexual assault; cover-up; collusion with an enemy; treason; obstruction of justice; diverting tax dollars to their businesses; etc.; then how are we going to get people like that to run for president?

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Rudy Giuliani has been asking an imprisoned Paul Manafort for information on Ukraine (The Week, 10/03/19)
Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Dallas ex-cop given 10 years for shooting death of Botham Jean, then Jean's brother forgave, embraced her (Peter Weber, 10/02/19, The Week)

A jury in Dallas sentenced former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in Texas state prison Wednesday for fatally shooting her downstairs neighbor Botham Jean in 2018, after walking into his apartment and thinking it was her own. Guyger is white and Jean was black. After the sentence was handed down, Jean's 18-year-old brother, Brandt Jean, told Guyger he forgave her, wished she didn't have to go to jail, and knew his late brother would want her to turn her life over the Christ.

"I love you as a person and I don't wish anything bad on you," Jean told Guyger, 31, then he asked the judge, "I don't know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?" Judge Tammy Kemp, who is also black, said yes, then she also hugged Guyger as she was led from the courtroom and handed her a Bible.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


Album Of The Week: Wilco Ode To Joy (Chris DeVille, October 1, 2019, Stereogum)

Ode To Joy is an album about seeking hope and meaning in a world that seems to be decaying beyond repair, so it's fitting that Wilco saved some of the best musical flourishes on for the songs where Tweedy zooms out to reckon with the state of humanity at large. The staggering "Before Us" builds from downtrodden whispers ("Remember when wars would end? Now when something's dead, we try to kill it again") to monumental swells of beauty encircling the refrain, "Alone with the people who have come before us." The political "Citizens" repeats the phrase "white lies" until you're forced to hear every possible meaning, all while the band builds nervous energy around a minimal groove. Lead single "Love Is Everywhere (Beware)" uses guitar curlicues to poke holes in the notion that good will prevail without any effort on your part.

That song leads directly into its thematic cousin "Hold Me Anyway," a stunning twilight pop-rocker where Tweedy blessedly lends his voice to the sort of soaring melody that has proven elusive in the latter-day Wilco catalog. It's a nearly perfect unity of Wilco's various eras, at once a wistful mirage and an urgent call to arms. As harmonized guitars slice across melancholy keyboard chords, Tweedy -- who talks in his book about how badly he wants to discuss mortality at dinner parties -- poses some questions most people try to avoid thinking about: "When you die, who's to blame? Did you think everything would be OK?"

If Tweedy is urging his listeners to wake up from their stupor, he's doing so from a place of humility. Among the album's prettiest and least complicated songs, "One And A Half Stars" depicts a battle to keep pushing forward when you could just as easily stay in bed. It's one of the most relatable tunes on an album full of them, Tweedy espousing his desire to change and the inertia that sometimes feels impossible to overcome. "There is no mother like pain," he suggests at one point, before concluding with a lament: "I can't escape my domain." With a title that seems to refer to unenthusiastic reviews, it's hard not to hear the song as another referendum on the state of his own creativity. Yet Ode To Joy is proof that Tweedy and his band can still wring exhilaration from exhaustion.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Could this plastic-eating enzyme be the miracle solution to our plastic problem? (ADELE PETERS, 10/02/19, fast Company)

Three years ago, Japanese scientists discovered a tiny new bacteria with an unusual ability: The organism, which lived in soil near a plastic bottle recycling plant, could eat plastic. A year later, a plastic-eating fungus was discovered in a landfill in Pakistan. The year after that, a college student discovered plastic-eating bacteria in a polluted site in Houston. Now, researchers from Hitachi and Cambridge Consultants, an engineering and product development company, plan to use synthetic biology to manufacture a similar plastic-eating enzyme. It could later be used in recycling plants or in the environment--and potentially even in the ocean, where as much as 12.7 million metric tons of plastic ends up every year.

"Attacking the problem biologically means that you have the ability to come up with a range of solutions," says James Hallinan, business development manager of synthetic biology at Cambridge Consultants. The company, which has worked in various fields for nearly 60 years, started working in synthetic biology in 2015. "It's really about the engineering of biology, making it predictable and definable and reproducible," he says. "And this idea that, in the future, more and more products are going to be made via a biological process, as compared to the old traditional way of making things from chemicals, and in particular petrochemicals."

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Trump is a national embarrassment (Joel Mathis, October 3, 2019, The Week)

If you need an example of how President Trump's brand of leadership continues to harm America's standing on the world stage, look no further than Wednesday's joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. Niinistö opened his remarks by speaking of his visits to the American History Museum, the African American History Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. He paid tribute to America's democratic values, saying, "Mr. President, you have here a great democracy. Keep it going on."

Trump, in contrast, was decidedly less dignified. He baselessly accused a critic of treason and then raged at a Reuters reporter who had the temerity to ask follow-up questions about the Ukraine scandal. He went on a tirade against America's "fake" and "corrupt" news media, before quoting Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity singing his praises. "I'm very, very happy living the way I'm living," he insisted. Niinistö chuckled in evident embarrassment at the whole spectacle unfolding around him.

This press conference was a clown show.

...is that he's not even at the top of the list of most notorious clowns ever; Pennywise and John Wayne Gacy have him beat.  So sad.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Being 'church' means accepting and welcoming 'the other' (Steve Givens, 10/02/19, St. Louis Post Dispatch)

"It is not reported how Zaccheus got out of the sycamore," Buechner writes, "but the chances are good that he fell out in pure astonishment."

If he was astonished, imagine the look on the faces of the "good" people around him --the ones who prayed in the temple all the time, the ones who paid their taxes and tithes, the ones who had been hoping and praying for this Messiah. Perhaps this was the one and now was the time. But then Jesus calls Zaccheus down from the tree and they begin to think he's not the one after all. He couldn't possibly be.

After all, he eats with tax collectors. He talks to Samaritan women and comes to the defense of prostitutes. He welcomes strangers and immigrants and feeds the hungry. He heals without prior authorization. He looks first with love and corrects later and if necessary. He sees beyond our national origins straight into our hearts. He's surely a lunatic, they thought.

But the joke was on them; not on Zaccheus. The joke's on us. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we don't get to waggle our pointer fingers at the sinners, the immigrants, the poor, and the hungry, telling them to shape up and live like us or ship out. We just have to love, to welcome and accept them.

"The unflagging lunacy of God," Buechner writes. "The unending seaminess of man. The meeting between them that is always a matter of life or death and usually both."

I think it's John Dominic Crossan who explains away Christ healing lepers as just Him sitting down to eat with the unclean, those who violated kosher laws.  This attempt to demystify Christ captures just how revolutionary He was and how comical it would have been to be at His side. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 AM


Echoes of Benghazi Criticism and Anger Confront Pompeo in Ukraine Inquiry (Lara Jakes and David E. Sanger, Oct. 2, 2019, NY Times)

As a member of Congress, Mike Pompeo drove the Republican inquiry into the killing of a United States ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, and made clear there was no place for politics in American diplomacy. Nor, he said, would he tolerate "dithering" by an Obama administration State Department that he called "deeply obstructive of getting the American people the facts that they needed."

Now, as secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo is facing a political crisis that directly challenges his leadership of the department he once excoriated. He is accused by House Democrats of blocking their impeachment inquiry by resisting the release of information to Congress that may shed light on the Trump administration's shadow foreign policy with Ukraine.

And career diplomats, some of whom blame the Trump administration for dismembering the Foreign Service and undercutting American diplomacy, are expected to be among the first witnesses telling their stories to Congress during its inquiry.

"In many ways this seems to be a situation where he's reaping what he sowed," said Derek Chollet, the executive vice president of the German Marshall Fund, who served in both the State and Defense Departments under President Barack Obama.

October 2, 2019

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Trump refuses to answer what he asked Ukrainian president to do about Bidens (Zachary Basu, 10/02/19, Axios)

President Trump refused to answer a question from Reuters' Jeff Mason about what he was asking Ukraine's president to do about Joe Biden and his son during a now-infamous July 25 phone call, instead criticizing European countries for not providing aid to Ukraine, attacking the impeachment investigation as a "hoax" and berating Mason for being "rude."

The exchange:

MASON: "The question, sir, was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter? 
TRUMP: "Are you talking to me?"
MASON: "Yes. It's just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir."
TRUMP: "Listen, are you ready? We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question."
MASON: "I have one for him. I wanted to follow-up on the one that I asked you."
TRUMP: Did you hear me? Did you hear me? Ask him a question. I've given you a long answer, ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude. I've answered everything. It's a whole hoax. And you know who's playing into this hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country. And I say in many cases, the corrupt media."

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Among the Hagiographers: Early on Gandhi was dubbed a 'mortal demi-god'--and he has been regarded that way ever since (ANDREW ROBERTS, 3/27/11, WSJ)

Joseph Lelyveld has written a ­generally admiring book about ­Mohandas Gandhi, the man credited with leading India to independence from Britain in 1947. Yet "Great Soul" also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist--one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive ­intellectual, professing his love for ­mankind as a concept while actually ­despising people as individuals.

...after reading this.

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[originally posted: 3/28/11]

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


White House ordered ultrasecret system upgraded to prevent leaks (DANIEL LIPPMAN and NATASHA BERTRAND, 10/01/2019, Politico)

That highly classified system is being newly scrutinized in light of a whistleblower complaint alleging that national security officials used the system--meant for storing information classified at the highest level -- to conceal politically embarrassing conversations, including a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 in which President Donald Trump urged Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

If hiding politically embarrassing material, rather than protecting national security secrets, was the motive, experts and former officials said, it would be an abuse of the codeword system. While not necessarily an illegal act, it does run counter to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 that says information can't be classified to "conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error" or "prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency."

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM


MARILYNNE ROBINSON'S POSTMODERN HUMANISM: a review of What Are We Doing Here?: Essays By Marilynne Robinson  (J. L. Wall, 9/30/19,  Modern Age)

In her critique of modernity, Robinson, an unabashed political liberal, begins to sound surprisingly--and sometimes stridently--conservative. Indeed, she seems to have affection for the word, provided that it can be redefined around the act of conservation. The purpose of the humanism  for which she argues is to "preserve as we can the heritage we have received and that we enlarge and enrich it for the sake of coming generations," a curatorial role that she once "assumed . . . was simply a thing civilizations did." Humans may be the creators of art, architecture, and all that goes into civilization, but as curators they are responsible for more than the works of their own hands--for that which is created, or, in one of Robinson's favorite words, given. Human dignity (what she later terms a "radical anthropocentricity") runs through this recognition of givenness. For Robinson, humans are created beings yet also distinguished from the rest of creation by the ability "to stand apart from what we are and consider ourselves."

Though Robinson is skeptical of the term postmodern and hardly a conservative in the commonplace sense of the term, her stance may be best understood in conversation with the late Peter Augustine Lawler, who spoke, alternately, of postmodern conservatism and conservative postmodernism. Lawler's postmodernism is not the postmodern art and theory of the academy. Such "attacks on our ability to perceive the truth and goodness of nature and human nature," he argued, are really "hypermodernism": the logical extreme of the belief that the modern individual is itself a construction. Taken to hypermodern extremes, the modern project moves away from the truly human, leaving us, in Robinson's view, "shadowed by gloom, nostalgia, anomie, deracination, loss of faith, dehumanization, atomization, secularization, and assorted other afflictions of the same general kind." Lawler preferred a more concise description: homelessness.

On both accounts, the modern individual is fully capable of asking the fundamental human question: What I am--are we--doing here? But pursuing this inquiry requires a language that does not exist. Following the lead of another novelist, Walker Percy, Lawler suggested that among the chief crises of the (post)modern person was being "deprived of the language to express the longings of a real human being" and, indeed, losing "even the language of the individual." Robinson likewise laments that "we have no language to express the scale of the experience we have."

That is not to say that we are at a loss for words. But what Robinson calls the "catechisms" of modern thought are of no use. Neither science, nor economics, nor the political right and left can tell us what we're doing here. They fail in this endeavor because "the modern West for generations [has tried] to move away from a vocabulary that is charged with its own intellectual and cultural history, the shift being understood as advancing thought from the pre-scientific to the scientific or from the religious to the secular." The project of Robinson's nonfiction, then, has become one of recovery-- of the history and reputation of the Puritans who are central to her worldview, and, increasingly, of a vocabulary that might enable us to ask the questions on which this line of inquiry depends. [...]

Even modernity, she insists, has not been able to escape reference to the divine in its talk of individuals. The psychological "self," Robinson writes, "looks to me like a rather robust survival of what was once called a soul." Our constrained vocabulary limits both modern inquiry and selfhood. The point--and the sticking point--of the language she believes we require is that it is necessarily theological, capable of representing "a very broad, unconditional reality, a givenness that in its fullness reflects divine intent." Alongside "the divine" and "dignity," it includes "wisdom, courage, generosity," givenness, conscience, grace, beauty, faith, hope, love, soul, and virtue. Only language grounded in and unashamed of these words can "create a conceptual space large enough to accommodate human dignity," capable, we might say, of replacing the language and ideology of the individual with that of the whole human being.

The word liberalism, too, takes on paramount importance for Robinson. In her previous collections, When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012) and The Givenness of Things (2014), she began an argument continued in this collection: that a liberalism defined by rights-based discourse almost inevitably leads to its individualist corruption. Robinson's preferred alternative stems from the early modern liberalism of English and American Puritans. Against the individualism of Lockean Virginians, she finds in John Winthrop's political vision "a society whose relations are based on charity, using the word in the biblical sense, meaning love." In other words, "he sees the bonds of society in mutual care and service." Robinson grounds her liberalism in an older, less frequently used definition. Perhaps liberality would be more apt here than liberalism, as, for her, this is the politics of generosity.

Even though the practical goals toward which Robinson believes this sense of liberalism must lead are largely indistinguishable from those favored by the modal American university professor, she nonetheless insists on distinguishing her liberalism from that of her political allies. In What Are We Doing Here? Robinson goes further than her usual critiques--of easy abandonment of generosity, eager dismissal of religion and the legacy of Puritanism--and challenges the American left on the level of ideology. "The Left does not understand the thinking of the Right because it is standing too close to have a clear view of it," she writes. According to the rigid, ideological thinking of both ends of the political spectrum, self-interest and human nature are synonyms: "everything that has happened in our history is to be understood in its essence as profit driven." In her castigations of Marxism, (social) Darwinism, scientism, and Freudianism, Robinson comes to sound, at moments, rather like the left's stereotype of a right-wing campus crank. These modern political ideologies "are themselves so starkly determinist, so determinist in every iteration, that this is arguably their point," she proclaims.

It may seem odd, as Robinson herself acknowledges, for a self-described Calvinist and believer in the predestined fate of human souls to rail against determinist anthropologies. Yet she doubles down, arguing that predestination affords more freedom and dignity than the modernist alternative. Once more, reference to Lawler may help to explain what's going on. For Lawler, the crisis--and contradiction--of modern life is that "the world created by modern individuals to make themselves at home turns out to have made human beings less at home than ever." The physical corruptibility of the human body, culminating, without variation, in death, produces this homelessness by refusing to submit to human control: the pursuit of happiness fails to conclude with its ultimate enjoyment. Postmodernism, rightly understood, calls on us to grow "at home with our homelessness"--and, in doing so, to find the freedom and dignity of the whole human being.

Of course, Locke agrees with Ms Robinson and Mr. Lawler, not with secular individualists--who like rights but loathe duties, especially since imposed by God.  Else the Founders would have ignored him altogether.

Posted by orrinj at 11:03 AM


Israel's post election talks fall apart (Mehul Srivastava, 10/02/19, Financial Times)

Talks between the two leading parties in Israel's deadlocked elections have fallen apart, deepening a protracted political crisis just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyers started his defense against a possible indictment on corruption.

Benny Gantz, the ex-military chief whose fledgling alliance, the Blue and White Party, has bested Mr Netanyahu's Likud in two back-to-back inconclusive elections, called off talks with the four-time premier to form a unity government. 

Unless talks resume next week, Mr Netanyahu is likely to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he is unable to form a governing coalition of at least 61 seats, increasing the likelihood of a third election. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM

NOT TO DISCOUNT THE SEX (profanity alert):

How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music (Emily Lordi, October 1, 2019, The New Yorker)

[T]here was more to Hayes than humor and sex. Fifty years ago last summer, he released one of the most extravagantly beautiful musical manifestos of the modern era, "Hot Buttered Soul." The forty-five-minute album, consisting of just four extended psychedelic-orchestral tracks, changed not only the sound of soul but also its scale. Hayes, by presenting himself with all the bravado of other soul men, but at half the volume, traded the big-voiced charisma that had defined soul in the nineteen-sixties for a more conceptual, introspective approach. Fittingly, the cover of "Hot Buttered Soul" featured the dome of Hayes's shaved, bowed head.

"Isaac was just cool as [***]t," said the drummer Willie Hall, who worked with Hayes at Stax Records, in Memphis. "He would look up in the top of his head, the third eye, trying to come up with an idea--boom, it would come--perfect." Hayes is seldom remembered as an enigmatic, restless creative, and even less so as a political leader. But he was, in some ways, a race man cut from conventional cloth. He had been born into desperate poverty, and moved around to various parts of Tennessee, where his family nearly froze in the winters and starved all year long, and the experience radicalized rather than defeated him: he helped to register black voters in the South, pushed for greater black representation at Stax, and co-founded a group called the Black Knights, to protest police brutality and housing discrimination in Memphis. On "Hot Buttered Soul," he expressed his belief in black power in more experimental terms: through ostentatious claims to musical space.

The album was both a product of and a departure from Hayes's earlier work at Stax, where he had honed his skills as a pianist--he filled in for Booker T. Jones while Jones was away at college--and where he proved to be an especially gifted songwriter. Along with David Porter, Hayes wrote some of the label's most iconic hits, including Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Coming." Hayes wanted his own star turn, but, as he later explained, the Stax co-founder Jim Stewart thought his voice was "too pretty." "At that time we were living in a James Brown era," Hayes noted. "Rough singing . . . [but] I was a soft singer." Sales of his 1968 solo début, "Presenting Isaac Hayes," were unimpressive.

But then Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, in Memphis. Hayes, who had considered King a friend, "flipped," as he put it, and became more "rebellious" and "militant." For a time, he also went quiet. "I could not create properly," he said. "I was so bitter and so angry. I thought, What can I do? Well, I can't do a thing about it, so let me become successful and powerful enough where I can have a voice to make a difference. So I . . . started writing again." Hayes released "Hot Buttered Soul" in the summer of 1969, as part of Stax's "Soul Explosion," a release of twenty-seven albums designed to help the company recover from a disastrous distribution deal with Atlantic and the death of the label's star, Otis Redding. But Hayes's ambitions were less commercial than creative: "I didn't give a damn if 'Hot Buttered Soul' didn't sell," he said, "because there were twenty-six other LPs to carry the load. I just wanted to do something artistic, with total freedom."

The album contains no rage or protest in the conventional sense. Hayes mentions race only once, in a mystifying lyric on the track "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic": "A slave's on a horse every time she explores / Just heard a discussion about, uh, racial relations." But the album's very largesse was political: Hayes had internalized King's death, one of the era's pre√ęminent signs of black vulnerability, and re√ęmerged as a giant.

When Ike was on the Dr. Ruth Show, she looked at him like Augustus Gloop looked at the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Overrated: Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Austrian philosopher and 20th-century genius disabled others and inspired decades of needless self-destruction among his disciples (Crispin Sartwell, 18/09/2019, Standpoint)

When he first met Wittgenstein, Russell called him "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius," despite or perhaps because he couldn't understand what young Ludwig was saying. Writing to his lover Ottoline Morrell in 1913 about Wittgenstein's attack on one of his logical doctrines, Russell confessed: "I couldn't understand his objection--in fact he was very inarticulate--but I felt in my bones that he must be right." He added: "I saw that I could not hope ever again to do fundamental work in philosophy."

That Wittgenstein's mysterious charisma disabled a philosopher and logician as brilliant as Russell was among the first of its baleful effects, and Russell did in fact largely abandon logic at that moment. For a while, instead, he concentrated on spreading the Wittgenstein miasma, and his admiration turned Wittgenstein into an intellectual superstar. Ever since, Wittgenstein has been more of a cult than an argument, an irrationalist movement in a supposedly rational discipline. Like Russell, Wittgenstein's followers know he is right; the only difficulty is knowing what he meant.

Had Russell chosen to respond in detail to The Blue Book, Wittgenstein would have flown into a rage. According to Wittgenstein, no one ever understood Wittgenstein, Russell least of all. No paraphrase is adequate; no definite interpretation captures the true intentions of the Genius. He slips through the fingers like sand. No blow can land, for the real Wittgenstein is always elsewhere.

Ludwig even had trouble interpreting himself plausibly.

Russell should have grabbed a poker.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


A Trump hotel mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms (ANITA KUMAR, 10/02/2019, Politico)

House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups -- including at least one foreign government -- tried to ingratiate themselves to President Donald Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them.

It's a previously unreported part of a broader examination by the House Oversight Committee, included in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties.

"Now we're looking at near raw bribery," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a House Oversight Committee member who chairs the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Trump's hotel in Washington. "That was the risk from day one -- foreign governments and others trying to seek favor because we know Trump pays attention to this.... It's an obvious attempt to curry favor with him."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


State Department inspector general asks for 'urgent' Capitol Hill briefing (Carlin Becker, October 02, 2019, Washington Examiner)

The timing of the request suggests it could also be related to an intelligence community whistleblower complaint about President Trump's July phone call with the president of Ukraine, during which he asked the foreign leader to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice president and his possible 2020 general election opponent. A congressional aide described the request as "highly unusual and cryptically worded."

Linick's ask also follows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Tuesday response to a subpoena for Ukraine documents, in which he accused House Democrats of attempting to "bully" State Department employees.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Robots to Cut 200,000 U.S. Bank Jobs in Next Decade, Study Says (Alfred Liu, October 1, 2019, Bloomberg)

Technological efficiencies will result in the biggest reduction in headcount across the U.S. banking industry in its history, with an estimated 200,000 job cuts over the next decade, Wells Fargo & Co. said in a report.

The $150 billion annually that the country's finance firms are spending on tech -- more than any other industry -- will lead to lower costs, with employee compensation accounting for half of all bank expenses, said Mike Mayo, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities LLC. Back office, bank branch, call center and corporate employees are being cut by about a fifth to a third, with jobs related to tech, sales, advising and consulting less affected, according to the study.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Ousted U.S. diplomat could be crucial to impeachment inquiry (LAURA KING, SABRA AYRES, SEP. 30, 2019 LA Times)

 In President Trump's rough parlance, she was "the woman."

That's how Trump described Marie Louise Yovanovitch, the widely respected former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Now the 60-year-old envoy, who spent more than three decades in the diplomatic service, could prove key to illuminating murky events central to the House impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The veteran diplomat was abruptly ordered back to Washington in May, ending her three-year tour two months early. By then, the events that ultimately would set the stage for the impeachment saga were already in play.

Yovanovitch is one of five current or former State Department employees summoned to provide depositions to investigators from the House committees on intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight. Her closed-door appearance is scheduled Wednesday.

From her perch in the Ukrainian capital, Yovanovitch had a front-row seat to the machinations of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, who engaged with a range of Ukrainian officials outside normal diplomatic channels in an effort to stir up suspicions about former Vice President Joe Biden, now a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son, Hunter.

By all accounts, Giuliani and his Ukrainian contacts found Yovanovitch, who had sought to boost the country's anti-corruption efforts, an impediment. And Trump, in the reconstructed record of the call with Zelensky that the White House released last week, made plain his own animosity.

"The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news," Trump told Zelensky, who took office in May. "And the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news, so I just wanted to let you know that."

Vaguely but ominously, Trump added: "She's going to go through some things."

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Was There Another Cover-Up In Response to the Whistle-Blower? (Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer, Oct. 2, 2019, NY Times)

One of the first things new prosecutors at the Justice Department learn is that cover-ups are rarely singular. There is often a cover-up of the cover-up.

Allegations of one cover-up, then another, emerged last week. Officials in the Trump administration tried to "lock down" the phone call memo between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (the first cover-up), and then officials in the executive branch made efforts to keep this information from reaching Congress (the second cover-up).

Now we have discovered what may be a third cover-up. In its handling of the investigation and a potential campaign-finance violation, the Department of Justice appears to have ignored a rule that a matter under investigation must be referred to the Federal Election Commission. Critically, if the department had followed the rule, the Ukraine affair would have been disclosed to the American public.

Were it not for the efforts of the whistle-blower, everything about this would have been hidden from the F.E.C. and the American people.

The fact there was only one whistleblower is an indictment of the whole Administration.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


GOP defenses for Trump's Ukraine call quickly collapse under scrutiny (John Harwood, 10/01/19, CNBC)

[E]ven cursory scrutiny of evidence that has emerged so far knocks down assorted GOP arguments like shanties in a hurricane. Here's a brief review:

It was hearsay

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy notes that "the whistleblower wasn't on the call" between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. "Hearsay," Sen. Lindsey Graham insists, cannot be a basis for impeachment.

Both observations are irrelevant. In the partial transcript of the call released by the White House itself, Trump's own words affirm the whistleblower's account. That is direct evidence, not hearsay.

"If they thought it would be exculpatory, they miscalculated badly," GOP former Sen. Jeff Flake told me.

Biased whistleblower

The president says the still-unidentified whistleblower harbors "known bias" against him. This observation, which the intelligence community inspector general called "arguable," does not discredit the whistleblower's allegations, which the inspector general found "credible."

If the whistleblower's information is accurate, his motivation doesn't matter. Trump's own former homeland security advisor, Thomas Bossert, has described himself as "deeply disturbed" by the president's behavior, too.

Media distortion

On "60 Minutes" Sunday night, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley asked about Trump's comment that "I need you to do us a favor, though" after Ukraine's new president requested military aid to counter Russian aggression.

"You added a word there," GOP leader McCarthy replied, referring to the damning "though."

McCarthy's assertion was false; Pelley accurately quoted the White House-released document. The most charitable interpretation of the GOP leader's embarrassment is that he had not actually reviewed the evidence he had gone on national television to discuss.

To their credit, they aren't even trying to defend him, since he's indefensible.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Trump tweeted 'billions of dollars' would be saved on military contracts. Then the Pentagon fired the official doing that. (Martin de Bourmont and Sharon Weinberger, 10/02/19, ,Yahoo News)

"When you get somebody who is the president of the United States who understands precisely what you do for a living and understands how it's actually done, it becomes a pretty rewarding thing to do, especially when someone at the top is world-class himself in terms of negotiating," Shay Assad, the Pentagon's pricing director, told attendees at a conference held by McAleese and Credit Suisse in March 2017, just two months after Trump's inauguration.

Assad had already built a reputation as the Department of Defense's toughest contract negotiator, having spent more than a decade battling defense companies on behalf of taxpayers, trying to get the prices down on skyrocketing weapons costs. Over the course of his career, he has been decorated with a panoply of awards from the Pentagon for his work, and praised for saving the government billions of dollars. A 2016 Politico profile described Assad, known for his dogged campaigns to force defense industry companies to justify their costs, as "the most hated man in the Pentagon."

Assad's aggressive approach to contract negotiations, however, paid off. The Pentagon credited the career civil servant with bringing down the costs of the Apache helicopter, the C-17 transport plane and the F/A-18 fighter, saving taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. And that wasn't all: A former senior Pentagon official said Assad had over the span of his career "saved the Department of Defense many billions of dollars."

Trump's interest in negotiating better prices for the government made it seem like Assad's work would get White House attention.

Yet within two years of Trump's entrance into the White House, Assad would find himself removed from his job, and his efforts to save money and recover hundreds of millions of dollars in potentially fraudulent spending tabled.

His treatment, he contends, was the direct result of his attempts to save the Pentagon money and identify potential contract fraud, which brought him into conflict with the Pentagon's top weapons buyer. It was a conflict that ended dramatically, he says, when shortly after he emailed senior Pentagon officials about potential fraud, details about his travel records and his demotion were published in the press.

Assad, who is now retired, says the issues he brought up involved potentially billions of dollars in waste and fraud, and still aren't being addressed. It's a claim that's backed up by multiple interviews conducted by Yahoo News with Assad and those who worked with him at the Pentagon, as well as by documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Labor pressures the PM to release transcript of Donald Trump phone call (TOM STAYNER, 10/02/19, SBS)

Scott Morrison is under pressure to detail what help he offered Donald Trump with his administration's investigation into the origins of a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Mr Morrison has been dragged into an impeachment scandal unfolding in the US after the New York Times revealed Mr Trump phoned him to ask for Australia's help with the investigation aimed at discrediting the Russia probe.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 AM



[A]t this moment in the life of our nation and our democracy, I believe these are the questions that should root us as we seek to find a way forward together. To sum up those eight Jesus questions that will take us deeper than the polarized politics all around us. 

The Neighbor Question: In an environment where the question of whether we will love or hate our neighbor is dangerously at stake, Jesus told us what it means to love our neighbor, which includes, according to Jesus' definition, those who are different from us. "Who is my neighbor?" is the gospel question that underlies everything now in American politics.

The Image Question: When people face constant attack for their racial background, gender identity, who they are, how they pray, or who they love, Jesus reminds us that he was present at the universe's creation, when all human beings were made in God's image and likeness. If we love and honor Jesus, we will acknowledge that every human being is a child of God and must be treated accordingly. Who is valuable and who is not is at the core of our political decisions.

The Truth Question: When the number of official lies told becomes legion to the point that people doubt the existence of truth anymore, Jesus says, "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free." Our very freedom is vitally connected to the truth. Whether the facts and the truth matter anymore in America, in the Congress, in the media -- and even in the churches -- will be a defining question.

The Power Question: When leadership becomes utterly defined by power, and by winning and losing, Jesus says leadership is about service and washing each other's feet. "Who is the greatest?" cuts to the core of how a society is led, and by whom. Where do we see or long for public "service" to prevail over private political aggrandizement?

The Fear Question: When people don't just fear the things that are reasonable to be concerned about, but are now living in the "spirit of fear," Jesus repeats this phrase more than almost any other: "Be not afraid." When political leaders run on fear, we must learn to break free of it and dispel it.

The Caesar Question: When the "Caesar test" is being defined by strongmen who say everything is about them, Jesus instructs his followers to render to Caesar only the limited things that belong to him; and to God, everything else.

The Peacemaker Question: When accusation, slander, and attack become the norms of public discourse, Jesus says that those who are the peacemakers, the conflict resolvers, will be called "the children of God."

The Discipleship Question: When wealth and power become the definitions of society and politics, Jesus makes the extraordinary judgment that the ultimate measure of our lives, including God's evaluation of the kings of the nations, is what we have done for "the least of these," which was Jesus' final discipleship test.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM


Trump impeachment probe gains steam with briefing, depositions (Patricia Zengerle, 10/02/19, Reuters)

Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as Trump's special representative for Ukraine, was to go to Capitol Hill to give a deposition to House staff on Thursday, the day he had been asked to appear.

Marie Yovanovitch, who was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until she was abruptly recalled in May, has agreed to appear on Oct. 11, not on Wednesday as originally requested.

With their deep knowledge of Ukraine, testimony by Yovanovitch and Volker could be especially important to the impeachment probe formally launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week.

The inquiry could lead to approval of articles of impeachment - or formal charges - against Trump in the House. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to remove him from office. But the president's fellow Republicans control that chamber and have shown little appetite for removing him.

Yovanovitch was ordered back to Washington two months before the end of her three-year tour in Kiev. The career diplomat, who had served during both Republican and Democratic administrations, had been the subject of attacks in right-leaning media and Democrats had suggested her recall was politically motivated.

Over the past few days, the Democratic chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees have issued subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and scheduled depositions with a series of other current and former officials, as well as associates of Giuliani, as they seek to unearth more evidence of potential wrongdoing by Trump.

Trump asked Zelenskiy during the July call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter in coordination with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 AM



A new YouGov Blue poll for the Progressive Change Institute, the nonprofit polling arm of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, lends insight into both of these crucial questions. The poll, released Wednesday morning, found that other polls undercount support for Democrats moving forward on an impeachment inquiry. It also revealed that a third of voters who oppose impeachment actually agree that Trump committed high crimes, but are concerned that it would hurt Democrats politically. And a majority of the voters who support an impeachment inquiry said Democrats should proceed "boldly and decisively," with all members voting within the next month.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 AM


State Dept inspector general requests 'urgent' Ukraine briefing on Capitol Hill (CONOR FINNEGANandKATHERINE FAULDERS, Oct 1, 2019, ABC News)

The unusual nature and timing of the briefing - during a congressional recess - suggests it may be connected to a recent intelligence community whistleblower allegation which describes, in part, the State Department's role in coordinating interactions between Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, and Ukrainian officials.

October 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 PM


Barr Went to Rome to Hear a Secret Tape from Joseph Mifsud, the Professor Who Helped Ignite the Russia Probe (Barbie Latza Nadeau, 10.01.19, daily Beast)

The Daily Beast has learned that Barr and Durham were especially interested in what the Italian secret service knew about Joseph Mifsud, the erstwhile professor from Malta who had allegedly promised then candidate Donald Trump's campaign aide George Papadopoulos he could deliver Russian "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. The Italian Justice Ministry public records show that Mifsud had applied for police protection in Italy after disappearing from Link University where he worked and, in doing so, had given a taped deposition to explain just why people might want to harm him. 

A source in the Italian Ministry of Justice, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were played the tape. A second source within the Italian government also confirmed to The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were shown other evidence the Italians had on Mifsud. 

Ever since Robert Mueller concluded his probe in March 2019, Barr has worked to blunt its impact--and investigate the investigators behind it. Barr assigned Durham to look into the Mueller probe's origins. And the Attorney General's name is listed in the whistleblower complaint about the July 25 call Trump made to the Ukrainian president to pressure him into investigating political rival Joe Biden. According to the complaint, Barr was directly involved in the president's attempt to "solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." The minutiae of his involvement are feeding a scandal gripping Washington that changes by the nano-second. [...]

The Italian intelligence community had Mifsud on their radar for some years before he got involved in the Trump campaign's troubles. His affiliations with both the Link University of Rome and London Center of International Law Practice--both often affiliated with western diplomacy and foreign intelligence agencies--made him an easy target. So did the slew of apartments he owned in Malta that are allegedly tied to a racket involving Russians buying Maltese passports for cheap. 

Malta academic in Trump probe has history of vanishing acts (RAPHAEL SATTER, October 22, 2018, AP)

Mifsud [...]  was in no position to be anyone's mentor. The Ph.D. program was bogus and Mifsud would soon be ousted in a scandal.

Ruvina eventually got a refund for the two weeks she spent at the university in 2012 and began her dissertation elsewhere. Mifsud has since shot to international prominence as a lynchpin of the investigation into Donald Trump's presidential campaign and its ties to the Russian government.

A court document made public last year by U.S. prosecutors alleged that it was Mifsud who dropped the first hint of the hacking that rocked the 2016 U.S. election when he met Trump adviser George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, in London and told him the Kremlin had "thousands of emails" on his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

An Associated Press investigation of Mifsud's career has uncovered an international trail of mismanagement and financial problems stretching over a decade. It doesn't answer the key question of whether Mifsud was acting on behalf of Russian interests -- wittingly or otherwise -- when he allegedly passed the tip to the Trump campaign team, but it does sketch out a bizarre academic career punctuated by scandals and disappearing acts.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 PM


Democratic polls show competitive House races in Texas (Bridget Bowman, 10/01/19, Roll Call)
Democrats are targeting GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in Texas' 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of Republican-held House seats in the Texas suburbs represent fertile ground for competitive races in 2020, according to recent Democratic polling. 

The surveys in six GOP districts, shared first with CQ Roll Call, are a sign that Democratic outside groups are willing to spend resources in the Lone Star State, where party leaders believe they can make gains next year. The polls were commissioned by House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to the chamber's Democratic leadership.

Three of the districts surveyed have GOP incumbents running for reelection, including Reps. Michael McCaul in the 10th District, Chip Roy in the 21st and John Carter in the 31st. Polls were also conducted in three open-seat races in the 22nd, 23rd and 24th districts. Republicans won all six seats in 2018, all by margins of 5 points or less.

There is nothing in a Trump re-=election campaign to help the GOP. The sooner the party returns to Reaganism from Nativism the sooner it can begin recovering.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 PM


Pompeo Pushed Out His Own Ukraine Rep to Squash a Growing Scandal (Erin Banco, 10.01.19, The Daily Beast)

When President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared on cable news programs last week, he deflected questions about his work in Ukraine and instead hammered home one talking point over and over again: The State Department knew he was trying to dig up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

Giuliani waved his phone on air, flashing text messages between himself and State Department representatives, saying it was the department that connected him to a close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Giuliani's on-air appearances threw the department into a tizzy, forcing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to try to quell a bubbling internal crisis of confidence, according to three senior U.S. officials. For Pompeo, to solve the problem meant to find someone to blame, and there was only one individual who fit the mold, according to those same sources: former U.S. representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker.

Volker resigned on Friday. But despite his resignation, the State Department has scrambled to correct course, according to these same U.S. officials, especially after news that Pompeo was on the now-infamous call between President Trump and Zelensky in July. Pompeo had previously denied knowing about it on national television. On top of that, three congressional committees subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to Trump and Giuliani's work in Ukraine and demanded that five current and former department officials appear for depositions.  [...]

Pompeo's plan appears to have backfired. Despite the secretary's efforts to block several of his current and former officials from speaking to Congress, Volker is set to go to Capitol Hill on Thursday with the backing of a cadre of current and former diplomats. Some of those diplomats spoke to The Daily Beast and requested anonymity because they feared reprisals from Pompeo and other Trump administration officials. 

...is that decent men sacrificed to work at Donald's side so they could act as a restraint on him.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 PM


Turkey set to reform controversial laws used in crackdown on free speech (Ragip Soylu, 1 October 2019, Middle East Eye)

Controversial laws accused of muzzling free speech and targeting opposition are set to be reformed after Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced a new draft package to parliament on Tuesday.

The reforms intend to reduce the mass convictions handed to individuals over charges such as insulting the president and disseminating terrorist propaganda, which have become increasingly common in recent years.

Parliament, which opens on Tuesday, is set to debate on the amendments as the first order of business.

With the AKP and its allies holding a parliamentary majority, officials expect the draft legislation to be quickly ratified after minor changes in the parliamentary committees. The opposition parties consider the move as positive but not yet satisfactory.

One of the central aims of the package is meeting the criteria set by the European Union that would allow Turkish citizens visa-free travel to Europe. Brussels has demanded a change in the Turkish counter-terror law that would slash its scope.

The new law that amends Article 7 makes it clear that expression of opinion within news dissemination purposes and criticism cannot constitute a crime.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


Intelligence Inspector General to GOP: You Know Nothing of My Work (Jonathan Chait, 10/01/19, New York)

Last Thursday, Sean Davis of the conservative news site The Federalist broke an explosive revelation. The Intelligence Community had secretly changed a requirement in its whistle-blower statute to allow whistle-blowers to report secondhand allegations, whereas firsthand knowledge had been required before. This suspicious rule change allegedly allowed the whistle-blower to accuse President Trump of misconduct despite lacking firsthand knowledge of said conduct. The shocking exposure of yet another Deep State plot quickly became the foundation for Trump's defenders as they fanned out across the media.

"The hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed," claimed Senator Lindsey Graham. The whistle-blower "has no firsthand knowledge," charged Congressman Jim Jordan on CNN, and when host Jake Tapper noted that firsthand knowledge is not required to file a complaint, Jordan shot back that this was only "because they changed the form. You used to." Meanwhile, Trump demanded, in all caps, "WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT?"

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed, "Just days before the Ukraine whistleblower came forward, the IC secretly removed that requirement from the complaint form," and promised that Republicans would "not rest until we have answers."

They had answers. They just didn't like them. Actual experts in intelligence law immediately pointed out that Davis's reporting was false and was based on a simple misreading of a change in the wording of a form.

Then yesterday, the Intelligence Community's inspector general, Trump appointee Michael Atkinson, posted a short statement online correcting Davis. Using heavily bureaucratized language and the patient and polite tone city officials use to assure the local gadfly that the water department is not sending alien nodes through his plumbing, the I.G. made a few basic points. First, the rules governing whistle-blowers have not changed. At all.

Those dang IG's, they were the great White hope!

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 PM


Poll: Only 4 in 10 Republicans think Trump mentioned Biden on Ukraine call even though he acknowledged doing so (Maureen Groppe, 10/01/19, USA TODAY)

A new poll shows that only four in 10 Republicans believe President Donald Trump talked to the Ukrainian president about investigating political rival Joe Biden, even though Trump has acknowledged doing so.

Declassified by order of the President
September 24, 2019
SUBJECT: Telephone Conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine
Participants: President Zelenskyy of Ukraine
Notetakers: The White House Situation Room
Date, Time July 25, 2019, 9:03-9:33 am EDT
and Place: Residence [...]

The President: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM


Judge tells DOJ to charge McCabe or drop investigation (RACHEL FRAZIN, 10/01/19, The Hill)
A judge told federal prosecutors on Monday that they needed to charge former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe or stop investigating whether he lied to authorities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Trump's grip on GOP Senate may come loose (Juan Williams, 9/30/19, The Hill)

Next year, 23 Senate Republicans will be up for reelection with Trump at the top of the ticket.

Murphy warned that, given Trump's antics, Senate Republicans are thinking they are "going to lose Colorado with Cory Gardner. We're going to lose Maine with Susan Collins. We're going to lose Arizona with Martha McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play."

At one time, Trump kept Capitol Hill Republicans in line by threatening to have his supporters back a primary challenge to any dissenting GOP member seeking reelection.

Now, that threat has to be weighed against the increasing fear of a weakened president handing the Senate to Democrats.

There is evidence that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sees impeachment imperiling his majority next year.

Last week, McConnell showed independence from Trump by coming out publicly in support of continuing military aid to Ukraine.

More important, he also pushed the White House to share the whistleblower complaint with Congress.

And McConnell has to deal with a well-known Senate Republican daring to separate himself from Trump on the Ukraine scandal -- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Romney said he is "deeply troubled" to see reports of Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president to damage Biden. And he later told reporters: "I can't imagine being in the Senate or in any other position of responsibility and looking around to see who's with you. You stand for what you believe in." [...]

But Romney is not the only Republican willing to speak out.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) -- who was recently endorsed for reelection by Trump -- is on the record as saying Republicans "ought not just circle the wagons."

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


NYC Poverty Level Drops To Record Lows, But Income Inequality Persists (ELIZABETH KIM, OCT. 1, 2019, GOTHAMIST)

New York City's poverty rate has declined to historic lows, amid increases in both median household income and jobs , according new census data.

On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration said the city's poverty rate fell to 17.3 percent in 2018, a drop of 3.5 percent since 2013. The poverty rate is the lowest rate for the city since the American Community Survey began releasing annual data in 2006, according to the mayor's press release. City Hall also said that based on its analysis of decennial census data, the poverty level is also the lowest since the 1970s.

In 2016, the city's poverty threshold for a household consisting of two adults and two children was measured as $32,402.

Given the record low unemployment rate in NYC and a $13.50 minimum wage, one parent could stay home and the other work two jobs and you'd have a family income close to $60k.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Amber Guyger Convicted of Murder in Shooting of Botham Jean in His Own Apartment (MOLLY OLMSTEAD, OCT 01, 2019, Slate)

Amber Guyger--the Dallas police officer who, in 2018, fatally shot Botham Jean, a black man, after allegedly mistaking his apartment for her own--has been found guilty of murder, the jury announced Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


As Steelmaker Shuts Plant, Governor Points to Tariffs (Jeremy Hill, October 1, 2019, Bloomberg)

Bayou Steel Group filed for bankruptcy Monday, threatening hundreds of jobs after the company ran low on cash and defaulted on its debt.

The steelmaker idled most of its operations and sought Chapter 11 protection in Delaware, it said in a statement. Close to 400 workers may be impacted by the shutdown of Bayou's plant near New Orleans, Natalie Robottom, a local government official, said.

The company sought protection from creditors after a "severe lack in liquidity" led to a default on its senior secured debt, according to the statement. Bayou, which produces steel products like reinforcing bars and beams, will offload its remaining inventory and hopes to sell its assets to a buyer who will restart operations, the company said.

Bayou Steel is "particularly vulnerable" to tariffs because it uses imported scrap metal, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement following the layoffs. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Former Infowars Editor Says Staff Laughed When He Asked Not To Lie About Sandy Hook (Sebastian Murdock, 10/01/19, HuffPo)
A 13-year veteran of conspiracy website Infowars said in a recent court deposition that he repeatedly attempted to warn staff not to spread obvious lies about the parents of Sandy Hook, only to be met with laughter and ridicule.

"I must have been in that room four to five times, at least, and only to be received with laughter and jokes," Rob Jacobson, who worked at Infowars from 2004 to 2017 doing video production, testified.

What's left of the Right if you take away the obvious lies... 

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Giuliani turns on 'honest' Ukrainian prosecutor who says Bidens did nothing illegal (Heidi Przybyla and Allan Smith, 10/01/19, NBC News)

For much of this year, Rudy Giuliani was counting on Ukraine's former chief prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, to reopen a dormant investigation into an energy company where Joe Biden's son, Hunter, had once served as a board member.

In an early May phone call with NBC, Giuliani called Lutsenko a "much more honest guy" than the previous, Kremlin-aligned prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom the Ukrainian Parliament sacked for failing to crack down on corruption.

Lutsenko recently told NBC News the two talked about ten times and the New York Times reported that Giuliani's allegations that Joe Biden's family engaged in wrongdoing in Ukraine were based on a series of meetings with Lutsenko.

In a White House transcript of a July 25 phone call, President Trump seemed to admonish the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for firing Lutsenko: "I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything."

But in a series of interviews with NBC and other news outlets this weekend, Lutsenko said he could find no evidence of wrongdoing involving the Bidens and violations of Ukrainian law....

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Schwab Cuts Commissions To Zero, As Free Trading Edges Toward The Norm (PETER TALBOT, 10/01/19, NPR)

Wall Street is in a race to the bottom. On Tuesday, Charles Schwab said it will slash its commissions for online trades to zero in response to looming competition from app-based upstarts like Robinhood.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


As drinking declines, nonalcoholic beer gets a slick rebrand: Brooklyn Brewery is betting better taste--and looks--will lure more sober-curious drinkers. (LIZ STINSON, 10/01/19, Fast Company)

Statistically speaking, people have been ready for something like Special Effects for a while. The demand for nonalcoholic beverages has been steadily growing over the last five years; meanwhile, beer sales have flattened. One report found that while NA beers claim just 5% of the current global beer market, the category is experiencing growth of 3.9% on average annually, making it the fastest growing segment of the beer market. Consumer habits back that up. Research from Brooklyn Brewery found 44% of 21- to 34-year-old beer drinkers (read: a very monetizable demographic) actively take time off from drinking alcohol. Fifty-four percent of beer drinkers are looking for ways to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


While Trump Congratulates Communist China on Its 70th Anniversary, Senate Republicans Condemn It (JOHN MCCORMACK, October 1, 2019 , National Review)
President Donald Trump marked the 70th anniversary of the "People's Republic" with the following congratulatory tweet: "Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China!" But Senate Republicans have marked the anniversary with condemnation of the regime. Missouri senator Josh Hawley: "Seventy years ago, the Chinese Community Party seized power from the Chinese people. Since then, its ruthless rule has resulted in the deaths of millions of its own citizens." Arkansas senator Tom Cotton: "To see the price of the PRC's anniversary celebration, look no further than what's happening in Hong Kong: a ceaseless war against those who wish to live in freedom. From the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution to the camps in Xinjiang today, it has been a ghoulish 70 years of Chinese Communist Party control." Nebraska senator Ben Sasse: "Today Chinese tyrants celebrated 70 years of communist oppression with their typically brutal symbolism: by sending a police officer to shoot a pro-democracy protester at point-blank range. The freedom-seekers in Hong Kong mourn this anniversary, and the American people stand with them against those who deny their God-given dignity."
One wonders if Senator Sasse has removed all his mirrors.
Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


U.S. manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level since the end of the Great Recession in September (The Week, 10/01/19)

The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that the industry's activity hit its lowest level in September since June 2009, when the country was finally emerging from the Great Recession, even though the U.S. economy continues to grow overall.

Well, he did set out to reverse Obama.

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


Rashida Tlaib Confirms House Ethics Probe Into 2018 Payments To Herself (Amanda Prestigiacomo, 10/01/19, Daily wire)

The House Ethics Committee is reviewing payments Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) made to herself following her 2018 election win, the freshman congresswoman's office confirmed Monday. 

While candidates are permitted to draw a salary from their campaign coffers from the time they win their primary until election day, Tlaib paid herself tens of thousands of dollars in two payments following the election on November 6. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Grassley: Whistleblower Followed the Law and Should Be Heard (JOHN MCCORMACK, October 1, 2019, National Review)

Iowa Republican senator Chuck Grassley issued the following statement today:

"This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected."

Of course, there is no purpose served by hearing from the whistleblower.  Donald's own transcript demonstrates his guilt. All that is required is impeachment and the vote.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


The Impeachment Meltdown Begins (MICHAEL SIEGEL, OCTOBER 1, 2019, Ordinary Times)

Normally, I ignore the Presidential tweets. I assume that they are mostly a game, designed to rile up his base or, more often, muddy the political waters so that his wrong-doing and incompetence are concealed in Whataboutist complaints about Democrats. And I do think a lot his defenders are playing that water-muddying game. Rudy Giuliani, for example, is talking about how the whistleblower complaint is "hearsay" even though, as a lawyer and former prosecutor, he knows perfectly well that hearsay is often admissible in Court, let alone a Congressional inquiry.

But I don't think that's the case here. I don't think this is a carefully calculated smokescreen or Trump grinning inanely while riling up his followers. I think we're getting a very real peek into the President's id, an insight into what he is really like.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Australian interest rates cut to record low of 0.75 per cent (SBS, 10/01/19)
Australia's interest rates have dipped below one per cent for the first time, but the Reserve Bank is already preparing to cut them further if the economy remains stagnant. [...]

"Taken together, recent outcomes suggest that the Australian economy can sustain lower rates of unemployment and underemployment."

The low wage growth means Australia hasn't met the RBA's inflation targets...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party to quit politics (Deutsche-Welle, 10/01/19)

Strache led the Freedom Party for 14 years. He also served as vice-chancellor from 2017 to 2019 before he was forced from the government after video footage emerged of him appearing to offer public contracts in exchange for campaign help from what turned out to be a fake Russian backer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why does Donald Trump's phone call to Scott Morrison matter? (SBS, 10/01/19)

President Trump has continually condemned the Mueller inquiry into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 US election as a "witch hunt".

But a meeting between former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Trump campaign aid George Papadopoulos in May 2016, is believed to have helped trigger an initial FBI inquiry into the matter.

At a London bar, Mr Downer was allegedly told about Russian material that could damage Donald Trump's political rival Hillary Clinton - but the Trump campaign aid disputes this version of events.

Mr Downer informed the Australian government about the details of their conversation, which were later relayed to United States authorities.

He has confirmed having this conversation with Mr Papadopoulos.

"I've got nothing to say about it beyond what I've ever said," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

A year on, former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed to lead an investigation into the alleged election interference and potential links between the Russian government and Trump's campaign team.

The Mueller report became a source of hope for President's Trump's political rivals believing the investigation could lead to his downfall.

It implicated 34 members of Trump's campaign team with wrongdoing through indictments, convictions and guilty pleas.

But the final report found insufficient evidence to determine if Trump's campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia.

Its final 448 pages of findings did not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump had committed obstruction of justice through the investigation.

At the time, President Trump said the probe had found "no collusion with Russia" and backed his "complete and total exoneration".

But Mr Mueller later told reporters: "if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."

Attorney General William Barr launched a counter inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation in May this year. 

It came after President Trump urged his attorney general to examine the role of the FBI and intelligence agencies and even Australia in setting off the investigation into alleged Russian links.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Intelligence community watchdog refutes Trump's whistleblower claims (Rebecca Falconer, 10/01/19, Axios)

The intelligence community inspector general issued a statement Monday refuting false claims by President Trump and his allies about the whistleblower whose complaint on his interactions with Ukraine triggered a formal impeachment inquiry.

Why it matters: It's rare for the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to issue such a statement. But it did so after the president and loyalist lawmakers made false claims while attacking the whistleblower's credibility over the complaint concerning Trump urging Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his family.

All that hope the Trumpbots invested in the IGs and it turns out that Donald is their target too. Maybe you don't want to get your analysis from Rush, Sean, Donald and Solomon?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Old Friends Threaten Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Reign ( Laura Pitel, OCT 01 2019, OXY)

When Ahmet Davutoglu was forced out as Turkey's prime minister in May 2016, he pledged eternal loyalty to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I will sustain my faithful relationship with our president until my last breath," vowed Erdogan's long-serving foot soldier, despite the well-known tensions between the two. "No one has ever heard -- and will ever hear -- a single word against our president come from my mouth."

Fast-forward three years and the bookish, bespectacled academic has broken that silence to emerge as an outspoken critic of Erdogan's government. On Sept. 13, Davutoglu resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after being threatened with expulsion by the group he once chaired. The 60-year-old is one of several former ministers to have quit the party in recent months. And he is leading one of the two factions plotting to form their own movements to challenge Erdogan. The second is led by Ali Babacan, a 52-year-old former economy minister and deputy prime minister, who has the backing of another onetime Erdogan ally, former AKP President Abdullah G√ľl.

The veteran politicians are expected to officially launch new parties before the end of the year. Senior figures in both camps say they have been driven by growing alarm at what they see as Erdogan's increasingly oppressive tactics toward opponents, his harsh nationalistic rhetoric, economic mismanagement, disregard for the rule of law and apparent unwillingness to listen to those urging him to change course.

"We thought maybe he would get the message," says a senior AKP dissident. "But there were always excuses....‚ÄČ‚ÄČ'If we don't do [something] now, we will regret it in the future.'"

The splintering is significant not only for the unprecedented break that it would represent in the AKP ranks but also for the potential damage it could inflict on Erdogan's 17-year dominance of the national political stage.

In a country where the voting population can be roughly divided into pro- and anti-Erdogan blocks, even shaving a small chunk off the AKP alliance -- which won 52.6 percent in last year's presidential election -- could radically alter the political landscape.